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Michael Wiethop




Location: St. Louis
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PostPosted: Wed 10 Apr, 2013 9:34 pm    Post subject: On blade and grip curvature         Reply with quote

I've been curious lately as to two things about swords.

1. What advantages, if any, does a curved blade have over a straight one, and vice versa? I've heard that sabers usually cut better but straight swords usually thrust better, though I've also heard that that's just a myth or exaggeration and that there is not much of a difference between the designs.
2. What advantages might a well-curved grip have over a straight one, and vice versa? Would a curved grip be more comfortable to hold and easier to thrust with?

I'll admit I'm terribly ignorant of swords and I've never really handled a proper one, but it seems to me like a curved grip would better fit the human hand than a straight one. They're silly examples, but I've noticed just how remarkably comfortable bananas are to hold, and how it's easier and more comfortable to thrust with a kukri than with a straight knife. I get the impression that a curved grip helps avoid wrist strain, makes pointing and accurately thrusting easier, and so on. But of course, if this were the case, then why do so very few swords have strongly curved grips while almost all of them have straight grips? As far as I know, only sword with a well-curved grip is the ginunting, and that only sometimes:

http://api.ning.com/files/8Ls-QuqArghcKnSLOES...height=465

My apologies if these topics have already been discussed, but I couldn't find any features or threads on them. I appreciate your answers!
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Mark Moore




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PostPosted: Wed 10 Apr, 2013 10:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, a curve-bladed sword with a recurved grip might be called a 'lazy-s'.......indicative of a cutter/slicer. A more 'ellegant' motion of cut than a straight blade, which might be more of a 'hacking' motion. The straight blade, with point in line with the hilt, would attract a more thrust-oriented method of use.............I'm no swordsman. Others can answer better....McM
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Nick Bourne




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PostPosted: Thu 11 Apr, 2013 9:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I thinks its to do with the shape of the blade and the motion made when cutting with a sword. As far as blade shape, a curved one will, I think, allow for a longer edge than a straight blade of similar size (as the curve makes the point between pommel and point closer than a straight edge of the same blade length). Also due to the curve, the longer edge is allowed to stay in contact with the target for longer with each cut allowing for a better slice than a straight edge which is limited to more of a chopping motion.
Hope that made some sense to someone that doesn't live in my head!
Nick
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Thu 11 Apr, 2013 2:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Some quick observations.
I have not done much fighting myself with curved blades, but I have done plenty with straight swords, and handled enough sabres.
This has a lot to do with pracal combat use, rather than abstract "damage". The maximum cutting capacity of a sword is not really that important. The important bit it is how easy it is to deliver an effective attack.

The sabre, with is bacward curve, is a better draw cutter. A straight sword that looses momentum after impact will tip out of the wound. A curved blade will "roll" along, thus making it easier to make draw cuts, and deliver effective cuts at ranges where a straight sword would snag.
On the down side, they are harder to land blows with, since its tip effectively curves away from the target. They are also easier to cover against with shield from range.

The curved grip (held sabre style) allows you to hold your sword with the tip further forward than a straight grip would allow. In some ways you can say that the curved grips on sabres are there to counter the negative effect of the blade. They also let you apply pressure to the blade for short blows and draw cuts. On the down side, you have less felexibility to the sides.

"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."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Thu 11 Apr, 2013 6:45 pm    Post subject: Re: On blade and grip curvature         Reply with quote

Michael Wiethop wrote:

1. What advantages, if any, does a curved blade have over a straight one, and vice versa? I've heard that sabers usually cut better but straight swords usually thrust better, though I've also heard that that's just a myth or exaggeration and that there is not much of a difference between the designs.


This attracted a lot of serious attention in the 19th century. The best writing on it would be Latham's paper, "The shape of sword blades":
http://bowieknifefightsfighters.blogspot.com....lades.html
and Marey's book, "Memoir on Swords":
http://books.google.com.au/books/about/Memoir...KxWGd4xt8C
http://archive.org/details/memoironswordse00maregoog

For gently curved swords (like a typical katana), it makes little difference.

Michael Wiethop wrote:

2. What advantages might a well-curved grip have over a straight one, and vice versa? Would a curved grip be more comfortable to hold and easier to thrust with?

I'll admit I'm terribly ignorant of swords and I've never really handled a proper one, but it seems to me like a curved grip would better fit the human hand than a straight one. They're silly examples, but I've noticed just how remarkably comfortable bananas are to hold, and how it's easier and more comfortable to thrust with a kukri than with a straight knife. I get the impression that a curved grip helps avoid wrist strain, makes pointing and accurately thrusting easier, and so on. But of course, if this were the case, then why do so very few swords have strongly curved grips while almost all of them have straight grips? As far as I know, only sword with a well-curved grip is the ginunting, and that only sometimes:


The forward-curved grip puts the sword into your hand fairly automatically into a variant of the handshake grip. (A variant because the pommel - due to the curve - lies in a different place.) This is better for thrusting. The hammer grip, on the other hand, is better for draw cuts.

We can find forward curved grips on a variety of Malay-Indonesian-Filipino blades, like keris, barong, various goloks and parangs etc. Also on Chinese swords (especially 19th century). Also on various other Asian swords and knives (Indian, Afghan, Persian, Caucasian, Turkish, Arab). Also on some European sabres.

There are also backward-curving hilts; these help with draw-cuts. The classic example is old Japanese tachi hilts, but they can be seen on some South-East Asian swords and knives (I've seen Burmese, Thai, and Cambodian examples).

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Fri 12 Apr, 2013 8:09 am    Post subject: Re: On blade and grip curvature         Reply with quote

Michael Wiethop wrote:
I've been curious lately as to two things about swords.

1. What advantages, if any, does a curved blade have over a straight one, and vice versa? I've heard that sabers usually cut better but straight swords usually thrust better, though I've also heard that that's just a myth or exaggeration and that there is not much of a difference between the designs.


It should also depend on what you are trying to cut. A curved blade / draw cut should be ideal for doing a lot of damage to unprotected soft tissue, but for hard targets (like armor or bone) the energy of the blow is dissipated through both space and time. To chop through bone, dent plate armor, or deal blunt trauma through mail, the ideal edged weapon would be an axe. But amongst swords, something with a wide straight blade and a lot of mass on both sides of the optimal striking point should be ideal. Its thus not surprising that this is what one sees in XIII warswords and many executioner swords.
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Michael Wiethop




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PostPosted: Sat 13 Apr, 2013 1:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the replies, all!

I asked partly because lately I've had an idea for a sword. I figured a strongly curved grip ( a continuous curve, not like a shamshir's, which only curves towards the "pommel") would fit nicely in the hand, allowing for precise thrusts, strong cuts, and general comfort. It might, however, make it difficult to cut with the back edge, so it would be a backsword, except the third or so of the blade nearest the point would be sharp on both edges to help with the thrust.

However, it now seems like this sword would be decent at thrusting but unimpressive in cutting, which I suppose is why there's never been any weapon quite like it!
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sat 13 Apr, 2013 3:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sounds like the typical 9th-10th century Central Asian sabre, and you can probably find the same combination of design elements into the 19th century.

Look at the Charlemagne sabre (either the original or the Hanwei reproduction). This fits your description as written. Does it fit your description as intended? If you prefer a straight blade, you can probably find a 19th century military sword that has the curved grip.

The curved grip makes it less suited to the draw-cut, but there are other ways of cutting, so it doesn't mean bad at cutting. Is not the kukri known for effective cutting?

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Michael Wiethop




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PostPosted: Sun 14 Apr, 2013 9:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
Sounds like the typical 9th-10th century Central Asian sabre, and you can probably find the same combination of design elements into the 19th century.

Look at the Charlemagne sabre (either the original or the Hanwei reproduction). This fits your description as written. Does it fit your description as intended? If you prefer a straight blade, you can probably find a 19th century military sword that has the curved grip.

The curved grip makes it less suited to the draw-cut, but there are other ways of cutting, so it doesn't mean bad at cutting. Is not the kukri known for effective cutting?
I suppose I don't know where to look, but aside from Charlemagne's saber I can't really find any pictures of these swords. Charlemagne's saber is reasonably close to what I'm looking for, but I want a grip nearly as curved as a banana. I'll see if I can upload a doodle from my smart pen.

Thanks for the help!
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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Sun 14 Apr, 2013 11:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are a number of sword types and cultures that had what is sometimes called a canted grip. Here are two more extremes, a US Starr 1812 and the other a Philippines talibon.

The Latham article a great overview across some of those cultures. Another would be yataghan type swords and maybe that is more what you are thinking of.

Cheers

GC



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Starr 1812.jpg


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talibon.jpg


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Bartek Strojek




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PostPosted: Sun 14 Apr, 2013 11:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

9-10th century Magyar/Khazar etc. sabres would indeed fit that bill pretty nicely.

http://znaleziska.org/wiki/index.php/Szabla_(Czechowice)


http://znaleziska.org/wiki/index.php/Szabla_(Radymno)
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William P




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PostPosted: Mon 15 Apr, 2013 5:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqrvqKhIcL0&am...fPRRChEI0o

this seems to suggest that there isnt THAT much difference between curved and straight blades in terms of their ability to cut.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Mon 15 Apr, 2013 5:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Again I should point to practical combat use rather than cutting performance against static targets when considering sword design.
Against unarmoured target, dealing fatal damage is not hard. Hitting the target whithout being hit yourself, however, is harder.

It is also worth keeping in mind that if one design was decidedly better than the other, it would be universally adopted. Both curved and straight blades work. Curved handles work as well, if you want to fence that way. But the difference is one of preference.

"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."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Michael Wiethop




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PostPosted: Thu 18 Apr, 2013 1:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Again, thanks for the replies!

I never did find any grip that was quite what I was looking for. So here's a (very) crude doodle I made with my smart pen and uploaded to Paint. Though on second thought, even this grip might be a bit straight for my tastes...



 Attachment: 3.25 KB
curved grip sword.png

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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Thu 18 Apr, 2013 3:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What you are looking for is a fencing foil pistol grip;

"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."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Michael Wiethop




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PostPosted: Thu 18 Apr, 2013 3:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not quite that extreme! I meant to make my grip only a few degrees more angled, is all.

Although I wonder- what are the disadvantages of such a "pistol" grip? Would it be at all useful on a sword that is also meant to slash or cut?
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William P




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PostPosted: Mon 22 Apr, 2013 4:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

the charlmagne sabre is just one famout example of a large number of swords used by the magyars, kipchaks, and rus (to name a few)
http://www.manningimperial.com/catalogue/swor...-sabre/289
http://www.manningimperial.com/catalogue/swor...-sabre/353
http://www.manningimperial.com/catalogue/swor...-sabre/288

and they all have the same kind of grip and guard configuration. which, according to some people i know who use these sabres in reenactment, allow for a very flowing grp and not the tight hammer grip a viking sword of the same period would allow.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Apr, 2013 11:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Wiethop wrote:
Although I wonder- what are the disadvantages of such a "pistol" grip? Would it be at all useful on a sword that is also meant to slash or cut?


I've never used the pistol grip myself in fencing due to a subjective dislike, but I've heard that it's more secure and allows basic bladework actions to be executed more easily, which is why it is almost exclusively used in modern foil competitions. On the other hand, the conventional straight "French" grip is more difficult to use and requires a greater amount of study if the fencer wants to be able to use it with the same facility in bladework as what a pistol grip provides to a relative beginner. That being said, the French grip has some advantage in raw speed and reach, which competitive fencers are keen to exaggerate by "posting" it (holding the grip at the very end, right on the pommel rather than up against the bell guard) but this tends to cause them to overemphasise footwork and distance games at the expense of bladework (particularly parrying and attacks with opposition) skills.

Mind that all these apply to modern fencing weapons with whippy featherweight blades. The dynamics are probably going to be very different for swords with heavier blades suitable for actual duelling or military purposes, not to mention that the orthopaedic/pistol grip might make the sword rather awkward to carry as a sidearm. I certainly have never seen real swords wielded with a pistol-like grip (in this case, I'm referring to the position of the hand) like in modern sport fencing; at most I find the last couple of fingers (little and sometimes ring finger) in the most sharply-angled portion of the grip while the rest of the hand rests on the more "conventional" (i.e. not too sharply canted relative to the blade) part of the grip.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Wed 24 Apr, 2013 1:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The pistol grip gives great up/down flexibility, but little strength, and does not allow for the transfer of strength from the body into a cut either. Good for fencing foils (or lightsabres!)
It is also less adaptable, should you find yourself at less than ideal range or angle.

"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."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 24 Apr, 2013 9:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

On the contrary, I've been told that the pistol grip is "stronger" in that it's harder to lose the weapon to either an accident or a deliberate disarming action, and that it tends to let beginners deliver their thrusts with more force than necessary.

The part about angulation is true, however--French grip fencers are more likely to suddenly flip their point onto the opponent's arm or knee if the latter wasn't paying enough attention or wasn't recovering fast enough from a failed attack. On the other hand, I don't see them used much in in-fighting (when the two fencers are closer than an extended blade's length from each other), which tends to be the province of pistol-grippers in modern fencing. Classical fencing (and extremely skilled classically-trained fencers in modern competitions) can be a different story, though; I've seen a video of a classically-trained Italian classical epéeist dominating a series of infighting exchanges (and scoring several touches in a row) against a pistol-gripper, mostly with circular parries and glissades.
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