Product Review: Hanwei Tinker Line

 

I’ve been a bit of a slacker on posting lately, due to an overabundance of actual real-life things needing my attention. Besides finishing grad school (writing my thesis and other final projects) there have been a few acting, stunt, and teaching gigs, with more in the works. I’d say I hope to improve, but frankly, I’d just as soon stay busy, so I won’t make any undue promises about changing the rate of Blog updates. Suffice to say, when I feel I have the time, there’s a backlog of things I’d been thinking I’d post about. Next up will probably be another product review, for a relatively new fake blood that’s been getting good buzz.

 

But for today, Hanwei Tinker line swords.

For those not familiar, check the link. Tinker Pearce is a Seattle-area swordsmith who I’d call a friend except that we probably haven’t logged the requisite hours together to earn that title. His work is well respected, and generally out of the price range for many of us in stage combat. A former SCA fighter, he has now studied historical western martial arts with a couple groups in that area I know, worked with the Seattle Knights, and a couple years back he worked out an agreement with Cas/Hanwei to produce a line of swords made to his specifications and under his name.

Have a Bastard. No affair needed.

When I was still in Seattle I bought a prototype Tinker line Longsword blade off him, which I hilted up on my own, and then last month I purchased two of the Tinker line bastard swords when they were on sale at Kult of Athena. Looks like my timing was perfect, as they’ve just gone up another $20 or so, and from what Tinker was saying when I saw him last weekend, many of the production sword prices will be going up more soon due to production cost increases in China.

 

The Tinker line swords are designed for martial arts practitioners, not stage combatants. They are available with either sharp blades (for cutting practice) or blunts, and the blunts are, in my opinion, perfectly usable for stage. While nearly identical in proportion and appearance (at a distance) to the Hanwei Practical Hand and a Half, the Tinker Bastard blunt has a few very important differences.

Most readily apparent when you pick one up is the weight. This is one reason I was keen to get them while they were on sale, even though I can usually find Hanwei Practicals for a bit cheaper. There are often students in my classes who are not the beefiest of arm, and end up getting lazy with heavier swords, bringing their elbows in towards the body when they should be extending their reach and raising the sword. There is a very strong distal taper in these blades. This does mean that the edges are a bit thinner than on the Practicals, but they’re still dull enough in my opinion. Would they still cut if you accidentally caught one being swing at you within distance? Probably. Then again, a Practical may well break skin too. I’ve got a scar on my forehead from a piece of padded PVC, for that matter. The one injury on my last gig was from a parkour guy playing around while waiting, who managed to knee himself in the eyebrow while tucking for a filp, and it split the skin right down to the bone, same as the padded PVC did for me some 13 years ago. At a certain point, it really doesn’t matter if something is a couple millimeters thick, or as thick and rounded and soft as your own knee; accidents happen, and it’ll suck either way. At least with a lighter blade there’s less mass behind it, and more ability to pull the strike if needed.

These are built likely under the assumption that users will be putting rubber foils on the end and using them for sparring (with proper protective gear). As such, the foible needs to be able to flex enough that a stab isn’t going to be too brutal, so the foible is relatively thin and the point pretty much squared off. Some of that can be remedied with a file and some sandpaper, both rounding/shaping the point to look more like a point (still not sharp, of course) and perhaps taking down the edges a bit, but it’s still not nearly as dull as something like a Starfire. That said, you’ll have much better control, and can execute historical techniques that just don’t feel feasible with an overbuilt stage beater. As always, there are tradeoffs.

Custom hilted Longsword

The Tinker line swords are held together with a recessed hex pommel nut- perhaps not as quick & easy to tighten as a fully threaded pommel, but that really only works for radially symmetrical designs like balls and scent-stoppers. This allows you to buy one sharp and one dull blade of the same design as well, and not have to buy two swords to do both cutting practice and blade play with the same style sword. The Practical Hand and a Halfs are peened, which makes it relatively maintenance-proof, but also means over time it stops ringing nicely and just clatters a bit as things loosen up, and re-peening is a bit more of a pain than tightening a screw.

 

I don’t expect these to be to everyone’s taste or comfort level within the stage combat community- as mentioned, they’re much lighter and have thinner edges than many of the staples (Starfire, Baltimore Knife & Sword, old AmFence blades, etc.), and I can’t really speak to durability just yet. I do think they’ll have a place in my inventory, though, both for historical demonstration and just for some people who need the lighter weight but also need a sword that can go up against other steel blades (so when aluminum isn’t an option). And it’s probably as close as I’ll ever get to owning a Tinker, just as the Aluminum unfinished blanks I got at their Moat sale a couple years back are as close as I’ll ever get to affording an Albion. The other Seattle area smith I’d love to get a blade from one of these years is Gus Trim, whose Atrim swords have been known in historical martial arts circles for a while now, but who hasn’t done much with stage-appropriate blunts. He has, however, done a similar teaming up with a production line I think, in that Valiant Armoury carries some supposed Atrim swords that look comparable to the Tinker Line sharps.

 

At some point I’d love to pick up a sharp Tinker Line bastard blade, just to have the option of swapping that out on occasion. I got to play with a sharp ‘tactical katana’ style Tinker in Seattle last weekend, as a part of a gig- more on that later, once the Kickstarter video comes out.

 

For now, in summary: Tinker Line blunts are a great deal for the money (especially if you can catch them on sale), and offer an interesting alternative for stage combatants. They won’t be to everyone’s liking, but for those who know what historical technique is supposed to be like, the handling with be greatly appreciated, and others will just like the light weight. I look forward to getting to play more with mine some time soon.

 

In case I forgot to mention it on this blog, I have been accepted to the Summer 2012 Teacher Certification Workshop with the Society of American Fight Directors, happening this July. That represents a culmination of fourteen years of study for me, not in the sense of an ending of it but just a renewal and a shifting of gears (I’d say I’m maybe in fourth now, accelerating out of the access ramp). I look forward to the training, and to hopefully being able to teach certification courses of my own next year.

 

 

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