Cas/Hanwei Tinker Line Customization: LG Martial Arts and the Printed Armoury

There’s a backlog of things I’ve been meaning to post about, but as I’ve recently finished what will probably be the last of my custom projects for a while, let’s start with that. When I get around to posting again (I’ve been and will be busy!) there’s plenty of news to share, however! But on to the toys:

One of the interesting lines of products catering primarily to the HEMA crowd but peripherally also stage combat is the Tinker line of Cas/Hanwei production swords. Originally designed by master swordsmith, all-around good person, and Seattle buddy Michael “Tinker” Pierce under contract with Cas/Hanwei, these offer affordable cutting and sparring swords with interchangable blades, sharp or blunt, in a variety of styles including longswords, bastard swords, single-handed medieval cruciform, and more. They aren’t made to the usual beefy standards of our traditional stage combat steel blunts, but are designed first and foremost for either cutting practice (in the sharps) or armored sparring, if you put an archery blunt on the tip. The edges may feel a bit thin for those who learned on things like Starfire blades in the 80s or 90s, but these certainly handle and look better than those basic LS32s (although they rang so great!), so in terms of safety, it’s probably an even trade-off, and depending on where you get them, these may be cheaper than something from stage standbys like Baltimore Knife & Sword or even Rogue Steel.

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I’ve been interested in these since I first heard they were coming out, back when I still lived in Seattle, and the first one of these blades I got was a sample I bought off Tinker himself, then hilted with a spare cross and a pommel I made from bar steel, mostly with an angle grinder. That took forever, and was a less than ideal process, but I’ve generally liked the resulting sword, and it was my go-to for demonstrating longsword work for years.

TeachingLongsword2010

A younger me teaching in 2010 with my self-finished Tinker Longsword blade.

Within recent years, however, enough demand grew for more custom versions of these Tinkers (without the sloppy, messy, loud, and time consuming angle grinder work). In stepped LG Martial Arts/The Printed Armoury to fill that niche, with a line of replacement pommels and crosses that work on several of the Tinker line blades.

Several stage combat vendors have started using these, such as Jesse Belsky, as a quick way to get a nice custom look. My friend Benaiah Anderson, who studied sword making under the late Dennis Graves, recently used a set and compared it to a mechanic mounting new wheels… less satisfying than making your own, but certainly faster.  But then, he’s used to being able to do more on his own than I can:

For those hoping for plug-and-play, though, these are not quite that. Even ones with the higher finish level will still need some fitting most likely, but that’s not LG’s fault; Cas/Hanwei quality control is to blame here, as when I got my first ones of these, the cross guards wouldn’t slide all the way down on either of the two supposedly matching blade blanks, but they certainly went down further on one than on the other. When the first one was fit to the first blank, it still only went about 3/4 of the way down its mate. So count on some quality time with a file making these fit right… but that’s better than having them be too loose. Some of the pommels may need work as well.

 

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Initial wood grip and finishing on one. The other, you can see this is as far as the cross will go without filing.

There’s also been patterns uploaded for 3d printable grips. Haven’t tried that yet, and some reports have said they’re brittle if you print in the wrong type of plastic. I’m curious though, and may try one some time.

Fittings are available in various finish levels. I got some of each, to try them out. The one I just finished was the medieval single hand sword, but I also have some bastard sword fittings I’ll have to finish up probably next year some time.

You can see some fit better than others out of the box, but that’s also the blank; that finished cross only slides all the way down on one of the two blanks I bought (which were back-ordered for almost a year, and just came in this weekend). The Viscount longsword pommel needed a fair bit of filing inside it as well.

Here’s a quick comparison of blades:

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From left: Hanwei Tinker Line stock bastard sword, H/T Longsword with Viscount fittings and handmade grip, H/T Early Medieval Single Hand Sword with Dunvegan fittings and custom grip, and the Hanwei Practical Single-Hand sword.

In terms of handling, honestly the new one isn’t as different from the Hanwei Practical Single-Hand as I’d expected, although the pommel nut lets you keep it tight, unlike the practical’s peened tang. I did shorten the grip a bit, grinding off some of the shoulders of the tang to allow for a smaller handle, which fits me well now. I did a cord wrap over the wood, and then rayskin over that (left over from my last wallet after the inside parts fell apart). I do like how the bluing turned out on the furniture.

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after the cord wrap was done

The Viscount style longsword I like the looks of, but the pommel’s a bit pointy in areas where I like to put my off hand, so if I was finishing a rough cast one, I might round those off a bit more. While it’s uglier, the one I made with an angle grinder is more comfy to use.

Conclusions? Not at all a bad option to have. I haven’t used these enough to say how well the blades hold up to an extended run, or how good the fittings feel after a full day of use, but for me, as an occasional hobbyist without a full shop, it’s a nice compromise between DIY customization and buying stock.

HTEMSHrayskin

 

 

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  1. By Side-project Swords « Them's Fightin' Words on August 11, 2018 at 9:13 am

    […] are more of the LG Martial Arts hardware on Tinker line blades, as discussed in a previous post.  Pending the sudden acquisition of a forge and welding gear (and the time to learn how to use it […]

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