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Benefits of an offset handle?


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I have a question about two different tools, both with handles that are offset out of line with the working end. The first is a snow shovel:

 

Snowshovel.jpg

 

Does this offset handle confer any real physical advantages? Is it easier to lift when full because my arms are at a better angle to take advantage of my strength, or could I do the same thing with a straight handle by holding it differently? Or does it only seem easier to lift?

 

The second is a sword. Both the falcata (shown below) and the Egyptian kopesch have a slashing blade offset an inch or two from the handle, putting the blade forward of where it would normally be when striking a target.

 

X7Ll8.jpg

 

The idea is (or so I've heard), as you strike with the offset blade, the center of percussion is changed, and by the time a straight blade hits, this offset blade is already an inch or two into the target. Sounds great, but is that really a physical advantage? Is there more momentum to provide more force to the blow when the blade is offset forward?

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I think the advantage of the offset handle on the snow shovel is about posture, i.e. you don't have to bend over as much to get a scoop. Less back bending = less back pain.

 

As to the sword I think what you heard is old wives' tales. (Maybe old warriors' tales?) Talking about 'by the time a straight blade hits' is only as good as the speed at which the blade be swanged. :P

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I suppose, with an offset handle you can reach the ground level with (effectively) shorter handle and still maintain nice body and blade positions. To do the same with a straight handle, the handle would have to be longer -> thus more difficult to lift.... But, I would choose the straight handle anyway (as I like long handles on snow shovels). With an offset handle, I suppose it should be harder to push the shovel into a compact snow.

 

I have less experience with swords, sorry.

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With the sword - could it be about the angle of impact during the strike or slice? Take a hack to the arm for example - with a sword hacking down with your own striking hand and a given angle (lets say what ever angle gives the 'sweetest' chop).. some of the impacting energy from the blade will go into the sever and some will slice off rather than cut through, how much goes to each will depend on the angle of the blade to the target arm - at 90 degrees to the arm's normal the blade is purely chopping and if parallel to the arm's normal it is a glancing slice. If at 45 degrees then it is part chop and part slice. So - if you want to chop, then your sword above is great because the curve forward gives you a more chopping blow (the weighting of the blade lends more for a chop too)...

 

I've heard it said and it would make sense that a curve in the other direction would favor a slicing, cutting blow, The angle would favor the slice more and you get an easier longer cut, although not as deep.

 

That's what I recon anyway - don't take it as gospel. There would be some distribution of the incoming forces/energy of the blade and it would have something to do with the angle of inpact (sin/cosQ x incoming force to favor the chop or the slice) - If I get time I'll look it up to see if I find anything.

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I found a vid of some guy doing test hacks - but I wasn't happy with his method.. he was 'debunking' the curved blade 'theory' with his longs sword and very slightly curved katana.. (and he didn't really look like an expert)... basically he said no difference, but he looked like a prat and the blade was curved back, so I would have expected it not to 'chop' as well - which is what he was doing, when we reckon the backway curve is better for a slice rather than a chop (a longer shallower slice). He would have been better with yours for his chop I reckon (shorter deeper slice), except he was no way consistent with the power he put into each hit.

 

Wow! A can of worms and arguments all over from searching - lol.

 

I reckon I am right for the theory.... back curve = shallower longer slice / forward curve = deeper biting chop

 

some discussion here. https://www.reddit.com/r/SWORDS/comments/2phltp/why_do_curved_swords_cut_better_than_straight/

 

 

 

Yea - it complicated, lol depends on the hack and draw etc.. and the user's skill. There are loads of discussions about it - can't find anything definitive yet though. Seems it might all be over stated a little and dependent on style of use - but I still reckon the angle thing giving deeper or longer cuts based on a forward or backwards curve makes some sense. What do you think?

Edited by DrP
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I think the advantage of the offset handle on the snow shovel is about posture, i.e. you don't have to bend over as much to get a scoop. Less back bending = less back pain.

An advantage to be sure. Perhaps not bending over also keeps the arms closer to the body for better core strength? Or more naturally lets you lift with your legs more than your back?

 

As to the sword I think what you heard is old wives' tales. (Maybe old warriors' tales?) Talking about 'by the time a straight blade hits' is only as good as the speed at which the blade be swanged. :P

That's the feeling I have. It sounds plausible though, being able to shift the striking edge closer to the target seems like it would increase the depth of the cut. If I swing a straight blade, the hilt, my hand, and the striking edge are meeting the target in a line, and I'm timing my strike to meet the target at that moment when it's all lined up and my strength is being used most efficiently. But if I'm swinging a blade where the edge is already a couple inches ahead in the swing, it seems like the power point in my swing is now in an open wound instead of just starting one.

I found the offset shovel easier to lift snow, but harder to throw it over the bank.

 

That's something I hadn't considered. Doesn't that mean that if the snow is really deep (where it would be great to save your back), you shouldn't use the offset since you'll have to toss it over a higher bank (thus negating the back benefits)?

With the sword - could it be about the angle of impact during the strike or slice? Take a hack to the arm for example - with a sword hacking down with your own striking hand and a given angle (lets say what ever angle gives the 'sweetest' chop).. some of the impacting energy from the blade will go into the sever and some will slice off rather than cut through, how much goes to each will depend on the angle of the blade to the target arm - at 90 degrees to the arm's normal the blade is purely chopping and if parallel to the arm's normal it is a glancing slice. If at 45 degrees then it is part chop and part slice. So - if you want to chop, then your sword above is great because the curve forward gives you a more chopping blow (the weighting of the blade lends more for a chop too)...

 

The angle is changed, you're right. Here's a kopesch:

 

tutankamen_smaller_khopesh_41cm.jpg

 

With this example, you can more easily see how the blade is going to reach the target ahead of a straight blade. But will that take better advantage of that point where you strike?

 

In baseball, it's that point where your wrists "break", you expect the bat to meet the ball at a point that will send it where you want. An offset to a baseball bat wouldn't make sense since you aren't just trying to hit the ball as hard as you can. An offset to a bat might mean your home run over center field gets fouled off left, but with a sword, that point of impact always needs as much advantage as you can get.

 

I'm just not convinced there is any real advantage with the sword.

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I think those shovels are best for people who already have a bad back, if you are in good physical condition they are not worth the negative trade offs if you're intentions is largely towards preventing a back injury. When material is compacted a shovel with a heavier often solid handle that is inline with the shovel edge will transfer the most energy to the blade. A curved, hollow and most often lighter aluminum alloy handle requires the user to use their body mass to ram the compacted material.

 

Your hands, wrists and elbows will remind you of this work for several days, not only for the missing mass that an inline solid handle would have had, but because the extra effort it took just to overcome the flex in that light weight tube that behaves as a shock absorber. With a regular shovel it is very easy to knock material loose with just using one arm, with the shovel head sliding on the ground, a sort of shuffle board technique. Once the material is loose you switch to both hands.

 

That sword takes advantage of a better angle of attack, the blade aligns with the target better or more efficiently in a radius swing, much like the very curved blade on a battle axe.

 

A sword's length is limited by the metal's strength, the area just ahead of the handle is highly vulnerable to breaking and a sword maker would know this area's vulnerability, and adding a larger tip mass ratio would increase the stresses towards the user's end.

 

My own personal view of how these weapons evolved is that these blades were used as tools more often than weapons. Soldiers used these everyday for clearing campsites, cutting through brush on a march or to build a fortification. How much firewood could be split with that blade. Don't forget about making dinner, they butchered animals too. Most of that wear may have occurred in that thinner area because much non combat activities may involve the need for more control by holding the work with one hand while cutting or chopping with the other.

 

As the blade wears down and that same area is sharpened over and over it would begin to take the observed shape. Once a user observed by comparison how the now lighter and more nimble blade with the better attack angle performed the owner would likely grind down a new one to resemble that old one or ask the sword maker to copy the old one that became so thin it finally broke.

 

I can imagine his response;

 

"OK, but if it breaks and you get killed don't come complaining to me!"

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The sword shown in the OP looks to me like a Kukri.

Weaponry[edit]
The kukri is effective as a chopping and slashing weapon. Because the blade bends towards the opponent, the user need not angle the wrist while executing a chopping motion. Unlike a straight-edged sword, the center of mass combined with the angle of the blade allow the kukri to slice as it chops. The edge slides across the target's surface while the center of mass maintains momentum as the blade moving through the target's cross-section. This gives the kukri a penetrative force disproportional to its length. The design enables the user to inflict deep wounds and to penetrate bone. This has been proven over and over in battlefields where Gurkhas chopped the heads of the enemy off in one smooth slice.
In India the kukri sometimes incorporates a Mughal-style hilt in the fashion of the talwar, but the plainer traditional form is preferred in Nepal.

Utility[edit]
While most famed from use in the military, the kukri is the most commonly used multipurpose tool in the fields and homes in Nepal. Its use has varied from building, clearing, chopping firewood, digging, slaughtering animals for food, cutting meat and vegetables, skinning animals, and opening cans. Its use as a general farm and household tool disproves the often stated "taboo" that the weapon cannot be sheathed "until it has drawn blood".

The kukri is versatile. It can function as a smaller knife by using the narrower part of the blade, closest to the handle. The heavier and wider end of the blade, towards the tip, functions as an axe or a small shovel.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kukri

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That's something I hadn't considered. Doesn't that mean that if the snow is really deep (where it would be great to save your back), you shouldn't use the offset since you'll have to toss it over a higher bank (thus negating the back benefits)?

 

 

 

I suppose there are two scenarios, plowing and shoveling. Plowing is more of a push than a lift. When plowing, I tend to put both hands on the end of the handle and push at the optimum angle.

 

During light to moderate snow fall, when the banks are not high, I certainly see some advantage to the offset tool, especially for those with bad backs.

Edited by Lagoon Island Pearls
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As to the sword I think what you heard is old wives' tales. (Maybe old warriors' tales?) Talking about 'by the time a straight blade hits' is only as good as the speed at which the blade be swanged. :P

 

That's the feeling I have. It sounds plausible though, being able to shift the striking edge closer to the target seems like it would increase the depth of the cut. If I swing a straight blade, the hilt, my hand, and the striking edge are meeting the target in a line, and I'm timing my strike to meet the target at that moment when it's all lined up and my strength is being used most efficiently. But if I'm swinging a blade where the edge is already a couple inches ahead in the swing, it seems like the power point in my swing is now in an open wound instead of just starting one.

...

 

The merits of any particular sword as a weapon are relative to the conditions of its use and type of material used. What is good in one situation may not be a benefit in another. For examples: Is the sword being wielded from horseback or afoot? What is the weaponry of the enemy that it is being used against? Is the enemy armored or not? How brittle or flexible is the sword?
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