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Michael Kelly




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PostPosted: Thu 26 Nov, 2015 9:47 am    Post subject: How flexible were real swords?         Reply with quote

The title pretty much says it all... How much flex did a real sword have?
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Philip Dyer




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PostPosted: Thu 26 Nov, 2015 9:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Depends on the sword. They showed a wide degree of flexibility, but as general rule, the more thrust orientated a sword was, the stiffer it was.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Fri 27 Nov, 2015 6:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Of antique "user" swords I've handled, stiffnesses have varied from easy deflect the tip by 6" or more with one finger, through to stiff enough so I can't significantly bend the blade.
"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 Kelly




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PostPosted: Sat 28 Nov, 2015 5:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Specifically I'm asking about longswords... I guess I should have clarified that.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sun 29 Nov, 2015 12:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

With a good replica of a stiff longsword (Albion Ringeck), I can deflect the tip by about 1.5" pushing with one finger. Firmly pushing, sideways. So much stiffer than a thin-bladed cutting sword, but much more flexible than a short thick-bladed sword.

The extra length makes it easier to bend, and keeping the weight reasonable stops the blade from being too thick. A hollow ground longsword with a high ridgeline will be stiffer, and a thinner longsword will be more flexible.

The flexibility is essentially independent of the steel alloy and the heat treatment, so you only have to look at the blade geometry. Ideally, one would measure the deflection due to a known/measured force. Keep the force low enough so that the deflection is small enough to not cause any problems.

Why do you ask?

"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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Sam Barris




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PostPosted: Sun 29 Nov, 2015 8:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Kelly wrote:
Specifically I'm asking about longswords... I guess I should have clarified that.


Between the Petersen and Oakeshott typologies, there are 22 basic types of double-edged European swords. As someone mentioned, it depends on the sword. A type XIV and a type XV are not the same weapon. Heck, a type XVIIIb and XVIIIc are not even close to the same weapon and they're still closely related. In very general terms, you have some that were mostly for cutting (and these could be quite flexible), some that were mostly for thrusting (usually stiffer and pointier for exploiting weaknesses in armor), and many that went for a balance between the two methods of steel delivery (XVIa is one good example of a well-rounded weapon). Information on these typologies is easy to find on the interweb, and Oakeshott's books are definitely worth a read. Have fun!

Pax,
Sam Barris

"Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools." —Thucydides
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Matthew P. Adams




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PostPosted: Sun 29 Nov, 2015 10:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Michael

This is an interesting question but as has basically been said it has no answer.

Sword flex is a side effect of keeping weight down and is not desirable in a sword. If you want a thin sword that cuts very well then it will be more flexible due to the thinner cross section. To keep it more ridged cutting blades are wider, but eventually adding width to the blade will make it too heavy to use, so some flex is permitted to keep the weight down.

How much flex is permissible depends on who is using the blade. A thin bladded and "very" flexible blade will cut extremely efficiently when used by a skilled pratitioner. But that same blade will be less forgiving of improper edge allignment. If a thin thin blade hits a target slightly off allignment it will want to wrap around the target more than a stiffer, thicker blade.

There are extremes of flexibility where it gets hard to use but where the line is drawn depends on the user.

The longer I practice the more I appreciate lightweight and fast as a parameter for a "good" sword. If it's stiff then sure it's resilient but if you can void a strike and counter with speed then you don't need or want a more hardy blade. J

"We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training" Archilochus, Greek Soldier, Poet, c. 650 BC
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David Wilson




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Dec, 2015 4:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've seen the blade of a basket-hilt claymore dated to the early 1700's bend almost double and return to true. I've seen a cavalry basket hilt backsword blade from the late 1700's with a blade so stiff it could not be flexed at all.

Those are just two anecdotal examples, I know, but I think they represent the scale....

David K. Wilson, Jr.
Laird of Glencoe

Ego numquam pronunciare mendacium, sed ego sum homo indomitus.
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