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Jeff Kauffeldt




Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
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PostPosted: Sun 21 Mar, 2010 8:37 pm    Post subject: Pattern welded vs Steel swords.         Reply with quote

i've been pondering lately about how later Norman steel swords would have compared to the pattern welded ones used in the early viking period. I know their spoken of with great reverence but how would one really compare in a side by side test.
As i understand it, pattern welding was used as a way to get around the technical challenges involved in making a metal blade that was hard and flexible. Only part of the blade, the edge, would have been hard bitting steel. The rest was made up of iron or lesser, softer steel. Given that the later Norman swords were tempered spring steel throughout, would this have made them more durable then their predecessors? I used to think that was not the case since samurai swords were also made of folded steel also, but there are many differences that put this assumption in doubt. Does the pattern construction make an early sword stronger and superior to later swords, or was it only able to make a sword made with lesser materials more durable then ones made entirely of iron or bronze?
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Sam Gordon Campbell




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PostPosted: Sun 21 Mar, 2010 10:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was under the impression that, not including the great breadth of dubious quality variety, that, as a general rule, once people found out how to use a 'mono-steel' construction I guess, they were able to conrol the quality of the finish products more closely, reduce cost and time, and end up with somthing at least as good as a pattern welded blade.
Then again, for sheer looks, pattern welding wins hands down, and indeed, I'd imagine that people still used the pattern welding technique for quite some time if they had no other way.

Member of Australia's Stoccata School of Defence since 2008.
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Jeff Kauffeldt




Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
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PostPosted: Sun 21 Mar, 2010 11:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another thing I have noticed it that when you look ant the ones that have been found in burials you can see that the different metals have corroded faster then others. I wonder if that would effect the performance when certin parts of the blade it's self are more susceptible to oxidation than others.
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Artis Aboltins




PostPosted: Sun 21 Mar, 2010 11:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeff Kauffeldt wrote:
Another thing I have noticed it that when you look ant the ones that have been found in burials you can see that the different metals have corroded faster then others. I wonder if that would effect the performance when certin parts of the blade it's self are more susceptible to oxidation than others.


During it's normal lifetime when it is not allowed just lie about for a few centuries or so in the ground? It would not Happy Remember that most of the blades are recovered from soil so they have suffered from the effects of groundwater, various salts in the soil and so on for centuries.
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Mon 22 Mar, 2010 1:05 am    Post subject: Re: Pattern welded vs Steel swords.         Reply with quote

Jeff Kauffeldt wrote:
i've been pondering lately about how later Norman steel swords would have compared to the pattern welded ones used in the early viking period. I know their spoken of with great reverence but how would one really compare in a side by side test.
As i understand it, pattern welding was used as a way to get around the technical challenges involved in making a metal blade that was hard and flexible.

No, a hardened steel makes a blade flexible. A soft iron makes a sword bendy. Soft iron can help in absorbing shocks, as it will take up impact energy by plastic deformation. But that means that the sword will have some deformation after impact. In principle, introducing a softer material makes a sword weaker.

Quote:
Only part of the blade, the edge, would have been hard bitting steel. The rest was made up of iron or lesser, softer steel. Given that the later Norman swords were tempered spring steel throughout, would this have made them more durable then their predecessors?

Depends what you understand under durable. A soft iron blade can be very durable. You just need to bend it back to shape a lot, while a good through hardened sword will snap if overstressed. A big advantage of the through hardened steel is that it allowed swords to be thinner, broader and longer then swords made out of or containing soft iron, without having the problem that they bend out of shape too fast. Thickness gives resistance in a cut, so a thinner sword has a big advantage. If you look at the Ulfberht swords f.e. they are often 4mm thick at the very thickest (the edges of the fullers near the hilt), most of the blade being just thin sheet metal.

Quote:
I used to think that was not the case since samurai swords were also made of folded steel also

Folding has nothing to do with patternwelding. Folding is a cleaning process, to remove slag, and a way to make a homogenous steel. Japanese swords also contain softer iron, possibly for the shock absorbing purposes, but perhaps also just to save on expensive steel. Particularly in thick parts using steel is of no use, as it doesn't harden anyway. Ancient steels were shallow hardening, so if you have a blade with a thick cross-section, you will only have a hardened edge whether it's made entirely out of steel or just the edges.

Quote:
but there are many differences that put this assumption in doubt. Does the pattern construction make an early sword stronger and superior to later swords, or was it only able to make a sword made with lesser materials more durable then ones made entirely of iron or bronze?
I'm not following that? At any rate, a weak material makes a sword weak, a strong material makes a sword strong, which sounds pretty logic when you think of it Happy
Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Mar, 2010 5:37 pm    Post subject: Re: Pattern welded vs Steel swords.         Reply with quote

Jeroen Zuiderwijk wrote:
Folding has nothing to do with patternwelding. Folding is a cleaning process, to remove slag, and a way to make a homogenous steel.


I think I agree with the principle behind what you are saying. Japanese used a sand like consistency of iron which started out full of slag and some undesirable impurities. For their case, folding was necessary to remove slag and impurities. The long exposure to coal/ charcoal and rice hulls may of helped carburize lower carbon iron material (the ability to carburize that way does depend on the composition of the iron) to some degree due to the long time that it took to be done.

Folding is also required to economically achieve the high number of contrasting layers desired for cosmetic purposes in todays' pattern welding. (Preparing and cleaning several hundred pieces of paper thin foil would be troublesome, and more likely to have failed welds.) Also, the better pattern welders today use knife grade starting materials that can be pretty fussy about welding and forging temperatures. I figure we are pretty good at it (using modern tools) in comparison to historical counter parts. It is what I spend most of my "hobby" time doing.

200 layer twist billet, 5 turns per inch ground round shown below.



 Attachment: 41.29 KB
groundbillet.gif


Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Paul Hansen




Location: The Netherlands
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PostPosted: Sun 28 Mar, 2010 1:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My understanding has always been that, through technological advances, Ulfbehrt monosteel swords became possible.

They were objectively better, and therefore more valuable, than pattern-welded blades.

Then Ulbehrts were copied by inferior makers of inferior materials, but the fashion was already towards monosteel blades.

At the same time, there was a development towards simpler, more austere hilt forms. Perhaps this was a general trend towards minimalistic design? But maybe it's just a coincidence that pattern-welded blades gave way to less decorative monosteel blades at approximately the same time...
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Xavier B




Location: France
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PostPosted: Mon 29 Mar, 2010 4:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi,


Can you provide somes sources or analys about the use of monosteel during the medieval era?
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Jeff Kauffeldt




Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
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PostPosted: Mon 29 Mar, 2010 5:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There's no real source material. It was just that I was wondering around the ROM here in Toronto and noticed that the only pattern welded swords that were there were from early viking era. The question that popped to my mind was that, if the wealthy typically got the best weapons and armour(there are some good examples on display there), then how come pattern welded blades dropped out of use in favour of mono steel blades. If they really were superior then logically we should have seen them in use a lot longer. So for instance, if the blades were better then the sword of Edward the III should have been made this way since a king would have had to of had the best blade as a matter of prestige and face.

It's not likely that the art would have been allowed to be forgotten if it was better. Weapon design doesn't typical regress and is a good measuring stick on a cultures technological know how. So with this in mind I have put the question out there.
Are they really better or was it a way to get around some of the limiting factors of the time i.e. the lack of consistent steel production.

Not making any grand statements. Just using some logic to wrap my head around why there are no medieval pattern welded swords from Europe.
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Xavier B




Location: France
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PostPosted: Mon 29 Mar, 2010 9:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi,


I was just asking if someone has some sources or analys of a sword meant as a monosteel blade showing that is really a monosteel blade and no a pattern welded blade who hadn't been revelated.

I'm asking about this because all the swords that I saw, all the analyses and books that I read, all the specialists whose I spoke, showed pattern welded swords. I NEVER saw any monosteel blade. So I ask if someone can give me an exemple of a monosteel blade. Not a sword with a polish showing a "monosteel" blade, because you need a special polish to see the pattern welded, but a real monosteel sword examinated by specialists.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Mon 29 Mar, 2010 2:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It isn't a dichotomy between monosteel and pattern-welded; there are other methods as well. For example, welded-edge, sanmei, piled, and more. (Some would call "piled" pattern-welded.)

To more seriously confuse the issue, you can and do have folded monosteel blades. Also non pattern-welding methods that yield patterns, such as patterns in wootz.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Mon 29 Mar, 2010 2:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Xavier B wrote:
Hi,


Can you provide somes sources or analys about the use of monosteel during the medieval era?


Oakshott's Records of the Medieval Sword sometimes comments on "evidence of pattern welding" versus no comment of evidence of pattern welding. In many cases, the photos are good enough to see some difference. Corrosion patterns and other researcher's X-ray type examinations also can reveal a lot of pattern welding structure in pre-"Viking era" migration period swords.

If we recognize the academic and National heritage tradition of mid 9th through 10th century as the height of the Scandinavian sea raiding era (can be stretched much longer based on a handful of smaller raids) as "Viking", the pattern welded structure actually becomes less and less common as you progress toward the end of the "Viking era" than swords that are final forged from one piece of iron/ steel (possibly initially formed through piling or other means.) Ian Peirce comments on examples in "Swords of the Viking Age" as well. He discusses the "new" (can be interpreted as just new distal taper, but also non pattern welded) blades as appearing around 9th through 10th century on page 7 as part of the introduction. His presentation of photos and discussion seems intended (some subjectivity involved in assessing the timeline) to present the swords in a roughly chronological development of forms and construction. As you get to the end of the text, late 11th to 12th century, there is no longer much discussion of pattern welding.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Mon 29 Mar, 2010 3:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For some examples of monosteel swords, try A. R. Williams, Methods of manufacture of swords in medieval Europe: Illustrated by the metallography of some examples, Gladius XIII (1977), pp. 75-101.
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Hadrian Coffin
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PostPosted: Mon 29 Mar, 2010 6:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello,
I am not sure what the exact question being asked is at this point, it seems to be a bit of a circular "argument". I will therefore comment based on how I think the question is progressing.
"Are pattern welded swords superior to mono steel swords?"
No, that is one of the reasons pattern welding fell out of use. Swords made of iron are not particularly useful, an iron sword will bend and stay bent, and not hold an edge very well. Prior to the invention of the blast furnace the manufacture of steel was an extremely difficult process. In the pre-blast furnace era steel was produced by heating and attempting to carbourize wrought iron (wrought iron had to be made by removing the slag from bloomery iron). Without sufficient heat to thoroughly carbourize the iron it was being essentially "case-hardened", in which a skin of steel was left surrounding an iron core. This then had to be folded and a new steel skin created, folded again and another steel skin created... until eventually it became almost completely steel. In order to save the expensive steel it was combined with iron in the core of the blade.
In the 10th century the blast furnace began to be used, high carbon steel was suddenly far easier to produce...and pattern welding fell out of use. The benefits of a mono-steel blade is that it will not easily take a set, holds an edge well, and is easier to produce. Pattern welded blades will take a set fairly effortlessly, and are prone to breaking from weld failure.
Cheers,
Hadrian

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Owen Bush
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PostPosted: Tue 30 Mar, 2010 4:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think that it may be worth commenting on a few things .
The term mono steel is quite an odd one to use for swords made pre crusible steel (huntsman 1740) .
when you look at an unpatterned steel blade from the 10th century onwards through the medieval perion what you have is piled bloomery steel (sheer steel) and often mixes of welded bloomery steel and wrought iron . The exceptions to this would be blades such as Ullfbert blades possibly made from crucible steel (although this is not universally acknowledged in academic circles) . This sheer steel would certainly be homogenized by repetitive working but is in no way "mono" in its nature , the material would vary from piece to piece in carbon content and slag inclusion .
do not confuse these materials with modern spring steel .

Pattern welded pieces are not "iron" in there construction but vary between wrought iron/phosphoric iron and wrought iron steel and a combination of the 3 . I have seen examples of martensitic steel (hardned steel) in the edges . These pattern welded pieces would have suffered the same variation in carbon and slag inclusions as there "mono:" counterparts.

I have seen medieval sword blades that certainly have a wrought iron centre and steel edge .
I do not believe in reality that there is such a great difference between the material construction of so called mono steel blades and pattern welded ones . The biggest difference being a bit of twisting in the patternwelded pieces .

In general I think that it is safe to assume a gentle progression in steel working skills throughout the period but we are still talking about an iron age bloomery technology base either making bloomery steel or bloomery iron which is later carburised.. This was the case All the way up till the blast furnace in late medieval period (still wrought iron) and huntsman in the 1700's .
I would expect later swords to be more refined (or fit for later purpose)
One thing that could have led to "better" blades is the use of a better ore source , such as swedish manganese rich ore which could lead to a deeper hardening sheer steel .
I am interested in any information on Norman blades that show any physical testing to prove them "better" than there patternwelded fathers . I am not stating that they are not better.............
I think a lot of this is assumption and conjecture .


I think that other factors would influence the change away from patternwelding .
Changes in the nature of warfare and the way Kingdoms were arranged could have led to social and economic reasons for the change , fashion and the rise of Christianity could play a part too .
The centralised manufacture of cheaper good quality blades would be a good way of wiping out older more labour intensive and certainly more expensive methods .

It could be as simple as patternwelded blades being just soooooo yesterday!

forging soul into steel .

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Xavier B




Location: France
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PostPosted: Tue 30 Mar, 2010 7:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Owen Bush wrote:
I think that it may be worth commenting on a few things .
The term mono steel is quite an odd one to use for swords made pre crusible steel (huntsman 1740) .
when you look at an unpatterned steel blade from the 10th century onwards through the medieval perion what you have is piled bloomery steel (sheer steel) and often mixes of welded bloomery steel and wrought iron . The exceptions to this would be blades such as Ullfbert blades possibly made from crucible steel (although this is not universally acknowledged in academic circles) . This sheer steel would certainly be homogenized by repetitive working but is in no way "mono" in its nature , the material would vary from piece to piece in carbon content and slag inclusion .
do not confuse these materials with modern spring steel .

Pattern welded pieces are not "iron" in there construction but vary between wrought iron/phosphoric iron and wrought iron steel and a combination of the 3 . I have seen examples of martensitic steel (hardned steel) in the edges . These pattern welded pieces would have suffered the same variation in carbon and slag inclusions as there "mono:" counterparts.

I have seen medieval sword blades that certainly have a wrought iron centre and steel edge .
I do not believe in reality that there is such a great difference between the material construction of so called mono steel blades and pattern welded ones . The biggest difference being a bit of twisting in the patternwelded pieces .

In general I think that it is safe to assume a gentle progression in steel working skills throughout the period but we are still talking about an iron age bloomery technology base either making bloomery steel or bloomery iron which is later carburised.. This was the case All the way up till the blast furnace in late medieval period (still wrought iron) and huntsman in the 1700's .
I would expect later swords to be more refined (or fit for later purpose)
One thing that could have led to "better" blades is the use of a better ore source , such as swedish manganese rich ore which could lead to a deeper hardening sheer steel .
I am interested in any information on Norman blades that show any physical testing to prove them "better" than there patternwelded fathers . I am not stating that they are not better.............
I think a lot of this is assumption and conjecture .


I think that other factors would influence the change away from patternwelding .
Changes in the nature of warfare and the way Kingdoms were arranged could have led to social and economic reasons for the change , fashion and the rise of Christianity could play a part too .
The centralised manufacture of cheaper good quality blades would be a good way of wiping out older more labour intensive and certainly more expensive methods .

It could be as simple as patternwelded blades being just soooooo yesterday!




Hi,

Thanks a lot for your comments. You answered to my question and explain what I've tried to say but in a better english than mine. :-)
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