Vocabulary for Modern
Replica and Reproduction Swords:
While sword consumers now are
generally more sophisticated than just a decade ago, as a community they are still just
vulnerable to disinformation and misinformation when it comes to evaluating (or
purchasing) a modern-made sword. The same can
more or less be said for sword makers. An ongoing project within ARMA is to improve
communication among sword enthusiasts, consumers, and sword industry professionals. Part of this involves offering a list of
definitions for replicas and reproduction swords. So many terms and words are
misunderstood and thrown about and in sales pitches, marketing hype, and online forums
that it is hard to get straight honest information. Disagreement
among definitions also leads to unnecessary friction.
The following is a vocabulary of common terms compiled from sword aficionados and
professionals and amateurs within the sword industry. We present this list as a way of fostering understanding and discouraging misuse. We offer appreciation to our Expert Consultants
for assisting in compiling this list.
Authentic - Aunthenticity in a replica is a subjective matter
but one that can be qualified to a large degree. Does the piece use appropriate
high-carbon steel? Does it have the appropriate temper? Does it have a full and correctly
shaped tang? Is the blade of correct cross-section and dimension? Is the edge of
proper bevel angle? Is the hilt attached securely? Is it based on a knwon period
specimen or example?
modern marketing term ostensibly implying the sword could potentially be a real fighting
tool. The term is mostly meaningless as nearly any item could potentially qualify as a
tool for killing.
Blade 1. As opposed to
whole sword, the entire continuous metal structure from tang to tip. The blade is
traditionally the tempered and forged portion in contrast to the hilt attachments (or
"furniture"). When hilted a blade generally refers to the metal portion from tip
to cross. 2. the long, sharp, pointy
thing which extends from the short, wide, grippy thing.
Bladesmith A term usually used for knife makers who use
forging as the primary shaping technique. Essentially a
swordsmith, but referring to the blade only rather than a complete sword.
Blunt A generic term
for an unsharpened sword, typically a practice or training weapon.
Case Hardened - 1. A variety of techniques by which carbon is diffused
into the surface of a low or no carbon iron. Typically in modern applications the material
is then quenched and tempered resulting in a very thin layer of hardened steel on the
outside of a soft bar. Traditionally this technique was also used for building up
large billets of fairly homogeneous carbon steels (stack up carburized bars, weld them
together, fold them "x" amount of times to let the carbon diffuse and
"voila"-somewhat homogeneous steel). 2. Any
piece of iron that has been put under conditions that has allowed the outside
"skin" of the iron to absorb enough carbon to become steel and thus hardenable
(pure iron without carbon will not harden from quenching). The method has been used on
armor and weapons --as well as on the raw material used to make a stack of steel pieces or
bars which are then repeatedly folded then shaped into a weapon. Case hardening
ussualy produces only a thin outer skin of steel. Metallurgically,
it is inferior to full tempering.
The portion of a cutting blade that is the ideal location for striking to cause the
greatest impact with the least effort or vibration (i.e., the sweet spot). It
is a factor or the blades length, width, cross-sectional shape, and overall balance.
Center-of-Gravity - a term expressing how a sword wields and handles determined by its weight and how its center-of-percussion relates to its center-of balance.
Custom made sword
1. Any sword that is individually handcrafted by one
individual. It may or may not be historically accurate. But it is a one of a kind, even if
the maker produces several of the same pattern or design. 2. Any sword made to the unique
specifications of the customer. 3. A sword a manufacturer designs and has it made. However, if the
manufacturer mass produces the sword, then it is no longer a custom sword.
Edge - the place
where the bevel planes of a sword, knife or other bladed tool meet or come closest to one
another. An edge bevel is the part that
tapers in toward the centerline of a cross-section of the blade forming an edge. During
sharpening usually just the edge bevels are actually ground/polished. Some edge bevels can
be the entire side of the blade. Blade bevels are the tapering sides of the blade that
lead to edge bevels. There are many different types of edge bevel possible.
Elasticity - The property of springiness in a blade or the ability to return to its shape without distortion (in contrast to its plasticity).
1. A modern sword produced from an original or imaginary design
in contrast to a known historical specimen. It may or may not be a
functional weapon and may or may not be made through a historical
process. 2. Any sword
style inspired by fictional literature or artwork.
/ Feather-sword - a special practice sword used in the Medieval
and Renaissance eras for training and mock combat. Also known as a
play-sword or foyle. Though having the same balance and weight as
a "sharp" (a real weapon), it had thick rounded edges with
a blunt rounded point as well as a more flexible temper on the last
quarter of the blade.
Forge To form a blade
by heating and hammering the steel either manually or by mechanical aid.
Hand-forged refers to using traditional hammers rather than pneumatic power
tools. A modern smith may use one or both.
Forgery Making a
replica of a sword in a condition that is aged, pitted, rusted, and worn or damaged so as
to intentionally falsify its antiquity (not to be confused with forging or to
forge a sword).
Grind/Polish The coarse removal of metal by abrasive
action to change the shape of a piece of metal to match the desired shape of the blade. To shape/refine the finished surface or edge of a
blade. This may or may not be accomplished by
the aid of modern machinery or power tools. There is handmade and then there is
handmade by a human.
Hardening The necessary process of transforming a blade of soft steel to a
hardened state through quenching and tempering.
High-carbon steel - Steel
that contains a minute percentage ratio of carbon that results in harder metal. A broad and imprecise term referring normally to a steel with between 0.75%-1.20% carbon or steel that is over .50% carbon. Many replica swords do not go
over .8%. Lower carbon steel would .01-.20% and medium, .20-.50%. Typically steel, of low or no alloy content,
will reach maximum hardness at about 0.60% C and will get no harder as you increase the
carbon content, you just wind up with (hopefully) undissolved carbides for the rest.
Historical Sword A specimen documented to have actually existed and been used, in this case, during
the Middle Ages or Renaissance eras, i.e. an "antique". Evidence may come from an authentic surviving or
excavated example or one depicted in historical artwork.
Sword 1. An exact copy of an actual historical piece (which itself may or may
not have been a functional long bladed hand tool weapon). 2. A sword
constructed by adhering to the known materials and manner of production (which are derived from the close study and
testing of historical or ethnographic swords). 3. A sword made to esemble an antique
specimen. An accurate sword is one that has comparable metallurgical quality,
cross-sectional measurements, and dimensions of length, weight, balance, and hilt
configuration of the original.
Honing The act of sharpening a blade to a very
Impact Strength - A qualitative term referring to the property of resilience a blade has to withstand stress during strikes with a rigid target. This may refer to impacts on its edge or flat.
Lamination – a construction method involving the welding together of steels of different hardness and carbon contents to produce a blade of desired strength and resilience.
modern marketing term ostensibly implying the sword is good enough to pass for a duplicate
of one in a museums historical collection. The term is mostly meaningless as there
is no quantifiable means by which to objectively judge the claim.
Peening The act
of attaching a pommel to the tang by hammering over the small nub that protrudes or
riveting it with a small cap.
- The property of a blade to bend without breaking or fracturing (in
contrast to its elasticity).
Practice Blunt - see Federschwerter. A modern term for a training
The act of rapidly cooling a blade that has been heated to a critical
temperature in order to harden it (i.e., form martinsite). Water quenching steels
are quenched in water, oil hardening steels are quenched in oil, air hardening steels ar
quenched in air. What makes a steel air hardening, oil hardening, etc., is the amount and
type of various chemicals in the steel besides the base iron and carbon.
Replica Sword /
Reproduction Sword 1. A modern sword
(made through whatever method) that attempts to replicate an original historical sword
based on a surviving specimen or from a photograph, drawing or description. An accurate
replica sword blade may or may not be hand forged (e.g., stock removal is fine if the
other attributes are met) and may or may not have a hilt made in the exact manner (for various reasons). 2. A historically accurate copy that duplicates the original
right down to any pitting, damage, rust, bends, etc., of the original. A reconstruction following a real historical example as the model
and extrapolating any missing or damaged material. The goal is to reproduce what the
subject piece was like in a new condition in terms of dimensions, balance, and weight
--so long as a piece is not a replica in appearance only (i.e., a full scale model
car as opposed to a working vehicle).
Sharp A generic term
for a sword with a sharpened edge in other words, a weapon for either real fighting
or just cutting practice.
extract metal from ore through the use of heat and controlled atmosphere. Traditionally
this entails the use of iron ore and a reduction furnace to separate the iron from the
other minerals and impurities which would then be used to make steel through a secondary
operation. Some cultures could smelt directly to steel. A more modern way is to use
commercial iron powder and a crucible/furnace combination to make steel.
Spring steel - Steel with a temper
that permits considerable flexibility without breaking. Typically preferred for sword
blades. Usually refers to 5160 steel commonly used for leafsprings, etc. It also can mean
a steel that has been tempered down in hardness to be "springy" instead of
"hard". Modern steels exist in broad families based uon their intended main
application i.e., high-speed steels are used for drill bits because they chemically
do not soften from tempering at the temperatures such bits are exposed to. Spring steels
are used in applications where flexibility or springiness is required. Shock resistant
steels are used for jack hammer bits. High-wear steels are used for dies and
wear surfaces, etc. There are many formulations within each family. Additionally, spring
steel can be brittle and high speed steel can be soft, depending upon the proper heat
treatment. Each of the broad categories steel will be best at if treated in a
prescribed manner. There is no family called "sword steel". In the past this term usually referred to a specific
alloy of carbon steel, today it refers to any steel used for springs. Carbon
contents for modern spring steels range between 0.50% C to 0.95% C.
Stock Removal A
process for making knife or sword blades using abrasive or cutting tools to shape a flat
piece of steel by grinding away excess material. Depending on the quality of tempering
following the process can produce a very good or very poor blade. If a manufacturer uses
the stock removal method to form blades they are a maker if forging is the
primary means they are called smiths. Even forged blades (modern or
historical) will have some degree of stock removal performed on them for final
(SLO) A derogatory term for an ahistorical blade-shaped bar of
steel that is neither an accurate replica nor reproduction (i.e., a stage-combat
Modern slang for wall-hangers, or non-functional swords that despite appearing to be real cannot be used in realistic practice or serious training, let alone for their historical function.
Sword Cutler 1.
Historically, a person who put together a sword from parts made by others (i.e., a
swordsmith). This was the usual method of sword manufacture. 2. A
A person who uses machinery, such as
rolling mills or CNC machines, to produce blades
and sword parts that are for all intents and
purposes, identical. This can be good or bad, depending on the quality of the resulting
sword. This is fabricating with the same meaning of the word that is used throughout the
metal shaping industry.
Swordmaker A loose
term for anyone who makes swords or sword blades (historical or
not), either from parts or completely from scratch, using any fabrication technique
or combination of techniques. A swordmaker may or may not conduct his own hardening and
tempering process. The term properly applies
to an individual as opposed to a company.
Swordsmith One who
forges a sword blade (i.e., heats the metal red hot and shapes it while plastic by
hammering). The blade must be forged before
the maker can be called a swordsmith. This is done by heating a bar of metal and pounding
it into shape, then grinding or polishing and finishing it. A true smith is also
capable of quenching, hardening and tempering his own blades.
portion of a blade that extends through the handle to the pommel. It usually is of a different temper than the
working portion of the larger blade itself. Accurate
reproductions swords are those with square or rectangular full tangs
that is, extending the full length into the pommel as opposed to having a rod
selective reheating process performed after quenching to reduce the hardness of martinsite
(hardened steel) by applying specific heat over a period time.
Tempering- The application of lower temperature to the metal
part for a certain length of time to soften it up. This can range anywhere from light
stress, to very springy and medium hard, to almost as soft as the un-quenched piece. A
blade is first heated in a forge until bright red and then quickly dunked into a trough of
water (quenched). At this point it is harder than a file and brittle as an icicle. Then,
it is baked (tempering) at a low temperature for a short time so that it emerges springier
and much less hard.
Test-cutting The act
of evaluating the performance of a cutting sword (or a swordsman) by striking test
materials with a sharp weapon.
Purposely testing a blade until it fails by breaking or catastrophic bending. Usually a
sequential experiment from soft to hard-target testing designed to ensure the blade is no
longer usable. Used by swordsmiths/makers to find the outer limits of performance of their
blades. A process employed by swordmakers
seeking to learn the qualities and attributes of their piece or faithfully reproduce those
of a historical example.
derogatory term for a decorative sword (i.e., a costume sword or prop)
that is neither an
accurate replica nor reproduction and is not a functional tool or true weapon.
Weapon - What a historical
sword was primarily intended as...a bladed fighting tool
Also Terms & Definitions