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Anatomy Of A Sword: Break Down The Jargon
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If you have ever accidentally walked into a roomful of sword enthusiasts you'll doubtless hear all sorts of strange, half-familiar words being thrown back and forth about a sword's 'tang' and the 'unusual fuller shape' and other strange terms of which you have no real understanding. Well if that is you, then continue reading for we are about to solve this dilemma.

Every sword has a blade. All blades will be composed of an edge (the cutting part) and can be divided into two general sections, the foible and the forte. The foible is located from the point to about midway down the blade. It is the weaker and most flexible part of the sword. As the blade descends into the cross guard, it typically becomes wider and has less flex and thus is stronger and referred to as the forte. All sword also have a point, which may or may not be used for thrusting. This is dependent upon the shape of the blade as heavily curved swords make thrusting a challenge and rather impractical. There are a host of different blade styles, widths, and shapes. Most people think of sword blades in terms of a diamond shape or triangular shape (sharp at the edge and flat on the back) however this fails to capture the wide array of designs employed by sword smiths to boost performance. Many European swords feature what is called a 'fuller'. These are grooves in the blade, which give it something of a hour-glass shape. The purpose of adding a fuller is two-fold. It increased the strength of the blade, while decreasing the amount of steel used, which lessened the weight and improved balance.

The blade then connected to the hilt of the sword with what is termed as the 'tang'. The tang runs through the handle and serves as the backbone for connecting the chappe, cross-guard, grip, and pommel. The end of the blade and beginning of the tang fit snugly into the chappe, or rain guard, which kept the blade sealed from the elements within the sword's scabbard. The cross-guard is affixed to the tang and chappe. The handle is referred to as the grip. It is made up of a variety of materials ranging from wood, metal, or even bone and sometimes wrapped in cloth to improve the grip. Finally, the hilt of the sword is completed with the pommel. The primary purpose of the pommel is to serve as a counterweight to the blade, balancing the sword which enables the swordsman to use it with efficient and powerful strikes that allow for quick recovery and do not tire his body. The pommel may also be used as a club or mace in combat due to its weight.

Finally, a good sword always has a scabbard. Without one it would be exposed to the elements and rust would weaken and ruin the blade. In order to prevent this the tips of the scabbard were typically metal and referred to as the locket (the part where the chappe meets the scabbard and locks out the elements) and the chape (the tip of the sword rests in the chape when the sword is sheathed within its scabbard).

Now you have a good, working terminology to apply to any situation in which you find yourself in need of a way to describe a sword. Now that you've mastered the jargon, its time to go use it and turn a few heads in the process.


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