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Jack Johnson





Joined: 13 Jun 2011

Posts: 1

PostPosted: Mon 13 Jun, 2011 6:52 am    Post subject: All swords in medieval,renaissance made of 2 sorts of metal?         Reply with quote

No matter the swords in medieval and renaissancewere rapiers,longswords,armingswords,sidesowrds,basket hilt swords,zweihander,greatswords or other else.They were all consisted essentially of careful combinations of iron with steel or differentially heat-treated steel.

Am I right?
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 3,133

PostPosted: Mon 13 Jun, 2011 7:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Swords varied from differentially heat treated to poor quality iron to overhard brittle steel and everything in between. This range of variation is evident regardless of the time period and region. The apparent prevalence of good quality blades is more likely a result of the better quality blades being passed down through successive owners to survive in collections today, whilst the crappy blades broke and were discarded/recycled.
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Eric W. Norenberg





Joined: 18 Jul 2008

Posts: 265

PostPosted: Mon 13 Jun, 2011 11:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jack,
This is potentially a huge question, even from the perspective of an armchair student of this stuff who only has a minimal grasp on the topic (meaning me). Now, do you mean, were the items in question all iron-based, that is to say, were they not copper or bronze or something like that? In that case, I think, the answer is simply "yes", all basically ferrous (iron-based).

Otherwise, what Dan said (above).

If you dig deeper into this, one good thing to bear in mind is that the term "steel" as we use it may (or may not) be a fairly recent (19th century ?) term. "Steel" as we use it simply means iron or iron alloy (iron with other metals mixed in) with a certain fairly specific carbon content. The carbon content has a big impact on edge retention and durability as a blade - too little carbon and you have wrought iron (soft), too much and you're moving into cast iron - too brittle and un-forgeable once you get to a certain point. Probably most smiths (even really experienced, talented ones) did not fully understand steel production as a target carbon percentage, but a good smith certainly knew that some iron made better blades than other iron, and a good smith could probably tell the difference to some degree as he worked a hunk of iron bar on the anvil. From the Roman period on there were various methods to introduce more carbon into base iron, with varying degrees of success and reliability, so we know that professional sword smiths (and by the Medieval and Renaissance periods your neighborhood blacksmith was not the same guy, mostly) had a good idea of what made good blade material and some idea of how to produce it.

The deliberate use of lower-carbon iron or higher-carbon (steel) iron singly or in some kind of combination (i.e.: pattern-welded early stuff, later swords with mono-steel blades but welded-on softer iron shoulder and tangs, etc) is worth exploring if you care to know more (get to know the search function here at myArmoury!). As Dan pointed out, what history has left to us is only a small sample of the total body of produced work and there are trends by region and time period but there are always exceptions to these trends. Lots of good work, probably lots of mediocre quality, some of it very carefully and knowledgeably made, some of it made with quality control more by fate or luck (good or bad) than the smith could ensure.

-Eric
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Scott Woodruff





Joined: 30 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Fri 17 Jun, 2011 8:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One of the swords found on the Mary Rose had a steel skin over a wrought iron core, so this technique certainly was used. Also, most medieval steels were shallow hardening, so while they are not differentially heat-treated per se, they would typically have a hardened skin over a softer core (if they have been heat-treated at all that is.)
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Eric W. Norenberg





Joined: 18 Jul 2008

Posts: 265

PostPosted: Tue 21 Jun, 2011 2:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Scott Woodruff wrote:
One of the swords found on the Mary Rose had a steel skin over a wrought iron core, so this technique certainly was used. Also, most medieval steels were shallow hardening, so while they are not differentially heat-treated per se, they would typically have a hardened skin over a softer core (if they have been heat-treated at all that is.)


Hi, Scott, I'd love to know more about that Mary Rose sword - do you have a book or online article you can point me to? I'd be curious to know if the sword was deliberately forged together out of two genuinely separate pieces of material, or if the blade was carburized to improve the surface's response to heat-treat. I suspect that this is the case for the shallow-hardened items you also mention, and I've always wondered if the smiths who did this considered this to be a superior way to make a durable yet sharp blade, or if they were either making due with what they had on hand, or being economical (cheap)?
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