Justin Reis - 22 Nov 2016
Update (Nov_2016): I've got about 50, fairly vigorous, bouts and almost 5 months of weekly training logged on this sword. I'm still pleased with the sword for the price, but a few concerns have surfaced with extended use: First, the shells are not strong enough. Receiving cuts on the shells rapidly bends them down towards the hand. Training once per week, I need to hammer the smaller shell back out every other week or else it gets flat enough to expose my fingers. Having a bent shell somewhat ruins the (otherwise very nice) aesthetic of the sword—which is disappointing. More importantly, I suspect the metal will simply fail at some point from all the bending back and forth. Second, the hilt itself is made of fairly soft metal. So much so the I've accumulated a number of deep notches on my quillons & knucklebow. These notches are not important, but my training partner (who purchased a Bilbo with the standard pommel) has found that his knucklebow will bend on of line with the handle. My sword, with the wheel pommel doesn't seem to have this problem since the knucklebow rest against (and is this supported by) the larger pommel. Again, this is not hyper-violent tournament use, just normal training and bouting. Third, the blade has developed a slight, but obvious S bend. Among my regular training partners we have 3 of Darkwood's destreza blades (one trainger & two Bilbos) and all three have similar bends. Since this is an unusual blade geometry, this might be perfectly normal, but we're wearing our jackets now even for drills out of concerns about broken blades. Neither of our two Darkwood SideSword blades are bent at all despite similar use. Lastly, and this could be considered praise for Darkwood more than a criticism: the handling of our swords, purchased between May & June 2016m while perfectly acceptable, are noticeably inferior to a new Destreza trainer purchased this Fall. The thick forte on the new sword does not extend as far down the blade as it does on our swords (about an inch less). The result is a sword that rolls very nicely in the cut, arresting it's own energy as the cut ends. Our older model swords also cut with authority, but their momentum must be arrested before the sword can be redirected. This may sound minor, and again, the handling of our swords is fine for a $300 training blade, but the new sword is substantially better—handling as well as substantially more expensive swords. Perhaps this one newer example is a fluke, in which case our man was very lucky! If it is a design improvement, however, kudos to Darkwood. Update summary: Still an eminently usable training weapon with a good-looking (imo) hilt design that provides good protection while being open enough to accommodate very protective gloves if desired. If the shells and blade hold up for a reasonable period of time then this is definitely a great buy. There are, however some concerns with the knucklebow and particularly the shells getting bent out of place and needing to be hammered out regularly.