The Viking sword was a double-edged and relatively light straight sword that weighed between 2 to 4 pounds, thanks to a fuller running down the blade’s length that reduced weight without compromising strength. The blade, measuring between two and three feet, and 1.5 to 2.3 inches wide, was balanced by the hilt and pommel, while a slight blade taper helped bring its center of balance closer to the hilt. The grip was typically made of wood wrapped in leather, or for swords owned by the wealthy, the grip could by wrapped with gold or silver wire. By the close of the Viking era, blade lengths had increased, and some recovered samples dating back to that period had blades up to three and a half feet long. The sword’s tip was not pointed, but rounded – a rounded tip is stronger than an acute one, without being significantly less effective in piercing than a sharply pointed blade.
“Viking sword” is actually a misnomer, implying that it had been developed or used more commonly by Vikings than other peoples, when that was not the case. It was actually developed by Frankish swordsmiths in the Frankish Empire during the Carolignian era, but got its name because the most and best-preserved samples were recovered by archaeologists from Viking burial sites. By the time the swords’ true provenance had been recognized, the name “Viking sword” had already stuck, notwithstanding that “Carolignian sword” or even “Viking era sword” would have been more accurate.
Viking swords first emerged during the 8th century, having evolved from the Merovignian sword, which in turn had evolved from the Roman spatha, and were prevalent in Northern and Western Europe during the early Middle Ages. Early versions were made via pattern welding, in which iron bars of soft and hard qualities, for flexibility and strength, respectively, were combined, heated to weld them together, then twisted and drawn out in a thin strip that eventually became the blade. Later, pattern welding was abandoned after advances in metallurgy produced quality iron that could be smelted into good steel for sword blades.
In use, the Viking sword was wielded one-handed, although some historic texts mention two-handed use. However, the space on the sword’s handle between hilt and pommel, while commodious for a single-handed grip, is too small to be gripped by two hands. Some speculation posits that the texts might have meant not two hands on the handle, but one hand gripping the sword, while the other cupped the wrist of the sword hand to deliver blows with significantly more power.