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Rim Andries




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Feb, 2015 1:25 pm    Post subject: Wootz and other mysteries.         Reply with quote

Since I took my first baby steps into the large world of historical arms and armor, I have been fascinated by the unique methods of blade manufacturing. Far from being an educated metallurgist or even amateuristic bladesmith, this subject has been both extremely interesting as well as highly confusing. I have tried to read as much as I could (mostly wiki and myArmoury) but I seem to have hit a wall and I am now unable to see the forrest through the trees.

So here is my request: will you help me to categorize some of the more unique methods and ingredients involved in the making of "special" blades throughout history? How were they established? When and where were they used? Were these methods discovered independently or are they somehow related to/inspired by each other? What are the typical characteristics of the methods? Similarities and differences? Pros and cons?

Keywords in the answers I am looking for are:

-Wootz
-Bulat
-Tamahagane
-Damascus
-Crucible steel
-Pattern welding/forge welding (and the blades that were made this way)
-Differential hardening/quenching (and the blades that were made this way)

Feel free to add as I am sure there are many more.

I hope I am not asking too much here. But I think it might come in handy to have a specific topic dealing with these definitions.

Thanks in advance!

Sir Dreamin'
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Feb, 2015 3:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Crucible steels have been used from late BC to recently. Chinese, Central Asian, Indian, and more recently, European-American. The Asian ones (wootz/bulat) were very high carbon (1.5%-2%), so need to be forged differently. Not usually quenched, or they end up too brittle. Typically air cooled, and get edge retention from carbides.

Tamahagane is just bloomery steel - nothing special compared to other bloomery steels.

For broad categories emphasising the common elements:

Ingredients:
1. Meteoric iron
2. Bloomery iron
3. Carburised steel (take iron, usually in strips, and carburise in fire)
4. Bloomery steel (will usually be folded)
5. Crucible steel (wootz, bulat, etc.)
6. Decarburised cast iron (Han Chinese/modern Bessemer process steels)

Blade construction:
1. Piled ("uniform" pattern welding)
2. Pattern welded
3. Monosteel
4. Laminated (sanmei, kobuse, welded edge, etc.) - the components will be 1-3 above, individually.

Heat-treatment:
1. Unquenched
2. Quenched, untempered (can give differential hardening with laminated construction)
3. Quenched, autotempered (this will often give differential hardening)
4. Quenched, tempered
5. Differentially quenched
6. Differentially tempered

"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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Richard Miller




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Feb, 2015 4:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo's post was spot on and concise. One thing I would add is a pet peeve of mine which is using the term "Damascus" to describe pattern welded steel. Damascus steel is actually crucible steel like Wootz or Bulat steel.
Wootz steel has a crystal-like pattern on the surface which looks somewhat similar to a tight pattern welded blade, but that is where the similarity ends. True Damascus steel is mono-steel and as Timo said was produced in India and the middle east. During the Crusades, some incredibly strong and durable steel with uncanny edge holding characteristics was seen by Europeans for the first time, and not duplicated for nearly eight hundred years.
Viking traders are thought to have brought back crucible steel from Arabia with which the Ulfbehrt sword was made.
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Rim Andries




Location: The Netherlands
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PostPosted: Thu 19 Feb, 2015 4:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
Crucible steels have been used from late BC to recently. Chinese, Central Asian, Indian, and more recently, European-American. The Asian ones (wootz/bulat) were very high carbon (1.5%-2%), so need to be forged differently. Not usually quenched, or they end up too brittle. Typically air cooled, and get edge retention from carbides.

Tamahagane is just bloomery steel - nothing special compared to other bloomery steels.

For broad categories emphasising the common elements:

Ingredients:
1. Meteoric iron
2. Bloomery iron
3. Carburised steel (take iron, usually in strips, and carburise in fire)
4. Bloomery steel (will usually be folded)
5. Crucible steel (wootz, bulat, etc.)
6. Decarburised cast iron (Han Chinese/modern Bessemer process steels)

Blade construction:
1. Piled ("uniform" pattern welding)
2. Pattern welded
3. Monosteel
4. Laminated (sanmei, kobuse, welded edge, etc.) - the components will be 1-3 above, individually.

Heat-treatment:
1. Unquenched
2. Quenched, untempered (can give differential hardening with laminated construction)
3. Quenched, autotempered (this will often give differential hardening)
4. Quenched, tempered
5. Differentially quenched
6. Differentially tempered


Thank you Timo,

This is really helpful. Kind of like a quick checklist to help identify a blade or method.

I still have a lot of questions though. Most of them dealing with misconceptions and/or myths I suppose.

How about Damascus blades? What is the real source of its name? Does it come from damascus or "damascening"? Were they folded (generally speaking)? Is it true that many modern blades, especially knives are essentially pattern welded blades, sold as "true damascus"? Were they really that legendary in terms of strength, hardness, sharpness and flexibility?

Were Uflbehrt swords made of wootz? Were they pilled, pattern welded, laminated? Has the method of creating a wootz blade been rediscovered or not? Is the origin of the method clear? And the origin of the wootz in Ulfbehrt swords? Scandinavian soil or Indian? Is the true Ulfbehrt type perhaps the pinnacle of sword making? Or does that honour perhaps belong to another method and /or blade? Is any method inherently superior to another? How do modern monosteel blades fit in?

Can you give examples of other bloomery steels? Or typical blades with bloomery steel? When and where?

How are the various quenching results achieved?

And please do elaborate a little bit on meteoric iron? Wink

Thanks!

Sir Dreamin'
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Rim Andries




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Feb, 2015 4:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Richard Miller wrote:
Timo's post was spot on and concise. One thing I would add is a pet peeve of mine which is using the term "Damascus" to describe pattern welded steel. Damascus steel is actually crucible steel like Wootz or Bulat steel.
Wootz steel has a crystal-like pattern on the surface which looks somewhat similar to a tight pattern welded blade, but that is where the similarity ends. True Damascus steel is mono-steel and as Timo said was produced in India and the middle east. During the Crusades, some incredibly strong and durable steel with uncanny edge holding characteristics was seen by Europeans for the first time, and not duplicated for nearly eight hundred years.
Viking traders are thought to have brought back crucible steel from Arabia with which the Ulfbehrt sword was made.


New answers! And so soon! I was thinking it and you were typing it Wink

Thanks Richard, I will try to dig up some articles for more questions. Still not done...

Sir Dreamin'
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Greg Thomas Obach
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PostPosted: Thu 19 Feb, 2015 5:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

oh and don't forget the wootz that was quenched and edge quenched ... i have a couple tulwar and shamshir that have a HAZ ( heat affected zone) very similar to a quench line.
- also a quenched wootz will have a darker pattern/contrast.. martensite tends to etch much darker

so, you have many ways ( lots of variety out there )

and, the bright carbide pattern you see...is not one big carbide but rather an area with many wee globular/rounded carbides

nothing wootz is simple
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Rim Andries




Location: The Netherlands
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PostPosted: Thu 19 Feb, 2015 5:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You see Greg, that is exactly the kind of language that makes my head spin. I need to read a book.

Please explain to this poor fella in plain english what the heck is going on?

Pretty please. Cherries on top.

Sir Dreamin'
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Feb, 2015 6:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Rim Andries wrote:
How about Damascus blades? What is the real source of its name? Does it come from damascus or "damascening"? Were they folded (generally speaking)? Is it true that many modern blades, especially knives are essentially pattern welded blades, sold as "true damascus"? Were they really that legendary in terms of strength, hardness, sharpness and flexibility?


AFAIK, the name comes from Damascus (the city) being a major trade centre where are a lot of swords were sold. Specifically, a lot of patterned wootz swords. "Damascening" is also named after the patterning of wootz swords.

Pattern-welded blades are described as "true damascus". Fake damascus is when the pattern is etched into a monosteel.

Wootz was typically folded (which will make it more homogeneous, and drop the really high carbon content). As a side effect, it allows control of the patterns. As already said above, the patterns in wootz are due to carbides.

Rim Andries wrote:
Were Uflbehrt swords made of wootz? Were they pilled, pattern welded, laminated? Has the method of creating a wootz blade been rediscovered or not? Is the origin of the method clear? And the origin of the wootz in Ulfbehrt swords? Scandinavian soil or Indian? Is the true Ulfbehrt type perhaps the pinnacle of sword making? Or does that honour perhaps belong to another method and /or blade? Is any method inherently superior to another? How do modern monosteel blades fit in?


Some of the Ulfbehrt swords swords were (almost certainly) crucible steel. About 50 out of about 170; most of the +VLFBERH+T swords are crucible steel. Most of the +VLFBERHT+ swords are pattern-welded, with high carbon steel edges. The crucible steel +VLFBERH+T swords are monosteel (the crucible steel was probably folded, but I don't know). The swords were not quenched, but air-cooled.

They're not the pinnacle of sword-making, but appear to have been reasonable swords. The pattern-welded +VLFBERH+T swords were (mostly) quenched, and typically have harder edges than the crucible steel ones, and are less brittle (some of the crucible steel ones snapped in half). There would be a good case for saying that the pattern-welded ones are better swords than the crucible steel ones. Perhaps the crucible steel ones were cheaper?

The crucible steel probably came from Central Asia (from what is now Uzbekistan/Tajikistan/Turkmenistan etc.). E.g., Merv was a major producer and exporter of crucible steel. The Vikings/Rus traded a lot with the Khazar Khanate, which traded a lot with Central Asia. That's closer than India, and a known producer/exporter, with known trade connections, so looks like the most likely source.

Rim Andries wrote:
Can you give examples of other bloomery steels? Or typical blades with bloomery steel? When and where?


Most pre-modern steels that aren't crucible steel or made by decarburising cast iron, or made by carburising litle strips of bloomery iron (which are then used in piled construction), are bloomery steel. If your bloomery furnace doesn't get hot enough, you don't get much carbon into the iron, and you get bloomery iron as the product. Achieve higher temperatures, and you get bloomery steel. Outside Central Asia (crucible steel) and China (decarburised cast iron, and crucible steel), anything pre-modern and not piled, made from local steel, would probably be bloomery steel.

Bloomery steel was the standard in Medieval Europe, Africa, SE Asia, Japan.

Rim Andries wrote:
How are the various quenching results achieved?


Two two main methods for differential quenching would be "clay tempering" (i.e., Japanese style differential quenching using a clay coating, probably originally a Chinese technique) and edge-quenching, where only the edge is quenched. This can be done by (1) pouring water over only the edge, (2) dipping the edge only into the quenchant, (3) using a wet-but-solid quenchant (a wet towel, a melon, etc.) so only the edge is quenched, (4) only heating the edge and quenching the whole blade.

Rim Andries wrote:
And please do elaborate a little bit on meteoric iron? ;)


There are some very early iron blades made from meteoric iron. More recently, it's been used in decorative pattern welding, most famously on Indonesian keris blades. The high nickel content gives a lot of contrast when stained. (But most nickel in keris blades is just modern nickel or high-nickel alloy, and not from meteorites.)

"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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Eric S




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Feb, 2015 6:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lt down: #1.High contrast wootz crucible steel blade, tight granular structure. #2.Acid etched faux wootz blade, 2nd half of the 19th c. #3.Pattern welded steel blade, T-section spine from the 19th c. Rt down: #4.Kirk Narduban / laddered wootz, identified by the vertical parallel ‘lines’ along the blade. #5.High contrast wootz crucible steel, very active and busy ‘watered’ pattern of loose structure. #6.Indian pattern welded ‘watered’ steel blade, late 18th c, re-etched at a later date.

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Richard Miller




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Feb, 2015 12:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eric, as they say a picture is worth a thousand words! The photos that you posted are beautiful illustrations of the attempts to equate pattern welded steel to true Damascus steel. Thank you!

I know that someday I'll have to simply bite my lip when people say how Damascus steel is soooo superior to Western steel.

One day I'll be able to keep my mouth shut and not try to explain the difference between folded, pattern welded steel and good mono-steel.

But not today!
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Fri 20 Feb, 2015 3:38 am    Post subject: Re: Wootz and other mysteries.         Reply with quote

Just a heads up.

You 'forgot' to mention casting bronze weapons.
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Greg Thomas Obach
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PostPosted: Fri 20 Feb, 2015 6:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

as to the darker etch ? it has alot to do with carbide. Carbide itself resists the etching of certain acid/concentrations and stays bright. so it matters where the carbide is located, and what structure is there !

well if you look at the structure of the air cool wootz = most often Pearlite
- Pearlite is sort of a feathery pattern of carbide that is located every where on steel
-if you located the carbide all over, then it's resist acid all over and lighten up the pattern
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearlite
- if you etch it, often you will get a lite to dark grey


here is a pattern from a Persian Shamshir with Assadollah cartouche ..... note the woody/watery look of the steel and the lovely darker blue/black background.






Rim Andries wrote:
You see Greg, that is exactly the kind of language that makes my head spin. I need to read a book.

Please explain to this poor fella in plain english what the heck is going on?

Pretty please. Cherries on top.
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Feb, 2015 7:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anyone knows when the earliest found pattern welded sword is from?

As I seem to remember almost from the start of iron sword making in Europe in the Iron ages you also have pattern welding.
Good Celtic and Germanic Iron Age blades are pattern welded.

When in Europe?
When in Middle East?
When in India and East Asia?

From what I seem to remember “Damascene“ is a name based of the pattern visible and not on the steel type used. Any sword with the Damascene pattern would be a Damascus sword whether it was pattern welded, edged and also independent on steel quality. Since at this point in time from the Crusades onwards pattern welding mostly stopped in Europe for swords, the pattern on the sword got its name from there.

The Toledo swords were of a tradition of very early prominence in sword quality (from 500 BC) with superb iron quality supplying Europe through the ages.
I think I read that early (from 1700 something?) on even Japanese samurai's went to Toledo to get their katanas made there as it was superior quality.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Feb, 2015 12:43 pm    Post subject: Re: Wootz and other mysteries.         Reply with quote

Pieter B. wrote:
Just a heads up.

You 'forgot' to mention casting bronze weapons.


I stayed ferrous. Go into bronze, and where do you stop? The various alloys, other metals used for weapons, and why stop at metals? Bone, stone, horn, wood, and more. Too much!

But bronze reminds me of one thing I should have mentioned: work-hardening edges of iron swords.

"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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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Feb, 2015 1:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Anyone knows when the earliest found pattern welded sword is from?

As I seem to remember almost from the start of iron sword making in Europe in the Iron ages you also have pattern welding.
Good Celtic and Germanic Iron Age blades are pattern welded.

When in Europe?
When in Middle East?
When in India and East Asia?


It depends on your definition of pattern welding. If you include piled construction as a type of pattern welding, then you get earlier dates than if you only consider "decorative" pattern welding.

Luristan iron swords were often of some kind of composite construction. I don't know whether you would call it laminated, piled, or pattern-welded. I haven't seen enough details in the papers describing such swords to judge.

"Decorative" pattern welding was being done in Han China. I don't know of earlier examples, but earlier laminated or pattern-welded construction is likely, since they were doing composite construction bronze weapons.

Some discussion on http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=21358

"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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Rim Andries




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Feb, 2015 2:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sheez guys! You really went above and beyond. This is way more than I hoped for. And way more than I can process at the moment Happy

Thanks for the pictures! They are gorgeous and informative!

I will need some time to let this all set in this rather crude brain of mine. I will be back soon with more questions. In particular about the article in the following link: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/1134288-a-ste...-ulfberht/, though I invite you all to share your insights and/or criticism anyway. Don't wait up for me Wink

In the meantime you all have my sincere gratitude.

Sir Dreamin'
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Feb, 2015 8:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Don't know why high manganese would rule out eastern origin. There are traditional eastern crucible steel recipes where manganese is added to the mix in the crucible. See http://www.swordforum.com/forums/showthread.p...ld-Recipes for some recipes. (Note that "magnesia alba", "white magnesia", is magnesium oxide or magnesium carbonate; "magnesia negra", "black magnesia" is manganese oxide.) Also, I don't think that high manganese iron ores are non-existent in the east.

No surprise to see that the fittings were made from local European materials.

"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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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Sat 21 Feb, 2015 5:22 am    Post subject: Re: Wootz and other mysteries.         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
Pieter B. wrote:
Just a heads up.

You 'forgot' to mention casting bronze weapons.


I stayed ferrous. Go into bronze, and where do you stop? The various alloys, other metals used for weapons, and why stop at metals? Bone, stone, horn, wood, and more. Too much!

But bronze reminds me of one thing I should have mentioned: work-hardening edges of iron swords.


Obsidian weapons are still something I'd like to learn more about really. I guess bone weapons would be an interesting subject but wouldn't it largely be unsuitable for anything other than arrows and javelins (and perhaps a spear)?

As for work-hardening: Is that something exclusively done on iron and bronze swords or did later steel weapons also get a work-hardening treatment?
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sat 21 Feb, 2015 2:09 pm    Post subject: Re: Wootz and other mysteries.         Reply with quote

Pieter B. wrote:
Timo Nieminen wrote:
Pieter B. wrote:
Just a heads up.

You 'forgot' to mention casting bronze weapons.


I stayed ferrous. Go into bronze, and where do you stop? The various alloys, other metals used for weapons, and why stop at metals? Bone, stone, horn, wood, and more. Too much!

But bronze reminds me of one thing I should have mentioned: work-hardening edges of iron swords.


Obsidian weapons are still something I'd like to learn more about really. I guess bone weapons would be an interesting subject but wouldn't it largely be unsuitable for anything other than arrows and javelins (and perhaps a spear)?

As for work-hardening: Is that something exclusively done on iron and bronze swords or did later steel weapons also get a work-hardening treatment?


Bone was also used for clubs and daggers. Then there are weapons with shark teeth, sawfish saws, swordfish swords.
Papuan bone daggers: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=14380
African bone club: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=14884
Shark tooth club: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=18908

If you're going to quench a steel blade, I don't think there's any point in trying to work-harden it. Some smiths say that they do it ("packing the edge", etc.)

"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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Robert Morgan




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PostPosted: Sat 21 Feb, 2015 5:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow, there's some great information here. Just curious, how would medieval Wootz or Damascus steel, for example, compare against the modern steels our sword reproductions are made from? Or, for that matter the run of the mill steel the average medieval blade would be constructed from? Which would be stronger, more ductile, more brittle, or (here's a term loaded with opinion) "better," the ancient steel or the modern steel?

Bob
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