The Sword and the Polishing Stone: The Magical World of Sword Maintenance

From Rome to independent Scotland to Elizabethan England, the sword has been the fighting man’s most trusted companion throughout the ages and lasts much longer than a Labrador retriever. Keep the swing in your blade by heeding these steps for sword maintenance!

Sword Maintenance

Which of these things doesn’t belong: Dull scissors, a broken pencil, Beavis & Butthead, or your sword?

Answer: Your sword. Because unlike these other things, your sword is very sharp! Please avoid inflicting war wounds on yourself and members of your household, and handle the blade with care.

When cleaning your blade, lay the sword on a level, firm surface and always avoid touching its edge. The number one cause of sword-related injuries is attempting to catch a sword while it’s falling. Remember: The sword is made of hard metal – you are not. The sword is less likely to be injured by a fall than you are by trying to catch it. Just let it happen, man.

A freshly-ordered sword will probably have a protective coating on it. When you unpack your sword, you’ll need to carefully wipe away this coating with a rag or paper towel. After this is done, coat the blade with a layer of oil or silicone spray.

You’ll want to clean and recoat your sword after each use. Also, if your sword is being stored in its scabbard for long periods of time, inspect it often to ensure that the protective coating is still there. You may need to recoat it regularly while storing.

Scabbard Maintenance

A silicone spray is useful to weatherproof leather scabbards as well and keep them looking spry! However, leather-covered handles should not be sprayed – the grip will be damaged by this. A lacquered scabbard will only need occasional polishing with a soft cloth.

Sword Play

Don’t be fooled – “play” doesn’t mean thoughtless, loose-handed, frolicking fun. The sword in your hand was the main weapon of warfare for centuries, and it’s just as lethal today. Never swing your sword carelessly or needlessly. When unsheathing your sword, make sure you’re well out of reach of others.

To practice “cutting”

  • Make sure your sword and your cutting target are a match made in sword-maintenance-heaven. Not all swords are designed to take on all types of targets.
  • Be trained. With great sword comes great responsibility, so we recommend professional instruction on how to use it.
  • ONLY cut targets that can be cut cleanly in one stroke. A sword will bend if its object is made of an unyielding material.
    • OK to cut: Rolled and soaked grass mats, plastic water bottles, pool noodles
    • NOT OK to cut: Trees, 2×4’s, your archenemy’s car
    • Ensure that your targets are secured and placed at the right height for you to take a direct swing.
    • DO NOT try to swing your sword as hard as you can! Testing your limits is unsafe, not to mention exhausting. Instead, aim to be efficient, using the least amount of effort possible to make a clean cut. This will keep your sword and yourself in good working condition, enabling many hours of practice!

For reenactments and sparring

  • You wouldn’t use a butter knife to cut your steak, and you shouldn’t use a sword for reenactment or sparring unless it’s specifically designed for it! Reenactments societies will require all swords to fit within “safe” dimensions, so check with your local organization before purchase.  Likewise, sparring swords must fall within certain requirements for flexibility to be considered safe. Both types of swords are blunt.
  • A trained swordsman is a competent swordsman! Look for a good instructor before beginning battle.
  • Don’t create your own impromptu sparring ring. Only wield your sword in a safe, organized, supervised environment.
  • Avoid edge-to-edge contact. While this will be unavoidable with some styles of fighting, be aware of the dangers. Edge contact will cause your blade to “nick,” which can cause sharp “burrs” to pop up. Your rose of a weapon suddenly has thorns! Be sure to remove these burrs with a file before using your sword again, lest your next opponent get cut.

So the next time Inigo Montoya suspects you to be the six-fingered man who killed his father, you’ll be ready to challenge him to a safely-regulated sparring match. Granted that you have the right sword, of course: Armor Venue. Be safe and happy sword-playing!

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