Albion Armorers Next Generation Doge Sword
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy

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Introduction
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Swords Circa 1490
The city of Venice has a fascinating history. Despite much of Europe relying on a heredity-based government through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Venice was a republic that elected a duke, known as the Doge. This practice lasted from the 7th century through the 18th century—over a thousand years.

The title immediately evokes the image of Venice. It is therefore very fitting that when Albion Armorers decided to create an early Renaissance sword based on period Venetian examples, they chose to name it the Doge.

Overview
Albion Armorers has developed a strong place in the market of reproduction historical swords. This particular model is a testament to Albion's willingness to explore actual historical pieces for inspiration rather than inventing new designs out of nowhere. The form of this sword can be seen on some exceptional original swords from the late 15th to early 16th century from Venice. While the Albion model is not a direct copy of any particular sword, it shows very similar traits of these Venetian blades, including the teardrop shaped pommel, the style of knuckle-bow, and most notably a small "spur" protruding from the ricasso on the false edge of the blade.
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Measurements and Specifications:
Weight:2 pounds, 7 ounces
Overall length:40 3/8 inches
Blade length:33 5/8 inches
Blade width:1 1/2 inches at base, tapering to 1 inch
Grip length:3 5/8 inches
Guard width:6 inches
Point of Balance:5 inches from guard
Center of Percussion:~19 inches from guard
Oakeshott typology:Type XIX blade

Replica created by Albion Armorers of Wisconsin.

Handling Characteristics
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Guard and Ricasso
This sword is a true joy to hold. There is a certain dynamism to it as it really wants to flow in the hand. It has the characteristics of a good cutting blade: a decent amount of heft, a lively balance, and a nice broad blade in profile that is thin in cross-section. The edge is very keen and had no problems in test cutting.

This particular sword has a finger-ring so the user can wrap a finger around the ricasso. I found that I preferred not using the finger-ring, as it detracted from some of the "willingness" of the blade to move. Using the finger-ring did allow better tip control if I'd preferred to rely on a more thrust-oriented method of fencing, but otherwise the sword felt much more natural without using it.

I spent a lot of time using this sword for solo drills in the 16th century Bolognese system of fencing, and found that I could practically use the sword all day for this. Any preparations for cuts and follow through actions after making an attack came completely naturally when using it. The guard's knuckle-bow would also give additional protection to the hand. This would be a wonderful example of a weapon for a Renaissance man-at-arms, armed with either sword alone or with a buckler.

Fit and Finish

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Detail of Fullers


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Blade "Spur"

The sword is well built and solid. I am quite confident in its construction and have no fear of it failing in reasonable test cutting drills. The polish of the blade is not quite a mirror finish but is higher than a satin finish. More importantly, though, the lines and character of the blade and fittings are excellent. The multiple fullers give the blade a very handsome appearance. An interesting characteristic here is that the center fuller goes along most of the blade, the rear fuller goes up most of the unsharpened area of the ricasso, and the front fuller is very short. This gives a very nice visual balance to the piece, which already has an asymmetrical profile on the blade and guard.

There is one curious element to this blade. As mentioned above, there is a "spur" that projects from the ricasso on the false edge side. This is seen on a few surviving period antiques, though the exact reasoning for it is unclear. Many have made theories about its use in terms of parrying for certain situations. Having experimented using this sword with fencing techniques from the Bolognese tradition as well as those used with the German messer, I can come up with some possibilities where it might be useful in certain specialized circumstances. These circumstances, however, would not only be rare but could also be done well enough without the spur.

The spur is rarely seen on surviving swords and surviving fencing systems do not mention such a feature. I am sure that someone in period, at some point, had a good reason for commissioning it on a blade, but that the extra work in creating it compared to its usefulness didn't seem to make it worthwhile for most swordsmen. Nonetheless, I heartily applaud Albion for reproducing such an unusual feature, as it really gives the sword character.

Conclusion
I have been looking forward to seeing this sword completed ever since seeing the original concept art produced by Albion. The period originals are so unusual that many modern collectors are not used to seeing such a design. I was very impressed that they chose to reproduce it. Now that it is complete and on the market, I am even more impressed by how it has been reproduced. It is a wonderful recreation of an early Renaissance military sword that has all of the characteristics of a weapon that would have seen heavy use. It has since become one of my favorites from Albion Armorers.





About the Author
Bill Grandy is an instructor of Historical European Swordsmanship and sport fencing at the Virginia Academy of Fencing. He has held a strong passion (obsession?) for swords and swordsmanship for as long as he can remember. He admits that this passion comes from a youth spent playing Dungeons and Dragons, but he'll only admit that if there are no girls around.

Acknowledgements
Photographer: Nathan Robinson



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