Sharpness in Greatswords?

Discuss other HEMA-related topics.
D Phillip D
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Dec 29, 2016 8:18 am

Sharpness in Greatswords?

Postby D Phillip D » Tue Jan 03, 2017 3:02 pm

So, I am not very well-read on the subject of HEMA in general, though I do intend to read treatises and historical accounts in the future. From my knowledge, I'm aware that some masters of previous eras have varying opinions on the proper sharpness of a sword, but is there anything in history we can use that points to the sharpness of a greatsword?

I know Matt Easton mentioned a handful of sources discussing the proper sharpness for swords, which I think were more appropriate to his late English interests.

To me, it makes sense that a greatsword would be kept sharp if it were intended to be used in combat, because whether you're fighting armored or unarmored opponents (and especially in the case of unarmored ones), a blade is objectively more effective if it is sharp. However, a friend of mine who I commonly debate such subjects with, argued that such blades would have not been sharpened, as the point of it was to use it as a crushing weapon, and due to the weight of something like a Zweihander, a blade is unnecessary. He's also argued that a blade is more voulnerable if it's sharp, to which I responded that while yes, edge damage is more likely, such damage would most likely only lead to it being the same as an unsharpened blade in combat, and only in the sharpened area--thus having it bladed is only an advantage. From there, the argument strayed into whethet a blade was more disposable than a life, and so on.

So, with that context in mind, I am looking for any historical sourcea which cover whether a two handed source of that size, or perhaps a comparable type of polearm, would have been sharpened or not. Does anyone know, or have a personal opinion based on siteable resources?

Thank you.

Tea Kew
Posts: 92
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 2:27 am
Location: Cambridge, UK

Re: Sharpness in Greatswords?

Postby Tea Kew » Thu Jan 05, 2017 4:03 pm

A sword - of any type - is a pretty rubbish impact weapon. If you want an impact weapon, you get an actual impact weapon, perhaps a pollaxe. Montante and spadone treatises deliver plenty of cuts, which are rather useless without a sharp blade. They also deliver plenty of thrusts, ditto.

I've handled an original greatsword at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. It clearly had a sharp edge, and would have cut most fearsomely.

As an aside, these also aren't too heavy. A good sized montante, perhaps five and a half feet, will typically weigh under six pounds. The balance point is only a few inches out into the blade. They're solid, and you need to use them with proper body mechanics, but they aren't heavy bludgeons - they're swords.

D Phillip D
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Dec 29, 2016 8:18 am

Re: Sharpness in Greatswords?

Postby D Phillip D » Fri Jan 06, 2017 6:01 am

Thank you for your reply.


Return to “Misc. HEMA Topics”