6 Things Movies Get Wrong About Swords (An Inside Look)

#3. Swords Are Only Battle Ready if They Have a Blood Groove

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Every swordsmith worth his salt will also know to add a blood groove to the weapon he's making. That little channel that runs down the flat of the blade ensures that every time you stab an enemy, your blade comes back out as easily as it went in. Without that gutter, the human body creates a vacuum and a completely flat blade is only worth one really great stab before it has to be buried with the corpse. But with the blood groove, all the insides can fountain gaily out of the new wound and grease the blade's exit. It also keeps the sword from making that gross slurping noise similar to extracting cranberry sauce from a can.

"Gross noises" being the No. 4 leading cause of Distracted Warfighting.

But Actually ...

The "blood groove" isn't only historically inaccurate but also physically. A sword has such a small surface area that it would be almost impossible to get it stuck inside someone from suction alone. Getting it stuck on bone or cartilage, sure, but not suction. Human stomachs aren't made of glue, after all.

Buy this knife at Fearghal Blades
Plus, these things have handles.

The blood groove is actually called a Fuller, and it exists solely to make the blade lighter without sacrificing any strength or stability. By carving away huge chunks of steel on either side of the edge, a swordsmith can shed a considerable amount of weight from the whole weapon, allowing the user to lop his enemy's head off with one hand while the other holds tea, or brushes the hair from a damsel's face, or just takes a well deserved break.

#2. Magic Metals Make for Super-Powered Swords

Ralf Pfeifer

Fantasy stories are replete with all sorts of fancy-ass metals. Given everything from Valyrian steel and Mithril to vorpal blades there is surely some merit to real-world alloys concocted by alchemists that are better than any other metal known to man, right? After all, iron swords must have seemed like magic to all those civilizations that were fighting with bronze for centuries. Who's to say that couldn't happen again? It's impossible that we've pounded the mystery out of every alloy under the sun by now. Someone, somewhere must be inventing Adamantium as we speak.

Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images
"Aha! All along, the secret ingredient was humble dog shit."

But Actually ...

Sadly, here in the real world, we just have steel. There are no hidden mines spitting up extra special sword metal, no meteorites raining magic space iron down on our heads. And that seems like kind of a bummer. But all those historic myths about magic swords -- Beowulf's Hrunting, King Arthur's Excalibur, aren't necessarily bullshit. While all steel comes from the same basic materials -- iron and carbon -- all steel is NOT created equal. In fact, we have something much cooler than magic metals.

Case in point: Damascus Steel, so-named because Christian crusaders first encountered it in the city of Damascus and figured "that must be where they make it all." In reality, it originated from India. And it had properties that would've made Excalibur shit its scabbard in envy. Researchers in Dresden recently discovered that Damascus steel from the 17th century contains the first examples of man-made carbon nano-tubes in human history. Properly sharpened, these nano-structures would have made an impossibly sharp edge of "tiny, saw-like teeth." And Wootz Damascus steel wasn't just centuries more advanced then everything else -- it also looked exactly like a magic sword.

Rahil Alipour Ata Abadi
Or Rorschach's condom. One of the two.

The technology to make Wootz was thought lost to time -- until metallurgists at Stanford University accidentally rediscovered it while trying to create a "superplastic" form of highly advanced steel. These scientists, with access to an additional three hundred-ish years of technology, realized they were recreating something first made centuries earlier. It's not hard to see how a weapon that advanced would've made contemporary warriors throw their hands up and call "magic" on the whole thing.

Of course, making these magic swords wouldn't have been easy. Chris spent two years learning about, and then forging, a Damascus steel dagger: "I started the project during my apprenticeship. I had to do a lot of research into Wootz, what it was made of -- just the basic material makeup of the compound, the theoretical ways it was made historically. The types of forges they made, the things they purposefully put into the steel and the things they may not have known was going into the steel."

Fearghal Blades
"In other words: witchcraft."

So, yeah -- that knife is basically an associate's degree worth of labor and learning. And Chris Farrell had access to the Internet -- imagine what it took for the guys who invented Damascus steel 1700 years ago.

#1. Making a Blade is as Simple as a Montage

DEA / A. Dagli Orti / De Agosti / Getty

Unlike making a mace, or a trebuchet or a gun, a sword is fairly straightforward. All you have to do is heat the metal, pound it into shape, then heat it again like they do in movies. Those montages never take more than a couple minutes, surely you could churn out at least three swords a day.

Six, if you had "Push It to the Limit" on a repeating loop.

But Actually ...

A single longsword can take anywhere from 40 to 80 hours of forge time. And THAT only nets you the blade. By the time you take into account making the pommel, guard and handle, that one sword might have as much as two weeks of full-time labor invested in it. Daggers can take as little as 15 hours, or as many as 40 or 50. Every sword you see is the product of someone's blood, sweat, and tears. Oh, and we mean that blood part literally.

Have you ever been watching one of the Star Wars movies and thought, "I wonder what it'd feel like to get hit in the face by a lightsaber?" Chris Farrell doesn't have to wonder, because he owns a bench grinder.

AKA, "the wheel of misfortune."

Bench grinders have a reputation for grabbing things out of your hand and throwing them into your face, and Chris has felt its wrath.

"I was working in the shop, it had been a long day, and my apprentices were working on other projects while I was forging a new blade. I'd been at it for 8 to 10 hours, enough time to where I couldn't feel my right hand anymore. When you get that disconnect you run the risk of loosening your grip at the wrong time ... Well that happened with this knife, and I pulled away enough that it didn't hit me square ... but the red hot blade sliced my face open and cauterized the wound. I yelled at my apprentice, 'I just lightsabered myself!'"

Putting Chris in such rarified company as "the guy Obi-Wan sliced in a bar" and "millions of battle droids."

But high-speed blade throwers are far from the worst thing that can happen to a swordsmith. Burning metal also burns off all the nasty chemicals IN the metal. Some of them -- like zinc -- can straight up kill your ass. That's mainly a concern for people working with copper. Chris works with carbon steel, which contains manganese, which will not kill you. Instead, manganese fumes just give you a lil' ol' case of Parkinson's disease.

Beyond the fumes and flying swords you'll have to deal with flying metal splinters turning your eyes into a home for orphaned bits of steel. And all that slag doesn't just work its way out of your body. It builds up, to the point where someone like Chris can't go to the airport without TSA pulling him aside on suspicion of being a T-800.

Fearghal Blades
His choice of carry-on may have something to do with that.

"I was going to visit my family in New York, making my way through security, when the metal detector went off. I removed everything from my pockets and still set it off. I had to say, 'It's probably my eyes.' They ran the wand all over my body, and nothing happened. Then I told them to run it in front of my face, and when they did that it went off."

So if you were thinking of just picking up swordsmithing as a hobby or something fun to do on weekends, maybe pick up something easier like building ships in a bottle, or earning a medical degree.

Chris Farrell runs Fearghal Blades. Most of the swords and knives shown in this article are his creations, and you can buy them all here. If you'd like to commission a custom sword or knife, message him here. Robert Evans is Cracked's head of Dick Joke Journalism and manages Cracked's article captions. He also leads the workshop moderator team. You can reach him here.

Related Reading: For some reason, people just LOVE to be wrong about weapons. Read our expose on the gun myths you believe and learn why guns don't fire when dropped AND why bullets don't make sparks. Still hungry for more gun myths? We've got a whole 'nother list that explains why machine guns and body armor aren't all they're cracked up to be. Round out your reading spree with more weapon myths spawned by Hollywood fight scenes.

We have some bad news: machine-guns run out of ammo in two seconds, body armor doesn't hold up NEARLY as well against bullets as you'd expect, and your favorite book sellers are now taking pre-orders for a text book written and illustrated entirely by the Cracked team! Hitting shelves in October, Cracked's De-Textbook is a fully-illustrated, systematic deconstruction of all of the bullshit you learned in school.

It's loaded with facts about history, your body, and the world around you that your teachers didn't want you to know. And as a bonus? We've also included the kinkiest sex acts ever described in the Bible.

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