The word "rapier" generally refers to a relatively long-bladed sword characterized by a complex hilt which is constructed to provide protection for the hand wielding it. While the blade might be broad enough to cut to some degree (but nowhere near that of the wider, slightly heavier swords in use around the Middle Ages), the long thin blade lends itself to thrusting. The blade might be sharpened along its entire length, sharpened only from the center to the tip (as described by Capoferro), or completely without a cutting edge as called “estoc” by Pallavicini, a rapier master who, in 1670, strongly advocated using a weapon with two cutting edges. A typical example would weigh 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) and have a relatively long and slender blade of 2.5 centimetres (0.98 in) or less in width, 1 metre (39 in) or more in length and ending in a sharply pointed tip.

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