So what is the best steel for a sword? The answer is not as simple as it may seem. Ask ten swordsmiths and you may get ten different answers. Let's dive into it some more and learn the different types of steel used for swords and learn some positives and negatives of each.
Almost all of the mass produced consumer swords on the market used to be made of stainless steel. Many still are. It is now almost exclusively restricted to inexpensive decorative swords.
Swords made of stainless steel are seen to be too fragile for serious use and is susceptible to breaking. For those interested in hanging the sword on the wall and letting it sit, stainless steel is not all bad. The stainless steel does not require the amount of upkeep as a carbon steel sword, since they are not prone to rusting.
Stainless steel has a high chromium content, and when a blade reaches over 12 inches the grain boundaries between the chromium and the rest of the steel start to deteriorate with time, which leads to stress areas. This makes it easily breakable and not sturdy.
Finally, stainless steel was not invented until 1913, so it is a very new technology in the swordsmithing world and not very "historically accurate".
Final thoughts: stainless steel swords can be much cheaper, but, you get what you pay for. Therefore, a stainless steel sword's intended use is decoration only.
High Carbon Steel:
A sword must, at the absolute least, be made of high carbon steel and be correctly tempered in order to be functional.
The American society of automobile engineers (SAE) scale is often the one that sword makers use.
Plain carbon steel, which is most frequently used to make functional swords, is identified by the first two digits, 10, and a number from 01 to 99 after that, with each point denoting that in that steel, carbon makes up 1%.
For instance, steel designated as AISI 1045 contains 0.45% carbon, 1060 contains 0.60 carbon, etc.
Low carbon steel is defined as steel with a carbon percentage of 0.05 to 0.15, whereas mild steel is defined as steel with a carbon level of 0.16 to 0.29.
Starting with the most affordable to buy and shape, 1045, 1060, and 1095 are the three most widely used forms of carbon steel used in swords.
Generally speaking, the majority of sword experts concur that a sword's ideal range for a strong, sharp edge that will hold is between 0.5 and 0.7 carbon content.
1045 Carbon Steel:
Swords made of 1045 Carbon Steel are extremely affordable to produce because they are simple to forge and quite soft. Hand forging, pressing or machine milling are methods that can all be used.
Because 1045 carbon steel has a carbon percentage of 0.45%, which is less than the minimum of 0.40%, it is really the least permissible material for a useful blade.
However, if properly tempered and hardened, 1045 carbon steel swords can be surprisingly powerful. If a sword costs less than or equal to US $100 and just states "high carbon steel", it is likely made of 1045.
A properly tempered 1045 carbon steel sword will outperform historical steel even if it is the lowest level of steel quality by current standards compared to medieval steel.
1060 Carbon Steel:
Many swords constructed of 1060 carbon steel that are renowned for their durability are an excellent compromise between hardness, ability to retain an edge, and pliability, strength.
As a result, 1060 Carbon Steel swords are quite popular. However, due to the steel's higher hardness than 1045, 1060 Carbon Steel swords are more challenging to forge, shape, and polish.
Therefore, it almost always costs more than 1045; the price range normally ranges from $150 to $500, depending on the fittings, type of tempering, polish, and so on.
1095 Carbon Steel:
When used on hard targets, 1095 carbon steel's extreme hardness can occasionally cause problems unless it has been adequately heat treated.
The fundamental benefit of swords made of 1095 carbon steel is that, when properly tempered, they can take and maintain an edge that is far sharper than swords made of lower carbon steel. Their reputation for fragility is unwarranted when properly moderated.
Typically costing between $200 and $600, 1095 carbon steel is slightly more expensive than 1060, but not much.
Spring steel swords can be divided into two categories: 5160 and 9260.
The carbon content is shown by the last two digits, just like with simple carbon steel swords.
60% carbon makes them similar to 1060 carbon steel swords, an excellent compromise between hardness and durability, and when correctly heat treated, spring steel allows things to maintain their original shape even after severe bending or twisting, making 1060 spring steel unique.
There are several types of spring steel. We will focus on one, since that is the one we favor at the Metal Abyss Forge. Drumroll please:
5160 Spring Steel:
As mentioned above we favor 5160 Spring steel, a low chromium alloy steel with around 0.7 chromium, which is not enough to make it stainless. Stainless Steel requires a minimum of 13% chromium. However, when combined with a small amount of silicon (0.2%), it produces an incredibly tough and durable sword.
Again, the heat treatment is crucial; if done incorrectly, even the greatest 5160 Spring Steel blade will fail, but when done correctly, the outcome is magnificent.
The majority of 5160 Spring Steel Blades are utilized on monotempered Katana and swords with a medieval design. It can be differentially hardened. It keeps an edge well and functions well as a cutting instrument.
5160 starts at roughly $250 and can cost significantly more depending on who created the sword, its style, fittings, etc.
There are many more steels that are cut out (pun intended) for sword making. Tool steel, Damascus steel, semi-stainless, and so on. Anyone who claims one steel is superior to another is not being honest. Each has it's own strengths and weaknesses. Some swordsmiths favor one over the other, and that is perfectly okay. It is important for a consumer to understand there is a difference and to choose the right steel for what they intend to use the sword for. As always, if you have any questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .