Albion Armorers Next Generation Laird Sword
A hands-on review by Gordon Clark, with comments by Patrick Kelly

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Introduction
When one hears the phrase "knightly sword", the picture that often comes to mind are swords classified as Oakeshott's Type XII. The Type XII blade is broad near the hilt, with a fuller extending about two-thirds of the length of the blade, and tapers gently to a moderately acute point. The blade features a lenticular cross-section that provides for a broad and flat cutting surface. Historically ranging from the Viking Age into the 15th century, these swords seem to have been most popular from the 12th through the 14th century. This blade type lends itself very well to cutting or slashing attacks, but also gives increased potential for the thrust.

Overview
Since Albion Armorers first introduced its Next Generation line of swords, their lineup of well-made production swords has expanded at an amazing rate. Many blade types that were not generally seen on the production sword market are now available, hilted in a variety of ways. This is the case with Albion's Laird, which shares the blade of Albion's Knight (a more classic Type XII) and the Caithness, another Scottish-inspired sword.

The Laird is fairly typical for a Scottish sword of the 14th-15th century, with a down-sloping cross with spatulate ends and a wheel pommel with a very high rivet block. Along with the two-handed claymore and the basket-hilted broadsword, this hilt design is forever linked to the Scottish Isles.
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Measurements and Specifications:
Weight:2 pounds, 10 ounces
Overall length:38 1/2 inches
Blade length:31 1/4 inches
Blade width:2 inches at base, tapering to 3/4 inches
Grip length:3 3/4 inches
Guard width:8 1/4 inches
Point of Balance:4 1/2 inches from guard
Center of Percussion:~20 1/2 inches from guard
Oakeshott typology:Type XII blade, Type J pommel

Replica created by Albion Armorers of Wisconsin.

Handling Characteristics
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Sword in Hand


I have occasionally heard it said that a given reproduction sword "floats through the air," but until I first drew this sword from its box, I did not really believe a sword could feel that way. This one does. The combination of the Point of Balance and the distribution of mass in the blade make it feel almost effortless to move this sword. It is the best cutting sword I own, at least on light targets, and is forgiving in a way no sword I have used for cutting ever has been. Cuts away from the Center of Percussion, and even those with a misaligned edge, still bite into the target with minimal blade vibration. Point control is good, and the blade is stiff enough for a thrust to do real damage, yet when I hold this sword, all I want to do is swing it. Fellow collector Patrick Kelly also noted the Laird's outstanding handling characteristics. "While the blade's design still offers too much flexibility for a dedicated thrusting sword," he says, "its increased profile taper enables the Laird to thrust much more effectively than earlier types. Handling the Laird is an effortless pleasure."

Fit and Finish
The hilt is a real standout on this sword, both because it is unusual and because of the design and execution of the fittings. The finish on the fittings is very nice—even and with almost no casting flaws.

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Pommel Detail


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Cross Detail
To say that a wheel pommel is unusual may seem like an oxymoron, but this one truly is a bit different. For one thing, the wheel is not actually circular, but elliptical. The width is just enough larger than the height to be able to tell the difference. The wheel is also considerably thicker at the side where the pommel joins the grip than at the rivet block. These features, along with the high rivet block, form a wheel pommel that is both complex and interesting.

The cross is entirely comprised of angles and curves: not a straight segment in sight. Added complexity seems to be the theme, with elegant bevels on the edges that blend into the spatulate cross ends.

The grip is wood wrapped with fine leather and features a single cord riser. It offers a firm and attractive grip and is one of the things I have come to associate most directly with these Albion Next Generation swords.

The blade is a classic design that is broad with a fairly deep fuller, narrowing past the end of the fuller to a rather sharp point. It is almost impossible to determine where exactly the fuller ends, so perfectly does it blend into the upper blade. The blade finish is attractive, although the perfectionist who cuts with the sword may spend a bit of time polishing it. Several cutting sessions with water-filled milk jugs have left some light scuffing and scratches on the blade.

Patrick Kelly observed that, "the blade's profile taper is slightly off center as it nears the point, i.e., one edge exhibits slightly more curve than the other." This was the only aesthetic flaw he found in the Laird, and he noted that it does not affect either the sword's performance or its visual appeal. "In the end, this feature illustrates the fact that there is still quite a bit of handwork involved in the manufacture of Albion swords," he says.

Conclusion
Albion's Type XII blade and the Laird's Scottish-inspired hilt combine to produce a sword that a medieval Scotsman would have been proud to carry. Its love-it-or-hate-it styling may not be for everyone, but it is undeniably an interesting and effective sword. There are times I really like the look of the hilt, and sometimes I'm not so sure, but every time I pick it up I love the way it feels in my hand.

This sword offers the modern sword enthusiast an opportunity to own a weapon that possesses a unique visual character and outstanding handling qualities. The Laird by Albion Armorers would be right at home in any collection of Scottish arms.





About the Author
Gordon Clark spent seven years as a wandering college mathematics professor before settling down to a real job. He is now an analyst for a scientific consulting firm in the Washington DC area. A few years ago he realized a childhood dream of owning a real sword. His wife says that he has re-realized that dream too many times since then.

Acknowledgements
Photographer: Patrick Kelly



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