I was amazed by how heavy it really was, and how thick the blade was. Before then I'd read lots of people online saying how they were amazed "how incredibly light" a heavily restored excavated Viking Sword they held was. As time went by and I got a hold of more and more historic swords I started to get the impression that corrosion and restoration was giving people the mistaken impression that all historic swords were incredibly light and thin. Now I remind myself when weights are quoted on historic swords that restoration (especially of excavated examples) can remove a third of the material of the original sword.
There are some exceptions however. Smallswords, machetes (particularly modern ones) and others.
I think an overlooked function of the sword though is stopping power. It's not unusual for a sword not to cut something - all you need to do is try cutting things that have a few layers of clothing over them (let alone armour or a padded gambeson or boot). In this case I believe that swords were designed, for the most part, to have enough weight that if the cut failed (as often cuts do if they are not perfectly aimed or armour intervenes) to stop the opponent. When I use the word stop I mean for the sword to have the weight and momentum to say for instance take someone's legs out from under them (even if the cut fails) or if the sword strikes a shield with a hard cut and the shield remains intact there should be enough physical force behind it to drive the shield back. I think this is an important function of almost all swords because one could never be certain of the variety and comprehensiveness of the armour one would be using a sword against. For instance a Viking Sword might see action against unfortunate villagers during a pillage, and the villagers might have the misfortune of having little or no armour but may show up to the fight with stout pikes or spears. That same Viking Sword might then be part of a fight against a Byzantine Garrison where even the rank and file have exceptionally well made armour. In either case it is the ability to not only cut and thrust, but also use a sword's mass as a weapon that will be an important consideration.
I'd like to add to what you've said here Bill and point out another common aspect modern sword lovers don't share with past users at least in this particular instance. Now days most buyers want a razor sharp blade but once while reading about the civil war and American Indian war eras I found a passage about sabers being used back then and that it was better if they were a bit dull otherwise they tended to cut far too deep into the target(mainly the torso I believe and a topless torso has zero protection in that particular instance). This caused the swords to get stuck and pulled from the cavalryman's hand...I wish I could remember where I read about this to quote directly. It came across as though even back then the sword makers had been given a job and made the military's blades with the best intentions very sharp but then in actual practice the military would find this wasn't best for actual combat because of the problems...I also know it is far easier to hurt ones self as well and that may have been in there too but I don't remember. These cavalry sabers and time period is a very specific era and circumstances but still its interesting to think about.
Just to clarify historically they actually did make the cavalry sabers sharp so reproductions that are sharp make perfect sense. I only meant with practical use at the time in the military they end up wanting them a bit dull. Concerning the average modern day sword enthusiast I was only pointing out the importance they place on a fine honed blade. For many it is one of the most important factors. Edge sharpness and degrees of sharpness were more diverse than modern makers represent. More often than not they all have flat type cross section geometry where many historical swords especially Vikings had convex geometry leaving much more material than a flat grind another factor that would make them weigh more as well.
It wouldn't surprise me at all Josh. All you have to do is cut with a sharp sword a few times and it quickly becomes less sharp - a less than razor sharp blade is much less likely to stick into a carcass I've found, and the same applies for heavy cardboard (the kind they ship dishwashers and washing machines in). Whereas a super sharp sword gets stuck because the material around it fits so tightly, the slightly blunter blade tends to bounce out as it begins to tear at the end of the cut.
Another interesting thing I've noticed is that a super sharp sword will cut a watermelon with relatively little impact shock around the cut - a stouter blade with a slightly less sharp edge tends to turn everything around the cut to mush even if the cut proceeds perfectly through the watermelon. A comparable result has been identified with regard to musket balls versus modern pointed bullets - musket balls can cause alot more damage though they may not penetrate as well, this damage can in some circumstances be much more troublesome to deal with in the field. Given the other numerous advantages of modern shells however I think it is unlikely that modern Armies will start using muskets or spherical rounds again any time soon! (With the exception of the shotgun)
There was a Vietnam Veteran who used to tour around schools in Australia called Peter Lee and he would give seminars to students about modern, medieval and ancient combat. He was a great guy, at least what I knew of him, though I'm told unfortunately he passed away in the mid nineties. I strongly remember that one of the observations he had made about many medieval swords is that razor sharp was not necessarily optimal; this was borne out by originals he had inspected and his own deduction that it requires the removal of quite a bit of material to keep a sword paper cutting sharp, and that the lifespan of an expensive sword would be considerably shortened if it were subjected to repeated intense sharpening after use - and repeated intensive sharpening coupled with the prerequisite loss of metal that it requires goes against what we know regarding swords remaining in continual use for hundreds of years from the migration era onward; a parabolic edge or secondary bevel where most of the sharpening takes place on the last milimeter of the blade edge seems more likely to me. John Clemens has made a video on Youtube pointing out that even an untouched factory fresh budget sword like a Tinker Bastard Sword from Hanwei can cut Tatami just fine, and I tend to agree. For the record I am not implying there is anything wrong with Hanwei or the Tinker Line, I think John Clemen's point is that even a sword with just a basic edge put on in it in a factory en masse with other swords can be perfectly fit to task - one does not need to hone an edge for two months as the Japanese do in order to create a sword that cuts efficiently - you only need to contemplate the straight edge razor or the guillotine for proof of this.
The convex edge found on executioner's swords is a good example. Swords of Justice as they were euphemistically referred to were expected to cut and do so regularly, as are Kuhkris - many of which double as tools in the case of the latter. Swords of Justice have a sharp, but well supported edge, Kukris tend to be sharpish with an even stouter reinforcement behind the cutting edge. The "pillow profile" that is typical of swords of justice was unpopular in Western Europe, but very popular in Byzantium where they were manufactured with a more slender blade silhouette to compensate for the extra weight a fuller might normally remove, these "pillow profile" or lenticular bladed swords were used by regular soldiers as well as prestige troops like Kataphracts. There is even an example of one such sword which probably belonged to a Varangian Guardsman - the elite bodyguard of the Emperor, or the Caesar's wine sacks depending on your perspective!
I got to cut milk jugs for the first time with my Claymore.
My best cut was 1" above the bottom of the jug. The worst cut was when I went "thwunk!" right into the side of the wood. This left a tiny little nick that I had to ease out with a whetstone, which took a few minutes and went really well. The point is if that happened a lot, battle after battle, I concur that there is a tradeoff between sharpness and durability for sure.