Cut and thrust: components of the sword [Guest Post]

Cut and Thrust European Swords and Swordsmanship - Martin J. DoughertyBy: Martin J. Dougherty.

A sword, in the simplest terms, consists of a blade and a hilt. There are many sub-components of course, and not every weapon has all of them. Names for the various parts of the weapon have also varied from country to country over time. Some components (or words for them) are unique to a particular weapon, era or place. What follows is thus a general overview of the main parts of the weapon.

The blade is composed of a single piece, though during the forging process a blade may be constructed from separate parts. For example, Norse sword-smiths would place strips of very hard steel down the edges of a softer blade, creating an area that would take and hold an edge. A blade made wholly of such steel would be difficult to make and would probably not be flexible enough to survive combat.

Part of the blade, known as the tang, is designed to fit inside the handgrip and hold the parts of the weapon together. If the tang is too weak or too small there is a real risk that the sword will bend or simply snap off just in front of the hilt when it encounters a solid parry or makes one. Although hidden, the tang is a vitally important part of the blade.

The blade itself may or may not have a sharp point. Most swords have some kind of point, though it may be quite rounded and not well suited to thrusting. It is thus fairly obvious whether or not a sword is intended for thrusting – a straight blade and a good point are strong indications, though by no means all straight swords are meant for this purpose. All the same, even a rounded point can punch into flesh if the user tries hard enough, and if an opportunity presents itself, most blades can deliver a reasonable thrust.

Martin J. DoughertyReproduced from Cut And Thrust: European Swords and Swordsmanship by Martin J Dougherty.

Martin J. Dougherty is a prolific historical and technical author, fencing coach, and the current president of the British Federation of Historical swordplay.