The type of blow will therefore be determined by the type of armour the opponent is wearing.
From the literature, cutting appears to be the primary use of these weapons.
The Battle of Maldon records that Byrhtnoth’s nephew Wulfmær was “slashed by the sword.” In the same poem Eadweard swings his sword so savagely that he kills his enemy on the spot. While slashes and cuts seem to be the most often used blow, thrusts appear in The Battle of Maldon as well – towards the end of the battle, Offa tells Ælfwine that he must encourage the men to use their weapons, and that they must “lunge and parry with our swords.” Slices are not mentioned at all.
A coat of mail is a far harder target than leather armour – because it is metal, slicing does very little to it.
Swords built to deal with this armour were not well served by a near-razor edge.
This was in part because mail armour is far better at delivering force back into the blade – as mentioned above, too sharp a blade would leave too little material to receive this force, rendering the edge too brittle to handle the impact without taking unnecessary damage.
This does not mean that swords of this period were dull – they needed to be sharp enough to bite into armour.The sharper the blade, the greater the concentration of force upon impact, and the more powerful and damaging the blow.However, it is important to remember Newton’s Third Law: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.If a sword blade is too sharp when it hits a hard target, the edge can take additional damage that could have been prevented.The slice, on the other hand, operates primarily through shearing.Swords used in battle survive primarily as archaeological finds, with the edges so corroded that any indication of the original sharpness is long lost.Determining the sharpness of a Medieval sword must usually be done through deduction, using the literary evidence, armour of the time, and blade type to figure out how sharp the sword needed to be.The sword is used in three types of attack: the thrust, the cutting blow (striking with the edge of the sword in a swing), and the slice (drawing the edge of the sword with pressure against the target).On a very basic level, in a cut or thrust, the power of the blow is generated by the mass of the blade and the velocity with which it impacts the target.While the blade strikes the target, the target strikes the blade with equal force.This becomes very important when it comes to dealing with armour – hard metal armour has enough resistence to deliver force back into the sword, and the sharper a blade is, the thinner its edge is, and the more (BRITAL) it becomes.