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Student Colloquium, Christian Valentiner-Branth Nielsen: Mechanics and Materials of Sword Fighting

A still-image from the series Game of Thrones, showing a typical edge-on-edge collision

Info about event


Monday 31 October 2022,  at 14:15 - 15:00


Fys. Aud.

Supervisor: Søren Ulstrup

In medieval action films, there are often long and drawn-out sword fights, where the combatants' swords clash edges again and again. Is this realistic, or would the swords quickly become unusable?

In this colloquium, I will combine simple mechanics and steel metallurgy to analyse sword strikes. I will propose a simple mechanical model in order to determine the speed of a blade as it strikes and derive an expression for the upper limit of the torque a wielder can apply without damaging the sword. I will discuss the limitations of the simple mechanical model based on the microscopic properties of steel. Finally, I will analyse scanning electron micrographs and images of damaged blades in order to estimate realistic damage.

My simple model indicates that the weight of the blade itself is sufficient to cause permanent edge damage during edge-on-edge collisions. Finally, I conclude that historical swords would be damaged by regular strikes, rendering most fictional sword battles inaccurate.