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Alex Standerford





Joined: 07 Nov 2007

Posts: 10

PostPosted: Fri 23 Nov, 2007 7:45 pm    Post subject: Sword questions         Reply with quote

Hi guys! Happy
I have just recently completed my first sword and now I have a few questions. First off, How do you guys normally heat treat your blades? I do not have access to a place to do it for me so I need a option for doing it myself, hopefully not too expensive Worried
Next question: I've got a few types of steel to use, non of excellent quality so I need to know which will be the best. First choice is what I think is typical mild steel, I can get it at hardware stores so I doubt it is of high carbon content. Second is stainless steel which I get from the same place. Lastly is a steel my friend says he can get me from the Philippines called Spanish steel. I have no idea what type of steel this is so I'm hoping someone on here knows what this is.... Can any of these be heat treated? If not, will any of them work for a waister type sword? I've been asked to make several display swords but also a few that would like to do some fencing and so I'm guessing that will need to be heat treated in some way.

About my sword, in case you wanted to know about it Big Grin It was made from an unknown steel (most likely mild steel) by using an angle grinder and large bastard file. About 39" long with a blade length of 33". 2" wide at the base tapering to 1" a little before it turns to a point. Cross section is more of a flattened diamond shape. I tried to get the balance point closer to the guard but it ended up around 8 inches above it! oh well, I will do better on the next I guess. Handle is built up with wire and cloth with a leather cover. I was trying to go for a Norman design but it just looks like a normal one hander to me Laughing Out Loud I will post pics later. (its at school right now)
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Gabriel Lebec
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PostPosted: Fri 23 Nov, 2007 8:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello Alex.

I have never tried forging anything myself, so kudos for taking the hands-on approach. If I was going to try my hand at sword forging, I would almost certainly buy a copy of The Complete Bladesmith: Forging Your Way to Perfection by Jim Hrisoulas. You are encouraged to shop around for similar guides, of course, some of which may be more approachable for the beginner. I think, however, that once you get into proper heat treatment, it really behooves you to know precisely what alloy of steel you are using. Be it 5160, 1050, traditional Japanese tamahagane, D2, or whatever, the precise temperatures and other variables associated with a good heat treatment will vary.

Stainless steel is generally not considered a good choice for swords because it is not strong enough (too brittle) for such a long blade. I'd personally be wary of an unspecified "Spanish steel," just because Toledo's old fame has often been hijacked into wholly inapplicable modern hype for thousands of sword-like-objects; but if you can get a fix on precisely what steel it is then that's a different matter.

Those are my opinions; I'm sure you'll get much more concretely-based ones from those here who are actually engaged in bladesmithing. Happy

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science." - Albert Einstein
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Justin King
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PostPosted: Fri 23 Nov, 2007 9:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Congratulations on making your first sword! Unfortunately if the blade is mild steel then heat treating will not increase the hardness to any great degree and probably isn't worth the trouble except as practice. Experimenting on a piece of scrap from the same bar will give you some idea before you try the whole blade. I can't comment too much on any of the steels you mentioned but they don't sound like material to base your hard effort on. I would recommend doing some research on heat treating and steel composition and types, and then working with steels of known content and hardenability. As a beginner using unknown steel, if and when the heat treat dosen't turn out right you don't know whether the problem is your methods or the steel itself, which makes learning much more difficult.
Good quality steel is usually availible if you have internet access and more than worth the extra expense when compared with possibly wasting hours of your labor on a useless blade, even if you have to order it from overseas.
Heat treating can be done in a number of ways and some methods are more appropriate for certain steels and even sword/blade/usage types than others. I am no expert myself and the subject is too large to cover here, I think you will be best served by research. There is some info availible on this site if you browse around and use the search function.

If you havent been to this forum yet- http://forums.swordforum.com/forumdisplay.php?f=20 - it is a good place to find info from other makers. There are a couple of other sub-forums that relate to various metallurgy and swordmaking topics on the same site. You may generate some discussion asking questions here but most of your questions will have been asked at one time or another so using keyword searches should find you some info.
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Alex Standerford





Joined: 07 Nov 2007

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PostPosted: Fri 23 Nov, 2007 9:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the info guys!
For the display swords would the stainless be ok? I doubt they will be used for anything. As for buying steel, is there a site you or anyone else knows of were I can buy the proper steel from? I don't mind buying on the net if Its not an overwhelming price.

Since my steel is mild, is case hardening an option? I have heard of it being done to iron and such so I was wondering if this would work. Also, is mild steel not usable because it is too soft or because it is too brittle to take blade to blade contact as done in fencing? If its just because it will nick or dent easier I don't really mind because it did not take very long to make and I plan on making much more. But if its because there is a possibility of the blade shattering from being brittle I fully understand. Its just that I would rather make a cheap sword in a few days that will get beat up rather than buying expensive materials to make a good sword, taking a long time only to get it dented and nicked from hard use. I have never done this sort of stuff and am very new to swords so I just want to know I am not going to kill myself from using a mild steel blade if that makes sense. Worried
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Gabriel Lebec
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PostPosted: Fri 23 Nov, 2007 10:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alex Standerford wrote:
Thanks for the info guys! For the display swords would the stainless be ok? I doubt they will be used for anything.

As long as it's strictly for display there's nothing wrong with stainless. It looks more chrome-y than real sword steel (since that's the definition of stainless steel Wink) but it doesn't need the same kind of maintenance.

I've been told that it is theoretically possible to make an ok sword blade out of stainless with some very specific heat treatment methods, but even if that is true, it wouldn't be nearly worth the trouble when easier methods exist to make better blades with normal steel.

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science." - Albert Einstein
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Justin King
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PostPosted: Sat 24 Nov, 2007 8:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anything is ok for a wallhanger as there are no real dynamic or structural requirements. Stainless will make them more maintenance free.
Mild steel is generally considered to be too soft to hold a functional cutting edge or and also will bend where a hardened sword will flex and return to straight. The idea that this makes a sword useless is a modern concept in my opinion, despite my earlier statements, historical examples of poorly hardened or unhardened or even unhardenable sword blades exist and some do seem to have been used in spite of this.
Mild steel or iron can be carburized or case hardened but without the right equipment and materials you will probably have trouble getting consistent results. Using a mild steel blade for contact sparring is probably not too adviseable although it should be too soft if anything and will most likely bend long before it breaks, however, edge deformation may cause notches and stress risers and the blade may fail at one of these points.
Before looking for a supplier for steel I would recommend doing some research and figure out what type of steel will be best suited to the blades you are making and also what might respond best to the heat treating method you decide to use.
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Anders Backlund




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PostPosted: Sat 24 Nov, 2007 9:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've only made a pair of shortswords, since the facilities I had access to didn't allow heat treating for any longer pieces. I made them the same way I was taught to make knives; hardening them in hot water with soap (didn't have enough oil) and tempering them in an ordinary oven, I think it was 250 degrees celcius, for 15 minutes and then again for an hour.

Interestingly, I found out afterwards that I had hardened them at a much higher temperature then recommended. I don't recall the specific temperatures but they were carrot orange rather then deep red.

Funny thing is, a project I made much later from the same steel as one of the swords turned out to shatter completely on impact. As far as I can tell, the steel in question has a rather high carbon quota, making it brittle. This got me worried that what I consider my best sword was useless. Luckily, I had made a prototype blade from the exact same metal which I had also heat-treated exactly the same. So I took the prototype and did my damndes to break it, first against a tree, then a rock and finally against another steel object. Turns out the darn thing is damn well indestructible, which was certainly a relief. I'm wondering if the reason it turned out okay is that I hardened it at a higher temperature then intended.

Anyway, I'd love to make longer swords at some point, but I currently lack a smithy all together, let alone one adapted for bladesmithing. Also, I'd need to find an alternative method of tempering, since I obviously can't fit a full lenght sword in a kitchen oven.
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G Ezell
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PostPosted: Sat 24 Nov, 2007 11:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The only Japanese steels I'm familiar with are the 'white paper steel' and the 'blue paper steel', both are over 1% carbon, and therefore might not be the best stuff for a european style sword. If I knew what kind of auto spring steel they use, I'd suggest that (I made a few knives from Honda coil springs and liked the stuff). You may have to become an expert scrounger, digging through scrap metal bins to find springs and such...

I, too, suggest getting some known steel with a chemical analysis so you know exactly what you have, if possible. Register at any bladesmithing forum you can find, swordforum is a great place, as is Don Fogg's forum, the knifenetwork, etc... Jim Hrisoulas' books are a great investment, too.
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Addison C. de Lisle




Location: South Carolina
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PostPosted: Sat 24 Nov, 2007 12:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Car leaf springs are made from 5160 steel, which is considered to be a good sword steel because it can absorb a lot of shock, hold an edge, and is flexible. If I recall correctly the 10xx steels are also good, but I don't remember the exact details and my copy of The Complete Bladesmith is elsewhere at the moment.

I have ordered steel from MSC, Manhattan Shipping Company. They had very quick order processing and shipping time, and you can probably find what you're looking for there.

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Anders Backlund




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PostPosted: Sat 24 Nov, 2007 7:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Addison C. de Lisle wrote:
Car leaf springs are made from 5160 steel, which is considered to be a good sword steel because it can absorb a lot of shock, hold an edge, and is flexible. If I recall correctly the 10xx steels are also good, but I don't remember the exact details and my copy of The Complete Bladesmith is elsewhere at the moment.


You know, according to a website I found, it's apparently possible to make functionable swords out of leaf spring without using a forge or heat treating, since the spring is already heattreated when you get it off a car. All you need to do is straighten the spring with a sledgehammer, cutting the blade out and filing/grinding it down.
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Alex Standerford





Joined: 07 Nov 2007

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PostPosted: Sat 24 Nov, 2007 8:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anders Backlund wrote:

You know, according to a website I found, it's apparently possible to make functionable swords out of leaf spring without using a forge or heat treating, since the spring is already heattreated when you get it off a car. All you need to do is straighten the spring with a sledgehammer, cutting the blade out and filing/grinding it down.


That is pretty much what I did for my sword except mine is made of mild steel and I didn't need to flatten it. Works well as long as you don't make deep tool marks in the steel that are hard to get out later...

Ok, I have checked the law over here and I don't think I will be making anymore STEEL swords (at least until I move to Europe) so my alternative is aluminum since this material is allowed because it supposedly cannot be sharpened..... I heard there are aluminum wasters being made, what type of aluminum do you need to make one of these? I know where to get some aluminum but I need to check if it is the right alloy before I get it.
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G Ezell
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PostPosted: Sat 24 Nov, 2007 11:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anders Backlund wrote:

You know, according to a website I found, it's apparently possible to make functionable swords out of leaf spring without using a forge or heat treating, since the spring is already heattreated when you get it off a car. All you need to do is straighten the spring with a sledgehammer, cutting the blade out and filing/grinding it down.

Yeah, until you try to straighten it with a sledge hammer, without heating it first. (wear a helmet and ear protection, at least!)

If you do end up ordering steel, I'd suggest L6 tool steel, 5160, or one of the 10xx series. For the 10xx series, anything between 1045 and 1095 will make a good sword (I'd stick to the lower carbon range, though, 1095 would be rough on a beginner). The w1-w2 tool steels come in a pretty wide carbon range, if you could find a batch around .7-.8% you would have excellent sword blade steel.

I've never liked the idea of the wall-hanger, or the non-functional sword-shaped object. One sunny day during World War 4 someone might mistake it for a real one. I'm not wanting to step on anyone's toes, I just want to steer you towards a quality product you can be proud to make. Life's way too short to waste on mild steel.
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Audun Refsahl




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Nov, 2007 5:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

you could try a post at www.swordforum.com, or even read through their 'beginners', they answer these questions all the time.
just bacon...
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Alex Standerford





Joined: 07 Nov 2007

Posts: 10

PostPosted: Sun 25 Nov, 2007 6:46 am    Post subject: Wooden wasters         Reply with quote

Thanks for the replies guys! Happy Ok, now that I got that settled I have some new questions... I was over at the hardware store today and noticed some Japanese oak lumber. Man was that stuff hard! Is this wood suitable for a wooden waster or is hickory a better choice?

Also I came up with this crazy idea of making a laminated blade out of bamboo and perhaps oak. The idea is laminate two slabs of bamboo together so that the hard slippery sides face outward and then for the edges laminate oak. The bamboo has superior tensile strength and the oak has excellent shock absorbing qualities so together it should make a pretty tough to break blade. Only problem is this thing will be light as a feather.... Good thing is this should only cost me 6 bucks to make. what do you guys think? Happy
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J F. McBrayer





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PostPosted: Sun 25 Nov, 2007 8:18 am    Post subject: Re: Wooden wasters         Reply with quote

Alex Standerford wrote:
Thanks for the replies guys! Happy Ok, now that I got that settled I have some new questions... I was over at the hardware store today and noticed some Japanese oak lumber. Man was that stuff hard! Is this wood suitable for a wooden waster or is hickory a better choice?


Japanese white oak (if that is what it is) is suitable, if the piece you get is straight grained. Hickory is still better, but it is hard to find locally, and expensive to mail-order. I make wasters as a hobby, and I use ash almost exclusively because it is both easy to come by and historically correct (at least for staves and pole-weapon shafts). Red oak is not very suitable, and I'm not sure about other white oak.

Quote:

Also I came up with this crazy idea of making a laminated blade out of bamboo and perhaps oak. The idea is laminate two slabs of bamboo together so that the hard slippery sides face outward and then for the edges laminate oak. The bamboo has superior tensile strength and the oak has excellent shock absorbing qualities so together it should make a pretty tough to break blade. Only problem is this thing will be light as a feather.... Good thing is this should only cost me 6 bucks to make. what do you guys think? Happy


Lightness is not really a desirable quality in a waster. Also, I suspect it would be somewhat brittle if struck on the flat. But you might as well give it a try and see what you come up with, as long as you enjoy it.
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Sun 25 Nov, 2007 9:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alex Standerford wrote:
Thanks for the info guys!
For the display swords would the stainless be ok? I doubt they will be used for anything. As for buying steel, is there a site you or anyone else knows of were I can buy the proper steel from? I don't mind buying on the net if Its not an overwhelming price.

Since my steel is mild, is case hardening an option? I have heard of it being done to iron and such so I was wondering if this would work. Also, is mild steel not usable because it is too soft or because it is too brittle to take blade to blade contact as done in fencing?
It's very soft, so it's definately not going to break. In ancient swords that were not quench hardened, they did harden them by coldworking. If you keep hammening on it cold, it will increase the hardness. It will never get anywhere near quench hardened steel, but at least it improves it quite a bit.
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Anders Backlund




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Nov, 2007 9:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[quote="G Ezell"]
Anders Backlund wrote:

Yeah, until you try to straighten it with a sledge hammer, without heating it first. (wear a helmet and ear protection, at least!)


Well, yes. The big downside with this method is that it takes forever and is very strainful. Also, I'm not sure what kind of edge-keeping abilities leaf springs have.

Still, it's an alternative if you want something functional (and very cheap) and don't have access to an actual smithy.

Quote:
I've never liked the idea of the wall-hanger, or the non-functional sword-shaped object. One sunny day during World War 4 someone might mistake it for a real one. I'm not wanting to step on anyone's toes, I just want to steer you towards a quality product you can be proud to make. Life's way too short to waste on mild steel.


I dislike non-functional wallhangers as well. But on the other hand, I find that most high quality reproductions are too historically accurate for my taste. I just find them boring, I guess.
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Alex Standerford





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PostPosted: Mon 26 Nov, 2007 8:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ok, as soon as I gather up the needed materials I will make that bamboo waster! I have decided to put hard wood in the core also to get some extra weight so this could get interesting... Has anyone heard of a tropical hardwood called Apitong? Its a dark red wood that is usually used in the making of railroad tracks and other places were tough wood is needed. Anyways, I plan to use this instead of hickory if it performs good because I can get it relatively cheap over here. What blade thickness is typical for a wooden waster?
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Addison C. de Lisle




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PostPosted: Mon 26 Nov, 2007 8:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My Purpleheart Armoury waster is about 3/4" thick at the base, where there is a "ricasso" about 2" long, and the edge is rounded off after that point, with no distal taper to speak of. As a point of interest, it is made of hickory.
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Alex Standerford





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PostPosted: Mon 26 Nov, 2007 8:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks!
That should help in my design a lot! I'm guessing it has no taper to keep weight? Does it have a fuller?
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