Also known as sword sticks, cane swords are a walking aid that contain a hidden blade within it. Whilst this term typically describes a weapon that was used in eighteenth century Europe, the famous Japanese Shikomizue and Roman Dolan were both actually cane swords also.
The reason why cane swords became so popular during the eighteenth century throughout Europe was because it was becoming much less acceptable, socially, to carry a sword in an open manner. However, there still remained some gentlemen from the upper classes of society that trained in the art of swordsmanship that wanted to be armed in order to protect themselves. In addition to walking canes, swords were also concealed inside of women’s walking sticks and even parasols. The reason for this was because for women, it was even less socially acceptable to be carrying a sword.
The main type of wood that is used in the construction of a cane sword is Malacca. As standard, the handle / grip is made from metal and is rounded in shape. However, modern day cane sword have shafts that are made from various different types of wood, including both bamboo and Malacca, and have handles / grips made from sterling silver.
In some instances, cane swords have highly ornate handles / grips in the design of things such as religious emblems, skulls, animal heads etc. Whilst they may look more attractive with these designs, they are in fact much harder to use because of them. The vast majority of cane swords have pointed style blades.
There are certain countries and parts of the country where the trading, manufacturing, carrying, and / or ownership of a cane sword is actually restricted by the law of the land.
- Belgium – under Belgian law a cane sword is considered to be a concealed weapon and so is prohibited.
- France – whilst in France it is completely legal to own a cane sword, there are certain specifications in place for transporting one.
- Germany – because they are considered to be concealed weapons, the handling of cane swords is forbidden under German law.
- New Zealand – cane swords are completely prohibited in New Zealand and are considered to be an offensive weapon.
- Republic of Ireland – under the 1990 Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act, the loan, hire, sale, importation, and manufacture of cane swords is strictly forbidden.
- United Kingdom – it is illegal to trade cane swords due to the 1998 Criminal Justice Act that is in place. That being said, if one is considered to be an antique (i.e. more than 100 years old) then it is exempt from this act. For instance, it is OK for someone under the age 18 to purchase a knife unless the blade can fold away and is longer than 3 inches (7.62 cm).
- United States – cane swords are illegal due to them being concealed or disguised weapons. There have been a number of high profile cases throughout the United States of America where convictions have been brought for carrying a cane sword.