The parts of the sword must be made to match and enhance the function of the type of sword.
All parts of a sword have a style; whether intentional decoration, traditional forms, or unintended artifacts of the production process.
If the target will be chopped or slashed, the mass of the sword will be more forward. As the weight increases, it becomes more difficult and time consuming to change the direction the sword is traveling. Only one edge can be readily used, so only one edge is sharpened. Chopping and slashing are enhanced by a curved blade; so the style of swordsmanship will determine how much of the blade is curved and to what degree. If the target is on the ground with the sword wielder on horseback, or the other way around, then the blade or handle (or both) will be longer. If the weight or length of the sword becomes unwieldy, then two hands are needed.
A blade must be flexible and tough enough to absorb the shocks of use. At the same time it must be hard enough to retain a sharp edge through many cuts. Historically, several methods were developed to enhance these attributes. The "simplest" of these consisted in heat treating the steel blade to create an acceptable compromise between hardness and toughness. Some consisted of inserting or layering harder alloys within or between softer alloys (damascus steel), and differential hardening of the edge and body of the blade. The latter is a type of heat treatment made legendary among sword fans by the Japanese katana. However, the edge-hardened katana was predated by edge-hardened Chinese jian and dao, Nepalese khukuri, and others.
The sharpened edge will be configured differently depending on:
- The hardness and toughness of the metal,
- What degree of chopping, slashing, slicing, and thrusting is expected,
- Character of the expected target.
The handle (hilt) of a single-edged chopping sword is usually angled to enhance the chopping action and to give the user tactile feedback of the orientation of the sharpened edge. The handles of double-edged straight swords are in-line with the blade and point for thrusting, and again designed to give tactile feedback of orientation; in this case, of both sharpened edges by the flattened or oval shape of the grip.
- The grip must be the appropriate size for the hand holding it. And the material on the surface of the grip must enhance the hand's grip upon it.
- It must also be durable to withstand the stresses of its mounting.
- The grip must be attached to the sword in a dependable, durable manner.
A guard between the grip and blade might serve several purposes:
- Prevent hand from sliding forward,
- Registering the hand on the grip,
- Prevent opposing blade from reaching the hand,
- Trapping the opposing blade,
- Covering the mouth of the scabbard to prevent water and dirt from entering.
The pommel serves three principal purposes.
- Add weight to counter-balance the blade at the appropriate point,
- A fastening point for the tang of the blade,
- A weapon in and of itself, usually for smashing an opponent in the face, neck, etc.
Fastening the handle to the sword
In straight swords, the pommel can also serve as a secondary weapon — a knob-like protrusion used for striking when the blade points in the wrong direction.