Balance point is rather far forward, but this is a consequence of the lack of a finished guard. I had specifically asked A.T. to supply the simplest possible furniture so that I could prototype my own. The crossguard is 1018 steel, which is a common and easy-to-weld alloy.
The general objective here is to come up with a handle along the general lines of what Richard F. Burton discusses in the appendix of his saber manual. N.B., who has had the opportunity to swing the new sabers around, agrees that the index finger wants something to latch on to–both of us instinctively hooked our index fingers over the crossguard when we tried these things out. Note that the handle shown in Fig. 3 below has purchase for the index finger as well as support for the pinky. For some reason Burton has eliminated the former detail in his version shown in Fig. 4; I’m aiming for something like 3.
I wrapped the tang in aluminum foil to prevent the plastic from sticking to it.
I pulled off little gobs of it and wrapped it around the tang, building up the desired amount of bulk, and then transferred it from hand to hand as it cooled, partly to preserve a reasonably ambidextrous shape and partly to keep from burning my hands.
Next step will be to think about where the thumb will go. It is obvious that the Del Frate/Burton handle is optimized for a thumb-on-the-back-of-the-handle grip. Eastern European sabers sometimes used thumb rings that would work well with the grip shown in the last photograph above, but I can’t see a way to make such a thing ambidextrous. I will probably saw off the upper half of the steel crossguard and try to mount a thumb plate on its stump, then fashion a suitable guard around that.