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Bastard sword
Bastard sword is a term for a sword that can be used one and two-handed, another term is "Hand and a half sword". Bastard swords have usually a blade length of 900-1000 mm and weight around 1.3-2.3 kg. Their grips are long enough for two-handed use.

 

Best material for a blade
Let's say someone wants to buy a sword made out of the best material available and money is not a problem, what material would a blacksmith use for the blade? Titanium? Stainless steel? Ceramics? Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly) the blade would be made out of ordinary, non-stainless steel. It would be well processed and it would be differential hardened, though.

 

Differential hardening
A sword blade can be hardened differential, e.g.: the blade can have a Rockwell C value of 50 and the edge of 60. This way the blade can hold the edge well while it is still very tough.

 

Folded Steel
Folded steel was a technique to get more homogeneous steel and to adjust the carbon content. It was needed since some sword smiths had to work with rather low quality steel/iron ore. The folded steel technique does not produce superior sword blades by itself  If someone wants to make a high performance sword blade nowadays he will use todays mono-steel unless, for instance, he wants to make a katana the traditional way.

 

Hardening
Hardening is achieved by a series of heating to exact temperatures and slow and fast cooling processes.

 

Rockwell scale
The Rockwell C hardness scale is a measurement for the hardness of metal. A higher value means a harder metal. The equation: "The higher the Rockwell C value = the better the blade" is not correct since a badly processed blade or a blade made of stainless steel can have a high Rockwell C value but is very brittle. Furthermore, some blades have to be very flexible and a high Rockwell C value would be disadvantageous since harder blades tend to be less flexible. A very good processed sword blade can have a value up to 50-52 on the Rockwell C scale and still be very tough. Sword edges can reach up to 60 on the Rockwell C scale. Good blades for fencing weapons usually have Rockwell C values around 40-50.

 

Stainless steel
Stainless steel is a much better material for a blade, why didn't they use it? Well, besides the fact that stainless steel became popular not before the mid 20th century, it is not suited for a sword that is made for combat. Simply spoken, stainless steel is an alloy of steel and 12-18% chromium. This high amount of chromium makes the sword very soft and if a blacksmith tries to harden stainless steel blades they have a tendency to become very brittle. Furthermore, stainless steel is quite difficult to forge. If someone really needed his sword is was not that hard to take care of it a little bit, e.g.: to oil it from time to time. Stainless steel is perfect for a decorative sword, though, but do not try to chop wood with it :-).

 

Steel
Steel is a forgeable alloy of iron and carbon with less than 1.7% carbon. There are many different types of steel and steel aditives.Typical additives are manganese, nickel, tungsten, chromium, molybdenum and vanadium. Steel without a good heat treatment (hardening) is not suited for a sword blade.

 

Titanium
Isn't titanium a much better material for a sword than good ol' steel? No, pure titanium is very soft and what is usually called "titanium" is in fact a titanium alloy. The problem with titanium (alloys) is that while it has a better strength to weight ratio than most other metals it cannot be hardened much. Furthermore, in order to have the same strength as a blade made of steel, a blade made of titanium (alloy) would have 3-4 times the volume of a steel-blade, it would still be lighter, though. In other words: at a given volume, a blade made of steel is much stronger than a blade made of titanium (alloy). In addition, a sword blade made of steel can be hardened to a useful degree.

 

Weight
Swords are very heavy, one needs a body like Schwarzenegger to swing them. Wrong, actually, most of the swords weighted around 1-2 kg. On the other hand, there are many badly made replicas available that are made of stainless steel and weigh 5 kg and more.

 

 

 

 

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