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Old 17th October 2006, 10:26 PM   #1
S.Al-Anizi
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Default True Combat Value of Wootz

Hi everyone,

As of late, ive been wondering into the characteristics of wootz steel. Is it purely eye candy? Or is it truely a superior steel, worth the fame and value it has gained over the years.

After I had completely read and understood prof.Verhoeven's, A.H.Pendray's, and W.E.Dauksch's article, "The Key Role of Impurities in Ancient Damascus Steel Blades", and based on my short knowledge of metallurgy, I saw that no blade exceeded 37RC in hardness. That would be a very soft blade for use.

Was this due to bad heat treatment techniques, and that wootz blades can be heat treated properly today to reach acceptable hardness, i.e. 50RC? Or is it due to the steel itself it cannot be made any harder, and thus, all wootz blades are simply fancy looking pieces of soft metal, easily nicked, easily bent? Yet still, these blades' reputation as excellent performers over the years (most passing on from generation to generation in the past), seems to be well implemented in the minds of those who used them, according to historical accounts from the 19th century.

Regards,

Al-Anizi.
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Old 17th October 2006, 11:26 PM   #2
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I can give my personal "take" on this - long time ago I have spoke with a iaito practicioner, who was known for his tameshigiri work. He told me that the best blade he had was some really old Kamakura tachi of a good maker (which is what usually considered sort of height of traditional japanese swordmaking). The second best was a mass-made gunto .

When I look at the tests that were done in XIXth century to compare Solingen and wootz blades, like russian cavalry test, ending up with the one done with Moser swords... All of them have shown that there is a tiny percentage of wootz blades that is capable to exceed Solingen (by memory they compared hardness and some bending-related properties ?).

I would think that by the end of XVII-XVIIIth century wootz becomes probably overrated, what can be indicated by the growing popularity of western blades. At the same time there is really little one can objectively say on the issue - for example I have encountered that experienced soldiers who spent more than 5 years with a certain weapon tend to like it, while inexperienced soldiers tend to complain about its lack or precision, or maintance problems... Plus I would guess that wootz makers were to some kind elite among persian and indian swordsmiths.
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Old 18th October 2006, 12:22 AM   #3
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Is it possible that the tests did not fully capture the field value of a wootz blade? I see pattern welded blades as being very similar to wootz (at least the highly folded examples, like nihonto) in the matrixed nature of the metal - I guess that question is whether that coarse physical matrix has any properties that are not embodied by a highly precise modern alloy (which is a molecular matrix, but would seem to have very different properties).

my meandering thoughts on wootz, other than the sheer beauty of the weapons made with it.

josh
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Old 18th October 2006, 12:49 AM   #4
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My understanding is that the differential tempering of Japanese blades made them resistant to acute stress, such as blow by another sword. This was not the case with Persian/Indian wootz. Their system of swordplay emphasized a single drawcut (cavalry use) and minimal contact with other blades or hard objects. They were not designed to be "elastic" but hard and keen-edged. The European swordplay required multiple parrying and, thus, very resilient blades.
Modern steels were, of course, far better mechanically than wootz, but it would be unfair to compare them just like one cannot compare HK submachine guns with handmade Turkish guns. But.... which one was more beautiful and surrounded by legends?
Just for comparison, here are some of the official requirements for the Polish mass-produced cavalry saber pattern 1934:
1. When released from the height of 2 meters, the blade had to penetrate a 2 mm thick sheet of steel.
2. Cut steel bar 5 mm in diameter 5 consecutive times without being nicked.
3. No damage to the handle when the sword was hit flat against hard object
4. No deformation of the blade after repeat bending it 15 cm off the axis in both directions
5. No deformation of the scabbard supported at both ends after applying a 120 kg load in the middle.
As we can see, all of them are very practical and imitating real battlefield conditions.
Could it cut a silk handkerchief like famous Persian swords? Who knows and who cares? Few hussars were ever attacked by handkerchiefs.....
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Old 18th October 2006, 01:27 AM   #5
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Another 2 cents -
Wootz is made & heat treated to take advantage of the superior hardness & potential sharpness of the iron carbide particles, which are distributed in regular, plain old steel. Rockwell testers cannot measure the carbides (too small), only the matrix, which was left soft, as it is only there to carry the carbides to the target and didn't need to be hard in and of itself. That's why those swords measured so low.
Wootz was better than most the steels of that era, if not all, but was supplanted by steels that may have been almost as good, but were definitely much cheaper to produce.
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Old 18th October 2006, 01:54 AM   #6
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I'd like to hear Ann's take on this fascinating topic...
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Old 18th October 2006, 03:00 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Just for comparison, here are some of the official requirements for the Polish mass-produced cavalry saber pattern 1934:
1. When released from the height of 2 meters, the blade had to penetrate a 2 mm thick sheet of steel.
..... Could it cut a silk handkerchief like famous Persian swords? Who knows and who cares? Few hussars were ever attacked by handkerchiefs.....


Al-Anizi,

The same thought was on my mind for long time...until I actually dropped one (and then another) wootz blade, both by accident, and not even close to 2 meters height, at most a mere half a meter. The first Indian wootz 19 C talwar blade snapped at the tip, the second - Persian 17 C blade broke right in the middle. I've been dropping many other, non-wootz blades, by accident, of course:-), and none were damaged. It tells the tale.
As Ariel cleverly mentioned, "who cares if it can cut a handkerchief". Well said, Ariel. My opinion - wootz is just a steel, it's magic is its beauty.

Please, do not drop wootz blades:-)
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Old 18th October 2006, 04:16 AM   #8
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Hi,

I was a bit reluctant to express an opinion, because, despite being a metallurgist, I never had the opportunity to test or work with wootz steel.

All the same, Jeff Pringle is right on the ball. Based on photographs of the microstructure of wootz swords, I think it is not very useful to talk about Rockwell hardness (tests too small an area). One could obtain a better indication with a Brinell hardness test, using a Tungsten carbide indenter ball. This so as to test a greater area, which would yield a better averaged hardness value.


I should mention that hardness test results, on their own do not mean all that much, and must be interpreted in a given context. With conventional steels it is used as a very useful indicator of various mechanical attributes. However, in the case of such an odd-ball material as wootz, I am not quite sure as to what useful information could be derived from hardness readings; These would not correlate with the swords behaviour in the same way as conventional steels would. In the end, to correctly appraise wootz metal swords, the tests would have to be designed to reflect the actual application, much as Arilel described for those military swords.

I am inclined to think that wootz swords were probably better than the rest in the old days, before modern molten steel making processes were developed - Old fashioned hammer refined steels were pretty variable in their quality due to the impurities that could not be removed - Wootz was melted in the process and thus inherently cleaner, as the said impurities would float to the surface. This said, I imagine that there were ample opportunities to re-contaminate the wootz steel during the forging process.

We should remember that in the old days, swordsmiths knew precious little about metallurgy and everything was done by trial and error, with the later being much less the exception than what we are inclined to think. I feel that a really good sword or piece of steel was more a stroke of luck, rather than the rule.


Here is a good article on wootz:

http://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/JO...oeven-9809.html





Cheers
Chris

Last edited by Chris Evans : 18th October 2006 at 08:24 AM.
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Old 18th October 2006, 10:07 AM   #9
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Thanks all for the informative responses. Many interesting points shared.

Rivkin- is it possible for you to describe those tests? I agree with you on the point that wootz might have been overrated and made mythical in the minds of some over the years, yet a well tempered european military saber blade might have been alot better.

Joshua, Jeff, and Chris- Ive been hearing a fair number of people say what you say, that the rockwell test isnt really well applied on wootz blades, and as a matrix they are actually much harder than 37HRC. What I am wondering is, how would a wootz blade, compare to lets say a french 1822 LC blade? Of the same curve and equal width and thickness? In parrying, edge retention, and cutting.

Alex- please do not drop anymore wootz blades

Andrew- Ive been waiting for Dr.Ann's reply eagerly too

Ariel- My view of japanese blades, is that they're esily bent, all they're good for, is keeping an edge, that would easily be chipped. If wootz blades were designed to be hard, then they wouldnt bend that easily am I right? According to Alex's experience, those are some very hard blades. I would be interested to see how a wootz blade would stand up against parrying a well made european blade. As to those testing conditions, those must have been some tough blades! I agree with you, whats the use of cutting silk handkerchiefs, who ever was attacked by a handkerchief!?
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Old 18th October 2006, 12:18 PM   #10
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wootz was a very good steel for its time... .... but as all steels... its only as good as the smith thats forging it and more imprortantly " heat treating "

if it wasn't a good sword steel..... why use it?
also... cutting a silk, would show the type of edge on the blade.... nothing more...

and i would think you tailor your edge to the style of swordsmanship you practiced... ... ... if you wanted to klank away on the other opponents sword... then you'd need a thicker edge ..... but if your goal is to cut the torso of the enemy.... i'd go for the wicked edge...

as for heat treat....... i've handled wootz that was airhardened... , oil quenched and... edge quenched... they all have different properties...

its not so simple as to lump all of them together...

i've seen Indian blades with just an edge quench at the cop... and the tip left soft
some persian blades completely oil quenched
some with only an quench at the cop

(onto 2nd coffee)

now... the mentioned article was a good one... but too many people use it as a blanket statement for wootz... which is odd !
-- the Rc statements for wootz maybe true for those swords in the study....but not true for all wootz... ... i know this from experience

as for flex.... well..... i'd say a good wootz would compare to 1084 ... which would be a good sword steel...

so from my bias perspective........ the combat value of wootz is very good
--
- also... a decent patternwelded blade from the same time should be very good aswell......


Greg
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Old 18th October 2006, 12:34 PM   #11
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[QUOTE=S.Al-Anizi]Ariel- My view of japanese blades, is that they're esily bent, all they're good for, is keeping an edge...QUOTE]


That was the genius of Japanese swordmakers! Their blades could withstand the blow but could also keep the edge. The construction of Japanese blades was not a mere accident, but a consistently applied and very clever way to combine the seemingly incompatible qualities: resilience of the body and keenness of the edge. Wootz blades were beautiful, especially the ladder/rose patterns, but were mechanically "singleminded" and I wonder whether these embellishments requiring chiselling the blade perpendicular to the axis actually weakened the blade even further. BTW, Caucasian swordmakers used "Japanese" differential tempering on their best blades and got beautiful hamons as a result ( of course, boys, you will learn about it first hand when Astvatsaturyan's book is finally translated I am getting a bit repetitious about it, but .... what a book!)

Well, enough of royalty bashing... Swords are mechanical implements first and foremost; they have to stand to brutal conditions of the battlefield. Those that cannot do it are just pretty toys.

Last edited by Andrew : 18th October 2006 at 12:44 PM.
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Old 18th October 2006, 12:53 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
[QUOTE=S.Al-Anizi]Ariel- My view of japanese blades, is that they're esily bent, all they're good for, is keeping an edge...QUOTE]


That was the genius of Japanese swordmakers! Their blades could withstand the blow but could also keep the edge. The construction of Japanese blades was not a mere accident, but a consistently applied and very clever way to combine the seemingly incompatible qualities: resilience of the body and keenness of the edge. Wootz blades were beautiful, especially the ladder/rose patterns, but were mechanically "singleminded" and I wonder whether these embellishments requiring chiselling the blade perpendicular to the axis actually weakened the blade even further. BTW, Caucasian swordmakers used "Japanese" differential tempering on their best blades and got beautiful hamons as a result ( of course, boys, you will learn about it first hand when Astvatsaturyan's book is finally translated I am getting a bit repetitious about it, but .... what a book!)

Well, enough of royalty bashing... Swords are mechanical implements first and foremost; they have to stand to brutal conditions of the battlefield. Those that cannot do it are just pretty toys.


Some say that the japanese werent bright enough to know how to harden, then temper their blades, thus differential heat treatment was their way to go. Anyway, I wouldnt want a sword thats easily bent in battle. I remember once Rick showed us a persian wootz blade, with japanese style heat treatment, quite a find!

As to Abby, that reminds me of a legend I read in Arab arms and armour, where this old warrior Abu Zaid, placed 2 camels ontop of each other, and cut them into four halves!

Gt- Could wootz blades be hardened then tempered like other conventional steels? or would high temperatures burn out the blade?

Last edited by Andrew : 18th October 2006 at 02:05 PM.
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Old 18th October 2006, 12:57 PM   #13
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HI all,
Will write more when I get back from class...but just a thought...part of crucible steel appeal was that the pattern in Near East islamic cultures is that it represented the "waters of paradise", immortality, afterlife martyrdom etc. What better blade to kill or be killed by? At later times (particularly when firearms were available) the appearance of the blade may have been more important, or just as important as the blades function.
As for performance, one can not give a general statement that they were "good" or "bad" there are SO many variables...composition, phases, how good the blacksmith was etc.
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Old 18th October 2006, 01:18 PM   #14
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Hi

yes.. wootz is a funny creature.... if you leave it to air harden.. then you have a potential for pearlite ... and you'd let the carbides do the cutting.. (pending on the type of carbides......as there are many kinds with various hardnesses..... eg fe carbide, V, Cr, Tungsten ??? )

or you can oil quench it.... and get martensite .....which will be much like our modern blades...... and you can temper this down for a more springy tough steel ..... or leave it hard, chippy, and not very tough at all..... or somewheres inbetween which is where you'd have some edge retention and toughness...

aswell ... you don't need to clay coat the back to get differential hardening...
here is a little bowie i did.... that had no clay .... and a canolla oil full quench...
-- as you can see..... only the edge was hardened... as the steel i used was W1 (a shallow hardening steel much like the old carbon steels )

http://i43.photobucket.com/albums/e...ckel/total1.jpg

http://i43.photobucket.com/albums/e...downoverall.jpg

http://i43.photobucket.com/albums/e...ckel/tipup1.jpg


fun stuff
Greg
--
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Old 18th October 2006, 02:49 PM   #15
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I'm back... If my grant goes through it should answer some of these questions. Here is an excerpt from my PhD, but we know a bit more now than then.. Particularly note Ebner and Maurer (1982) study, I think ductility might be the key, particulary when on horseback.

'' The quality of different swords was first noted by al-Kindi. He used the terms, translated as “antique” for good, “modern” for not good, and “not antique but not modern” for medium quality. Al-Kindi said that the terms did not reflect age but quality. There is no consensus of opinion on the quality of crucible steel or Damascus steel either in antiquity or by modern researchers, “Some say the blades were flexible and tough; others conceded that they were stiff and even brittle but extraordinarily sharp...”(Bronson, 1986, 13). The appearance and behaviour of a metal is the result of the microstructure. Before modern times, when elaborate scientific equipment became available, the quality of a blade was judged on external factors rather than microstructure. However, steels made by different methods, with different microstructures, could have similar behaviour properties or hidden defects.

Anosov wrote that Damascus swords were assessed by four “tests”:
1) “Ring: – the clearer the tone, the better is the quality of steel,
2) Sharpness of the cutting edge: - while testing the edge, damask steel must cut a fine silk handkerchief in one stroke,
3) Strength of the blade: - on cutting an iron bar, damask steel should not acquire notches,
4) Elasticity: - on bending, damask steel should not break and should not become permanently deformed” (Bogachev, 1952, 40).

Al-Beruni also refers to these same characteristics. He refers to qala` swords which have clangour, whereas non-qala’ swords “possess an irritating sound” (Said, 1986, 213). Whichever type of swords these were, the passage does suggest that sound was an important feature considered when assessing the quality of the sword. More recently Massalski stated that a sabre should possess a good sound (Allan and Gilmour, 2000, 539). Indeed, the composition of the sword would affect its sound. According to Rostoker and Bronson (1990, 151) iron and steel are used to made musical wire because they have better properties than other metals, such as capacity for tension and good resistance to fatigue fracture. No specific studies have addressed the sounds different types of blades make. Factors that would affect the sound include the shape of the blade and any faults. For example, an internal crack or atomic-scale changes will have a dampening effect (Gordon, pers. com.). Thus, a clear long ring would suggest a quality blade.

The relationship between the sharpness of the blades and the pattern was noted by a number of scholars. Sharpness is primarily due to the presence of cementite in steel, which is hard yet brittle, thus it will cut well but will shatter if struck. Contrarily, iron areas composed of soft ferrite will not hold a sharp edge. Already, al-Beruni stated that the sharpness of farand (the pattern) comes from its hardness, but that it is brittle (Said, 1989, 217). Too many “threads” (i.e. aligned cementite in hypereutectoid blades) would produce a sharp yet brittle edge. Above it was discussed that prominent threads would be formed in slowly cooled ingots, which were extensively forged at low temperatures producing the coarser and clearer pattern.

The ductility of Damascus blades was one feature that distinguished it from other types of steels. Damascus steel blades typically contain spheroidal/globular cementite in a ferrite/pearlite matrix. Metallurgical experiments conducted by Ebner and Maurer (1982) on steel concluded that toughness and ductility coincide with a spheroidization of carbides. They also noted that additional tempering decreases the strength whereas toughness and ductility vary only slightly (Ebner and Maurer, 1982). Thus, the microstructure of hypereutectoid Damascus steel is optimum for ductility.

Given the variety of crucible steel, some with a high cementite content and others with a high ferrite content, in addition to the variety of forging methods, the range of microstructures, and the presence of phosphorous and other minor or trace elements, it is not surprising that there is no consensus of opinion. The presence of small amounts of phosphorus would have affected the forging and performance of the blade, particularly the elasticity. The effects of less than 1% P in the steel would have greatly influenced the performance of the blade. It appears that there were different types of crucible steel available, such as those that were made of hypoeutectic or hypereutectic steel, with or without a pattern and that each possessed different qualities because of their microstructure, the presence of minor and trace elements, and their subsequent heat treatments.

Not only would phosphorus have made the ingot “hot short” (see above), it would have made the finished product “cold short” (brittle when cold) and this property was noticed in the past. In fourteenth century Moorish Spain, Aly ben ’Abderrahman Ibn Hodeil observed that “… the Hindy sabre often breaks when the weather is cold and shows itself better when the weather is warm” (Bronson, 1986 from Mercier, 1924, 231). This is probably due to the presence of phosphorus in the steel. Hindi sabres derived from Sri Lanka (see above), and indeed Wayman and Juleff (1999, 36) identified steadite, the iron-phosphorous compound, in a crucible ingot from there, suggesting that blades produced in Sri Lanka contained phosphorus. Blades that contain phosphorus in percentages over c. 0.3% can be “cold short” and those that work well and be malleable in the summer can shatter during a cold spell (Rostoker and Bronson, 1990, 22; Percy, 1864, 64).

In addition to being decorative, the Damascus pattern was a hallmark of a potentially very high quality blade. Crucible steel blades that did not have a pattern could have been just as good quality as those with a pattern, yet, those with a pattern may not have been as good as some without. However, it may not have been possible to distinguish crucible steel blades without a pattern to blades made from non-crucible steel. While blades made of other types of steel could have been equally as sharp and strong, they would not have remained as ductile because they did not have the microstructure of spheroidal cementite in a ferrite/pearlite matrix. Ductility would have been a highly important feature, particularly in combat, because a bent or shattered blade could cost the user his life. A man would purchase the best quality blade available, for himself or possibly his son who had come of age, because not only was the blade a symbol of masculinity and prestige, but it would be his defence in a confrontation, hence his reputation, status, and life depended on the chosen blade. By using the above-mentioned tests and by observing the type of pattern, a blade would be chosen. The name of a particular type of decorative pattern was often associated with a specific location, workshop or smith, who would have had a reputation for making blades of a specific quality."
I think that just gives more fuel to the argument rather than an answer.

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Old 18th October 2006, 04:14 PM   #16
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lol, Ann. You know I was hoping for a simple "Yes" or "No". Answer.

Just kidding, of course. Many thanks to you, Jeff, Chris and Greg for the professional input!
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Old 18th October 2006, 05:18 PM   #17
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Many, Many thanks Ann A very informative reply with lots of interesting quotations and notes, and in line with Jeff's, Chris', and Greg's points.
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Old 18th October 2006, 05:57 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ann Feuerbach
Not only would phosphorus have made the ingot “hot short” (see above), it would have made the finished product “cold short” (brittle when cold) and this property was noticed in the past. In fourteenth century Moorish Spain, Aly ben ’Abderrahman Ibn Hodeil observed that “… the Hindy sabre often breaks when the weather is cold and shows itself better when the weather is warm” (Bronson, 1986 from Mercier, 1924, 231). This is probably due to the presence of phosphorus in the steel. Hindi sabres derived from Sri Lanka (see above), and indeed Wayman and Juleff (1999, 36) identified steadite, the iron-phosphorous compound, in a crucible ingot from there, suggesting that blades produced in Sri Lanka contained phosphorus. Blades that contain phosphorus in percentages over c. 0.3% can be “cold short” and those that work well and be malleable in the summer can shatter during a cold spell (Rostoker and Bronson, 1990, 22; Percy, 1864, 64).


Hi Ann.

I would like to confirm this quote. Japaneses found the same problems in Manchuria and Siberia. Lesser blades (many officers used family ones, but not the best anyway, and most were made with too much impurities i.e.
phosphorus that's likely the most dangerous of all) went broken so easy to made a concern to Japanese Imperial Army.

The problem was resolved by Seijuro Masahide Aoyama and Mitsutaro Honda from Tohoku University,helped by Toyo-Hamono Co.,Ltd of Sendai
They made a blade in Marugitae, water-quenched. Such blades were called Kikento.The steel was called Tahado-tetsu (nickel-crhome-manganese) from Toyo Hamono Co., Ltd. This is only in the '30s, so I wonder if before it wasn't such an issue the cold or simply there was not the technology to build -40° C resistant blades.

Sources : Ohmura.

Last edited by tsubame1 : 18th October 2006 at 06:12 PM.
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Old 18th October 2006, 06:05 PM   #19
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[QUOTE=
As to Abby, that reminds me of a legend I read in Arab arms and armour, where this old warrior Abu Zaid, placed 2 camels ontop of each other, and cut them into four halves!

[/QUOTE]
Yes, I remember this story at Elgood's. Apparently, having wasted 2 camels, Abu Zaid gave the owner of the sword the remaining 6 beasts (officially belonging to his unkle...) in exchange and went home happily.
Elgood's comment was very dry:" The reaction of Abu Zaid's unkle was not recorded".
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Old 18th October 2006, 06:20 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by S.Al-Anizi
Some say that the japanese werent bright enough to know how to harden, then temper their blades, thus differential heat treatment was their way to go.I wouldnt want a sword thats easily bent in battle.


If harden = to make an hard cutting edge and temper = relief the stresses with a subsequent (softer) heating, well japaneses where well aware and able to make both, even in older times. It's a matter of Schools. Somes applied tempering, some not. TOGETHER with differential hardening.

Quote:
Originally Posted by S.Al-Anizi
I wouldnt want a sword thats easily bent in battle.


Samurai too. I wonder why the heck they used the same type of technology
for almost 1000 years being such blades so prone to bending...

Last edited by tsubame1 : 18th October 2006 at 06:31 PM.
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Old 18th October 2006, 07:07 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsubame1
If harden = to make an hard cutting edge and temper = relief the stresses with a subsequent (softer) heating, well japaneses where well aware and able to make both, even in older times. It's a matter of Schools. Somes applied tempering, some not. TOGETHER with differential hardening.



Samurai too. I wonder why the heck they used the same type of technology
for almost 1000 years being such blades so prone to bending...


Well thats what most people who practice JSA (i dont) say, that even a botched cut might cause a bent blade.
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Old 18th October 2006, 10:35 PM   #22
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An excellent informative thread.........keep up the good work

As has been already mentioned, it is the 'artist's' forging technique and heat treatment that ultimately determines the quality and characteristics of a blade......obviously the quality of the raw material is extremely important. But the best quality steel or wootz badly forged/heat treated would be still be a poor blade.
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Old 18th October 2006, 10:37 PM   #23
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Originally posted by tsubame 1
Samurai too. I wonder why the heck they used the same type of technology
for almost 1000 years being such blades so prone to bending...

Don't get it. Are you being facetious?
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Old 18th October 2006, 10:55 PM   #24
Lew
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Originally posted by tsubame 1
Samurai too. I wonder why the heck they used the same type of technology
for almost 1000 years being such blades so prone to bending...

Don't get it. Are you being facetious?


Well gentlemen

In battle a bent blade is better than a broken one and if you survived and the blade only had a slight bend it could be straightened back out by the smith. Said blade was than retired but was held in great reverence.

Lew
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Old 19th October 2006, 06:53 AM   #25
tsubame1
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Originally posted by tsubame 1
Samurai too. I wonder why the heck they used the same type of technology
for almost 1000 years being such blades so prone to bending...

Don't get it. Are you being facetious?


Sorry, forgot to put a smiley there. yes I was facetious.
Obviously Samurai didn't find NihonTo so prone to bending.
But yes, some modern JSA quotes that a bad cut can bend a bad sword.
Bend doesn't mean to have a L shped blade, simply have a slightly out of shape blade, still recoverable and effecive in battlefield.
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Old 19th October 2006, 07:07 AM   #26
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Hi,

Ann, many thanks for that very informative essay on wootz swords and Gt Obach your observations on the subject are most instructive.

Ariel: I also wondered about those chisel cuts. If any rubbish got into them, or the weld was incomplete, then am sure that they would have not helped.

Re swords breaking in cold weather: Steels exhibit, what is known in the trade as the "brittle transition temperature"; This is a temperature range below which it ceases being ductile. Apart from impurities such as Phosphorus, a number of other factors also determine this temperature. To make things more complicated, whether a sword, or implement, breaks or not is again determined by a number of other factors that are dealt with in the discipline of "fracture mechanics" - In short, the presence of micro cracks, however acquired, and their ability to propagate through the steel are of paramount significance. Brittle fracture is primarily determined by the interaction of the said cracks, ductility/brittleness of the steel and the geometry of the implement as well as other mitigating factors such as the presence of crack arrestors (say, slag in wrought iron). Structures of quite ductile steel can and do fail in a brittle manner if the right factors are present. So it is not just about embrittlement, though it is certainly one very important factor. This probably explains why some Japanese swordsmen are said to be able to break the swords of their opponents with a cut, a feat often mistakenly attributed to the superiority of their swords. Another observation in this respect is that based on anecdotal reports, a good many of those Japanese swords that broke during winter, in fact failed under extremely cold told temperatures, conditions under which other steel implements also failed.

Reading through this threads confirms, at least to me, that there is much more to swords than what mere metallurgical considerations would suggest; It also reinforces my long held belief that they were rather poor weapons of war, except in very select applications, such as cavalry cutting down fleeing infantry. This on account of their vulnerability to the inevitable abuses encountered on the battlefield, not to mention tactical disadvantages, when compared to other weapons.

I also would like to make the following observations:

a) The amount of blade to blade clashing that a sword is expected to undergo is indicated by the comprehensiveness of its handguard. Eastern swords, with the exception of the Indian gauntlet sword, offer minimalist hand protection and thus it is a safe bet that they were not used much for parrying, if at all (except as acts of desperation) - Japanese swords, for one, are incredibly fragile if clashed against another similar blade, and most swords are very quickly reduced to saw/junk status if abused in such a manner, even rapiers. I still obstinately hold to the view that parrying with a sword blade is a post small-sword development and whilst it can be done to some extent with heavier swords, in practice it was infrequently resorted to.

b) Cutting through iron rods with a sword may not be such a big deal as when fully annealed, the rod can be made incredibly soft.

c) Any edged sword can be bent or terminally damaged by a badly executed cut - Not just Japanese. Cutting requires considerable proficiency.

d) Japanese blades are quite thick at the shoulder, with little taper along their length and have a greater sweet spot around their COP, thus minimizing the tendency to bend under a badly executed cut. In fact this thickness has often been cited as a deficiency of Japanese blades, as it inhibits penetration - The Japanese highly polished their blades to mitigate this drawback and to enable them to slide through the medium being cut into. Also, it is reported that when European sabres were introduced into the Japanese cavalry, those officers skilled in traditional swordsmanship fund them much harder to cut with because of their springy blades and thinner foibles.

Cheers
Chris

Last edited by Chris Evans : 19th October 2006 at 09:16 AM.
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Old 19th October 2006, 01:31 PM   #27
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Thanks all for such an informative discussion, I am learning quite alot about Japanese swords. I just wanted to add a few cents on fractures and cracks. Of course, cracks follow grain boundaries (back to microstructures again). That said, one of the benefits of crucible steel is the spheroidal cementite. On a microstructual scale a crack would hit the roundish cementite and the stress would dissapate (sorry can't spell, just woke up and still on first cup of coffee), thus stoping the cracking. This all shows how much more work really needs to be done. I too have wondered about the "benefits" of hardness testing to answer archeological/anthropological questions. I think we need some "battles" with high quality authentically replicated swords, but it would be indeed a pity to work such masterpieces until they break!
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Old 19th October 2006, 02:19 PM   #28
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Hi

there are some good articles out there on brittle fracture..
http://www.key-to-steel.com/default...kArticle&NM=136

and some of the elements that affect it

just my opinion... but i think that swords were rather effective close combat sidearms.... ( spear being no. 1 ) ....
- there has to be some value to it..... or why would so many cultures value such a costly item... ( you can make many spears out of one sword ) ... besides, iron production back then was very small scale compared to today... so your limited interms of materials to which you can use for war..
-- even the northlands valued the sword.. as is evidenced by the viking blades... and the complex patternwelds
- are there any Rc tests done on viking blades...
- from the few museum curators that i emailed ... (Longtime ago) they mentioned that the northern swords had a lower Rc ....somewhere round 40
- but i've never seen those stat's anywhere


steel is such a complicated thing.... uggh
Greg



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Old 19th October 2006, 04:04 PM   #29
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Ann,
Even after a single cup of coffee you are still better than all of us together !
What coffee do you drink? I want the same brand.
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Old 19th October 2006, 04:07 PM   #30
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I agree with Greg: of course, spear is very effective, but swords utilise an additional element of motion, ie, circular arm movement as opposed to the linear one of the spear. An example is Chaka's transformation of the throwing/stabbing Zulu spear with a smallish head into a massive sword-like weapon.

This thread is astonishing: in one fell swoop we started to demolish the mythology of the 2 greatest blademaking traditions: Japanese and Persian.
It appears that good mass-produced European blades were at the very least as good and perhaps even better than legendary "Masamunes and Assadollahs". And for less effort and money, too! Overall, the effort:result ratio was orders of magnitude in favor of Europe. Unquestionably, it was the result of scientific revolutions in Europe to which Japanese or Middle-Easterns were very late-comers or just passive consumers. No individual tradition, no matter how refined, can compete with a massive and systematic onslaught of Scientific Technology. Un-romantic, but true.....
Ironically, of course, the great European blades became widely available when they were no longer needed..... But then, the same technology gave Europe another edge:

"Whatever happens
we have got,
the Gatling gun
and they have not."
- Hillaire Belloc
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