Review: "A Practical Guide to Test Cutting"

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Review: "A Practical Guide to Test Cutting"

Postby KeithFarrell » 09 May 2014 12:42


"A Practical Guide to Test Cutting for Historical Swordsmanship" by Scott M. Rodell is an interesting and well thought-through book. It is a very slim volume, with just around 80 pages and a rather large text size, so it is not a particularly long book. It took me around 50 minutes to read it from cover to cover. However, the information contained within is an excellent primer for people who would like to start engaging in test cutting. Some of the information I found to be very useful for myself, even with a little experience under my belt.

I think it could have gone further in various areas, and it seems like a lot of potentially useful information is missing from the book. For example, it talks about how to make a cutting stand, how to clean blades and make blade repairs - but it does not discuss the concept of sharpening the blade at all. That seems like a fairly important omission. In the early pages, it talks about why test cutting is very important for people who recreate historical swordsmanship, in terms of learning how a real sword handles when it makes contact with a target; however, it does not make any suggestions for how to integrate the practice of test cutting into a school's activities, or how to link it in a structured fashion with other solo or paired practices.

In terms of the layout and editing, it does seem a little basic, and there were several spelling and grammar errors throughout. It feels that it was one editing job away from being very well written. It has plenty of illustrations, although they do not always seem to be connected with the text that surrounds them.

For a basic primer, it does the job very well, and it is good that this kind of book is available to people who would like to explore this type of practice. I would definitely recommend it for any instructor or solo practitioner who would like to engage in more test cutting. It might be of less use for individuals who have a lot of experience already with test cutting, as it deals mainly with basics, but it would not hurt for schools to have a copy of this book available for consultation.
-- Keith Farrell --
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