Museum Replicas 16th Century Cut and Thrust Sword
with Matching Parrying Dagger
A hands-on review by Gene George
The cut-and-thrust sword has long held a great deal of fascination for students of weaponry. Although possessing a radical profile taper suitable for thrusting, the sword's blade is still broad enough to allow effective cuts. A result of this arrangement is that the blade design, balance, and weight required to use cuts are different from those that make an ideal thrusting sword. By "sitting the fence" this design neither cuts nor thrusts as effectively as other styles that choose one function exclusively. This disadvantage may be one of the reasons why other sword types replaced these hybrid weapons. Broadswords like the Scottish basket hilts and Schiavona hilts as battle swords and rapiers and smallswords for civilian wear.
Museum Replicas Limited (MRL) of Atlanta produced this sword. Museum Replicas and its sister company Atlanta Cutlery markets low to moderately priced historical weapon replicas and fantasy pieces. At the time this piece was purchased, circa 1994, Museum Replicas was known for using subcontractors and small craft shops to produce blades and fittings, most notably using Krupp CK-55 steel blades obtained from Fulvio DelTin of Italy.
MRL has always been very responsive to customer ordering and this purchase was no exception. My recent interactions with the Museum Replicas staff have showed me that not much has changed in the decade or so since I first ordered from them.
Left hand daggers were common complements to swords. The fittings for the dagger were taken from an original piece in a private collection. A number of years ago, MRL contracted Arms & Armor of Minnesota to produce fittings for some of their historical pieces. Blades were supplied and mounted by the MRL in-house craftsmen. The blade is of unknown manufacture. Fittings identical to this piece are currently available mounted on Arms & Armor's "1580 parrying dagger".
The early to mid 16th century was a time of experimentation, innovation and change. Rapid developments in firearms and artillery rendered even the heaviest armor nearly ineffective. War swords with simple cross hilts that wouldn't have been out of place two or three centuries before were used next to complex basket hilts, long slim rapiers and heavy single edged chopping swords. Swords began to change in form and function producing a number of disparate styles ranging from heavy arming swords to the lighter, smaller weapons that eventually became the rapier and smallsword.
Sword Measurements and Specifications:
Original dated circa 1550-1630 A.D., claimed to be based on Spanish designs.
Replica created by Museum Replicas Limited of Atlanta. Blade supplied by Del Tin Armi Antiche of Italy.
The left hand dagger is a formidable weapon on its own. At three inches shy of two feet long it's quite an impressive sight and would give an opponent pause. Worn alone it would make me feel safer if I had to walk the winding, darkened streets of a 16th century European city or town at night. Arms & Armor says this regarding the dagger fittings:
"The pommel and crossguard of this dagger are made using molds taken from the original. They illustrate all of the key features of a parrying dagger. The ring attached to the quillon block, on this example with decorative file work, was to protect the knuckles. This was enhanced by the quillons, which curved forward and up from the plane of the blade. This additional protection was needed due to the parrying dagger often being held as far forward as possible and thus a good target for your opponent."
Dagger Measurements and Specifications:
Original dated circa 1580 A.D, from an unspecified private collection, USA, provenance unknown.
Assembled by Museum Replicas Limited of Atlanta. Blade maker unknown. Fittings by Arms & Armor of Minnesota.
Personally, I find the sword's compromise between cut and thrust tolerable. Balance slightly favors the hilt, as the pommel is large compared to the weight of the blade. True to its design this piece is not as good a cutter as my broad-bladed battle swords, or as suited to fence as my rapier. Additionally the characteristics exhibited by this piece are very light and fast considering the fact that it was manufactured almost a decade ago.
The dagger handles lightning quick and the extra few inches of blade allows the wielder to gain what might be a critical advantage of reach for parries or attacks of opportunity.
Fit and Finish
The sword blade is double-edged with no fullers and has a 1 3/4" ricasso. The hilt has sharply recurved quillons and has two side-rings. The spherical pommel is slightly ovoid and cast with vertical fluted ridges and a tang button. This pommel is similar to A.V.B. Norman's type 19. Grips are leather over a carved hardwood core. The hilt and side rings are cast and decorative fluting elements are integral to the quillons and rings. The "chiseled" fluting lends a simple dignity to the sword, and ties the piece in well to the companion dagger. The fittings are cast and show minor mold lines. This sword is not based on any cited historical example, but is a composite of a number of similar swords. Museum Replicas oftentimes placed aesthetics over documented research; overall, I'm satisfied with their results, regardless of the lack of documentation. This was one of the two founding pieces in my collection of replica historic arms and remains one of my personal favorites.
Construction of the dagger's grip is rather shoddy, with the handle's core being a brittle yellowish plastic, with grip contours filed out and leather wrapped. The plastic soon broke and was repaired by me a number of years ago with epoxy and super glue. A future project will replace the current handle core with hardwood and new leather. Aesthetically, though the ahistorical materials are undetectable and this is a very pleasing piece.
The so-called cut and thrust swords dubbed "sword-rapiers" by later era weapon aficionados were products of an unprecedented era of experimentation. Regardless of any inherent design deficiencies this set truly is an aesthetically pleasing example of an interesting era of weapon development.
Taken together, the set is efficient and deadly. Very simple and elegant in appearance, almost austere, the beauty of form and function are apparent in these pieces.
About the Author
Gene George has been fascinated with weapons and armor as long as he can recall. A former archaeologist and historian, he lives with his wife 14 miles west of where they filmed The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and 60 miles North-Northwest of where they filmed Captain Blood (1935). He has a big pile of swords and wants more.
Photographer: Gene George