Folded Steel Sword

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Does folding modern steel do anything to enhance a sword?

I read that contrary to popular belief, today's folded steel swords are only made that way for tradition and cosmetics. In the past steel was very impure and therefore had to be folded in order to make a good sword. Today's steel manufacturing provides very pure steel and so folding the metal only makes it look nicer, but does nothing to improve the function of the blade.

What do you think of this?

That's true of Cheness modern metallurgical materials and forge construction. Modern monostone is several times stronger than the steel used in Medieval Europe or Feudal Japan. In Japan it was said that good steel doesn't break when you hit something hard, but folds/bends. That meant "good steel" as rated back then would take a "permanent" bend at no more than 15 or 30 degrees of bending. Modern monosteels can be bent 45 degrees without a permanent bend. Cheness spring steel can be bent 90 degrees without taking a permanent bend. That means breaking modern monosteel becomes even more difficult. If you took back a spring steel or tool steel blade back to the past, it would be seen as their age's nuclear weapon or magical sword. While they were able to construct swords to get the job done of cutting through bone and flesh, making it do weird gyrations like modern steel can, was impossible. Tool steel and silicon spring steel didn't exist back then. (Tool steel can only be bent 15-30 degrees depending on heat treatment, but the ability to hold an edge even after cutting other metals like iron and steel, is what gives it superior edge capabilities)

It is collectors that want the historical forging process and want blades made from this, that pay for folded steel and differential hardening. Differential hardening does not make the modern metallurgy of spring steel or tool steel stronger, in fact it can make them weaker. For softer high carbon steels such as 1045 or 1050, differential hardening may improve their structural strength. But I haven't heard much on this either way.

The Japanese folded steel because their ore was very hard to use straight out of the melt. Europeans had their own methods. Indians used clay jars and sealed carbon and impurities inside so that they mix with the steel, while the pot is heated.

Sword steel ideally has several impurities in it on a fixed ratio, giving it better qualities and making it easier to temper and cool. These impurites can be artificially added via factory processes, so often times the forger doesn't have to do it manually. All they need to know is what X percent of impurities they want with their steel, and custom order it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tool_steel

That is just "one" example of modern metallurgical products. There are plenty more. The primary purpose of historical construction methods for swords was to make them get the appropriate carbon content. Otherwise, they can't hold an edge. Iron is soft. To get a hard steel that can hold an edge and cut things, you need to put carbon in it. Carbon doesn't just come out of the ground with the iron ore so humans had to find ways of putting it in. That's what folding steel accomplishes, with some other benefits. Every time Japanese smiths hammer on the red hot bar of metal, I heard that this is supposed to make it absorb more carbon from the air. Then they hammer it into something flat, then fold it, and do it all over again.

The Hamon aesthetic is not a result of the folding process. The hamon aesthetic line is a result of differential hardening and other tempering processes. You could, theoretically, have pretty crappy sword steel that still has a hamon, but historical methods usually prevented that.

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