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#1
Old 12-12-2008, 06:42 PM
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What's the best metal to use for making a sword?

A friend of mine who fancies himself somewhat of a sword expert told me that steel (or a steel alloy) is the best known metal to use when making a sword. His reasoning was that while it wasn't the hardest or densest, its malleability makes it ideal for swinging and striking. I had suggested titanium for hardness, or tungsten because I know its the densest metal (that I know of) but he said that if a sword was made of those materials, their properties makes them more likely to shatter when struck by a similarly hard object.

I dont know if thats true. Personally, I would think that the weak arm swing of a fragile creature such as ourselves wouldnt be enough to shatter metal. Is he right? Would harder and denser metals make swords shatter so much as to make them unreliable?

I brought up the "buckyball", or whats scientifically known as the buckminster fullerene, as a substitute. Its light and the symmetric structure seems to exude strength and durability, but my friend said that it would also shatter

Does a sword really require some give to not shatter?
#2
Old 12-12-2008, 07:46 PM
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One of the most ideal materials is "pattern welded," "forge welded" or laminated steel. Another name you'll see for this is Damascus steel, even though it usually isn't really Damascus steel. It's made by sandwiching layers of steel with layers of softer metal - usually nickel, and then hours and hours of heating and beating, with successive doubling-over folds, resulting in dozens of layers in the final product. The ultimate result is something that can take an edge and be hardnened, yet still has some resiliency. A nice side effect is that it can result in beautiful patterns on the sides of the blade.

To answer your last question, yes, swords need a lot of "give" so they don't shatter in use. I can't find video clips, but some time ago, Mythbusters looked at the myth of cutting a sword with another sword. In the high-speed video, good swords flailed around as if they were made of cooked spaghetti, then came back to straight. Bad swords either snapped or stayed bent.

Never mind combat, you want a blade that can withstand being smacked against a table. This one...couldn't. (Video with sound) My blacksmith friends would charitably call that a "wallhanger" sword. As in, it's only good for hanging on the wall as decoration.

Tungsten would be wickedly heavy and ridiculously fragile.

Titanium would be too soft - it can't be hardened sufficiently to take an edge, and surprisingly, a good steel blade would be able to slice through a similarly-sized titanium blade. Pure titanium is just silly-soft - it's off the bottom end of the Rockwell scale. Swords need to be at around 50-55, and regular knife blades get hardened to the low 60s to be able to hold a keen edge. In terms of swordmaking, you may as well use aluminum instead of titanium - it's cheaper and will take an edge about as well.

Last edited by gotpasswords; 12-12-2008 at 07:47 PM.
#3
Old 12-12-2008, 07:51 PM
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Of materials we can actually manufacture right now, steel is the best. A human arm can break even a steel sword, if it's not treated properly, so I don't see any reason to doubt that a human could break a less-suitable material. And heavy metals like tungsten would be terrible: A sword should be as light as possible.

Now, carbon nanofiber (which is related to but distinct from the "buckyball" form) might conceivably be suitable for sword use (maybe a hacksaw-like design, with the fiber stretched in place on some sort of frame), but our best current manufacturing techniques can only produce nanofibers a few centimeters long, so for the time being, carbon swords are out of the picture.
#4
Old 12-12-2008, 08:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gotpasswords View Post
Never mind combat, you want a blade that can withstand being smacked against a table. This one...couldn't. (Video with sound) My blacksmith friends would charitably call that a "wallhanger" sword. As in, it's only good for hanging on the wall as decoration..
That looked good for about 6 stitches. Reminds me of a prybar I bought years ago. It snapped the first time I used it.

It would be worth watching how Japanese swords are made to understand what makes a good sword. It's a combination of the right grade of steel, folded, peened, and tempered. Folding the steel over and over creates a grain in the steel, tempering it adjusts the hardness of the edge as well as the flexibility of the body, and peening adds hardness.
#5
Old 12-12-2008, 08:40 PM
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gotpasswords pretty comprehensively covered why steel has traditionally and remains to be the best available metal for sword and knife making, and why it is generally used for striking tools in general. Steel is readily allowable with a variety of elements to provide a wide range of properties, and while not the hardest material it has in many formulations a unique combination of hardness, tensile strength, and toughness (resistance to fracture and crack propagation), and reasonable corrosion resistance (when alloyed with chromium and nickel). Most steels are readily weldable via the common flux-cored arc welding (FCAW) process without protective inert gas, though gas metal arc welding (GMAW) is still often applied in automatic welding processes to reduce the incidence of voids and provide a faster weld. Iron is fortunately also readily available in the Earth's crust and pretty easily separated from other elements. The only real downside to steel when compared with some other materials like nickel, tungsten, or tantalum (among others) is that it loses strength dramatically at high temperature (as do other common structural metals such as aluminum and magnesium), and so in high temperature application it has to be alloyed or substituted with a higher strength non-ferrous alloy.

One could make a sword from a composite of materials such as long carbon or silicate chain macromolecules (allowing high tensile and shear strength) with a metallic or ceramic filler to give hardness and sharpenability, but there is frankly little need for this, swords and other edged weapons being almost exclusively relegated to ceremonial and wall-hanger status in combat and warfare. Even the Pope's Swiss Guard only carries their once-feared halberds for show, but each member is highly trained in the use of modern assault rifles and pistols for actual protective duty.

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#6
Old 12-12-2008, 08:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Magiver View Post
It would be worth watching how Japanese swords are made to understand what makes a good sword. It's a combination of the right grade of steel, folded, peened, and tempered. Folding the steel over and over creates a grain in the steel, tempering it adjusts the hardness of the edge as well as the flexibility of the body, and peening adds hardness.
From what I've read, Japanese swords are a special case, in the sense that while the blade was most often made of a single kind of metal (steel folded over and over), a completed katana blade ended up with two different hardnesses : the edge was made extra hard through water tempering, but the back of the sword remained flexible. IIRC, they managed that by "painting" the back of the blade with clay before dousing it in water, so that it didn't cool quite as fast.
#7
Old 12-12-2008, 09:04 PM
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Similar processes done in the west achieved similar results, however. There really is nothing special about the Japanese Dai to in this respect.

Other posters answered the question already so I don't have much else to add. Yes steel is the best material we have to make a functional sword.
#8
Old 12-12-2008, 09:26 PM
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The November 24, 2008 issue of The New Yorker had an article by Todd Oppenheimer on master bladesmith Bob Kramer that had lots of info on the eternal search for the ideal formulation and fabrication techniques for cutting implements (knives mostly, but some info on swords also).
#9
Old 12-12-2008, 10:02 PM
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How can metal shatter so easily? It seems against common sense. Is there no hard element that can be shaped to a blade and withstand some impact except steel?

How about if we can somehow take diamond and shape it into a sword? Would that be shatterproof (as far as human strength goes)?
#10
Old 12-12-2008, 10:16 PM
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More or less what's already been said, but to recap:

To be any good, a sword has to have two properties- it's edge, if not the whole sword, has to be very hard, and the sword as a whole has to be neither brittle nor too easily bent; "toughness" might be the term for what's required. Glass is harder than steel, but you wouldn't want to try to make a sword out of glass. Stone age flint knives had very hard very sharp edges, but they were replaced by metal because some metals were tougher. Gold, silver, lead and tin were hopelessly too soft to make practical knives and swords out of. Copper was just usable, bronze (alloyed copper) better, and mechanically tempered ("beaten") bronze better still. Even better still was iron, and carbon-alloyed iron= steel far better.

Now that dozens of different metals are known, so far nothing unequivocally better than steel has been found. Harder and denser metals are known, but they're usually very brittle. Aluminum and titanium can have better strength/weight ratios but are too soft. Ceramics may make a comeback as new ways of controlling their microstructure reduces their brittleness. Something like a buckyfiber rod with a diamond film edge might someday be the ultimate blade but we can't make those yet.
#11
Old 12-12-2008, 10:43 PM
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A couple of older threads on the topic:

Forging aluminum like iron?
Is there any material superior to steel for making a sword blade?

Stranger

Last edited by Stranger On A Train; 12-12-2008 at 10:43 PM.
#12
Old 12-12-2008, 10:47 PM
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Originally Posted by YogSosoth View Post
How about if we can somehow take diamond and shape it into a sword? Would that be shatterproof (as far as human strength goes)?
Diamond is quite brittle; all it takes is a small (steel) tap hammer to shear it in planes to make a cut (faceted) jewel from a gemstone-quality diamond.

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#13
Old 12-12-2008, 10:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by YogSosoth View Post

How about if we can somehow take diamond and shape it into a sword? Would that be shatterproof (as far as human strength goes)?
I doubt it--diamonds may be hard (as in they can scratch other materials), but they are breakable. They have "cleavage planes," along which they will shear (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamond#Toughness. I recall reading a story where a man crushes a grape sized diamond under his shoes.

edit: Dammit Stranger, beaten.

Last edited by Mirror Image egamI rorriM; 12-12-2008 at 10:51 PM.
#14
Old 12-12-2008, 11:01 PM
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Depends who you're fighting. Steel for humans, silver for werewolves, kryptonite for Superman, diamond for golems, jade or obsidian for dragons, anything that's been blessed for the undead, enchanted crystal for ethereal creatures, and fiery wrath for ice elementals.
#15
Old 12-12-2008, 11:17 PM
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I have a three-foot broadsword made from a leaf spring. Plenty strong for pruning trees.
#16
Old 12-12-2008, 11:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Stranger On A Train View Post
Steel is readily allowable ...
Might that be "alloyable" ?
#17
Old 12-13-2008, 02:47 AM
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Originally Posted by gotpasswords View Post
Titanium would be too soft - it can't be hardened sufficiently to take an edge, and surprisingly, a good steel blade would be able to slice through a similarly-sized titanium blade. Pure titanium is just silly-soft - it's off the bottom end of the Rockwell scale. Swords need to be at around 50-55, and regular knife blades get hardened to the low 60s to be able to hold a keen edge. In terms of swordmaking, you may as well use aluminum instead of titanium - it's cheaper and will take an edge about as well.
(slight hijack)

Huh. I just got finished with the Iron Man DVD, and I distinctly remember the line at the end: "Of course, Iron Man isn't really accurate, as it's more of a gold-titanium alloy..."

And Tony Stark's suit definitely takes some hard whacks (and bangs and crashes, etc.) Tsk, writers.
#18
Old 12-13-2008, 08:34 AM
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Only slightly tangential is a column by Cecil on Samurai swords, that includes some brief discussion of the metals: https://academicpursuits.us/columns/...ith-one-stroke
#19
Old 12-13-2008, 08:40 AM
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Hmmm...wasn't there an old tradition, from Europe, about swords made from meteoric steel?

High quality weapons, as I vaguely recall.

Anybody want to expand on that?
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#20
Old 12-13-2008, 10:18 AM
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S30V (steel) is supposed to be best for knives.

The nice thing about meteoric iron is it's already iron. Terrestrial iron comes as ore and needs to be smelted
#21
Old 12-13-2008, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor View Post
Hmmm...wasn't there an old tradition, from Europe, about swords made from meteoric steel?

High quality weapons, as I vaguely recall.

Anybody want to expand on that?
This dates from a time when mining techniques were exceedingly primitive and couldn't go very deep underground. So a find of meteoric iron meant that one was able to have a much better sword than the guys who were mucking about with copper or bronze swords. In that respect, the quality was better, but certainly couldn't compare to a modern sword.

Here's the story about making a modern version of meteoric iron sword.
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#22
Old 12-13-2008, 08:14 PM
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I watched two seperate documentaries on meteoric iron, made some years apart. The first documentary was about a new discovery of a meteorite* that hit Bavaria during the Celtic Age ("the sky fell on their head", as Majestix in Asterix was always afraid of). Apart from the immediate shock of the destruction itself, the harvest nearby was destroyed, (dust leading to bad weather), so the survivors spread out and moved into neighbouring territories. When the neighbours didn't want to share, they used force, and the peaceful Celtic farmers transformed into fierce warriors, using the special iron from the meteorite to forge their weapons. The claim was that the meteoric iron was higher in carbon than normal iron at that time (that might have to do with inferior smelting techniques at that time, though, I don't remember the details), and when the Celts started trading their swords to the Romans (or hiring out to the Romans as soldiers), the balance of an Empire got a new edge.

The second documentary, several years later, said that this whole story was the product of one hobby scientist who wanted to get attention (and got it) with far-fetched claims, which all disintegrated under closer inspection (by other scientists, whoe were a bit miffed about the whole attention thing to exaggerated stuff): it's now doubtful again that the meteorite which crashed was as big as claimed, or as catastrophic, nor was the iron that special in content compared to contemporary iron. So the whole rock-fell-from-the-sky-and-changed-society, while an interesting story, was most likely simply a story, not a plausible reconstruction.

*Sorry, I can never remember the different exact terms between meteors, meteorites and comets. I know one term is used for outside the atmosphere, one term for the rocks that have crashed, one term for dirty snowballs made of ice - I thought that was comets, but apparently comets are also sometimes made of rock?, plus another term for the small stuff that burns up in the atmosphere. So please insert the correct term for "big rock crashing from the sky".
#23
Old 12-13-2008, 08:19 PM
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Originally Posted by constanze View Post
*Sorry, I can never remember the different exact terms between meteors, meteorites and comets. I know one term is used for outside the atmosphere, one term for the rocks that have crashed, one term for dirty snowballs made of ice - I thought that was comets, but apparently comets are also sometimes made of rock?, plus another term for the small stuff that burns up in the atmosphere. So please insert the correct term for "big rock crashing from the sky".
Meteor: rock from space that burns up in the atmosphere.

Meteorite: rock from space that survives the entry into our atmosphere and lands intact(ish).

Comet: Dirty snowball, composed primarily of water ice and frozen gases; may be coated with bits of rock, dust and space debris.

Bolide: a big-ass meteor; a fireball.
#24
Old 12-13-2008, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Kythereia View Post
(slight hijack)

Huh. I just got finished with the Iron Man DVD, and I distinctly remember the line at the end: "Of course, Iron Man isn't really accurate, as it's more of a gold-titanium alloy..."

And Tony Stark's suit definitely takes some hard whacks (and bangs and crashes, etc.) Tsk, writers.
Titanium is a decent choice for armor. It's used in the A-10 to protect the cockpit. Making a sharp, tough blade requires different properties than making good armor - imagine a depleted uranium sword.
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Old 12-13-2008, 08:33 PM
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double

Last edited by ivn1188; 12-13-2008 at 08:34 PM.
#26
Old 12-14-2008, 08:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Q.E.D. View Post
Meteor: rock from space that burns up in the atmosphere.

Meteorite: rock from space that survives the entry into our atmosphere and lands intact(ish).
And one still in space is a meteoroid.
#27
Old 09-17-2013, 08:50 PM
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the question about steel

Ok i agree about steel being the best available metal we have now, but the real question is what kind of steel. I don't mean what type of alloy. I mean what would be the grain type. Because when you heat steel at different temperatures and for different lengths of times the steel changes at a microscopic level. Like when you heat steel to a certain temperature it all becomes austenite, but if you super cool it to room temperature it all becomes martensite. But would it be better to slowly bring it down and make bainite instead. Any experts out there know what would be best?
#28
Old 09-17-2013, 08:57 PM
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Gimme carbon fiber with a carbide edge. Osmium core for heft and balance, please. Only the best for fighting zombies.
#29
Old 09-17-2013, 09:39 PM
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Before this zombie gets locked... Nova has done two good episodes that might be interesting to readers of this thread.

http://imdb.com/title/tt2204408/

http://imdb.com/title/tt1128959/

At least the first is on Netflix.

Last edited by jasg; 09-17-2013 at 09:40 PM.
#30
Old 09-18-2013, 01:10 PM
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Kryptonite.
We'll get that {EXPLETIVE DELETED}, yet!
#31
Old 09-18-2013, 02:07 PM
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No love for mithril?
#32
Old 09-18-2013, 08:50 PM
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As a machinist I have to throw in my two cents about titanium. It is very soft, very aluminium like. Why people love it for golf clubs and bicycle frames is because it's about 80% as strong for 40% of the weight of steel. (rough rule of thumb disclaimer for GQ)

Doesn't hold an edge for beans and will get gouged to hell against a crappy steel sword. But on the upside your arms won't get tired from all the pre battle posturing of waving it around above your head and doing fancy manouvers.
#33
Old 09-18-2013, 09:30 PM
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Qualify it some more. Wood is a superior material to steel in making a weapon with the same reach as a sword. It's lighter and faster, and gives more yield. Kendo/kenjutsu practitioners never drill real katanas with wooden swords (bokken) because the bokken can bend or shatter the best katanas around. There's just the edge and point of the steel sword that can thrust and crack into armor, or cut into flesh. So it's more versatile as a weapon than a wooden sword.

If you want to stick to metals, I would recommend a steel that's not to hard and brittle. Most of the current crop of powder "super steels" are not suitable for swords because they chip easily. Of these, cpm 3v is the best as it is designed to be tough and wear-resistant, unlike those like cpm s30v or 154cm which are harder and more wear-resistant but lack yield and toughness.
#34
Old 09-19-2013, 02:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the_diego View Post
Qualify it some more. Wood is a superior material to steel in making a weapon with the same reach as a sword. It's lighter and faster, and gives more yield. Kendo/kenjutsu practitioners never drill real katanas with wooden swords (bokken) because the bokken can bend or shatter the best katanas around.
It's an old Russian dictum, I think - staff beats sword, sword beats ax, ax beats staff.
#35
Old 09-19-2013, 03:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Tim R. Mortiss View Post
No love for mithril?
That's for armour, not blades. Mithril is light, and a weapon needs some weight to it.

I'll stick with starmetal. You can't slay dragons if your sword hasn't got any starmetal in it, common knowledge. Terry Pratchett knows.
#36
Old 09-19-2013, 03:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Kobal2 View Post
That's for armour, not blades. Mithril is light, and a weapon needs some weight to it.
Depends on the weapon. Stabbing weapons like daggers, spears and rapiers don't need much mass.
#37
Old 09-19-2013, 04:38 AM
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No objectivist is going to vote for Rearden metal?
#38
Old 09-19-2013, 07:39 AM
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I'll stick with starmetal. You can't slay dragons if your sword hasn't got any starmetal in it, common knowledge. Terry Pratchett knows.
Terry may have bowed to fantasy convention in real life, but in the Diskworld, the greatest sword is not flashy, shiny or made of magical materials. It is carried by the true heir to the throne of Ankh Morpork (Captain Carrot) and is very plain, completely non-magical (according to a witch), and exceptionally efficient at cutting things (which is what you want from a sword if you are going to be a king). And you don't bother about the bloke that pulls a sword from a stone - but you might want to meet the fella that put it there in the first place.
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Originally Posted by Alessan View Post
It's an old Russian dictum, I think - staff beats sword, sword beats ax, ax beats staff.
How do the lizard and Spock fit in, then?
#39
Old 09-19-2013, 07:49 AM
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Originally Posted by superman101 View Post
Ok i agree about steel being the best available metal we have now, but the real question is what kind of steel. I don't mean what type of alloy. I mean what would be the grain type. Because when you heat steel at different temperatures and for different lengths of times the steel changes at a microscopic level. Like when you heat steel to a certain temperature it all becomes austenite, but if you super cool it to room temperature it all becomes martensite. But would it be better to slowly bring it down and make bainite instead. Any experts out there know what would be best?
Understanding the interaction of crystal formation and matrix in metals is still far off, and so these choices are still a matter of art rather than clear science. Although I did watch a BBC show on Metals, and they showed Rolls Royce making turbine blades - they use a lost wax casting method, then they control the cooling so the entire cast is a single metal crystal (titanium alloy, not steel) that can handle the tension when it is rotating. Was very cool.
#40
Old 09-19-2013, 08:26 AM
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Originally Posted by coffeecat View Post
S30V (steel) is supposed to be best for knives.
I have my doubts. I always carry a knife, and since I keep losing them, I keep buying them. Long ago, the kind of knives I buy were all regular steel. However, they became trendy, corrosion darkens the blade, and people don't want blackened blades. So, they began to produce them using stainless steel, which is worthless for a blade (it can't keep an edge). From then on, I was sold several different stainless steel alloys that, according to the sellers, were as good as standard steel. They weren't. None of them. Not by a long shot.

I can't tell for sure that this particular stainless alloy isn't equal or better to basic carbon steel. But I don't buy it. Maybe it's the best *stainless* alloy available, but the best steel alloy? It will take a lot of evidences to convince me of it.


(FTR, I've now my knives custom made, again with regular steel blades)

Last edited by clairobscur; 09-19-2013 at 08:27 AM.
#41
Old 09-19-2013, 09:22 AM
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I've posted this around here somewhere before but here is a rather technical article about how the historical Damascus blades got their amazing qualities.

Basicly, microscopic levels of elements like Vanadium and Molybdenum would form a matrix at low heat levels to which the steel particles would align themselves. Too much heat and the matrix breaks up. So it required many, many low-heat workings to get the Damascene patterns and superior strength. Without the right ore from India, the process didn't work. So when warfare interrupted the trade routes for a good long time, the secret was lost.
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#42
Old 09-19-2013, 10:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Alessan View Post
Depends on the weapon. Stabbing weapons like daggers, spears and rapiers don't need much mass.
Yeah, all right, but them's for pansies. Ever heard of a dragon being rapier'd ? I rest my case. If you can't cleave something in twain with it, it's not a weapon. New rule.

Last edited by Kobal2; 09-19-2013 at 10:48 AM.
#43
Old 09-19-2013, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Kobal2 View Post
Ever heard of a dragon being rapier'd ?
No. But only because a dragon never F'ed with Inigo Montoya's old man.
#44
Old 09-19-2013, 12:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor View Post
Hmmm...wasn't there an old tradition, from Europe, about swords made from meteoric steel?

High quality weapons, as I vaguely recall.

Anybody want to expand on that?
"Thunderbolt iron, you see highly magical, you've got to chuck that stuff in whether you believe in it or not." -- Terry Pratchett

Of course, if you want a really good sword, you first have to feed it to a goose.
#45
Old 09-19-2013, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Kobal2 View Post
That's for armour, not blades. Mithril is light, and a weapon needs some weight to it.

I'll stick with starmetal. You can't slay dragons if your sword hasn't got any starmetal in it, common knowledge. Terry Pratchett knows.
All metal comes from stars, therefore this is completely unhelpful
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#46
Old 09-19-2013, 02:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
A sword should be as light as possible.
That might be true for steel-based swords, but I bet there's a minimum effective weight. As alluded to above, a massless one might be nice for stabbing, but probably wouldn't be ideal for defensive strokes.

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there might be a better sword material than steel, but since there's insufficient market demand. I mean that two different ways: there may be materials we know about that would be superior, and we'd probably find new alloys if the demand was high enough.

Given how little we know about alloys and how to predict the properties based on composition and treatment (except by experience), I bet we find lots of nifty new alloys in the future, especially improve our abilities to make analytical predictions and do computer models that allow good predictions.
#47
Old 09-19-2013, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Hypno-Toad View Post
Basicly, microscopic levels of elements like Vanadium and Molybdenum would form a matrix at low heat levels to which the steel particles would align themselves. Too much heat and the matrix breaks up. So it required many, many low-heat workings to get the Damascene patterns and superior strength. Without the right ore from India, the process didn't work. So when warfare interrupted the trade routes for a good long time, the secret was lost.
Thank you!

I came into this thread to ask questions about vanadium based on a documentary (can't remember the name) I'd seen that said the same thing. They had secret rituals and methods that they attributed the finished product to. But, they didn't know that the ore had vanadium in it and they couldn't get the same steel with other ore.
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#48
Old 09-19-2013, 09:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clairobscur View Post
I have my doubts. I always carry a knife, and since I keep losing them, I keep buying them. Long ago, the kind of knives I buy were all regular steel. However, they became trendy, corrosion darkens the blade, and people don't want blackened blades. So, they began to produce them using stainless steel, which is worthless for a blade (it can't keep an edge). From then on, I was sold several different stainless steel alloys that, according to the sellers, were as good as standard steel. They weren't. None of them. Not by a long shot.

I can't tell for sure that this particular stainless alloy isn't equal or better to basic carbon steel. But I don't buy it. Maybe it's the best *stainless* alloy available, but the best steel alloy? It will take a lot of evidences to convince me of it.


(FTR, I've now my knives custom made, again with regular steel blades)
What you're saying is common martensitic carbon tool steel is still superior to those powder super steels. Many knife users agree with you. Carbon tool steel comes on its own with large knives and swords because it's tough and on the soft side so it has the necessary yield and flexibility to be wielded and chopped. Those hard powder steels tend to be chippy and are limited to to small, slicing knives.

Carbon steel, assuming its grains are fine and uniform, with little or no impurities, can be sharpened as well as the best powder steel. It can also be hardened to file-like hardness but should be tempered down for toughness. There's no argument that it cannot match most powder steels in that respect.

What powder steels have that carbon steel doesn't have (aside from being stainless) is tremendous wear resistance. This is due to the high amount of chromium, vanadium and even tungsten carbide mixed in. Carbon steel simply cannot hold its edge as long as the super steels. But as I said, carbon steel is best for large choppers, not for small slicers.
#49
Old 09-19-2013, 09:58 PM
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Join Date: May 1999
Location: Silicon Valley, Cal., USA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim R. Mortiss View Post
No love for mithril?
Why limit yourself to fantasy metals?

I'd go for arenak from E.E. "Doc" Smith's Skylark series, or scrith* from Niven's Ringworld novels -- or, hell, adamantium from Marvel Comics.



*) The debate as to which is stronger -- scrith, or the Puppeteers' General Dynamics hull material -- is left as an exercise for the reader.

Last edited by tracer; 09-19-2013 at 10:00 PM.
#50
Old 09-20-2013, 12:24 AM
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As a slight hijack since it was mentioned way back in the day, Japanese swords generally sucked insofar as swords go. They were decent cavalry sabers for cutting down peasants, but terrible on the battlefield, to the point that they were strictly backup weapons. That said, they were about as good as could be expected given the quality of Japanese iron. You were still a lot better off using your metals for spear tips and arrowheads, but at least your sword wouldn't shatter the first time you hit something with it... as long as you were lucky... and used just the right technique.

The Japanese cult of the sword is probably due to this very fact. Good swordsmiths would be extremely valuable, hence the legendary swordmakers of partial myth. Likewise, there were rituals and rules about when and how to wear and use your sword which few societies equaled. But then, it was largely a weapon of trained killers, mostly dangerous to unarmored people... hence it was most deadly in non-martial situations. I.E., when you had a guest come in, you wanted to make sure he wasn't going to slice your family before you could do anything about it.

Side note: there's not a lot of information on older forms of Japanese sword, predating the Samurai. They were straighter, anyway.

Last edited by smiling bandit; 09-20-2013 at 12:26 AM.
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