Sunday, June 17, 2007

Dictionary of Sword Terms

It is possible that few care about the names and definitions of the various components of edged weapons, but here are a few for those who may be interested:

Crossguard: also known as cruciform hilt because of its shape. This is a guard that crosses the blade at the hilt. It can be straight or slightly curved.

Edge: The edge of a sword or dagger is the sharpened side or sides of the blade. Thus, there are single-edged and double-edged blades. Many blades have a secondary 'false edge' near the tip. The long or true edge of a weapon is the one used for straight cuts or strikes. The short or false edge is the one used for backhand strikes.

Foible: The weaker portion of the blade between the tip and centre of balance,

Forte: The stronger portion of the blade between the hilt and centre of balance.

Fullers: These are grooves in the blade designed to lighten it while allowing it to retain its strength and inflexibility. Fullers usually can be found in the older, larger European swords.

Full tang: This is the strongest type of tang, and one that extends throughout the weapon, often as wide as the blade itself, sometimes fashioned in the same shape as the hilt.

Grip: This is the portion of the handle actually gripped by the fighter. Can be made of wood, ivory or metal. Very often, the grip had grooves in it for metal wire or leather wrapping. Sharkskin was the material of choice in Japan.

Guard: The portion of the hilt that protects the hand. It has two functions, to act as a guard from an opponent's attack and as a barrier to prevent the wielder's hand from sliding down. The guard may include a crossguard or quillions, or a series of wires in the configuration known as a 'basket'

Hilt: The hilt is the handle of an edged weapon and usually consists of a guard, grip and pommel.

Narrow Tang: Also known as Hidden Tang, this type of tang is forged with the blade and extends throughout the hilt, although its width is narrower than that of the blade itself. Often the end of the tang was in such as way as to allow the pommel or pommel nut to be threaded or screwed onto it.

Pommel: derived from the Latin word 'pomum', Middle English 'pomel', diminuative of Old French 'pom' (ball, fruit) ; a counterweight at the top of the handle, providing balance. Can be used as a weapon in its own right, as a club or even stabbing weapon when created in the shape of a spike. In the Second World War, the British Fairbairn-Sykes Commando dagger included a spike pommel.

Rat Tail Tang: a thin rod welded to the end of the blade at the crossguard to go through the grip. This type of tang is weak and untrustworthy.

Ricasso: the shoulder of the blade closest to the guard that is left unsharpened so that it can be held with a finger to increase control of the tip. On some of the largest two-handed swords, like the Zweihander, the ricasso has a leather cover, enabling the swordsman to grip it in one hand for close-quarter combat. On European swords, the ricasso often bears the maker's mark.

Scabbard: the protective covering for a sword or knife, using made of metal or leather.

Tang: The part of the blade that extends into the hilt.

Tassel: Made of woven gold or silver bullion, silk, leather or metallic lace, the sword knot or tassel acted as a wrist loop, to prevent the weapon from falling when dropped; in court dress, the tassel or sword knot developed to become extremely decorative.