The Castile sword by Valiant Armoury was the first in the line of the Signature Series swords. As this one was the first to be released it was in some ways a test case - a litmus test for the other swords to follow..
I was lucky enough to be one of the first guinea pigs.
And while the Castile sword now has changed in response to the feedback from this and other reviews, as all changes have been for the better, if you like this one - you will LOVE the current version...
Review by SBG Editor in Chief, Paul Southren
The Castile comes in two varieties, the basic Gus Trim designed blade (the Practical Series) and the embellished Christian Fletcher design (the Signature series) - the latter which we will be reviewing here.
Essentially what separates the two designs (other than price of course) is the handle wrap and the scabbard/belt, so this is perhaps the best and most logical place to start the review...
The Signature Series Castile scabbard was designed by and made to the standards of master cutler Christian Fletcher. Considering that the cost of a basic scabbard by Christian himself starts at more than the cost of the Castile Signature package itself - this really is quite a bargain (though the Castile is of course, not made BY Christian, it is instead made by Sonny Suttles - the owner of Valiant Armoury at his shop in the USA - but Sonny has been trained to replicate his style and technique).
Dyed Oxblood red, the leather covers a high quality wood core scabbard - a 'naked' one which is pictured below along side a finished version.
Overall, the quality of the scabbard itself is excellent and while not quite indistinguishable from a Christian Fletcher original, comes pretty darn close.
One criticism is that the underside of the scabbard has a seam that is not quite even and is fixed with contact cement rather than stitched in the traditional manner. However, as Christian hismelf also uses contact cement, this is more of an observation than a criticism.
The mouth of scabbard interfaces with the blade perfectly and together as a whole they look extremely attractive.
At the other end of the blade, the chape really does cap it off very well (pardon the pun) and is very well executed.
The only real issue I had with the scabbard was the belt, specifically the length.
Even though I must admit that spending several years in front of the computer has increased my mid section somewhat larger than what is ideal, the actual holes for the belt were far too long even for me and I had to punch a new hole and cut it down in order to be able to wear it.
As far as display goes, the extra long belt does indeed look attractive, and perhaps I am missing something, but to be able to wear it the belt must either be cut down or your diet should be dramatically increased to expand your midsection, whichever you feel is the most appropriate. ;-)
Otherwise though, the leather belt is pretty good quality and comes in either black by default or light brown.
It is permanently affixed, but hangs quite well once worn and makes drawing the blade very easy and natural - just don't forget to take it off when you go to the shops...!
Now, the hilt itself is very attractive and well executed.
The round type J pommel is cleanly shaped and finished. The grip is elegantly waisted, broader towards the guard and tapering towards the pommel so that it moulds very well to the hand. And the cross guard is likewise very well executed, tapering towards the broad tip and featuring 2 cut outs on each end replicating the original sword of Sancho IV.
Joining everything together is the beautiful matching oxblood leather covering of the grip, which has been given a corded appearance, with darker undertones and a lighter surface finish. As per Christian's original design, there is some overlap between the grip and the pommel/guard which is not to everyone's taste, but personally I think it works well and gives the sword some additional 'flair'.
The hilt is joined in the middle with contact cement instead of stitching as pictured below, which is the same method employed by Christian.
Another nifty feature of this sword is the hexagonal nut pommel assembly.
This design, which is intrinsic to all original Angus Trim swords, allows for easy tightening of the hilt components or disassembly for customisation with the use of an everyday allen key.
Above is a picture of the sword thusly disassembled. All components were in excellent condition and very closely copy the blueprint of the much more expensive Gus Trim originals.
When it came out of the box, everything was - and remained - very tight, suggesting that even with moderate to frequent usage, you'll not need to keep an allen key in your pocket just in case... ;-) Overall, a very innovative construction technique designed specifically for the needs of the modern day sword enthusiast.
The blade of the Castile is, as mentioned, a typical Oakeshott Type X sword - and as you can see plainly from the picture below, it is an excellent example of type.
Designed as a dedicated cutter, with a fuller that runs almost the entire length of the blade, this sword is still surprisingly heavy at 3lbs 2oz. However, this is by design and not accident, and with a point of balance 5" from the guard, it handles very much like it should - delivering powerful sweeping strikes that could power through an opponents defences.
Overall, the quality of the steel is well above average.
The finish of the 1060 high carbon steel is superb, with no visible scratches or grind marks at all - and indeed, is probably even slightly better finished than a Gus Trim original! On the down side though, the fuller is just a little bit wavy here and there - nothing major, but largely to be expected as these swords are hand forged, while Atrim originals are CNC milled.
Additionally, when you look down the length of the blade you can see evidence of the blacksmiths hammer, but it is nothing unsightly and - to me at least - very traditional and reassuring.
Now apart from the quality of the steel, the tempering of this blade is exceptional. There is nothing even remotely 'whippy' about the blade, but as you can see in the video below - the excellent heat treatment allows it to flex quite dramatically and return to true.
VIDEO: Flex Testing the Blade
Demonstration of this swords superior heat treatment with a serious flex test of the blade
So far, very (very good). But now the downside...
The blade of the Castile is sharpened to a secondary bevel. In itself, this is no problem - Gus Trims highly respected blades all have a secondary bevel too so it should follow suit that these will as well.
However, it really doesn't come sharp enough out of the box for serious cutting...
I am an experienced enough backyard cutter to be able to guess with about 90% accuracy how well a given sword is going to perform based on how it feels in the hand and how sharp the edge feels. Every now and again I get a surprise, but the Castile - unfortunately - performed much how I predicted.
Against super light targets like milk jugs, the edge didn't have a problem. However anything heavier, it REALLY struggled to perform.
VIDEO: Cutting Tests
The improperly sharpened out of the box edge struggled...
As you can see, the results were less than spectacular, though (as expected) the beautifully tempered, solid blade stood up to some quite heavy impacts without a problem.
So after all is said and done, does the Castile deliver the goods? I would have to say unequivocally YES!
If you were to have this sword made by Gus Trim himself and mounted by Christian Fletcher, youd be looking at about $1,500. And while the small differences between an original CF/Atrim and the Signature sword do not equal a CF original, considering that you can pick this sword up for around $384 - the value for money is truly exceptional...
Yes, there were a few minor issues with the sharpness of the blade. But
because of this review they have been addressed accordingly. So with this
problem out of the way, when you add in the custom scabbard, the Castile sword is some serious bang for your buck..
I hope this review of the Signature Series Castile has been helpful. To return to Affordable Replicas of Medieval Swords from Valiant Armory Castile Sword Review, click here