The Lowdown on Sword Steels

The beginners in the sphere of sword collecting always seem to have this question “ Which is the best steel?”. However, answering this question is not easy at all. There is nothing known as the best steel with respect to manufacturing of swords. It depends on the kind of sword you are willing to manufacture and also the purpose behind making a steel sword. Other factors also play a part like heat treatment and the quality of the forging in producing the kind of sword that people would reckon with. Every kind of steel has its strengths and weaknesses so it eventually depends on the user to decide as you are going to be the person who will use it for a particular purpose. Let us take a look at some of the most commonly used steel types that goes in the making of swords:

  1. Stainless Steel: Some time ago it was only stainless steel that went into the manufacturing of steels and it was the only kind of material available in the markets. Nowadays the use of stainless steel has diminished quite a lot and is only restricted to the making of just a certain kind of sword. Stainless steel was said to be quite brittle to be used in serious situations which would end up getting shattered quite easily. Why is stainless steel known as “stainless”? Most people use this term without knowing the actual reason. This is because stainless steel has a coating of chromium over it, which almost constitutes 11%. When a blade turns out to be more than 12 inches, the boundaries between the chromium and the remaining part of the steel weaken and start to create stress points. So the only purpose of using a stainless steel would be just to showcase it in your drawing room for your guests to come and appreciate the piece of art.

  2. Carbon Steel: It is heard quite often that High Carbon Steel Sword is one of the best kinds of swords. The American Society of Automative Engineers(AISI) has a universally accepted scale or means of measurement for determining the quality and content of carbon in such swords. The most commonly used steel in the making of functional swords is determined by the first two digits 10 and also a number from 01 to 99 afterwards with every point signifying the fact that .01% of steel is carbon. Steel with carbon content in the range 0.05 to 0.15 is considered to be low carbon steel while that in the range .016 to .029 as mild steel. Any sword with a carbon content less than 40% cannot be hardened and given a heat treatment. Mild swords are used in fitting purposes. The most popularly used carbon steels are 1045, 1060 and 1095 with 1045 being the most inexpensive one. Experts opine that the ideal range for the best kind of durability in swords should be somewhere between 0.5 and 0.7.

  1. 1045 Carbon Steel: This kind of steel is the softest one that you would get in the market, thus turning this kind of steel into a sword becomes easy. This can be hardened as well by hand forging, pressing or machine milling so it becomes the minimum steel that is accepted for a functional blade. It does not mean that swords made from Carbon 1045 are not strong. They can surprise you with the kind of abilities they possess so if you get one under $100, you can be sure that it is one made from 1045 carbon.

  2. 1060 Carbon Steel: This is a mix between hardness and flexibility and gives you a solution if you are on the run in finding a solution to get both bases covered. The swords made from the 1060 carbon are known around the world for their durability. Swords by Rohin Katana, Cold Steel and Darksword Armoury are ones manufactured from this kind of steel. The steel here is a lot harder than the 1045 one so it is a cumbersome task to forge, shape and polish this steel to turn it into a useable product. For such reason, it usually carries a high price tag.

  3. 1050 Carbon Steel and 1055 Carbon Steel: This is a tough variety of steel. It has a carbon capacity of 0.50% and is good to be used not only in any swords but also in hatches and weapons that would require a tough material. The 1055 carbon product on the other hand stands on the border between a medium carbon steel and a high carbon steel, enjoying a carbon content of approximately 0.50% to 0.60% and a manganese content of 0.60% to 0.90%. It has a hardness quotient of RC 60 to 64 depending on the exact carbon content that it comes with. When this steel gets quenched, it turns out to be one of the hardest steels that are available. It produces a lathe martensite with no excess carbide which is a lot less brittle than other similar carbon products. Where strength and resistance are the main parameters, this steel would surely tick all the right boxes.

  4. 1075 Carbon Steel: It is a type of high carbon steel like the 1095 type with the carbon content being a bit less at 0.75%. It makes for a tough blade that can be easily sharpened. It is a type of steel that would hold its sharp edge, hence it would be great for knives, axes and machines.

  5. 65 Mn Steel: It is a type of Chinese steel available in the markets. It has a good resistance and hardness quotient so it is also popular. The medium range of carbon steel products has its own advantages as they are both tough and resilient while the manganese improves the temperature properties of this steel.

  6. 1566 Spring Steel: 1566 Spring Steel is a product used by Hanwei in Japanese swords and also medieval time swords. It has a consistent micro structure which ensures longevity and edge holding capabilities.

  1. Spring Steel: The two main types of spring steel are the 5160 steel and the 9260 steel. The last two carbon digits here also refer to the carbon content in these two products. When spring steel goes through the right kind of steel treatment, it can retain its original shape in spite of bending and twisting.

  1. 5160 Spring Steel: It is a low aluminum alloy steel with a chromium content of 0.7 which is not enough to turn it to a stainless one. But when this is combined with a small amount of silicon it results in a durable product which is well known amongst manufacturers like Angus Trim, Generation 2 and Micheal Tinker Pearce and Hanwei Forge. This steel was also used to make the famous Khurki popular in Nepal. It is so sharp that a sword using it can chop off a buffalo head with one clean strike. The heat treatment is very crucial, so if the process is not followed, the 5160 Spring Steel would not end up being the kind of product it is known in the market.

  2. 9260 Spring Steel: Chinese cutlery and famous Australian custom sword manufacturer Brendon Olszowy from Fableblades use this kind of steel. It has a silicon content of 2% which makes it a lot resilient against lateral bends and having the ability to return to original shape even after several twists and bends. Though extremely durable, these are also not indestructible. There have been instances in which these kinds of swords have been damaged.

  1. Tool Steels: These are both hard and durable and have been doing the rounds since years. These tend to keep their shape and have a solid edge. The two main types of tool steel are T-10 tool steel and the L6 Bainite.

  1. T-10 Tool Steel: This type of steel is the one with a high content of carbon with a negligible quantity of silicon. The carbon content being around 1%, it plays a significant role in determining the characteristics of the steel. The silicon quantity, on the other hand, is only about 0.35%. T-10 is a very hardy material with properties of being resisitant to scratches and corrosion than most other types of steel that you find in the market. The T-10 when tempered in the right way shows a score of above HRC60 and Tungsten is the determining factor that has turned this T-10 to be a force to reckon with in terms of its toughness and stability. T-1o has acquired the nickname “ High Speed Steel” in the world of steel.

  2. L6 Bainite: The L6 Bainite is actually another type of the T-10 steel. The L signifies it to be a low alloy product. If it is taken through a proper process of heat treatment, it turns out to be arguably the toughest steel that’s there in the market. Production of this steel started in the 1990s when Howard Clark, a smith from the Bugei Trading Company started it. Out of the commercially available swords, this one does pack a punch and is very popular in the market. One of its cons remains the fact that it is prone to rusting. So proper maintenance is required to keep it shining and in new-like condition. Its’ no surprising fact that a sword from this steel carries a hefty price tag of under US $1000. Thus very few clients can even think of acquiring such a product.

  3. S7 Shock Steel: The name is a no brainer is determining that this kind of steel is a shock absorbing product. When undergone heat treatment, it shows a lot of characteristics which resemble those of the L6 Tool Steel. It is tough and damage resistant. It is obviously not indestructible but this is surely a great product.

  1. Damascus Steel/ Folded Steel: Many thought that folded steel was best suited for curving out swords. But Damascus Steel is not a different breed, it is actually any one of the above types that has been folded many times. But still this steel is used by those who have the notion that folded steel is better suited for steel than non-folded ones.

  2. HWS-1S and Hws-2S Steel: These two types of steel are specific products manufactured by Hanwei. The HWS-1S is a superbly capable product with a O-choji hamon. The edge holding capabilities and the resilience make these products unique. The blades curved out from the HWS-1S are a combination of various elements and a complex processing procedure manipulating the carbon quotient of the steel across the blade sections. This results into a resilient blade with a high abrasion resistant edge. HWS-2S is either the same basic steel types with slight tweaks but not listing the exact specs.

Tempering of swords is a crucial point in determining the fit and finish of the final product. A billet of steel is heated at a very high temperature and transformed to a suitable structure. After it assumes its final form, the process of tempering the steel sword will start. The sword is then further heated until and unless the required temper is achieved upon which it is dipped in water or oil to drastically decrease the temperature. There are different ways of heating a steel sword, for example mono hardening refers to heating the sword completely and then cooling it down. There is another way of heating known as differential hardening where a lump of clay is added to one part of the sword so that those parts are not heated as much as the remainder of the blade.

The above discussed are the steel types that go into the making of swords so pick the one which best suits your requirement and hopefully you would have an equipment of strength to reckon with! Every type has its own pros and cons and you should go through all of them thoroughly so that you can pick out the best bet for yourself. Hope the sword turns out to be an eye-catcher in your drawing room!

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