When Logan Black, of Black Horse Blades, contacted me last fall to see if Longpoint would approve his "Workhorse" feder for our longsword tournaments, I asked him to send me one to test. He did, and while I didn't get to keep it, I wish that I had been able to.
I based this review on several months of almost exclusive use in drilling, sparring, and two tournaments. Logan and I also spoke several times about how he made it, what tweaks might improve it (most of which have been implemented in current production models), and about what customization he's open to.
As a snob when it comes to aesthetics, I was prepared to not like the Workhorse. Sure, it had a few physical characteristics that I thought were great, such as a double fuller and a lobe point (not a rolled tip, which seem to be failing failing more and more these days). But the profile wasn't to my taste, with a flat cross and a minimalist schilt at the base of a fairly narrow, almost parallel-edged blade. The pommel is a simple sphere and the handle is nicely proportioned, albeit a little more uniformly cylindrical than I prefer. The hilt is held together with some kind of screwed-in configuration, which I don't generally like, but it never loosened even a little, so my fears were unfounded. It's a tad shorter than the most common feders on the market, about 2 inches shorter overall than an Ensifer Long or Regenyei, and just a tad shorter than a Chlebowski (a shorter sword isn't a bad thing, but buyers should be aware).
The Workhorse's handling and durability brought me around by the end of my first session, despite my initial misgivings. It's the best combination of agility and bind strength I've seen in a competition-style feder yet. The weapon is deceptively light. Point control was a breeze. It's stiffer than average, but not so stiff as to make me worry for my opponent. It's presence in the bind is much better than most other feders I've used, even though the Black Horse feels lighter than most others I've used. These things all seem to come from a combination of the double fuller, a unique distal taper, and the material the thing is made from.
Construction and Design
The feder is made from some kind of super-durable alien metal (that's my butchering of the technical mumbo jumbo that Logan, as a smith, was telling me about. There are carbon numbers and other stuff in there, but I'm a fencer, not a smith, so I just smile and nod. I've included the relevant details at the bottom of the review), and Logan swears that the thing will last for ages without setting, chipping, coming unscrewed, etc. I really abused the hell out of it trying to prove him wrong. I failed. I couldn't get it to take a set, break, chip, or loosen. While it didn't look new at the end of the process, it didn't reflect a quarter of the abuse I'd put it through.
The blade's double fuller runs about 1/3 of the length. Black Horse will happily vary the length of the fuller to modify the balance on request as well. Instead of an even distal taper, the first maybe 60% of the blade, from the schilt to just past the middle, is fairly thick and nicely rounded on the edge. The last 40% of the blade or so is thinner, with a sudden taper between the two sections. As a result, the blade is incredibly stable when parrying or binding at the strong, but still hits with less mass and flexes a bit more toward the point, making the impact on a strike equivalent to most other brands.
After my few months with it I passed it onto another would-be reviewer (Charles Murdock, let us know your thoughts), and began to miss it immediately. I've become a big believer in Logan's abilities as as a smith and I would heartily recommend Black Horse's Workhorse feder to anyone looking to by a US made feder that positively differentiates itself from its less expensive, eastern European-made competition through superior durability and handling.
The Workhorse Feder is available at www.blackhorseblades.com/feders for $580. Many customizations are free, and Logan does custom swords for sparring and cutting as well. All of his blades are made to order, and wait times seem to range from 2-4 months (for real). Also worth noting that this feder is approved for all of Longpoint 2016 longsword competitons.
Steel: Shock Seven Steel
Rockwell: 57 rc
Length: 50" total (127cm); 12.25" handle(31.1 cm) ; 37.75" inch (95.9 cm)
Balance Point: 2.75" (7 cm) from the guard
Handle Material: Ipe with wrap with veg tanned leather wrap or cord wrap
Tip: lobe tip
Weight: 3 lbs 5 oz (1.5 kg)