Synthetic Longsword Type II by Purpleheart Armoury

This hand-made Synthetic Longsword II is actually a bit of an old Rolls Royce or a Bentley. The quality of the build and components is excellent and it is based on a design of wooden wasters that have been proven from more than ten years of use. It is very sturdy and will probably outlast many of the other nylon wasters.

At the same time, in my opinion, the general design has been somewhat bypassed by synthetic swords of other makers, both in handling and with regards to safety characteristics. Looking at the characteristics it is roughly an equivalent of the nylons of Like Steel, and the Pentti Gen 2 (with ricasso), but with a very nice finish and a different cross design, and perhaps also a wee bit more flex in the blade.

To begin with I will make a short description of the various parts of the sword:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The grip
The grip is covered with rubber tape for land hockey clubs (and similar sports equipment) and provides really good grip. The grip is long enough to be comfortable even with thick Lacrosse gloves with its almost 31cm / 13in including the pommel. Those who prefer a narrower grip or those with smaller hands may not be as comfortable with this grip though, since it is on the broader end of the spectra. However, this can be remedied slightly by removing the rubber tape and replacing it with thin leather or thin textile tape.

The pommel The pommel is very nice indeed. It is made of steel and is pear shaped or more technically; a scent stopper, as can be seen in the image above. Its shape is easy enough on the gloves and will likely not cause much unnecessary wear. Personally, I would prefer a silver pommel though, but that is just my personal preference. I like shiny things. As it is, it is safer from corrosion.

The pommel is secured with glue, so it is likely a bit of a struggle to replace. But due to the hilt construction, there is no real need to ever take it off.

The cross The cross is thick enough to be unbreakable with its 3cm x 4.5cm in cross-section at its widest. Also, it is rounded off quite well so it is unlikely to ever be the cause of any nasty injuries, as long as you do not fall on it, that is... The cross is fastened with a screw and two pins which holds it secured very firmly. Furthermore, it is also secured with the blade itself which expands behind the cross towards the grip.

The blade The grey blade has no distal tapering so the blade thickness is pretty much even from the cross to the point. This wide edge spreads the impact over a larger surface, which can lessen the risk of injury. The blade has a small flared ricasso, such as can be found on certain zweihänders or federschwert. However, in combination with the thick blades, it is too small to really function as a "second cross" and likely makes little difference to the balance and handling. In fact, it may even cause small problems with controlling the opponent's blade in the Krieg. Again, this is a feature that was shared with the 2nd Gen. Pentti wasters. The blade has a narrow fuller that I do believe is mostly esthetic, since very little mass has been removed. It does look nice though.

Finally, the blade has rather little flex, which is intentional in order to simulate a steel longsword. It does flex surprisingly much when thrust against a wall, but not much when thrust against a fencing mask or a chest, which of course is where it really matters. Compared to the other reviewed nylons, it is the shortest, with a blade that is 88cm / 34.3in.

So how is it then?

So much for the technical descriptions. What you are really interested in is probably how it feels and how safe it is...  The handling is quite good, so controlling the point when moving between guards and stances is easy. The balance is also nice, with the centre of balance being placed just in front of the ricasso.

However, since there is rather little profile tapering, it packs quite a punch, despite being fairly light, so take care of your partner. Striking hard without proper protection will lead to bone trauma sooner or later. Being more "forward heavy" controlling the point and moving from a strike into a thrust can prove a little more difficult than with certain other sparring swords.

On the other hand, cuts like the Krumphau and other Versetzen will be quite powerful. The mass distribution will also likely make it work better in the bind, compared to other more flexible and lighter blades. As mentioned in other reviews, all this works best against swords of similar rigidness though.

The cross, although being strong and durable, is problematic. The thickness makes it difficult to put your thumb onto the flat to reinforce a zwerchhau or a schielhau. The same goes for working with the index finger in the way that for instance Talhoffer and Meyer advises. This is also something the maker acknowledges on the site, and this honesty, and obvious familiarity with the actual needs of the HEMA fencers, is very nice to see.

The limited flex may be realistic compared to many steel swords, but is less desirable in sparring, with safety concerns in mind. The current trend, starting with the Pentti Gen 3s is to have flex in the last third of the blade, similar to steel federschwert. The Synthetic Longsword II is simply too rigid to flex well enough in a thrust, which makes it vital for you to train how to relieve the force in thrusts. Occasionally, it will likely lead to some headaches from sparring, when you or your opponent is stopped completely with a rigid point in your face or chest. Again, the maker actually advises against thrusting with these swords on the site. Brutally honest, and the maker has my respect for this. Instead, for this type of sparring, Purpleheart Armoury recommends the Red Dragon Armoury Synthetic Longsword which they also offer on their site.

On the other hand, the comparatively rigid characteristics of the blade mean that it will stay in shape and not become bent from use, a problem which is very common with the nylons that have good flex. Also, this makes sure that it will act quite well in the Krieg, when working from the bind. And since this is one of the main features that the maker had in mind when designing this sword, it deserves respect. Given the price, it certainly is a good option for a beginner that mostly practices techniques and principles and do not want to invest in steel.

Final comments.

It all comes down to personal preference and priorities regarding handling & safety concerns and how these two relate to how you can fence with intent and control. In some aspects, these swords perform very well, in others, not as well. In some ways, these are similar too steel which is good, but this is also a problem with these wasters, since they become dangerous in the same manner. In Swedish, we have an expression: "No matter how you turn, your ass will always be behind you". This is no less true when designing swords for sparring.

Weight: 1,2kg / 2.6lbs
Blade length: 87cm / 34.3in
Grip length (with pommel): 33cm / 13in
Total length: 121cm / 47.6in
Price: ca €58

Manufacturer: Purpleheart Armoury
Facebook page: Purpleheart Armoury

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