The purpose of this document is to help you to choose the right sword for you. It also includes some general information about swords because this additional info will help you decide. Before you start, remember this: The perfect number of swords to own is exactly how many you already have, plus one. So the ideal number of swords (nS) can be put like this:
Ideal # Swords = nS + 1
How do I choose the right sword for me?
We are asked this question every day and it is a difficult thing to answer accurately in just a few minutes. To help answer this question we have posed a series of questions and possible answers to help get to the core of what type of sword you need. This document is relevant to anyone purchasing a sword from Medieval Fight Club or any other sword producer or supplier.
To start, we have found that there are so many reasons people buy swords.
In all likelihood you already know what type of sword you want but you probably also want to know if it is suitable for your needs. To work that out please read on.
What do you want it for?
If you require a stage prop or you are a collector then the choice is easier. Any sword in our range is suitable as a wall hanger and most will stand up to being slapped flat on flat on stage with little to no damage. However if you required a sword that can handle heavy combat then the requirements change dramatically. Basically you need to decide if you need a...
Still not sure? Then keep reading on, or feel free to send us a message, but to offer you the best advice, we are likely to ask you the following questions.
What is your budget?
Budget is always the single biggest factor. Quality tempered blades of 100% historical designs with no imperfections can cost a small fortune. If these factors are of extreme importance to you then you might be looking at anywhere from $500 – to many thousands of dollars. However, a good quality sword does not need to be expensive. Even if you have less than $500 to spend, we understand that these factors are still of importance however a balance can be met between price and quality with only the smallest of sacrifices.
Tempered or not?
The following is purely my opinion formed from over two decades of experience in practical sword fighting. I don't claim to be an expert on the metallurgy of swords but here are some home truths about blades that I am happy to share. Steel tempering is almost an exact science; however the application of tempered steel will always vary greatly and therefore continues to remain a mystery to the average sword jock.
It might sound absurd but for some situations a non tempered blade will appear to be stronger and last longer.
If you have any doubts and a spare tempered blade you might like to use the appropriate safety equipment and setup a practical experiment by getting an equivalent weighted iron bar and hitting the sword onto the bar (or vice versa).
Try simulating an abusive combat hit that you would expect on the side or flat of the blade. One of three things will happen.
i) it will wobble and return to the original shape, indicating an almost perfect temper.
ii) it will break or snap, indicating that the blade was over tempered.
iii) it will bend, indicating the blade is under tempered or not tempered at all.
Try simulating an abusive combat hit that you would expect on edge of the blade. One of these things will happen.
i) the edge can 'blow' or small chips/chunks will be knocked out of the edges. Indicating the blade has an almost perfect temper.
ii) the blade will fracture, crack or snap. Indicating the blade was over tempered.
iii) the edge will dent, indicating that the blade had a low or no temper.
iv) nothing will happen, indicating you have a near 'magical' sword. Seriously, this indicates a very good quality blade and we recommend you remove the legendary sword from the experiment immediately and treat it like gold.
Obviously I am not suggesting that it is better to use an iron bar over a well made sword but I have seen plenty of expensive well tempered blades break against an iron flat bar S.L.O. (sword like object). It can be a very humbling and annoying situation for the re-enactor who has purchased or made the perfect tempered blade to have it broken on an S.L.O.
NOTE: This test would have more devastating results to the test blade if we were using two tempered blades. This article was not designed to compare different temper strengths. For general use I recommend a Rockwell Hardness Cone (HRC) value of approx 42-45. This level of hardness we find is good balance for a blade expecting to deliver and receive severe punishment. A higher tempered sword (48HRC) with a thick edge can be destructive to other swords. We usually carry a couple of swords that by strength and design would be considered "sword breakers".
Our swords are often tempered, which is a balancing act between hardness and flexibility. Each sword has a different temper which has been adjusted depending on its expected use. We use a variety of high carbon steels that after shaping are re-tempered to an exacting standard. Don't be tricked into thinking that high carbon content and tempering are the same thing as they are not. With good tempering even the poorest steel can be crafted into awe inspiring weapons. It is a complicated subject to explain, however we have written detailed articles on this subject and other articles on swords and armour
What sort of edge do you need: Sharp or Dull?
If you require a sharp edge for cutting then a high temper (HRC-50 or higher) will give you the best edge retention. If you require/desire a dull edge and you plan to use it edge on edge then durability will be gained with a wide edge and a low temper or no temper in the blade.
What type of metal?
We recommend and stock blades made of high carbon steel. Stainless steel swords are (in our opinion) for hanging on walls or other long term displays where a constant polish is required. In some cases stainless steel swords can retain a better edge but overall they are too brittle for general purposes. In many cases the carbon steel will have the smallest amount of chromium (0.7%) to help resist corrosion and can still manage the balance of shine and durability of other carbon steels.
If using for combat, how will you strike it: Edge or Flat of the blade?
You might have gathered by now that tempering a blade has different qualities depending on if you plan to hit on the flat or the edge. In some cases this factor alone should dictate the type of sword blade you purchase. Some groups sight safety concerns for using edge and therefore need a lower temper. For most clubs using an edge, then a high temper will resist burring very well but if the temper is too high or a weak spot has developed then it may fracture and potentially snap
Tang type, What does it mean?
A sword's tang is a term that describes how a blade is fitted to the handle.
The strongest tang type is “Full Tang" and our full tang and "Beater" swords have been forged so the tang is part of the blade and then sandwiched between two halves of the handle or encapsulated entirely. With the sandwich or scale method you can see the blade edge exposed on the side of the handgrip.
The tang will often penetrate right through the pommel and be peened over at the end, in some cases it will be pinned at a right angle through both the pommel and blade and in some other cases the last few millimeters have been threaded so that a matching threaded pommel can be screwed on. The most common tang styles are encapsulated or hidden where the blade becomes a thin “rats tail" to fit within the handgrip. The main reason is simply to reduce the cost of manufacturing. While many of the hidden tang swords will have blades that are suitable for combat you could find that over time the hilt may eventually loosen.
As with all tools, a sword is only as strong as the weakest part and therefore where possible I would always recommend using a full tang sword for any kind of sword on sword combat from simulated full contact to theatrical. The rat tail tang swords have a different steel in the blade and the threaded rat tail, the creates a weakness where the two steels are joined. Never USE a push tang sword as the blade is prone to becoming a projectile weapon.
WARNING: Other suppliers will incorrectly promote hidden "rat tail tangs" as "full tang" so please be aware of the truth before making this mistake.
Pommel, how is it fitted?
A pommel is critically important to a sword, it holds the hilt together. There are three main methods for fitting a pommel to a combat sword. Threaded, peened, and pinned. All are ok provided they have been done correctly. Never accept a pommel that is glued in place.
Peened is where the tang goes right through the pommel and is hammered down to widen and stop the pommel from dislodging. It is a robust method but not suitable to all pommel styles and can come loose over time.
Pinned is where the pommel fits over the tang and a hole is put through the tang and pommel together and has a metal pin hammered through both. Pinning is also a suitable quick method to repair a peened pommel that is no longer holding.
Threaded is simply where the end of the tang is rounded so that it is slightly larger than the hole in the pommel, then a thread is made using a tap and die set. It is a functional technique but has a tendency to come loose if not supported correctly.
Balance, how important is it?
Very! But let's be clear from the onset that I am not talking about some required yet mythical physical balance point that relates to hand-spans etc from a predetermined point on every sword as suggested by some sword suppliers. This form of balance may be partially correct and practical for 'long swords' but for early medieval and ancient swords there is no such property. I am however referring to a swords 'harmonic balance' which is basically the point in the grip that vibrates the least. However 'harmonic balance', 'centre of balance' and 'pivot point' are beyond the needs of all but the expert swords-person and also beyond the scope of this document. It should be noted that overall balance will vary greatly from blade type to blade type.
The Vikinger would surely agree that a little more weight evenly distributed along the blade creates a more powerful weapon. Please don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that they used a club with an edge but I am suggesting that although both aspects are important, a compromise would still place the importance of power over balance. Naturally this philosophy was taken to the extremes, & by the middle ages weapons were either perfectly weighted masterpieces or were savagely brutal and uncontrollable in a safe manner such as a mace, flail or even a pollaxe etc.
Does brand matter?
There will always be a number of quality sword makers that occasionally release completely useless wall-hangers and by the same token there are less reputable makers who can occasionally craft awe inspiring swords. In my opinion brand preference can be very trivial and sometimes a downright hindrance when comparing different styles of swords.
Are all Medieval Fight Club swords mass produced?
No, all of the practical and full tang swords are individually hand made. In some cases and for the sake of efficiency our factories and suppliers use manual production lines. But to be completely truthful, yes some of our cheaper swords of the common designs (esp movie replicas) are mass produced and often almost completely by machine.
How are they forged?
With exception to smiths crafting single swords, almost no sword manufacturer uses hand forging techniques. Often, claims of hand forging is pure forgery itself or it shows a lack of knowledge about how modern swords are really made. Our swords are made made by hand using state of the art machinery that perfectly measure temperatures and mill the shape to produce an exacting result time after time. Even the occasional items like our pattern welded products are made using power hammers. In short, after the shaping has been done, we use ancient techniques with the most modern equipment.
How will you store your sword?
Storing your blade in a scabbard for long term is not recommended, light corrosion you can't see can't be repaired. The scabbard may store moisture and thus encourage further corrosion. Some wooden scabbards will warp if not stored with the blade in them. Storing a sword in a dry environment will ensure a long life of the blade. For more information on sword care please see our article here.
Sharpening your blade
We recommend a professional knife sharpener to handle the sharpening of your sword BUT if you should desire to sharpen your sword yourself, you can accomplish that with a couple of files, a stone, and some hard work. First, establish the cutting bevel with the use of a coarse file. Since swords generally have stronger, more chisel-like edges than knives, your sword edge should be draw filed at an angle between 30 and 35 degrees. After the cutting bevel is established, go back over the edge with a fine file to remove the coarse file marks and make the edge much easier to achieve with a fine file or belt. Now that you have a blade with a sharp edge profile, you will want to hone it so the edge is as fine as possible. Please note that due to export limitations, even our sharp swords require further honing after you receive them if you want them for test cutting.
As you can tell there is no true correct answer to buying a cheap functional sword however today's tempered full tang 'beaters' will far exceed their historical counterparts for durability, in fact the same could be said for almost every functional sword in our range. For heavy sword combat your ideal choice for a long lasting blade should always include a solid edge, thick blade and a good tempering with a full tang. However your conditions may allow you to use a lighter, cheaper sword, if you still have any questions or concerns it is always best to just ask us.
This document was prepared by
Aaron Southwell with the intention to assist people in finding the most suitable sword type for their needs. Aaron is one of the store owners and has a very "hands on" role with all areas of Medieval Fight Club. He has over 30 years re-enactment & western combat experience.
*** IMPORTANT ***
*** Safety ***
These instruments are NOT toys. The use of these instruments requires the training and supervision of a qualified instructor in sword use, fight choreography, or fencing, as appropriate. The use of these instruments in ANY other form (i.e. chopping trees down in the backyard, swinging carelessly, etc.) can result in severe injury to the user and to the instrument, and such use voids any and all warranties by Medieval Fight Club. If you are not qualified, DO NOT attempt to use these instruments before securing qualified instruction. Owning an instrument such as this carries with it a responsibility to gain the instruction needed to become proficient and qualified in its use. Users should contact a qualified instructor to receive proper training. Proper use is not as easy as it appears and books and/or videos do NOT provide the necessary training. Medieval Fight Club and its employees assume no responsibility for injury, damage, or loss incurred by use of these instruments. We cannot stress too strongly that, without exception, the user of these instruments must get the proper training to insure their own safety and the safety of others.