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Marcus G.





Joined: 06 Jan 2004

Posts: 12

PostPosted: Tue 13 Jan, 2004 5:15 pm    Post subject: High Carbon Steel         Reply with quote

I recently purchased a sword from MRL. Looking back at the sword info I don't see it anywhere that the blade uses high carbon steel. I am new to swords and would like to know if i have purchased a poor quality blade? By the way, the one i purchased is the Two handed Flamberge. Would all of MRL's blades come with high carbon steel? Is there a huge benefit in having high carbon steel?

Last edited by Marcus G. on Tue 13 Jan, 2004 5:27 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Björn Hellqvist
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Location: Sweden
Joined: 19 Aug 2003

Posts: 723

PostPosted: Tue 13 Jan, 2004 5:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Most sword steels have about 0.5% carbon. "High carbon steel" is pretty much just sales talk, as it isn't the carbon content (0.4, 0.5 or 0.6%) that determines the quality of the blade, but the tempering and heat-treating. If a steel has too much carbon in it, it becomes more brittle, and one of the few steels that can get away with a high carbon content (about 2%) is the so-called "wootz" steel, a steel from Damascus in Syria.
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Filip Isaksson




Location: Luleå , Sweden
Joined: 30 Sep 2003

Posts: 2

PostPosted: Tue 13 Jan, 2004 11:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi , Steel below 0.5 % is generally called "mild steel" and steel with a higher carbon content is just called "carbon steel".
Mild steel is often used for sword fittings while carbon steel is used for sword blades, knives etc.
And as björn says, high carbon steel would be to brittle for most blades.
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Randal Graham
Industry Professional



Location: Nova Scotia Canada
Joined: 20 Sep 2003

Posts: 79

PostPosted: Thu 15 Jan, 2004 6:45 pm    Post subject: Mysteries of steel...         Reply with quote

The subject of steel comes up now and again, hope you don't mind if I add my 2 cents worth.

First, carbon contents and toghness/brittleness is something that's often confused a bit by historical information and ideas vs modern.
far more important in a sword blade's qualities is it's heat-treatment, the carbon content is not nearly as imortant as it's thought .

For the discussion of the sword blade, we could consider .5 % carbon content as the low end, based on both historical and contemporary observations that much lower carbon than this and the steel will be very difficult to harden at all, although it is possible...but not practical.

The historical understanding of steel and it's properties widely varied from culture-to-culture as well as time period as well, and this is mainly where the mental connection of low-high carbon equals toughness-brittleness comes from.
In some areas and eras, the tempering, or drawing of a steel after the hardening quench was not done, or not done well. In this case, carbon contents come into play significantly because the blades are fully hard, or very nearly so, and in this condition, the carbon content DOES have in fact a direct relationship on the toughness-brittleness of the steel. This connection was made in all areas early on, Europe, Asia, Africa, pretty much everywhere.

However, bring tempering, or drawing as I like to call it, into the equation, and things change radically.
The blade is hardened in the quench, and then re-heated to an intermediate temperature, anywhere from say 400F to 750F (just for the sakeof discussion), which is a process that reduces the hardness of the quenched blade to a hardness level desired for a certain atrribute.
On the low end, say 400 F, you'd be looking for hardness, edge-retention, resistance to abrasion, like in the case of knives, or carving tools for example. Towards the other end of the range, say 600F, youd be creating a blade of very high toughness, extreme flexibility, but you'd give up the edge-retention by a great deal.
Working in this range a smith can finely tune a "recipe" to provide for a blade that very closely matches his ideal of what the particular blade's required uses determine.

Carbon contents in the modern context , in steels used by the vast majority of sword-makers and producers, rarely drops below .6% carbon, and can routinely be as high as .8 to even 1.0 % carbon.
A blade that's .8 % carbon, for example, is NOT brittle if hardened and drawn for a specific ideal, it's what the draw dictates it is...
Now, carbon level, as well as other alloying elements, can make changes to the draw temps and times for specific attributes, for example if you want to make something that is .5 carbon really springy, it takes a lower temp in the draw than to make a .8 carbon steel the same springiness...

Historically, Especially in Japan, but in Europe as well, the understanding and language of steel is quite a bit different than now. In some cases the act of drawing or tempering blades was a very closely-guarded secret, and in many cases blades from makers who had caught onto this idea were regarded as something pretty special.... even majikal at times, or particularly exemplary.

So, in any case, the carbon contents of a steel tell very little of the blades qualities in modern terms, of far more importance is the heat-treating that the steel recieves.

Hope this made some rudimentary sense, steel is still a confusing subject at times for the very best of smiths, let alone the patrons.

R.H.Graham
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Patrick Hastings
Industry Professional



Location: West coast USA
Joined: 18 Aug 2003

Posts: 52

PostPosted: Sun 18 Jan, 2004 9:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Filip Isaksson wrote:
Hi , Steel below 0.5 % is generally called "mild steel" and steel with a higher carbon content is just called "carbon steel".
Mild steel is often used for sword fittings while carbon steel is used for sword blades, knives etc.
And as björn says, high carbon steel would be to brittle for most blades.


In the US When shopping for steel you will find refferences to Mild, LowCarbon, Medium carbon, and High carbon steels. each one covers a particular group but the lines separateing the groups are blury. .50 is usually considered a medium carbon steel. Around .20 is called low carbon steel( often used for case hardening) sometimes called mild steel, but for the the most part mild steel reffers to inexpensive structural steel that usuallly has much less carbon than "low" carbon steels all the way down to .08 If I remember correctly. what people call them seems to vary depending on who you talk to, but in my expirience the above is generally accurate based on metalurgical refferences, steel spec sheets, and years of shopping for and buying steel in small quanities.

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