Understanding sword edges

I recently had a nice talk with a younger fellow who was discussing his first sword purchase and some of his concerns about the details of the sword he would get. He is looking at a few different styles and makers and had lots of info he had gleaned from the internet. 

The desire to get the best sword possible was certainly at the forefront of his mind and something he was super focused on. I explained we approach making each sword we do as a crafting of an individual sword and not just an assembly line process. This translates into each piece being made to the best that our talents and skills allow and we bring 40 plus years of experience making swords to the process. He was still concerned we might not be aware of exactly how the perfect sword, in the context of his understanding should be made.

So we dove deep on several different aspects of hand making a sword and how they all work into a whole as opposed to a grouping of perceived maximized details. The knowledge he had collected was not exactly wrong on any specific detail but one could tell he had watched many "this is the best" videos and had spent little time checking the quality of his sources and how much was functional information and how much was shoveled out to increase viewership. 

In the video below I told him I would try to demonstrate just one aspect of his long list of things he felt where crucial for a sword. In this case edge angle and the effect on cutting ability. In this case the push or pull style of cut against a consistent target. The schnitt of Liechtenauer's Hau, Stich, Schnitt his advocated three wounders.

So check out the video to see several different examples of blade type being run along a target and how they work as a slicing cutter. The point I was presenting to him is a human is a soft target and any metal is harder than a person's flesh. The advantages one might gain from half of a degree of change in the edge angle would probably be completely negated by other factors, even a change of 1 or 2 full degrees of edge angle would be a minimal factor in such a complex interaction between edge and target.  

I'm getting to long winded here so check out some of our swords in action and hopefully my point is clear in the vid.


One last note to folks gaining knowledge about swords from online videos and posts. It's crucial to check your sources and not all are created equal. Some are real crap, while others impress with their quality. We also highly advocate reading books as well :-)

Our swords that appear in this vid

French Medieval sword with red grip and blackened finish

French Medieval sword

Black Prince Longsword with bright finish

Black Prince Sword

Bohemian Longsword with hexagonal cross sectioned blade

Bohemian Broadsword

Here is a previous post we did on some original medieval sword edges.

divider swords

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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