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Review: Morrigan's Talon
By K. Goldsby, USA
The review is fairly picture heavy, so be warned. I wanted to give some insights to the whole process so with Brendan's permission, I have included design sketches, in progress pictures, mock up pictures and of course pictures of the final product.
I had this sword made for a few reasons. The first was that I had a set of Windlass Raven Claw Fighting Knives and I could never find a sword that I felt went with them. All of the blackened swords I could find either looked too cheesy or just didn't fit with what I wanted. Also, my armor is black and silver and I wanted a sword that would fit with those colors. Determined that I would get what I wanted, I set out to find a custom sword maker that could turn my dreams into reality. I also had been wanting to have Brendan make a sword for me ever since I joined the forums and saw his work and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Below you can see the Raven Claw Fighting Knife that I used as a starting point for the design of my sword. I always thought it could make a good sword by lengthening the handle and blade as well as adding a guard to it and a few other tweaks.
I always loved the black blade, the upswept tip and unique grip of that dagger and had purchased a pair of them. The lines of the blade just seemed to flow very organically and looked like it had to have a big brother out there just begging to be made. Imagine my disappointment at the time when I found out that Windlass did not offer a companion sword for them or if they did it was discontinued. In hindsight, I am thrilled that they didn't as it led to me having Brendan of Fable Blades make me one.
Another reason is that I had always wanted a Celtic/Morrigan themed sword. The Celtic Anthropomorphic swords or the other Celtic styled blades never really appealed to me and I could never find any sword that had any kind of theme or elements that went along with the goddess Morrigan. After all, she is the Celtic Goddess of War, Fate and Death; so you would think that would be a natural theme for a Celtic based sword. Morrigan is central to Celtic mythology and her appearance before a battle was always a dire omen for one side or the other.
Finally, I have always have had an affinity for ravens and their symbolism in the Norse, Celtic and Native American mythos. Ravens have been associated with war, death, wisdom and trickery in various cultures. In Celtic mythos, ravens and crows were harbingers of battle and would scavenge battle fields feeding on the dead. In Norse mythology, they represented wisdom and memory. The legend goes that the Tower of London will never fall as long as they have giant ravens there. If I had to pick an animal as my Totem, it would be the raven.
There just didn't seem to be any production swords that met any of my criteria. I was able to kill two birds with one stone in this case. When I was looking around to find someone to work with to have this blades made, Brendan from Fable Blades just seemed to be the perfect one to do so.
Brendan and I went back and forth a bit on the design of the blade and he was able to come up with something special. My initial sketch can be seen below. Keep in mind that my drawing skills and artistic ability.....well let's just say I shouldn't quit my day job any time soon.
My initial design
Brendan's original sketches based on my design ideas:
The final version ended up like this:
Some work in progress pictures for those interested:
Initial fullering and cutting out of the swords:
Pictures after tempering.
Here you can see the rough texture on the ricasso, framed by the smooth chamfering. The firescale then moves on in the fuller. This created some very interesting activities on the blade once it was blackened.
Pictures with the sword parts losely assembled:
As this is a fantasy based sword design, there really isn't any historical precedent for it. The shape of the blade is somewhat reminiscent of a Yataghan but without as much of a forward curve to the blade. The engravings on the sword are Irish Gaelic and the carvings depict Ravens, a bird closely associated with Morrigan in Celtic legend and mythology.
With the downturned grip, the sword is also somewhat similar to the sword Hadhafang, the sword of Arwen from The Lord of the Rings movies with the main differences being that Morrigan's Talon has a guard and a blackened blade, both of which Hadhafang does not. I have always liked that sword, but the lack of a guard always threw me.
However there is no real historical sword to compare the blade to. The closest would be a hand and a half saber of some sort.
I designed and purchased this blade from Brendan of Fable Blades, and was afforded no discounts.
I am not sponsored, compensated, enabled or abetted by Fable Blades in any way shape or form, and while Brendan does like seeing feedback and reviews on his swords, he in no way would ask for or encourage a favorable review in exchange for anything, be it discount or other remuneration.
When the sword arrived, it came packed in a PVC pipe that was heavily wrapped with cardboard and tape. The post office would have had to work VERY hard at damaging the sword. Once I was able to free the sword from the cardboard and tube, there was a layer of bubble wrap to work through and several layers of newspaper around the blade. Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures of the packaging as I was too impatient to get my hands on the sword. Brendan was able to ship this one fully assembled due to its peened construction. Based on my experience, I would have no concerns about the packaging used by Brendan.
The sword looked stunning when it arrived; you could tell that the blade had been properly oiled and protected as well as the handle. Dry handling it revealed it to be a very comfortable sword that is very quick and responsive. All in all, my first reaction was wow, the pictures Brendan sent me didn't do the blade justice at all.
What really grabbed me was all of the subtle details in the sword. It seemed like every time I looked at it, I would notice some new little detail I hadn't seen before. A week and a half later, I'm still finding new little details.
Shipping was fast with it only taking 4 days to get from Australia to me in Texas. Finally, something positive to say about the Post Office (just checked the ground here, and no Hell hasn't frozen over yet).
As far as customer service goes, Brendan is great to deal with. He is tremendous at taking the ideas you have and putting them together in sketches for you to review. He's very willing to work with you to get all the details just right. Brendan gives you plenty of updates letting you know how the sword is coming complete with pictures. He is easily one of the most if not the most professional people I have worked with on this kind of project.
Blade Length: 32"
Handle Length: 9.5"
Overall Length: 42.1"
Guard Width: approx 5" wide and 5" high (because of the S shape)
POB (Point of Balance): 5" from the blade shoulder
COP (Center of Percussion): Not sure on this one
Weight: 2lbs 12 oz
The blade is very striking as well as being very lean and mean looking. It is very light and nimble for a sword of its size. With the blade length at 32" this would be a bastard or two handed sword for some people. Given that I'm 6'3" 200 lbs and have large hands, I can wield it one handed. It is easier to use with two hands but I can do it with one in a pinch. The blade has been gun blued to a deep black color. There are many shadings going on in the blade that pictures just cannot capture. There is a fuller running about 2/3rds the length of the blade and on the backside, the last six inches of the blade running up to the point are sharpened. The blade has a slight forward curve to it and a upswept tip making it somewhat similar to a Yataghan.
There are all kind of activities going on in the blade. Brendan deliberately left some of the byproducts of tempering the blade on it before gun bluing it. This has led to slightly different colorations in the blade and some rainbow effects if seen from the right angles. It gives the blade depth and draws your eyes into it.
The blade has engravings on both sides in Irish Gaelic running between the termination of the fuller up to where the edge on the back side of the blade starts. Brendan used Roman letters in Irish Gaelic for the inscriptions. Given the culture and time frame this blade would have been from, runes would not seem appropriate.
The blade is very tough as Brendan triple tempered it and was able to get great Martensite transformation in it. I haven't had a chance to cut with it but I can already tell it is a heavy duty blade that will take things with ease. The Martensite transformation alter the blade shape slightly making the blade have a slight forward curve like a yataghan. I think that it worked out for the best as I like this blade profile better than the original straight spined design. You have to love those happy little accidents that cause things to work out even better than you planned.
The blade is constructed out of 9260 steel and triple tempered to a hardness of 52 on the Rockwell scale. Blade width is 2" at the flare narrowing down to 1.4" at the end of the fuller. Blade thickness is 6 mm at the base and narrowing to 3.9 mm 2" from the tip. The front side of the blade is sharpened from just past the ricasso to the tip of the blade. The back side is sharp from the tip to 6" further down the blade. The blade is quite sharp and should have no problems cutting traditional targets.
Tip of the blade:
Back side of the blade where you can see the sharpened portion terminate:
Engravings on the blade:
I am Morrigan, Anger me not
Death, Fate and War are my Dominions
The handle is constructed from Jarrah wood which has a nice rich luster to it and a handsome grain pattern. Depending on which angle you view it at, the wood seems to darken in some places and lighten in others. The grip darkens on the pommel end of the handle and the guard end of the handle, lightening some in the middle. The lacquering and oiling of the handle give the illusion that you can sink your hand down into the grip. This is something I normally only see on high end automotive paint jobs. I have no idea how Brendan was able to accomplish it, but it is something you have to see to believe.
I had asked Brendan to do a downturned on hilt on this piece. It is very comfortable for me and should give it extra oomph in a cut. The handle is 9.5" long on the downturned side and 10.5" on the other side. It is very comfortable and I can fit both my hands on it easily with an inch separating them to spare and without having to have part of my hand on the pommel. The downturned nature of the grip can be somewhat deceptive as at certain angles it causes the handle to appear smaller than it really is. While it is a wood grip, the carvings give it some extra texture on the handle that helps in getting and maintaining a secure grip on the blade.
On one side of the handle is carved a Raven flying against a full moon and clouds. The carving is very detailed and any pictures I have taken so far can't do it justice. A tiny garnet is set just below the Raven's beak, making it appear that a drop of blood is falling from it. On the other side is a perched Raven in front of a crescent moon. Again there is a small garnet under the Raven's beak like a drop of blood. The level of detail on these carving is very impressive and Brendan was able to work with the grain of the wood to make them flow even better.
Here you can see the carvings
The flying Raven
The perched Raven
The blade has a sweeping S shaped guard with the downturned portion of the S where it will protect your hands. The ends of the guard are round with a slight point to them. Where the guard crosses the center of the blade, it comes to a point. The guard flows very organically with the handle and does not interfere with the grip or handling of the blade. Inset on both sides of the guards is a 7mm natural round blood red garnet. I wanted garnets as they are my birthstone. The guard is just wide enough to prevent a blade from sliding down and striking your hands yet not so wide as to be awkward or interfere with your grip or whatever type of disengage you might use. The guard is made of steel and gun blued to match the rest of the sword.
The pommel consists of a steel butt cap on the handle. The tang is hot peened to the pommel and ground down flush with it. The pommel is not going anywhere. Engraved around the circumference of the pommel is the sword's name in Irish Gaelic, Morrigan's Talon - Téir Abhaile Riú Talon. The pommel has also been blackened to match the blade and its fittings.
Brendan created a very nice wood cored, black leather covered scabbard lined in velvet for the blade. I will be receiving the Scabbard next week and will update my review with additional pictures once I get it. In the mean time, I have included the pictures Brendan took of the scabbard. There is a blacked steel chape on it and risers at the mouth. It turned out quite beautifully; you would not be able to tell from looking at that Brendan is relatively new at making scabbards. I have a few of Morrigan sigils of the three ravens in a circle that I may try affixing to the scabbard depending on how they look. I also may set a garnet on each side of the chape. I am undecided for now as I don't want to make it too gaudy.
Morrigan's Talon is very light in the hand and handles very well. Weighing only 2 lbs 12 oz and having a POB at 5'' from the guard makes for fast, smooth handling. The downward turned grip gives it extra authority in a down cut. It would be a very effective to weapon wield from horseback. Not that I have any horses I could ride to put that aspect of the blade to the test. So far, it is the best handling of my swords. It seems to want to rest is a forward middle guard position. From there it moves quite well into several different cuts and blocks. I will have to get used to how light and quick it is as I have a tendency to use too much force to haul it around from using heavier swords.
I haven't had a chance to do any test cutting with it as of yet. It's just too hot out right now; we're already getting temperatures in the mid 90's here. Between that and sick kids and a sick wife, I just haven't had a chance to go out and kill some bottles.
Overall I am very pleased with this sword and would be happy to have Brendan create some more blades for me. It easily exceeded my expectations and is already my favorite sword in my collection. I was able to get a sword that had all of the design elements that I wanted in a very short time frame.
- Beautiful blade with lots of texture and details
- Very light for its size and quite nimble
- Handsome grip with very nice carvings
- Blade is tough as nails and should stand up to anything I throw at it
- Incredible levels of detail in all aspects of the sword
- Almost like a piece of art and not just a sword
- Very nice scabbard
- Blade proportions are ideal for my size and hands.
- Great educational experience in how the whole process of designing and making a custom sword works
- Great turnaround time -- a little less than 2 and a half months from when I first approached Brendan and I received the blade
Do I really have to list cons? If I had to come up with cons for this and I am really nit picking here to do so:
- The sword is more expensive than a typical blade
- Not sure that I will be happy with most productions swords after this
- Almost afraid to use it, it looks so good
- After working with Brendan, some other customizers/smiths may seem slow by comparison
- They are addictive, just like Lay's potato chips, you can't just have one
I know, I'm really having to reach to come up with cons for this sword.
The Bottom Line
The sword turned out much better than I could ever have hoped for. Brendan was able to tie in all of the various elements I wanted to incorporate into the sword and do it in a way that flowed naturally. He works with you to make changes to the sword so that it can meet your desires while remaining functional. The end product is a beautiful yet functional sword. With him doing scabbards now, it's one stop shopping for a blade and scabbard. I would gladly recommend Brendan to anyone looking to get a custom blade done. The value you receive for your money is very high. I know I already plan on commissioning him to create my version of a Warder Sword.