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Thread: Best Possible Sword Making Steel

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    Best Possible Sword Making Steel

    From what I have learned so far from this forum is that a smith must be aware of a particular type of steel's characteristics.

    Further, today's steels have different additives which effect their working temperatures and forging processes. Not being a metallurgist but a layman, it becomes apparent to me that plain carbon steel would seem to be the best steel to work with unless one has years of experience working with sophisticated steels with interacting variables which would drive even a seasoned metallurgist nuts. Why not start with a basic steel which eliminates all the complicated variables at least for custom made swords.

    I want to keep an open mind and welcome different opinions on this subject. Above all I am here to learn. ROBERT C. I am still struggling to digest that steel is crystalline and not molecular. Could you post a layman's explanation so I and maybe some others who don't want to openly admit they do not understand could learn. Thanks. It would be most appreciated.


    Cheers and keep your fire hot and breathing.
    Last edited by Harry Fletcher; 09-10-2008 at 09:43 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Harry Fletcher View Post
    From what I have learned so far from this forum is that a smith must be aware of a particular type of steel's characteristics.

    Further, today's steels have different additives which effect their working temperatures and forging processes. Not being a metallurgist but a layman, it becomes apparent to me that plain carbon steel would seem to be the best steel to work with unless one has years of experience working with sophisticated steels with interacting variables which would drive even a seasoned metallurgist nuts. Why not start with a basic steel which eliminates all the complicated variables at least for custom made swords.

    I want to keep an open mind and welcome different opinions on this subject. Above all I am here to learn. ROBERT C. I am still struggling to digest that steel is crystalline and not molecular. Could you post a layman's explanation so I and maybe some others who don't want to openly admit they do not understand could learn. Thanks. It would be most appreciated.


    Cheers and keep your fire hot and breathing.
    Good questions...

    As I just begain forging out my first ever knife today...consider this my subscription!!

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  3. #3
    In a nutshell, yes, but there are exceptions...
    Still, most goods swords are made from what defiantly qualifies as low alloy steel. L6 with its nickel and chrome content is as exotic as most bladesmiths will get...
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    Swords are impact weapons and need toughness.Therefore we don't need things that give use wear resistance.No fancy carbide formers ,Mo, V . No high carbon .Carbon best about .60 -.90% Additions of Ni add toughness. Good ones - 1070-1084, 5160,9260,L-6.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harry Fletcher
    I am still struggling to digest that steel is crystalline and not molecular. Could you post a layman's explanation so I and maybe some others who don't want to openly admit they do not understand could learn.
    The difference is in the type of bonding between atoms. Here's a layman's analogy. If you take a stack of wooden blocks, like children's toy alphabet blocks, wet them with water and stack them in a neat pile, you will have a weakly bonded crystal. It's a crystal because it has large scale order that is determined by the shape of the individual units.

    If you had molecular bonding, the bonds would be stronger, for example if you used wood glue to wet the blocks before stacking them.

    Non crystalline material would be made by squishing a pile of wet sawdust together, and imagine molecular (strong) bonds by a pile of hardened wood putty.

    Intermetallic bonds are generally weaker than molecular bonds ( always weaker?) Crystals have organization on a larger scale than the scale of the individual units. Think of a pallet of cereal boxes, and half the pallet falling off the front when the forklift driver slams on the brakes. The pile 'cleaved' along one or several planes of symmetry. These planes are the larger order effects.

    Maybe this will help a bit, maybe not.
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    Where too many smiths run awry is jumping right to what steel will offer the highest degree of the desired properties without considering if they are equipped to work with that steel. Some richer alloys can offer huge benefits in toughness or abrasion resistance but only if you can properly work them to tap their potential, they don’t automatically make themselves into the best material and working them incorrectly will only make them inferior to a much simpler steel.

    So the first level of steel selection really should be from the standpoint of what tools you have to work it and your experience and skill set. If all you have is a coal or charcoal forge and a water tub there really isn’t much hope to make a better blade out of L6 or even 5160 than if you used 1075 or 1080. If you have a very traditional blacksmith type shop then you will work best with traditional blacksmithing steels. If you have controlled ovens capable of holding at temperature and other advanced facilities then you will be able to use steels that were only developed after such innovations made them desirable.

    Now if you develop a skill set and build the facilities to handle just about any steel out there, now you can choose from the entire spectrum of steels which would give the highest performance, but you will need to determine what that performance will be…

    There simply is no one best steel, yet it is still a very common internet question. If you are making a keen slicing sword that will not see as much heavy impact and will encounter mostly soft objects, then high hardness and strength can be used. If you are looking for a blade intended for taking on plate armor and repeated heavy blows toughness will be your greatest concern. If you are looking at a primarily trusting weapon a whole other set of parameters will come into play.

    For toughness you will look for certain alloying chemistry that will give you an automatic boost, same for abrasion resistance. Also beyond this you can adjust the properties to some extent in the heat treatment, specifically the tempering operation. Higher hardness = more strength with abrasion resistance and less toughness. Lower hardness = higher toughness with less strength or abrasion resistance. With alloying you can have more of these qualities at the same time, with simple steels the hardness level is your main tool to slide things one way or the other.
    Last edited by Kevin R. Cashen; 09-11-2008 at 10:01 AM.

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    Japanese Pioneer a Sword Steel Technique

    Mr. Frank mentioned steel cleaving like "stacked oatmeal boxes when the forklift driver slams on the brakes and some of the boxes fall off the stack..a natural cleavage line in steel.

    The Japanese embarked on a search for better swords just because of this principle of cleavage.. During their long period of warfare their swords had steel flaking or chipping off the edges during the their use against the Mongols.

    Goro Nyudo Masamune (c. 1326) in partnership with other smiths as commanded by the period regents sought a remedy (a Japanese Research & Development program).

    "Masamune's success...was based on the fact that he was able to temper blades at a much higher temperature than did any of his predecessors...the latter had not been able to do so because at high quench temperatures blades invariably teneded to crack or become warped...Masamune's experiments ...the process of nijuba...a combination method... along with choicer materials...in which the blade is twice heated and twice subjected to quenching..." pp. 12-13; JAPANESE SWORDMANSHIP by Gordon Warner and Donn F. Draeger; Weatherhill, Boston & London 2007.

    Reading further we learn that this was the traditional Japanese Katana with its clay tempering process and two types of steel.

    Choicer materials leaves me wondering what materials this text refers to...a better smelting process, better quality iron ore? What? Earlier in the chapter I found a clue that gives a partial explanation.

    Gotoba, a cloistered Emporer, (1198 -1291) personally supervised a collective effort of swordsmiths that resulted in the development of the two piece sword. pp. 11-12

    The point is that the Japanese implemented a sophisticated sword blade making process that was technologically superior to anything in the west at that time with only a simple steel, observation and experiement. I guess a lost of trial and error was engaged in by a lot of well qualified smiths over a period of time for a specific purpose. Each advancement was built on the one before it with each providing the base for the next advancement.

    In my opinion we as students of forging can only learn by studying past methodolgy and the results before trying to leapfrog into the present myriad sophisticated techniques and steels. Learn to crawl before trying to walk and eventually learn to run.. As for me I am still learning to crawl.
    Last edited by Harry Fletcher; 09-11-2008 at 06:06 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Harry Fletcher View Post
    ......snip.....

    The point is that the Japanese implemented a sophisticated sword blade making process that was technologically superior to anything in the west at that time with only a simple steel, observation and experiement.

    ...snip.....

    The Celts were doing pattern welding in the Migrationary period (400-800 A.D.)

    Wootz (sometimes called Damascus) was being made in India as early as 300 BC

    crediting Technological superiority to any cultural is a very slippery slope

    Sorry Kevin I couldn't resist

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    Denis Celtic Sword Smithing Versus Japanese Sword Smithing

    You must bear in mind that pattern-welding was phased out when uniform steel became available at a later period. The Japanese were already using uniform steel. Patern-welding was a process developed due to lack of good quality steel so as to use effectively what was available.

    To paraphrase MEDIEVAL KNIGHT Arms and Armor...These pattern-welded blades continued in production in Europe until about 1050 AD...Viking smiths began developing the technology starting in about the eighth century to make homogenous steel blades that equaled or even excelled the performance of the pattern welded ones...Celtic smiths were confronted with the serious problem of obtaining a homogenous piece of tempered steel that was sufficiently free of foraging flaws and other weaknesses so as not to break in use.... pp. 24-27 MEDIEVAL KNIGHT, David Edge and John Miles Paddock; Crescent Books, 1988.

    The Japanese used different forging techniques after the Koto period (800- to 1596 AD) due to imported iron. p. 10 JAPANESE SWORDMANSHIP, Gordon Warner and Donn F. Draeger, Weatherhill, Boston and London.

    In short domestic iron ore was smelted and processed to develop one of the finest cutting instruments in the world while the Celts were still struggling in transition from one type of forging technique to another because of the problem of finding good quality steel while the Japanese had mastered the technique of producing good quality steel and only faced problems when imported iron was used. Good steel by the way came from Scandavia and what is now Germany during the transition from pattern-welding to homogenous steel blades...hardly Celtic!

    Cheers
    Last edited by Harry Fletcher; 09-11-2008 at 11:50 PM.

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    I am afraid Dennis is quite correct; there is a bit of over reaching interpretation of the source literature here. The superiority of the Japanese steel and the Japanese sword is mostly a Hollywood infliction upon modern society. The Japanese swords were good but not superior in the time line presented. Take away the beautiful patterning and contrast and the Japanese blades were all pattern welded as well, but mostly in simple flat patterns. The material produced from the tatara furnaces was every bit as inhomogeneous as any bloom in Europe thus the repeated folding was absolutely necessary to make it useable in the sword. Consolidating a bloom is a bit of work, trust me

    However the European smiths were able to produce very fine homogenous blades by the time period you describe while the Japanese still relied on pattern welding (folding) for the entire history of their sword making craft, with the exception of some homogenous Gendaito blades very little of anything they did was homogenous. Until the early 18th century parts of China and the Middle East* were the only sources of true homogenous steel via the liquidus.

    I may not quote the same sources but I have cross sectioned and metallographically examined old Japanese blades, closely examined ancient European swords, worked with tamahagane type steel, made my own bloomery iron and pattern welded a couple of swords myself. I have come to be more skeptical of the popular versions of blade history and many assessments of these blades.

    I hate to even write this post as Harry must think I am just out to get anything he writes now, and this is not the case at all. The other thread started out a little chaotic and heated but ended up quite constructive and between that one and this one I have participated on this forum more than I have in months. So Mr. Fletcher must be doing something right for stimulating good conversation here, and this topic is quite fascinating.

    *In this instance I use the "Middle East" in a MUCH broader sense than we think of today.
    Last edited by Kevin R. Cashen; 09-12-2008 at 08:35 AM.

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    Wink

    This is getting interesting ! HAHAHA !!!
    A good bit of the old 'research' on technology involved assumptions ,often prejudiced, by one person and others just repeating them without question.
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    Just tossing it out there, and I apologise if it has been stated already (<--- Not good with technical things. x_x), but isn't Japanese tamahagane technically an "inferior steel" when looking at the submissions of certain other cultures? Exhibit A: Wootz
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert C View Post
    This is getting interesting ! HAHAHA !!!
    A good bit of the old 'research' on technology involved assumptions ,often prejudiced, by one person and others just repeating them without question.
    Robert, for years all we had to go on was the words of historians and scholars and what they had to go on was their best guess from written record and observing the artifacts. But when you put this together with actually performing the processes involved and hands on experience the picture comes into even sharper focus. An example along this topic is the notion that in Europe steel was only produced by painstakingly carburizing bloomery iron, as only low carbon materials were produced from the hearths; I still read this version quite often to this day. However if you actually do some direct process smelting you quickly find that it is more difficult to produce carbon free iron than it is to make carbon rich material.

    I don’t know why this disconnect towards European metalworking occurs but it is very common in many writings and areas of research. You get this odd “double standard” when evaluating Japanese metalworking (definitely with the swords) versus Europe at the same time. On the high carbon bloom thing, the Japanese use the same direct reduction process in the tatara that Europe would have used in a bloomery hearth, and it was well documented early on how the smiths in Japan would select from the varying carbon levels within on e bloom! And before any of this the Chinese were making cast iron with tools of similar sophistication. Yet somehow in Europe the laws of chemistry do not apply inside the furnace???

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsugio Kawakami View Post
    Just tossing it out there, and I apologise if it has been stated already (<--- Not good with technical things. x_x), but isn't Japanese tamahagane technically an "inferior steel" when looking at the submissions of certain other cultures? Exhibit A: Wootz
    I personally wouldn't say inferior, although a part of me wants to for fairness sake after all the years anything in the west was considered inferior to it. The same thing applies to ancient steels that has been mentioned about modern alloys, each has their own particular application in which they excelled, so it is more accurate to say that they were entirely different; no culture strives and spend centuries developing an inferior weapons technology and survives.

    Tamahagane was the finest material developed in its time for the “Japanese” method of producing a sword, logic dictates this since it was develop for and by those processes. Due to the hype I would love to allow it to be trashed in every conversation but honesty forces me to say that I have been VERY impressed with the refinement of the internal structure of some of the older tamahagane I have looked at. The material itself was impressively good considering what they started with, but it is the process that I find to be very inefficient.

    If there is one material that has gotten way too much overblown P.R. it is the ancient high carbon crucible steels; think about it, it is seldom argued when it is held up as superior even to the divinity of the Japanese steel. Once again wootz was the best for its specific application and processes. Abrasion resistance- very high, toughness- pretty good, strength… well… Oh you could heat treat it to get strength but then the toughness dropped to nothing. If you want to make a blade that will be slicing softer targets covered with lighter materials, an extremely high carbon matrix left in a rather soft state will do nicely and not break on you. Years ago on this forum I would try to be the voice of reason when the superiority of wootz was raved about, years later after even more research and hands on work, it take that position with even more confidence.

    I think this comes back to what Robert pointed out. Many scholars go into research and writing with preconceived notions instead of being totally objective. They get their starting point by simply working of all the previous slanted research. Add to this the beliefs instilled in them by pop culture and they have no chance of coming up with a new angle or viewpoint, instead their studies are either entirely inside the box or geared to specifically reinforce the preconceived notions, e.g. “We already know that Japanese edged weapon were superior, so we must do a study to find out why!” Instead an objective study to see if they were superior would be refreshing. Or perhaps, heaven forbid, a study to discover in which ways they could have been inferior to another standard.

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    Rhenaissance steel. Designed by bladesmiths, for bladesmiths. A shameless self promotion, but I figure all's fair in steel marketing.

    Don't get too mad at me. I was just bringing up a point, that has been brought up already. It's good to see a thread that addresses erroneous perceptions, without consternation. WAY Too much politics in steel.
    I suggest visiting places like matweb http://www.matweb.com/
    Or key to steel http://www.key-to-steel.com/

    Punch in some steels and look at their properties. There are some high alloy stuff that would be promising, but beyond the reach of most any smith to properly heat treat.

    It's hard to beat good old low alloy carbon steel though. (for swords that is).
    Barnyard bladesmith, burnt in the front, and frozen in the rear. Comic book metallurgist, too dumb to know that I can't do that.
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    Japanese Swords as Products of Research and Design

    While I will not take issue with the Tatara smelting process what I debate is whether Japanese swords were superior for equivalent time frames.

    The Japanese Taichi or curved sword blade was made with homogenous material (whether pure or impure steel) and progressed from there. This was in the 8th century AD or Rykoto periord. The problem with Japanese swords is that the period a particular sword material and blade form was developed and how it was applied and by what group of swordsmiths is confusing. Unlike Europeans, the Japanese were embarked on government sponsored Research and Development programs since they were almost in a constant state of warfare.

    The Rykoto period brought the advent of the curved blade along with its perfection in shape and it was used from horseback much like our 19th cavalry sabres. Koto (800 -1596 AD) period brought the development of the katana and its transition from cavalry blade to shortening and transitioning to an infantry weapon. The Japanese katana as we know it was revered by Chinese as far superior to anything they produced. I will spare you the scholarly details but this is a given.

    I will concede the final form of the katana was a form of pattern- welding but from a design standpoint to give the blade desired characteristics i.e. hard edge and flexible spine or mune so the blade could flex to acheive a higher degree of cutting efficiency. The curve of this blade resulted from differential tempering of the two types of steel rather than design as in the original Taichi blades. Nevertheless the curve of both blades gave superior cutting charactistics.

    The Celtic and European approach to pattern-welding was to take iron rods and twist them together to make the center of the blade structure. Next, they took a rod of relatively homogenous good steel which was bent into a V which was placed around the blade to give it a point and an edge of required hardness.

    The Japanese were able to separate their steel into grades of which we usually think of being as harder good quality steel and less carbon impregnated softer steel.

    The Japanese developed an envelope of hard good quality steel into which was sandwiched the softer low carbon steel. How was the good quality steel for the evelope developed? By folding, hammering out the impurities (slag) and this process also served to toughen the steel (folding) while constant heating and reheating (my judgement) on the billet served to casehard the face which was folded over and hammered some more. This technique is laborious in today's techniques because the steel can be smelted with almost pure quality and the little slag left can be easily removed. And with today's steel the folding and hammering process does not yield any better result than folded and forged steel.

    I do not know the equalivent european i.e. Scandanavian or Germanic processes for the equivalent era of Japanese sword development.

    So we can agree that the smelting process was roughly similar for both Japanese and european eras but...Japanese sword blade construction was superior if one takes into account the swordsmiths, time frame, and the sword construction. There were some unscrupulous sword smiths too. But the finesest blades were truly technological marvels compared to the Chinese and Indian swords of the same period and we have sources from China which support this.
    Last edited by Harry Fletcher; 09-12-2008 at 04:46 PM.
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    No sword type is superior to another. It is all in the use. The katana is superior for JAPANESE type combat. ^_^

    Most people here know how the Japanese sword progressed from it's origins, but perhaps you could enlighten us as to your "Scholarly details". Such knowledge is not one I am familiar with.
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    Objective Discussion Needed Not Emotion

    Quote Originally Posted by Tsugio Kawakami View Post
    No sword type is superior to another. It is all in the use. The katana is superior for JAPANESE type combat. ^_^

    Most people here know how the Japanese sword progressed from it's origins, but perhaps you could enlighten us as to your "Scholarly details". Such knowledge is not one I am familiar with.
    Do I detect some hostility here? I am only rendering my observations based on established sources, not emotion. Perhaps you are miffed because I am not Japanese and tread on what you consider your sacred ground? People seem to be enjoying this thread so why the hostile reply? Hardly conducive to objective debate is it? Besides having or using a Japanese name hardly qualifies one's opinion as being more correct than anothers, does it? If you want to be objective I would like to read any evidence you have to refute what has been said so far and so would other people.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harry Fletcher View Post
    Do I detect some hostility here? I am only rendering my observations based on established sources, not emotion. Perhaps you are miffed because I am not Japanese and tread on what you consider your sacred ground? People seem to be enjoying this thread so why the hostile reply? Hardly conducive to objective debate is it? Besides having or using a Japanese name hardly qualifies one's opinion as being more correct than anothers, does it? If you want to be objective I would like to read any evidence you have to refute what has been said so far and so would other people.
    Hostility? Umm...nope. I never said I was more right than anyone, and if there is any hostility, it is in your post.

    I'm just asking you to elaborate on the "scholarly details". It seems that such details would be a rather important point in your arguement; too important to simply omit. Please do not jump to conclusions and act overdefensively, and do not insult my intelligence.
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    Kevin;

    Since this looks like its turning into one of the standard best sword ever threads feel free to move it unless you want to continue it here.

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    What Was The Progression European Steel Smelting Techniques?

    Several people have mentioned the Celtic smiths along with something called Wootz. Since this seems germane to carbon steel smithing how about explaining wootz and the technique involved.

    Perhaps we could move on after that to Viking smithing?
    Last edited by Harry Fletcher; 09-12-2008 at 05:31 PM. Reason: Washing charcoal dust off my hands
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    We periodically have this discussion about the best sword design. The fact is that there is no best sword.

    Swords are offensive weapons that evolved in response to the defensive technologies developed to counter them and the techniques developed to employ them. There are conditions where curved swords are desirable and others where parallel edges are better. Common sense tells us that if curved swords were truly superior then all swords would be curved.
    A sword optimized for attacking unarmored opponents is going to be different then one designed to attack leather armor. Chain Maile requires different technique then leather armor. As armor got better sword design finally changed to straight triangular blades designed to attach the joints in plate.
    So the curved Japanese blade perfect for the environment evolved in.
    The Leaf blade was perfect for its environment
    The single handed parallel edged blade worked well in swords and shield work
    The effectiveness of a sword cannot b e evaluated outside of the environment it evolved in.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Harry Fletcher View Post
    Several people have mentioned the Celtic smiths along with something called Wootz. Since this seems germane to carbon steel smithing how about explaining wootz and the technique involved.

    Perhaps we could move on after that to Viking smithing?
    Wootz is crucuble steel, it originated in India as early as 300 BC

    The following is quoted from an artice Kevin wrote

    Many believe that the material that was the original Damascus steel was a product of India known as wootz. The town of Damascus was never a great producer of steel but rather the hub of the great trading network in the Middle East at the time; thus most blades of this steel came to the west from Damascus. Interestingly enough, wootz is not a product of folding and welding two different metals at all, but some of the world's first examples of homogenous high carbon steel. One of the qualities of steel that the Indians took advantage of was the fact that the more carbon steel has, the lower its melting point. Other cultures were hindered by the heat limitations for melting iron. To get iron to a complete liquidus requires much more heat than the direct process can produce. The Indians packed the raw iron into tightly sealed crucibles with carbon bearing material and then heated them for some time in large fires. As the iron absorbed the carbon in its sealed environment, it would lower its melting temperature. The lower the melting temperature the more carbon was absorbed until a vicious circle was formed within the crucible, resulting in a fairly clean, cast, high carbon steel. Folding and welding to build up mass and cementization was not necessary. The pattern in wootz is caused by the large amounts of carbon (cementite) in the steel.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Harry Fletcher View Post

    ...snip..


    Perhaps we could move on after that to Viking smithing?
    Also courtesy of Kevin

    But during the time known as the Migrationary period (400-800 A.D.) true pattern welding appeared. If the rods that created the long lengthwise seams in the blade were twisted together, the problem of welds coming apart was greatly reduced. The great amount of oxide scale produced by forging would break free and fall off during the twist, resulting in better welds. Twisting is also a great test of how sound the welds are. If the welds were not good, the stress of twisting would let you know immediately. So, the twisted pattern could actually have been a mark of quality very early on. There could have been many other practical reasons for twisting in the beginning, but soon the development of intricate patterns in the blade became an art form unto itself. Analysis of the steel in such blades shows some bands of steel with a relatively high phosphorus content. The higher phosphorus would cause the steel to etch out lighter than the purer steel.
    When one gets a rare glimpse at one of these original swords you are moved by how gorgeous the pattern still is in a thousand year old blade that is mostly rust. That these weapons were fit for kings is echoed in the fact that even after they were abandoned for homogenous steel, some swords still bore an inserted panel of simulated pattern welding. I almost have to refrain myself from anger when I hear the smiths of northern and central Europe, in the dark ages, stereotyped as uncivilized barbarians. Examples of Saxon and Viking blades with multiple bar cores of intricate patterning with fine steel edges welded continuously around the outside speak loudly of metal working skills unparalleled in their time. Many other cultures made laminated steels but none developed patterns with the same class as these folks. Trust me when I say that it is not the easiest thing to do even today with the absolute best tools available!

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    Wow things got kind of quirky here in just an hour or two didn't they?

    Actually that article was written several years ago and I now have even better insight into the process' and materials, and I may actually word it differently now.

    To be honest the Chinese aspect does not hold much weight with me considering that the Chinese were totally in awe of many innovations Europeans possessed when they first encountered them despite the fact that they themselves had invented them centuries earlier. The case can be made that much of the metallurgy in the east including Japan originated in China. I have a hard time thinking of any one civilization that has forgotten more technologies they pioneered than the Chinese. Mass producing cast ferrous objects from true liquid metal four centuries before the Koto period is nothing to ignore.

    However something more notable is the documentation reflecting the total lack of awe Europeans such as the Portuguese had for the Japanese blades, viewing them little more than novelty items after encountering them. History shows us desire in trade goods but very little European interest in Japanese weapons or tactics. Once again I would not say this is due to any inherent inferiority, but simply a matter of little practical use in two totally different worlds.

    We are also using two different definitions of “homogenous” here. The Japanese in their entire sword making history relied upon stacking and welding separate pieces of metal as opposed to using one singular mass of steel. Many of the properties being atributted to the assembly and forging process is instead a result of the clayed yaki-iri heat treating process.

    Perhaps we also need to define government sponsored research and development, since I doubt there was no funding or encouragement from the Roman state for the development of the best weapons they could get, an empire by the way that was using quenched and tempered steel more than 800 years before the Japanese period described. The Romans found the Celtic blades lacking in comparison to their own but those Celtic tribes were indeed stacking up piled construction blades, very similar technology just a different patterning to the Japanese, over one thousand years earlier than the date of initial Japanese innovation mentioned.

    The advanced European pattern welding far exceeded any pattern manipulation the Japanese ever worked with and most any other culture in the world (although I have personally seen Chinese blades with similar patterns yet not as involved). It evolved from the piled construction blades of the La Tene periods and reached it’s zenith two centuries before the Japanese dates mentioned. By the Viking era it was an obsolete technology. The common literary explanations of the process are often not practical in real application, and after doing it for a living for some time I also do not see many of the process descriptions born out in actual swords I have examined from the period.

    As for notable schools, and homogenous blades lacking pattern welding, I would refer you to the 10th century blades bearing the ULFBERHT mark. These blades were of such notable quality that there reputation survives to this day, and the steel was so homogenous and clean that there is now speculation that they may not have even been of bloom type material. These truly superior blades were antiquated in Europe around the time the Koto period was just getting started.

    The argument for Japanese superiority due to timelines of metallurgical advancement fall short by perhaps as little as centuries at best, and perhaps a millennia at its worst. The argument for Japanese superiority due to weapon effectiveness falls short due to incomparable circumstances, i.e. totally different applications and methods of use. Thus I come right back to my original position that the swords are “different” but not “superior” nor “inferior”. Is a baseball bat superior to a golf club? It depends, what are you going to do with it?

    I feel pistachio is a superior flavor to chocolate, and that is a valid position, however it is not an objective fact. It is accurate to say that you feel the katana is superior and then accept the dissention of other opinions, but I am afraid any attempts to quantify it objectively can only result in the same worn out Samuri Vs. Knight debates that endlessly pop up.

    Dennis is correct, if this is still followed by more "katana is superior" statments I will not bother answering since everybody is entitled to an opinion and I will not bother to deprive them of it.

    However let's keep this civil and above a personal level and just get back to some fun facts.This particularly goes for Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Kawakami. Please give each other the benefit of the doubt and stay way from personalizing things. I really don’t need the grief and it would be a whole lot easier for me just to lock or dump this thread instead of typing novels to keep everybody friendly!

    A Viking, Merovingian or Saxon pattern welding discussion sounds nice. as well as a historical crucible steel chat would be quite nice.
    Last edited by Kevin R. Cashen; 09-12-2008 at 06:52 PM.

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