Kult of Athena

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Bright Side of Darksword: The Guardian


Darksword Armory's Guardian Sword




It was a wedding gift: 



A special request:



An inscribed heirloom presented to me by the best friends I had in the world:







It was a sword I had coveted for so long that it alone was what sustained my actual desire for sharp steel, unquestioningly, before I bought it:


At the time, it was my "Angus Trim," my "Albion." 

I posted blogs about it:


Featured it prominently: 


When I received it, I made montages of it and praised its prowess: 



I even went so far as to swallow some fears, take to YouTube, and create some informational (and hopefully entertaining) cutting videos with it:



Yeah, this 5 lb steel dream-come-true had that look, that feel, you know? 

Touted as "full tang," "hot peen," the works, it was my go-to Euro, and my main cutter. It was the sword I said I would carry into battle if battle ever came down to Midgard.


In short, I loved it.

But then things mysteriously began to unravel.

After light cutting in the yard, the pommel came loose. Nothing too serious, but when you have this picture of reliability in your head, and you expect performance, you're still a little surprised when something goes amiss.

Naturally, I contacted Darksword Armory.

True to form - and living up to their reputation of service - they said for me to send it back and they would handle all the repairs, FREE OF CHARGE.

Nice.

And, though sending back the sword via USPS (and ONLY USPS) across international borders into Canada was a chore, and expensive ($35 one way), this was MY Guardian! Come on, no-brainer right?

I did. It came back. Nothing was loose, everything back to normal.

I kept cutting.

Not too long ago, the pommel loosened again.

THE FUCK is going on here??

I decided then to send it to a friend - an independent bladesmith and mad genius with damaged swords - Wes Beem, instead of sending it back to Canada (and Darksword) one last time.

He made a truly SHOCKING discovery:



I....WAS....FLOORED.

"This can't be," I thought. "These things range in price anywhere from $340 for their basic model swords to $1950 for their "elite" Damascus steel models! How is THIS allowed to happen??!"

Needless to say, when shared on social media, the responses from the intelligent sword owners and smiths within our small community went as expected:

"This thing sells for $1600 and they offer it sharpened? Hope no one tries to cut with theirs..."


"And I used to cut shit with a DSA....scary stuff."


" Built like a brick shit house all on that anorexic threaded tang..." 


"I have the DSA that *** reviewed now and i will only cut bottles with it cause I dont wanna die."

"I own a DSA and I think she`s beautiful. 5160 steel, case hardened and sharp convex grind. However... after reading through this thread and seeing your examples... I think I`ll just leave her up on the wall."

"See, that's why I join this group! A few posts read and already I learned much!" 

I needed more. I needed to take action!

The justified reactions, and my own searing discontent, prompted me to reach out to Darksword Armory PERSONALLY and find some sort of solace, some sort of recourse for the TRAUMA I had just experienced from the utter failure of this weapon:

My Letter to Darksword:

"Hey guys,
One of the swords I received from your forge, the Guardian, broke again recently. I had sent this back to you once before - along with my DSA claymore (which broke twice). 

I decided, this time, to reach out to a smith friend of mine who does custom work and repairs on broken blades. He took the sword apart and needless to say, the tang, pommel, guard, and most of the grip was...um..less than secure. 

Frankly, I was SHOCKED to see hex nuts and glue where there should have been a hot peen, a noodle-like tang where there should have been 2 inches of hard steel in terms of tang width, and a widening crack in the wooden handle underneath the wrap after only some light cutting with backyard water bottles. 
 
My smith friend is doing what he can now to remedy this shoddy construction.

As it is a 2012 model - before your upgraded to the 5160 steel, and before you made improvements to the construction of your swords - I am going to allow you to make this right. I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, because in the past, I have been a BIG supporter of your forge. 

Ideally, as this is a wedding gift, as a suggestion in terms of recompense, I would appreciate it if you made me a new Guardian with a FULL, STRONG, WIDE tang, a hot-peened, secured pommel, and the words "PALS" inscribed down the blade, approximately 3 inches down the ricasso (as was the case with the previous one). 

I am anxiously awaiting your response to this proposal and an explanation as to why these "battle ready" swords have such skinny, DANGEROUS tangs attached to 5lbs of sharpened pieces of steel.

Sincerely,
Michael"

Darksword's Reply:

"Hi Mike Terry, 

Looking at the tang we can tell this was a sword that was manufactured and shipped back in 2015 (nope, but go on). At the time we had a new employee that was grinding the tangs down instead of making the handles to fit the width of the tang. 

Once we received a couple of returns, Eyal unassembled the returns and found out what the employee was doing, he was therefore immediately dismissed from Darksword. This was a short temporary issue and we're very sorry you were one of the few. 

We would be glad to replace the Guardian for a proper one AT OUR COST. Please email us at info@darksword-armory.com with your information. Thanks."

Again, true to form, Darksword got back to me promptly and gave me a personalized solution to my issue.

ME:
"That is excellent news and in line with the kind of customer experience that I have come to know from Darksword! I will email you, for sure. 

It does beg the question though, is the happening more often than not? I am hearing from many other people that this is the norm for Darksword Armory weapons, and that is disconcerting to me.

Lack of hot peens? Shoddy guard grips? Hollow handles that don't squeeze the tang tightly? 

Would your company be amenable to a list of defections that might keep people from buying your products and incorporate those fixes (cost effectively?) I am a fan of Darksword, but you cant shake people's faith like that and expect to skate."



Darksword:
"Hi Mike, absolutely not (in response to my "Is the happening more often than not?" question, I think). 

We (Darksword) give 110% when producing our blades and providing optimal assembly. It can happen that with all our daily tasks, things can be missed, unfortunately. But we work hard to get where we want to be everyday and maintaining that can prove to be a challenge sometimes. I hope this doesn’t stir you away from our dedication and support."

A Dose of Reality:

Now, let's be honest about some things. 

All swords, from cheap Pakistani SLOs (sword-like-objects) to master smith dream works can break. They did in live battle back in the Middles Ages, and they do today. 

I know this. We all do. 

Also, to be truthful, the 5160 steel tang never snapped or broke anywhere, just the other hilt components attached to it. The tempering seemed fine.

But there is one thing I would like to focus on in this entire transaction - the bright side of things in this whole expensive shitty mess: Darksword was there for me, as their customer, when I needed them.

Seems to me...:
Whatever you feel about Darksword, no one can take away from the quality of their personalized and prompt service. It's very evident to me that they care about their customers.

That being said, 
  • Does Darksword have fundamental flaws in their sword assembly and hilt components? In my estimation, YES they do
  • Do these flaws seem to influence customers concerning the "battle-tested" promise they were given by the company; causing them to ask themselves: 
"Am I holding a trumped-up wall hanger in my hand, or do I have complete faith in the company's claims of "lasting durability?"

Undoubtedly.



And though that's a big gamble to take - and a lot to ask of common people (mostly untrained) who are swinging around 3-5lb pieces of sharpened steel; just praying for them not to fly apart and potentially take off an appendage - Darksword TRIES.

What does that mean? It means that, unlike Cold Steel who will sue you for using the term San Mai (shhh), Darksword does certain things that EARN your (wary) loyalty.

  • They WILL call you/email you back, promptly and investigate 
  • They WILL accept the responsibility of fixing the flaws in their sword hilt constructions 
  • And they WILL (or at least have for me OVER THE ENTIRE COURSE OF ANY ISSUES IV'E EXPERIENCED) assume the costs for you to make sure things turn out right, in the end. 
Effort Counts:
Does that mean that all is forgiven? In the words of Darksword "absolutely not."

Would I recommend Darksword Armory to someone just starting out and looking for a "high-quality" blade? Yeah, I think I still would, but now with reservations and explanations that this kind of situation COULD happen to them.

But what wouldn't I do?  I would NEVER say that they just didn't give a shit when things go south. Eyal and his crew take the time to respond to their customers, understand their needs, and do their brand of justice for their consumers. They put in the work when something goes wrong, and in my estimation, you HAVE TO respect that.

Whether their swords come from India, China, or Montreal (ive heard China then Montreal), if Darksword could translate that kind of customer service into their assembly, could they be one of the best swordmakers on the market? A big fat "yes." 

Will they? Only time will tell.

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