Kult of Athena


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!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Tools of The Apocalypse: The Big Bad Wolf & The Diphos

Ok. Now, you can bring on the end times, the hordes of undead…

That might be weird to read – what with the breakdown of law and order, society, and human decency going on all around me and my loved ones. I'll grant you.

But, on the flip side, it WILL give me a chance to let these BAD ASS new blades I got from ZT (Zombie Tools) live out what they were FORGED to do:


But before we take a look at the ins and outs of these vicious steel monsters, let’s go back and take a look at the mindset of the man (me) who – with 2 kids, a lofty mortgage, and a wife not-too-keen on the idea of purchasing expensive heirloom weapons – decided to take a chance, blow some hard-earned cash (approximately $1500), and snatch up some nigh-indestructible steel appeal that was guaranteed (from the research) to stand the test of time.

Anyone who has ever seen any of my past posts here, on All Swords, or SBG on Facebook knows that I ran into some, ahem…unfortunate events…in my sword purchasing past. Events that only the buying of better, sturdier, higher-quality blades could cure.

And, needless to say, while I do have a deep respect for HEMA and its practitioners, I was not looking for a Talhofer or Fiore-accurate historical piece I could call my own.

I wanted something different. Something that was a little fantasy, a little out of line in terms of traditional conceptions of construction and design, and swords that I KNEW had the durability (and rock-solid reputation) to hit like a truck and not crack, fly apart, bend, chip, or otherwise do things that would make me cry.

No, but close...

Thanks to guys like Michael Ceracchi, Skallagrim, and ChanmailleMan (Aidan), I found them:

The Big Bad Wolf & 
The Diphos  

The Big Bad Wolf
Back in 2014, I got my first taste of the BIG BAD WOLF (go to about 3:00 mins in). Though almost COMPLETELY different from today’s version (and absolutely in the prototype form), I loved the idea of a two-handed, Viking-style, functional fantasy blade from artists who knew what they were about.

After seeing them destroy the original Deuce, I knew this sword - and the boys at Zombie Tools - would warrant a close watch.

When the specs of the sword dropped in 2015 (achieving a power level that was easily over 9000), the Big Bad Wolf seemed heavy, expensive, formed like a “sharpened bar,” to be sure, and my EVERYTHING.

I decided I had to have it. Next sword purchase (whenever that was) it was mine.

Today, after so much waiting, argument, holding her in my hands, and experiencing the raw power she offers, I can comfortably and definitively say it absolutely is. Take my word for it, this Wolf leads the pack, and lives up to its pig-petrifying name in EVERY WAY possible. 

But like Conan said back in the 80’s, “ENOUGH TALK!”

Let’s get down to what we all came here to see: pics and videos!

Official Blade Specs:
Total Length: 40 in (1.02 m)
Blade Length: 29 in (.74m)
Handle Length: 11 in (.28m)
Grip Size: 7.5 in (.19 m)
Steel Width: 25 in (6.35mm)
Steel Type: 5160 Carbon Spring Steel
Weight: 3lbs 13oz (1.73kg)
Availability: RETIRED
Price: $724 (MSRP)

Product Features:
  • Handsome Center-Line Bevel
  • Reinforced Handle Elements
  • Weight-Reducing Distal Taper
  • Secondary Steel Plated Pommel And Guard
  • Neolithic Styling
  • 2.5-Inch Center Of Balance From Top Hand
  • Durable Kydex Sheath
  • Comes complete with "Fuck Yeah" Feeling
Blade of the Gods: The Diphos
The design of the SECOND weapon in my recently-updated arsenal must have come from Athena, Odysseus’ girl, Goddess of Wisdom and Warfare herself, because it is just DIVINE.

Featuring a broad leaf-blade with wide head, the NASTIEST stabbing point I have ever seen on sword, and a two-handed grip, this short bladed, long-handled merchant of death more than measures up to the durability standards ZT is known for. Even more than that, it takes almost no effort to get through almost any target.

Seriously, if get this sword even up to HALF speed and it will rip through and destroy even the toughest objects (within reason) like Ivan Drago when you let it off the leash (including you, so be careful).

Cut a ways into the pell...yikes

But before I show you (again instead of all this telling), I have to give ALL the inspiration for THIS purchase to one man: Skallagrim.

His in-depth Diphos video was not only an awe-inspiring, real-time, steel-clad fashion show for us sword nerds, but also meticulously informative, almost the point of annoyance (not at all, really).

Check it out 

The Diphos Gallery: 

Official Blade Specs:
Total Length:   35.5 in (.90m)
Blade Length: 25 in (.64m)
Handle Length: 10.5 in (.27m)
Grip Size: 8 in (.20m)
Steel Width: .25 in (6.4mm)
Steel Type: 5160
Weight: 2 lbs 14 oz (1.3 kg)
Availability: 6-8 week wait time.
Release Date: March 2014 (Retirement Date: June 2018-ish)
Price: $649.95

The Taste of the Tang
The one thing that enamors me most about both blades, and deserves serious mention - other than their masochistic durabilities, sleek, in-your face acid-etched designs, and impressive handling characteristics - is the entirely WOODLESS tangs.

To quote the ZT website:

"Our handles are made from T-6 aluminum that is pinned onto the tang with mild steel pins. They do not come off.  Our blades are full-tang, battle-ready, sharpened and sheathed pieces of 5160 and 6150 spring steel that we heat-treat to yield a 55 Rockwell hardness. Our bevels are saber-grinds and our edge bevels run at about 19 degrees."

And they will slice through your crappy Honda civic like a juiced up lightsaber! (alright, I made that up).

But I do LOVE that these beasts are SPECIALLY-DESIGNED to take heavy punishment all while maintaining most of the essentials of a well-built sword. This makes them pretty close to one GIANT Center of Percussion (CoP), and my new favorite things in the universe (sorry kids).   

A Word of Warning:
However, after all of this ZT ball washing, I do want this review to be as unbiased as it can be for both of these bad Betties. The only real words of caution I would offer would be watch out for the edge of the Big Bad Wolf (not hair shaving sharp) and the sheath on the Diphos.

For the Diphos sheath, seriously, what in the world is going on with this design (see above)? The “lips” (let’s call them) do comfortably keep the blade locked in place and prevented from sliding out, yes. But they also make it nearly IMPOSSIBLE for the blade to be drawn quickly and efficiently.

You have to exert some serious strength to get her out of there, and if your hand slips or anything gets in the way of that blade when she’s ejaculating from that sheath at the speed of sound, you’ll slice your shit down to the bone or clean off (not kidding).

I, for one, plan to file them down.

Funny thing is though, this is ON PURPOSE!

The boys at Zombie Tools themselves shed a little light:

"There’s a small trick to unsheathing our blades. Our Kydex sheaths are formed to have a pressure lock on the handle. If you just grab the sheath with one hand and the handle with the other and pull, the unsheathing can be difficult and awkward. The trick is to use your thumb to pop the sheath off the handle lock. Grab the sheath with one hand and the handle with the other and use the thumb of your handle hand to push the sheath off of the blade while gently pulling at the same time. You’ll also want to turn the blade so that the edge is facing up and the blade rides on its spine as you unsheath. This is especially helpful with our curved blades."

As far as the edge on the blade of the Big Bad Wolf, I think maybe it depends on the kind of target you are slicing through (I hate you Ocean Spray bottles), and of course the angle at which you are cutting. If you use heavier plastic targets (see Diphos video) or ANYTHING heavier than wood, the outcome will be drastically different (and worse, I am guessing) than, say, thinner water bottles, tatami mats, ballistic gel heads, or your daughter's boyfriend you catch getting handsy with your little angel. Also, the Wolf is less forgiving with last-second handle rolls or off-line cuts (I'm working on it over here!)

But in the long run, these things amount to practically nothing.

Final Thoughts:

Buy them both (though the Wolf is retired. Get it second-hand).

It's as simple as that.

Neither sword is "HEMA-tested, HEMA-approved" by any real means, but they aren't supposed to be. What they ARE built to be is rough and ready, heavy metal killing machines that absolutely stand tall against tremendous shock without ever missing a beat.

They feel amazing (lighter and more nimble than their overall weight would dictate), look better than I could have ever hoped to find on the market without going custom, and COMMAND the respect all REAL practitioners of our beloved hobby/obsession should always give to their swords.

They excel where other, lesser blades have bent, broken, or just plain quit, and for that, they have EARNED my unyielding love and admiration, indefinitely.

Pick em up, and happy cutting!