Learning Blender 3D - mesh editing a simple sword

Learn to make a Simple Sword in Blender

In the previous chapter we learnt to load a sketch into Blender 3D and set it up as the background image of a scene. In the following chapter we'll be using that image as 'template' to guide us in the making of a simple low poly sword model. Along the way we'll learn about manipulating a mesh, using various tools and essential principles that aid the making of models with Blender 3D.

It's recommended that you've worked through the previous exercise and made the simple chair model; many of the tools and functions used in that tutorial will also used in this one whilst making the simple sword model.

mesh Editing, select & moving elements ^

The first couple of steps we need to carry out in making our simple sword are to switch to "Edit" mode and then manipulate the default cube so we block-out a basic shape that corresponds to a blade - this helps to define not only the physical characteristics of the model but also allows us to get a better sense of the objects overall proportions at this very early stage in development.

Press "Tab" to enter "Edit" mode, then "A" to make sure everything is deselected ("Select » Select/Deselect All"). Using the sketch as a guide, "Border" ("B") or "Circle" ("C") select the vertices at one end of the cube, press "G" and then position them as per the background image, deselect ("A") and repeat for the other end so one set is placed where the handle is to be, the other at the tip of the sword (shown below). "LMB" to confirm the each action. This should result in a long rectangle shaped mesh ready for the next step, shaping the blade.

Design note: both "Border Select" and "Circle Select" can be accessed from the header menu - "Select » Border Select" and "Select » Circle Select" respectively. Selected elements can be moved freely using the "Grab" action ("G" or "Mesh » Transform » Grab/Move") as well as being locked to an axis by subsequently clicking one of the 'axis' shortcut keys - "X", "Y" or "Z", or by using a specific 'Red', 'Green' or 'Blue' handle of the "manipulator widget". Remember also that multi-select in wireframe 'drills-down' through the mesh and selects everything within the selection zone.

Border select the end vertices of the mesh

Using one of a number of ways to select elements of a mesh in Edit mode - "B" to "Border Select" vertices

Using the Manipulator Widget in Blender

Use the "Manipulator Widget" to constrain translation movement to a particular direction by clicking one of its 'handles', in this instance 'red' or the "X" axis

Using "G" to translate/move vertices to reshape the cube

Moving selected vertexes ("G"), and constraining along the "X" axis, to the top of the blade as indicated in the sketch. Both top and bottom shown above have been done, roughing out the general shape of the blade area [see *.blend "1b"]

Loop cut sub-divisions ^

To shape the blade it first needs to be sub-divided into a number of sections. This is done using the "Loop cut" tool - a mesh or selected element can be divided a number of ways, using loop cut allows controlled divisions to be added without necessarily affecting the entire mesh.

To add a loop cut move the mouse over an edge and press "Ctrl+R" (whilst in Edit mode), a pink guideline will appear marking the direction the loop will be cut depending where the mouse cursor is. With the tool active rather than using the normal process of adding a loop and repeating that to place additional cuts, instead we can scroll the middle mouse button "up" or "down" to add/remove any number of loop cuts, indicated by the number of pink guidelines that appear - N.B. each cut is an equally spaced sub-division of the mesh within the group of cuts being made. We only need two loop cuts so "MMB+scroll" 'up' until two pink division markers appear and then "LMB" to confirm the action and fix the cuts in place. This will result in a mesh with three equally proportion sections (the middle being pre-selected as a result of adding the loop cuts).

Adding two loopcuts scrolling the MMB in Blender

Adding loop cuts to a section of the mesh using "Ctrl+R" and then scrolling the MMB 'up' to add equally spaced divisions

Dividing the mesh into three sections after loop cuts in Blender

The added loop cuts, evenly spaced and automatically selected ready for the mesh to be shaped [see *.blend "1c"]

Vertex manipulation & shaping the blade ^

Each of the loops cuts made above also added a corresponding set of vertices we can now use to shape the general profile of the blade. Deselect everything ("A") and then continuing to use the sketch as a guide, Border ("B") or Circle ("C") select each set of vertices and in turn move ("G") and position them along the general outline of the concept, as the 'silhouette' is defined "LMB" click to confirm each action and set the vertices in place. The end result should look similar to the images below with the basic mesh now resembling the sketch more closely.

Design note: the "Front", "Right" and "Top" orthographic views, "numPad1", "numPad3" and "numPad7" respectively, are useful during this process because movement is restricted to two axes reducing the risk of accidentally warping the mesh.

Manipulating vertexes to rough in the shape of the sword in Blender

Selecting individual vertices (on both the 'front' facing and 'back' sides of the mesh) and manipulating them to shape the blade based on the contours of the concept sketch [see *.blend "1d"]

Vertexes positioned to block out shape of sword blade in Blender

The end result of moving the mesh vertices to shape the blade neatly following the outline of the background image previously loaded [see *.blend "2"]

Extruding vertices & shaping the handle ^

Next a new section needs to be made for the swords handle using "Extrude". As always we need to deselect any previous selections and then reselect the specific elements we want to use. Press "A" to clear the mesh then Border ("B") or Circle ("C") select the vertices at end that corresponds to the handle, with this group active press "E" to "Extrude" the group ("Extrude » Extrude Region") - a pale blue line will automatically appear along which the newly created section will track when the mouse is moved. Position the new section at the very end of the handle (top of the pommel) and LMB click to confirm the move (shown below).

Design note: the pale blue line represents something called a "Face Normal" a reference point used by Blender to determine amongst other things, the angle, direction and position of a given face or selection of elements. By default extrude actions follow this axis.

Extruding a selection of vertices to make the sword handle in Blender

Extruding a vertex selection, "E", which will allows the formation of the swords handles [see *.blend "3"]

This new section then needs to be sub-divided, again using loop cuts, and shaped to form the basic profile of the handle. As always when placing loop cuts, move the mouse near to or over an edge that's part of the new handle section and press "Ctrl+R", when the pink guideline appears "MMB+scroll" 'up' to add two further division, three in total (shown below) and then "LMB" click to set them in place. Once this is done, and using the sketch as a guide again, select each 'set' of vertices in turn (use border or circle select to drill down through the mesh) and position them along the outline taking note to place one set towards the base of the handle area - these will be used to form the guard arms, another set in the middle and slightly concave relative to the others, and the final set at the base of the pommel. The result of this should be similar the images shown below, a roughly shape 'handle' mesh section.

Dividing the sword handle using loopcuts in Blender 2.5

Loop cut sub-dividing the previously extruded handle by using MMB+scroll+up to add several equidistant cuts in one action instead of individually placing them manually

Resulting loops cut into the handle area ready for shaping in Blender

Evenly spaced loop cuts added [see *.blend "4"]

Moving vertices to shape the handle using previously cut edge loops in Blender

Deselect after cutting the loops and then select specific vertices, moving them to shape the sword handle as was done when forming the blades silhouette - note their position is approximate to the contours of the sketch at this point so it's not absolutely necessary to follow the outline exactly [see *.blend "4b"]

A final loop cut is then needed across what is to become the pommel of the sword. As before, once the cut is made, select and position the new vertices along the sketch outline to block-out the shape[1,2].

Adding a loopcut to shape the sword pommel

Adding a final loop cut to the handle area to shape the pommel (counter weight at the end of a sword). 1&2 showing where the vertices from the new cut need to be positioned to rough-out the shape after the cut has been made

The end result of shaping the mesh up to this point should be similar to the image below (shown with all its vertices selected). After this, the final stage in blocking out the mesh is to add the guard arms, the two projections we can see sticking out of the sketch top and bottom.

Blade and handle shaped in Blender

Current state of the sword after the initial stages of loop cutting the mesh and shaping the results to form the basic blade, handle and pommel silhouette, all of which is roughly approximate to the sketch [see *.blend "5"]

Extruding & shaping the guard ^

The handle guard arms need to be made now by following the same process used to make the handle itself. If the mesh has been constructed as per described above then there should be an area between the top of the blade where it joins the handle area and the handle itself from which the arms can be extruded.

Deselect everything ("A") then Border or Circle ("B" or "C") select the vertices on one side (outer facing edge) of this area[1,2] (shown below). Press "E" to 'Extrude' along the face normal a short distance according to the sketch (or RMB to release the faces and press "G" to move them manually into position). Deselect and then repeat this action for the other side. The end result should be two projections sticking out from the body of the mesh (second image below) which then need to be shaped using loop cuts.

Extruding vertices to make the sword hilt

Making the handle guard arm protrusions by extruding a selection of vertices (1 & 2) on either side of the current handle base

Adding loopcuts to hilt arms ready for shaping in Blender

Loop cuts added to hilt arms so they can be shaped along the contours of the sketch, as it's not symmetrical the arms are divided to allow the sword model to be similarly fashioned (asymmetrically) [see *.blend "6"]

Looking at the sketch and comparing each arm, one is shorter than the other, connecting directly to the body, the other has a short 'neck' which will require the placement of an additional loop cut. So, for the single loop just press "Ctrl+R", LMB click to activate the guide and then LMB again to set a single cut in place. For the two loops, repeat the above, "Ctrl+R", "LMB" click and scroll the MMB 'up', when two equally spaced guidelines appear LMB click to confirm. Deselect everything to clear the mesh ("A") then border/circle select each group of vertices in turn and rough out ("G") the shape of the guard arms using the sketch outline as a guide for position and placement. The end result should look similar to the images below. At this point the initial 'block-out' of the sword is complete, we have a general profile that now needs to be shaped across it's 'width' ("Y" axis facing the viewer).

Shaping the hilt once loppcuts are placed

Guard arms, showing shape relative to the loop cuts

Sword shape blocked-out in the "X" and "Z" axis.

Final shape of the sword before the next phase [see *.blend "7"]

Centre-line loop cuts ^

In the previous sections of the tutorial we've basically been forming the general shape of the sword, it's 'contour' relative to the sketch. From here on in we're changing tact and altering the sword as an 'object', one that has breadth; essentially these will be changes that make the model look more like a sword rather than a cardboard cutout. Before doing that however, we need to add a number of centre-line loop cuts to the mesh, which will be put to later use, the easiest way of doing that is to let Blender do it automatically.

When we've been adding loop cuts previously it's basically been a three step process; step one, "Ctrl+R" to initialising the tool and select an orientation, step two, LMB clicking to confirm the orientation and select a position; and step three, LMB click to confirm and set the final loop cuts position. To let Blender auto-centre a cut, at step three simply RMB (right) click, this forces Blender to automatically default to a centralised position because one hasn't been provided for it. With this in mind we need to add three centre-line loop cuts; one from blade tip to pommel top; a second along the guard (top-to-bottom as we're looking at it); and finally a third looping around the mesh along the "X" axis - as we can't currently see this orientation at the moment press "numPad3" to switch to "Front" view ("View » Right") or press "numPad5" to toggle into "User Persp" mode so the cut can be added from that view as an alternative.

Depending on how you added the cuts, press "numPad5" anyway as we need to be in 'perspective' mode ("View » View Persp/Ortho") for much of what's to follow, bearing in mind also that from this point onwards we'll be making use of MMB to rotate, translate, and zoom in/out of the scene as the mesh is edited - "MMB+hold+drag", "Shift+MMB" and "MMB+scroll" respectively.

Design note: an alternative way to add loop cuts that need to travel along the exact centre of a selection is to hold the "Ctrl" key after the loop position and orientation has been chosen (steps "1" and "2" mentioned above) so mouse/tool movement snaps to the grid - keep an eye on the bottom left-hand-side of the 3D view 'Header' for the "Edge Slide Percent:" indicator, LMB click when it reads "Edge Slide Percent: 0.00" to place the cuts dead-centre.

Adding centrelines

Adding centre-lines down each cardinal axis of the mesh which ensure that any additional edits made are equidistant on either side of the centre-line as well as providing a 'centre' to which any collapsing may be done [see *.blend "8"]

Centreline along "X" axis

Switching to perspective to view the mesh properly and add the final loop cut, two centre-lines are cut which loop around the entire mesh front to back and left to right ("X" and "Y" axis orientation) [see *.blend "9"]

Scaling/re-sizing a mesh ^

Much of what needs to be done now will be carried out in perspective mode. The primary reason for this is so as to better assess and judge the objects appearance in terms of both it's overall 'look' as well as it's actual size and dimensions as they relate to its proportions - orthogonally displaying a scene makes this difficult because it removes perspective, the key visual cue we use to determine depth.

The first step is to alter the width of the mesh using "Scale" along a single axis, this helps us get a better idea of the swords 'true' shape, i.e. an object with 'mass' ('size', 'shape' and 'weight'), as we work. Select the entire mesh, "A", press "S" to initialise "Scale" ("Mesh > Transform > Scale"), "Y" to constrain the action to "Y axis" and hold "Ctrl" whilst moving the mouse to snap the to the grid; resize the mesh to roughly one eighth of it's original width (similar to the image below). This should result in a long reasonably thin object that's starting to look more like a sword.

Switch to Solid view

Switching to "Solid" mode helps to get a better sense of the swords current dimensions and 'mass', it's important to see this so as to make better judgments regarding an objects appearance and general proportions

Scale the mesh to make it thinner

Because scaling the object should be relative to that object and how it 'feels'; solid mode also helps in this regard because the shading used makes it's easier to judge an objects 'real' shape and silhouette. Press "S" to "Scale" and "Y" to lock movement to the "Y" axis [see *.blend "10"]

Loop select & making the sword handle ^

With the width of the sword set we can move on to partially shaping the handle and guard arms at the same time. Switch "Select Mode" to "Face" using "Ctrl+Tab" then border ("B") or circle ("C") select the entire handle region (toggle "wire" view using "Z" to make this easier where necessary). Then using a combination of "Shift+RMB", to select individual faces and/or "Shift+Alt+RMB" to select entire 'loops', select the top row of faces belonging to the guard arms - remember to use "MMB" + "Shift/Alt/Zoom/Drag" to rotate, position and zoom the scene as necessary to make the selections.

Design note: "Alt+RMB" selects a 'loop' of faces/edges/vertices, using "Shift" will add/remove elements to/from any previous selections, both individual faces and/or loop selections. This type of selection, where several elements are selected in sequence, is typically referred to as "Multi-Select". Additionally it's important to note that where a RMB selection is made determines which 'loop' or groups of elements are selected; given the nature of most objects, their structure means there may be more than one selection orientation available - typically a 'left/right' or 'up/down' type of choice - so where the mouse cursor is in relation to these elements when the RMB is used determines which loop is selected.

Alt+RMB to select a loop of faces

Remembering to rotate around the mesh with "MMB+click+hold", "Ctrl+Tab" to switch to "Face Select" mode to make it easier to select a region of the mesh using border, circle or individually selecting polygons instead of vertices as was being done previously. Be sure to select-click in the correct location as 1) clicking the outer edge to select the correct face loop (highlighted red). Or clicking 2) will select the incorrect loop around the mesh (highlighted green). Yellow highlights the 'cross-over' where the same faces can be selected using either location [see *.blend "10b"]

With the appropriate faces now selected, press "S" then "Y" to "Scale" and lock the mouse to the "Y" axis, resize the region to approximately three or four times it's previous width to establish the handles outer limits - holding "Ctrl" to snap-to-grid may be helpful whilst doing this (shown below).

Rescale the handle area thicker

Press "S" to initiate "Scale", then press "Y" to constrain movement to a single axis before resizing the handle area (hold "Ctrl") to snap movement) [see *.blend "10c"]

Vertex (edge) loop selection and mode ^

With the width established we now need to correct it's shape and make it appear more cylindrical and 'handle' like. This is done by selecting the outer edges of the section and collapsing them together. First we need to select the edges.

Use "Ctrl+Tab" and switch "Select Mode" to "Vertex", then "Alt+RMB" click one of the outer edges of the handle area to make an initial selection. There are four of these edges in total we need to select so hold "Shift+Alt" and RMB click the remaining edge loops on each side to include them in the previous selection - if doing this 'over-selects' (selects more elements than are needed), simply use "Shift+Alt+RMB" and/or "Shift+RMB" to add/remove individual 'loops' or vertices; all that should remain are the outer edges of the handle from the top of the pommel down to the top edge of the guard arms (highlighted below in 'orange', 'yellow', 'green' and 'red').

Design note: as with selecting face loops (discussed above), be mindful of similar conditions under which vertex loops can be selected because several loops can immerge from a single vertex in any number of directions - be sure to RMB click in the appropriate location for the loop being selected. For example, in the image below the yellow highlighted loop needs to be selected so the user should RMB click an edge element that looks to be a specific part of that loop[1], clicking elsewhere[2] will likely result in the wrong selection being made (pink highlighted line) - use "Shift+Alt+RMB" to add/remove selections.

Selecting edge loops in Blender

"Ctrl+Tab" to switch back to either "Vertex Select" or "Edge Select" mode and select the outer edges of the blade - use a combination of "Shift/Alt+RMB" and "Shift+Alt+RMB" to select edge loops. Be mindful again as to where selection clicking occurs as 1) clicking this edge will select the 'yellow' loop. 2) click here will select the 'pink' (incorrect) loop [see *.blend "11aa"]

Collapsing edges & merging vertexes ^

With the loops now selected we need to do two things; first collapse them together so they meet at the centre-line previously created, and second 'merge' the coincidental vertices this causes. Press "S" and "Y" to "Scale" and lock the axis, then press and hold "Ctrl" whilst moving the mouse to snap movement to the grid, collapse the edges together at the centre-line previously cut to give the handle the much needed cylindrical profile. LMB click to confirm the action.

Collapsing edge loops in Blender

Use "S" to collapse the selected edges by scaling them toward each other and the previously cut centre-line (marked in blue above). Again hold "Ctrl" whilst doing this to snap to grid (tends to prevent 'backward' scaling where selected elements invert on themselves relative to the action being carried out) [see *.blend "11"]

Collapsed vertices in Blender

The end result should be edges along either side of the handle collapsed together along the centerline, the edge should appear as a single line with no discernable gaps or other edges visible [see *.blend "11b"]

Once this is done, press "A" to "Select All" (may need to be pressed twice, once to deselect, then again to reselect), then from the "ToolShelf" panel to the left of the 3D view (press "T" if it's not visible), click the "Remove Doubles" button to "merge" and remove all the coincidental vertices (several vertices occupying the same position) that occur as a result of collapsing edge loops together. This serves a two-fold purpose; 1) it removes redundant elements - items not needed should be removed (without necessarily 'deleting' them). And 2) it prevents incorrect vertex selections - left 'as is' several vertices would occupy and be selectable from the exact same location (the centre and two collapsed vertices), making appropriate selections problematic later on. So before continuing be sure to merge the vertices.

Design note: remember that "A" is/can/should be used throughout the editing process to "clear" previous/current selections, allowing new ones to be made.

Using Remove Doubles in Blender to join vertices

Select all faces ("A") and "Remove Doubles" - 'coincidental' vertices resulting from the collapsing the edge loops together - to merge the vertices together so they form a true single edge [see *.blend "11c"]

Shaping the upper half of the sword handle ^

We next need to refine the handle by altering its shape, narrower at the hilt and pommel whilst being slightly wider towards the middle. Because the object needs to be shaped in two orientations we'll toggle into orthogonal "Front", "Right" and/or "Top" views as needed so vertices can be better placed relative to the background sketch.

Deselect everything to clear the mesh ("A") then press "numpad1" to toggle "Front" orientation then "numPad5" to flatten the scene into full Orthogonal view (you may need to "MMB+Shift" position and "MMB+scroll" to zoom the scene so the mesh can be seen properly). Border ("B") or circle ("C") select in turn the individual vertices running along what is now the outer edge of the model and position them ("G") so they follow the outline of the sketch. LMB after each action to set them in place. Press "numPad7" and repeat the process of selection and positioning whilst in "Top" view, again placing the vertices so they follow the general outline of the sketch - this should also include a couple of vertices on the pommel (see below). When completed the result should be a profile that's wider in the middle of the handle and narrower at the guard<>handle and handle<>pommel connections.

Design note: whilst shaping the handle be mindful of the objects overall shape, sometimes following a 2D design exactly doesn't always translate to well into 3D so ideally you need to be aware of what 'looks' and 'feels' right relative to what you're doing.

If you press "numPad5" at this point and view the result in perspective mode, the swords handle should look more like a well formed grip, if not toggle back to the "Front" and "Top" views to tweaks the placement and position of individual vertices until a more pleasing shape is achieved.

Using side view select and manipulate the shape of the sword handle

Correcting the profile of the handle to its final shape (viewed from the side) - green highlights the 'old' profile the result of rough shaping, orange the new - image shown in solid shading so as not to confuse [see *.blend "12"]

Select and move vertices from the top view

And the same from top view, amending the vertex positions to give the handle a more 'realistic' appearance with the slight bulge in the centre. Green highlights the initial positions, orange the new, the 'top' and 'bottom' group of vertices should be narrower than the centre set

Perspective view of the amended sword handle

Showing, in perspective mode, the various 'loops' and associated vertices that compose the handle section of the model after modification; 1) scaled/moved along the up/down "Z" axis and 2) & 3) along the "Y" axis (front/back) [see *.blend "13"]

Shaping the 'guard' and narrowing the blade ^

Turning to the lower half of the sword the blades 'edge' needs to be formed alongside the collapse of the underside of the guard. First we'll tackle the blade edge. Press "numPad5" to switch to "User Persp" mode (if not already in it), this makes selecting the necessary vertices and/or edges easier. Using a combination of "Alt+RMB" and/or "Shift+RMB" multi-select the upper edges of the blade on both sides of the mesh from the underside of the tip (as we're looking at it) along the top to the blade<>guard connection (the area shown below highlighted in green) - it's not strictly necessary to select the 'centre-line' row of vertices as that's where we'll be collapsing to so don't worry if they are.

Design note: as this is an odd, narrow shape we'll likely need to manoeuvre the scene using "MMB", "Shift+MMB" and/or "Ctrl+MMB" to make selecting additional vertices easier. However, note that because we're already using the "Shift" key to "multi-select" that will need to be released and then pressed again whenever the scene needs to be shifted - this should still leave the selected vertices active but allow the scene can be spun around and vertices selected without either action interfering with the other - note that when making further selections after moving the scene be sure to press "Shift" before RMB clicking additional elements else any previous will be lost.

Selecting top edge to collapse and make an edge

Selecting vertices along top of blade area ("Shift/Alt+RMB") and all the way around the underside of the 'tip'; these will form the blades 'edge' [see *.blend "14"]

With that done, press "S", "Y" and "Ctrl" in sequence then move the mouse to "Scale", 'lock' and 'snap' the action to the "Y" axis, this will collapse the edges together along another of the previously made centre-lines. The result should be a 'clean' edge similar to the image below (highlighted green). Note that in doing this, one of the guard vertices will also have collapsed[1] at the blade<>guard connection (shown below), don't worry about this.

Using "Scale" to collpase vertices together, creating blade edge

Collapsing selected vertices along an axis to form the blade edge [see *.blend "15"]

The underside of the guard arms now need to be collapsed together so clear any previous selections ("A") and "Shift+RMB" select the vertices around the outer edge of the very underside of the hilt (the border of the area highlighted red below). Then as with forming the blade press "S", "Y" and "Ctrl" in sequence to scale, lock and snap mouse movement ("G") as the edges/vertices are collapsed together at the centre-line (shown below highlighted red) - note there should be a triangular area where the back side of the blade joins the guard so make sure this hasn't been selected and inadvertently collapsed along with the others. If it has press "Ctrl+Z" to "Undo" the action and try again.

Design note: both "Ctrl+Z" for "Undo" and "Shift+Ctrl+Z" to "Redo" are 'global' actions that apply to most editing/creation functions inside Blender, be careful though not to confuse or mistake "Undo/Redo" with changing viewport shading from "Solid" to "Wire" modes which also uses the "Z" key or "Alt+Z" which changes shading to "Textured" mode.

Selecting vertices on the guard underside

Selecting the underside vertices of the guard arms, note the triangle formation as a result of the collapsed vertices from the previous action forming the blade [see *.blend "16"]

Collapsing selected vertices

Collapsing vertices to finalise the underside of the sword guard arms. Note the triangle on the underside where the blade back joins the guard arm, this is needed so be mindful of it when collapsing the edges together [see *.blend "17"]

Once the above has been done the guard arms can then be shaped into a more favourable contour relative to the blade, right now they're a bit 'square' from when they were originally extruded. Clear the mesh ("A") and multi-select the vertices on the left and right side of the arms where the blade connects to the guard, press "S" and scale them together narrowing the 'neck'. LMB click to set. Deselect and repeat for the vertices on the underside of the blade (shown below). This should result in the guard arms having a profile that matches the blade.

At this point as we've collapse a number of edges together we need to clean the mesh again removing any redundant elements. Using the same procedure as before select the entire mesh, "A", then from the "ToolShelf" click the "Remove Doubles" button ("Mesh » Vertices » Remove Doubles") to merge duplicate vertices. With a clean mesh we can continue finishing up the sword.

Reshaping the handle guard by moving individual vertices

Changing the contours of the handle guard arms to give them a narrower profile by scaling vertex pairs towards each other [see *.blend "18"]

Vertex Collapse and Edge Slide ^

We now just need to do a final couple of tweaks. First is to finish up the guard by removing some redundant vertices using "Merge" instead of 'deleting', which would leave a hole in the mesh. Second we'll reposition a couple of other vertices to give a slightly better shape to the guard arms than we have right now. And finally remove an entire edge using the "Edge Slide" tool.

Rotate the scene ("MMB") so either end of the guard arm section can be accessed easily (it doesn't matter which one as the following needs to be done to both ends) and then multi-select ("Shift+RMB") one of the vertices belonging to the outer edge (the bottom one is selected in the image below[1]) and the centre vertex[2]. Press "Alt+M" to open the "Merge" menu ("Mesh » Vertices » Merge") and select "At First" to merge the two together - the middle vertex should merge with the outer edge vertex. Repeat this for the other side of the arm, rotate the scene, select the vertices, "Alt+M" and select "At First".

Design note: you'll notice the "Merge" menu provides a number of options (shown below), all of which do the same thing, join elements together. However, the 'order' in which that is done depends on the order in which the vertices were initially selected and/or which vertex you want to merge to, i.e. selecting the outer edge vertex 'first' means we can use "At First", joining the centre vertex to the outer edge vertex. Whereas if the outer edge were selected 'last' we'd need to use "At Last" to do the same thing. To save confusion it's usually a good idea to select the element you want to join/merge everything to, first.

Merging unwanted vertices in Blender

Using "Alt+M" to "Merge" vertices together to remove a redundant element [see *.blend "19"]

The second step, to reposition some vertices on the guard arms, is just to give the area a slightly less angular appearance, they can be left were they are but if you want to reposition them press "Z" to toggle "Wire" mode then "numPad1", "numPad5" to switch out of perspective mode and into "Front" orthogonal view. Border ("B") or circle ("C") select the vertices that should be approximately the centre-of-mass of each end of the guard arms and reposition ("G") them such that their new position softens the contour (shown below). LMB to confirm the move.

Reshaping the guard counterweights

Using 'group' select in wire mode to 'drill-down' through the mesh selecting vertices top and bottom [see *.blend "20"]

The final step is to remove a redundant centre-line running down the back of the blade using "Edge Slide". Remain in "Wire" mode but toggle back into "User Persp", "numPad5". Rotate the scene ("MMB") so the back of the blade is clearly visible and "Alt+RMB" click the centre-line to select it. This will likely select the entire length of the loop which extends beyond the elements actually needed so release the "Alt" key and use "Shift+RMB" to deselected unwanted vertices. This should result in only the loop running along the spine of the blade being selected (shown below). With this done make sure the mouse cursor is over the 3D view then press "Ctrl+E" to open the "Edges" menu, select "Edge Slide" ("Mesh » Edges » Edge Slide"). This 'releases' the edge and allows it to slide back-and-forth relative its neighbours. Push it to one side of the structure and LMB click to confirm the action - note that in doing this we've created a number of duplicate vertices again so select all, "A", and click the "Remove Doubles" button in the tool shelf ("Mesh » Vertices » Remove Doubles") to 'clean' these unwanted elements.

Collapsing vertices using "Edge Slide" in Blender 2.5

Selecting an edge loop with "Alt+RMB" and "Shift+RMB" which is going to be collapsed using "Edge Slide" [see *.blend "20b"]

Collapsed vertices

The 'collapsed' edge after being slid to one side of the mesh using "Ctrl+E" shortcut. "Remove Doubles" will need to be used to merge coincidental vertices [see *.blend "20c"]

With that done the swords structure is finally built. There are however, one or two extra steps that need to be carried out before we can call the sword as an object finished. Next is "Smooth Shading".