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Colt Reeves

Joined: 09 Mar 2009

Posts: 466

PostPosted: Sun 05 Apr, 2009 3:41 pm    Post subject: Grip Thickness?         Reply with quote

In a vaguely related topic as I typed up in "Average" Longswords, I was wondering about grip thicknesses.

I feel like the hilts on my swords are somewhat on the thin side, although they do not appear any different from most swords of their types (I have a Five-lobed Viking Sword and a Baron's Sword, both Windlass). Firstly I believe this is partly because of my previous training in Tae Kwon Do, where we used fairly thick long and short staffs. Secondly I feel it is also due in part to my favorite SLO (Viking Spirit Sword) having a very thick hilt. Lastly, I have average length fingers/hands, but am slim and lacking in grip-strength, thus I feel like I get a better grip on something thicker. I imagine I will gain strength as I practice and this issue may well go away.

What I wanted to know: What advantages/disadvantages are there to a thinner hilt or a thicker one? I'd hate to go to all the effort of replacing the hilts to find it throws off certain techniques or something. Basically, in your opinions, am I better off practicing til I get used to the thinner hilts or should I "upgrade"?

Let's assume I do switch out the hilts. This would result in a hilt being thicker than the crossguard and pommel. I don't recall seeing many swords like that. Think there's anything special I should do where it connects? I was thinking of running the wood up and over the crossguard on my Baron's, adding in some metal pieces so I could have some sort of sword-catcher, but I don't know how period that would be.

Hmmm... Another one of my vague topics asking for help on something with clear concise information such as "average" and "thick/thin". I sense a pattern. Big Grin
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Vincent Le Chevalier

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PostPosted: Mon 06 Apr, 2009 8:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well of course we lack some quantitative assessment here Happy What's thick, what's thin for you?

Bear in mind that sword grips are generally not cylinders, i.e. they have width and thickness and this is actually important as it gives an indication of edge alignement, something you don't need on a staff. So if your handle ends up being as thick as wide it's probably not right if it's the case over the whole grip.

Handle shapes can be a bit complex to describe. You could have a handle that is cylindrical near the pommel, then widens toward the middle where it's wider than thick, then tapers in thickness towards the cross. I imagine it's difficult to adjust...

You should look at the reviews here, as they provide detailed pictures and sometimes a side-shot of the grip can be seen, for example the Talhoffer review shows one.

If you're lucky a swordmaker might chime in and tell us more about how they see the problem.

From a practical point of view I don't find that bigger handles give a more secure grip. I feel it forces my hand to adopt more of a hammer position, which is not always the best suited for the fencing techniques. On the other hand a grip that is too thin in relation to its width can be uncomfortable though usable. A grip that is too narrow could indicate that the tang underneath is not solid enough which would be even more of a problem.

If you're building a wooden sword with a wooden cross of sufficient solidity, I don't think the handle should be thicker than the cross. This would be a good deal thicker than on real swords.

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Elling Polden

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PostPosted: Mon 06 Apr, 2009 5:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I like quite thin grips. My fighting sword hilt is only 2 cm thick.
The reason for this is that I use a lot of wheel/moulinett movements (where you rotate the sword with your wrist). When doing this, you are basically holding the sword with just your thumb and index finger. If the grip is to thick or round this is much harder.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Mon 06 Apr, 2009 9:30 pm    Post subject: Grip sections         Reply with quote


I think you should work with the grips as they come to you for a while prior to altering them. The modern concept of how something should feel in the hand is not based on what the period users where doing. It is associated with tools and concepts from todays use of said tools and the science of ergonomics. This can be as obvious as the purchase of a hammer at the local hardware store to how door knobs and hand rails are designed today.

If one starts to think about what you grab and move with your hand on a daily basis it becomes quite clear how we are orientated to a certain "feel" in the hand. This has plagued the reproduction and SLO market for years. When you pick up a round gripped sword it is because the structure of a sword is not understood by the maker. Or conversely I have been told for years that the grips we make " are to small, I have big hands and need a bigger grip."

When you look at the originals and see how they shaped the grips it is sometimes startling to realize the distinct shape they wanted in a sword to be used as opposed to us today applying what we think a grip should feel like.

The most extreme examples I have seen are some of the nordic swords that literally have grips that are maybe 1/5 or less the dimension of their width. Yes we are talking less than a cm in some cases.

This will sometimes strike modern users as just wrong but time after time the thickness of a grip will surprise you in its slimness as opposed to being thick.

One very important aspect of this, is to realize that when one has a weapon in their hand it is quite important to keep it in the hand. If the grip is to large it makes it quite easy to take the weapon from the user with a simple application of a slight bit of force in the right direction. The grip of a sword is designed to fit well with in the closed hand and to be able to stay there even if a concerted effort is made to remove it.

Hope this helps

Best Craig
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James R.Fox

Location: Youngstowm,Ohio
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PostPosted: Mon 13 Apr, 2009 5:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sirs-Again, this fitting the grip to your hand is the job of the cutler, not the swordsmith
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Jean Thibodeau

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PostPosted: Mon 13 Apr, 2009 5:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

James R.Fox wrote:
Sirs-Again, this fitting the grip to your hand is the job of the cutler, not the swordsmith

This separation of tasks may be traditional in period but today a single craftsman may well do the entire job as there are no period guild rules forbidding the maker of the blade from also making the grip or even the scabbard.

At least this is true of custom makers today or small semi-production makers.

The larger factory made swords in China or India may well have different workers specialize in making the different parts of a sword and possibly Albion also has employees who make only grips.

I get your point about how things where done in the past but the " modern way " isn't inferior as long as the maker knows how to do both jobs, and most do.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Nate C.

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PostPosted: Mon 13 Apr, 2009 7:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote


First off, "sword catchers" are to my knowledge, never period correct on a sword. There were several different types of parrying daggers made during the Renaissance for this purpose.

You don't say where you are from, but if you've ever swung a baseball bat, you know that the handle is actually very thin. this is so the grip can shift in your hand through the swing. The sword grip being "small" is for the same reason. (Note that a bat is MUCH different than a sword, but the principle is the same). As you fight with a sword, you hand has to change position on the grip and manipulate the blade orientation. The smaller grip helps you do this with ease (try rolling a grape in your fingers, then switch to a grapefruit Happy ). It also allows you to have a more... um... pliable? flexible? adaptable? grip on your weapon. The fact that the grip isn't round helps you know where the edge is and keep it oriented correctly for the situation. Note that the staffs you are used to don't have this issue.

I hope that helps explain things.


Nate C.

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Renato F.

Joined: 21 Nov 2015

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PostPosted: Sat 21 Nov, 2015 3:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I also think that a thinner hilt makes the sword less easy to slip out of the hand.

You can test this by holding a sword with a thick hilt ,then pressing down on the back/spine/upper part of the blade (folded towel against the edge) and see how easy it is to keep holding onto the hilt.
Then hold the thinner hilt of a sword, and push down on the blade.See which one sticks better in hand(sorry for my English, it's not my native language).

In my experience a thicker handle is much easier to be pushed/pried out of the hand through leverage.
I have tested this only with machetes though.
But the principles are the same.
A sword with a thick hilt is much easier pried out of the hand..

With tools, handle comfort is very important.
But in combat,.. you really don't want to let go of your sword/weapon.
That aspect is even more important then comfort.
The thick hilts might feel nice and comfortable and highly ergonomic.
But it doesn't mean that it stays tight in the hand as a thinner hilt .

The question is, what are the measerements of a hilt being thick.
When closing my hand around the handle, and fingers barely touching the base of my hand,that is thick in my experience.
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Mikko Kuusirati

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PostPosted: Sun 22 Nov, 2015 5:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The thing about Windlass grips is not really that they're too thin - often it's actually the opposite! - but that they're too uniform. Historical grips are almost never the same width nor thickness all the way through their length, either being more or less barrel-shaped or flaring out at the ends. You can look at the reviews of Albion swords here to see lots of good photographs showing this.
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