What to think about when purchasing a HEMA/WMA Trainer - Part 3

Today we finish up our things to consider when looking at buying a trainer series. We hope you find it helpful. 

The pommel

The pommel on the sword is where you see the most variety in period swords. Today there has been a kind of default for the HEMA/WMA community with a distinct inverted pear shape that resembles a doorknob. This shape is seen in many manuals and may well have been kind of a standard in the fight schools of the 16th century. When we look at the swords of the period we see a wider variety of pommel examples. Some of these appear in manuals and some we only see in surviving examples. This is almost certainly a component heavily influenced by personal preference of the user or purchaser of the weapons in period. Check some of the wide variety of pommel forms here.

Standard feder pommel


The shape and size of the pommel impacts the look, feel, and function of the sword. Round shapes, like the above inverted-pear, impede the hand minimally during changes of grip. However, pommels with a symmetry that mirrors the blade, like a fish tail or wheel, can act as an index that helps you to maintain edge alignment while undertaking complex movements. Still other styles, like viking-style pommels dictate how the sword can be held and maneuvered. Some forms with a long neck that swells to the main body of the pommel allow the hand to ride over the base, working as a functional extension of the grip, as is shown on a sharp sword below.


POmmel with flatter cross section shown from front and side view. 

The Peen

The construction of a sword is a pretty simple affair. The hilt components guard, grip, pommel and nut are set on the blade tang and usually held in place with tight fit, mastics and a peen. The pommel nut can sometimes be left off and the pommel itself being peened on the top surface. In today’s trainers there are a few other options sometimes used. Some pommels are set with a barrel nut that is inset into the top of the pommel. Some will be set with side rivets going through the pommel from the side and passing through the tang, though this option has fallen well out of use for most of the market. 

Black Prince sword top view showing the pommel peen.

Our items are constructed as described above. The guard is fit down over a tang, then a grip is fit over the tang and then a pommel is keyed down over the tang. We then peen a nut at the end of the tang. We use a threaded nut as opposed to one that just slides down the tang. This provides a bit more holding power by increasing the surface area over just a peened tang.

Blade Length

Blade length has become pretty standard across the market. The length of the swords today are definitely in the historically accurate envelope but you possibly do not see the variety of lengths one would have encountered in the 16th century. Something that fits well in your training environment is probably best, but adjustment for your personal stature is fine. It will allow you to be in the correct postures and positions for your body. A blade length that fits you is better than having one that is too long. It will also allow you to leverage the sword blade correctly, if the blade is to long for your stature it will have a tendency to lag behind your intention while a sword shorter than what works for you will tend to be ahead of your intention. A well-practiced fighter who has experience with multiple length blades should be capable of adjusting for length differences but using a sword appropriate for you is best for learning and form work.

Blade Steel

Today the steels used by the sword industry are quite good. They are more consistent and more refined than any of the steels commonly available in the historical context of these swords. The heat treatment of the steel is a crucial component to the durability and function of the training sword. The common way to measure swords today is by hardness often referred to by a Rockwell (Rc) or Vickers number. This is a test of the swords surface resistance to abrasion only, but can give a sense of the stiffness of the blade. In period swords one would rarely see a hardness as high as what has become the common 50 Rc for today's swords. This is probably fine with today’s steels but to go much higher would probably increase fractures in the blades.

The steel we use is 6150. We use a commercial hot salt heat treatment for our blades. We take them to a minimum of 50Rc, each blade group being certified to this hardness. 

6150 Steel

Carbon (C)            .48/.53
Manganese (Mn)    .70/.90
Silicon (Si)             .15/.30
Phosphorus (P)      .035 MAX
Sulphur (S)            .040 MAX
Chromium (Cr)      .80/1.10
Vanadium (V)        .15 MIN


We hope these points help you think about your first or next trainer in a well-rounded and forward thinking way. There is always something new or extra around, but I always tell people the most important thing about a sword is the person using it. Some think it's strange a sword makers says that, but it's the truth. There never has been a perfect sword. If so everyone would have one. But there may well be a perfect mindset to be in a sword fight.


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