How To Balance A Sword (Tai Chi)
How to balance a sword or, a tai chi sword in particular is not as tricky as you may think. It is however the main requirement as the balance of the sword has a lot to with good practice of the tai chi moments.
Improving the balance of a steel sword requires adding weight to the haft, or handle. Since the guard is light metal and the handgrip is wood, the best place to do this is the pommel ( Diag.1).
Another reason to make the pommel heavier is because this moves the balance towards the handgrip.
You will find that most store brought tai chi swords come with there fulcrum or center of gravity several inches up the blade from the handle and this is why you must balance a sword brought in a store.
Tai Chi Sword Diagram 1
A: Pommel, B: Ferrule, C: Handgrip D: Guard, E: Blade F: Edges, G: Tip
The fulcrum's position is fundamental to good sword work. It should be very close to the "front" ( the thumb slide) of the hand, in other words, in the guard ( between handgrip and blade).
To achieve this, you need to remove the existing pommel, which is very light, and add one that is heavier, best would be made of solid brass.
A solid brass pommel adds about 3/4lb and puts the weight where it needs to be: as far from the blade tip as possible.
If the weight were to be added to the guard instead for instance, there would be far to much weight in front of the hand (blade side) while the base of the hand (pommel side) becomes to light.
The blade balanced by the pommel gives more efficiency and much better "feel" and maneuverability.(Diag 2)
Tai Chi Sword Diagram 2
G: Center B: Center Up Blade T: Tip Movement D: Handle Movement d: Handle Movement For G.
Removing The Pommel For Your Tai Chi Sword
In most Chinese steel double edged swords, the pommel/handgrip/guard assembly is secured by a threaded nut. The nut screws onto a threaded pin which is an extension of the tang ( itself a tapered extension of the blade, attaching it to the handle).
Some end nuts and screws are drilled radially and pinned to prevent unscrewing . Pins may be the form of a wire ring to accommodate ribbons.
A: Pommel B: Handgrip C: Tang D: Guard E: Blade
To remove the pommel, simply pry open the locking ring/pin, remove the nut, and slide off the pommel, handgrip and guard. This reveals the tang, which passes through the whole assembly. (Diag 3)
Some tai chi swords have a pin and washer instead of a screw and nut. A typical set up would be with the pin-end split crosswise and then spread over the washer to form a tight rivet like fit. Undoing this set up involves squeezing together the "petals" of the split end, then prying off the washer.
There is a cruder version of this fixing method, which is to have the end pin merely spread by hammering so that the spread edges thus formed bear on the base of the pommel. If you want to convert these end pins to screws, they need to be trimmed by sawing or filing to remove the split or spread part. It can then be threaded to some common bolt size, and fitted with a nut.
The Brass Pommel Fitting For The Double Edged Sword
There is no need to copy the ornate shape of the original pommel to balance a sword. Instead, you can use one inch thick brass stock (from a metal scrap yard).
Brass stock comes in various basic forms: slab, ingots, bars and rods of various shapes and sizes. You will need to shape or obtain a piece about 2 x 2 x 1 inches; that is, a 2 inch square, 1 inch thick.
Mark the exact center of one of the 2 x 1 inch faces and drill a 1/4 inch hole right through the slab. ( If the hole you have just drilled is only 1 inch long, you have just drilled the wrong face!)
Now mark a 1/2 inch line across two corners only of 2 x 2 inch face, one on each side of the drilled hole. File or cut off the corners as marked in diagram 3 These two bevels are then oriented towards the handle in the final reassembly. This is to prevent damage to the hand from sharp corners during tai chi sword work.
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