The Swords History: The Ultimate Guide

The Swords History
An Antique Sword

The sword’s history is a long and bloody one. It is a weapon that has been in combat for thousands of years. However, the sword’s blade design has evolved, making it the perfect tool for killing. As a result, the sword is an iconic weapon, and it has come to represent the pinnacle of martial achievement.

Composed of a blade and a handle, a sword is a knife-like weapon. Commonly made from steel and ground to a sharp surface, swords have a sharp point of thrust. Other materials used to make sword blades included steel, copper, and there are even iron swords. Sword history including, the first swords, the different types of swords, the materials used, and even the methods used to make them, is what we will look at here. We will even look at a couple of the most famous swords throughout history. So let’s begin!

The Swords History

The club, a rock attached to a stick, was the first real weapon traceable back to prehistoric times. Edged weapons came next. These were blades that had some work done on them to make a sharp edge instead of a blunt back.

Early swords date back to around 3000 B.C. when the Turkish made broad, straight blades with rounded ends attached to long, narrow handles. The sword was about two feet long.

The 1500s brought Europe’s first sword duels, and the term “dueling” became common to describe fighting with swords.

By the late 17th century, sword-fighting began to be more and more deadly. The first thrusting sword appeared in France around 1610 and became common by 1670. 

By 1600, Western Europe commonly used the first two-handed swords, which had begun usage in the early 13th century. Although still used in battle, two-handed swords were famous for ceremonial fighting. However, they became obsolete in the 1800s with the introduction of the bayonet.

Parts Of A Sword

1. The hilt is the handle, the part of the sword where one would hold on.

2. The blade is for cutting and thrusting.

3. The tang is the extension of the blade that goes into the hilt.

4. The fuller, usually referred to as a “blood groove,” reduces weight and strengthens the blade.

5. A point is the sharp end of the blade for thrusting.

6. A ricasso is part of the hilt under the guard that extends forward toward the blade.

7. The quillon is a crossguard or arm guard made to protect your hand during combat.

8. The crossguard is the long bar across the front of the blade just below the guard.

9. The pommel or “stop” is at the bottom of the hilt. It gives weight and balance to the sword.

10. A grip is a handle composed typically of pairs of wooden, bone, ivory, plastic, or metal parts. 

11. The guard is the part of the sword that prevents your hand from sliding onto the blade.

3 Kinds of Swords

1. Cutting Swords, as the name implies, are bladed weapons to cut objects. Therefore, materials such as rubber, vegetables, and wood that were soft were ideal for the dull outer edge and sharp inner ones of the cutting sword.

2. Thrusting Swords are for thrusting objects. Whereas other swords have dulled tips not used for piercing, this sword is for stabbing and is sharp. Martial arts such as kendo and fencing typically use Thrusting swords.

3. Cutlases are swords with both cutting and thrusting abilities. For example, Cutlases are sharp and strong enough to be thrusting weapons but edges capable enough to cut. The British Navy was especially famous for using this type of sword in battle.

Materials Used In Sword Making

Sword makers made their swords out of different materials depending on the country.

For example, ancient China and Japan mainly used bronze swords. Produced from ninety percent copper and ten percent tin, Bronze is a metal alloy. With the introduction of iron in Japan, stronger soft steel became common in Japanese sword manufacture and eventually became the material for Japanese swords.

Another example was the Tang dynasty brought steel swords to China, but they did not become popular until the Song dynasty. However, Chinese metallurgy had advanced by this time, allowing for the reliable creation of steel swords.

Finally, the near east produced Damascus Steel from 800 BC to 1700 AD to make swords.

How To Make A Sword

  1. The first step is to cut down an ingot bar into billets. Billets are similar to bars but smaller, usually about 24 inches long, producing a sword about 30 inches in length. The Billets are then heated and poured into a mold to liquefy the steel.
  2. Once the steel is liquefied, the mold is removed from the furnace and set on a stand. The molten metal will cool for several minutes before its worked upon further.
  3. The sword is then shaped into its rough form by striking it with a hammer. The steel needs to be hammered at just the right temperature so as not to cause bulges or dents to the blade. Then before performing the next step, any remaining defects need to be corrected.
  4. Once the sword reaches the proper temperature, it is worked on further to get a more refined finish.
  5. The sword blade is then heated to a molten red and bent into its final shape. Once the blade is in the proper shape, it’s quenched. Quenching is the process of cooling the metal to become hard and strong.
  6. The sword blade can now be polished to remove any tool marks or scratches left behind from the making of the sword. This process consists of smoothing out the surface with a grinding stone until it is completely level, without dings or divots.
  7. The sword may also have a handle attached at this stage, as, well as ornaments such as engravings and gems that the sword maker feels would enhance the beauty of the piece.

Famous Swords Throughout History

As previously mentioned, the history of swords is a long one. Here are a couple of the more interesting examples.

The Claymore – Scottish soldiers, used the Claymore, a two-handed sword in the 14th century. It was approximately 5 feet long, weighed about 10 pounds, and had an average blade width of 3 to 4 inches. The Pommel acted as a counterweight. The Pommel, which looked like a wheel, worked as a counterweight. The crossguard connected the quillon, which protected the hands from direct thrusts.

The German Cutlass is a single-edged sword. It was used both as a tool and as an effective weapon against men on horseback or foot.

Its design allowed it to be used effectively with one or both hands.

The hilt fits comfortably in the hand. The sword is typically 10 to 12 inches long, and even though it looks heavy, it is relatively light at about 1 pound. 

The double-edged blade tapers from the hilt to the point, making it effective for slashing as well as stabbing or thrusting.

It has a cruciform hilt, meaning a crossguard shaped like a cross and often a wheel-shaped Pommel to balance the blade. Because of a narrow blade that allowed for fighting in formation, foot soldiers used them. This sword was also popular during the Renaissance.

The Katana - The Sword Of The Samurai
“The Soul Of The Samurai”

The Katana Sword was popular in Japan. It is a Japanese sword with a long, slender blade and a square guard.

It has a single cutting edge on the convex side of the blade, while its other side has a flat surface. As a result, the Katana has two sharp edges that can be switched if dulled or damaged. Because of this feature, it became known as the “soul of the Samurai.”

These swords were for both agricultural and military purposes. They are relatively easy to make, and nearly everyone had one in their home during early times as they cut down opponents or animals that presented a danger to one’s life or livelihood.

The Joyeuse is a ceremonial sword used by the French monarchy.  It has a gold hilt, emerald on the Pommel, and its scabbard contains gems such as sapphires and turquoises.

Dating back as far as the fifth century, the blade of the Joyeuse came from earlier sword parts. However, it was more symbolic than practical, and it had a straight blade with a sharp point made for thrusting rather than cutting.

The Kilij is a Turkish sword famous in the Ottoman Empire. It has a single-edged blade that is concave on one side and convex on the other. It features a large, curved crossguard that continues the length of the grip to protect the hand while allowing for more accurate thrusts.

The scabbard is characteristic of this sword because of its shape and decorations.

Conclusion

So there you have it, everything you need to know about the history of swords. I hope you enjoyed learning about the different types. I especially hope you learned something new and even found a sword you like. Have fun and always be careful when handling swords but, knowing their history should make them more interesting for all!

Feel free to email us any suggestions or comments about what you’d like to read about next.

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