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Old 5th January 2009, 04:39 AM   #13
Chris Evans
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Australia
Posts: 589

Hi Jeff,

Originally Posted by Jeff D
Hi Chris

Do you mind me asking, doesn't it takes multiple foldings to form the stringers, not just hammering to shape?

All the Best

Sponge iron has to be hammered extensively every which way to reduce its slag contents (by squeezing it out) - This is done as a matter of course. And the extent of hammering it receives ensures to a considerable degree its quality, though not entirely.

Without knowing the answer to your question, it is my view that some folding would have been unavoidable. But whether the ancient Viking swordsmiths went as far as others, say the Japanese, in the pursuance of refinement by way of repeated folding, I cannot say. I think that a much hammer refined blade would have represented a superior product, and this simply on the basis of labour input. Just how aware the Viking swordsmiths were of the need for extensive hammer refinement of sponge iron, I am ignorant of and here we need a knowledgeable archeological metallurgist, something that I am not.

However, I'll venture to question the presumed superiority (in the article) of a Wootz blade against one well made from sponge iron and hardened. If the ancients could quench and temper Wootz, then they indeed would have had a superior blade, but that would have required being able to heat just sufficiently to austenitize the pearlite without dissolving the carbides and then quenching, a task requiring very good temperature control, not to mention knowledge. On the other hand, steel made from sponge iron can be quenched and tempered with relative ease - This is how swords, indeed all steel implements, were made before the advent of molten steel making, and we do know that perfectly serviceable and many excellent blades were produced this way.

In a past thread we have discussed whether Wootz was quenched and tempered in the old days, and there is some evidence that some of it was. As to how they went about this and how successful it was I am not sure - Without having done any first hand experiments, or reading of any such attempts, my guess is that if high carbon Wootz is heated to the extent that a substantial amount of the carbides are dissolved, then upon quenching and tempering its microtructure would turn into a proverbial dog's breakfast with very uncertain mechanical properties.

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