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Elling Polden

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PostPosted: Fri 05 Jan, 2007 4:42 pm    Post subject: Sword weight and cuting dynamics         Reply with quote

Of late Iíve been philosophising quite a bit on sword weights, and the impact of an increase or decrease in weight has on handling and efficiency.

In short, what are peopleís experiences with light/heavy swords? How do they differ in their cutting abilities?

My current impression is that light swords will cut soft materials (say, flesh) quite efficiently IF the hit is good, straight, with the right part of the blade, and so on, while heavier swords are easier to cut with, and are not slowed down as much by harder material, (say, bone)

Is there such a thing as a too light sword?

-Anxious parent to an underweight sword.

"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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Glen A Cleeton

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PostPosted: Fri 05 Jan, 2007 5:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

it's one of those questions that isn't easy to answer without narrowing it down a bit. I've a katana and a sidesword that weigh about the same. That's about all they have in common. I have a XIIIa that isn't a whole lot heavier and truly outperofms either in dense targets.

Blade length and speed lend a great deal the equations. Heavier blades are slower to speed.

One hand, two hand. Thick or thin.

Light blades can be brought to speed more quickly but often lack the mass to cut heavier targets.
Wait, I'm repeating yourself.

Yes, a musing, most of this type of thought. I rather look to it as what context a sword might have been used in. Certain examples of a given type might do a better/different job than others Just like a hammer or screwdriver, use the right tool for the job.


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Bryce Felperin

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PostPosted: Fri 05 Jan, 2007 5:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well for me personally I have only my own observations to give after handling the six swords I own, each of them different in weight and balance from each other. I'm not an expert; these are my impressions and observations from personal use only.

Generally for me, heavier swords cut deeper and more easily against medium targets such as mats or milk jugs. Against light targets like cardboard or poole noodles (styrofoam) though, I find light swords do just as well in making cuts as a heavier sword would. This is generally true for all swords and balances I have tested on my swords or those I have borrowed for use.

I tend to like lighter and more balanced swords for the best control when cutting. I've tended to blow the cut more when the balance is too far to the point and the mass is too heavy, but that's just me. I also need a lot more practice cutting in my opinion, so this impression might change in the future. ;-)

As of present, my best sword is my Tinker (a long handled Type XIV) which is my lightest, most balanced and fastest pointing sword. However the edge geometry on this sword is a lot more "knife-like" than my others (shallower edge angle), so this might have something to do with its good cutting ability as well. I do know that I feel better in control making cuts with this sword than my others though.

The heaviest sword I own is my Albion Crecy (1st Gen, Type XVI) which seems to be in the middle between light and heavy and cut balanced versus thrust balanced. It tends to cut just fine on mats and lighter mediums such as cardboard rolls too.

My Type XVIII's (an A&A Durer and a CAS Iberia Albrecht II repro) are my least effective cutters on mats, but still very fast and controllable for lighter cutting. They're definitely better thrusters than cutters IMHO.

My impression is that your sword's weight and balance is more a reflection on its function. If you're to be riding on horseback and doing "ride-by attacks" on retreating enemies, then a heavy sword with more balance for the cut is probably better since your cuts will probably be cutting down on your fleeing foes anyway, and you probably won't need to do a second follow-up attack afterwards (where you need the better balance). However if you're fighting a foe in a dual in light or no armor, then you probably want a light and fast sword with close balance to the guard so you will have more control on your cuts, be less fatigued in a long fight, and be able to shift your momentum better for follow-up attacks or so you don't leave yourself open to attack after making cuts.

In summary, as I train more with longswords, I find that I Iike light and controllable swords with fast points more than heavy cutters. You might not cut as deep or powerfully but you are better able to place your cuts, recover from your attacks and move to other guards faster. You're not as much a slave to the sword's momentum and you have a better ability to place precise thrusts on smaller targets with less effort. Also in long fights you'll have better endurance than with a heavier sword, though this is probably as much a matter of training and conditioning than sword weight.
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Lafayette C Curtis

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PostPosted: Sat 06 Jan, 2007 8:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, for chopping cuts I'd look for a heavier, longer blade with a flatter cross-sectional profile, while for slicing (that is, cutting by dragging the edge across the target than forcing it in directly) I wouldn't mind a lighter and/or shorter sword.

But the real point is that weight alone doesn't really have much bearing on cutting ability. You'll also need to look at the blade geometry, edge geometry, and general balance of the sword.
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Sat 06 Jan, 2007 11:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Something to keep in mind is that you can only put a limited amount of energy in a sword during a cut, and you can only move your arm with a limited speed. With a very light sword, you can reach your highest speed, but you can't put the maximum amount of energy in it. So the cut will be fast, but not very powerful. When you increase the weight, at some point it'll be so heavy that you can put your maximum amount of energy into it. If you make it any heavier, the cut won't be more powerful, just slower.
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Vincent Le Chevalier

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PostPosted: Sat 06 Jan, 2007 11:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My personal opinion is that weight is not nearly as important in cutting as balance and technique are.

In other word, if you were to take two swords with the same blade geometry, the same mass distribution, but one made from a material weighing more that the other, what would happen? I think that you will put the same energy in both swords. Only, the heavier sword will move slower. If the cut happens in a fixed target, or a very heavy one, there will be no difference, i.e. the same amount of energy will be used for cutting. When the target weighs about the same as your swords you could start noticing differences. But the key thing is that this will happen roughly at the same target weight for both swords, because there is only so much variation you can have in the weight of swords.

Heavy blades, that's true, tend to be less sensitive about edge alignment. They are more difficult to "bump aside" for the target. This is, however, about the mass felt at the impact point, and not the weight of the overall weapon. That mass depends on the balance of the sword as well.

The thing is that generally, differences in weight go hand in hand with differences in balance, length, and edge geometry. And those modifications can have a far greater impact. They will affect the way the energy you gave to the sword can be used for cutting.

And of course differences in weight and more importantly balance will affect handling properties. As a martial artist, I tend to be more concerned about handling than about slight differences in cutting power, because handling allows you to land the blow, whereas cutting power only affects how serious the blow will be (but cutting half the neck is still quite as effective as cutting the whole head down, isn't it Wink )

To sum up, I'd say that forward balanced sword are more efficient at heavy cutting, and that rear balanced swords are generally easier to handle and good at light cutting, if the edge geometry allows it. But weights alone only have a small significance. For example, the cavalier rapier is heavier than Albion's Jarl, but I'd think that the Jarl is still a more fearsome cutter. I own neither, though, so if it's not the case I'd happily stand corrected. That's the feeling I get from the reviews.

My impression is that swords were made as light as possible while retaining the desired balance, solidity, and edge geometry. But of course that would be hard to prove. In this sense, a sword too light could be a sword that breaks upon impact because it's too thin...

This discussion could interest you as well, about this subject of light swords.

Ensis Sub Caelo
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