Diagrams of Parts of the Japanese Sword – Sword-Site.Com: The World’s Largest Free Online Sword Museum! http://www.sword-site.com

Sword-Site.Com: The World’s Largest Free Online Sword Museum!


For a lengthy glossary of terms see here: sword-site.com/thread/546/japanese-glossary-sword-terms

Read more: http://sword-site.com/thread/547/diagrams-parts-japanese-sword#ixzz2yeMSAy3P


Japanese Glossary of Sword Terms – Sword-Site.Com: The World’s Largest Free Online Sword Museum! http://www.sword-site.com

Sword-Site.Com: The World’s Largest Free Online Sword Museum!


For diagrams of the part of a Japanese Sword see here: sword-site.com/thread/547/diagrams-parts-japanese-sword

Aikuchi (literally “fitting mouth”) is a form of koshirae mounting for Japanese tanto blades (up to 30cm) in which the handle and the scabbard meet without a guard in between. 

Name given for large coarse Nie. Nie are martensite crystals that are formed during the heating and quenching process. Nie are crystals that are large enough to be viewed as individual particles.

Projections or short lines of soft steel that run from the border of the hamon (patterns of Nie or Nioi) to the edge of the blade. Literal translation is “Leg or Foot”.

A pattern of grain (Hada) forming regular wavy lines used mostly by the Gassan and Satsuma Naminohira schools. 

Wide groove almost filling the shinogi surface.

Sanscrit characters occasionally carved onto the blade surface. 

The shape of temper line in the point of the sword. 

Straight faint mirror like reflections of the temper line.

Literal translation: “Military-Knight-Ways”. An unwritten code of moral principles which the knights (Samurai) were required or instructed to observe. Inazo Nitobe wrote BUSHIDO: The Soul of Japan in 1900 which is a recommended book for those interested in learning more about BUSHIDO.

Term used for a bright curved line (such as Nioi) that occurs in ji (grain body of the sword).

Hamon (temper line) that is in the shape of cloves. Typical swords in the Bizen tradition feature temper lines with choji. 

Term given for a clove-shaped temper line mixed with irregular shapes.

Chu means ‘middle”. This is a term for a blade point of medium length in proportion to the width of the blade near the tang. 

Chu means ‘middle”. This is a term given for a hamon (temper line) that is straight with medium width.

This is a matched pair of swords (typically a katana and wakizashi with koshirae mountings). Only Samurai carried a daisho.

That A [sic] long sword. Literally a large sword.

The cutting edge of the sword point.


A term used to describe a blade which becomes noticeably wider as it approaches the hilt. A feature of Koto blades.

A tang shape with the end deeply curved toward the back side which resembles a kimono sleeve.

The signature removed from the original tang and inserted into the shortened tang.

A silvery color kinsuji line in the temper line (yakiba).

A man of Rectitude. Rectitude is the power of deciding upon a certain course of conduct in accordance with reason, without wavering – to die when it is right to die, to strike when to strike is right.” (Inazo Nitobe, BUSHIDO, The Soul of Japan, p. 46)

A type of Hamon (temper) resembling regular half circles.

An irregular mixture of ragged gunome.

A general terms for swords with military mountings. 

The cutting edge of the sword. 

The collar around the blade above the tang to fit the blade securely into the scabbard. 

The border line between the Ji and the Yakiba.

The surface grain of the blade. There are many types and more than one type can be on the same blade. 

Steel used to make a Japanese sword (may also be referred to as tamahagane, the raw steel)

A flaw where the blade edge is cracked entirely through the edge of the blade at a right angle to the edge.

A feature of the tempered edge in which Nie appear in a swept or brush-stroke pattern.

A box shaped Hamon.

The edge notch where the blade joins the tang. 

The temper line. 

A katana with partly Tachi mountings. 

Grooves cut into the sword. 

Flat surface of the blade.

A blade shape which is flat without shinogi ridges.

Name given to a blade with a hamon (temper line) pattern known as full temper. The blade tends to resemble a tiger.

One or two holes in the sword guard (Tsuba) through which the kozuka and/or kogai are inserted into pockets in the scabbard.

A general term for carvings on the blade surface. Here is a wakizashi by Nobukuni that features Bonji, which is Horimono

Two surface shape to the mune (back edge) of the blade.

A short and stubby point said to resemble the neck of a wild boar.

Lightening shaped bright lines in the Yakiba or the Hada.

Wood grain pattern in the surface steel.

The surface of the blade between the Yakiba and the Shinogi. 

Surface texture. The various patterns of Hada. 

The presence of Nie in the Ji.

A shrine (jinja) is a sacred place where kami live, and which show the power and nature of the kami. It’s conventional in Japan to refer to Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples – but Shinto shrines actually are temples, despite not using that name. Every village and town or district in Japan will have its own Shinto shrine, dedicated to the local kami.

A flame shaped boshi pattern.

The shape of the turn back of the boshi pattern.

Term used to descrive modern Japanese Naval swords.

A swordsmith

A square shape to the back of the Mune.

Shinto is based on belief in, and worship of, Kami or ‘spirits’. Kami can be elements of the landscape or forces of nature. For a well produced background on Kami, please visit the BBC website here.

Chinese writing characters used in Japan. Our calligraphy artist Houso Oguri produces lovely Kanji artwork that you can see here.

The study and appraisal of Japanese swords.

General term for the thickness of the blade.

The general term for a long sword (2-shaku) 60.6cm or greater, worn cutting edge up through the sash. 


Name given to the signature on the side of the tang which is AWAY from the body when the blade is worn with the cutting edge up.

A sword polisher. Here is a photo of a sword polisher’s workshop in Kamakura, Japan.

A sword stand horizontal display.

A sword shape with a ridgeline on one side only and the other side flat.

Straight sword which is double edged.

A butt end of the tang with a symmetrical V-shape.

Whitish golden lines along or in the Yakiba.

The point of the blade. Many shapes. 

The style of forging.

Various flaws or defects in a blade. Literal translation: “cut or scratch”.

Term given to short tachi blades usually 60.6cm or less from the Kamakura period.

This is the collective term for all the fittings except the Tsuba.

A hair arranger which fits into a pocket in the scabbard and is withdrawn through the tsuba (Hitsu Ana). 

Fitting on the bottom end of the scabbard. 

A blade point of short length in proportion to the width of the blade near the tang.

A small round boshi.

Small wood burl grain Hada.

Tiny Nie (Martinsite) crystals along the Hamon.

Sword mountings including scabbard, fittings, and handle. 

A type of blade curve which has the maximum curve point nearer the tang than the middle.

Old swords. Usually means swords made before 1596.

A short wakizashi.

Small utility knife which fits into the pocket in the scabbard. 

Chestnut shaped tang end. 

Knob on the side of the scabbard for the belt cord.

Notches in the blade to stop the Habaki. Edge side is the Hamachi; back side is the Munemachi.

When the notches have been moved up the blade.

The braid for wrapping handles.

The round end of a groove.

Rounded back edged of the blade.

Straight grain


The peg holding the handle on the sword. 

The hole for the Mekugi. 

Ornaments under the handle wrapping to improve the grip. 

Irregular Hamon patterns.

Irregular clove shapes in the Hamon.

The general term for the width of a sword blade (from the back edge to the cutting edge). 

Term for a three surface back edge of the blade.

This is the white diagonal stripe at the base of a retempered blade.

A burl wood grain Hada (body).

This is the striking area of the blade, generally 12-16cm inches below the point (Kissaki). 

This is a doubled-edged sword.

This is the width of the blade measured at the Habaki (collar of the blade).

A blade without a signature. 

The back edge of the blade. 

The notch in the back of the blade to stop the Habaki.

This is the term for a temper pattern along the back edge of the blade.

A blade without curvature (sori). 

A type of koshirae used on a Naginata in the late Kamakura and early Muromachi periods . It came from the fact that the hilt for the long blade was wrapped with a cord or a leather strip wound around it.

The length of the blade. 

A long hafted sword, wielded in large sweeping strokes. This is a sword blade of one of several similar shapes that was used attached to a long pole. It is also referred to as a polearm.

The tang of the blade. The part of the blade that fits into the handle.

A general term used for the butt end of the tang. 

The back edge of the tang.

General term for foreign steel.

The period of the Northern and Southern dynasties, ~1333 to 1392. Here is a Nobukuni wakizashi from the Nambokucho period.

Corrected or repaired.

Martensite crystals formed during the heating and quenching process. Nie are crystals which are large enough to be viewed as individual particles.

The same as Nie except that these particles are too small to be discernible to the naked eye and appear like a mist or fog.

A term refering to a Hamon outline that is wavelike. 

Hamon of large choji patterns.

The side of the sword away from the body as it is worn. The opposite side is called the ura or back.

A certificate of appraisal.

Blade signature folded into the opposite of the tang when the blade is shortened.

A rubbing of the inscription on the tang. Here is an example of an Oshigata on a certificate.

A shortened sword losing all or most of the original tang.

Longer Wakizashi, almost 2-shaku (60.6cm) in length.

The cord or braid attached to the Kurikata on one side of the scabbard. 

Term given for a re-tempered edge.

Choji shapes slanting down toward the base of the blade.

The width of the blade at the Kissaki (point of the blade). 

Curvature of the blade with the more pronounced curve toward the point.

Patch of skin from a ray fish used on sword handles and sometimes on scabbards. 

Samurai warriors were the elite of four classes of Japanese feudal society; samurai, farmers, craftsmen, and then merchants. The samurai were expected to bring security to the members of the other three classes. The term, samurai, is 
a derivative of the Japanese verb for service, “saburau”. Samurai literally means “one who is a servant”, and that is how they began, as ‘servants’ to Emperor Tenmu back in the 7th century.
Samurai were inspired by Bushido “Military-Knight-Ways” is an unwritten code of moral principles which the knights (samurai) were required or instructed to observe. Bushido made the sword its emblem of power and prowess. The very possession of such an instrument imparts to him a feeling and an air of self-respect and responsibility. What he carries in his belt is a symbol of what he carries in his mind and heart, – loyalty and honor.

A “three-tree” type pattern Hamon (temper line). Swordsmith Kanemoto of Mino province (modern-day Gify prefecture) was famous for this.

The scabbard or sheath. 

The washers used to fill the space between the tsuba and the sword. 

Literal translation: “stomach-cutting”. Known also as Hara-kiri. A form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment. A good article can be read here.

The Japanese unit of measurement equaling 30.3cm (11.93 inches). A tanto measures less than 1 shaku, a wakizashi measures between 1 and 2 shaku, and a katana is 2 shaku or more in length.
1 shaku = 30.30cm (11.93 inches)
1 shaku = 10 sun
1 sun = 3.03cm (1.193 inches)
1 sun = 10 bu
1 bu = .3030cm (0.119 inches)
1 bu = 10 rin
1 rin = .03030cm (0.01193 inches)

Small cracks cross-ways in a blade. A flaw.

Ridges on each side of the blade. 

These are swords made with a ridge line, the most prevalent type of sword. 

These are ‘New swords’. Swords produced between 1596 and about 1800.

The essence of Shinto is the Japanese devotion to invisible spiritual beings and powers called kami, to shrines, and to various rituals. Shinto has no known founder or single sacred scripture.
Shinto is wholly devoted to life in this world and emphasises man’s essential goodness. For a well produced background on Shintoism.

Literal translation: “New, new swords.” Swords between 1800 and 1870.

White wooden scabbard usually made from Japanese ‘Honoki’ wood. 

These are handmade blades made after 1926.

The term for the curvature of the sword. 

This is a sword with a straight Hamon paralleling the edge curve. 

The Japanese measure for one-tenth of a shaku.
1 shaku = 30.30cm (11.93 inches)
1 shaku = 10 sun
1 sun = 3.03cm (1.193 inches)
1 sun = 10 bu
1 bu = .3030cm (0.119 inches)
1 bu = 10 rin
1 rin = .03030cm (0.01193 inches)

Sweeping lines along the Hamon like floating sand ridges.

Longer than average Wakizashi or Tanto.

A shortened blade. Generally performed from the base of the blade by cutting the Nakago.

The general term for swords slung blade down, carried mainly on horseback. Tachi swords were mainly produced during the Heian period (794 to 1185) and the Kamakura period (1185–1333)

This is a sword rack or stand for a Tachi.

This is the name given to a sword whose signature (mei) is on the side of the tang which is away from the body when the blade is worn slung with the cutting edge down.

Term given to the cutting test on a sword.

Short daggers less than one shaku in length (30.3cm).

Polish on a sword.

The curvature of the sword with the deepest part in the center of the blade.

A sword guard.

A sword handle (hilt).

The braid for wrapping handle, normally made of silk.

The sword handle wrapping.

This is the term for the ‘mirror’ wooden sword that keeps the Koshirae intact when the blade is in the Shirasaya.

An original unaltered tang.

A type of curve that bends slightly towards, rather than away from, the cutting edge.

The side of the sword next to the body when the sword is worn.

A misty reflection found on the ji and shinoji of swords of every possible type of surface grain. These faint lines appear to reflect the Hamon.

Medium length sword between one and two feet. See available Wakizashi swords here.

A kogai split to form chopsticks.

The tempered surface along the edge.

The end section of the Hamon near the tang.

Retempered blades.

A spear.

File marks on the tang.

The line separating the blade portion of the sword from the point portion. 

(勇気). A quote from Prince Mito: 揑t is true courage to live when it is right to live, and to die only when it is right to die.�As titled in Chapter IV, BUSHIDO by Inazo Nitobe 揅ourage, the spirit of daring and bearing.

A tang with signature. Visit our page with detailed information on parts of a Japanese sword.

Japanese equivalent for the Dhyana, which “represents human effort to reach through meditation zones of thought beyond the range of verbal expression.” (Lafcadio Hearn, Exotics and Retrospectives, p. 84)

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How to Grind a Fuller on a Sword or Knife

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The elusive fuller. For a long time I struggled with them. For almost as long I was really unhappy with the way mine used to turn out. Then I read Tinker Pearce’s The Medieval Sword in the Modern World, and finally I was able to develop a technique of my own standing on the knowledge Tinker imparts in that seminal book that allowed me to fuller swords with excellent results.

I’m not going to discuss the merits of fullering swords here, so much has been written about it already. I will say though that aesthetically a fuller is a very attractive addition to a sword, and getting them right is challenging. If you know how though, it gets easier and easier each time you do it.

So here’s the dilemma: most modern grinding equipment has a broad face. This means that it is not easy to get grinding gear into the fuller in the first place. The second problem is, when you get the grinder into the fuller, keeping it straight is difficult. People set up rigs, others use mills, others yet use CNC grinding gear. None of them are great solutions though for the following reasons (in order). Rigs tend to require a fuller to be uniformly wide the length of the sword, as do mills. CNC gear is prohibitively expensive for the average sword maker.

The solution I find works best presumes you have a belt grinder. I don’t mean a belt sander either, because take it from me, if you use them to make swords they won’t last long – the wheels they use are not designed for heat and heavy contact like a belt grinder which is designed for metal.

You really need something like this to do a fuller like the one I will be demonstrating. If you don’t you can still do fuller but you’ll need to do them with an angle grinder on a stand, using a rig made of pieces of timber to guide the sword.

First mark out your fuller:


I like Sharpies because the ink has amazing staying power and they are non-toxic, but any permanent marker or engineer’s chalk is fine.

As mentioned above, the contact wheel cannot be run up and down the area where I want the fuller, mine just wouldn’t fit, it’s 2 inches across. You might get away with it with a smaller contact wheel, but you would probably struggle to get the nice round hollow shape that most fullers are.

Next you start grinding! Hold the sword by the tang and the tip. Tinker points out that this part of the sword making is best done before any other grinding has been done, and it’s very true. This is for a bunch of reasons: if you muck it up you can figure out how to fix it more easily, it’s almost impossible to get a good result with a fuller on a sword that has distal taper or the edge bevels in place already. There are other reasons too, take it from Tink though, do the fuller first!

Run the sword up and down, taking a little more off each time. I like using a 60 grit for this stage, but you might prefer a 40 or 80. You could theoretically do this part with a bench top grinder stone if you don’t have a bench grinder belt attachment, but I haven’t tried it so I can’t vouch for it either way.

It will take time, believe me, you will probably be going at this for hours. I get my blanks prehardened so I keep them cool with a watering can I keep outside my grinding room. Always pour water over the sword on the grass outdoors WELL AWAY from powertools! Also, always wear rubber soled shoes when working with electrically driven power tools! I hope I don’t also need to point out that you should ALWAYS, ALWAYS wear eye protection. It only takes one little piece of metal at the right angle to take out an eye, and no sword is worth that. I wear a pretty heavy duty dust mask with a latex frame and replaceable catridge type filters, but I make sword as an occupation, but I understand this isn’t practicable for the average hobbyist so get yourself some good dust masks and make sure they are fitted tightly. I use welding gloves to grind with, as when I was a starter making swords I suffered two major hand injuries from angle grinders, and f$%k they hurt, not to mention that I could have lost a finger. Just remember all this stuff. It can happen to you. That doesn’t mean it will, but why the hell take the risk?

After many hours of grinding when you’re happy with the shape move on to 80, then 120, then 320. Tink then uses a buffing wheel to remove the horizontal lines that will be left in the fuller, which is a fantastic way to finish it off. Unfortunately I don’t have a buffing wheel attachment, so I do the next best thing which is get some emery paper over a small block of wood I rounded off on one side. These are easy to make, and you can make different ones for different types of fullers. The other great thing about ‘blocking’ like this is that it removes any waviness in the fuller. Tink can probably grind a fuller spot on by feel, but I’m not that good, so the block goes a long way to tidying my work up.

You’ll be left then with a very pretty custom fuller like this:


I’ve tried a few other ways of doing this, to say the least, but this consistently produces the best results for me. I’ve tried flap discs but they were problematic because the edges tend to score a crooked line in the fuller when used at an acute angle. I’ve also tried using flap wheels on a dril which results in bumpiness in the fuller.

With practice and a bit of patience you’ll be able to use your bench grinder to create beautiful fullers using the technique described above. I’ve tried so many other ways of doing this, and to date, I’ve never found a technique that works as well.

Happy grinding!

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Finished sword:

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What to Look for in a Functional Sword – Sword-Site.Com: The World’s Largest Free Online Sword Museum! http://www.sword-site.com

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10 or so years ago when I was starting to make swords and buy them I really had no idea what to look for in a sword. Thinking about this recently made me decide it would be a good idea to explain some of the basics to make it simple for beginners who are looking to buy a sword. I will discuss here the basics right through to some of the finer points as I understand them.


Stainless steel is great for knives. For swords though it is not so great, unless they are intended for decoration only. Actually it can be dangerous. Once a length of stainless steel gets to about a foot long, or if ground too thin, it becomes weak enough that the amount of force a human can exert upon it will make it prone to breaking. This is because while stainless steel is hard, the hardness comes at the cost of being more brittle.

You’ll notice that on alot of knives made of stainless very sturdy ‘grinds’ are used. In other words the steel is left thick in a decent portion of the blade. For instance bowie knives tend to have a long flat surface which is as thick as the stock the knife was ground from, this is to counteract stainless steel’s being prone to breaking if it is too thin. On a sturdy knife stainless steel is perfectly safe, and an excellent choice of material because it is extremely resistant to corrosion.

So while a stainless steel sword is great for a display piece, it is unwise to use one to spar with one, and also using them to cut water bottles and tatami mats can result in them breaking. The piece or pieces that come off during the breaking of the sword are very dangerous and have resulted in serious injuries. They are as likely to hit the person wielding them or bystanders.


It’s a tautologous term in some ways because steel by definition is a combination of iron and carbon. When the term ‘carbon steel’ is used in regards to a sword though it generally refers to high carbon steel.

Mild steel contains 0.3 – 0.6% carbon and is generally not considered an optimal material for knives and swords. This is because it does not harden as well as steels with higher carbon and alloy content, so it is more prone to bending and does not hold an edge as well as high carbon steels.

High Carbon steel contains 0.6–0.99% carbon and so will harden better and hold an edge better. In the context of a sword a high carbon sword will flex like a spring when properly heat treated and ground / forged into an appropriate shape. Importantly high carbon steels used for swords also contain a number of other elements that impart a number of qualities to the steel. High Carbon steels for use in swords are often referred to by their American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) designations, for instance 1060 contains 0.6% carbon – 1095 contains 0.95%. Outside of the sword world these steels are frequently used for things like Industrial Guillotines.

Two other elements worth mentioning (though there are also many others but time and space does not permit a full discussion of all of them here)are Maganese and Silicon. Maganese increases hardenability, as does copper – copper also imparts a modest amount of corrosion resistance (minor compared to stainless steel however). These elements will both be found in High Carbon Steels. Silicon, found in many spring steels imparts springiness. Spring Steels are high carbon steels but have an extra set of qualities. Some people prefer them. The afforementioned 10 series steels are technically spring steels, but have a lower silicon content than steels from the 5, 6 and 9 series (for instance 5160). Some makers prefer the latter, others the former. All of them are great, it comes down to a matter of taste, suitability for the type of sword and so on. In the world of industry these spring steels are often used in automotive springs.

Tool Steel generally places accent on Vanadium content. Vanadium imparts steel with shock resistant qualities, so the steel may be in some ways ‘softer’ though this would hardly be noticeable except in laboratory conditions, but can withstand more shock without developing stress fractures. Tool steel is frequently used in, you guessed it, tools! Tool steels have names like O1, L2, L6 and so on.

All of the above specialities steels with the exception of mild are perfectly suitable for a sword, and none of them are superior to each other, they just have different uses, and slightly different qualities.

If you are interested in learning more about steels, Wikipedia represents an excellent and free starting point. I’ve made a summary above in my own words, but if you are serious about acquiring a deep technical understanding of steel sources like Wikipedia, and technical manuals will always be superior to abbreviated summaries.



I could write alot about distal taper, and alot has been written. Rather than slow the narrative down though I will explain the basics and let you do your own thinking about it, because you will find with regards to distal taper that everyone has an opinion, but that no one has all the answers.

Distal taper is taper of the sword’s thickness. In general this will result in a sword that is thinner at the point and thicker at the base. What this does is help the sword’s balance in the hand, and affects the way the sword will flex. Some swords have lots, others have none. A sword without any can work just fine, in fact some swords suit having none.

It is really up to you how important distal taper is to you on a particular sword, so don’t believe anyone who tries to convince you they have the be all and end all answers on distal taper, often it is a matter of taste and suitability.


Heat treatment is how steel has been ‘cooked’. Steel will come from the steel factory in an unhardened state, and then can be hardened according to needs by the end user. What this entails in the context of a sword is heating the sword until it is so hot is no longer magnetic (about 1200 c) – it will be about a red colour. It is then ‘quenched’ which means it is rapidly cooled by immersion in liquid. For swords the quenching medium is usually oil.

This hardens the steel. The steel is reheated to about 400 c and then either quenched again or allowed to cool in the air. This makes the steel springy. The end result is steel that is hard and springy, not brittle.

There are other technical aspects of heat treatment and finer aspects, but the above represents the basics. If you want to know more the Wikipedia article linked below presents excellent in depth information and links to further relevant material:



This is a term that refers to the shape of the cutting edge of a sword. Most modern knives have a bevel and then a secondary bevel which is the part that does the cutting. Alot of historical swords had the same type of edge geometry. Others had a smoother transition and this is often called ‘appleseed’ geometry. It is a bit like a parabolic curve.

Neither is superior. Both will cut fine. It is a matter of choice and taste which you prefer.


Alot of historic swords had hilts which were ultimately held in place by burnishing the end of the steel that came through the centre of the handle and through the pommel (the piece of metal at the very end of the hilt). Peening is still used today.

Other methods of holding a hilt together include riveting the grip to the tang (the tang is the metal underneath the handle / grip which is connected to the rest of the sword). This was also done historically.

Yet another way of holding a hilt together is with a nut at the end of the tang, which allows for the sword to be relatively easily disassembled. This method came into use around the 16th century and so is also a historically represented technique.

All three of the above methods will hold a sword together just fine, and again it is a matter of taste which you prefer.

Another method which is found occasionally is where the pommel is screwed on to the tang. This method can hold a sword together tightly but is not as popular as the above method, because unless the pommel is also affixed with epoxy resin, this method can be prone to rattling and coming loose unintentionally. If done properly though it can be a perfectly acceptable way to secure a hilt.


This one comes up quite a bit. In short it is a matter or taste. In the past it was necessary that all swords were forged – steel had to be refined in this way to make it suitable for use as a sword. Nowdays the steel comes out of the Steel Mill so pure that forging is optional, and results seem to indicate that it does not produce superior swords but rather ones of equal quality.

Often you will find that sword makers tend to forge a sword either to create an interesting effect in the metal like pattern welding (where two or more types of steel are forged together then etched, the different reactions the two steels make to the acid producing a pattern); or the steel is forged so that a shape that is not otherwise practicably achievable – like the curve in a scimitar.


This is an area that is very controversial in swords. Ultimately the controversy is due to huge variances in personal taste.

For this reason I believe it is preferable for people to make their own minds up, try different types, and see what they prefer.

You will find issues discussed like nodes (where a sword vibrates when the blade is struck), point of balance (where the sword balances when held on one finger like a see saw), pivot points (the axis around where a sword pivots when swung) and many others.

It is up to you what is important – if they interest you learn about them, if not do not worry.

Myself personally, while I have spent a long time learning about them, I prefer to judge a sword by how it feels overall and whether it suits my tastes. You may find that you like analysing statistics and data before making a choice. There is no perfect answer, it really is up to you.


Below is a chart provided by Wikipedia that names the various parts of a cruciform European Sword. This diagram represents all the basic elements of sword, and if you know the names of the parts listed in this diagram you will likely not need to know or master many other names:


+ + + + +

I hope you have enjoyed this brief introduction to the world of swords! Rather than drawing acute conclusion I have attempted to present the basics in an open way. Do not let anyone close your mind about swords, or try to convince you that they have all the answers. You will find the people who attempt to do that never know as much as they claim to, and either have a financial or ego driven stake in trying to convince you that they know everything.

Keep your mind open. I have learnt a great deal about steel from professional metal workers like welders and fabricators. I wouldn’t have been able to learn the incredible things they have taught me if I strutted around as a sword maker pretending I knew everything.

Welcome to the world of swords and enjoy the ride!


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Alae Swords Heavy Infantry Spathion – Sword-Site.Com: The World’s Largest Free Online Sword Museum! http://www.sword-site.com

Sword-Site.Com: The World’s Largest Free Online Sword Museum!


Hi All!

So I just finished off another Spathion, this one with a fuller and a characteristically Byzantine down turned cross guard.

A touch over 30 inches long, 1.3kg (2.8lbs), blade width of 8cm (3.14 inches). Peened, countersunk pommel, pommel also rammed on and cold fitted as was the guard.

Handles like a dream, a real ‘hewer’. Makes beautiful sweeping cuts and is excellently balanced for thrusting. Really happy with this one!

Excited to watch the verdigris develop on the guard and pommel!

I did a hand polish on this sword, which I’ve grown really fond of. It’s has a more dynamic appearance, the grain is more alive.

I used Tasman Oak on the grip held in place with two tonne per square inch strength epoxy. The grip was then wrapped in hemp and vegetable tanned goat leather.

All Australian materials and workmanship as always!





Bill Blake – Alae Swords


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Assymetries on Historic & Modern Swords – Sword-Site.Com: The World’s Largest Free Online Sword Museum! http://www.sword-site.com

Sword-Site.Com: The World’s Largest Free Online Sword Museum! http://www.sword-site.com

*This is the article that got me kicked off SBG! Yes, I am very proud of myself! XD

Example of a beautiful historic sword clearly demonstrating assymetries: The sword has undergone a transformation from tool to art, but it is not quite sitting in art as it should, by this I mean I have never heard an art critic berrate Da Vinci or Rembrandt for visible brush strokes. There are modern examples, like Peter Lyon who I consider to be a true master. Even his work has assymetries in it, but is by no means the result of sloppy work: And that’s the product of a guy at the top of his game, with other craftsman assisting him on his swords. Then there are historical examples like the Sword of Saint Maurice, which clearly was not Roman in origin as the contemporary Germans may have insisted, and was likely commissioned by the top strata of society, therefore produced by the best available craftsmen: But I don’t believe any of this makes them less beautiful, quite the opposite and I do not think the above examples show anything but excellent skill in manufacture. I think to a certain extent we have fallen victim to photoshopped images depicting perfection, which invariably are false. For example this picture of one of Peter Lyon’s swords once the photographers, lighting technicians and photoshop tweekers have gotten hold of it: In my view a process similar to what has happened to women’s body image via photoshopped magazine images has taken place. It has left us wanting something that doesn’t exist, isn’t attainable and made us dissatisfied with everything. As an example: The one of the left is still a beautiful albeit plastic surgery enhanced face, but the one on the right more like a computer generated image than a photo. * * * * * The Importance of Assymetries & the Physical Function they Impart I believe there is a link between the asymmetrical properties of handmade swords as compared to automatically machined swords which makes them inherently better. Going through the motions with a CNC milled sword one day it struck me how lifeless the sword felt. I then repeated the same motions with a hand made sword, which had asymmetries and other humanistic attributes. The sword felt so much more alive. After much thought on the subject I think I know why. I believe the quality of a sword being alive is intrinsically linked to variations in the distribution of mass. CNC milled swords do not features these qualities, and although balance may technically be more precise, the numbers do no tell the whole story. A sword with edges that are not uniformly thick, whose pommel may be slightly thicker in one direction, whose blade features more mass on one side than another though it may seem at a disadvantage, I believe the hand made piece has an unforeseen advantage. This I believe is what makes hand crafted swords better than CNC milled swords. It’s ironic, because some people go OCD over variances and asymmetries in their swords. Although distal taper, balance, percussion, harmonics and all the rest are still critical elements, I think that a mathematically symmetrical sword will never provide the performance of a well hand crafted sword and it is the idiosyncrasies of a particular excellent sword that set it apart. The CNC milling process is a cost cutting measure, but I believe it will never replace the work of a skilled craftsman. An analogy can be seen in music – real instruments and human performers as opposed to electronica. My proposition in no way diminishes the importance of excellent workmanship. One must learn the rules to break them. I’ve been at swords for ten years, and I’ve put my work out for public scrutiny. Some people like my work, others don’t, and that’s ok with me. But I am not some critic with no work of his own for others examine, firing off shots at other people who are out there having a go. I’ve done the hard yards, filing, hand finishing, using stones, forging and grinding, and while I always feel I have room for improvement, I do feel like I have a decent handle on the basics and produce good work. My moment of revelation came as I was pondering the virtues of swords. I had always felt that there was something superior about good hand made swords, but I could never put my finger on it. It is quite distracting to see so many posts on other forums where people get OCD about minor variances on a hand made blade, and I believe this had distracted me from realizing what makes a handmade sword better earlier. In an age where technical perfection is now more achievable than ever, it is ironic that the human hand is what produces the best swords. Swords are not machine parts, treating them like they should be is a step in the wrong direction. Rather the sword is and will always be defined by the individuality of its personality, the idiosyncrasies of its design, the love imbued into its form while crafting it, and the humanistic qualities of its manufacture. Below are more examples of high end historic swords showing that the modern obsession of reviewers for things like milled guards that fit a sword to within microns are in fact just that, modern obsessions that bear no historical counterpart: The beautiful ‘Charlemagne Sword’ – can you imagine how a typical modern review might deal with the tang slot on this sword of Kings? Bill Blake – Alae Swords http://www.alaeswords.com Read more: http://sword-site.com

How to Care for my Sword? Sword-Site.Com: The World’s Largest Free Online Sword Museum! http://www.sword-site.com

Sword-Site.Com: The World’s Largest Free Online Sword Museum!


A fine sabre from Alae Swords cleaned and oiled to perfection.

A fine sabre from Alae Swords cleaned and oiled to perfection.

How to Care for Your Sword

Demystifying sword care is a difficult thing on the internet, but sword blade care it is a basic and straight forward task if you know how.

* * * * *

Firstly carbon steel swords are subject to corrosion. This can happen because of finger oils on the blade, humidity in the air and time, but with a little effort you can forestall this corrosion (rusting) with ease.

This is a simple task so I will make this article brief. There is no magic formula.

A Few Basics:

Don’t touch the blade, or if you do remove your fingerprints with denatured alcohol (methylated spirits) and then apply a thin even coating of mineral oil (baby oil).

Use mineral oil, not organically derived oils (olive oil, canola etc.) There is good reason for this, organic oils tend to be acidic (acid eats at reactive substances like carbon steel) and organic oils attract microbial life. See this article for more information on mineral oil: Mineral Oil for Sword Scabbards & Organic Elements

Methylated spirits / denatured alcohol will strip away any residual oils or substances and leave the blade ready to be oiled. Don’t get alcohol on any paint work or dyed wood because it may affect the colour. It is fine to get on brass and works as a good cleaner. Use a clean cotton rag or tissue to do this process, and a separate one for the oil (if you put them both on using the same applicator the oil will separate and not coat evenly).

Provided your scabbard is well oiled using mineral oil, and does not have moisture in it, your blade can be stored in the scabbard almost indefinitely. Ewart Oakeshott frequently attests to this phenomena in his Records of the Medieval Sword. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you not to store your sword in its scabbard as they are wrong.

Oil the interior of your scabbard by pouring a liberal amount of mineral into it and then inverting, using a finger or your palm to seal the mouth / throat of the scabbard closed. Invert and repeat until you are sure the mineral oil has evenly coated the scabbard.

That’s all there is to it! Follow these procedures and your sword will be trouble free! For the sake of thoroughness oil and or clean it as necessary, or every six months. The idea of a scabbard is to keep air off your sword and protect the edges from causing injury when sheathed. I have been caring for a sword and only oiled it every eighteen months and it has been completely corrosion free – the scabbard has been doing its job and I have been thorough in cleaning and oiling it. Ensure for long term storage that you do saturate the lining of your scabbard with mineral oil.

Being Careful

Be careful with the sharp edges when you are oiling or cleaning. It only takes a small miscalculation to end up with a cut finger. As a rule lay you fingers flat when cleaning so as the completely avoid the sharp edge, and press very softly on the edges when necessary. A cotton rag will provide more protection to your fingers than a tissue, but both are fine if you go slowly and carefully.

Remember with swords – safety always first. A sword can kill quickly and even accidentally. Never unsheath a sword near anyone. Never swing a sword anywhere near any one at all, even if you think a person is a safe distance they can still end up in the morgue if a sword comes loose from your hand when swinging. An accidental stroke can kill someone you didn’t know was behind you. BE CAREFUL.


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