How Sword Making Works

Sword Components

Here are the main components of a sword:

There are four basic parts:

Blade - The length of steel that forms the sword. A typical blade has six areas:

  • Edge - This is the sharpened portion of the blade. A sword may be single or double-edged. For example, a Japanese katana has a single edge but a Scottish claymore is sharpened on both sides.
  • Tip - The end of the sword furthest away from the hilt. Most swords taper to a point at the tip, but some blade lines are straight until the very tip. A few swords, such as a U.S. Civil War saber, are curved along their length.
  • Back - The part of the blade opposite the edge. Of course, a double-edged sword has no back.
  • Flat - The sides of the blade.
  • Fuller - Often called the blood groove or gutter, the fuller is a narrow groove that runs most of the length of many swords. Most people believe that it is there to allow the blade to be easily removed by blood escaping through the channel, thereby reducing suction. Contrary to popular belief, the fuller is not a channel for blood to run along. The actual reason for the fuller is to decrease the weight of the blade without diminishing the strength. Use of a fuller allows a bladesmith to use less material to comprise the blade, making it lighter without sacrificing too much structural integrity. This is similar to the use of an I-beam when building a skyscraper.
  • Ricasso - Found on some swords, the ricasso is the unsharpened part of the blade just before the guard. It was typically used on heavier swords to provide a place to grip with the second hand if needed.
  • Tang - The portion of the blade that is covered by the hilt. A full tang is the same width as the rest of the blade and extends beyond the hilt and through the pommel. A partial tang does not extend all the way through the hilt and is normally not more than half the width of the blade. The length of the tang and the width, particularly where it narrows before entering the pommel, vary from sword to sword. The thickness and width of a tang within the hilt will determine the handling of the sword.

Guard - The metal piece that keeps an opponent's sword from sliding down over the hilt and cutting your hand. The guard on Japanese swords also prevented the hands from sliding down to the blade while many European sword guards also protected the hands in close quarters combat against a shield. Also, the cross guard on a European sword can aid point control and manipulation of a blade. Guards can range from a simple crosspiece to a full basket that nearly encloses your hand.

Hilt - The handle of the sword, a hilt is usually made from leather, wire or wood. It is fastened to the tang of the blade to provide a comfortable way to hold the sword.

Pommel - The end of the sword that the hilt is on. Pommels are normally larger than the hilt and keep the sword from sliding out of the hand, as well as providing a bit of counterweight to the blade. They also can be used as a means to secure the hilt to the tang, and were sometimes forged out of the same length of steel as the rest of the blade.

Swords can range from strictly utilitarian to completely ceremonial. In many swords, the guard, hilt and pommel are very ornate and serve as the focal point for the uniqueness of the sword.