Kult of Athena


Thursday, January 31, 2019

Darksword Armory: Are They Getting Better? Maybe

It seems the day finally arrived – the day when troubled Canadian sword-makers, Darksword Armory, have announced their long-awaited and long-sought after “mea cupla” resulting from YEARS of customer complaints, emaciated tangs, and suspicions of overseas importing for entire lines of swords.

Better still, apparently, they claim to be DOUBLING DOWN on the overall quality and rigorous inspection process of all their blades for 2019 and beyond.


Better late than never? Have they seen the light? We’ll find out.


Now, forgive me my skepticism, but I, personally, was burned by DSA on no less than THREE different swords over a period of about 5 years or so. The Guardian, The Carpathian, The Claymore – all of them came with emaciated tangs and over-built and false-peened hilt constructions that led to catastrophic and potentially-dangerous sword failures.

Not only did I return EACH of these swords MORE THAN ONCE, BEGGING for them to inspect it and provide me with the high-quality sword I paid for, I also subsequently paid Wes Beem of Lonely Wolf Forge HUNDREDS of dollars to tear down and reconstruct the tangs of the Guardian and Carpathian to make them functional (as the Guardian was a wedding gift, and the Carpathian was a favorite design).

I didn’t mind paying Wes to do it. He’s a mad genius with steel, but I must admit, I think I might be ex-wifing this whole scenario pretty hard right now.

The bitterness is still a bit raw, remembering all the mailing I had to do, and the pictures featured in DSA’s article were, in fact, mine: 

I also, presently, have a 11th Century Viking Sword that I purchased around the same time, but I’m afraid to open her up an feel the searing fire of corruption and rage engulf me again.

Plus, she’s too pretty. 

It may also be because after my lengthy email chain with DSA concerning these issues, their apparently indifferent mouthpiece Mike told me:

“It would be best if you purchased from another provider from here on out.”

But this isn’t the blog post to rehash the past.


OK. Enough of that. I’m sure my refunds/new swords/apologies will come any day now (truthfully, they did offer me a new Erland Sword for my trouble. I declined).

But in my many discussions and debates with people who have purchased DSA blades and LOVED them (congrats on picking up good ones), I SWORE that if DSA EVER improved the quality of their weapons and processes with regularity, I would be among the first to come forward and write a “seeing the light” piece about their efforts.

It would seem I am a man of my word.

Here I am, true to life, and here are some things I have noticed that have been positive about the DSA brand image revamp as of late:
  • THIS ARTICLE: Do we know if it is all true? Nope. Have they made these claims before? Yep. Evidence to the contrary from renowned swordsmith Jeffrey Robinson? Perhaps. But the fact is they are still acknowledging there was a problem and they are, from photographic evidence, taking steps to correct it. That’s the first step towards recovery and forgiveness, right? For some. Besides, everyone loves a comeback (ask Shakespeare or Rocky Balboa).

  • UPDATED TANG PHOTOS: On their website, on Amazon, in almost location online where they sell, you’ll see a new addition to Darksword’s gallery lineup: a sword blade with a naked tang and transparent (finally) hilt construction. If they weren’t going to provide this type of new and improved tang, they would be setting themselves up for MAJOR legal action for false advertisement and fraud, and potential ruin to their less-than-sterling reputation. I'll count that as a win for the good guys.

    Most-surprisingly, much like Hanwei, Cold Steel, and other manufacturers - those who know the value of being able to change out their broken or damaged blades - it seems DSA will now start incorporating a  keyed tang system in some of their swords. I haven’t seen any designs on their website to indicate this as of yet (they’re all peened as far as I can tell), but this information comes from collectors on the Sword Buyer’s Guide who have had supposed direct dealings with DSA reps.

Do I trust all of these things? Seeing is believing. Like many of you reading this, no, I have little faith in the promises of DSA. I know there are others who love them, but Im not into abusive relationships (I'm already married).

Are these the right moves to make in order to walk the path of redemption and higher profits within the sword community?

You bet.

“Through perseverance, the snail reaches the ark.” – Charles Spurgeon

Friday, September 28, 2018


Morning all,

Real short post today b/c I just want everyone to be aware of the NEW ZOMBIE TOOLS WEAPON that is coming down the pipe…

!!!!! THE DEUCE 3 !!!!!

At first glance, and in my humble opinion, it’s a sleek and stylish combination hybrid of the Choppa and the Reaper. She looks to be a pretty prolific slicing weapon, primarily, with that curved upward edge, but still looks like it packs the durable punch everyone expects from ZT, overall with the longer handle and excellent leverage.

A brother of the sword picked it up at the Atlanta Blade Show this year. We can all expect her to show up on the scene sometime in Mid 2019 (at a guess).

Overall length: 36”
Blade length: 23”
Handle length: 10”

Here’s some excellent photos from David Pérez Ulloa (owner) so you can start saving those pennies:


ALSO, the Two-Bit Betty is retiring soon so don’t forget to grab it before she’s gone!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Custom Battle Ready Elven Sword: Fate Weaver

The plan was all set…in my head.

The execution, however, would require some finesse. Well-timed vigilance (to receive the packages when I was working from home), some small white lies (but only by omission), sometimes its all about the right place at the right time and dodging bullets (but try and be honest).

2 swords. No questions. No fights with the wife about money or spending. The sublime ideal for a collector with two kids, a mortgage, and a budget.

Better still, one of them would come from Kaer Morhen Forge (yes, Witcher fans, that Kaer Morhen).

But the gods see all our best laid plans and laugh, dont they?

My destiny, it seemed (b/c of bills, PayPal, and other bullshit) was to only acquire ONE sword. But oh what a sword she would be!

Let’s go back…

I had worked on a MASSIVE freelance writing project in April. One of the terms of the money we would earn (most of it would go the family and our trip to Disney) would be that I would allocate funds towards a new sword (or two).

Having caught the custom bug, I went straight to our man Wes Beem and Lonely Wolf Forge first to see what I could do with $1000. He offered me some great options for one of his amazing long sword constructions:
I was psyched!

But as the discussion went on, as tends to happen when designing a custom sword with a limited budget, my ideal and his capabilities (for the price) didn’t sync up. I wanted anthropomorphic everything (like my custom Braveheart sword). But instead of a bear this time, I wanted a stag.
  • Stag pommel (or stag in a wheel pommel)
  • Antler crossguard
I even sent photos:

No dice.

Now, Wes and I are friends, so he told me a nicely and as bluntly as Wes can:

“For that kind of cash, you’re not going to get what you want.”

I couldn’t fault him at all. In my excitement and haste, I had fallen into the oldest trap there is when designing a sword.

“I have this much to spend and I want a frickin’ lightsaber”

Unfortunately, in the end, we couldn’t come to an accord for anything less than $2000 (which I suggested as the right price for Wes’ time, work, and bills). I had to explore other options.

Now, please don’t weep for Wes. There’s a happy ending. I did end up with one of his customs after all…and for a lot less.


As luck would have it, another one of my All Swords brethren, David, was trying to unload one of the swords he bought from Gentleman Beem: his custom elven saber.

Now, I had been tracking this treasure since the beginning of April, patiently circling like a starving shark to see if this magnificent brand would drop in price at all to a budget depth where I could bite.

In the middle of May, it did.

$750...$650...WAIT FOR IT...BAM!

Once it hit a price where I could nab it, I breached like South African great white and, at least for that hot second, the custom elven blade, aptly-named Fate Weaver, was mine.

But, as with anything worth doing, there were some...complications:
  • Gift Card Payments (Fail)
  • PayPal Transactions (Fail)
  • Canadian Exchange Rate
  • International Shipping
  • Customs Clearance
  • Continental Travel
  • Greedy Bandits (not really)
The works….

The apprehension, frustration, and panic was rivaled only by the (figurative) perspiration pouring out of me every day.

But then…after two weeks of waiting….after all the checks and balances were cleared and monetary obstacles…Fate Weaver FINALLY found a new home!

Like a virgin groom on his wedding night (so I have been told), I slowly, reverently (as I do with all my new swords) unfettered my newest steely soul mate from all her trappings, wrappings, and packaging, and simply stood there, awestruck and admiringly soaking in her glorious curves, design, and undeniable metallic strength.

Today, after 4 months, and a lot of work in the yard, I can say that this is the fastest, most agile, and one of the sharpest (shaving would be an insult) swords I own:
  • Blade Length: 25 inches 
  • Handle Length: 10 inches 
  • Weight: 2.5 lbs 
  • Steel: 5160 
  • Forge Marks on the Blade 
  • "Amarth Nathron," "Fate Weaver" in Sindarin Elvish
Not only is it elegant and stunning to behold, it possesses the tank-tough, full-tang, battle-ready construction necessary to make it the first and foremost candidate to ride on my hip on treks through the wilderness. It is also the steel I plan to use when I step up my cutting game and launch into some unsuspecting tatami later on this year.

But for now...

Care to see her in action? Get to know her a little better?

Abracadaver! Thanks for the view!

Stay tuned for the custom scabbard build from Steve Huerta, coming soon!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Warcraft (The Movie) Prop Auction!

There is a crazy auction going on right now from the Prop Store in Hollywood, and I am getting in on it in spades!


Bid Now

The movie sucked hardcore (I thought it was fucking amazing and campy), but it did bring Warcraft to life for all of us nerds and I just had to get me a piece of the history.

As of this writing, I am about $650 in debt to these dudes, but there are about 12 days left in the auction. I am sure I will be outbid on most of them, but at least I have seen everything they have to offer and I am PSYCHED to own actual memorabilia from the actual film.

Check out my choices (so far):

Will I add any of these to the medieval man cave basement I will one day have in my home? Time, as they say, will tell! 

Friday, May 11, 2018

On the Engineering of Swords...

We all love swords.

Shiny, slicy, stabby, sharpened (or unsharpened, as you prefer) pieces of steel are just our favorite things in the world.

However, for all of our love and adoration, there are many of us (myself included) who don't possess a firm understanding of the complex engineering (and there is a lot, rest assured) that goes into carefully crafting, and handling what ultimately comes down to (oversimplifying in the extreme) a long, thin piece of metal with a handle so someone can swing it.

But, among the many sword enthusiasts, smiths, HEMA practicioners, and others on Facebook's All Swords group, and throughout our steely microcosm, there is one man who has decided to shed some light on the things we reference so often when chatting about the various and proper qualities of a well-made, functional sword.

That man is Collin Miller of Miller Forge.

Stay A While & Listen...

"It's come to my attention that the handling of swords is something that isn't understood in any measurable way by what I would consider a significant percentage of the group. That's okay, I'm here to help try to educate, not start arguments.

Peter Johnsson has a different perspective than Gus Trim. These guys don't have the same approach, but they make some of the best-handing swords out there.

Now, I am qualified to talk about this, but this is MY perspective.  

Tobias Capwell once said, "A good sword should be light in the right ways, and heavy in the right ways."

That pretty well sums it up in a sentence. But in what ways should it be heavy? In what ways should it be light? How do you recognize this or measure it?

To explain that, there are some very basic principles I'm going to help you understand:

Sword Inertia
The first and one of the most important (in my opinion) is the principle of inertia. More specifically, the acceleration of mass.

I'll go ahead and let the cat out of the bag: I am NOT a physicist. I have no formal education in physics, and I can barely spell the word physicist. But I do have experience in how physics relates to swords.

To explain this, Peter Johnsson uses what I believe is called the "Dumbbell analogy:"

If you have a round piece of steel shaped like a dumbbell, and another piece of steel with the same weight and length, but is thickest in the center and tapered on both ends, which one takes more force to accelerate to a spin?

You guessed it, the dumbbell. This is because of inertia.

You have to set more mass into motion because of its shape. However, it will also take more force to stop spinning, because there is more mass.

This is one of the reasons we have distal taper. It is also the paradox of a sword being heavy in the right ways and light in the right ways.

Weight, Mass & Leverage
A sword with more mass in the tip will be less agile and require more energy to set into motion, but it will also hit harder because there is more mass set into motion. 

A good sword will balance these properties for its intended task so that the sword is easy to set into motion and hits hard enough to deliver a powerful attack.

What I just explained also has to do with leverage. Picking up a ten pound weight is easy, but picking up a ten pound weight on the end of a stick is less so.

Vibration Nodes, Pivot Points & The Pommels That Love Them
Now we will move onto pivot points and vibration nodes, and how a pommel tunes these. These are the terms I learned, so they're the ones I'll use in this post/article.

It was brought up in a recent post (on All Swords) that it is easy to cheat your way to what is considered a "good" point of balance by putting a big ass pommel on a clunky blade.

This is true, and a pommel is NOT to act as a counterweight and its primary function is not to change the point of balance (the pommel does change the POB, but that just is more collateral damage, not it's main function).   

The more weight you affix to the ass end of your blade, the farther away the pivot points in the blade get from the hand, and the closer they move to the tip. The vibration nodes get closer to the pommel end, with the hilt node usually resting somewhere in where you would place your hand on a grip. 

As a a general rule, the hilt node on a two-handed sword tends to feel best around where the heel and pinky finger of the front hand rest.

On a single-handed sword, it should usually be just behind the guard, where your index finger and thumb wrap around.

That is over-simplified, though.

What you really want is for your pivot points and vibration nodes to talk to each other and work in harmony. 

If you have a really well-balanced sword in your collection, you might test this for yourself.

The Test
Pinch with your finger and thumb the node in the grip and let the blade hang down. Now, smack the pommel.

Get your finger and thumb situated right in the middle of that hilt node. On the blade, you'll see a corresponding node somewhere hopefully near the 2/3 point in your blade. This is often called the COP or "center of percussion" (this varies greatly depending on the intended use of the sword).

Now with the sword vibrating, and you gently pinching the hilt node, waggle the hilt straight side to side, somewhat quickly (it takes a good bit of practice to get accurate and consistent results with this measurement).

When you waggle the hilt horizontally, you should be able to see something of a fulcrum point, where it looks like there is a nail through the blade that it is pivoting on.

On every well balanced sword I've handled, and on most originals I've seen measurements of, the vibration nodes and the pivot points that correspond with the location of these pivot points is very close. Often, they are sitting right on top of each other.

So when your blade has good mass distribution, you can adjust the pommel weight until these points correspond. Pivot points go forward and vibration nodes go backwards. There is a sweet spot or Goldilocks range (yes, it is a range) where they talk to each other.

The Importance of Mass Distribution
The mass distribution of the blade is what really determines how the sword feels. You cannot, I repeat cannot, make a blade with bad mass distribution handle well with a different pommel.

This is because the point of balance is not what makes a sword feel the way it feels, and the pommel is not a counterweight. The pommel is a device to fine tune the handling of the blade.

Too heavy of a pommel, and the sword feels weightless and dead. Too light, and the blade will feel sluggish and unresponsive."

About Collin Miller
What this young smith may lack in winters, he more than makes up for with fiery, hands-on experience at the forge. Creating various types of European blades (knives, swords, axes, and more) with mythological, and legendary influences, Collin is almost completely self-taught and always evolving in his capabilities.

Collin crafts his metallic creations at his home shop, Miller Forge, and can be seen doing what he does best on his YouTube Channel:


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Sexy Sword Mystery Solved

Recently, at the pre-Thanksgiving Day Parade festivities, I felt that familiar tingle that fine steel was nearby. You know that sensation. It’s like Déjà vu, electricity, and the post-coitus afterglow all rolled into one then given a shot of adrenaline – you know, just for kicks.

Yeah, I felt that.

Walking around the reenactors’ tents, I folded back a flap and there she was:

I hefted her. She felt light. I took her through some motions. She felt strong. She just felt right. Beautiful. Durable. Stylish. I’m not one, really for rapiers, one-handers, main gauches, etc. But, to me, this brand was the Christina Hendricks of weaponry and I just had to know where she came from:

“Who made your basket hilt?”
“Don’t rightly know. If you like swords, try this company called Armor Class in Scotland.”
“Oh, no problem. It’s just a beautiful piece. (aka Hi. We haven’t met but I am a sword fanatic and want to steal your piece like Arthur stole Excalibur when he was a squire for Sir Cay).

I did some digging.

After talking to a lot of “Town Guard” –style parade-marching marching groups, the mystery of the sexy sword was final revealed by these cheerful fellows, the Salem Trayned Band:

“The sword about which you're asking is Darkwood Armory's English Baskethilt IV with a wire-wrapped grip (single wrap), built to living-history quality (an option you can request from Darkwood) and mounted on an old Museum Replicas broadsword blade. Regrettably, I'm not sure which one, but it may be from MRL's very old Early Basket-Hilt sword.

Darkwood reshaped and fullered the blade. We ordered the sword before Darkwood offered as complete a line-up of blades as they do today, so we opted to provide our own blade rather than waiting for them to either order a Del Tin blade or to develop a suitable one of their own.”

Well HOOO-RAY for customization, but this now means that I may never get that same EXACT model, as forges can be prickly about making copies of the same blade.

Ah, well. At least now I know her name and where she lives.

The rest, I think, is simply horse-tradin.’ 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Claymore vs. Claymore: Seeking Scottish Steel...And Truth

Have you ever had a type of sword you just NEEDED to own? Like you’re a “Conan The Barbarian” movie fan, and you had to have Conan’s Father’s Sword and the Atlantean just so you can enjoy “the life” all the more? 

Well I have, and I do. And it is a great Scottish Claymore. 

Aside from the raw power and beauty of these Highland monsters, I had practical reasons for my most recent acquisition. I had owned one previously, but I needed a new claymore to replace the one from...ahem...DSA...that had, let’s just say, problems with its construction. Problems that, honestly, wouldn’t let me swing  it safely. 

So, to find the iconic Gaelic brand I would be adding to my collection, I let my fingers do the walking across the keyboard, and I fired up Google for the online window shopping that I love best. 

I was aiming for a top-shelf Claymore at a bargain-basement price (if I could get it), and we all know where I went for that. I started in the first place, the best place everyone knows to start, Kult of Athena (KOA), and took a look at all the Caldonian Cattle Killers I felt I could afford:  

Ritter Steel:

Del Tin:

Kris Cutlery:

(Thrand’s) Medieval Shoppe:


After a lot of back and forth, and examining the many choices that suited my tastes and budget, and handling preferences and aesthetics, it became apparent that the Chinese-made Hanwei Scottish Claymore was the great sword for me. 

First Impressions Are Everything
Returning home from work, I could see the box was huge. I knew a beast slumbered just beneath that tape and cardboard, and, as I felt the energy radiating from my big brown rectangle, I couldn’t wait to strip her down and get a look at her goodies. 

Like that time my folks were gone for the weekend, I was not disappointed: 

The Specs:
Overall Length: 55 3/3''
Blade: 41" 
Weight: 5 lb 3 oz
Edge:  Sharp
P.O.B.: 5 3/8''
Thickness: 5.7 mm - 3.4 mm
Width: 45.9 mm
Grip Length: 10 1/2''
Pommel: Peened

After disrobing her from her plastic fetters, swinging this thing around for just a few minutes, and feeling the legit gravitational pull this sword had when you got her up to speed through the air, I knew she would be an absolute savage when sharpened; cutting through bottles and targets of all sizes with equal abandon. 

The cutting review from KOA gave some credence to that assumption:

But alas, at the writing of this, I haven’t had it sharpened and tested just YET. Peter Hamlin and Precision Sharpening (less than a mile down the road) JUST closed down, so I’ll have to send it out to Wes Beem and the Lonely Wolf Forge to get it done right. 

Soon. So soon...  

Is It Really A Claymore Though?

Now, some of you may be sitting there - all in an historical huff - thinking aloud:

“Um actually, sir, if you are not referring to the single-handed Scottish Basket-hilt Broadsword, you are NOT correct in calling it a ‘claymore,’ just saying.”

In times past, I may have agreed with you on to the total lack of ambiguity, or even the historically-incorrect nature, of the term when talking about this two-handed sword. 

But that was before Henry Yallop. 

“Who, in the name of Hamish’s fiery pubes is Henry Yallop?,” you retort.

Let me illuminate. 

Henry Yallop is none other than the Keeper of Armour and Edged Weapons at the Royal Armouries in Leeds in the U.K.

He states: 

“We at the Royal Armouries, like many museums still have [the] claymore on the catalogue for two-handed swords, and use “basket-hilt” for all swords of that type, whether German, English, Scottish etc. This is mainly for convenience, much like ‘mortuary hilt’ is used, and was born of the time - but clarity is important so that is in part why it prevails. (+1 for the Two-Handed Greatsword)

However in the strictly scholarly sense this was long ago reviewed. 

In his 1996 entries for “Culloden The Sword and the Sorrows” catalogue the late, great A.V.B Norman states that the two-handed Highland sword was in Gaelic “claidheamh dà làimh (clare-de-lay)(Note: Albion Agrees).” (+1 for the Single-Handed Broadsword)

In this [article] he draws on two [other] articles of another former great of the field: Claude Blair. Norman reserves “claidheamh mòr” for Scottish basket-hilts with two-edged blades, those with single (or ‘back sword’) blades being “claidheamh cùil,” and the rare cases of those with curved blades he terms “claidheamh-crom.” (+1 for the Single-Handed Broadsword)

But perhaps the most pragmatic approach is summarised by Dr David Caldwell (retired Principle Curator of National Museum Scotland, and current President of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries) in his 2005 article: 

“Claymores: The Two-handed Sword of the Scottish Highlanders.” 

“The term claymore itself has been the subject of much confusion. Fortunately, [it has been] sorted out in two articles by Blair [above]. Basically, the word ‘claymore’ is an English rendering of the Gaelic “claidheamh mòr,” meaning great sword.

When the word first made its appearance in the English language in the late 17th century, it undoubtedly meant “a basket-hilted sword,” the typical weapon of the Highlanders of that time. (+1 for the Single-Handed Broadsword) 

16th and 17th century Scottish Lowland sources, on the other hand, described Highlanders as having “twa-handit swerdis.” (+1 for the Two-Handed Greatsword)

There are no recorded usages for the term “claidheamh mòr” in Gaelic prior to the early 19th century, at which time it meant ‘broadsword’, presumably a single-handed weapon. (+1 for the Single-Handed Broadsword) 


Collectors and scholars, however, have long understood that “claymore” is a particular type of two-handed sword - the subject of this article - and have tended to avoid using the term for basket-hilted swords. We [the civilized sword community] will therefore continue to refer to these two-handed swords as “claymores.” (pages 47-48) (+1,000,000 for the Two-Handed Greatsword)

This last sentence, outlining David’s practice, is the one we follow at Royal Armouries, for the reasons he states.” (+1,000,000 for the Two-Handed Greatsword)

So Call it A Claymore:

There you have it!

Though there has been much mystery, confusion, linguistic inclination, and geographical preference enshrouding these legendary Highland weapons (depending on which Scotsman or researcher you ask and at what time), it is clear that the scholars of TODAY - the Royal Armouries at Leeds, the National Museum of Scotland, and the Scottish Society of Antiquaries - have met, conferred, and come to a most important, common, and modern accord.

The nomenclature we have always wanted to give our beloved two-handed steel behemoths has been formally bestowed on the truly great swords we have all always known and loved, once and for all.

It is, therefore, officially, I think, safe once again to call this:

The one, the only, the CLAYMORE!