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Lukas MG
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Location: Germany
Joined: 23 Feb 2010

Posts: 317

PostPosted: Wed 08 Feb, 2017 1:41 am    Post subject: Steel quality on 19th century swords         Reply with quote

Hi there,

I am (very) slowly getting into antique 19th century swords, so far having a French M1822 Light Cavalry sabre and a French M1845 adjutant's swords (wonderful piece). The whole world of 18th and 19th century antique arms is just opening up for me, so far I've never had much interest in anything but renaissance and medieval pieces (and those are far to expensive for me at the time) but that is now changing.

So I'm wondering: is there any data on what steel was used for 19th century (military) arms? Also, any info on the heat treating procedure and further testing routine the blades were subjected to? I assume being fairly strictly regulated and supervised, there must be some info on what was acceptable, etc. For starters and since that's what I own, I'm mainly looking for info on French military swords but if you have anything else on, say, British or Prussian weapons, that's surely also interesting!

Cheers and thanks!

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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 1,836

PostPosted: Wed 08 Feb, 2017 2:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

By the late mid 1800s, both an open hearth process in Europe and the Bessemer process in England went full swing for many nsteel requirements. Surprisingly, France was always steel poor, despite the hundreds of thousands of swords they produced in the Napoleonic years. Keep in mind the Klingenthal was in Alsace, ostensibly often under German rule. Chatterault was then determined to be the military provider and they were basically buying what steel they could get (no doubt from German sources).

Jean Bincks good pages on the two chief armourers
http://users.skynet.be/euro-swords/

I tend to not like wiki pages as sources but I am quite ignorant in terms of pre industrial era steel production but a couple of note, perhaps of interest. England was smelting shear steel to get a refined steel, some for blades. I have what I believe to be of cast steel, as it has a crystaline depth.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucible_steel

The Siemens open hearth process appears to have been used on the continent late mid century.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_hearth_furnace

So before those, shear steel and double shear processes. The proofing of blades can be found in a number of texts, including the US ordnance book for 1862.. Little changed, held at the point, bent over a form, whacked about a bit and thats it.

I would suggest hitting the books, even visit a library on the subject.

Cheers

GC
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Lukas MG
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Location: Germany
Joined: 23 Feb 2010

Posts: 317

PostPosted: Wed 08 Feb, 2017 3:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you, I'll check these links out tomorrow.

In the meantime, I found this info on the swords made by Wilkinson (info by Robert Wilkinson-Latham himself, so probably legit):

Specification for Henry Wilkinson's "Sword Steel"

Carbon................0.90 to 1,00%
Silicon.................0.20% Maximum
Manganese..........0.15 to 0.35%
Sulphur...............0.02% Maximum
Phosphorous......... 0.02% Maximum

Also, they were apparently aiming for a blade hardness between 450 and 500VPN, which is 45-50Rc.

So they were using hypereutectoid steel with a potentially very high hardness yet tempered down to a very tough spring temper. Very interesting.

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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 1,836

PostPosted: Wed 08 Feb, 2017 4:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Robert had shared a great deal re Wilkinson at the swordforum.com antique&military section

http://www.swordforum.com/forums/member.php?3...son-Latham

He has a few pages of his own (including the FS daggers)

Cheers

GC
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James Arlen Gillaspie
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Location: upstate NY
Joined: 10 Nov 2005

Posts: 529

PostPosted: Thu 09 Feb, 2017 10:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
So they were using hypereutectoid steel with a potentially very high hardness yet tempered down to a very tough spring temper. Very interesting.

That's the smartest and safest thing they could do with that much carbon, which would be too brittle otherwise (don't know how a salt quench resulting in a bainite microstructure would turn out). If they had cooled the edge a little faster, they could have had a very hard cutting edge, indeed!

jamesarlen.com
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 1,836

PostPosted: Thu 09 Feb, 2017 10:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Those Wilkinson numbers are from 1983.
http://www.swordforum.com/forums/showthread.p...ics/page12

Cheers

GC
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Lukas MG
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Location: Germany
Joined: 23 Feb 2010

Posts: 317

PostPosted: Thu 09 Feb, 2017 1:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

James Arlen Gillaspie wrote:
Quote:
So they were using hypereutectoid steel with a potentially very high hardness yet tempered down to a very tough spring temper. Very interesting.

That's the smartest and safest thing they could do with that much carbon, which would be too brittle otherwise (don't know how a salt quench resulting in a bainite microstructure would turn out). If they had cooled the edge a little faster, they could have had a very hard cutting edge, indeed!


Sure but it begs the question why use a steel with that high a carbon content if you're not taking advantage of the potential high (edge) hardness? Naturally, you want to err on the tougher end of the spectrum with sword blade but then why go with that much carbon? They certainly had the ability to produce steel with less.
I would have expected them to use a steel with a medium carbon content... less of a hassle and easily reaches the hardness they were aiming for.

Most swords nowadays are made from steel with .5-.7% carbon and then tempered to a higher hardness (55-58Rc). I certainly do it that way, as do most other makers.

I need to read through that thread Glen linked, it appears interesting. Thanks for that!

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