In a way I think one’s first real sword is like your first love. It is something you will always remember in a special way, since it was such a strong emotion experienced for the first time. My first, was a Pavel Moc Dürrer. Since then I have bought several swords of his making, both sharp and blunt.
Following a debate regarding the length of longswords, and having written a short article about How long a longsword should be, I was quite excited hearing that Pavel had designed a new really long longsword called the “Lichtenauer”. The images I initially saw didn’t exactly lessen this excitement.
But first a little background on the maker of this sword: Pavel lives and works in Kolin, 45km east of Prague, and has been making swords professionally for 13 years.
In his ancestry Pavel has blacksmiths going back several generations and this, in combination with his interest in history led him onto the path of becoming a professional swordsmith. In his factory he designs and produces swords both for reenactors, for HEMA-sparring and truly amazing high-end replicas for museums and collectors.
The specific profile of his works is to create designs close to historic originals and still keep the price range in line with what is affordable to the wider swordsmen community. At this he is without doubt quite successful, although a certain competition with cheap, but well-designed and durable sparring swords has stiffened considerably in the recent year or so.
Pavel’s high standard as a swordsmith is apparent when looking at his replicas. The talent is quite obvious and his attention to detail very impressive.
Now, holding this sword in my hands, it certainly lives up to what I had expected. Pavel’s craftsmanship, sword design skills and pride in his work is again quite apparent. The finish and the build of the sword and its various parts is excellent.
The pommel is of the type Ewart Oakeshott defined as type “T4″, albeit quite clearly pear shaped, similar to what we see in for instance, Hans Talhoffer’s 1459 treatise. It is of an impressive size, in order to properly balance the long and blunt, and therefore heavier, blade.
The hardening and tempering is fairly good with a hardening of 49-52HRc , but not at the level of Albions and with the increased impact of these swords, they do take a bit of beating. This is also something which HEMA fencers have commented on regarding Pavel’s swords in general, but used against each otherand with the occasional clean up of burrs it is not that much of an issue.
Still, it would be great to see Pavel’s swords have the same standard level of hardening as that of Albion Swords. I believe that would draw customers from Albion, since Pavel’s swords have that “historical” look and are quite beautiful. That said, I know Pavel is actively seeking new steel hardeners which can offer even more durable hardening. Also, for the more luxurious swords Pavel already offers custom hardening for an extra fee, but this is not available for the standard swords.
The even flexibility of the blade is a feature which it shares with Pavel’s Howe Tournament Sword and although some are uncomfortable with how it lags slightly behind in non-aligned strikes and how they tend to “whip” a bit in the initial bind, it is not “ahistorical”, especially with longer blades. In fact it may be part of the very explanation for why we should try to stay in the bind, alongside of the somewhat slower movement and different mechanics when “striking around”. A thought that occurred to me is that it can also help improve edge alignment somewhat, since keeping it minimizes the “lagging” of the blade.
All this said, the blades are still quite stiff in the thrusts so keep this in mind while sparring. The Lichtenauer is not a federschwert and a rubber “thrusting tip” as the ones used for small game bow hunting, is highly recommended.
So, how does it feel to fence with this long longsword then? Well, it is quite a beast, with 0.56Kg more weight than the Albion Meyers. But, although the weight (2kg) and “armpit” length is impressive, it is actually very well balanced, even surprisingly so. The Lichtenauer has a particular “feature” though that needs to be properly understood; it is balanced to be held with the leading hand about an inch or so from the cross. If you don’t, you will find it harder to control the point, when changing between Ochs and Pflug on respective sides. Just moving back an inch will give you perfect point control. This is of course not as important in strikes or the “Krieg”. This grip also helps protect the fingers against indirect cuts in the bind and close combat, and it can be seen in for instance, Joachim Meyer’s, Andreas Paurnfeindt’s and Hans Talhoffer’streatises. Be aware though that it packs quite a punch and you need to control it.
As touched upon earlier, the added length makes the fencing more distinct, something which several fencers have attested to, in the sense that it makes sense to remain in the bind and use various winden techniques, and for that matter, work from Hengen, Ochs, Pflug, Schrankhut and Langort, and attack with a slice or a thrust instead of leaving the bind for striking around. With these types of swords it is apparent why Giacomo di Grassi advised to primarily use thrusts for the really long “bidenhänder” and continuous, circular strikes against multiple opponents.
Still, you can certainly work with the full range of Liechtenauer techniques, as can be seen in the clip of Bratislavský šermiarsky spolok below, but keeping the point aimed at the opponent and moving it the shortest way possible makes very much sense, as does working with all portions of the blade of both your and your opponent’s swords.
As an endnote, for his more expensive swords Pavel often includes antique iron, sometimes hundreds of years old, coming from old church and house gates and similar sources, in his pommels and crosses. And since blacksmiths of the past often used even older iron, this means your sword might actually contain quite old iron. It’s a cool thought that your sword, in a way, has a long history, kind of like my wedding ring which contains gold from the wedding rings of my grand parents.
Weight: 2kg / 4.4 lbs
Blade length: 103cm / 40.6 in
Grip length (with pommel): 39cm / 15.4 in
Total length: 141cm / 55.5 in
Swordsmith: Pavel Moc