Blade Fullers

A fuller is a groove in a blade extending horizontally along the length. If present, fullers on a blade serve both function and esthetic appearance.

example fuller with arrow

Example of a simple fuller

Fullers may vary in number, width, length, position, depth and form of indentation. The primary purpose of a fuller is to lighten the blade; lighter blades are easier and faster to wield. Variations in the attributes of fullers may also affect the weight balance and related properties of the blade.  See “Understanding Blade Properties” by Patrick Kelly for an in-depth description. These properties include:

  • Center of Balance - the point on the length of the blade where it balances.
  • Center of Percussion - the point along the length of a blade where there is little vibration when striking and object. This is the "sweet spot" where maximum energey is delivered to a target.
  • Pivot Point - the location on the length of the sword around which the blade pivots when the grip is moved.

A fuller is NOT a “blood grove"

Fullers have often been referred to as “blood grooves” based on the idea that they enable blood to flow more freely from a wound, or ease withdrawal of a blade from body, or reduce the “sucking sound”.  These ideas are false.

Instead, the purpose of a fuller is to lighten and strengthen the sword blade. The grooves are consistent in structure to an I beam, lessening the weight of the sword yet keeping structural integrity and strength. The basic design principle is that bending causes more stress in material near the edge or back of the blade than material in the middle, due to leverage. Fullers remove material from near this neutral axis, which is closer to the blade’s spine if one edge is sharpened. This yields stiffer blades of a given weight, or lighter blades of a given stiffness.

There is a bit of truth to the idea that fullers affect the sound a blade makes. However, it is not for silence but to allow the wielder to better control the blade. As far as I know, this aspect is limited to the katana and Japanese swordsmanship. On a katana, the fullers (always on both sides of the blade) make a whistling sound when the sword is swung. If the swordsman hears one whistle when swinging a grooved katana then that means that just one groove is making the whistle. Two whistles means that both the edge of the blade and a groove are making a whistle, and three whistles together (the blade edge and both grooves) would tell the swordsman that his blade is perfectly angled with the direction of the cut.

Fullers are evident in the cross section of a blade.

Fullers also serve as important decorative features of a blade and are themselves decorated using any and all the methods described in the section on Decoration.

Examples of fullers are shown in the pictures below. Click on the picture for full size. Click on the link in the caption for more information about the particular dagger.

Berber Shula Blade Detail

Single wide fuller on a Berber Shula dagger

Blade detail on Bhutanese dagger

Single narrow fuller on Bhutanese dagger

Ottoman Afyon Dagger - Fullers

Twin Fullers on an Ottoman Afyon dagger

EA10 Qama Blade Detail showing three fullers