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Benjamin McCracken





Joined: 26 Feb 2004

Posts: 83

PostPosted: Mon 21 Mar, 2005 5:41 pm    Post subject: Steel. Historically, Currently, and Prospectively.         Reply with quote

Let's pretend for a moment that I am a complete idiot when it comes to steel (because I am). I have no clue when I look at specs for a sword what the differences in steel are. I do know that some steels have a high amount of carbon and that some are stainless. I know that stainless steel is not as good for swords, but I don't know why. I writing this post because I am hoping that someone (maybe a smith) could explain to me everything I need to know about steel. I realize that this is a lot to ask, but I think that we can all learn something. Thanks in advance.


Ben

"Your sword is your shield!"
Christian Henry Tobler
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Scott Byler




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 20 Aug 2003

Posts: 209

PostPosted: Mon 21 Mar, 2005 6:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Books could be written about this subject it is so large in expanse... Some have, I'm sure.... Big Grin Steel is an interesting creature and when you think you are beginning to know a little about it, something comes up to make you think again.

In a very basic statement, steel is a product of what is in it. Stainless steels vary in allow, having some slightly higher amounts of chromium that help corrosion resistance. Since I don't use any stainless I can't say much about it other than the consensus is that most stainless is less than desirable in sword length blades... Prone to being more brittle and that is not good in a blade that will see high stresses. Stainless works fine in shorter blades, though.... (A lot of stainless requires added heat treat steps. For instance, a subzero quench after the initial heat treatment ot make sure that all the austenite can make as much of a transformation to martensitic form as possible. Since the Martensitic finish point, the point where all the austenite can finish transforming to martensite is very low it requires a bit more equipment and time....)

The thing is some steels are pretty simple and some are more complex allows, and those all have their own characteristics. I use a lot of 5160. It is a simple medium carbon steel really, but has some added chromium (as an example) that changes its character a bit from a simple steel.

While I'm not versed in steel labels and typology around the world, the American system is usually based on number sets. The first numbers indicate steel type or allow additive type and the second numbers indicate carbon content. A 1070 steel is a simple steel with .70 percent carbon....

Well, that is a start... Very simple and basic, ofcourse. There is and can be a whole lot to learn about this stuff, and I am surely just a beginner... So, will leave more elaborate explanations and the more basic definition of steels and all to folks that have a better understanding and more time to write... Wink
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Craig Johnson
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Location: Minneapolis, MN, USA
Joined: 18 Aug 2003
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PostPosted: Mon 21 Mar, 2005 7:25 pm    Post subject: Steel         Reply with quote

Hello Benjamin

Best way to tackle this subject maybe for all to contribute a few points and build up a group of facts that help others learn what steel is.

Steel is iron with some carbon added. Literally from just above nothing all the way up to 1% or so. If it has more than that it is cast iron to brittle to be used as a blade unless funky things are done. If it has less than a minimal amount of carbon it is wrought iron and is not hardenable by quenching.

Alloys are elements added to this iron carbon mix to gain attributes or as enviromental agents which can help or hurt the end result. Examples: iron mined from limestone rich deposits are easier to smelt as the limestone acts as a flux in the smelting process, or phosphorous found in iron deposits hinders the migration of carbon in a steel or iron object thus making the process of creating a consistent carbon content through out a piece impossible, but making a pattern welded object show the pattern better after the object is finished.

Steel can be a fairly complex simple mix much like a decent single malt!

Laughing Out Loud

Best stop here or I will be typing for a couple of hours Happy

Craig
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 1,802

PostPosted: Mon 21 Mar, 2005 7:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I keep bumping into this site while wandering around.

http://www.key-to-steel.com/Default.htm

It may not be weapon specific but does seem to spider out well into the world of steel.

Cheers

GC
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Benjamin McCracken





Joined: 26 Feb 2004

Posts: 83

PostPosted: Mon 21 Mar, 2005 10:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks everyone for the great responses. These are exactly what I was looking for. I guess it wasn't so bad for me to be confused. Craig (and everyone else) I'm curious what kind of steel you think is best suited for reproduction swords. Thanks again.


Ben

"Your sword is your shield!"
Christian Henry Tobler
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Craig Johnson
Industry Professional



Location: Minneapolis, MN, USA
Joined: 18 Aug 2003
Likes: 16 pages
Reading list: 20 books

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Posts: 1,279

PostPosted: Tue 22 Mar, 2005 3:27 pm    Post subject: "Best Steel"         Reply with quote

Good question!

In the world of knives and swords there can be a lot of divergent opinions on what is the "best" steel for a blade. I have seen and heard many people expose on the subject some of them far smarter than I and some less. I decline to state percentages of either Big Grin

IMHO there is no such thing as a best steel. Steel is always a compromise of attributes and the abilities and talent of the person working it. The end result is a combination and one that can be done well or poorly in any given set of circumstances. That is why in most cases you get what you pay for. Happy

Best Craig
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

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PostPosted: Tue 22 Mar, 2005 9:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here's a fun page to read.

http://www.tf.uni-kiel.de/matwis/amat/def_en/...5_1_1.html

Cheers

GC
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Greyson Brown




Location: Windsor, Colorado
Joined: 22 Nov 2004
Reading list: 15 books

Posts: 790

PostPosted: Wed 23 Mar, 2005 5:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin:

As a hobby blacksmith, I tend to use whatever steel I can find. Even for things like fire strikers and blades, I use dump rake teeth that were on the family property when they moved in 18 years ago. That means that I can't really say from a using standpoint what material is best. I do know that two of the characteristics that one wants in a sword blade are that it be strong so as not to bend (and take a set) and so that it will hold its edge better, but you also want it to be flexible so that it doesn't brake. Being strong is (if we want to keep the discussion simple enough for me to participate) basically synonomous with being hard, and being flexible is basically synonomous with being soft (those are over expagerations, but still accurate enough). That means you are going to be stuck making compromises at some point anyway. Some materals, like stainless, fail to give you that mix, but as long as the steel that a smith is working with can be harded to a certain point, and then have that hardness drawn back enough to be flexible it is perfect.

Of course, as has been pointed out, the other elements in a given steel may provide other desireable features. For example, a small amount of chrome (I know that Del Tin uses steel that has a little bit of chrome in it) will help a little with rust resistence. I know that a steel containing molybdinum (which my dad likes for knife blades, and I probably misspelled) can be desirable as well, but I don't know specifically what the molybdinum does.

Also, since you specifically asked about the best material for reproduction swords, I guess you have to take into acount what was used to make the originals. I don't know a whole lot about it, but the members of this forum provided this information when I asked. There may well be (in fact I'm certain there is) a material available today that is better, from a funcional standpoint, than what was available historically. So which is better for a reproduction? The material that will perform better, or the material that is closer to the original? That might be a matter of opinion. Since I'm not the most skilled smith in the world, the answer is whichever I am more comfortable working with.

Craig Johnson wrote:
Steel can be a fairly complex simple mix much like a decent single malt!


You had to go and say that, didn't you!? Now, I'm "thirsty." Big Grin Good thing the duty day is over. Razz

-Grey

"So long as I can keep the path of honor I am well content."
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The White Company
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Benjamin McCracken





Joined: 26 Feb 2004

Posts: 83

PostPosted: Wed 23 Mar, 2005 7:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

When I started this thread I thought I would get an answer like,"the best steel is blah blah blah." What you guys have given me is so much better. Thank you. Let me take a second to see if I am getting it right. Basically when making a sword the smith is trying to blend enough hardness and softness to make the blade stiff but flexible. So, depending on what type of sword blade it is, the mixture is different. Other metals can be added to the mixture to make the steel either harder, softer, or any number of things including rust resistant.

Glen, the page on damascene technique is really interesting. Thanks for the link.


Ben

"Your sword is your shield!"
Christian Henry Tobler
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