are Critical Characteristics of Historical Swords?
By Daniel Maragni
Some aspects of ancient sword design:
1. Edge - the edge is in many ways the most important part
of the sword. This is the interface between the blade and the target
and must be properly shaped and presented to maximize the effects
of the cut. If the edge is shaped incorrectly for the target, too
thick or thin depending on hard or soft targets, it will either
not "bite" or it will fail by either chipping or collapsing
on contact. Presentation of the edge to the target is a factor of
skill in cutting and the way the blade and hilt orientate the edge.
3. Weight and Balance - you cannot get something for nothing
in the real world. If you want a sword to hit hard and cut deeply
it has to have the mass and balance to carry it through. Earlier
swords (Celtic, Roman, Migration) tended to be lighter than swords
of the Viking Age and later when armor improved and more reach was
necessary for warriors on horseback. Earlier swords tended to have
thinner, soft target cutting blades and wooden hilts (or combinations
of wood with some metal). By the late Viking Age sword blades are
thicker and longer and have all metal guards and pommels, greatly
increasing their weight and strength. Balance in a cutting sword
tends towards the point end of the blade, and so tend to feel very
heavy in the hand but hit very hard. Remember, our weak and puny
civilized muscles are nothing compared to the ancient warriors who
started training with weapons at an early age (I love swordsmith
Paul Champagne's comment to someone who said that a particular sword
was too heavy..."Train more." he replied.)
4. Tang shape - in 1998, sword collector and researcher
Dr. Lee Jones and I went through several museums in Switzerland,
Germany and England and I spent most of my time looking at tangs.
Cutting swords universally have wide and thick tangs [unlike most
modern replicas] with a minimum of "shoulder" where the
tang meets the blade. If the tang is not strong the sword will not
Celtic Culture and the Sword - the Celts were the premier
ironworkers and bladesmiths of the ancient world. See Pleiner's
book The Celtic Sword to get an idea of how sophisticated
their swords were from both a functional design and metallurgical
perspective (they made thrusting and cutting swords, laminated blades,
and heat treatment as early as 400 BC). They were a culture of warriors
who made and used swords in some of the toughest purely edged weapon
campaigns for over 500 years and then were more or less absorbed
by the Romans and fought with them for an additional 400 years.
Dan Maragni is a longtime professional bladesmith and swordsmith, a consultant to the cutlery industry, member of the New England Bladesmith's Guild, and a researcher of historical metallurgy. He has traveled the world studying blade technology and is the president of Dikon Swords.
See Also: Hey Mister ...is that sword real?
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