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Ask me about swords.

Discussion in 'Research' started by Anders Ämting, Jan 20, 2012.

  1. So, I have diagnosed Asperger Syndrome with swords as my special interest. What this essentially means is that I'm obsessed with swords, to the point of them being my default thing to think about, and I have spent years assimilating sword-related trivia.

    Since swords are a staple of fantasy fiction, I thought I'd offer my expertise to the benefit of the community. I don't claim to know everything on the subject, but if anyone of you have a question regarding swords I'd be happy to try to answer it. Frankly, if you have a question about swords I can't answer, it's probably something I'll end up researching on my own anyway.

    Oh, and I've also had some training as a blacksmith and know the basics of bladesmithing, so I may be able to offer advice in that area as well.
  2. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I'll take you up on that one. I've always wondered how late and modern day swords, like the sabres officers use as late as the 1900s, compare to older weapons like the broadsword and katana or scimitars. They didn't really see a lot of action so it'd be easy to see how, if they improved on the older swords in any way, it'd often be overlooked.
  3. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    Another Aspie here, although dinosaurs and Northeast African anthropology are my special interests rather than swords.
  4. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    I'm also curious about more ancient weapons of civilizations that were wiped out specifically South American empires, like the Aztecs. Especially the weapons used that could apparently severe a horse's head (which I think is insane.) Anyway, bone, wood, and stone weapons are really interesting to me. Any ideas about some cool weapons made of my primal stuff?
  5. First I just want to point out that it's a mistake to think of the katana as an "older" sword. The fact is that the Japanese never actually stopped making them, and they are in fact still made to this day. (For that matter, there are Americans and Europeans making them as well. It's quite amazing.) Which is not to say they never changed over the ages, but the katana itself is not a period specific sword.

    But to adress your question: It's true swords eventually took on a ceremonial role, but it bears keeping in mind this was a very gradual change. You sometimes hear that guns made swords obselete, but that is absolutely not true - swords and firearms coexisted for a period of 400-500 years. Early guns weren't really that effective and only gradually improved, and since close combat scenarios still happened the sword remained a serious battlefield weapon throughout the Napoleonic era and right into the late 19th century. What guns actually did was take heavy armor out of the equation, and that was what really changed things because medieval swords were almost exclusively designed to counter whatever armor was used at the time.

    But that's just the thing, actually: It's hard to talk about "improvement" because practically all swords were designed to do what was required of them in their own context. Were medieval swords better then post-Renaissance swords? Not really; they were just good at different things. What changed wasn't the attitude towards swords so much as the context in which they were used.

    But one thing I can say for certain: During the 19th century, the militaries of Europe did a lot of experimenting with their swords. Really, the sheer crazy variety of different blades you encounter from ca the Victorian period speaks of people who took their swords very seriously, and if they did not manage to improve them, it sure wasn't for lack of trying. These guys tried everything at least once: They tried making straight swords for thrusting, and they tried making curved swords for cutting, and they tried making slightly curved but still kinda straight swords that were equally good for cutting and thrusting. They made swords with broad fullers for flexibility and they made swords with accented pipe-shaped spines for rigidity. They made light swords and they made heavy swords, and they had I think something like four different kinds of sword points. Plus, all the while there was this long and very heated debate about wether the thrust was superior to the cut or vice versa. The thrust side eventually won out, and the last swords to see actual use in the field, as late as World War I, were cavalry sabers with narrow thrusting blades.

    So, I suppose the answer is that the sword was treated as a serious weapon for as long as it was expected to see use in actual combat, but how "good" a particular sword was is always going to be a matter of context.

    Also useful. ;)

    Sorry to say, my obsession mostly only covers metal weapons.

    I can tell you about that horse decapitation thing, though: The weapon in question is the Aztec maquahuitl, and it's pretty much considered the sharpest bladed weapon ever created by any culture, anywhere. It's basically a wooden sword with edges made from shards of obsidian, that is to say volcanic glass. Obsidian shards can form edges that are almost monomolecular in sharpness, and some people have used the material to make surgical scalpels. Not primitive old school scalpels, mind you, I mean "actually used in modern hospitals" scalpels.

    The downside, of course, is that obsidian is still basically glass, so the edges of the maquahuitl were crazy sharp but also extremely fragile. If I'm not mistaken, Aztec warriors would carry extra shards to replace the ones that shattered in battle.

    As for the story about the decapitated horse, I belive it was an account from a conquistador eyewitness. Unfortunately, the last known authentic maquahuitl is said to have been destroyed in 1884, so it's hard to know for sure what they were capable of.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2012
  6. Jess A

    Jess A Archmage

    I must keep your username in my mental database!

    I am quite interested in swords. I used to fence when I was a teenager, and I regret not keeping up with it - though I do intend to return to it, though it's been a long time. I can visualise fencing with rapier-like swords (in a controlled environment) from experience, but I know very little about fencing with other types of swords (long swords, for example) or in an uncontrolled environment (other than fighting with stick 'swords' with friends when I was a kid).

    My mum bought me a great book about swords for Christmas - for my archive - I keep a lot of references for writing. I am sure that even with the book, I will have a lot of questions for you when I come across them. I'd particularly like to know a bit about how blacksmiths worked. For example, how long did it take to make a sword in the 14th century (or thereabouts)? For example, somebody pays a blacksmith/bladesmith to make a sword (specifically for them). They are told to come back in ... how long?

    I'd also like a bit of info on the care of swords in those times as well. Other than the basic 'polishing the blade' etc. Something a bit more detailed if you are able.

    Thank you - much appreciated!
  7. I just started learning German longsword, actually. (I've had a grand number of one lessons, so you know I know what I'm talking about. :p) I've also tried kendo, but quit before I got to actually hit anyone since I couldn't afford the armor at the time. Before that I did some sport fencing, and in retrospect I wish I had kept that up.

    Kendo and sport fencing are actually more sports rather then martial arts - they give you quick reflexes and timing, but don't quite give an acurate simulation of using a real sword in a real fight. Still, if you want to learn how to use a sword, they are still better then nothing.

    On the other hand, actual historical fencing styles have been on the rise for a while now, so if you do want to learn how to fence with a rapier the way they did in ye olde times, that's actually achievable. Personally, I would love to learn one of the baskethilt styles, mostly because it kinda looks like the sort of fencing you see in movies.

    Oh dear, I can give an exact answer. I'd say there are a lot of factors involved, like wether or not the smith has other projects to work on as well, wether the required material is ready or has to be ordered in, wether or not the blade is pattern welded and the general quality of the workmanship, or how much of a hurry the customer is in. A funny thing about for example Japanese swords is that the really nice, high quality stuff was created during times of peace, because that meant the smiths had more time to put into their art. In wartimes, on the other hand, you needed a lot of swords right away, so the smiths had to churn out inferior blades quickly. I'm sure the same thing applied to European smiths to some degree.

    Also, note that "bladesmith" means exactly that: He'd make only the blades, not the entire sword. It was a specialized profession, same way a heart surgeon today won't perform an entire operation by himself. The be more precise, there would be one master smith and two apprentice/assistants doing the heavy hammering. Then there would be another person in charge of grinding and polishing, another guy doing the hilting, another guy making the leatherwork and so on. Most of the time these craftsmen would be in specific guilds, and you could actually get in serious trouble for intruding on their markets.

    But anyway, just guestimating here: About a month for a plain but fairly fancy sword with scabbard and everything, assuming no particular delays. More if you wanted luxuries like engraving and jeweled hilts. You probably couldn't get a sword in less then three or four weeks.

    Well, I know a bit of general sword care, though I'm honestly not sure if there was any particular way to care for your sword in medieval times. There probably wasn't much need for polishing - rather, you want to keep your sword oiled to prevent corrosion and rust, and you'd probably know some basic honing to keep your blade fairly sharp after use.

    Come to think of it, I'm not even quite sure how swords were stored while not in use in medieval times - this seems to be one of those gaps in my data bank. I think I'll ask around a bit and get back to you on this.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2012
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  8. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    That's what I keep reading, but I really doubt that's all there is to it. Swords differed in more ways than how curved or straight the blade was. The most powerful scimitars, for instance, were in later periods, highly curved, and weighted heavily towards the tip to increase their striking power.

    Also, it's relatively unfair to talk about the thrusting swords as having "won out" just because they were used later than other weapons, and even if so, that wouldn't have applications beyond use in cavalry. The swords used in WWI were used the way other soldiers in history used a lance. If you carried both a sword and a lance, almost certainly you would want the sword to be curved. And if your target was armored, you would need the range and weight of a lance over the control of the sword any time.

    What I really meant to ask, though, and probably should have specified, was about the later trend towards single-edged weapons. Post-period swords, for lack of a better word, start to resemble the katana more than the medieval broadsword. The single-edge helped to increase cutting power with a blade that didn't need to be as wide, which in turn, I would think, increases thrusting abilities. I can't imagine what advantage the double-edged broadsword would hold over these weapons even against armored opponents.

    They made what's supposedly an authentic reproduction of the maquahuitl for Deadliest Warrior, and it successfully cut through the gel-horse's neck. The Obsidian blades didn't shatter so far as I could tell, but they came off the weapon in droves. They also used an obsidian knife to cut out a gel torso's "still-beating" heart. You can watch it on the Netflix instant queue.

    For those wondering, the maquahuitl is essentially a flat wooden sword with obsidian shards lining the edge like teeth, as a substitute for the blade. Native Americans like the Aztecs didn't have metalworking, making this one of the most powerful weapons available to them.

    Also, based on Deadliest Warrior episodes, another powerful non-metal item is Jade, which the Maori of New Zealand used to create great effect in making weapons stronger than steel.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2012
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  9. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

    Hello, another swords fanatic here!! I love swords from every culture and history period (even though my favourites are European blades from 12th to 16th centuries) and actually I am a producer of Aluminum swords, maybe I should share pictures of them and start a thread about aluminum swordmaking =)
  10. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    This thread has me hooked. There's so much here I never knew (about the only thing I did know was about obsidian - and I can add to that, by stating that obsidian objects are used by archaeologists to trace acient trade networks, because there are very few sources of obsidian in the world, and each one is chemically distinct, so finding large numbers of obsidian objects at sites distant from these sources means that site was probably used as a trading hub in valuable objects, not merely obsidian blades and beads).

    I also have a question: what do you know about bronze swords? In what ways did their shape and the way they were made differ from iron swords, and were they used differently?
  11. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

    @Chilari: Bronze Age swords were usually short if compared with later swords (50 to 70cm) the classic leaf shape of these blades served the purpose to provide more strength against bending of the blade, and they were made by pouring the liquid bronze into clay moulds that would be broken later =)

    Swords from the Iron Age were similar to bronze weapons (not at all like later steel swords) and these swords were used in a different fighting style to later swords: Bronze swords could be slashing weapons, but they were more suited towards stabbing.

    Also, bronze swords were far stronger and far more lethal than many people think today!! Neil Burridge from the UK is a producer of replicas of bronze age swords that are almost identical to the originals and he's a great guy, if you are interested you should visit his website at:

    Neil Burridge
    Sparkie likes this.
  12. sashamerideth

    sashamerideth Maester

    This thread is a varitable gold mine. I come here with a question, and it has already been asked and answered. I want to use nonstandard metals and such in my story, as I am doing a south American style society, the obsidian blades will definitely be getting used.

    I had heard rumors about Egyptian swords crafted from a copper alloy that was superior to other weapons of the time. How did the Egyptian sword really compare?

    Sent from my Blade using Forum Runner
  13. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

    Sashamerideth: There were many types of bronze swords developed during the bronze age, and the quality of these weapons varied according to the skills of the bronzesmiths and the proportions of tin/copper used for bronze production in different parts of the world. For example, something very important was the work-hardening of the edges which was done at the same time as sharpening, a skill that few people in the world can replicate today =)

    The Egyptians used bronze swords different to those used in Europe, like the Khopesh. Iron age swords replaced bronze swords not because they were stronger (actually a well-crafted bronze weapon was superior to iron swords) but only because iron was more readily available than the limited supplies of tin and copper needed to manufacture bronze.
  14. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

    Well, like Anders said the production of swords involved many different people and took a long time- High quality swords were very expensive, and something that most people do not know, is that the straight and double-edged swords were not the most used swords in Europe during medieval times: The Falchions were cheaper weapons and were far more common (something like a medieval machete) but unlike the straight swords, few original falchions have reached our days.
  15. Oh sure. Probably because they were cavalry weapons - a lot of cavalry swords show tenencies like that.

    Mind you, "scimitar" is an umbrella term, covering a much wider family of middle eastern swords: shamshirs, kilijs, saifs, and so on. The word basically means "middle eastern sword", so it's a pretty imprecise term to use.

    Well, perhaps I should have said that the debate in question specifically revolved around cavalry tactics - some believed thrusting swords were more benificial during the charge, lancing the opposing force as you say, while others argued curved cutting swords were more beneficial in the melee following the charge. What I meant about the thrust side winning out was that the trend eventually conformed towards the thrust school of thought.

    I don't quite like this comparisson, because there is more to sword geometry them just basic profile. The katana blade has a very particular shape that you don't really see much of in western sabers - they are hyper-specialized cutters and tend to be relatively blade-heavy for their size. (Which is not to say they are heavy, just that the standard katana is not a very large sword.)

    Most of the 19th century swords I've seen and handled were light weapons. I own an antique infantry saber on which the foible is only about 2mm thick, possibly less. Its absolutely not designed for powerful cutting. The differance between it and my katana are like night and day - they are completely different swords.

    I kinda see what you mean, but I'm afraid you are oversimplying a much more complex issue. What makes a good thruster is stiffness and an acute point, which does not necessarily relate to wether the sword has a back or not. And while single edged swords can be better cutters then double edged swords, they are not so per definition. You can pretty much get this kind of performance out of single edged and double edged swords alike depending on exactly what you want out of your blade.

    I've actually wondered about the strong preference for double edged swords in the early medieval period - it puzzles me because I can't see any reason for it. You mentioned scimitars before, but few people know that the curved middle eastern swords only appeared relatively late. In medieval times, middle eastern swords were double edged, just like their European contemporaries:

    Picture from Ewart Oakeshott's book A Knight in Battle.

    Still, it's not like people of that age didn't understand single-edged swords. The vikings had single-edged swords, though they weren't very popular and seem to have faded out in favor of the double-edged variety. In medieval times, there was the falchion family - short, single-edged cutting swords that were apparently fairly popular, but never to the point of replacing their double-edged brothers as the standard. There are a few arming swords with single-edged blades, but they are so rare you almost have to consider them anomalies.

    I really can't explain it. It seems the mentality of the time was simply: "Why should I settle for one edge when I can have two?"

    Now, you mentioned the medieval swords giving way for more saber-shaped weapons, but the trouble is that you are glossing over about two centuries where the medieval sword was out of style but people still used double-edged swords. The saber as we think of it only gained true popularity in Europe around the 18th century. Before that, the standard military swords were wallon-style cut-and-thrust swords and various baskethilts, which could pretty much be either single edged or double edged. As far as I have been able to tell, the difference between the two was mostly a matter of preference - single edged swords just kinda handle somewhat differently then double edged swords, and all other things being equal, some people just liked them one way while others liked them the other. It came down to taste.

    Frankly, if you put a knight is platemail against a 18th-19th century sabrist without armor, the knight is pretty much just going to rush into the poor guy, tackle him and then stab him a lot, while the blows of his opponent bounces harmlessly off his protective steel shell. People wore expensive suits of armor for a reason - because it protected you from harm, and a sword that isn't designed to deal with armor is going to have serious trouble harming an armored opponent. It's really not more complicated then that.

    And if you'll let me turn this around: I don't really see what disadvantage a medieval sword would be against a later saber or backsword, even if neither of the fighters wore armor. I do hope you're not one of those people who believe medieval swords were clumsy things weighing 30 pounds and other such nonsense. The medieval sword was a precisely crafted killing tool that excelled at exactly the type of combat it was intended for.

    For that matter, there wasn't a single type of medieval sword; what you refer to as a "broadsword." As a matter of fact there are eleven distinct types of swords categorised under the Oakeshott Typology, plus a few subtypes, and most of the variations are designed to take on contemporary armor. Here, let me show you some examples:


    Notice how different the top and bottom blades are?

    The Type X was one of the earlier styles that grew out of the viking swords. They originated in the viking era and remained a popular weapon until the 13th century. Since the most advanced armor it had to deal with was chainmail, they were primarily cutting swords with broad, flat and flexible blades and wide fullers.

    The Type XV, on the other hand, was designed to take on platemail. Now, the thing about plate armor is that it's more or less impervious to edged weapons. You simply aren't cutting through that stuff. Forget about it. The only efficient way to fight someone wearing plate is to stab him through the gaps in the joints of the armor. This required stiff, narrow blades with acute points, sacrificing cutting power. This was a very long-lasting type of sword, seeing use from ca 1290 to ca 1415.

    The Types XVI and XVIII are both compromises between cutting ability and thrusting/stabbing ability, trying to create an all-around versatile sword. The XVI was popular in the first half of the 14th century while the XVIII saw use from 1410 to 1510.

    Naturally, all of these swords are just as capable of slaying unarmored opponents.

    If you look at the dates you'll notice that this isn't a straight progression from cutty-cutty swords to stabby-stabby swords. Rather, they developed the XV to counter armor, but then went: "This works well, but I wish it was a bit better at cutting." And there is a lot of overlapping with these types because people back then also had different taste and different requirements. Notably, when firearms emerged and made plate armor a lot less invincible, you definitely see a return to more cutting oriented swords.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2012
  16. Androxine Vortex

    Androxine Vortex Archmage

    In my setting it is set in your typical fantasy setting. I want to get into good detail about the weapons my warriors use so I need to know some things.

    What types of metal or minerals would make the best swords? And also how can you know what minerals to mix and what not to?

    From what (little) I understand, the harder the metal is, the more damage it can deal, but it will be more fragile or something like that-could you explain?

    I want to have one city make very strong metal, in specific, all of their metal I want to be black. What would be the strongest black metal that they could forge to make armor and weapons? (keeping in mind they can use technologically advanced mehods like we can today. And yeah I know I can just invent my own metal but I want your opinion)

    I know hardly nothing about swords, I just hav about 14 of them hanging up in my room. Since you are a sword fanatic, I think you'll appreciate this: My Great Grandfather gave to me on his deathbed an asian blade that was used in the Vietnam war. I can't find any good pictures of it on the web but it has a wooden sheath and the blade has a large and fat curved edge. It's still vey sharp and has vietnamesse characters carved into the metal. It's my most prized sword.
  17. Well, bronze is a hard and somewhat brittle copper alloy. It can keep sharp edges but unlike iron and steel, it can't be easily forged, nor can it be heat treated. Instead, bronze swords were cast and might have had their edges forged for extra hardness. I recall my blacksmithing teacher working on a bronze razor using that technique. Bronze is also heavier then iron.

    The main advantage of iron is that it's easy to shape when heated, making it easier to work with. Despite this, early iron swords were actually inferior to bronze swords because of their softness. I recall reading somewhere that in the Roman empire, soldiers were issued iron swords while the officers could carry bronze weapons. It was only with the invention of steel that bronze weapons really became obselete. Steel, in terms of bladesmithing, is an alloy of iron and carbon. With heat treatment, the carbon molecules can be arranged so that the steel becomes hard (for sharp edges) or soft (for flexibility) or something in-between. That makes it the ideal material for blades.

    Funny thing is, bronze age people seem to have known about iron, they just couldn't figure out how to produce it. On rare occasions, iron meteorites that fell from space were recovered and turned into tools. It is said that when Tutankhamon's tomb was uncovered, they found the young farao surrounded by riches, but upon his chest rested a single tiny iron knife. In ancient Egypt, that one small knife was considered a treasure fit for a mighty king.

    "Copper alloy" pretty much means "bronze." I can't say I've ever heard that the Egyptians posessed a superior alloy, but then again Egypt was never my thing. Given that they were advanced for their time, I suppose it's not unlikely they had the best metalurgy around.

    Like Sheilawisz said, the typical Egyptian sword was killed a kopesh. They're funny in that people who've handled them say they behave more like axes then swords, and indeed they are theorized to have developed from a type of axe.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2012
  18. Neurosis

    Neurosis Minstrel

    I think someone should sticky this thread. You sir are a special kind of genius: the interesting kind that doesn't bore everyone.

    This is quite a left field question. Being extremely interested in Science (its my area of interest) I discovered an interesting metal for a sword. Its called iridium (Iridium - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). Its almost impossible to forge normally, it has one of the highest melting points of any metal (2466 °C, even higher when as an alloy with platinum or osmium), and is the second hardest know element or compound and is also the second densest. I believe tempered steel is harder than it, however when iridium is tempered and made as an allow with 2% osmium, or something, its actually harder (yes, harder) than diamond--and more expensive, its like super titanium. Its the most corrosive resistant substance in the known universe. Its quite beautiful--it looks like platinum but has a slight golden tint. Small shavings or lone atoms of it explode in air (not just sparks, we're talking fire-crackers), so when fighting, if it hits another sword, it would be a variable fire-work show.

    Would this plausibly made a sword? Given its EXTREMELY rare, very dense (and hence heavy, slightly more so than lead) and hard to forge--I think they compress it in powered form in a mold. If so, what would be a practical shape and fighting style? Perhaps just an iridium coated blade? It would make it sharper than obsidian and un-corodable.
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  19. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I had to go look it up again because I wanted to be more clear than I think I was, not only to you but to those following this thread. Your post is filled with a lot of great information, but I only meant to ask about one element of the blade.

    A backsword is a single-edged weapon where the "back" of the blade is significantly thicker than the front of the blade, and this increases the weight and cutting power of the blade significantly without overextending the width of the blade. Because the backsword involves a thinner, stronger blade than a typical two-edged weapon, it seems to me that it would have significant advantages in terms of its thrusting capabilities as well.

    Typically a thrusting weapon is needed to pierce the weak points in an opponents armor, while a slashing weapon is used to attack unarmored opponents. Putting a curve on the blade helps to increase the pressure applied while slashing, while a straight blade pushes all of the momentum forward. While even a short bronze sword can hold an edge and be quite deadly, it seems to me that a backsword would have the advantage in both these styles of fighting.

    Before about the 16th century the backsword was fairly rare and I don't understand why. It's one of the defining characteristics of the Katana blade and a key reason for its success and reputation, and while the Katana is wider and heavier than, again, what I'll refer to wrongly as post-period weapons, it strikes me almost as the model for many of the officer-style sabers in use later.
  20. Let me just add a quick caveat: You may not want to dig yourself into too much detail. Sometimes you just want a sword to be a sword, you know? Honestly, I don't think I'll ever use even a fraction of all I know in my writing. Anyway, remember that you are writing fantasy. :p

    Seriously? The best metal for swords is the stuff we have now, like today. Really, modern metalurgy kicks ass. You won't believe some of the stuff the steel industry churns out nowadays.

    Still, even then context comes into play. Exactly what properties are you looking for? If your steel has a minimum of carbon, it will be easy to forge but while it will keep an edge, the blades will be somewhat soft. Not perfect swords, but servicable - good if you have a large army to equip. Add some more carbon and you get stronger and sharper swords, but they will be harder to forge. Add even more carbon and you get really sharp swords, yet the steel is somewhat fragile. Eventually, the carbon content makes the steel too hard to forge at all, and too fragile to be turned into good blades.

    If you are more high-tech and add chromium, silicon or vanadium you get spring steel, which can be made into incredibly strong yet very sharp swords. But, you know, then we're into industrial type stuff. There is no way you are getting that kind of metal with medieval technology.

    Still, that's not even the important part. The important part is heat treatment: Hardening (that is, the part in the movies where they plunge the red hot blade into water or oil) and tempering (that is, the part they never show you in movies because it's not as dramatic as the hardening.) You can have the best steel in the world, but you will still end up with a crappy sword if your heat treatment method doesn't suit the material.

    More or less. Basically, hard steel can be turned into very sharp edges, but it also becomes brittle. Remember earlier in the thread, the part about obsidian being absurdly sharp? Same thing applies to steel.

    So, you want your sword to be hard so you can get a cutting edge but soft so it doesn't break so easily. Overcoming this paradox is pretty much what swordsmithing is all about. Now, in Europe, we ended up focusing on finding a middle ground, making swords that are springy and decently sharp. Today, among sword nerds, we refer to swords like these as through hardened. (Or "TH swords.")

    The Japanese, on the other hand, built on techniques invented by the Chinese and instead focused on achieving two extremes in the same sword: the edge on a katana is very hard, while the back is rather soft. We refer to this as differentially hardened swords. (Or "DF swords".)

    Those wooden swords with obsidian edges are really just taking that idea to its logical extreme.

    There really isn't such a thing as black steel, I'm afraid. Steel can be turned black with oxidation techniques, or by quenching it it oil, but it will just be thin layer on the surface.

    I think you might actually be better off just relying on your imagination here. It's nice that you are willing to learn new things, but like I said before, remember that you're writing fantasy.

    I mean, sure, you could have them go: "Fool, our swords are forged from the finest tungsten alloy steel with a 0.9 carbon content, also .35% silicon!"

    ...Or you could have them go: "Fool! Your iron trinkets are nothing to the black steel of the Black Steel Empire, forged by the deepest secrets of our mystic alchemy!"

    Really, I would totally go with Option B, and I made this thread.

    Nice! Heirloom swords are great stuff.
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