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Isaac H.




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PostPosted: Tue 02 Nov, 2010 2:37 pm    Post subject: Truly Stainless?         Reply with quote

For someone who has above average knowledge and experience regarding swordsmithing projects,I feel rather embarrased asking this dumb question.Gulp,I just swallowed my pride,so here goes: how do you tell (and I mean be absolutey positive) whether a blade is stainless steel or not? Confused Obviosly its a no-brainer when you see "440" or "stainless",but what about when there's no marks? Is it true that a magnet will never stick to stainless blade ? Whats the magical test ?

In particular,I got a blade second hand a while ago,it cuts insanely well,and has a decent temper too.And yet,I have this sneaking suspicion that it could be stainless Eek! . Can anyone help out here? Thanks

Wounds of flesh a surgeons skill may heal...

But wounded honor is only cured with steel.

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.
Each of us should please his neighbor for his good ,to build him up.
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Allen Jones




Location: NC, USA
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PostPosted: Tue 02 Nov, 2010 3:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Magnets.

Stainless Steel has very little to no iron content. A low grade stainless steel with a higher iron content may have a very week attraction but the magnet will not "stick" to the stainless and it will certainly not feel the same as with regular steel.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 02 Nov, 2010 3:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Non-magnetic stainless: Some in the 300 series are non-magnetic but other stainless like 440c and most of the high carbon high quality ones used for modern made knives are magnetic.

I think the non magnetic ones are very very high in chrome or nickel or other alloys but I don't know why they are not magnetic assuming that the alloy still has a substantial percentage of iron in it.

One way to check if a steel is stainless is to try to stain it using cold blue to see if it changes colour: Carbon steel will change instantly, some borderline stainless steels might change or darken a touch but it would be very difficult to get a nice blue finish on it b ut the blue would still have some minor effect.

The 300 series steel you can leave in salt water for long periods of time and I don't think they will rust at all ? ( They might with heated salt water under pressure for an extended period of time but I'm not sure ? ).

Or cut a tomato with the knife or sword and don't wipe it clean and it will stain in minutes if not instantly. Wink Laughing Out Loud

Naturally if you do stain the blade you may have to refinish it to it's original finish and can be a problem testing on someone elses sword or in a store before deciding to buy it. Wink Razz

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 02 Nov, 2010 3:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Allen Jones wrote:
Magnets.

Stainless Steel has very little to no iron content. A low grade stainless steel with a higher iron content may have a very week attraction but the magnet will not "stick" to the stainless and it will certainly not feel the same as with regular steel.


If you mean by " low grade stainless " the high quality stainless used in custom and production knives like 440C and ATS34 and many many others they are all magnetic.

Low grade as far as being 100% stainless these cutlery steels will corrode or rust if seriously neglected so they are not as stainless as the 300 series.

http://www.finishing.com/71/36.shtml

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stainless_steel

http://www.supremesteel.co.nz/articles_stainl...gnetic.php

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Ken Nelson




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PostPosted: Tue 02 Nov, 2010 4:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As Jean mentioned the 300 series stainless steels are non magnetic. They are also referred to as austinetic stainless steels. they are called austinetic because they retain the austinite crystal structure at room temperature, and are not hardenable at all by quenching, If they are hammered, or drawn they can change structure and work harden, at which point they will also become magnetic. 200 series stainless steels are termed ferritic, and 400 series stainless steels are termed martensitic, as they can be hardened by quenching, and then there are the various other tool grade stainless steels.

The true test to determine any unknown steel is to get it shot with a spectograph. it will leave a small (about 1/4") burn mark on the surface that would need to be polished, but you will then get a complete listing of all of the alloying elements which you could then compare to charts to determine what steel you have.

Outside of that, I would recommend using a blueing solution such as Birchwood Casey cold blue, or Van's instant gun blue. these solutions can blue carbon steels at room temperature, but generally will not have any effect on stainless steels. However, I have seen steels that have a high ammount of chrome, but not enough to be stainless turn reddish instead of blue.

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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Tue 02 Nov, 2010 4:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Allen Jones wrote:
Magnets.

Stainless Steel has very little to no iron content. A low grade stainless steel with a higher iron content may have a very week attraction but the magnet will not "stick" to the stainless and it will certainly not feel the same as with regular steel.


Stainless steels have a high iron content, typically 70-85%. This is low compared to carbon steels, which can be 97% to over 99% iron, but it isn't a low iron content in any absolute sense.

The presence or absence of magnetism depends on the crystal structure, and this in turn depends on the nickel content. Basically, the high-nickel stainless steels (austenitic stainless steels) are non-magnetic. This is most stainless steels, in terms of volume of production, including 18/10, 18/8, etc. (18% chromium, 10% nickel for 18/10).

The 440 stainless steels are martensitic, and can be hardened by heat treating. Thus, their use in knives and swords.

For the OP's question, I second Ken's suggestion that spectrographic analysis (or a mass spectrometer) is the way to go for certain identification. These are what is used in a decent large foundry for checking the composition of unknown alloys (usually before they're recycled). As pointed out, destructive, and requires specialised and expensive equipment.

In principle, it might be possible to do a thorough chemical test (other than bluing). This would be destructive - remove a sample, dissolve in some acid, and test. The main thing of interest is the chromium content. 11% or more, and you're officially stainless. Expect about 14% or so for a martensitic stainless. IANAC(hemist), and don't know of a suitable test.

The Wikipedia page, and links therefrom, as provided by Jean, make for good introductory reading. A useful list of various alloys is provided in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAE_steel_grades.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Isaac H.




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PostPosted: Tue 02 Nov, 2010 11:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well,I didn't pay enough for the blade to justify me having a spectographic analylisis done on it. Happy But that is a very facinating proposition. Idea From what I you guys have said,it sounds like magnets are never really a surefire way to tell.... however,I tested the blade with a large magnet,and it definately had a decent pull.I don't own any bluing solution at the moment,but when I do acquire some,I'll definately do a test.Besides for the sake of information ,I asked the question mainly because I am attempting to figure out how many hours I should invest in hilting the aformentioned blade.Yes,by blade I didn't mean sword,It actually IS just a bare blade.I'm also mulling over quite a few different ideas for the hilt itself,so perhaps I'll start another topic and see what your opinions are Big Grin Thanks for the awesome advice
Wounds of flesh a surgeons skill may heal...

But wounded honor is only cured with steel.

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.
Each of us should please his neighbor for his good ,to build him up.
Romans 15:1-2
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Aaron Morris




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PostPosted: Tue 02 Nov, 2010 11:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

you could weld on it
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Nov, 2010 4:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Isaac H. wrote:
Besides for the sake of information ,I asked the question mainly because I am attempting to figure out how many hours I should invest in hilting the aformentioned blade.


Magnetic, possibly stainless. A blade. So, the most likely candidates are 440 and 420 series steels. 440 are medium-high carbon, can be heat-treated to give decently tough, hard blades. They have carbon contents which are generally considered "best" for sword blades, 0.6%-1% (though 440C is maybe higher than "best"). 420 is much lower (0.2%?), so won't give you a very hard blade (like barely above RC50 at most). So, hardness testing can possibly tell the difference between 440 and 420.

The heat-treat is as important, maybe more important, than the steel. Something like 440A with good heat treatment can give you a good blade. With bad heat treatment, you can have a brittle blade, or a soft blade (how is this different from carbon steel?). Stainless steels have a bad reputation as sword steels, and I think this is more due to the widespread use of stainless steels for poor quality swords with poor quality heat treatment than any fundamental deficiency in stainless steels.

How many hours in hilting is the blade worth? Depends on what you want to do with it. You can always whack it against a wooden block, edge on and side on (moderately hard, not super-hard). Flex test it. Do your own version of the British proof test (best to google for "british proof test for swords", the hits look potentially ephemeral and all say the same thing). If it bends (i.e., takes a set), maybe it isn't such a good blade. If it breaks, even more so. Maybe you can judge the hardness using a file. If it seems OK from all that, and has a good geometry, why not go ahead and invest the time?

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Steve Grisetti




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Nov, 2010 5:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
... The 300 series steel you can leave in salt water for long periods of time and I don't think they will rust at all ? ( They might with heated salt water under pressure for an extended period of time but I'm not sure ? )....

300 series stainless steels do not like chlorides. They may not show characteristic brown 'rust', but they can pit or develop stress corrosion cracking in salt water. High temperatures and/or pressures are not required.

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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Nov, 2010 6:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ken Nelson wrote:
The true test to determine any unknown steel is to get it shot with a spectograph. it will leave a small (about 1/4") burn mark on the surface that would need to be polished, but you will then get a complete listing of all of the alloying elements which you could then compare to charts to determine what steel you have.


Sometimes not... There's quite a bit of play between the various steels inside one norm, and there are quite a few norms as well... Different grades of steel made to different norms may be interchangeable, but they are (by definition) not the same.

The only way be certain that a steel is what it says it is, is to look at the steel mill's certificate, and then decide whether you can trust that this certificate matches the steel that is in front of you or not. Wink
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Isaac H.




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Nov, 2010 5:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hmmmm...I guess that I have always had the impression that ALL stainless steel sword blades were bad. Question I never even considered the possibility of such a thing as a "good" stainless blade.Yet perhaps I am mistaken.Perhaps we all have let the word "stainless" become synonymous with "junk" and "rat-tail tang" when it comes to swords.Thanks for thinking outside the box,Timo. Yes,the blade has already taken quite a rigorous beating,and although it has flex,it has stayed true through everything.The geometry is also fantastic,I haven't even given the edge a decent sharpening and I can easily sink it up to the fuller in a small hardwood stump with a singlehanded cut! In fact,the cutting potential of the finished sword is downright awesome. Cool So yes,stainless or no stainless,this one's getting a hilt Wink
Wounds of flesh a surgeons skill may heal...

But wounded honor is only cured with steel.

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.
Each of us should please his neighbor for his good ,to build him up.
Romans 15:1-2
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Nov, 2010 5:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Isaac H. wrote:
Hmmmm...I guess that I have always had the impression that ALL stainless steel sword blades were bad. Question


The cheap walhanger usually use 420 or 420J stainless which although heat treatable and can take an edge are at the low LOW end of stainless cutlery steel: They can make a useable but cheap knife but are not any good for longer blades.

I've also read here that stainless is bad for swords many times and I sort of take it as true but I really don't know from personal experience, but I can easily believe that the low end stainless used in wallhanger is prone to catastrophic failure in sword like lengths. I also assume that the good quality stainless steels used for high end custom knives like 440C and many others could be heat treated to make good blades of medium length but still less desirable in a sword blade than the non stainless high carbon steels.

Now I'm fairly sure that steel makers could come up with a stainless alloy that would be as good or better than the high carbon steels but steel makers haven't created any of their steels specifically for swords use, or even knife use in mind, as the amounts of steel used by the knife and sword industries are not high enough for steel makers to bother.

What custom knife makers and then production knives makers did was discover stainless steels used and created for other applications that made good knife blades at knife blade lengths but it seems that most sword makers are of the opinion that most stainless steels are inferior for sword blades.

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PostPosted: Wed 03 Nov, 2010 6:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stainless can make for a much better knife than a sword.
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Isaac H.




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Nov, 2010 9:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I heard that length is a main issue with stainless blades and anything over a foot and a half or so is prone to weakness Eek! I guess that's why the stuff is great for making excellent knives but not neccessarly swords Question Obviosly,carbon steel will always be the best, but I guess there are exceptions to almost everything.
Wounds of flesh a surgeons skill may heal...

But wounded honor is only cured with steel.

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.
Each of us should please his neighbor for his good ,to build him up.
Romans 15:1-2
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Maurizio D'Angelo




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PostPosted: Thu 04 Nov, 2010 1:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Isaac H. wrote:
Obviosly,carbon steel will always be the best, but I guess there are exceptions to almost everything.


I think a lot depends on how you want to do. If a blade is that beat, I think it is better to change steel.

Ciao
Maurizio
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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Thu 04 Nov, 2010 4:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My question is why someone would use stainless for a sword...

The alloying components make the material more brittle. This can be overcome up to a point, but even among knife enthusiasts it is accepted that top quality stainless (ATS 34, S30V etc.) comes close in performance to the "ordinary" carbon steels, but that these stainless steels do not surpass them. Then the only advantage of stainless is that it is more rust resistant.

I can see why this is an advantage on a kitchen knife, or on a work knife, but swords are generally not used for any activity where corrosion becomes a real problem. Those who cut with their swords can clean and oil them afterwards. Those who hang swords on their walls have to take them down for cleaning once in while anyway. Plus stainless steels have a different, less authentic, appearance when used in a historical replica.

Dutch military swords for use in the tropics were blued, and that was effective enough. Maybe a military sword for use in the tropics or on board sea-going vessels could benefit from using stainless steel, because of an aggressive environment coupled with a lack of time for maintenance, but those times are past.

Nowadays, I challenge anyone to find a reason for using stainless steel in a sword.
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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Thu 04 Nov, 2010 6:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Nowadays, I challenge anyone to find a reason for using stainless steel in a sword.


Please understand that I must respond but hopefully will come across as light hearted. Laughing Out Loud

www.wkc-solingen.de/newshop/index.html

Then, there are a plethora of collectors that can benefit from high chromium steels for decorative purposes. That said, You probably meant the challenge to address "stainless" steels possibilities for more functional use than parade or decoration.

Some are no doubt familiar with Jerry Hossom and maybe Barry Dawson. they are a couple of guys that have dabbled in exotica and more mundane stainless and sword lengths. Is there really a need too use these steels for longer lengths? Perhaps in their cases it has been a matter of because they can but their own use of them might be better related by them.

Above all, I read many of these threads as many making assumptions or simply not bothering to read a bit further on their own or even pursue their own experiences beyond simple conversation or an easily referenced web page or book. Truly, many of the discussions develop or begin as what the best steel, tool weapon are. Beyond that, I also believe in my heart that some would rather see what is posed as an innocent question become a cause for more beer and popcorn. Big Grin Are we really that starved for these interactions?

So still, an easy answer to a challenge Paul may have meant to be read in a different context.

Cheers

GC
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Isaac H.




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PostPosted: Thu 04 Nov, 2010 9:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glen Cleeton wrote: "Are we really that starved for these interactions? "

The whole point of starting a thread with an "innocent question" is to generate a resourceful and creative stream of information and opinions from the fellow members of this forum.If we simply stuck our noses in books,we might as well not post anything at all.Although I heartily endorse reading,a discussion can provide insightful information based on experience that you would be hard pressed to find in mundane research. Happy No,this isn't a social network,but it IS a fellowship of individuals with a common interest,Let's not forget that. Cool

Wounds of flesh a surgeons skill may heal...

But wounded honor is only cured with steel.

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.
Each of us should please his neighbor for his good ,to build him up.
Romans 15:1-2
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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Thu 04 Nov, 2010 10:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Issac,

Why then the need to underline your inquiry as innocent and then not regard that all in a fellowship may have a different outlook on such discussions?

What other information and research have you presented regarding your sword in question? I tend to regard the source of a blade as often pretty close to the mark of what the steel used might be.

Quote:
In particular,I got a blade second hand a while ago,it cuts insanely well,and has a decent temper too.And yet,I have this sneaking suspicion that it could be stainless . Can anyone help out here?


While how to tell the difference through simple tests have been mentioned, my response was specifically in lighthearted regard to a challenge as to why any sword might be made of questionable steels.


Quote:
For someone who has above average knowledge and experience regarding swordsmithing projects,I feel rather embarrased asking this dumb question.


From responses, it would appear any can always learn more. Sometimes offering more to discuss and one's background can lead to more depth.

Cheers

GC
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