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