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Old 9th January 2009, 12:06 AM   #30
Chris Evans
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Australia
Posts: 565

Hi Gonzalo,

Originally Posted by Gonzalo G
About the crucible steel: yes, the term has been used as synonymus, but there are crucible steels not being wootz, and also mentioned by Al-Kindi as not being "watered". I donīt think this term do not refers necessarily to a specific type of steel, but to to a specific method of production.

From S. Srinivasan and S. Ranganathan Department of Metallurgy, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore:

Wootz is the anglicized version of ukku in the languages of the states of Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh, a term denoting steel.

Where do we go from here? I suppose that one immediate way of addressing the problem of ambiguity is to state what one means by Wootz, whenever using this term.

About this comparison among wootz and modern steels, I agree that most probably modern steels are superior, but neverthless I find those experiments biased, as the blades selected are not representative (statistically or otherwise) of the best wootz blades made in older times. To begin with, we donīt know what quality standards were used to make the selected blades. In nihonto, you can find a wide variation of quality among different blades, depending if they were made, or not, by "masive" production for poor samurai, or the particular bladesmith who made the blade. On the other side, I think the comparison must be made among blades from the same historic timeline, so we can state if the metallurgy and craftsmanship of one area was superior to the one of another area. Otherwise, this comparisons tend to diminish the value the wootz had in their time and drive to false conclusions realtive to the technology and craftsmanship level of other peoples.

Comparisons like these tend to be both invidious and odious - Nevertheless to gain an overview and basic undertsanding of what we are dealing with they have to be made, especially if we wish to appraise its contextual historical worth. To people who are not metallurgists, Wootz may as well be Kryptonite, given the legendary status it enjoys. Same for the Japanese sword.

I agree that wootz was not a magical steel. And also, I believe that is a steel not scientifically well known to make a definitive evaluation, though itīs beauty is unquestioned. Most of the todayīs statements made about the value of this steel, are only presumptions.

The appraisal of the steel is one thing and that of swords made from it quite another. When it comes to the swords, I fear that we'll probably never know their true capabilities because it would be tantamount to vandalism to subject the best surviving specimens to testing that would necessarily be destructive. As for the steel, well, at least from a metallurgical point of view we do know that it is a bit of a mixed bag. My personal feeling is to agree with Verhoeven.

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