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Best Sword Steel

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We get asked the question, "What is the best sword steel?" very frequently. Well, the answer may surprise you.

There is no "best" sword steel. The reason why sword makers use different steels is because people buy swords for many different reasons. In this post, we will show you what steels are best for different applications.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is used when a sword is meant to be used for display. Being to brittle to be used for actual cutting, a stainless steel sword does have some redeeming qualities for a display piece such as little to no maintenance. Due to the sword being stainless, it does not have to be oiled and can easily be brought to a mirror like finish.

Types of Stainless Steel (Used in Swords)

The types of stainless steels used in the manufacture of swords is numerous, so we will list the most popular used in sword making today.

420 and 420HC StainlessSteel - good all-purpose stainless steel which is less expensive and softer to work, making it ideal when cost, workability and ease of maintenance are issues. Superior sharpenability, fair edge retention, fair corrosion resistance. Common for less expensive knives and swords where function is not a priority.

440A, B & C StainlessSteel - a high carbon stainless steel, somewhat stronger than 420. Excellent sharpenability, good edge retention, good corrosion resistance. One of the best all-around knife steels, but to brittle to make a sword functional.

Carbon Steel

Carbon Steel Sword

Carbon steel is used in real swords as it is much tougher than stainless steel and can be tempered to make it as hard as the maker desires. There are different amounts of carbon in different steels which, along with tempering, can make it harder or softer.

Types of Carbon Steel (Used in Swords)

1045 Carbon Steel: - This is the lowest acceptable carbon content for a battle ready sword. 1045 carbon steel is soft and easy to forge which makes it very inexpensive. It can be hardened to make it strong enough for good cutting and is recommended for beginners.

1060 - 1065 Carbon Steel - 1060 - 1065 carbon steel is probably the best all around sword steel (especially for Samurai swords) because it will have great flexibility as well as strength and edge holding. The trade off is of course it is harder to forge and polish so it is more expensive.

1095 Carbon steel - 1095 carbon steel is very hard steel, and when tempered properly, can make for an excellent cutting sword for advanced users. 1095 carbon steel can hold an excellent edge due to its hardness, but its limited flexibility means it is more prone to chip or be destroyed in a misdirected cut. This steel is meant for advanced users only.

5160 Spring Steel - This steel is typically used in European and medieval style swords and when tempered can result in an excellent sword steel due to its flexibility and durability. Careful heat treating of a 5160 blade can produce a hard edge section and a softer core, an excellent characteristic in hacking blades.

T10 Steel - Formerly only used in knives, T10 tool steel has recently popped up in use for swords. This steel has high abrasion resistance and are very tough. Great all around steel, but typically more expensive.

L6 Bainite - L6 was developed for the manufacture of saw blades, with excellent resilience and impact toughness (provided by the relatively high nickel content) at high hardness levels. The Bainite phase of L6, achieved by careful heat treament, is much sought-after in sword blades. It is incredibly expensive to buy a sword made out of this material as there are few smiths in the world who can properly temper and work with this steel.

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