Honshu Historic Single Handed Sword Video Review Apr 8, 2021 15:12:28 GMT
Post by Adventurer'sBlade on Apr 8, 2021 15:12:28 GMT
Overall length: 40"
Blade Length: 30"
Guard Width: 9.5"
Weight: 4 lbs, 12.5 oz
Geometry: Hexagonal with dual fullers
Edge: Convex secondary, somewhat sharp
Today’s sword is the Honshu Historic Single Handed Sword, by United Cutlery. I was sent this sword for free for evaluation and review. My goal is to show you how it performs and help you decide if it’s the right blade for you. To be succinct, my verdict is that this sword is very sturdily built and looks quite good, but it is incredibly heavy for its size and should only be considered as either a functional decoration, a DIY project, or a casual cutting sword for an unusually strong man.
As you might have figured out by now, it is a pretty close copy of Boromir’s sword from the Lord of the Rings. The fittings and blade geometry are different, but the overall profile is nearly identical. United Cutlery also produces and sells the licensed, screen accurate decorative replica of Boromir’s sword, so this new one isn’t exactly a knockoff. Rather, it’s an opportunity to finally own a version of Boromir’s sword that you can cut stuff with. The licensed Boromir replica is a stainless steel wallhanger that cannot be used for cutting. This o0ne is a full tang, 1065 carbon steel sword with an appropriate spring temper and a factory sharp edge. Best of all, it’ll only cost you about $220 from Budk.com or any of its affiliated retail sites.
This blade is a United Cutlery design, but it was actually produced in India by Windlass Steelcrafts under contract for United Cutlery. Windlass is a very well known brand that produces countless other budget swords commonly used for backyard cutting, reenacting, and just collecting. This means that you can expect typical Windlass-quality blade tempering and polish. As far as I’m concerned, this was a great decision. I’ve already owned a number of Windlass blades and I have an idea of what they can handle. You can do a lot worse for a sword under $300, and probably not much better.
United Cutlery’s Honshu swords are meant for actual use, meaning you can use them for appropriate cutting practice. Fruit, plastic bottles, tatami, and meat are examples of appropriate targets. I mostly cut water bottles, since they’re so easy to get. They’re not hard to cut, but you do need to exercise proper cutting technique, with good edge alignment, to do it cleanly. It’s not a simulation of actual sword fighting, but just a fun solo sport of its own, like target practice with a rifle.
Let’s take a look at the stats. The overall length is about 40 inches, with a blade just over 30 inches long. The guard width is about 9.5 inches. The weight is 4 lbs, 12.5 oz. Point of balance is about 4” ahead of the guard. Blade thickness is approximately 4.8 mm and appears consistent, without distal taper.
Most of you will already recognize the weight as a problem. To be frank, calling this sword, with its oversized grip and weight of nearly five pounds a single-handed sword is a joke. I was able to execute some cuts single-handed, but that was a stretch. Realistically, I would never want a single-handed sword to weigh more than three pounds.
Now, the proportions of the grip actually allow the use of two hands. This is really more of a hand-and-a-half sword or bastard sword. With two hands, it becomes much more feasible to actually use this thing, and that’s how I performed most of my cutting.
The balance on this sword is actually quite reasonable, at 4” out. Because of this, I can still move it fairly fluidly with two hands and can throw several cuts in a row. It’s still tiring and somewhat limited in motion due to its weight. It is difficult to accelerate quickly and requires full commitment to get up to water-bottle cutting speed.
The fittings on this sword are solid steel, not cast pot metal, and are very durable. There are no sharp edges on the guard or pommel, and the upswept guard clears your wrist easily. The grip is very thick, with a wood core and a leather wrap over cord. The leather grip is what makes this Honshu a “historic” sword, as opposed to the other Honshu models with tactical thermoplastic rubber grips.
The grip is comfortable, if a little thick for me. It is oval shaped, not round, and edge alignment is not difficult. The pommel is also oval shaped, not round. It is comfortable to grip the pommel with your second hand for strikes.
The profile of this sword has a resemblance to the Oakeshott type XIV arming sword with its broad base and strong taper, but scaled up to the size of a bastard sword. As far as I know, there are no historical examples like this. This blade profile was essentially invented for Boromir’s sword as a sort of plausible historical fantasy sword. And you know what? I love it. It has a bold, heroic look. When I was a kid, I loved the Redwall book series by Brian Jacques. I always imagined the famous sword of Martin the Warrior, which was passed from hero to hero, as being something like this, a hefty hand-and-a-half sword with a broad, dramatically tapered blade and an upturned crescent guard. When I swing this sword, I feel like I’ve gotten ahold of some mighty hero’s blade, someone far stronger than I’ll ever be from an age long gone. I know it’s not a very realistic sword, but it’s a fun one.
The blade geometry is hexagonal with two fullers. I think the twin fullers look great, but the hexagonal cross section with no distal taper is exactly why this sword is so incredibly heavy. The fullers terminate about 2/3” up the blade, and the foible section is thick and broad. This extra mass only helps with cutting inasmuch as you can accelerate the blade easily, and honestly it crosses a line where the extra weight is a hinderance to building momentum. The consistent thickness does have one advantage in that it keeps the sword very stiff during thrusts. This sword is an incredible stabber with its well-tapered point, thick cross section and extra weight.
The factory edge is actually something of a convex secondary bevel, but not blended smoothly into the primary bevel. It was not sharp enough to slice paper, but all of the test cutting I’m doing here is with the factory edge. It’s a durable edge that is sharp enough for cutting, but don’t expect great results on light targets without a resharpening. You can see that I’m really knocking these water bottles around as I cut them instead of leaving the bottom half undisturbed. That is in part due to a less sharp edge, as well as a generally steeper and thicker blade geometry compared to most other swords. It’s adequate.
There are laser-etched markings at the base of the blade. One side is the Honshu logo, and the other states “1065 High Carbon” and “India”, which is the country of manufacture. The Honshu logo isn’t ugly, but feels out of place on this leather-gripped Gondor blade. It looked more appropriate on the plastic-gripped tactical swords.
The scabbard is a typical Windlass Steelcrafts example, with thick leather and steel fittings. No wood core. It holds the sword snugly. There is a frog stud at the throat so you can easily wear this sword with any sword frog wide enough to fit the unusually broad blade. The scabbard is perfectly adequate and typical for an entry-level functional blade. It’s much more useful than the scabbard I showed you for the Honshu Grosse Messer in that review. There is something to be aware of – you may see white powder on the blade of your sword when you draw it from the leather scabbard. I am pretty sure this is just some inert remnant of the tanning or leather cutting process. It wipes right off and doesn’t hurt the sword. I have noticed this with most of my Windlass blades.
How about durability? I started by thrusting and slashing at some rotten tree stumps. The blade handled shock well and the point took no damage. The stiffness of the blade was very apparent and appreciated.
I then moved on to slapping the flat of the blade against a tree. This mimics beats or parries with the sword, and I just wanted to verify it wasn’t going to snap due to a poor temper. It held up fine.
I threw the sword a number of times, mostly straight-on like a spear. This was to subject it to firm head-on shock and make sure the blade wasn’t going to take a permanent set. Again, it did just fine and sustained no damage.
My most abusive tests were conducted by chopping standing trees. The sword was a horribly inefficient tool for chopping trees, but I was more interested in seeing what the tree would do to the sword. This sort of intense, repetitive edge-on striking is a worst-case scenario for the sword, and I wondered if the tang might bend and splinter the grip, or worse, snap clean off near the pommel junction and send my blade flying through the air. The blade itself might even break if not tempered well enough. Please, don’t try this yourself. Save the sword for targets that can be sliced and will not bring the sword to a dead stop, sending shock waves up the blade and down the tang. Still, I decided it was worth doing this to see if this really is a well-made, battle-ready blade.
I was relieved to find the sword sustained no edge damage, no tang bending, no snapped off pommel, and no blade set from the chopping test. I am now very confident in the durability of this sword. Two things did happen during the chopping test – the pommel started to loosen up, and the guard started to rattle. The pommel was an easy fix. All I had to do was give the flathead screw holding the pommel to the tang a quick quarter-turn to tighten it back up. As for the guard, the rattling is annoying but can be fixed by simply driving a shim into the guard’s blade gap or by using some epoxy to fill the gap. I would expect the guard rattling to happen to almost any sword subjected to this kind of torture test. As for the pommel, I’m glad United Cutlery went with a flathead nut instead of a peen. It’s much easier to keep it snug by tightening a screw as needed. I’ve had Windlass swords that loosened their tang peen from much, much less than what I’ve done with the Honshu today. Once a tang peen gets loose, it’s a pain in the ass to retighten and keep the pommel from rotating or rattling.
Speaking of the tang, this is an excellent opportunity to take a look under the grip. The first step was to unscrew the flathead nut holding the pommel to the tang. With the pommel off, I could see there was quite a bit of epoxy used to fill in gaps between the tang, pommel and grip. I used the screwdriver and a rubber mallet to gradually loosen and work the guard and grip down and off the tang.
With the tang exposed, I could see it is as thick as the sword blade, and very wide near the shoulders. The shoulders at the blade junction are rounded off nicely and are not sharp 90 corners like some tangs I’ve seen. This tang should do an excellent job of distributing impact stress. Further down, I see obvious heat discoloration where the threaded section begins. I’m guessing the threaded section is welded on. Still, it’s been cleanly welded and ground. A well-done weld doesn’t necessarily weaken the tang. The problem with most wall-hanger welded tangs is that one, the weld is superficial, and two, the extension rod is thin and soft. This one seems to have held up just fine to significant abusive chopping. This tang is very healthy looking, even more so than some pictures I’ve seen of much more expensive production sword tangs.
Honestly, I feel like this sword is something of a missed opportunity. What it really needs is to lose about one pound, four ounces from its thick blade and chunky fittings. It would be a serious, deadly cutter at 3.5 pounds if it kept the same point of balance. I think this could be done by grinding aggressive distal taper into the blade with a slack belt to give it a lenticular cross section instead of a hexagonal shape. I think the smiths at Windlass could probably make this change without too much trouble. Would it add production cost? Sure, but I think it could still stay well under $300 even with some added grinding time before the polishing process.
As it is, this thing is more of a novelty than a serious sword. It looks great, yes. If you just want a Gondorian hero’s sword to hang up on your wall and maybe take down after Halloween to slaughter some leftover pumpkins, it’ll do great. If you’ve always wanted a functional Boromir sword to knock around, here it is. And if you’re someone who’s handy with a file and sandpaper, or a good 2x72 belt grinder, you could thin the blade out to the point where it sings through the air like a whole new sword. But if you’re looking for something that handles like a historical sword should handle, this isn’t it. Don’t count on doing much flashy bladework with this unless you’re a barbell-bending freak who drinks a gallon of milk a day and has exceptionally well-conditioned wrists.
If you do think you can handle this blade, be aware that BudK is also selling a blackened version under the moniker of midnight forge. I’ve got to say, it looks pretty good. I’ve always been a fan of blued sword blades, like the Cold Steel MAA swords and the new Honshu ones.
So I’d like to give a special thanks to BudK for sending me this piece to review. My advice to the United Cutlery team is to get this model thinned out so it weighs 3.5 lbs, max. They probably wouldn’t even have to mess with the fittings. Start with the same stock thickness and just grind it down. It’ll be twice the sword if you can cut some weight.