Sword Material

So Tera and I were discussing about Japanese swords and we got into the topic of sword material. The only thing he knew was folded steel was the best and the crappy stuff they sell everywhere nowadays is made of stainless steel (which looks prettier, but is pretty impractical). Not knowing what my wakazashi (or wakizashi) is made of, I went over to Cold Steel and turns out it is made with 1050 High Carbon Steel. I have no idea what that is and neither does Tera.

According to Wikipedia, Carbon Steel is a metal alloy, a combination of two elements, iron and carbon, where other elements are present in quantities too small to affect the properties. Steel with a low carbon content has the same properties as iron, soft but easily formed. As carbon content rises the metal becomes harder and stronger but less ductile.

According to What’s the difference in Sword Materials?:

High Carbon Steel / High Carbon Spring Steel – Basically a plain carbon steel, it’s also known as “Spring Steel” or “Live Steel”. Commonly made of recycled 5160, 1065, 1050, CK55 or any low alloy or plain carbon steel. If the steel is not properly heat-treated when re-smelted it will retain memory of its previous shape and be more likely to break. Most issues of quality can be found originating in India, the Philippines or in Malaysia. These materials will require oiling to prevent rusting and it’s a good idea to keep swords out of scabbards to avoid damage from moisture and corrosion from the chemicals in the leather.

From Japanese Samurai Swords Buying Guide:

The next thing to consider when choosing a sword is the type of steel that the blade is made of. There are basically 3 types of steel, 420 J2 (Stainless steel), High Carbon, and Folded steel. If you are looking for a battle ready sword you’ll want to stay away from the 420 J2 Stainless. High carbon steel is very high quality steel however folded steel is the strongest. Actually it’s not that the folded steel is a different type of steel, but how the blade is forged.

A folded steel blade is typically made from high carbon steel. The difference is that a folded steel blade is just like it says the steel is folded over and over again until the smith believes that it is adequate.

Some people say that a good high carbon steel blade can be just as strong as a folded steel blade. The smiths for the Thaitsuki Nihonto Swords claim to have mastered a form of forging high carbon steel blades that is just as strong if not stronger than many of the folded steel blades.

From Cold Steel’s FAQ:

Q: Why is Carbon V® steel better than others?

Some Cold Steel knives are made from Carbon V®, a high carbon, low alloy cutlery grade steel. This steel is superior in performance to most other steels due to its chemistry and also because of the close controls that we maintain at every stage of the manufacturing process. These controls begin at the steel mill where Cold Steel specifies the desired microstructure of the steel. Once smelted, each steel shipment is microscopically checked for structural quality, cleanliness and chemical content by an independent metallurgist not in the mill’s employ. The blades are then blanked parallel to the rolling direction of the steel plate to optimize grain flow along the length of the blade. The final step is a precise heat treatment sequence that was developed by Cold Steel specifically for this custom steel. This heat treatment process is one of our most highly guarded trade secrets. It was arrived at over several years by using an exhaustive series of practical and metallurgical tests and observations. Overall, we believe that attention to detail in every phase of the manufacturing process is the primary reason for the superiority of our blades.


According to Wikipedia’s entry on steel:

Steel is a metal alloy whose major component is iron, with carbon being the primary alloying material. Carbon acts as a hardening agent, preventing iron atoms, which are naturally arranged in a crystal lattice, from sliding past one another (dislocation). Varying the amount of carbon and its distribution in the alloy controls qualities such as the hardness, elasticity, ductility, and tensile strength of the resulting steel. Steel with increased carbon content can be made harder and stronger than iron, but is also more brittle. One classical definition is that steels are iron–carbon alloys with up to 2.1 percent carbon by weight; alloys with higher carbon content than this are known as cast iron. Steel is also to be distinguished from wrought iron with little or no carbon. It is common talk today to talk about ‘the iron and steel industry’ as if it were a single thing; it is today, but historically they were separate products.

In other words, what makes steel different from iron is the carbon. I never knew that! I thought steel was just refined iron.

Random Crap:

Computerised judge keeps dancers on their toes (from /.) – The system, aptly named Dance Dance Dance (DDD), displays dance positions on a screen in front of a person, for them to follow in time to music. It awards points after assessing their ability to correctly mimic each silhouetted shape. Check out the video of the game in action.

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