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Different Types Of Sword Steel: An In Depth Guide

Posted by Ivan Jankovic on

Swords have been used for many, many years for combat and self-defense. Today, it is hard to find someone who is going to defend themselves with a sword. Nevertheless, there are still tons of people who practice one form of sword fighting or another. After all, this can be immensely fun and you’re going to be stepping back into time. Before you can do that, you’ll need to invest in a good sword. There are plenty of different steels that are utilized to make swords. While they’re all great, there are many differences between them.

So, which sword steel is the best? The types of sword steel materials will be explored in greater depth below, so you can find out for yourself.

Best Steel for Swords: Important Factors

First and foremost, you need to understand that the type of steel is important, but there are other factors that need to be considered. Finding the best is very subjective. The best is going to depend on several things, including the type of sword in question. It is also important to consider how the sword is going to be used. Once you’ve figured these things out, you’re going to need to find a skilled blacksmith. After all, the quality of forging and the proper heating can make a huge difference in the long run. If the best material is not properly tempered, it is not going to be worth your time or money.

Stainless Steel

Stainless Steel

Now, you should familiarize yourself with the different types of sword steels. You’ll be surprised to learn that stainless steel used to be the most common material. At one time, stainless steel was used for pretty much every sword on the modern market. This has changed completely. Today, most people will understand that stainless steel swords are going to be low quality and low cost. Stainless steel swords are going to be very brittle. Therefore, they’re going to be unsuitable for practical sword use.

Stainless steel swords can even shatter under certain conditions. Unless you’re looking for a sword to display on your wall, you’re better off staying away from stainless steel.

Why Stainless Steel Is A Bad Idea

You need to understand that stainless steel has a very high quantity of Chromium. When stainless steel is used to make long swords, the grain boundaries will begin to weaken. This means that the sword is going to have lots of stress points. Stainless steel swords are primarily good for display purposes. However, you might be able to use them for non-contact practicing. This is definitely true if the sword is over 12 inches long. If you’re serious about perfecting your swordsmanship and you want a functional sword, you’ll definitely want to stay away from stainless steel.

Carbon Steel

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel or high carbon steel is a good choice for beginners. However, it needs to be tempered correctly. When making swords, most manufacturers are going to rely on the SAE scale or the American Society of Automotive Engineers scale. Most sword manufacturers are going to use plain carbon steel. The specific amount of carbon found in the metal helps to determine whether it is low, mid or high carbon. To get the best quality sword, it is wise to stick with high carbon steel. There are various types of carbon steel. They’ll be explored in greater depth for your consideration below.

1045 Steel

It is very common to find swords made with 1045 carbon steel. This is not a coincidence. Swords made with 1045 carbon steel are relatively inexpensive to make. Plus, the metal is malleable which makes it easier to work with. However, this specific type of metal is going to harden very well. Therefore, they can make pretty good blades. Just remember that 1045 carbon steel swords are going to be on the lower end of the spectrum. If you want a functional sword that is going to last for a significantly long period of time, you’ll want to upgrade to something tougher.

1060 Steel

It is also possible to find swords made from 1060 carbon steel. Swords made from this material is better than the 1045 steel. 1060 Carbon Steel swords are very popular because they’re incredibly durable. There are many very popular swords made from this material. They include the Ronin Katana and those made by the Darksword Armory. You also need to understand that the 1060 carbon steel is going to be much harder than 1045. Just remember that making a sword with 1060 carbon steel is going to be difficult. Therefore, you should expect to pay a little bit more.

Nevertheless, upgrading to a 1060 carbon steel sword will prove to be well worth it in the long run.

1095 Steel

If you want the hardest carbon steel, you’ll want a sword made of 1095 carbon steel. However, you need to realize that the sword’s hardness can actually be problematic if it is not heated properly. The good news is that there are many benefits associated with 1095 carbon steel swords. These swords will deliver a keener edge and it’ll stick around much longer. However, these swords can be a little brittle. Therefore, you might be better off choosing a different material. There are much tougher swords out there.

Spring Steel Swords

spring steel

It is also possible to invest in swords made from spring steels. The most common types include 5160 and 9260. Again, the last two numbers help to determine the specific carbon content of the metal. Both of these spring steels are going to contain .60% carbon. Therefore, they’re pretty similar to 1060 carbon steel. When the sword is heated and tempered properly, it is going to be very durable. The addition of the spring steel will allow the sword to return to its original shape. In fact, it can be bent and twist without damage. Below, you’ll learn more about the two different types of spring steel swords.

9260

9260 spring steel is used by several companies with the most famous being Cheness Cutlery. This specific type of steel is going to contain 2% silicon. This means that it’ll be much more resilient again bends. Even if the sword has been bent nearly 90 degrees, you can guarantee that it is going to spring back into shape pretty easily.

5160

5160 spring steel has a very limited amount of chromium. In fact, most will contain less than 1%. This will not be enough to classify the steel as stainless. However, it is very beneficial, because it is combined with silicon. This means that the sword is going to be very tough and immensely durable. There are many different sword manufacturers who prefer 5160 spring steel. The most popular brands including Angus Trim and Generation 2. This steel is also used for the Nepalese Khurki, which is considered to be one of the sharpest blades in the world. Just remember that these swords need to be crafted perfectly.

If they are not, there are plenty of things that can go wrong.

Tool Steel

tool steel

Over the past few years, tool steels have become more and more popular. There are tons of reasons for this. First and foremost, you should know that tool steel is very tough. And, it is capable of holding its edge very good. There are several types of tool steels. However, the most popular include L6 Bainite and T-10. They’ll be explored in greater depth for your consideration below.

L6 Bainite

L6 Bainite is actually a band saw steel. This steel has very little alloy. It is very popular because it can produce one of the toughest swords, but it needs to be heated properly. Howard Clark of the Bugei Trading company helped to make this steel so popular near the end of the 1990s. If you’re interested in buying an L6 Bainite sword, you’re going to be spending a great deal. Nevertheless, a nice katana made from this metal will prove to be well worth it in the long run.

T-10

This is a type of Tungsten alloy steel. It has a very high content of carbon, yet very little silicon. This is why the steel is often classified as a high-speed steel. T-10 steel is almost always very hard. It is also very tough and capable of resisting scratches and abrasions. It tends to be better in this category than the alternatives. The truth of the matter is that T-10 swords tend to be very expensive. However, there are a few that might be worth it. They include the Ryujin Custom Katana and the SBG Custom Katana.

S7 Shock Steel

If you’re looking for a steel that is going to provide you with some shock resistance, you cannot lose with S7 shock steel. This type of steel is pretty similar to L6 tool steel. Most agree that it is just as tough and rugged as L6. It is also true that S7 shock steel is very rare. Therefore, you can pretty much guarantee that you’re going to be spending a great deal to invest in a sword that is made from this type of steel.

Damascus Steel

There are many people out there who believe that Damascus steel is the very best. This might be true, but it can be subjective too. After all, you need to understand the Damascus steel or folded steel is nothing more than one of the aforementioned steels. The only difference is that the steel has been folded a few times. Still, there are people who will argue that folded or layered steel is better than the alternatives. Folded steel was very popular in the past.

This is the case because the Japanese were forced to find ways to strengthen Japanese iron oil. Today, the materials are much better. Therefore, folding the steel may no longer be required. If folding is done haphazardly, it will actually result in a weaker blade. If you’re going to get a Damascus steel blade, you need to make sure that you’re paying a little extra. This will ensure that the blade is actually durable and worth your money.

The Beauty of Folded Steel

If you are looking for a decorative sword that will just stun anyone that looks at it, you without a doubt have to consider the folded steel sword. The designs are not only attractive, but they are created utilizing ancient arts and techniques that have been passed down since the 16th or 18th century. The technique actually involves folding the steel several times and hammering it out, folding it some more, and hammering it back out.

What About Aluminum Swords

There really is something respectable and great about owning a Japanese sword. It would even be better to own a replica or an authentic make. Unfortunately, this is where most first-time sword buyers get confused and end up wasting their money. They don’t understand that most modern made swords that come out of Japan are created with aluminum alloys. Sure, you would probably expect them to be designed and created with steel, but that just isn’t the case. And, this is probably due to the fact that Japanese sword laws are extremely strict. In fact, most Japanese forgers are only allowed to create a maximum of two swords a month. With these kinds of limitations, how could they be expected to make a living?

This is why most forgers and sword makers have turned to utilize aluminum. While aluminum is much cheaper, it cannot be sharpened and doesn’t have the same heavy feel as an original katana. This is not to say that the designs aren’t beautiful, but they just don’t give off the authenticity that you might be looking for.

Overall

At the end of the day, there are plenty of types of sword steel. While they’re all good for one reason or another, there are many differences between them as well. Before attempting to find the right one for your unique needs, you need to figure out what you’re going to be using the sword for. Figure that out first and go from there. This will ensure that you’re able to get the right steel and the best sword for your money.

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