The sword has a single bar of steel forming the blade and the tang, and divides into several parts:

  • Point: broader on earlier period swords, narrower on later period swords.
  • Weak (schwech, debole): the tipmost half of the blade, where you are weakest in the engagement of blades. Some Italian masters further divided the sword: some referred to the middle third of the blade as the temperato, while others divided the blade into four sections.
  • Strong (störk, forte): the half of the blade closest to your hand. Several masters explicitly and variously state that you should either sharpen or keep dull this portion of the blade.
  • True edge (lang): the leading edge of the blade, which lines up with your second row of knuckles. There is no physical difference between the two edges of many European swords in the periods I study; this is merely a matter of nomenclature useful in describing plays and techniques of the sword.
  • False edge (kurz): the trailing edge, which lines up with the web of your thumb.
  • Crossguard (quillons, guard): Fits at the base of the blade where the tang begins. One treatise states these should be as wide as the hilt is long (i.e. the handlegrip and pommel).
  • Handle: Formed from wood or bone, fits around the tang, often wrapped with wire, sharkskin, or leather for better grip. With the crossguard and pommel, it forms the hilt. On longswords, the handle should be long enough to accommodate two hands, though one may rest on the pommel for better leverage and handling.
  • Pommel: The counterweight mounted on the end of the tang, which may be threaded or peened to retain the pommel. One treatise (Filippo Vadi) states that this should be of a scent-stopper (i.e. cylindrical) shape, for ease of gripping and handling. At least one treatise (Goliath) describes unscrewing the pommel, throwing it at your opponent, and simultaneously rushing in to attack.

The guards on many swords remained a simple cross for many centuries, even when new features began to appear in the Renaissance. A.V.B. Norman wrote an excellent book on the classification of these new features entitled The Rapier and Small-Sword: 1460-1820. The late-period origin of the term "rapier" aside, swords acquired a series of secondary arms, ports, rings, sweeps, knucklebows, posts, crosses, and thumb loops which first evolved to protect the user's index finger, then the other fingers, and ultimately the entire hand.