Metals

How many parts are there to a sword?
Answered by Craig C. Freudenrich and HowStuffWorks
  • Craig C. Freudenrich

    Craig C. Freudenrich

  • HowStuffWorks

    HowStuffWorks

  1. Swords come in many shapes and sizes and the parts of a sword vary depending on its type. For example, a European broadsword has about four named parts. In contrast, a Japanese sword, like the katana, has about 10 named parts. Regardless of design or origin, however, there are four basic parts to any sword: blade, hilt, guard and pommel.

    The blade is the "business" end of the sword. It's made for cutting and/or thrusting. Early sword blades were made of bronze, which gave way to iron in Roman times and then to carbon steel in the Middle Ages and later. Blades varied in size and thickness from the short, thick Roman gladius that measured 19 inches (48 centimeters) to the thin Spanish rapier  that was much longer at 54 inches (137 centimeters). Blades could be straight, as they were in European swords, curved like the Japanese katana and Arabian scimitar or even sickle-shaped like the Egyptian khopesh. The cross-section of the blade could be flat, I-shaped, or diamond shaped. Most blades had sharp tips, while the edges could be razor sharp as the Japanese katana's edge demonstrated, or dull like most European swords. The thin end part of the blade opposite the point that extends into the handle of the sword is called the tang.

    The guard (also called cross-guard or quillon) protects the hand. Japanese swords had a small disc-shaped guard called a tsuba. Medieval European swords had a bar, which made the sword look like a cross. During the Renaissance, rapiers had a quillon and an elaborate series of finger rings, knuckle guards or a cup for hand protection.

    You grip the hilt or handle to hold a sword. Hilts fitted over the tang of the blade and were usually made of wood or metal. The hilt was wrapped in cord, leather or wire to make a grip. The Japanese ornately decorated the hilts on their swords.

    At the end of the hilt is the pommel. The pommel was usually made of metal and had many shapes (round, bell shaped and cylindrical). The pommel was usually attached to the tang in some way. For example, on modern fencing weapons, the pommel screws onto a threaded tang. The pommel of Japanese swords is an end cap called the kashira. The pommel acts as a counterweight to balance the sword. The pommel can be used to strike an opponent, hence the phrase "to pommel someone."

    Any part of the sword could be used as a weapon. Many medieval fight manuals show how to attack with the quillon and pommel, as well as with the blade.

    ninja with sword
    (PNC/Getty Images)

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  2. There are four main parts to a sword: the blade, the hilt, the pommel and the guard. The blade, which is made of steel, forms the main part of the sword. The guard shields the swordsman's hand and stops it from sliding down the blade. The sword's handle is called a hilt and can be made from leather, wood or wire. The pommel is at the base of the handle and keeps the user's hand from slipping off.

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