Anatomy of the Sword – Part I
Chi me guarderà facendo in me crose, de fatto d’armizare gli farò fama e vose.
To those who will believe in me, through deeds of arms I shall bring fame and a name.
These are the words of Fiore dei Liberi, master at arms who lived between the 14th and the 15th century and acted as the voice of the sword, the queen of all arms.
The sword has always been an iconic object, and has dominated the imagination of the people of all times. Masters at arms, condottieri, noblemen, fencers, but also smiths, goldsmiths, architects and amateurs always tried to catch the essence of this deadly and beautiful piece of art.
The form of the sword recalls the cross: mainly since the Middle Ages, this sacred structure has often been subjected to a more or less conscious geometrical design, following precise methods of construction that were passed down from a generation of artisans to the next.
As the sword has been in a constant evolution through history, in the 19th century historians and collectors tried to give order to the wide variety of sword forms according to the reference period, creating different classifications. Despite this huge and very useful work, sword anatomies are really heterogeneous, so the system can still be considered as open.
Contemporary sword classifications
4th-8th century: Behmer (1939)
7th-10th century: Petersen (1919), Wheeler (1927)
8th-12th century: Geibig (1991), Jacobsson (1992)
10th-16th century: Bruhn – Hoffmeyer (1954), Oakeshott (1960-2002), Aleksiç (2007), Elmslie (2015)
16th – 17th century: Picchianti (2019)
15th-19th century: A.V.B. Norman (1980)
From this base, every scholar, fencer or novice should start to understand what a sword is. Let’s get into some specific terms that will also help you to read our product descriptions. Here you will find also the italian terms, selected and chosen by us for our italian readers.
Parts of the sword
I. Hilt – Fornimento
II. Blade – Lama
III. Tang – Codolo
IV. Forte – Strong
V. Medio – N/D
- Pommel – Pomo | Peen Block, Button – Bottone | Neck – Basetta
- Handle, Grip – Impugnatura, Immanicatura, Manico
- Cross, Crossguard, Guard, Quillions – Elsa, Elso, Guardia, Crociera
- Shoulder (Base of the forte) – Tallone (Base del forte)
- Chape – Cappetta | The researcher C.Blair left a brief and useful description about chapes as a part of the hilt made by a leather flap or a metal strip, shaped to cover the cross and the mouth of the scabbard. [cfr. C. BLAIR (a cura di), Enciclopedia ragionata delle armi. Mondadori 1979, p. 118].
- Fuller – Sguscio, Scanalatura, Canala (arcaico)
- Central Ridge – Costola centrale
- True Edge – Filo Vero
- False Edge – Filo Falso
- Point, Tip – Punta
Some essential factors determine the blade geometry:
- Profile taper (Convergenza del Profilo)
- It can be more or less extreme: a blade with parallel edges is designed for a cutting action, one with more convergent edges is designed to thrust.
- Distal Taper (Progressione Distale)
- The blade thickness tapers more o less gently and proportionally according to its functionality.
- Cross Section (Sezione di lama)
- Every blade, in line with its purpose and reference period, has a different section, that can also be composite. For example, the section can be a lozenge, or it can be fullered, hexagonal, and so on.
- Dynamic Properties
- Point of Balance or Center of Gravity (Baricentro, Punto di Bilanciamento o Centro di Gravità)
The static point in which the sword balances. Despite popular beliefs, the position of the point of balance doesn’t prove the effective result of the smith’s work, as the sword is a sum of factors that define its dynamic behaviour. The sword is designed to be in motion.
Pivot Points & Vibrational Nodes (Punti di Fulcro e Nodi Vibrazionali)
The Pivot points are two and influence how the sword handles in motion.
Vibrational Nodes are the points in which the blade doesn’t vibrate at all, and determine its behaviour during the impact.
We hope that this summary will let you have a better focus on this fascinating matter, helping you to read more confidently the specs of Malleus Martialis products. In order to examine in depth some of the concepts expressed in this post, we recommend the book “The Sword – Form and Thought”, Grotkamp-Schepers, Barbara; Immel, Isabell; Johnsson, Peter; Wetzler, Sixt (catalogue of the exhibition of the same name held in the Deutschen Klingenmuseum from the 26th of SEP 2015 till the 28th of FEB 2016), Peter Johnsson’s website and publications and Vincent Le Chevalier’s Blog.
This is the first of a series of articles, don’t miss the following episodes!
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