Meet Zach Luna, Sword-design Contest Winner

ZachLuna

Zachary Luna, holding Strongblade’s Medieval European Falchion (Click on the image to see the product page for this fine weapon)

The first Strongblade Free-Forge Contest brought in talent from across the world, but only one virtual blacksmith could be victorious. Meet Zachary Luna, who drafted one sword to rule them all. Zachary lives in Los Angeles, and, among other things, occasionally works “in specialty costume fabrication (building armor and superhero suits).” He’s had education in the arts, and has worked for years to perfect his trade. But, Zach, you had us at armor and superhero suits.

 We asked Zachary a few questions about himself and how he learned to create swords that even an elf would envy. Sprinkled in with his answers are other sword designs that he has created, in case you want more eye-candy from Mr. Luna.
ZachLuna_CombinedSword1

Zach’s winning sword entry, in case you missed it.

Strongblade:  Can you tell us a little about why you designed the sword you did, and the process for drafting it? 

Zach: Well, in terms of why, I think I even wrote a cheeky sort of description for it–it’s pretty clear that I wanted to re-design a specific sword from a recent high-budget fantasy film.  
I think we need more cool, functional falchion options out there. I even used my prize to purchase another big single-edger, a piece based on the Thorpe falchion in Norwich.
I sketched out the basic dimensions with a simple mechanical pencil, then defined all of the hard edges with a black pen line so that they would photograph more clearly. I took a cell phone pic under hard lighting and then cleaned up the color balance on a photo editor. I like the bronze-y tone because it looks like an image drawn on parchment or whatever.
ZachLuna_Rapier

Another example of Zach’s stupid design skills. And that’s stupid as in awesome. Like phat, with a ph.

Strongblade:  It’s obvious that you have some mad skills in the artistic arena. How did you acquire those skills?
Zach: Haha, thank you! I’ve been sketching and doodling things as long as I can remember, but I also worked on a minor in studio art while I was in college, if you want an answer with more formal training involved. Like anything, it’s just a matter of practice over time.

Strongblade: What advice would you give to budding artists and designer?  
Zach: I’d say learn as much as you can about the subject you’re working on, and absorb influences from all sorts of different places.  And to just START trying and working on it, you’ll only get better. When it comes to designing swords, that means not just looking at game/movie swords and modern replicas, but also researching historical weapons and going and examining authentic artifacts in person, if possible.

ZachLuna_Battleaxe

I’m told people don’t say phat anymore. So, this battle axe is fo’schizzle.

I was lucky enough to get to examine a lot of historical swords in person, at museums in London, New York, and Paris. But you can easily get a copy of Oakeshott’s Records at a library or research historical swords on the Internet. Your imagination builds new concepts based on the breadth of influences it has already taken in, so the deeper your knowledge of previous examples is, the more freedom you have when playing around with something new.  And your choices can be more informed when you decide to break or bend the rules. 
The difference between thinking “I want this hilt to look cool, I guess it should be shaped like a dragon tooth/animal head” and thinking “we’ve got a long, single-edge blade with a deep belly, so the grip would tend to have a slight recurve, matched with a pommel that hooks foward, like a Chinese dao, Circassian shashka, Grecian kopis or Iberian falcata–I’ll start there and add some dragon ornamentation after the basic structure is laid out” is huge.
As for “just starting and working on it” you can begin designing even if you don’t have a lot of sketching and drafting skills at first. There are programs like inkscape that let you play around with blade shapes, forms and proportions without ever worrying about having to draw a straight line. Heck, I’ve had sword and scabbard designs produced by several big companies and I STILL have to bust out a ruler whenever I need to lay down a straight line. Just keep trying. :)

Reddit Asked Us Anything

They asked. We replied. They shook their heads.

They asked. We replied. They shook their heads.

So, last week, the Reddit Fantasy community asked us to answer questions about us, our company, weapon and armor history, and the best ways to make fried plantains. We actually provide Reddit Fantasy’s engraved Stabby Awards, bestowed upon fantasy authors deemed worthy by the community. I have not been given one yet, but I’m certain that’s just a clerical oversight, soon to be remedied.

Stabby

Mine’s coming soon, right Reddit?

These are what the Stabby Awards look like, by the way (shown at right). We provide the daggers and engravings for these. Not sure if readers are aware, but we also engrave swords for weddings (engraved tankards and daggers do well too), churches, and businesses (and just about any other occasion when you need an engraved gift). Pretty cool stuff.

But I digress. The Ask Me Anything questions on Reddit were by turns fascinating, hilarious, and absolutely insane. But we expected no less from our readers and customers. I’ve highlighted a few of the questions and posted them below. Feel free to visit our Reddit AMA to read the rest.

The Questions and answers:

Anti-dragonWeapon

The Dragonator 5000

Q: What’s the best weapon to slay a dragon with? A two-handed battle axe or a claymore? How about a chimera? Are your weapons crafted by you, or someone else? What’s the biggest weapon you’ve had someone ask for?

A: The best weapon to slay a dragon is a probably an M116 Pack Howitzer, with explosive shells. If you can’t find one, and are reduced to medieval weapons, then I would go with a pike and a good battle axe. A chimera is tricky. You need a good shield, first and foremost, and then I would probably use a good, sharp arming sword. Chimeras are quick, so an axe wouldn’t work well. A spear might be good until the chimera gets inside your range. Our weapons are made all over the world, from the US and Scandinavia, to India, the Philippines and China. Many of our weapons are made specifically for us, to our standards and measurements. As far as the biggest sword… we’ve had someone ask us for a Zweihander, which we don’t actually carry at the moment. Although we do carry our own exclusive fantasy Buster Sword.

And this is just her dagger...

And this is just her dagger…

Q: I see a great number of very improbable and awkward-looking weapons in fantasy. What, in your opinion is the worst you’ve seen, and explain why the design would be impractical for real-world application. Additionally, what is your favorite fantasy weapon and why? Finally, what do you think is the finest overall hand-held weapon in history?

A: Excellent questions. I think one of the most consistently inaccurate weapons in fantasy is the double-bladed battle axe. They look awesome, and fearsome, but, short of some Babylonian, ceremonial weapons, you don’t see them in history. Why? Well, most likely because warriors have to be efficient in battle. Why put two heavy pieces of identical steel on a staff? All you need is one good killing edge. It’s far better and lighter to put a spike or a hammer on the other side–then you have a different type of weapon, to pierce or crush armor.

My favorite fantasy weapon is the arming sword, I think. A basic knightly sword, with a 36-inch blade. I think most of us fantasy authors grew up with knights, and their swords have always held a special place in my heart.

The finest over-all hand-held weapon in history is probably the M-16 assault rifle. Kidding. The finest medieval hand-held weapon varies, depending on the situation. I think the Roman Gladius was a beautifully efficient weapon that worked masterfully for what it was intended. The pike was brilliant on the battlefield. But if we’re talking best all-around weapon, I might have to go with the poleax. An axe-blade on one side, a hammer on the back, and a spike on top. Short enough to be quick in combat, and long enough to get good leverage on a swing.

But my favorite weapon will probably always be the knightly sword.

The casebearing leaf beetle actually *does* use feces as armor.

The casebearing leaf beetle actually *does* use feces as armor.

Q:If you were going to provide armor [to] a large, large army of quasi-expendible soldiers, what would have a good cost/benefit trade-off? How would the need to provide standardized sizes for humanoids who vary wildly in body type make a difference?

A: I, personally, would cover them in feces. This would make it difficult to fight them, and would increase the shock value. And feces is an equal-body-size armor. One size fits all. If you actually want to protect them, I would go with hardened leather, assuming you are in an environment with enough animals to provide the raw material. Leather is fairly inexpensive and easy to tailor. If you have more time and money, then chainmail would be your next bet. But mail takes more time, and requires more maintenance. If you’re really cheap, then give everyone quilted gambesons. Or feces.

Q: Say I were planning to go up against the Rabbit of Caerbannog, a small yet vicious foe. What’s the best weapon to combat “sharp, pointy teeth?” (P.S. Beautiful work.)

A: Assuming you don’t have a Holy Hand-grenade around, you should have a strong shield and find a Holy Cauldron of Stewing. Thanks very much for the kind words. I’m in love with our latest line, the Esterlina Swords.

+20 Health.

+20 Health.

Q: Which sword is best suited for cutting plantains?

A: I like a nice Japanese katana. They tend to make the best cuts, and the trace of clay in the metal gives the plantains a more earthy flavor. But that’s just me…

Q: How would you go about making the best sword possible, using any kind of modern technology with an unlimited budget?

A: Hmm. Now there’s an interesting question. The great thing about modern technology is all the composite materials we have around. Stuff that is stronger than the best steel, and light as balsa wood (well, almost). Scientists are doing some groundbreaking work with nanotechnology, creating metals that are lighter and harder than anything we’ve ever seen.

For your sword, I would start with that. Nano-tech, composite metal. Make a blade that is feather-light and sharper than a razor. Use the same material for the guards. Add an ergonomic, composite grip, and a nice counterweight of your choice for the pommel. Salt to taste.

MyStabby800

I have a placeholder until r/Fantasy gets the clerical mistake corrected and sends me my Stabby award.

Q: New life goal. Write a book so that I can get a dagger with my name engraved on it.

A: I know, right? I’ve written six. Where’s my damn Stabby? I watch them go out like a cat staring at minnows in a fishbowl..

 

Many more questions await your perusal at our Reddit AMA. Go have a look if you’re enjoying the banter I’ve highlighted here. Thanks for reading, and see you next time, when we interview the Strongblade sword design contest winner.

 

 

The Strongblade Free-Forge Contest Results!

SwordContestThe Strongblade Sword Design Contest was a stunning success! More than fifty brave souls offered us the results of their earthly toils– more than fifty blades to be scrutinized by peers, inspected, judged and voted on. We didn’t know quite what to expect on our first go around of this, but we were simply blown away by the enthusiasm, creativity, and mad skills that flooded our servers.

We received an incredible variety of sword, created in a plethora of different mediums. The swords were hand drawn, computer designed, carved from wood, cardboard or metal, and, in one case, sculpted from dairy-free, low-trans-fat mayonnaise. Wait. No, that last one was a dream I had.

Winenr_Gondolin

The Gondolin Cleaver, By Zach L. One part Elven. One part Dwarf. Three parts awesome.

So, the results?

Our winner was the exquisitely designed, elven-esque short sword “Gondolin Cleaver,” by Zach L. It’s not surprising that this skillfully rendered sword received the most votes (check back soon to read an interview with Zach and his techniques for designing swords). But there were other entries that gave this one a run for its money. Lots of others! We had a brilliantly conceived rapier with flat guards. An antler-hilted sword. A dueling saber and an Irish short sword. We were treated to a lovely 17th century polish saber, a wanderer’s sword, a lethal looking falcata and a double bladed cutlass. Some of the swords had thorns, some had teeth, all had inspiration and insane creativity to them.

I wish I could speak on each and every one, but I would get nothing done for the rest of the week and this post would reach manifesto length. So I will pick out a few designs that really caught my eye, for one reason or another. Beginning with our winner…

 

The Gondolin Cleaver
By Zach L.

It’s not often that someone can improve on the designs of New Zealand-based WETA Studios, but Zach manged to do just that. This sword is based on a beloved blade from classical fantasy, and Zach knocked it out of the park.  Not only is the weapon elegant and beautiful, but it has a marvelous efficiency of design. The lines flow freely and with grace. There is no clutter. And note the opposing curve of the blade and the hilt. A truly gorgeous weapon, conceived and drawn by someone with enormous artistic talents. My next post will be an interview with Zach, so come back to the Strongblade Edge next week for that!

 

TheCourtiersBladeThe Courtier’s Blade
By Phillip T.

Full disclosure: As some of you know, I am an author of historical fiction and fantasy. The novel I am currently writing is a fantasy set in a 16th-century-ish time period. So rapiers are on my mind…

The idea of combining a flaring leaf blade from Greek swords into a rapier is a stroke of genius. The flaring tip is not so wide that it would throw off the balance, but wide enough to give the sword a real uniqueness and beauty. I do wonder if the flaring tip might not be a little superfluous on a rapier, but it certainly looks awesome. My challenge for Phillip is to come up with a sheath design…

 

BerserkersSeaxThe Berserker’s Seax
By Michael K.

I love the brashness of this weapon, and had fun reading Michael’s description. What’s not to like about a hand-and-a-half seax? Beautiful angles, a squat guard shaped like ravens, and a pommel sculpted to look like Yggdrasil, the Norse Tree of Life. Great work Michael!

 

 

 

 

FragmentedBladeFragmented Blade
By Eric T.

An utterly unique design, with panels cut out from the sword. The panel shapes and positioning remind me a little of stained glass—if stained glass was made to cut you into little pieces. A beautiful juxtaposition of delicate and fierce.

 

 

DaedricDaedric Great Sword
By Simon H.

A wonderful show of fantasy craftsmanship. Simon put this sword together from cardboard. No easy feat considering the meticulously carved curves and the razored teeth on the large blade. This is a savage looking weapon, two-pronged and long-hilted. Great work.

 

ShredderShredder
By Russ S.

This one wins the “lethal” category, hands down. Or hands off (yeah, severed). Every inch of the sword is a killing tool. It doesn’t matter what direction an enemy comes from–only pain awaits him (or her). I imagine a gladiator using this type of sword might take wounds of his own from the pommel spikes from time to time, but what’s a little self-laceration in the face of the sheer terror of this murderous sword.

 

 

 

JulianDouble-Bladed Cutlass
By Julian C.

It’s a little difficult to make out all of the wonderful details of this sword, but the design is brilliantly conceived. Simple–but wide–hand guard, and a second edge on what is traditionally a back-bladed weapon. Well done, Julian.

 

 

 

RoyalRapierThe Royal Rapier
By Israel T.

And to close out the highlights, here’s another dazzling rapier entry. The blade is more reminiscent of a tuck, but the hilt is undeniably rapier. Beautifully color-coordinated, with brilliantly designed and drafted swept guards. Another madly talented artist, rounding out our snapshot of the entries we received.

 

Apologies to all the other entrants. Any one of the entries could have been highlighted in this post. They were all *that* good. In the end, we resorted to the time-tested rochambeau (rock-paper-scissors) to decide between a few of the swords. If you entered the contest, please watch your inbox for an email from Strongblade (and check your spam filters, just in case).

We want to thank each and every one of you for your entry, and hope to see more entries in our next contest.

Until next time. All hail the Strongblade Forgemaster, Zach L!

 

Anatomy of the… polearm?

AnatomyOfPolearmLogoEverything I’m about to say is wrong.
I will speak with an authoritative voice. Everything I talk about will be well researched and investigated. I will quote famous arms collectors and prattle about language origins. Yes, everything I say will sound right and true.
But it’s all a bunch of guff.
Why am I saying this?
Because there were no concrete delineations between different polearms. There were *attempted* delineations, sure. Lots of lineating was tried. And some polearms even fit into the proper categories. But there were too many different shapes and styles in the world of pole weapons. Some fit into multiple groups. Some didn’t fit into any. Some fit into one group, but were classified in a group they didn’t really belong in. God, this sounds like high school all over again.

Okay, so, I know that pole arms are not swords. And I know this series is titled “The Anatomy of the Sword.” But this branch of the arms tree is so convoluted, I thought it was worth including here. So that I could convolute it even more.

What is a polearm?
Pole arms (also known as pole arms (get used to the “also known” folks) are weapons mounted on a long pole. So, yes, a spear is considered a pole arm. Some axes can be considered polearms, and some pole arms can be considered axes. In fact, many polearms start with the premise of an axe-blade on a long staff, and then start accessorizing with spikes and hooks and hammers, and dead gophers. Some polarms are loaded, so that they look like Swiss Army knives on a stick. Which is interesting, since Swiss pikemen and halberdiers were some of the most feared polearm soldiers in history. The whole Swiss-Army-Knife quality is what makes pole weapons so hard to classify. There are so many variations, and the naming rules don’t seem to apply uniformly.

Rather than speak at length about the forms and styles, I thought it best to simply list some of the most popular polearms in history, and let you see how horribly confusing it the whole thing is.

PA_HalberdHALBERD(ish):
Ah! The glistening spine of the polearm family. A short axe blade on one side, a hooked spike on the other, and a deadly straight-spike at the top. Some halberds had a thorn on the hooked spike, to better tangle opponents (not to be confused with a guisarme, which is a thorn to better tangle opponents. Yeah, I know. It gets worse.). Some halberds had a thorn both on top and bottom of the hooked spike. Halberd blades were usually convex (curving outward for you dictionally challenged), but some had concave (figure it out) blades instead .
All in all, halberds were extremely versatile and looked really cool. So cool that the Pope himself adopted them for use by his personal Vatican Guard. The guards still use halberds today. I guess you don’t really need guns when your master is God’s BFF. The aforementioned Swiss soldiers of the 15th century used halberds to become some of the most feared warriors in history. They eventually switched to pikes (See below) for more efficiency in battles and better general dental hygiene, but it was the halberd that got them to the top of the warrior food chain.

GUISARME(ish):
Are you confused yet? If so, then abandon all hope, because it gets worse. Let’s get this next term out of the way, so we can have some false confidence when going into the next one. A guisarme is a thorn or hook or barb , if you will, that curves in the opposite direction of the main weapon blade on the head of the polearm. So, if you had an axe blade on one side of the staff, the guisarme would, typically, be on the backside of this blade. The curved hook on the halberd does not count as a guisarme. Why? Because it doesn’t. Don’t argue.

PA_Glaive

 

GLAIVE(ish):
A glaive is a staff with a long, spearfish sort of blade at the top. Except the spear blade long and curved and sharped along both edges. And the point isn’t really sharp. So, yeah, nothing like a spear at all. If you are into Japanese weapons, then you might recognize the similarity between the glaive and the naginata. Sometimes. To further confuse things, sometimes a guisarme was added to one side of a glaive, to better catch an opponent with. These were called glaive-guisarmes. Later-day glaives were fitted with long spikes on the top of the staff, for added stabiness, and these were called glaive-stabbies. (Editor’s note: No, they weren’t).

 

 

PA_Fauchard

 

FAUCHARD(ish):
Fauchards are basically glaives, but only one side of the blade is sharpened, which is awesome when you’re pressed up against a wall while fighting an opponent, or when you’re a character in a 2D video game. Not so awesome when you’re in a 3D blood-spattering, bowel-cleansing, honest-to-god battlefield. Fauchards often had guisarmes, like glaives, because someone thought it was better to have a hook on that side than another lethal edge. These type were called fauchard-guisarmes.

 

 

PA_Voulge

 

VOULGE(ish):
Take a meat cleaver, tie it onto a long broomstick. Congratulations. You have earned the Voulge trophy. Sometimes, voulge blades were really long, so that they looked less like cleaver blades and more like really thick spear blades that are sharpened on one side. Which reminds me of a certain weapon we discussed above. Yes, a voulge can look like a fauchard, but it’s never a fauchard, it’s a voulge. It just is. Sometimes, voulges had a hook or thorn on the backside, and this made it a voulge-guisarme.

 

 

PA_Pike

 

PIKE(ish):
Pike’s were spears. But they were really really long spears. Like, 10-20 feet long or longer. If you play D&D, you can’t bring a pike into the Temple of Elemental Evil. Pikes can’t be checked as baggage on planes, even as sporting equipment. Pikes have one purpose and one purpose only: To destroy infantry and drive back cavalry in battles. Okay, that’s two. Swiss mercenaries refined their battle prowess when they switched to the pike. So much so that the Germans copied them, forming the famous landsknecht warriors. The Germans eventually outdid the Swiss by coming up with the Zweihander sword—a ridiculous-looking two handed sword with saw teeth and barbs used for cutting pikes in half and leaving swiss mercenaries holding broomsticks.

 

PA_Poleax

 

POLEAXE(ish):
Also known as a poleax, which was also known as a pole axe, which sometimes was referred to as a pollax, or pollax, or Jackson Pollock. Poleaxes had small axe-blades on one end of the staff, and a hammer or spike on the back, and a blade or spike on top. How does this differ from a halberd? It just does, okay? Polaxes could deliver ridiculously powerful blows and were short enough to be carried by men-at-arms and archers alike.

 

 

 

PA_BecDeCorbin

 

BEC DE CORBIN(ish):
Translated from French, this can mean “Put the automobile in reverse because you’ve hit the garbage can,” or “Beak of the Crow.” This was basically a a hooked spike attached to a pole, with a war-hammer head on the opposite side and as pike on top. It is not to be confused with the Lucerne hammer, which is a hooked spike attached to a pole, with a pronged war-hammer on the opposite side and a spike on top. Except that sometimes the bec de corbin’s hammer head was also pronged. But even with the pronged hammer head, it was still a bec de corbin. Unless it was a Lucerne hammer. Don’t argue. Just accept it.

 

 

PA_Bardiche

 

BARDICHE(ish):
The bardiche is a long axe blade attached to a long pole. Bardiches were shorter than most poleaxes, rarely reaching a height of five feet. They were faster than their longer cousins, but still had enough weight to crush armor. Bardiches are not to be confused with the Scottish Lochaber axe, which is a long axe blade attached to a long pole. Yeah. I did try to warn you.

 

 

 

 

PA_Bill

 

BILL:
The superintendent at my apartment complex. Nice guy, but don’t get him drunk. Also, a European polearm that looks a bit like those hooked butter knives that your mom keeps in the back of the silverware drawer. The bill came from an old medieval farming implement used to cut crops. In fact, many polearms had their origins in farming tools. If you add a hook curving in the opposite direction to the bill’s curve what do you have? A bill-guisarme? Probably! Who knows? Do you know? I don’t really know.

 

 

PA_Ranseur

 

RANSEUR(ish):
A wide spear blade mounted on a long pole, with hooked wings at the base with which to parry. Not be confused as the Ranseur, which is a wide spear blade mounted on a long pole, with hooked wings at the base. You can tell them apart because the hooks on the ranseur are sharpened and used for attack as well as defense. Sometimes. Oh, and did I mention that both of them are very similar to a Spetum? Yeah. They are. Except the spetum hooks are longer and thinner.

 

So there you have it. A comprehensive study of polearms. Sort of.
I have joked a lot, but the reality is that these weapons had a lot of different names and styles, based on regional preferences. It’s not so strange, really. If you order a grinder in Arizona, they’ll look at you like you’re crazy. Order a Hoagie in Idaho? You’re liable to get punched. But a grinder and a hoagie and a subway and a big sandwich are all the same thing. Maybe slightly different from place to place, but still a sandwich. So it was with polearns.
Thanks for reading, and see you next time!

The Esterlina Line of Premium Swords!

BC1When I ring in the new year, it’s with alcohol and apologetic phone calls the next morning to everyone I offended or peed on. When Strongblade rings in the new year, they do it with gorgeous, live steel.

I’d call for a trumpet flourish as I make my next announcement, but my head still hurts. So, I will quietly announce Strongblade’s newest (and perhaps most exciting ever) sword lines. I present The Esterlina line of premium battle-ready swords.

What makes these swords so exciting, you may ask?

BC5Have a look at them.

Seriously.

Check out the images in this blog post.

They are some of the most creative, lovingly crafted, pieces of artwork that we sell on the site. And you know the best part? These beautiful pieces of art are fully functional! They can split a bamboo mat as easily as Japanese katanas. Let’s see you try to split a cutting roll with a Rembrandt. You see? These swords are better than multi-million dollar paintings!

Each of these oil-hardened weapons is hand-forged by master smiths, using only the highest grade steel, and tempered to a perfection. Blades are forged to a hardness of 55-66 on the Rockwell scale, and are used by martial arts masters in cutting competitions across the world.

BC4Yeah, they’re that strong.

The style of these swords is taken from pre-conquest Filipino swords—the same sort of blades that took down Ferdinand Magellan and his heavily armed and armored soldiers. But the look of these weapons is so different than what we normally see these days. They have a truly fantasy feel to them. In fact, swords of this type are no doubt inspiration for some of the swords seen in many fantasy movies, including the Lord of the Rings.

The craftsmanship doesn’t stop at the swords, though. Each of these beauties comes in a uniquely squared and decorated wooden scabbard. Put together, sword and scabbard are a thing to marvel at.

Have a look at the line. There are graceful sabers, lethal falcatas, awesome kris swords, and even a sword-dagger combo. Each masterfully designed. Each powerfully forged. And each whispering your name. They’d shout it, but I told them not too. New Year’s day, right?

Have a look at the gallery below, then head over to the Esterlina page and buy some before they sell out.

The Anatomy of the Scimitar

AnatomyOfSwordLogoOn our last posting in the Anatomy series, we talked about the Japanese Katana, and the educational benefits of saying the words, ‘differentially tempered.’ Today, we’re going to stay in the East, although slightly more westward. Yes, we’re talking about the Middle East. Considering the current political and social climate of today, I think it rather topical, no?

There is a great deal of strife in Syria at the moment, and an enormous amount of anger toward terrorists who may be hiding there. But that was not always the case. The Middle East, at several points in history, was the center of science and economics. And when it came to swords, very few could match the skill of Syrian blacksmiths. In fact, even today we use the name of Syria’s capital to define a beautifully-tempered blade. Damascus.

As always, I digress. I’m not here to talk about differential tempering or Damascus steel. I’m here to talk about those crazy, curving swords known as scimitars.

Anatomy_SwordFull_ScimitarWhat exactly is a scimitar? I think that’s probably the best place to start. The word scimitar means “crazy curving sword” in some unknown language. Okay, I made that up, but my guess is as good as anyone else’s. The truth is, no one really knows where the term scimitar came from. There are really bad theories about how it might have come from the word Shamshir (which means crazy curving sword in Persian)(scratch that. I was looking at the wrong notes. It means curved claw). But even the people who came up with this theory admit that it’s kind of lame.

The word scimitar, whatever its origin, has come to mean a Middle-eastern sword that is curved and has a single edge. The curve of these swords allowed for fantastic speed when wielded by a master. They were used almost exclusively for slashing, and were especially appreciated by horsemen, who could slash from one side of their horse to the other quickly and without accidentally chopping off bits of their steed’s head.

Many people tend to group all of these swords into one lump, there are probably more variations of these types of swords than there are of their European counterparts. To make things simple, I’m going to talk about the four most common scimitars found throughout history.

THE SHAMSHIR
Slender, steeply curved, graceful and long. Her name was Nicole and I had a raging crush on her since my freshman year. But we’re not here to talk about my romantic failures. We’re here to talk about the Shamshir, which, like Nicole, was slender, steeply curved, graceful and long. The Shamshir was a Persian sword, first used around 1000 A.D. It’s a gently curving blade that was worn sideways on the belt, similar to the way Japanese Katanas were worn.

Anatomy_Scimitars_SilhoTHE KILIJ
If Shamshirs were like swift, elegant dancers, than the Kilij were squat, powerful soldiers. Kilij blades were shorter and thicker than that of the Shamshirs, and they flared at the bottom third of the blade, near the tip. This flare is called the Yalman, which, in Turkish, means ‘ow, that really, really hurt, dude.’ And if it doesn’t mean that, it should. Because the yalman gives the sword extra weight past the center of balance, allowing for crushing blows. The kilij is oddly curved—kind of like it wasn’t meant to be curved but someone stepped on the blade during a fight and it stayed that way. This scimitar was used by many generations of Turks to unleash misery on their enemies (particularly during the Crusades).

THE TALWAR
This sword was the happy middle ground between shamshirs and kilijes (kilijs? Kilijises? Kili? No idea). The blade was thicker than a shamshir, but thinner than a kilij, and the curve was also somewhere between the curve of the other two scimitars. Sometimes the talwar had a flaring tip (yalman), like the kilij, and sometimes it did not. These swords were used mostly around India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. And while most of the other scimitar classes tended to have a bit of variation in thickness, hilts and length, most talwars tended to be fairly similar. The most easily identifiable part of this sword is the hilt, which features a disc-shaped pommel, short guards and, often, a full knucklebow guard.

THE PULWAR
Afghanistan has always marched to its own unique rhythm. The Afghanis were happy with the talwar, but they decided to refine it to suit their tastes. The result of their tinkering was a sword that was similar to the original talwar, but had a thicker blade, a greater curve, and a completely different hilt. The guards on the pulwar face forward, to better trap an opponent’s blade, and the pommel is shaped more like a cup, or one of those fancy dip bowls that your mom used to put out with chips during football games and then she would get upset with you if you let the thing fall on the ground when it was empty and you would tell her that she shouldn’t have brought out a fancy metal bowl for a football game and she would say that you should always put out your best for company and you would say, mom, they’re just my friends and… um…. Yeah. So… a cuplike hilt.

There you have it. A quick, easy guide to appreciating scimitars.

Next time on Anatomy, we’ll head back toward the West for a discussion on perhaps the most misunderstood weapons in history—the polearms.

The Stongblade Sword Design Contest!

SwordContestGreetings, combatants!

Welcome one, welcome all, to the Strongblade arena. Where all swords are created equally. Where every dreamer has the inalienable right to pursue fame, fortune and a $100 Strongblade gift card. Welcome, welcome, to the Strongblade Free-Forge!

What is the Free-Forge? It is two things. First and foremost, it is a chance for you, gentle visitor, to design the sword of your dreams. To put it down on paper or pixel, to show it proudly before the masses, and to compete against other designs for a chance at the title of Strongblade Forgemaster.

Secondly, the Free-Forge is a place to view the masterful creations of our contestants and to vote on the sword design that you like best. So, whether you submit to the contest or not, we encourage you to go to the contest site and vote for your favorite entry!

 

How do I vote?

Simply go to THIS URL, look at the fantastic works of art submitted, and vote on your favorite. *WORD OF WARNING* The site tracks IPs and uses complex technology to find spammers and those who would seek to unfairly and dishonorably sway the voting to their favor. If such a thing happens, either the sword benefiting from the dishonesty will be removed from the contest, or the competition will be deemed a mis-forge, and voting will begin again.

 

How do I submit?

Think you have the mettle to invent steel? Then get moving! Design a sword (preferably one that can be wielded by normal men and women, under the physics of our planet). We don’t care how you do it. Paper and pencil. Photoshop. Old car parts. The bones of your vanquished enemies. (That’s actually a joke. Nothing illegal please). Swords can be from any time-period in history. For a chance to have your sword made, you should make sure it can be made by a normal smith, without too much craziness. Once your design is complete, capture an image of your creation and go to this URL. Submit the image, then sit back and wait for the votes to roll in.

 

What do I win?

If you are pronounced Strongblade Forgemaster, you will win a $100 Strongblade gift card. In addition, Strongblade may decide to produce your weapon, so that others can own the awesomeness that you created. If that is the case (and that’s *if*) Strongblade will enter a separate agreement with you. But that’s not all. If you are granted Strongblade Forgemaster status, you will be interviewed for the Strongblade Edge and gain fame and accolades for your work.

Questions? Post them here in the comments, or on our Facebook page. Or, send them to service@strongblade.com.

Good luck, and may the best sword win!

The Anatomy of the Katana

AnatomyOfSwordLogoFor my last post, I talked about the importance of black gums for dogs and my failure to understand why some drivers refuse to move to the right when they are not overtaking. After talking about that stuff, I then wrote a post about the anatomy of rapiers. Today, we move almost as far as you can get from rapiers—geographically, philosophically, and designally. I know it’s not a word. But symmetry is important, dammit. Today, we visit Japan, to talk about Katanas. No, I don’t mean that literally. No one is going to Japan. Well, many people are going to Japan, but we are not included in that. Unless, of course, you’re going to Japan. In which case, please bring me back a katana.

There is a lot of similarity between the knight’s arming sword (discussed in the first of our Anatomy series) and the samurai sword. Both were seen as ideological weapons. Both sword types had deep spiritual value in the culture. Both were used only by the upper members of society that had been given the privilege to use them. And both are used in really, really cool movies.

The katana was typically used by Samurai, who were the only warriors allowed to wear two swords. And while the knightly sword was deeply invested in the knight’s religion, the katana was deeply invested in a samurai’s honor. And when a sword has that much value to an upper class warrior, you can bet the construction of that sword is going to be amazing. And man, were they ever.

A true Japanese katana, made by a master smith, is two parts artwork, two parts killing device, and one part liquid coolness (it’s true. Japanese swordsmiths pioneered techniques for liquefying coolness). The blades of these fine swords were made from differentially tempered carbon steel, which is a really fun and impressive term to drop in conversations, or just to say. Go ahead. Say it. Differentially tempered, high-carbon steel. You actually gain two IQ points every time you say it.

What does differentially tempered mean? I’m glad I asked myself that question. When a sword is differentially tempered, it means that the sharp edge of the sword in heated at a different temperature than the back (or dull) side. Why do they do this? Another fantastic question, Roberto! Why thank you Roberto, you’re too kind. No, Roberto, *you* are too kind. And full of awesome. And you, sir, are made of liquified coolness. Um… where was I? Why? That’s right. Why would you heat the edges at different temperatures. To answer that, let’s talk a little about tempering in general.

When you temper a steel sword, you are putting it through a process of heating and cooling that makes the metal harder. Hardness is important for blade sharpness. The harder a blade is, the better the edge it can hold and the longer it can hold it. But hardness is a double-edged sword. Although katanas are single-edged. And the hardness itself isn’t actually a sword, it’s a part of a… I … there’s… my God, it’s full of stars… I may have just broken the space-time continuum with that analogy.
Anyway, the harder a steel becomes the better the edge it can hold, but the more brittle it gets. Japanese sword makers were well aware of this. So how to get a brilliantly sharp sword that can cut through a dead prisoner—yeah, that’s reportedly how they tested the edge of their katanas, on executed prisoners)—and still get a strong sword that won’t break when struck? Yeah, it took a while for me to get there, I’m sure you’re there already. If you heat the sharp edge at a higher temperature, and the rest of the sword at a lower temperature, you get a super-hard edge, and a strong, more flexible spine.

But how do they heat a curved sword at different temperatures? A round kiln? No, silly, with mud! Alright, technically it’s called *clay*, which is just an uppity word for mud. Sword makers paint the non-edge parts of the blade with a thick mud. When the blade is heated, the parts with the mud on them don’t get as hot. Tada. Differential tempering. Blades that have been treated in this way are left with a beautiful line pattern between the edge and spine. This wavy line is called a hamon, which means ham in Spanish. Why Japanese swordmakers named this line after a pork product from the Spanish language is a mystery to this day. The hamon usually undergoes a regime of polishing to make it look even better.

What else makes katanas such good weapons? Well, steel folding, of course. Swordsmiths fold the steel of Japanese katanas over and over again. Most likely because most sword makers started life as origami artists, and it’s good that they did. Because all this folding does two things—it pushes out the impurities in the steel, and it reduces the carbon content. Japanese blacksmiths weren’t the only ones who folded steel, of course, pattern-welding is a type of steel folding that goes back to the Celts, and possibly earlier. But Japanese swordmakers used the technique to perfection, getting just the right amount of carbon in their blades and creating brilliantly strong blades.

Image converted using ifftoanyAnd now for the illustrated portion of our blog post. I have listed some of the most common parts of a katana below, and spoken briefly about each of them. Have a close look, because these will be on the test.

Kashira – Buttcap. Google does not have a great sense of humor when it comes to any joke that I think of when describing buttcaps. In the interests of good ranking, I will simply say that buttcaps are the cap at the end of a katana hilt. And repeat buttcap again while I snort.

Ito – This is the silk wrapping that covers the same of the hilt. The combination of silk and rayskin gives both grip and comfort. I have shoes made from silk and rayskin for just this reason.

Same – I’m not going to make the same old joke about the same. I’m just going to say it is the material that covers the hilt of a katana. Traditionally, this is made from ray skin, because of the rough texture. Because of this ray skin, Many modern martial artists have changed their strike cry to, “Remember the Croc Hunter!”

Menuki – a decorative charm wrapped into the ito. These serve a few purposes. They cover the wooden peg (called a mekugi) that secures the tang to the hilt of the sword. They also provide the swordsman with additional grip and allow for more creative expression.

Tsuba– A huge brass instrument played in Japanese bands. Also, the guard of a sword. This guard keeps enemy blades from riding the steel highway down to your knuckles. Tsuba are typically either rounded or square.

Habaki– A metal collar that keeps the katan firmly in it sheath (sheaths are called saya).

Shinogi– a ridgeline in the blade. Not to be confused with the hamon. Or Shinobi, which was a late-80s video game that I was two quarters short of finishing at the mall arcade.

Mune – the back edge of the blade.

Hamon Line – remember that differential tempering stuff I was talking about? The hamon is the line differentiating the higher-temperature temper and the lower-temperature temper. Every traditional katana has a different hamon line. In fact, swordmakers could be identified by the unique hamon line they created in their swords.

Ji – While we’re talking about differential tempering, I should mention that the softer, back section of the katana is called the Ji.

Ha – While we’re talking about differential tempering, I should mention that the harder, front section of the katana is called the ha.

Kissaki – The tip of the katana, always slightly rounded.

There are many other parts to a katana. In fact, pretty much every inch of a katana has a name. The groove (hi) the grain of the metal (hada), the tang (nagako), even the hamon line, where it curves up into the tip, has a name (boshi). The anatomy of Japanese swords is a breathtakingly deep subject, and this post is only the first step on your journey, Grasshopper.

Did I miss something? Did I get something wrong? Feel free to challenge me—but bring your sword, tough guy. Because… well… because we can look at it and talk about it and swing it around and stuff.

See you next time, when we talk about the anatomy of the gladius!

The Anatomy of the Rapier. And stuff.

AnatomyOfSwordLogolast week, we took our first tentative steps into the guts and bones of swords. Now that we have taken a few steps into the pool, it’s time to dive right into one of the most complex swords in history—the almost-really-badly-named rapier.

Now, when I say rapier, I’m not simply talking about the espada ropera, or the spada de lato, or the small-sword. I’m not just talking about the estoc or the dueling swords or any of the other cut-and-thrust swords out there. I’m talking about all of the mostly-for-jabbing-people swords, and there are lots. This classification of swords is mind-blowingly large, so we must tread carefully here. In this pool. This pool of cold steel. Is the metaphor getting old yet? I will generalize a bit, which is always an invitation for comments like, “Yeah, but what about…” or “Hey, dumb-ass, all generalizations are wrong!”

SweptHiltSo, these are all stabbing-ish swords. But what else do they have in common? Let’s generalize!

  1. Compound hilt. No, ,this doesn’t mean your opponent can come pound you with it. It means that the wielder’s hand is protected by guards that are more complicated than just two quillons. (Quilons being straight metal bars that jut to either side of the grip, as seen on most arming swords). Compound hilts are like fountains of metal that swirl delicately around your hand, bringing you protection, happiness and fortune. And, if an enemy has one, he or she can come pound you with it
  2. Narrow blade. The width of these types of swords is generally about an inch, sometimes a little wider, sometimes a little narrower. (Feel free to insert your own vulgar joke here, you perverts). Side-swords, for example, can be an inch-and-a-half or wider, but usually taper toward the point. Small-swords, by contrast, are rarely wider than an inch, and often narrower.
  3. Under-sharpened edges. Swords in this class often have dull edges (as do I after a few shots of vodka…). If they are sharpened, it is usually only the top third of the blade. Why only sharpen the top third? Because people who owned these swords were typically cheap, and looked for any way they could save money. Wait. No, I’m thinking of my old landlord. Here’s the real reason: Because when you fight with a dull sword, it is easy for an opponent to grab hold of the blade. And the part of the blade they are most likely to grab is the foible, which, as we learned last week (we learned this, right? Right?), is the thinner, more flexible part of a sword blade. Sharpened top edges also allowed for some slashing with these swords, particularly near the tip.
  4. Ricasso: Most swords in this class have a small, unsharpened (and often slightly thicker) section of blade next to the grip. A wielder can put his index finger on this little strip of metal, allowing for better control of the blade, vis-a-vis the whole laws of leverage thing. Is there a Law of Leverage? If not, I claim it. Roberto’s Universal Law of Making Yourself Stronger.

Rapiers and their ilk were typically used for thrusting (read:stabbing). Some, like the obviously named cut-and-thrust sword, could do both. But the brunt of these weapons were created at a time when gunpowder was rendering armor useless. No longer did warriors need heavy-bladed swords that could crush an opponent’s helmet. Or swords that you needed three people to swing properly. Swordplay became a thing of subtlety and grace. The true rapier was the father to swords that allowed double-time fencing. What is double-time fencing? Well, let’s say you usually practice fencing with your girlfriend. But one day you go to another girl’s house and fence with her. That’s double time fencing. Um. I may be mixed up here. No… wait… double-time fencing, also called dui tempo, describes the pace of fast-speed fencing, where parrying and counterattacking can come quickly, one after the other. It’s the sort of fencing that is shown in the Zorro movies, or pretty much anything with Errol Flynn in it.

You got all that? Should we move on? (Hint: it doesn’t matter how you answer the question. I’m moving on). Let’s have a look at the parts of a thrusting sword.

 

Anatomy_RapierFull_Labeled500WDTHThe guards

As I mentioned, discussions of these types of swords requires some generalization and selective exclusion. I will try to cover the guards of the most common of these weapons.

 

Swept Hilt

Among the most glamorized of all swords is the swept-hilt rapier. These are the bling-guards–half sculpture, half armor. Swept hilts varied enormously, but most had a few basic similarities:

  1. Knuckle Guard/Knuckle Bow: The knuckle bow is a curved, slender strip of metal that curls elegantly around the user’s fingers. It got its name from early swordsmen, who tried attaching cords to this curved piece of metal and firing arrows from  it. Unfortunately, the arrows could only be about three inches long and… um… I’m kidding of course. You can’t fire arrows from a knuckle bow. You can only fire knuckles from it.
  2. Quillons: If you’ve been paying attention, you know what these are already. But if you missed it (and didn’t know it before reading this post), quillons are the metal rods that jut out from the top of a sword grip. They’re the doorman to your hand, keeping enemy swords from using your blade as a slip-and-slide straight to your fingers.
  3. Quillon Block: We talked in our last post about chappes, which had absolutely nothing to do with crotchless leather cowboy pants. And here, in rapier-class swords, we find the evolution of chappes. That’s right, as Mew evolves into Mew Too, and Pikachu evolves to Raichu, the chappe evolves into quillon-blocku! That’s right, this is the final form of the small, embarrassingly flimsy flap that dangled down at the junction of blade and hilt on arming swords. The quillon block is steel and serves more of a reinforcing function than any scabbardly duties. The quillon block is also known as the ecusson, which is French for Charizard. Mega ecusson is French for the evolved form of Charizard.
  4. Langets: The langets are a group of women who are very serious about grammar. They derived their name from sword langets, which are loops of metal on either side of a blade’s ricasso. (Hint: I talked about ricasso’s up there a bit —-^). These loops protect your index finger if you are using Roberto’s Universal Law of Making Yourself Stronger. They also grip the throat of the sheath, providing a nice resistance so that you don’t accidentally draw your sword. Like I did. My lawyer proved without doubt that the death of that man was an accident. Because I didn’t have langets. See how useful those things are?
  5. Finger gaurds: Finger guards are the parent name for the curling guards that loop backward, away from the blade, and protect your precious little piggies. Swept hilts often have various styles of finger guards. The knuckle bow is considered a finger guard. So are langets. Pretty much everything that’s not grip can be a finger guard. Except the pommel. And sweat. And shadows on the hilt. Shadows cannot protect fingers.

There are other pats to a swept hilt. Detailed parts. Complicated, French-sounding parts. But this post is already dictionary length, so I will stop at the most common ones and move on to a few different types of guards seen with rapier class swords.

Clamshell-guards: These sorts of guards are often seen on rapier-class swords, and are the guard-of-choice for mermaids the world over. They are also known simply as shell guards. One or two metal disks hangs down from the base of the ricasso, protecting the wielder’s hand. Sometimes these disks are actually carved to look like clamshells. Seriously. Shell guards can sometimes be used in conjunction with looped finger guards—like knuckle bows—and quillons.

Bell Guards: Bell guards, sometimes known as cup guards, are domed pieces of metal that a wielder’s hand fits inside of. The metal cup offers excellent hand protection (and a handy drinking vessel for those fencing-bar-crawls). A good example of cup guards can be seen on modern epees in sport fencing.

And that about covers the rapier/cut-and-thrust class of swords. Keep swimming until next post, when we talk about Settlers of Katanas and other Japanese sword games!

Did I miss something? Do you want to tell me that all generalizations are wrong? Would you like to fawn and tell me how this article completely changed your life and made you prosperous and two inches taller? Comment below! Or on our Facebook page!

 

The Anatomy of the Arming Sword

AnatomyOfSwordLogoAlright, sword lovers, a quick quiz. Answer each of the questions below in ten seconds or less:

1. what’s a chappe?
2. Where is the ricasso?
3. What’s the foible?
4. What is the technical name for the channel that runs along the center of a blade?
5. What’s an ecusson?

If you don’t know more than one of these (or if you said blood groove for the fourth question) then you are in the right place. The sad truth is, for many of us, our knowledge of the swords we love is reduced to the age-old adage, “stick them with the pointy end.” Fortunately for most of us, Strongblade is here to steer you onto the path of righteousness and swordsousness. In this new series of posts on the anatomy of swords, we will cover a number of different styles, with fancy 3D images and even fancier language. Stick with us, and you’ll bring a napalm of knowledge to those online-forum flame-wars. You’ll enthrall the wenches at the ren-faires with your clinical knowledge of killing tools. Yes, my friends, you will finally understand the Riddle of Steel. (And when you do, please explain it to me).

Without further Anneau, let us lunge right into our first specimen: The medieval arming sword.

The arming sword, sometimes called the knightly sword, is without a doubt what everyone thinks of when they hear the word sword. Those of you reading this saying, “No, I thought of a katana,” or “You’re wrong, I was thinking of a scimitar,” are lying. Deep down inside, you know that I’m right. Western culture instilled the arming sword into your psyche long before you had even heard of a katana or scimitar. We will get to those other two swords in time, but there is no better choice to begin this series than with the symbol of chivalry and honor, the knightly sword.

The arming sword is a fairly simple design. It owes its existence to even simpler weapons like the roman gladius and roman spatha (both of which were fantastic swords in their own right). Arming swords are meant to be fairly light and sharp on both edges. They are mostly used for slashing although they can be used by thrusting if you’re feeling particularly stabby. These types of swords were classified by the all-time master of sword history, Ewart Oakeshott (God rest his soul).

Let’s look closely at the parts of an arming sword:

Anatomy_SwordFull_Labeled_6001. The Blade: Arming sword blades were typically around 30 inches in length, with a tapered point. Both edges were sharpened, and almost all had some sort of central ridge called a fuller (not a blood groove, folks). Most blades in the middle ages were made from carbon-steel, and tempered in a process of heating and quenching. Sometimes urine was involved. Seriously. All blades (except ones given to knights that no one liked) were made with a full tang.
2. The Fuller: Alhough the term “blood-groove” or “blood-gutter” is often used to describe this channel, those terms are misconceptions. There’s no actual historical evidence to suggest that fullers allowed blood to drain from an opponent so that a vacuum would not trap the sword in said opponent’s body. Fullers, rather, had a dual purpose (I think duel purpose would be acceptable here, too). These carved channels created a sort of “spine” to the blade, giving additional strength, while at the same time making the weapon lighter.
3. Forte: The strongest part of a sword, usually the first third or quarter of the blade (closest to the hilt).
4. Foible: A series of stories created by a man named Aesop. Also, the weakest part of the blade, usually the last third or quarter of the blade (farthest from the hilt).
5. Edge: Both edges of an arming sword would have been sharpened. And knights would have done all they could to avoid parrying with the edge of their swords, as nicks and cracks could form.
6. Chappe: A mediocre movie made by the director of District 9. Wait. I think I’m mixed up. This was actually a small flap of leather jutting from the hilt, down over part of the blade. The purpose of this leather piece (which evolved into a metal piece in later swords) has been disputed, but the general consensus is that it formed a seal, keeping rain out of the sheath. The chappe is not to be confused with the chape, which is a metal fitting at the bottom of a sheath. Or with chap, which is British for dude. Or with chapped, which, in urban neighborhoods, means getting caught by police. Or chaps, which are crotchless, leather cowboy pants. I’m going to stop now.
7. Hilt: I sometimes see confusion about what constitutes the hilt of a sword. And I sometimes see dead people. And dead people confused about hilts. So, for all of you (alive or dead), here you go: The hilt is the entire arrangement of guards, grip and pommel. All of these together are called a hilt. Hopefully Bruce Willis will leave me alone now.
8. Cross-guards: No, these are not old chaps that help children to not get hit by cars. They are metal rods that jut out from either end of the hilt to keep your hand from being bisected by your opponent’s blade. The type of cross-guards a sword had was a big part of Ewart Oakeshott’s sword classification system. And, apparently, cross-guards are relevant in Jedi/Sith Lightsabers.
9. Grip: When a knight in a book touches his hilt, he is either putting his hand over the entire array of guards, grip and pommel, or it is a euphemism for arranging his tackle. What writers usually mean is that the knight is touching the grip of his sword, which is typically a wooden shaft set around the tang, and often wrapped in either leather or wire.
10. Pommel: This is a metal fixture at the very end of the hilt (farthest away from the tip of the blade). This fixture is usually either bolted or peened (the tang and pommel are joined permanently by hammering) onto the tang of the sword. Pommels serve several purposes. First, they makes it harder for the blade to slip out of a knight’s hand. Second, they serve as a counterweight to the blade, shifting the center of balance of the sword down, closer toward the wielder’s hand (which makes the sword easier to swing quickly). Third, they can be used to pound your opponent. And fourth, they are awesome at crushing walnuts.
Anatomy_SwordHilt_Labeled_50011. Tang: A delicious powdered drink that somehow is linked to astronauts. Also, the tapering part of the sword blade that extends from the shoulders of the blade. This slightly tapered piece of steel becomes the grip of the sword, and the pommel is affixed to the very end of it. Many modern sword tangs are made by welding a “rat-tail,” between the hips of a sword. The rat-tail is a ground down piece of metal, not much more than a cylindrical stick about the diameter of a thick screw. These types of tangs are, in scientific Oakshott terminology, referred to as, “uncool.” Tangs wielded onto sword blades are fragile and can be dangerous. Some “rat-tail” or “stick” tangs are not wielded onto the blade, but are simply ground down, narrow continuations of the blade. These tangs, though still only as thick as a large screw, are not quite as fragile as wielded tangs, although they are still not as strong as full-tangs (which are far less tapered).

So, there we go, the knightly sword broken down into all of its glorious pieces. Yes, I hear the grumbling. I didn’t answer all of my quiz questions from the start of this post. That is true, young grasshoppers. There are a couple terms I didn’t cover today. You’ll just have to read my next blog posting, where I talk about Rapiers and cut-and-thrust swords to satisfy your curiosity.
Or you can just Google it.
Your choice.