Also known as the haft, the hilt is the bottom part of the sword that joins with the blade. A sword consists of more than just a blade; it requires several other components that are found in the hilt. To learn more about sword hilts and the three components within them, keep reading.
The guard (shown to the left) is an extended bar of metal found between the blade and grip. Depending on the specific type of sword and who made it, it may consist of a horizontal bar of metal found on both sides of the blade, or it may wrap completely around the blade. The guard is typically covered in a soft material, such as leather, to protect the user's hands from injury.
In the Medieval Ages, guards weren't particularly necessary on swords. This is because most warriors carried a shield and/or wore armored gauntlets to protect their hands. When these protective accessories began to phase, however, there was a growing need to include guards on swords so the individual wouldn't cut his hands.
Directly below the guard on a sword is the grip. This component acts as the handle, allowing the user to create a secure grip around the sword. Grips are typically made of wood or metal, and they covered with a soft material like leather or shagreen.
Of course, some of the newer swords feature a rubber grip, which became popular around the 1850s. Rubber is soft, durable, and offers excellent traction.
The traditional Japanese katana featured a longer-than-usual grip. Being that it was designed for use with two hands, swordsmiths designed the katana with a long grip. Since then, this feature remains present in the katana.
The third component of a sword's hilt is the pommel. Found at the bottom of the grip, the pommel is more than just a decorative piece; it prevents the sword from slipping in the user's hand. Furthermore, some European swords were designed with heavy pommels that acted as a counterweight, allowing the blade to swing with greater force; thus, improving its power and cutting ability.
Sword pommels are found in a wide range of styles, some of which include disks, crescents, wheels, rings and even animal heads.
To recap, a typical sword's hilt consists of three components: the guard, grip and pommel. It's important to note that not all swords have these components, however. Different swordsmiths include different components in the hilt. Nonetheless, this is the most common design configuration for a sword's hilt.