Simplicity and Sword Design.

In my last post I lamented the fate of simplicity in decorative sword design. I may have been being unreasonable, since in actuality the only thing a decorative sword has going for it is it’s aesthetics, but I ran across this sword below, and was reminded that beautiful swords need not be so ornate, nor so finely detailed:

Emperor Kang-Xi Sword

Emperor Kang-Xi Sword
[view full size]

Ok, so in the vacuous area between my ears that conceptually constitutes my mind, this swords simplicity represents a thing of great beauty. Yes, yes, I know. The scabbard is afflicted with a bad case of “look-at-me-itis”. Never you mind about that, we will simply have to just ignore the scabbard for the duration of this post. But what I do want to draw your attention to is the sword. Oh sweet simplicity. Thou has a name. And thy name is the Emperor Kang-Xi sword… 🙂

This sword is a veritable epitome of simplicity. A simple, almost straight blade of continuous width. A simple round guard. An equally simple ridged cylindrical grip, and, again, a simple round pommel. It doesn’t get much more simple than that. Even Ninjaken, one of my favorite swords, are generally more complex in design than this, due to the design of the grip and the blade.

However Ninjaken are also a lot more user friendly and functionally versatile. You’ll notice that the point (if you can call it that) of the Emperor Kang-Xi sword is more or less almost flat. Unlike Ninjaken, this would not make for a good thrusting weapon. However because of the slight curve, it would be a pretty good slashing/cutting weapon. On the other hand, the grip, while cool, is a metal cylinder. This is a baaaaad battlefield weapon design.

A metal cylinder provides no real gripping surface (those ridges ain’t gonna cut it against sweat or blood) provides no sense of blade position (a cylinder is not directional), and the metal will transmit every impact directly to the wielders hands. (Ouch!) Ninjaken borrow their complex, but very effective grip design from traditional Japanese Katana grips.

While not the simplest, the traditional Japanese grip is probably one of the best, perhaps  bested only by the most modern grip materials. A Japanese katana’s tsuka (grip) is oval in cross section, and traditionally comprises three important parts.

First comes the wood shell around the tang, followed by bumpy ray skin scales, which is all bound together by a strategically folded cord wrap. This combination provides excellent shock absorption, a firm grip, lots of comfort and good tactile feedback to boot. Definitely can’t say that about the Emperor Kang-Xi sword. So I guess sheer simplicity is not the way to go. Unless aesthetics is your primary goal. Which, in my case, is not really so.

However there is always a happy medium. If we were to take the slightly curved, full-tang blade of the emperor Kang-Xi sword, put a westernized tanto point on it, and apply a simpler version of the traditional oval Japanese grip using modern materials… Well the result would be… Hmmm. How shall I put this. Let’s just say that in my book, such a sword would be worth dieing killing for… 😀

Emperor Kang-Xi Sword – [Red Dragon Sword CO.]


5 Responses to “Simplicity and Sword Design.”

  1. 1 ladyofspiders
    February 5, 2008 at 11:10 am

    It is an interesting sword

  2. 2 Sam
    February 6, 2008 at 12:13 am

    The imitation snakeskin on the scabbard caught my eye, I own 3 snakes myself so anything to do with snakes always catches my eye. Over all a nice looking sword. Looking at it, I noticed that if you took the outline of the scabbard and made that into the blade it would be an interesting design. Perhaps not fully functional, but interesting.

  3. February 6, 2008 at 3:00 am

    “minimalist” would be the word i’d use to describe it. At least the sword. The scabbard is a little more attention getting…

    Actually you are right, and the outline of the scabbard even has a better point on it than the sword itself… That just ain’t right…

  4. 4 Niccolo
    April 27, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    Hee, nice. Looks sorta what happens one crossbred a cleaver with a katana, actually. Overall, definitely a nice design.

  5. April 29, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    Indeed you are right. The oft touted Chinese war sword actually looks much closer to a cleaver in design than a Katana… This is kind of the middle ground between that and a Japanese Katana…

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