Some Sample Cutting Tests of Blades and Materials

Brought to you by the "Society for Hitting Things with Sharp Metal Things"

Cutting Experiments 2011
(52 MB)

ARMA Mexico: Test Cutting a Pig Carcass

Dr. Juan Carlos Lopez shows the horrid effects of an tapered arming sword on a fresh carcass.
.mp4, 982 KB

A full force thrust of a blunt training blade (Federschwert).
.mp4, 1.03 MB

The results of a simple diagonal cut from a tapered arming-sword against the hip bone.
.mp4, 697 KB

ARMA Hellas: Thrusts on Maille - Part I
27 MB (March 2010)

Cleaving a Deer Carcass
Casper B. ARMA Ogden, UT (2004)

An example of the devastating effect of sharp steel when properly applied to a bare flesh and bone target such as this fresh mule deal carcass.


Blunt Bastard Sword Cleaves 3.5 inch fresh bamboo - Sep 2006

Adventures in Edge Bashing - Basement Experiments I

(Summer 2005)


International Gathering NY, June 2003

Short version - John C. cuts clean through a moist rolled straw mat with a wood dowel core using a blunt Raven bastard sword

Full version - Raven blunt cutting --showing how easy straw mats can be cut by a well-honed but even completely unsharpened sword

With a Zornhau strike John C. dents an armet helm using the same blunt sword --resulting in no damage to the blade

John C. cuts at a section of fine riveted maile armor using an especially sharp Messer --but producing no affect on the maile or blade edge

Tim S. punctures a well made armet helm with a warhammer

John C. snaps and breaks a sharp Messer on the helm, causing only a scratch to both

Cutting at a straw mat, John C. gives an impromptu demo explanation of how short quick downward chops even with a very sharp straight sword may not be very effective against the forearms or hands as thought

John C. shows how to defend against attacks by flying mats using a very sharp Grossmesser

Practice cutting with
antique arming sword
John C. performs a few well
placed edge blows on melons, c.1999.

Antique 17th century rapier
slices on raw meat
A true rapier with a thick hexagonal cross-section blade is incapable of making any slicing wounds by draw cut on the skin of the meat, and a few edge blows delivered from the elbow are also of no effect. We would have liked to have tried tip cuts at full speed but did not want to risk it.

Antique rapier thrusts on
raw fresh pork shoulder
Even moderate force thrusts penetrate the thickest flesh quite easily --and in fact, are easier to enter with than to withdraw. Thrusts hitting against the large bone also deflected away and kept going in.

Cut-and-thrust replica slices and
edge blows on raw meat
Even simple draw cuts from this slender side sword made horrid slicing wounds against the flesh, and simple edge blows made from the elbow cut in to an impressive depth of 1-2 inches.

Great sword on raw
fresh pork shoulder
With a two-hand longsword blade (by Zamorino), even blows made from the elbow were devastating in effect, gruesomely cleaving 6-8 inches deep and chipping as well as shearing through the raw bone.

Stabs into raw beef leg with antique 16th century swept-hilt rapier 3MB
A short clip of how effortlessly a real rapier pierces into a slab of thick flesh with only simple arm extensions. (Atlanta, 2001)

Draw cuts, slices, and edge blows
with antique rapier
A demo of what a true rapier can and can't do. This "star" shaped cross-section rapier is incapable of either draw cuts or slicing wounds by placing and sliding the blade. Slaps and whacks from the wrist or elbow have no affect on the meat. Note also how light and stiff the blade is and how agile it moves, totally unlike a modern flexi-simulator version.

Bastard sword on maile 7.3MB
Hank Reinhardt (65 here) shows some of the effects of cuts on flesh even through maile & padded cloth armor. The armor was not penetrated but the target below is traumatically pulverized from the blow. The sword edge sustained minor trauma as well.

Cut on maile 1.3MB
Here the maile (just butted replica style) was snapped open and the padded gambeson slightly torn but not penetrated, yet the results on the meat were the edge substantially tearing the flesh below.

One-handed chop 1.4MB
While low targets on a solid base are not at all the best way to test cut by far, it was useful for demonstration purposes. Here the sheer mass and inertia of the cut, even if not especially strong or quick here, cut clean through 4 inches of meat and bone with a one handed Das Gayzlen technique from a great-sword.

Free held chop 2MB
Ah...the things we do at ARMA to reflect a more realistic target's "give", John Waller of the Historical European Combat Guild and the Royal Armouries offers to hold out a tube with a block of raw beef shoulder on it while Hank R. takes a swipe at it using a sharp MRL bastard sword. Note the simple motion Hank makes and action of the arm and weapon as it strikes. The wound's effect is significant.

Tube Cut 1.3MB
Hank makes a quick chop at a free standing extra thick cardboard tube.
Note his relaxed form and the flow of the cut.

Norman sword on
hardwood stakes
We spent a few hours during summer 2002 playing around at chopping materials with two Dikon Norman test blades for swordsmith Dan Maragni. We documented the process and our observations. The swords were very sweet.

Video 1
Video 2
Video 3

Norman sword on more wood
The blades were not quite as sharp near their points as they had been due to hours of cutting bamboo and cardboard days earlier. Still, the effects on the wood were impressive given the simple cuts we were making, hardly the strongest of blows. The wood often split or shattered from the impacts halfway through the cuts.

Video 4
Video 5
Video 6
Video 7 - analysis of cuts

Norman slices on gambeson 14.7MB
One of the most interesting things once again was how well a simple cotton padded gambeson protected against cuts, especially drawing slices. Here a cloth-filled canvas punching bag served as our test dummy, giving some reasonably firm resistance and motion. Sand weighted down the bottom of it.

Norman cloth cuts
The gambeson also has its sleeves stuffed with balls of cloth for firmness and is partially covered with Indian-made riveted maile armor. Here energetic draw slices were unable to cut through the cloth. Note the 60 pound bag swinging from the blows.

More Norman sword cutting 4.2MB
As always, edge-placement is key in test cutting, as is proper body mechanics to ensure a good cutting blow.

Norman thrusts 4.8MB
Cuts on the maile armor itself had no effect, but we drew no conclusions from the results. Most thrusts however penetrated the gambeson from most every angle, but not the maile.

Norman sword cuts on helm 17MB
A 16-gauge helm (filled with sheep skin) resisted some fairly strong blows, but still dented, and a very thin cut was actually visible. The blade sustained no discernable edge trauma. (...Oh, and contrary to my comment then, I do think now the guy would very much have noticed the blow)

Norman on armet
An MRL armet helm is sacrificed to evaluate the Dikon sword. The thinner metal at the crown of the helm was actually cut to a depth of about 1 inch. The edge of the blade had a minor nick as a result.

Armet4.mp4 - 20mb
Armet3.mp4 - 11Mb

Norman sword cutting
on leathers
This first clip merely shows the thickness and hardness of the two types of leathers we used. (we started wearing masks here after a sword broke and flew back at us)

Cuts on leather 9MB
A brief sample of cuts against leather. The leather proved tougher to pierce than we had expected, the "give" of the bag was definitely a factor as was the angle of the edge and location of edge impacting.

Leather cutting 10.5MB
Thrusts had no problem penetrating, even though the point of the blade was quite round in shape. But even a two-hand cut did not fully cut the harder leather.

Raven bastard sword cuts
The sharper tapering blade is able to easily make cuts (mistakenly referred to as "slices" in the clip) through the cloth, but mostly only in the direction of the quilting and near the opening seams. Actual draw cut slices however, even strenuous, were still ineffective despite the sharpness of the blade.
Raven Intro 5.6MB
Raven Cuts 7.6MB
Raven Slicing I 5MB
Raven Slicing II 2.4MB

Raven sword thrusts
on riveted maile

Some very forceful thrusts here (note the bag being moved from the impacts), but they mostly were stopped by the armor, with only the very acute tip of the sword entering past. Interestingly, the rings tended to twist and "wrap" around the blade.

Cuts on Maile 7MB

Several harder blows on the sleeves of maile produced some damage, popping rings (despite the sleeves not providing enough resistance for the test to be more very realistic).

Blade Breaks 10MB
On one particular cut on the maile shoulder, not even a full-arm blow, the Raven sword snapped clean at the tang, and the blade bounced backward. It is not an unreasonable expectation to presume a replica sword sold as supposedly being of historical quality and capable of holding a sharp edge to not snap upon the first significant test blow against a fairly soft target.
(This was a real shame since it was a fine blade I got brand new an dunused, hilted it for the first time myself, and it cut really well earlier. And I still prize my other Ravens which have held up remakeably.)

Stabbing at the bag 1.5MB
In this short clip we made some hard full-passing thrusts with the Dikon Norman sword at the punching bag (into the cloth filled section). The point penetrated fairly easily through the canvas entering from 3-6 inches deep. Note here not only the force of the thrusts (moving the 60 pound bag) but also the flex of the blade upon impact, especially when the point did not immediately penetrate.

Warhammer blows on armet 7.8MB
After the first blow with the spike actually caused it to be bent (!), the club end of the warhammer was used next, and caved in the top of the helm along the weld. It appears the metal of both items were perhaps too soft.

Hank R. smooth slice 3.6MB
Hank Reinhardt shows how easily he cuts an especially thick cardboard tube with a sharp Raven bastard sword. One smooth almost effortless swipe.
Casual Bamboo Test-Cutting Scenes & Sword Break - 1998

sword_break01.jpg (8056 bytes)
Broken Blade
Sharp Del Tin snaps
Note: in order to support the weight of such a tall stalk bamboo of this size at its base will be far thicker internally than it will be higher up on the trunk even at portions of the same diameter.  Further, when growing densely together bamboo will often not receive much sunlight farther down the stalk and therefore lower portions lacking chlorophyll will remain yellow rather than turn bright green. However, this is still living bamboo and not to be confused with dead bamboo that later turns yellow or brown and very hard throughout. (Also, at the end of this clip please realize JC was just being silly for the camera with the broken blade. Don't take it seriously.)

sword_break02.jpg (8337 bytes)
Broken blade 2

(Disclaimer: any make or model of sword swung with
great force on a nearly solid object will break.)

Test thrusts
with Albion's Talhoffer 3mb

Pell striking
with Albion's Talhoffer

Test cut
on sapling with Albion's Talhoffer

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