--------------------------------------------------------------------------Robert Earhart Fight Captain & Blacksmith METALS We normally work in one of three metals for blades: A) A-36: A mild carbon

steel, available in any thickness, very forgiving, easily and cheaply acquired. and fast to work. Quite tough for a mild carbon, but not really temperable at all, will take on at best a slight case hardening (surface gets harder) thru heat treatment. Not particularly hard, and while somewhat flexible, will bend and stay bent if flexed past its limits. Actually, most weapons over most of the steel era were made of similar quality metals... Also benefits most from the carbon packing effects of forging; essentially creating a layer of high carbon steel at the surface. Rarely were swords bent, and if it happened they were easily fixed by flexing in the opposite direction. Maintaining a cutting edge was not a high priority, these were not tools- use them for a few hours, then take your time and remove the nicks if you lived thru the battle. Better steels- Sheffield, Toledo, etc.- were rare and justly famous. B) 1095: A very high carbon steel which will get quite hard, hold a fine edge, and will temper to a decent springiness (returns to original shape if bent). Carbon content is so high that forging is actually likely to cause carbon migration outward, creating a mild carbon exterior! C) 4140. Another high carbon alloy, decently hardenable, with an amazing springiness when tempered correctly: I put a rapier blade (31", tapering from 1" to 1/2" along the length, with a 1" tang extending another 7 inches) between two stumps and stood on it, then bounced up and down with all my weight, the blade came out as straight as it was before I started.

Robb, who's 250 lbs. outweighs me by 100, was able to impart a very slight bend with effort, had to flip it and repeat to bring it back to true. Available only in 1/4" or thicker, which adds to the toughness at the cost of some added mass. D) 5160. A spring steel, Springier than 1095, Harder than 4140, but not contrawise as Hard as the former nor as Springy as the former. None of these are likely to break under normal use. We have managed to break them all eventually by repeatedly slamming them onto a stump with the pommel (holding the blade in a gloved hand) as hard as we could for half an hour or more. We also run other tests; the Stump bounce above, for example, or lending the Jousting troupe four blades and telling them to try to break them (they managed to break two in 8 weeks of three shows daily, so we reworked our welding techniques...) By and large they will hold up to any legitimate use, especially if you chose a steel suited to the design of the blade and the stresses it is intended to accept. All three of the latter are significantly more expensive than the first, due to the cost of the metal, the added difficulty of working, and the added time and expense of tempering. Also, there will be an extra couple weeks for 1095, as we haven't any in stock. OTHER METALS Stainless steel, usually an alloy with a high chromium content, extemely resistant to rust and corrosion. Most stainless steels are tough but not capable of holding much of an edge, nor particularly springy. The exception seems to be the 400 series, of which a good many commercially available blades are made, typically 420 Stainless. 440C: a high carbon stainless, good edge, decent spring, does not rust or corrode. Difficult to work, though, very hard even in its untempered form. I have done very little with it,

since it is inauthentic, and hard to acquire in convenient shape. Nevertheless, it is thus far my stainless of choice, and I will continue to work towards acquiring a working knowledge of it. Tool steel is the name of a variety of steel alloys which temper to a superior hardness. The desired characteristics are hardness, toughness, and rigidity. Since the ideal characteristics for a knife are hardness and toughness, tool steels are quite good for many knives. Thin bladed knives, and more so most swords, on the other hand, need flexibility and even springiness, rather than rigidity. Also, tool steels are quite difficult to work: not very ductile even when heated; resistant to abrasion ( sanding and filing) even before tempering; and prone to breaking before heat treatment. Most tools you buy in a hardware stool are made from a tool steel, either poured into a mold of the correct shape, or "drop forged," which consists of heating the metal, then placing it in a form and dropping a ten ton weight on it, instantly forcing it into the desired shape. Nails are made of relatively soft metal, hammers of hard tool steel. When you hit the nail with the hammer, its surface flattens a little, while the surface of the hammer is not affected at all. If you've ever used one of those $1.99 hammers from China, you may have noticed little dents in the hammerhead developing with use. This is because an inferior steel was used, or because the steel was not tempered, or most likely both. The forging process also packs the molecules in tighter ,and those bargain specials are likely to have been cast rather than drop forged. Black smithing hammers and anvils must also be hard and unyielding; but the metals they are banged against are likely to be as hard as they are. Heating the working steel makes it softer and more ductile, however, so the hammer and anvil, left cold, are hard enough not to be damaged. Hot forging is also far easier than cold forging, since the very ductility that saves the tool surfaces also makes it easier to move the work surfaces into the desired shapes!

Damascus: Actually describes any number of mixtures of steels. Metal is surface welded together in layers to create the basic billet from which the blade is created. Originally, layers of essentially identical mild steel were pounded together, the result folded or cut in half, repeated, again and again. Because of the surface carbon packing effect, each treatment created layers of high carbon, resulting in a low carbon blade shot thru with mild carbon layers. Much of the benefit here is lost now that better, higher carbon throughout steels are available-this technique was developed in Damascus, and in Japan, where poor steel quality made this show the most improvement. Still, there is some benefit to having two metals of differing character- the blade may take on the better qualities of each: this is the usual method today; layering high and low carbon, or even more exotic nickel alloys with carbon steels, all the better to show off the intricate patterns in the layered steel. Also, a new technique relies on placing a bundle of rods together and welding and hammering into a sheet- I have seen metal with writing imbedded in the steel! A further benefit, the differing layers handle sharpening differently, creating microserrations in the edge, an effect similar to the steak knife. Actually, due to the time, expense, and technique involved, I do little work in this, mostly knives and daggers: the price I must set is usually prohibitive. As an interesting aside, it would appear that the case for the steel we refer to as Damascus may not have ever been made there. The iron deposits available for steel in that area were in Lebanon, and seem to have been depleted quite early. Damascus was however a major trade nexus between the West and the East, and it seems likely that the strange technique developed in the east simply funneled thru Damascus and was thought to have originated there by western civilization. CONSTRUCTION A finished sword generally consists of

a blade fitted to a crossguard, handle, and pommel at the end. The crossguard can be made from a single piece of metal with a slot cut thru it for the tang, or from several pieces fit together to surround the tang. Pommels are generally welded to the base of the tang, but can also be drilled and tapped, and the tang narrowed to a rod and threaded, then screwed together. The handle is most often wrapped in rope, then in leather. Another option, however, is to create a hollow slot thru a wooden handle, and slide the tang thru: this method can only be used if the pommel is not to be welded on, and is the best method for affixing a crossguard which cannot be welded on, as the pommel can be made to create pressure on the entire handle by screwing it in tightly. A third method is to rivet two flat pieces of wood onto the flat sides of the tang, known as the "full tang" method, as the tang extends the full width of the handle. BLADE STRUCTURE A blade itself is a flat piece of steel generally running from the base of a tang; the rectangle of steel the hilt assembly will be built around, widening to the base of the blade proper at the shoulders, then running for a distance before tapering to a point, and sharpened to create an edge at least partway down at least one side, sometimes with a fuller. The tang of many commercially available swords consists of a 3/16" rod or 1/4" wide strip. This makes drilling thru the handle a simple process, and saves a little on material. Unfortunately, this rod has a great deal of difficulty standing up to the stresses imparted by combat or use. Most sword damage consists of a break or bend in the tang, which is always the weakest part of a sword. Our usual practice is to use a tang a full inch in width, heat treated along with the rest of the blade if applicable; this

lends the greatest possible strength to this area of the blade while still allowing a comfortable grip. With rapiers and daggers we most often use a 3/4" tang, as the stresses are lower on such lighter pieces, and a narrower grip is desirable. Most of the blades we make start with a 1 inch wide rectangle 5-9 inches in length (the tang,) then widen to 1 to 2 inches at a 90 degree angle(the base,) then gradually narrow down to to 1 inch wide over most of the length of the blade (taper.) followed by a much sharper taper to a point at the end over the final to 1 inch (the tip.) Often seen in artists renderings, and some real historical swords, is the non tapered sword blade, which is a rectangular tang, widening to a base, with no taper until the point, which covers the full width of the blade in the final couple of inches. I also make a leaf blade style, which actually widens over the taper, and a Celtic blade which gradually curves out to the midpoint and then back to the point, like a pair of arcs meeting along the center. The seax consists of a blade with a straight back, and an edge which gradually widens over most of the length, then drops sharply to the spine. Blades curved back along this spine run from the scimitar shape (basically a curved seax) thru the Katana to the saber or cutlass. Beyond this are a wide variety of fantasy and historical shapes too numerous to mention. Blade shapes differing significantly from our normal stock will require an additional $90 for design work, and we cannot vouch for the practicality of the finished piece. Our normal edge is designed for stage combat: 1/2" edge with a clear break line, not actually sharp, but with that illusion. For the Jousters, we actually rounded that false edge (I pioneered this edge on the dagger I made for my daughter.) We can also sharpen the blades, especially the harder steels- they will however nick more easily and stand a greater risk of throwing a chip. For a diamond cross section-edged all the way into the center- we charge extra, as there is

a great deal more work both creating and tempering the blade. We can also run a fuller- an indentation running partway down the center of the blade on both sides, designed to lighten the blade without taking away its structural strength, for $50 extra on most blades FINISHES Blade rough with polished edges Blade polished throughout Blade blued (blackened with gun blueing) Blade Burnished (polished before tempered and the resultant blackening wire brushed) to a flat gray Hilt and pommel with any of the above or Wax gilded brass, antique brass, gold, copper, or silver.

PROCESSES The steel itself is more important than the forming method by and large. There are some advantages to forging, but I believe its adherents place too much priority on them. Nonetheless, here goes: By forging the blade, you condense its structure, and add carbon to the surface. This creates a blade with a harder surface and a softer interior, giving both a good edge and greater resistance to breakage. Unfortunately, since nearly all forged weapons are finished by smoothing over a belt sander or at least edged with a file, this microlayer is usually removed anyway. (note that the carbonizing effect does not occur in an electric forge, nor in most other modern forges- it is a result of heating while in contact with carbon based fuel, typically a charcoal or coal forge {not the charcoal used in the suburbs, which has a sand content}) Nonetheless, the funny thing about steel is its mutability. Heating to critical (just prior to melting) temperature changes its internal structure, and the rate at which it is cooled

determines the structure which is locked in. A blade formed by any of the above methods and then tempered will have roughly the same characteristics, given the same steel. Heat treatment is the single biggest determiner of blade quality after steel; in fact untreated 1095 (a good high carbon steel) has roughly the same characteristics as A-36 (a decent but effectively untreatable mild carbon steel.)

Cutting the blank: the basic shape of the steel can of course be formed entirely by hammering from a raw chunk of steel into any shape desired. In practice, it is much more efficient to take a bar of steel of the desired thickness, cut it roughly to the desired shape then work it into a blade. Methods include: Profiling: drilling a series of holes close together, then hack sawing them into a line. Abrading: using a circular saw with a metal cutting abrasive blade to cut the lines Profiling by abrading: for complex shapes, cutting a series of lines in tangential to the desired line, then cutting the resultant cut ends to the desired line. Torch cutting: Preheating the surface to red with a mixture of oxygen and acetylene gases, then turning the oxygen up high and burning a hole in the metal. The torch is run smoothly along the desired line, and the heat of the burning metal at the tip heats the nearby metal sufficiently to allow it to ignite as the torch reaches it. Plasma arc cutting: Running a very hot spark across a gap, and blowing gas past it at high pressure; this creates a jet of plasma which blasts a hole thru the metal, run along the line at a good speed this created a smooth line and heats the remainder of the piece very little.

Water jet cutting: A very high pressure jet of water with sand particles is directed at the metal and blasts a hole thru, running along to create the line. Shearing: The metal is placed along a step line, and a very heavy weight is dropped along the step line, forcing the protruding portion to break off and drop down. This can be used only to create straight lines Die Cutting: Similar to Shearing, a die is formed with the complete profile of the blade, and stamped down with several tons of pressure to "cookie cut" the shape out. Milling: A rapidly spinning tool similar to a router blade is moved along the perimeter for the blade. We commonly use a CAD driven plasma arc cutter for complex shapes, and a combination of shearing and abrading for simple shapes. The blade itself can then be shaped in a variety of ways, which fall into two wide categories: HOT TECHNIQUES Forging: moving orange hot metal by repeated hammer blows on an anvil. Drop forging: placing the hot metal between two relief molds, then smashing it into the form with a sudden multi-ton blow. Rolling: squeezing a hot bar of metal thru a set of rollers set at angles. COLD TECHNIQUES: Cold forging: moving metal by hammer blows against an anvil while at room temperature. Only feasible with soft metals, and at that much more force is needed than would be at high temperatures. Stock Removal : grinding away metal to leave only the desired shape LaForge generally uses a combination of

hot forging and stock removal to create finished pieces. Bead blasting is a process similar to sandblasting; tiny beads of glass are blown at high pressure at the surface to remove the scale and create a smooth finish. It is very quick, and no skill is necessary, so the process can be automated. The equipment is expensive, large and loud, probably not appropriate to small workshops. It is superior to sandblasting in that the beads are uniform in size and better behaved, leaving a smoother surface. The non automated version of the equipment (which is all I have used) consists of a large box with a lexan window and two holes sealed around heavy neoprene gloves. You pass a piece of metal thru a door, and pick it up with one glove while handling a hose nozzle with the other. Switch on with a foot control, and spray the piece, moving it around until you have blasted the entire surface smooth. The box has a vacuum at the bottom which sucks the beads back in and shoots them out the nozzle again. TEMPERING Tempering is the heat treating process used to change the molecular structure of a blade. For a simple example of differing molecular structure, consider carbon. At room temperature, pure carbon can be found as Soot: completely non connected individual molecules of carbon. Really just powder, no cohesiveness at all. Dead black in color. Coal: a loose conglomeration of carbon with a fairly random structure. Breakable soft rock in form. >From flat to a glossy black, depending on the actual structure and other minerals mixed in. Graphite: molecules closely packed in flat sheets, stacked closely together. Pencil lead, as an example. More solid and smooth, fractures along planar levels. Diamond: Molecules tightly bonded

in a close three dimensional array. Clear, extremely hard, breaks along cleavage planes. Similarly, steels can be found in a variety of structures while solid at room temperature. The desired structures can be bought into steel by the process of heating to varying levels, then cooling at controlled rates. The part of the process with which most people are familiar is quenching: metal is heated to high temperatures, as high as 2000 degrees or more, depending on the exact steel alloy and the desired characteristics; then plunged still glowing into a liquid, most often room temperature water, to cool suddenly, locking the crystal structure into the steel by passing thru the other potential states too quickly for the molecules to move into their other patterns. Actually, different steels have different ideal quenching materials and procedures; A series for example (like A-36) are air quench, they cool properly left in room temperature air. O series cool best in warm oil, Salt water is used for many steels, some exotic mixtures must be cooled in a noble gas environment to prevent oxidization. Steels which have been quenched are generally very hard, but often quite brittle, a good tap with a hammer and they shatter, not to mention what would happen if crossed against another sword. Thus, a second step, known as drawing out, is used to toughen a blade and possibly induce springiness. The blade is reheated to somewhere between 450 and 600 degrees, again depending on the metal and desired character, then cooled again, sometimes by quenching, often air cooling, sometimes even more slowly, leaving them in the kiln and reducing temperatures over as much as a full day until room temperature is reached. Robert Earhart Fight Captain & Blacksmith ---------------------------------------------------------------------------