Domenico Angelo on Choosing a Blade

From “The School of Fencing” from 1787. This text discusses the use of the small sword for recreation and in earnest.

How to Chose a Blade and It’s Proper Length

I thought it necessary, before I set down any rules for the use of the sword, to premise a few word, not only how to mount a sword, but likewise upon the choice of a blade; for, with a bad sword in hand, bad consequences may ensue, be the person ever so courageous, and active. Some are for flat, others for hollow blades; whatever pains were taken with the former, I seldom or every found them light at the point; it is therefore difficult to render them light in hand; I would, nevertheless, recommend the use of them in battle, either horse or foot; but in a single combat, the hollow blade is preferable, because of its lightness, and ease in the handling.

A person should proportion his sword to his height and strength, and the longest ought no to exceed thirty-eight inches from pommel to point.

It is an error to think that the long sword hath the advantage; for if a determined adversary artfully gets the feeble of your blade, and closes it well, by advancing, it would be a difficult matter for him who has the long sword to disengage his point, without drawing in the arm, which motion, if well timed, would give the other with the short sword an opportunity of taking advantage thereof.

You should not fail in observing, when you chose your blade, that there be no flaws in it; these flaws appear like black hollow spots, some long ways, other cross the blade; the first of these are frequently the cause of the blade’s breaking.

The temper of the blade is to tried by bending it against any thing, and it is a bad sign when the bending begins at the point; a good blade will generally form a half circle, to within a foot of the shell, and spring straight again; if it should remain in any degree bent, it is a sign the temper of the blade is too soft; but though it is a fault, these blades seldom break. Those which are stubborn in the bending are badly tempered, often break, and very easily.

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