Sword Weight & Cutting Efficiency

This Forum is a place for students of swordsmanship to ask advice from moderators Paul Champagne & Scott M. Rodell on how to practice test cutting in a manner consistent with how swords were historically used in combat. Readers use this Forum at their own risk.

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Nik
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Re: Sword Weight & Cutting Efficiency

Post by Nik » Fri Jun 18, 2010 6:27 am

The real question is, why accept, and tolerate, a sword weight of >980g, when the average one-handed qing period jian was around 780g ? I remember Scotts statistics on the old sword forum, end of the 90s, and the given weight span from the top of my mind was like 660-880g, with the excessive ends being extremely rare, and the great mass averaging around the 760-780g. Usually, my memory is accurate there. A slow sword gets you killed, however fine the mass you get behind your "punches" is. If your sword arrives in the necessary position too late, the bigger punch is of no concern when your head is not in the place it should be anymore, or you got a spear slammed into your head or body, sidewise (bad enough) or penetrative (ouch). Folks wielding a kind of cheap, short hacking dao equipped with a shield would also not wait until your swing arrives, they chop you down no matter what. They're really unfriendly in that regard. A heavier sword may be acceptable for forms work, and as a means of strength practice. However, they have been, taken from Scotts and other historians word, very, very rare, and to me it's uncertain whether such a rare commodity was meant to be a practical weapon at all. You have the giant bagua sabers which also were a training tool, not a functional dao (other than possibly as kind of a club for riot control).

When "outweighting" a miserably weighted, over-dimensioned blade with the fittings, you also get the problem of mass DISTRIBUTION. You get a totally different handling when balancing a top heavy blade with a heavy pommel, opposed to a blade that is already well-balanced in itself, with the pommel and guard being relatively light. The good, undecorated brass makes I got weight, together with the wooden handle, in the 260-280g region. Bad makes I got were as heavy as 420-480g, which is almost two times that weight. I felt the resulting sword as basically useless, they hurt in the wrist (the really heavy pommel ones).

My requirement, whether you like to accept a total weight of almost 1000g or not, would be CORRECTLY weighted fittings, i.e. close to the originals - not heavy, outweighting top-heavy blades. The blade simply has to have a correctly dimensioned distal taper.

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KyleyHarris
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Re: Sword Weight & Cutting Efficiency

Post by KyleyHarris » Fri Jun 18, 2010 8:14 am

Thanks for your reply nik

I really can't say much in relation to the knowledge you provide
but thanks

i am going by the fact that this Jian was designed by Scott to be historically accurate for the period

I assume this includes the finished weight

overall the blade handles very well

I'll break down the individual components and weigh them tomorrow for discussion and see what the opinions are

the blade is well balancEd and lively. But it is a little heavy feeling in the hand at rest

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Re: Sword Weight & Cutting Efficiency

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Jun 18, 2010 9:43 am

KyleyHarris wrote:... I am interested in how the weights of the fittings were determined from your analysis of historical blades and fittings.

The Casting for the guard seems quite heavy relative to the pommel casting weight.

My Question...Given a required POB... we need to use the weights of the pommel and ... to set the POB against the length and weight of the sword. The closer we set the shifting mass (Guard /pommel) to the desired POB the greater the weight must be for the desired POB to stay in the same position...
The weight for the various fittings are based on weighing antique fittings as loose examples came available over the years, plus Hanwei as years of experience building swords.

What I've found in remounting old blades is it is not just the overall weight of the hilt assembly that is important, but the overall mass distribution of the weight across the entire hilt. I first noticed this years ago when I was balancing an antique jian blade & set of fittings for a student. I rested the blade on a pencil where I wanted it to balance, then added small lead weights to the pommel until it balanced, then taped them on & took it for a "test drive." The result was that while it was balanced in the "right"place, that handling was horrible, very clunky. When I redistributed the weight between the pommel & guard (needing to add a bit more weight) it handled nicely. For these kind of experiments I found the right balance or spread of mass distribution for jian.
KyleyHarris wrote:...The adjustment of the weight from Forward of hand to rear of the hand lightens the blade and changes the handling properties. From this perspective, taking my same Jian, and casting a pommel from a heavier material, or more solid material, and a guard from a lighter one could drop the overall weight to around 900grams and maintain all the same/similar handling characteristics.. the main difference I think is that you get less momentum from the lighter weight behind the cut.

I'm wondering if any investigation of this has been done across the wide range of blades you have handled and would love to hear your thoughts on this.
If you made the changes you suggest, I agree that you would get a blade that cut with less power. Over the year, handling hundred of old jian, I've found that they vary very little in POB, essentially falling into two categories, one being slightly more "tip heavy." Instead if trying to reinvent the wheel, I worked to resurrect the a true to form historical design.

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KyleyHarris
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Re: Sword Weight & Cutting Efficiency

Post by KyleyHarris » Fri Jun 18, 2010 9:50 am

thanks for the reply, and i am very much enjoying the jian for what it is.

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Re: Sword Weight & Cutting Efficiency

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Jun 18, 2010 10:00 am

KyleyHarris wrote:thanks for the reply, and i am very much enjoying the jian for what it is.
No worries mate, thanks for all the video input...

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Re: Sword Weight & Cutting Efficiency

Post by KyleyHarris » Mon Jun 21, 2010 6:33 am

Scott M. Rodell wrote:
KyleyHarris wrote: If you made the changes you suggest, I agree that you would get a blade that cut with less power. Over the year, handling hundred of old jian, I've found that they vary very little in POB, essentially falling into two categories, one being slightly more "tip heavy." Instead if trying to reinvent the wheel, I worked to resurrect the a true to form historical design.
What is interesting to me is that I have to take your word (which i am fine with doing) about the accuracy of this blade from all your handling. That means that the weight is also I assume part of that accuracy.

but then Nik, above is stating "Why tolerate a blade of 980 grams" and "660-880g, with the excessive ends being extremely rare, and the great mass averaging around the 760-780g. " and quoting you as the source of this information, so is this also accurate?

I am wondering is there a misunderstanding on the statistics? or is there as I imagine a wide variety of "normal" weights based on intent. I imagine that a blade of 660-880 would be good as a Scholars sword (as I've heard it called) but as a battle sword against armor it is probably a little lacking. a Jian is just a sword.. swords are build by smiths.. each smith designs with their own intent, or the owners.. I wonder if we are talking about 2 sets of statistics for swords here.. perhaps the swords Nik is referring to are gentlemans swords for walking down the street.. but the heavier Qing swords are actual battle jian designed for war rather than personal protection?

I absolutely do not adhere to the concept of Training with a heavier sword than you will use in battle. I absolutely think that using a artificial training sword of say 1500grams is useful in the same way that I add 1000gram wrist weights when I train slowly for conditioning and use my normal weighted blade. This is useful to build up conditioning.. but to actually train with a heavy sword is counter productive because your timing will be all off when you use your live blade. The best form of training in my opinion is to train with the blade you will use most frequently, interspersed with other activities and blades so that your body training doesn't become blind to a particular feeling.

So.. what are the theories? We find a large number of lighter antique swords because these were more likely used for personal protection and lighter use so they survive time better because they did not suffer hard use.. And we also find bigger.. heavier blades designed to meet the rigor of hard contact war in combat where you are not dueling 1-on-1, but hacking and slashing for dear life.

I'd also go so far as to say that China is a huge country with many many different "cultures" all creating china. Some are big people.. some are small.. so I imagine that in some provinces we may find many lighter shorter blades to suit the population, and other sub-countries may have had larger blades for larger people.

Regards
Kyley

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