Info Favorites Register Log in Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Making practice / simple, but somewhat durable, swords Reply to topic
This is a standard topic  
Author Message
Victor K.

Location: ON, Canada
Joined: 27 Jan 2007

Posts: 5

PostPosted: Mon 05 Feb, 2007 5:58 pm    Post subject: Making practice / simple, but somewhat durable, swords         Reply with quote

My brother and I have recently been taught the basics about blacksmithing, and I'm looking for pointers from anyone who has experience with making practice swords, that won't fall apart. I don't need extremely detailed tips, but anything helps, especially on:

1) How to get the balance right,

2) How to make the hilt securely attached to the tang,

3) How wide the blade's edge should be, on average, and

4) How much the blade should be tempered, assuming I start with mild steel flatbar.

Links would be nice, if not quite as nice as comments, provided that you've tried out the steps detailed in the link and they do work as written. I've read to many discussions on other forums where the people say things that are either far beyond my capabilities, or that even I can tell are impossible.

Thanks for the help;


--The word sounded strange and exotic in my ears and the small hairs on my arms stirred. "Qalibr," I said. "The hilt came out of a mould. Ex-Qalibr. That's where you got the name!"
View user's profile Send private message
Mat Billings

Location: Kelowna, BC
Joined: 05 Jan 2005

Posts: 30

PostPosted: Tue 06 Feb, 2007 3:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, I'm not a blacksmith by any means, but I have built sword hilts through modern means. I've never attempted a blade, so I can't answer your last two questions, but I think I can help you out(ish Happy ) with the first two.

1) The balance point will depend on the type of sword you're planning to make. The best advice I can give on the subject is to research the type of sword you're making, and note the balance points of surviving examples or modern repros. A lot of the balance comes down to personal preference. You might want to check out this article.

you might also consider checking out some of the blade reviews under the "Reviews" section. Most, if not all of the swords there have the specs written out. It'll give you a place to start, anyway.

2) A firmly attached hilt can be achieved if you take the extra time to ensure a tight fit. If there's more slop in a hilt, it'll be more likely to work its way out of line with the blade or rattle around. Generally, the Crossguard/quillons and the handle are held snugly in place with the pommel. The quillons will slide over the tang, the handle next, and then the pommel will either be screwed or peened into place. If you've ever looked at period quillons, most of them have a block of some form or another in the middle of the quillons, which if it's tight enough, will eliminate any horizontal blade movement.

Forgive the crudeness of my 5 minute "paintbrush" drawing, but it shows what I mean with the quillon block. Laughing Out Loud

Most modern practice blades use threaded tangs. If you've got the time to play around with a tap and die set, you might consider doing so. This said, most of the period counterparts you see out there will have a peened tang.

The main drawback of a peened tang is that once assembled, you'll never get or will have a lot of troubles getting it apart. A threaded tang will disassemble and re-assemble with minimal effort. If for whatever reason you have troubles with a threaded pommel constantly coming loose (it's irritating), a leather washer can counteract this. Another cause for a pommel coming loose is if the fit up of the other hilt components.
View user's profile Send private message Yahoo Messenger
Arne Focke
Industry Professional

Location: near Munich, Germany
Joined: 13 Mar 2006
Reading list: 34 books

Posts: 204

PostPosted: Tue 06 Feb, 2007 6:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Moin (A typical northern German greeting)

I always enjoy seeing people who are willing to put a lof of work into their own first blades. If you are patient enough there sure will be a reward after your first projects.

I will try to keep it very simple, just to give you an idea what lies ahead.

1. Like Mat said, it depends what kind of swordblade you are forging. But for a start it might be easiest if you forge a blade with parallel edges. The thickness of the blade should have its strongest point right at the crossguard and taper down towards the tip. A good blade should not feel too heavy in your hand, even without the pommel and hilt. Of course it will still be a little "headstrong". If possible, compare it to other blades.
When the blade is finished, forge a pommel and a crossguard. Let the pommel and crossguard rest on the tang while you are holding your blade like the central arm of an old scale. Meaning your hand is under the blade "searching" for the point of balance. With different pommels of different weights you can achieve different balance points. Take your time and experiment.

2. In most cases I form the hole in the crossguard with a chisel which is slightly smaller than the tang. When the crossguard is finished it is heated one final time and the blade rammed in. Afterwards it has to be cooled very quickly to avoid the heat seeping into the finished blade and to tighten the crossguard around the tang.

3. For a training sword I prefer 2mm with slightly rounded edges.

4. I am not familiar with english expressions for different sorts of steel, so I will have to keep it very basic.
Do not harden the blade too much, since you want it for blunt training and not for cutting. If the blade is too hard it will break, if it is too soft it will get nicked too deep and bend. So you will have to experiment again, but please be very careful with your first blades. A broken swordblade is very painful and potentially deadly.

Hope I was able to help a little bit.
Please show us your work, regardless of whether it comes out perfect or not. I am sure nobody here will laugh. Happy

Greetings from Kiel, Germany

So schön und inhaltsreich der Beruf eines Archäologen ist, so hart ist auch seine Arbeit, die keinen Achtstundentag kennt! (Wolfgang Kimmig in: Die Heuneburg an der oberen Donau, Stuttgart 1983)
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Adam Rudling

Location: Coventry, England
Joined: 11 Dec 2006
Likes: 1 page

Posts: 34

PostPosted: Tue 06 Feb, 2007 8:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One tip that seems to have been missed, DONT use mild steel - you cant heat treat it at all, this being one of the properties that make it mild steel Big Grin

You need to look into the different properties and techniques for heat treating your blades quite a bit to get a good balance between hardness & brittleness. I would recommend having a look at the various sections on The Sword Forum

I have personnally had good success for making short (Roman Gladius & a Messer) training / re-enactment blades from EN45 ( European designation) which is a spring type steel, even without any heat treat.
So far I havent actually needed to forge as I just used stock removal & used a hollow grind & distal taper to achieve a reasonable balance point.
I wouldnt like to say how this would work with a longer blade though as I havent gotten round to making one yet !

I would also stick to at least 2mm thick edges & a reasonably rounded tip - Medieval types often had a broad (1/2in or so)tip to allow safe thrusting - see the review sections on this site for training swords such as the A&A Fechtbuch

Good luck !

View user's profile Send private message MSN Messenger
Victor K.

Location: ON, Canada
Joined: 27 Jan 2007

Posts: 5

PostPosted: Wed 07 Feb, 2007 6:42 am    Post subject: Thanks         Reply with quote

Thank you all for the advice, I just have a few more questions...

How would you make a weighted pommel the right weight. I suppose you could just buy a chunk of scrap metal and file it away, but that doesn't seem very effective....

And also- can you forge spring steel? How much does it sell for, by the pound or kilogram, from a junkyard etc?

--The word sounded strange and exotic in my ears and the small hairs on my arms stirred. "Qalibr," I said. "The hilt came out of a mould. Ex-Qalibr. That's where you got the name!"
View user's profile Send private message
Adam Rudling

Location: Coventry, England
Joined: 11 Dec 2006
Likes: 1 page

Posts: 34

PostPosted: Wed 07 Feb, 2007 8:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I buy my steel in bar from a specialist steel stockholder, its not normally very expensive but that depends obviously on thickness & length etc - the suppliers have a formula based on price per kilo or something like that.

If you are looking for a scrapyard solution you can look out for old car / truck leaf springs, this would be fine for you as you are wanting to forge & re-heat treat the metal which would help restore crystal structure etc. You can just grind away an old spring & get an ok blade but then it might have a hidden flaw.

Yes you can forge spring steels, although its nice to know about the particular metal you are working on, lot of info out there on material properties if you have a look around. Again it helps to buy new metal in this case.

As for balance, good question as I havetn tried it yet - my gladius has an organic handle that was made more to fit the hand than anythig else.
My messer is going to need balancing & I propose to do it this way, finish blade & cross guard components, loose assemble & check balance point, make the butt cap to an appropriate mass & then assemble - there may also be some praying Eek!
View user's profile Send private message MSN Messenger
Tim Harris
Industry Professional

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Joined: 06 Sep 2006

Posts: 166

PostPosted: Wed 07 Feb, 2007 7:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote


Mild steel is of use only to practice your smithing skills on. It cannot be hardened or tempered, and thus will not make a useable blade.

Old car spring, as suggested, is a good place to start. I get my stock new from a spring manufacturer - annealed, and before it is turned into springs. Used leaf spring will be harder to work., but as pointed out, it will retain some flex after forging, and could be OK for a practice weapon.

Whatever you do, DO NOT let the metal get too hot. If it gets to sparking point, the carbon is burning out, and you are just begging for blade failure.

I'd recommend an edge thickness of at least one millimetre for a practice blunt. It's a good idea to round the corners of the edge to reduce the severity of burring from blade to blade contact.

Unless you have hardness testing gear, you're better off sending blades to a commercial heat treater. Let them know the type of steel you've used and the degree you want it hardened and tempered to. In general, I have my blades treated to 50 Rockwell C. I find it's also a good idea to have the blade annealed first, as this helps even out any internal stresses from forging.

Good luck. Once you get your first result, you'll probably be hooked. Just remember, no matter how careful you are, once in a while a blade will fail. It happens to everyone.... I think.


Tim Harris
View user's profile Send private message
Bruno Giordan

Joined: 28 Sep 2005

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 918

PostPosted: Thu 08 Feb, 2007 12:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Buy the book from Jim Hrisoulas at
View user's profile Send private message

Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Making practice / simple, but somewhat durable, swords
Page 1 of 1 Reply to topic
All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum

All contents © Copyright 2003-2019 — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum