When choosing that perfect sword, a lot of people inquire, “What’s the best steel for a sword?” This is a common question but is quite complicated to answer since the type of sword steel depends on what the weapon will be used for. If you are someone searching for a decorative piece, it is best for you to choose steel that does not require too much maintenance and will still be shiny throughout the years. Stainless steel usually fits the requirement but swords made from this type of steel cannot be utilized for training or practice sessions; if you are aiming for a functional blade or a real one, the choice of steel becomes generally more difficult.
Selecting a sword based on its type of steel is vital especially when choosing a fully functional blade; for the ornamental blades, most are made using a mix of stainless steel which requires low maintenance but isn’t good for cutting targets. However, not all blades made from stainless steel are unusable, but it is not really recommended to be utilized for cutting objects like three-inch thick bamboo.
Here are the different types of steel that are commonly utilized for swords:
Notice that a lot of swords sold in the market are made from stainless steel yet these are almost only referred to cheap decorative pieces. Stainless steel swords, or basically any type of blade that is over twelve inches long, is said to be too brittle for serious utilization and can even shatter easily upon impact. To get a little more technical with this type of steel, it is basically stainless since it contains high chromium content which is more than 11%; when a blade reaches more than twelve inches long, its grain borders between chromium and the other steel content begins to weaken, thus, creating stress points. So basically, the purpose of a stainless-steel sword is mainly for decorative purposes.
1045 Carbon Steel
1045 carbon steel has a carbon content of 0.45% where high carbon steel such as the 1095 steel has more carbon content in them; inversely, the 1095 steel contains less manganese while the 1045 has a lot more. So with that, the 1095 steel basically has more tough edge and wear resistance. The 1045 carbon steel holds a rather decent edge and is also easy to sharpen; it is not really recommended for beginners to use this type of steel since it canot put up with extra abuse compared to steel with higher carbon.
1060 Carbon Steel
This type of carbon is an excellent compromise between pliability (strength) and hardness (its edge-holding ability). A lot of swords have also become popular for their durability since these are made from 1060 carbon steel; however, since this type of steel is harder compared to 1045 steel, the blades made from this is usually more challenging to forge, polish, and shape so these usually have a higher price tag.
9260 Spring Steel
This kind of steel is also called the Silicon Manganese steel which is made of 2% silicon, giving it more resilience against sideway bends; it also allows it to spring back easily even after getting bent to almost ninety degrees. Aside from its resilience, the amount of silicone provides the spring steel with excellent characteristics like proper hardness and toughness. With that, swords that are made from this type of steel are known to be tough and durable but just like with every other blade, swords made of 9260 spring steel can still acquire damages and be broken.
1095 Carbon Steel
This is a plain type of carbon steel that has low to medium edge-retention and low resistance to corrosion. What’s great about this type of steel is that it is easy to sharpen, it can take a sharp edge, and is basically cheap. When properly tempered, the 1095 carbon steel is excellent for swords but it is not recommended for beginners; also, it is the best type of steel for making clay tempered katanas.
This is said to be the Chinese equivalent of the 1095 steel but it includes silicon as an alloy element to further develop the steel’s wear resistance and strength properties. T10 steel sword blades can be readily tempered to a great level of hardness, and can also hold an edge adequately. Just like with the 1095 steel, the resistance to rust is low and blades made of this steel should be maintained carefully. The alloy has a higher tenor of carbon unlike other types of carbon steel, and it also has a little amount of silicon present. Its tungsten component makes the T10 steel highly resistant to scratches and it is also very tough. The amount of toughness and resistance of this type of steel is acquired when it is tempered adequately.
This is the type of steel that is made via the traditional Japanese process; the word tama means precious and round that is likened to a gem. As for the word hagane, this means steel. Tamahagane is made from iron sand and is utilized to create Japanese swords, knives, as well as other types of tools; a good tamahagane has about 1% of carbon and shouldn’t have more than 1.5%. However, the ancient type of tamahagane usually had about 3 to 4.5% of carbon which essentially turned it into cast iron.
Damascus or Folded Steel
This is a specific type of steel, which is named after Syria’s capital, utilized for producing blades in the Near East and these were often made with Wootz steel. These types of swords are usually described by their unique patterns of branding, as well as the mottling that somehow appears like flowing water. Because of its appearance, Damascus steel swords have become highly popular because of their efficiency and beauty while the modern types are usually made of several kinds of iron and steel slices that have been welded together, forming a billet.
This type of steel is basically carbon steel blade that has been differentially and professionally coated with clay slurry; this is to acquire a differential hardness along the weapon’s blade. Differential hardening is a special process utilized in heat-treating knives and swords to improve the edge’s hardness without making the blade brittle. To achieve this, the blade’s edge should be cooled faster by including a heat insulator to the blade’s spine before going through the quenching process. Also, the process of clay tempering also provides more hardness and flexibility to the blade.
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