Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A to Z: To the Hilt

This awesome challenge is hosted by founder Arlee Bird at Tossing It Out, Damyanti Biswas at Amlokiblogs, Alex J. Cavanaugh, Tina Downey at Life is Good, DL Hammons at Cruising Altitude 2.0, Jeremy Hawkins at Retro-Zombie, Shannon Lawrence at The Warrior Muse, Matthew MacNish at The QQQE, Konstanz Silverbow at No Thought 2 Small, Stephen Tremp at Breakthrough Blogs, Livia Peterson at Leave it to Livia, L. Diane Wolfe at Spunk on a Stick, and Nicole at The Madlab Post

My A to Z theme is fencing and swordplay, focusing mainly on fencing terminology, but with a few favorite movie fencing moments thrown into the mix too.

Yesterday, I discussed grips and guards, both components of today's word: Hilt.

Hilt: The handle of a sword, consisting of guard, grip, and pommel. Also, in real swords, it consists of the tang, a hidden element.

 Sabre Hilt.

Yesterday I discussed the grip and the guard, so now I'm going into the other two basic elements, the pommel and the tang.

The pommel is the counter weight at the end of the grip, and in modern fencing swords usually screws into the hilt base and holds the hilt together. A hilt without a pommel would fall apart, and the blade would be unbalanced. (Sometimes, on historical rapiers, a "button" held the pommel in place at the end, but I don't see this on many modern blades, even those made for re-enactments.)

The tang is a continuation of the blade inside the hilt. The longer the tang, the more stable and strong the sword. In fencing the tang is fairly short, because the blades don't generally take hard side hits. However, in re-enactment swords and broadswords, the tang needs to be the full length of the hilt, or at least extending to where the pommel becomes a part of the hilt.

These are just the basics of sword hilts, and that's as fancy as it gets for fencing blades.

However, if you're into re-enactments and rapiers, you might want to know some of the other terms. I found more at Props by Eric Hart, which has a great pic of different parts of a traditional rapier hilt, with definitions for each part.
Here's that pic:

Here's another pic from a long-sword style (at the moment, I'm focused on the hilt, but you are welcome to check out the other parts):

From a katana, the hilt is relatively the same again:

Also, if you want to check out some really cool, and expensive re-enactment blades, you can check out Albion Swords.

I did a little research for this post and learned a few new things. Have you learned anything new for A to Z?


Michael Offutt, S.F.A. said...

Great post. The only thing that could have made it better are picture diagrams pointing to the different parts and maybe examples of different kinds of swords from katana's to the rapier you mentioned.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Thanks for the tips Michael - I may get those pics up soon . . . like hopefully before lunch today.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think you've done amazing with these posts. I actually knew about the tang and the needed length. Yes, beyond it's not just for breakfast!

Julie Flanders said...

It's amazing that with all you know about fencing there was still something new to learn! Fun pics to go along with the rest of the post.

michelle said...

The phrase "to the hilt" means "all the way".
The interesting thing is that it can have a positive and a negative connotation.

Great illustrations. Such fancy names for the different parts of the sword... some of them look like French words...

Writer In Transit

Tyrean Martinson said...

Alex - cool! I think the "tang" has been mentioned in a few movies, and sometimes it's more fun to learn those kinds of words in that context. (and thanks)

Julie - Thank you! I added some pics later.

Michelle - yes, I was playing with the expression even though I was just doing a post on hilts . . . it's kind of interesting t think about, and I think in swordsmanship, "to the hilt" would naturally have some negative connotations. And yes, the words are often in French, or Italian when discussing swords.

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Christine Rains said...

I'm catching up on all your posts. Wow. I'm going to be well versed on fencing after this! :)

Adriana Dascalu said...

I love your articles - i always like to learn something new and this is definitely new for me.

Al Diaz said...

I am going to bookmark this post for future reference. Love to learn about the katana too!

C. Lee McKenzie said...

I'm learning new stuff all the time here. Your post was great! I may have a few swords in a future book.

Fel Wetzig said...

Cool theme for the challenge, I'll have to keep it marked should I need info on fencing. I'm not very familiar with western swords or fencing, but you never know when a character will be.
Fel Wetzig, The Peasants Revolt

M Pax said...

I never knew about the tang. That's really interesting.

Jeff Hargett said...

Still enjoying the series. Lots of good info.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

We have a couple blades in our house, including two Samurai swords.

Michael Di Gesu said...

This is such a classically beautiful sport ... It 's do great to learn more about... One never knows when this may come in handy.... Well done!

Gwen Gardner said...

I'd love to learn fencing - what great exercise. It might help to get rid of my wing flaps, too :)

Mark Means said...

I've only ever heard of one tang, before today, and it was what the astronauts used to drink :)

Now I know another...great post!

Heidi Mannan said...

Wow, very informative. I especially found it useful since I'm about to embark on a novel that includes swords. Thanks!