People often think about pommels on swords as a counter-weight that balances the blade. This is part of its function, but other factors such as the length of the grip significantly impacts how heavy a pommel is required on a given weapon. In todays video Dr. Nathan Clough uses a custom two handed sword we recently completed to illustrate how pommel size contributes to the handling of large two handed swords.
The sword in the video is a monster, even bigger than our 15th Century Two Hander, with an overall length of over 65 inches and a blade length of four feet, and a grip of 14 inches. This relatively long grip is a lever that increases the distance from the pommel to the fulcrum of the sword or position of the fore hand. This increases the leverage the pommel exerts on the sword and the distance between the hands is what powers the sword in use. This is in contrast to smaller swords where the pommel is closer to the guard and needs to be proportionately heavier to have an affect on the balance point of the weapon.
Danish Two handed Sword style with scent stopper style pommel
Original swords of similar form in the Danish National Museum
A two handed sword with light pommel.
The smaller pommels, as shown on the sword above, contribute the handling of the weapon but if a large pommel was used it would make the sword move ahead of the hands and be another factor one would have to control in a fight. Instead a proper balance sword should work as an extension of the hands and arms of the weilder.
This larger pommel on a two handed sword is constructed hollow to not over weigh the swords balance.
When large pommels do appear on two handed swords they are often hollow. This the size is not indicative of additional weight but rather is done as an aesthetic component of the sword rather than a functional need. Check out the video below as we look at this on a very big sword.
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.