Does Cutting Wood With a Sword Teach Us Anything?

There are periodic debates among sword lovers about what kinds of abuse a sword should be able to survive. On the one side we have a bunch of folks who seem to think a sword should be able to cut down the mightiest oak tree and smash cinder blocks for hours without any wear and tear. On the other hand are those who treasure the pristine polish of their blades and would never use their sword to cut anything but the purest tatami. The former seem to think a sword should double as a chainsaw while the later sometimes treat swords as if they were the most fragile of trinkets. The reality is somewhere in between. When you subject a tool to hard use it will require more maintenance. Many sword owners today have no easy way to keep their swords in top condition after heavy use.

This debate recently resurfaced when Matt Easton posted a video in which he argued that good swords should be able to survive cutting some wood, with various reasonable exceptions. This is, of course, true. It is also only part of the story. We agree that real swords should survive periodic contact with wood. In fact, in this video Nathan uses one of our swords to cut pine, ash, hickory, and ipe wood. However, we also argue that cutting wooden targets is mostly just a way to inflict unnecessary wear and tear on your sword without really learning anything.

Cutting wood doesn't teach you to cut well, nor does it tell you much about the sword in question.  He uses a custom sword based on our Durer Bastard Sword in the video.  



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Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography.  He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.

Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons and armor since 1985

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