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thedude

To Make a Sword

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thedude

Due to the fact that I am a blacksmith, I have been asked to outline the basics of making a sword. But that's like asking the basics of organic chemistry: There are some simple rules but MANY different techniques. Think about every type of blade you've seen; there are a lot more than that and a different technique for each.

 

HOWEVER, I will do my best to make a new reply for each of the most common techniques.

 

Buckle up and prepare to be burned, bled, sweaty and crying! :D

 

Disclaimer:

This should go without saying, but at 19 years old, I'm no expert and I may miss some things and/or have misinformation XD

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Neptune

I can't wait for you to post the techniques. I'm following this topic so it tells me when you make a reply X3

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thedude

I'm going to start with the different parts of a sword for a base of knowledge before we start.

 

Tang: the thing that the crossguard, handle and pommel attach to. Same thickness as the thickest part of the blade.

     -Full tang: for badasses who want a well functioning sword that won't break at the guard

     -Half tang: Mostly used in knives and some lower quality swords; it only goes half way through the handle

     -Rat-tail: [Kinda] what I used in my sword; a piece of shit just strong enough not to break when picked up, lowest production cost :P

 

Blade: Seemingly obvious, the main part of the sword that sticks out of the handle. 1/16" - no more than 1/4" at it's thickest point.

 

Edge: Sometimes different than blade, depending on how fancy you want the sword to be (can use different steel than the Blade)

 

Tip: Either part of the Blade or the Edge, generally the most finicky and delicate to work with when hot (just the ti-ip)

 

Crossguard: The part that (sometimes :P) stops other blades from hitting your hand(s). You don't want this to be too thick or it'll be extra weight (should use different steel than the Blade). 1.5 times thicker than the blade, at most.

 

Handle: In case you were dropped as a child, this is the part that almost always goes in your hand; usually made of wood, sometimes wrapped in leather or, if you're REALLY fancy: shark skin.

 

Pommel: The thing at the base of the handle that holds it all together; the tang usually goes through and is fused (welding or peening) with the pommel to clamp it all down. Not, I repeat: NOT a counterweight. Necessarily.

 

 

That's most of what you'll need to know, but before I really get started, you should keep in mind: You can mix and match techniques and measurements to fit your own personal style and needs. You will not make a good sword your first time. Or second time. Or third time. Keep practicing. Keep getting frustrated and trying new things. You will learn and become better as you go! Embrace the pain XD

 

EDIT: When complete, the heaviest sword will weight about 10lbs (twohanded greatsword) and the lightest would be about 1.5lbs (fencing rapier) so select your materials accordingly

Edited by thedude
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thedude

Here I will go over some considerations and basic techniques.

 

When heating steel, you want it to be anywhere from cherry red to a dull yellow. If you see sparks coming off the steel, that's the carbon leaving as it reverts to nasty iron. You can continue to shape the metal until it cools but the cooler it is, the more strain you put on it.

 

The first thing you want is a billet of steel about the right shape for your blade but shorter and thicker than the final piece.

 

Two types of hammers I use are the ball peen; for general use and the spacer; for drawing out and flattening bumps etc. The spacer has a wider head.

 

Making:

   Tang - At full heat, lay the billet on the anvil so the edge of the anvil is where the tang will start. Hammer the billet so it makes a step against the corner of the anvil. Flip the billet over, lining up the start of the tang and repeat until you have it in the shape you want, this will keep the tang straight and even. A full tang will be wider than a rat tail for added strength. It's up to maker discretion, wider is stronger but leaves less room for the handle.

   Blade - At full heat, hammer the billet so that both the flats and the edges taper towards the tip, this will increase blade strength and length while keeping the same weight. You may also want a taper from the core of the blade to the edges. Make sure to alternate faces and sides to keep it even. Only do small alterations per cycle, working your way up and down the blade so that you don't get large, offset parts. Don't make the tip too thin or it will be liable to bend, crack or break, regardless of steel and tempering. Use the ball peen to start and then the spacer when it's closer to the final shape to make the flats smooth.

   Edge - If you're getting fancy, begin the edge with hammering at low to mid heat and finish with grinding/filing. Otherwise, grind to your heart's content away XD

   Crossguard - Don't need any kind of fancy steel for this, harder steels will look better after combat but have a risk of permanently cracking/breaking. Shape her however you want, generally thinner towards the tips with "adds" that go up the blade. When it's the right shape, punch a hole (using a hole punch) where the tang will go. Start with a round punch, going halfway through on one side and finishing on the other (a necessary dexterity requirement or you could be lame, like me, and just use a drill) then move on to a tapered square punch. The "edge" sides of the tang should fit comfortably but the "flat" sides of the tang (and blade, if you have adds") should be somewhat pinched by the crossguard, enough that it holds itself on. You'll probably need to put a piece of wood on it and hammer the crossguard into place (the wood will prevent damaging the crossguard). There are also basket guards but I don't fucks wit dat (yet) so go do your own research if you want one XD

   Pommel - Up to you, really. remember that it's not usually supposed to be a counterweight. Drill a hole through the center, most people finish shaping the pommel after it's been attached. Make sure you have a long enough tang to have about 1/8" sticking out the bottom. Unless you're doing a half tang, in which case you NEED to rivet the handle in place and either screw, glue or both the pommel in place. Or just leave it out. (You can make these hollow but I don't know how :P)

   Handle - My preferred method: find yer wood (plenty bigger than the finished handle) and cut er in half down the middle. Chisel/router a grove out of each half for the tang (half as thick as the tang, each) Then you'll either want a resin or a two-part epoxy to glue the pieces together, over the tang and after the crossguard's been attached. Clamp and wait until it's dry. The other method is to drill a hole down the center of your wood, fill er up with epoxy/resin and slide that tight, wet hole over the long, hard shaft. Clamp and wait until it's dry. You can also use this method without epoxy/resin if you secure the pommel well enough. In both methods, you rasp and sand the handle to shape after it's secure.

 

To determine the most effective type of blade, you should do your own research, I don't even wanna touch that can of worms. XD

 

Balance point is generally no more than a few inches up the blade from the tang and no less than half an inch. The further up the blade it is, the more cutting power it will have at the cost of strength needed to wield it properly.

 

You can make just about any blade two-handed. This allows for a potentially higher balance point and thus more cutting power. However, no matter how hard you try, you won't cut metal armor of any kind and without hand-swording, you will be hard pressed to pierce openings (chainmail, joints, etc.)

 

That's all I can think of for now without getting into advanced techniques like different steels in the same blade, twisted cores, damascus, etc.

 

If you want to learn more about this, remind me in a post and/or message me. I tend to be forgetful... :P

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thedude

oshit, just remembered tempering and hardening

 

Temper the blade to prepare it for hardening by evenly heating the entire thing to a low, low orange; just above red hot. The best way to get a hard edge is to use a high carbon steel insert when shaping the blade but for now: use a tempering clay along the middle of the blade while quenching in warm oil so the edges cool faster. This will make the core flexible and springy while the edges stay hard and sharp.

 

Alternatively, let the blade air cool after tempering and then hammer just the edges; compressing and hardening them.

 

EDIT: Noticed something I left out: You can also make a full tang that's the same width as the handle and rivet (and glue) it in place. This is usually only used in knives and you wouldn't add a pommel with this design.

Edited by thedude
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thedude

One thing I just thought of: The tang will usually be tapered towards where the pommel goes, straightening out for the length of the pommel.

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thedude

Alright, due to request, I'l be outlining the procedure of making a sword with a high carbon steel edge and a steel core with lower carbon content. This will allow the blade to be springy and flexible while still being very sharp and holding that edge.

 

Gather your materials. Make sure you have enough high carbon steel to wrap around the tip and edges of your billet that will be the core. I'd recommend having about 2 parts HC steel to 3 parts mild steel.

 

Shape the mild steel billet into a rectangular prism with a rounded end that will be the tip. Shape the HC steel into a billet slightly longer than two times the length of the mild steel billet while having the the same thickness. Make sure the edges that will touch are very clean, grind or file them if you have to. Heat up the HC billet and "wrap" it around the edges and tip of the mild billet.

 

Now the hard part: forge welding the two billets together. Make sure that the two billets are strongly secured together with something such as a strip of metal clamped around them. You will want to have some kind of flux close at hand (Borax will work) to keep oxides from contaminating the weld. Get the billets as hot as you possibly can without having sparks jump off the metal, remove the external heat and put some flux where the two meet. Get both sides covered put the tip into a swage (solid block with a V-groove in the top) and the hammer the billets down, forming the two billets into one. Once the tip is welded together, go back and heat up the next section of the blade, apply the flux and this time, weld the billets by hammering them down into each other on your anvil. Don't worry too much about keeping a shape, there's plenty of time for that after you have a secure weld. Work your way down the entire blade, forge welding the HC billet wrapped around the mild billet together.

 

Now you have an excellent billet with which to make a sword, just be sure to remember which edges have the HC steel!

 

Proceed to shape the blade, drawing out the billet, adding the distal taper (making the blade thinner towards the tip), forming the edges into a tip that fits your purpose and a tang that works for you.

 

Once all that is done, heat the blade back up and, placing it on the square edge of your anvil, bevel the edges with your hammer and the anvil face.

 

Now this is a part that I'm unsure of with no readily available information on the topic: heat treating. With normal swords, you bring the steel up to a critical temperature and then quench it such that it gains a uniform hardness good for both edge retention and flexibility. But with this kind of blade, I don't think that's necessary... However, not knowing the exact effect the hammer strikes and forging heats have on the different steels, I would say to bring the entire blade evenly up to critical temperature (similar to welding heat, just before it readily melts) and then let it cool completely at room temperature. This will effectively "reset" any of the changes in the structure of the metal and allow it to act normally.

 

Finish the blade by grinding, etching and polishing as desired, be prepared for a lot of work if you want the steel to really shine. Etching is usually unnecessary unless you want to put a specific mark or bring out a specific pattern in the steel. For example, with pattern welded/damascus steel, etching will bring out the lines and swirls of the different metals for a pleasing pattern.

 

And that's how to make a blade with a high carbon steel edge and mild steel core for optimal (relative) performance. If you have any questions about the hilt, read my earlier posts and then message me if the answer isn't there. :)

 

DISCLAIMER: I have complained in the past about laminated steel but I now know that it's the quality of the steel which causes issues, not necessarily the manner in which it was made.

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