There’s no question, the feel of steel over polypropylene makes a world of difference to your technique – steel doesn’t bounce or slide, it binds. Admittedly blunt feders behave far differently to a sharp, but that is still a world better than a poorly balanced nylon plank.
The question then, how good are the Hanwei feders as entry-level steel trainers?
If it’s the only steel handled so far, the answer could well be ‘a revelation.’ Until you handle just about anything other steel.
The Hanwei Practical Fencing Longsword (or Federschwert), to give it the proper name, is based on historical training pieces used in Renaissance Europe, as illustrated in many period fencing manuals.
It is strictly no-frills in design and quality. Out of the box it it is ugly as sin and doesn’t get any prettier with use. The flattened, rounded tip comes with a rubber safety. The blade is very rectangular in profile, but has decently rounded corners that will take a battering without causing undue alarm. It is, however, one of the narrowest feder blades I know of, with not a lot of mass.
It is one of the most flexible feders on the market. From almost half way up the blade it is very forgiving in the thrust, although this flexibility can make certain techniques in the wind and bind more difficult.
The schilt is gently profiled across the flat, with squared shoulders. The straight cross-guard is generously wide. The long grip will accommodate the widest HEMA gauntlets and then some. The screwed pommel is about the right weight and rarely needs tightening.
The narrow blade and long grip gives the Hanwei a good balance and it pivots easily in the hand; this lends it a nimbleness for quick changes of line. It lacks any penetration, however, so cuts land unconvincingly and some parries can collapse against a heavier strike.
One of our Hanwei feders hasn’t been the same since one full-on training session where cutting and parrying structure was tested to the limit. The edges held up, but the feder now has a worrying set at the shoulder of the tang. You can straighten it – repeatedly – but not only does the set come back, but you know it’s heading for an inevitable failure.
For this reason, with the overall light construction and bottom-end factory finish, the Hanwei’s are generally barred from competition. If you do get it through to a tourney, you realise it is at a distinct disadvantage against… well, almost everything else.
As an introductory steel training weapon it was fine at the time, but if I were looking to spend £120 and up, I’d save a few more pennies and get something sturdier, prettier and more… ‘sword-like’.
Hanwei Practical Fencing Longsword (Federschwert)
£124.20 (The knight Shop – sale price £99.36 as at 07/09/19)
Overall Length: 131cm
Blade Length: 94cm
Handle Length: 34.5cm
Point of Balance: 9cm
Point of Harmonics: 58.5cm
Width at Guard: 6.8cm
Width at Tip: 2cm
Thickness at Guard: 0.75cm
Thickness at Tip: 0.64cm
Blade: High Carbon Steel