H1: Medieval Two Handed Sword
(About): A Battle-Ready Modern Reproduction of a Knight-Killer’s Sword
Our Medieval Two Handed Sword is a Late Medieval marvel – it sits at the peak of the arc of medieval arms design, one of the finest and deadliest weapons of the whole millennium between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance. It is a stunning Type XVIIIb sword, called by historian and weapons expert Ewart Oakeshott “the very epitome of a ‘hand-and-a-half’ sword”. Our flawless reproduction has been meticulously crafted by the master-smiths at Canada’s finest artisanal armsmaker Darksword Armory – they have worked from a range of historical sources to ensure totally faithful reproduction, including the illustrations of legendary Renaissance engraver Albrecht Dürer and surviving historical originals in the most famous museums. The result is a beautiful battle-ready bastard sword, straight from a Late Medieval clash of knights in full harnesses of plate armor.
Deadly By Design
The blade of our Medieval Two Handed Sword is a knight-killer. It conforms to the wicked Oakeshott Type XVIIIb, which emerged toward the end of the 16th century CE. Its blade is a beautiful, gracefully tapering longsword design, finishing in an extremely long point. Its cross-section is a ‘flattened diamond’, with four faces and no fuller – this gives it a great degree of rigidity and strength. A glance at such a weapon tells you its purpose: an armor piercer. Its rigidity and sharp point means that it could deliver an enormous amount of power into thrusts, compromising weak-spots in armor or puncturing through entirely. Such a devastating weapon could be at risk of becoming unwieldy – but medieval smiths had extremely clever means of balancing these weapons into staggering agility for their size. The faces of the flattened-diamond blade have been painstakingly sanded into a convex shape, significantly reducing the weight of the blade with a technique called ‘hollow-grinding’. These remained effective cutting swords, but their real purpose was in defeating the armored knights of their day – and such weapons would be pointless without precision. Darksword Armory’s master smiths have made sure that our Medieval Two Handed Sword has fantastic handling characteristics, with a point-of-balance only six inches from the guard. This means it feels practically weightless to wield. Darksword have chosen 5160 spring steel as the material for the blade, and it has been tempered to a dual-hardness of 60 HRc at the edge and 48-50 HRc at the core. The net result is a peerlessly resilient blade designed to take all of the punishment that combat, re-enactment and roleplay can throw at it.
A Masterpiece in Simplicity
The hilt of our Medieval Two Handed Sword is a masterpiece in simplicity. Darksword Armory say it is one of their staff favourites, and we can see why! It is forged from rugged mild steel to weather all you can put it through. The guard is a brilliantly simple straight cross that affords excellent hand protection. The grip is a generous hand-and-a-half in length, made with a segmented diamond-profile, and wrapped in black leather – it won’t slip in your hand. The pommel is a handsome example of what is known as a ‘fish-tail’ – similar to a ‘scent stopper’ but more flattened and with a fluted design. It has been carefully weighted to balance the blade, producing the incredible point-of-balance mentioned above. The hilt has been constructed with a hot-peened full tang – this means that all of the hilt components are threaded onto the tail of the blade, and securely locked in place. It is the gold-standard for re-enactment grade weaponry, and means that our Medieval Two Handed Sword is a fully-functional battle ready weapon.
Secretly, this is one of our favourite weapons here at Medieval Ware. The elegant hollow-ground blade and the minimalist, unfussy hilt draw one’s eye to the proportions and balance of the weapon which are simply unequalled. It is a true masterpiece. When building an outfit to go with our Medieval Two Handed Sword, you could consider the historical era which birthed it: the age of armored knights. Thus, it would pair perfectly with our enormous selection of plate armor. If you want to discover more about the heritage of Type XVIIIb swords such as this, then please read on to the next section about the Medieval Arms Race. You could choose either authentic German Gothic armor to match the original wielders of this weapon and depict a historical Renaissance knight, or you could create your own more fantastical outfit to complement it. But this is a sword that should not pass you by!
(History): The Medieval Arms Race – Midwife of the Type XVIIIb Longsword
The evolution of the longswords of the Late Medieval era as it elided seamlessly into the Renaissance is the story of a ceaseless arms race between armorers and swordsmiths. Constant revolutions in armor necessitated new forms of can-opener, and vice versa. But those changes didn’t take place in a vacuum. There is the risk that looking down the telescope of history foreshortens everything: where medieval history just becomes an indistinct mass or a caricature of feudalism that didn’t really change much between the Roman withdrawal and King Henry VIII. The reality of the medieval era is that society changed vastly throughout the centuries, and in different ways in different places – a year was still as long as a year is today, in 1158 CE! With each new change in the social fabric of society, new possibilities for warfare, arms and armor were realised – and at their pinnacle was the Medieval Two Handed Sword.
The Landscape of Armor
Ever since the Roman Empire dominated Europe, iron chainmail had been the finest available personal protection. These were initially byrnies (chainmail shirts), and from the Norman era onward hauberks (knee-length tunics), made from alternating rows of punched-out flat rings and riveted round-wire rings. This style had been inherited from the Celtic smiths who supplied the Roman armies with much of their chainmail. For most of the medieval era, chainmail would have been made from simple pure iron or occasionally low-carbon steel. It would have provided very good protection against the weapons of the age: cutting swords, reasonably heavy axes, spears and similar simple hand-weapons. But a chainmail outfit represented an immense investment, both in labouring hours and in material costs: a suit of chainmail might contain more than 50,000 links, and to have taken more than 750 hours to produce. Only the wealthiest could afford such an outfit, as is one shown, for example, by inheritance records in the Frankish Empire of the 800s CE, where chainmail brunia (byrnies) were bequeathed as extremely precious objects from generation to generation. The commonest armor of the era was the shield – usually a simple round construction made from butted boards of timber; a more complex shield might be made from plied boards (two or more layers laid at right angles to one another) or covered with rawhide to bind it together. The peasant levies who made up the bulk of all medieval armies would probably have fought in ordinary stout cloth, right up until the Late Medieval era. Thus, the weapons of the age were excellently adapted to these challenges: a hand axe could splinter a shield, a fine Viking Age sword could cut down a lightly armored levy or even burst mail if it was made from properly quenched steel.
The Crusades and the Changing World
The High Middle Ages (c. 1000 CE – 1250 CE) saw the beginnings of a technological revolution in warfare. This era saw the emergence of a network of large, reasonably unified kingdoms across Europe, like France, England, the Holy Roman Empire, and the wealthy Italian states. Economic prosperity stemming from increases in population founded on more efficient farming practices and a warm climatic period meant that warfare changed significantly in scale and in character. With increases in mining and trade, chainmail underwent significant development. Wealthy knights now wore head-to-foot maille, and it became more widespread amongst lower-class troops. Improvements in design meant it became more effective, moving toward all-riveted construction. As well, the Crusades brought French, English and German knights into contact with new environmental challenges and Eastern tactics. This spurred the adoption of new sword types.
We see a marked lengthening of the points of arming swords in this era, creating more effective thrusting weapons that would have been much better at defeating the improving mail of the era. At the same time, another branch of sword design stuck with tried-and-tested methods: some swords simply got larger and more brutal, scaling up the flat-bladed, parallel-edged blades of the earlier era to create weapons that could simply smash defenses to pieces. These were known as war swords, large medieval two-handed swords that were the direct precursor of our Medieval Two Handed Sword.
The Dawn of the Age of Plate
Around the middle of the 13th-century CE, the tendency toward large-scale production of iron and steel permitted warriors who were seeking extra protection to begin experimenting with metal plates. Initially included ad-hoc into existing chainmail outfits (eg. schynbalds strapped over chainmail chausses, or iron pieces sewn into the lining of a surcote to make a coat of plates), they eventually developed into their own standalone pieces of armor. The emergence of harnesses of plate armor in the second half of the 1300s CE made the days of the arming sword numbered: it was impervious to cutting weapons, and single-handed weapons, no matter how pointed and effective, simply could no longer provide the necessary power to pose serious threat to this new form of armor. Fortunately, wearing a suit of plate meant that you could safely discard your shield: this became the era of enormously powerful two-handed weapons. Thus, our Medieval Two Handed Sword is the product of the era of the medieval arms race.
Emerging alongside powerful anti-armor weapons like the crows-beak, war hammer and halberd, the Renaissance medieval two-handed sword developed from the earlier forms of the highly pointed arming sword. The development of the enormous flat-bladed war sword continued, finding its niche as an anti-polearm weapon in Continental armies as the Zweihander, or as a fierce berserker sword in the Scottish Highlands at the great claymore. But our Type XVIIIb Medieval Two Handed Sword is not designed to shatter pikes or to scythe through poorly armored opponents. Rather, it is a single-purpose anti-armor weapon, the anti-tank rifle of its day. It resembles nothing so much as an enormous needle, or perhaps a leatherworker’s awl – a skilled wielder could put their entire weight into the point of the sword in order to puncture through gaps or joins in the armor.
How To Fight Like A Knight
For the first time in history, we have detailed knowledge of individual historical fighting styles, with the emergence of Fechtbucher (‘fighting book’) manuals in the Renaissance. Those such as the Solothurner Fechtbuch (c. 1500 CE, unknown author) show us in staggering detail the techniques for armored fighting. It appears very much more like choreographed grappling or wrestling than anything that we might consider ‘sword fighting’, a sort of armored chess match to achieve a position where one can work the point of one’s blade into a weak point under the chin or into the groin or armpit. Swords such as our Medieval Two Handed Sword were incredibly versatile, and were frequently wielded in halbschwerd (‘half-sword’) manner, with one gripping halfway down the blade transforming it into a short spear to give much better point control. As well, a warrior might attempt a mordhau or ‘murder strike’, reversing the sword entirely and swinging the quillons at an opponent’s skull like a pickaxe.
Thus – our Medieval Two Handed Sword is a window into this world. Perhaps when you feel its live presence in your hands, you’ll be inspired to take up Historical European Martial Arts and study the way of the Fechtbucher yourself! There is no finer sword with which to do so.
Total length: 49 ½ inches
Blade length: 38 ½ inches
Blade width: 2 inches
Blade material: 5160 carbon steel
Blade hardness: 60 HRc at edge ; 48-50 HRc at core
Guard and pommel material: Mild steel
Grip material: Leather
Weight: 3 lbs. 5 oz.