Ok, John. First question, how patient are you? I ask this because the wait for a Barta sword is now up to 3 years and I have no idea what the wait for one of John Lundemo's Odin Swords Spatha will be but I do know that he has a backlog as well. The Albion spathae are all on "preorder" status according to their site, so I have absolutely no idea when they will get around to producing any of them. So, on to the makers.
Albion makes very accurate historical replicas using modern homogenous carbon steel. If you lurk around the Discovery Channel's or Discovery Science Channel's "How It's Made" show, they had a piece last Friday about 8 minutes long on how Albion makes their swords. I understand that it is also on Youtube (check the threads on the "How It's Made" show in SwordForum and in MyArmoury for how to find it) that might help you on their product. It is made by stock reduction and not by forging. In other words, their mill the sword out of a bar of steel rather than pounding it out on an anvil in the old fashioned way. I was unimpressed, but I am a strong advocate of forging.
Their three spathae are all their Next Generation Line and they are quality if you like stock reduction. The Auxllia is a replica of the Koln Spatha, a 3rd Century spatha found in Cologne (Colonia Agrippina) Germany. Their Decurio appears to me to be a replica of a late 2nd Century spatha based upon the fullers that appear to be cut into the blade. Earlier Roman blades do not usually have them. The Alaris is a replica of a Bog Sword, a copy of one of the swords that somebody had sacrificed by throwing into a pool or lake which then silted up and became a bog. These are found all over Northern Europe as both the Celts and the Teutonics practiced this form of offering to their gods. On all three of these, it is hard to tell exactly what they are as we have only sketches. I will note that none of them come wiith a scabbard and that Roman scabbards are rather elaborate if you want one done right what with their metal framing and all on the earlier ones. If you want to talk with someone about a proper scabbard and suspension, check out www.tritonworks.com
. Russ Ellis does superb work and I can recommend him. He will do his best to fit within you budget.
The Odin Swords spatha looks really nice. The smith, John Lundemo, has appeared on various TV shows over the years and he forges his blades. He has a very good reputation among the sword fans at SwordForums and MyArmoury. But, again, the sword seems to come without a scabbard, so back to Triton for help. At least the starting price is but $400.
Now, to my choice which is Patrick Barta at TEMPL. I have his Roman Riding Sword, #102. This is a bog sword from Kragenhul, Denmark, and it has much in common with swords of which I have seen pictures from museums all over Northern Europe. The hilt is bonze cladding over wood and the blade is forged homnogenous steel with five (5) narrow fullers on each side of the blade. This is the sword that I bought from him in 2001-2002 and it was a steal then at $250 and remains a good buy today at 400 EUROs. Part of the reason for that is that Patrick ships his swords with a very well-made, if usually simple, scabbard. Mine is a light wooden core covered by burgundy leather with bronze chape, throat, and slide. I note that he is using bone slides now which are very much within the historical record. The #102 is really more of a very Late Roman Spatha or transitional Migration Era spatha as it has that in common with the Germanic swords of the early Migration Era. He also makes two other swords that I believe to be spathae. The first is #119 Roman Sword (Einang type) which incorporates a bog sword blade and the Koln Spatha hilt. While this seems an odd combination at first glance, they work very well together. The blade is pattern-welded, what is incorrectly called "Damascus," and it has two broad fullers on each side. Perhaps you could get the price down a bit by asking him if he will make the scabbard with a less elaborate chape. I would wonder if you really need gold inlays. The other sword that I would call a spatha is what he calls a Gladius Hispaniensis
, his #125. Now this is an extraordinarily handsome piece to my way of thinking but it is longer than all but one of the spathae that he shows. I know that the GH was longer than its successor gladii but that seems to me a bit much to call something that long a "gladius." BTW, that odd looking pommel is from real GH found on the Isle of Delos, apparently lost there during Pompey the Great's anti-pirate campaign of 66 BCE. The blade appears to be finely done pattern-welding and the scabbard is a truly magnificent piece of workmanship. 1200 EUROs is not at all too much to pay for this sword although there are those out there who will look at it and wonder if it is really a spatha. I, for one, have no problem with that.
On Roman military gear in general, you need to remember that this equipment was most emphatically NOT mass produced but the product of a lot of hand labor, even when it came from the Late Empire armories. So no two pieces could be expected to look exactly alike and none in the archaeological record do. There is a very wide range of types and an equally wide range within the types for, after all, they were made by individuals who had very different ideas of how to do it. They were also frequently made and decorated to suit the tastes of individual soldiers who were proud of their profession and advertised that pride by dressing up their equipment.
So, my advice is that, if you are really serious and have the patience, order something from Patrick He does each piece individually and can tailor it to suit your individual wants, needs, and tastes so that you could ask him to leave out the gold inlays, to make the grip a touch longer to fit a bigger hand, or whatever you want. Think of the three year wait as the time necessary to gather the money needed as he does not ask for the money up front, so you will have at least until he starts work on your sword to come up with the money. If you wish, I will write him an email that I have an acquaintance who would like to discuss a commission with him.
If you go with one of the other makers and need to talk with Russ Ellis (Triton) about scabbards, let me know and I will write to him about you. He and I have had quite a good relationship over the years when it comes to sharp and pointy things and things to put them into. We just stay away from politics and religion a lot.
I have seen some of his recent work and it is beautiful. I am asking him to work up a suspension for my Barta sword when I get it if you want an opinion of his work. I am also in discussion with him about a period proper scabbard and suspension for my new cinquedea.
You may also wish to log onto www.tinkerswords.com
and take a look at Tinker's work as well as that of some of the other smiths who post there such as Gus Trim. I have three of Tinker's items and am very well-pleased with them. Any of the smiths can make you what you want if you are both patient and have the money.