I've only made one sword that's anything like a broadsword. It's the one at the bottom, or on the left. Here is a picture of my broadsword all by itself, and a hilt closeup. Also, you may find useful help on my Blade Making page. It covers steels and blade shapes.
But many of the site visitors comment about wanting to make one, so I've established this page. (Although the broadswords people ask me about making sound more like giant iron clubs, or maybe humongous axes!)
I intend for it to be a place for feedback. Anybody who does make one can send me what they learned, and I'll post it here for the beginners who come along. So PLEASE send some help! Still waiting, after two years!
Here's what I can recommend for any potential broadsword makers.
The steel that you use is important. One person (Mike) that I've personally seen demonstrating his swords at Renaissance Faires uses SAE-1060 plain carbon steel, hardened and then tempered to Rockwell C - 52 hardness. In his demo "spiel" he bends them about 90 degrees and they spring back to straight. He chops them into a cheap, imported replica sword and leaves big nicks in the replica without damaging his own blade. Then he chops a chunk off a cement block, again without damaging his blade. He cuts his blades out of flat spring steel bar stock and grinds the edge bevels on. I think he uses a hand-held angle grinder for the bevels. The last time I saw him, he said he'd started cutting the blades out with a plasma cutter, so now he had blades that tapered toward the point instead of having the edges parallel for the whole length.
Other good steels are 1075, 1095, and best is probably 5160 leaf spring steel. That's my opinion, based on things that I've read. I use 5160 for my (few) sword blades. 3/16 inch thick is a very good starting point, too. An article in "Knives Illustrated" for February, 1999 about a new, super tough steel from Crucible Steel, called CPM3V. Its impact resistance is over twice that of D2 tool steel and 440C stainless, and similar to the impact resistance of 5160!
For info on types of steel for blades, go see http://www.cancom.net/~hnilica/metals.html
See the newsgroup posting article about using 5160 steel for sword blades.
Also see this article about forging big Claymore blades.
An article in "Blade" Magazine, April 1999 issue, on page 50, entitled "Katanas and Cowboy Boots" describes Michael Bell's 30 year career making swords. It mentions that he has recently "brought in a apprentice who is learning the swordmaking trade and making stock removal pieces with 1050 medium carbon steel blades."
There's a nice article in "Knives Illustrated" for February, 1999 about professional knifemaker Phill Hartsfield. He makes a lot of swords, mostly Japanese style. He became a full-time maker over 20 years ago. The article gives quite a bit of information on his blade methods, materials and results. He has experimented with most high-carbon steels, including stainless. But he will never sell a stainless steel knife. He says "Stainless is not a cutting type steel." He's tried O1 and D2 but settled on A2. It resists rust, and [his] A2 blades are tougher and stay sharp longer than all the other tool steels he's tried. The blades are sharpened to a 'chisel' edge, meaning ground on only one side. The edge is hardened to RC 60-61. The blade back is a softer RC 58-59. The softer back gives a sword blade the flexibility it needs to prevent breaking.
To find 'recycled' or used steel, here is some ideas on what kind of steel is used to make common items like springs, files, axles, and so on: <<Junkyard Steel.url>> at http://www.flash.net/~dwwilson/junksteel.html. Spyderco has a very good steel and alloys properties page on their www.spyderco.com, too.
The quality of the heat treating is just as important as the quality of the steel. For example, I could take a piece of plain, high-carbon tool steel and cut it in half. Then take one half and form it into a cutting tool. After hardening and tempering it, I could cut up the other half with it. Or another demonstration would be to take two files and heat one of them red hot, then cool it slowly. The unheated file will then easily cut or smooth or reshape the heated one. If you put a normal file in a vise and grip about an inch of the tip, then whack the upper half of the exposed part with a hammer, it will snap off easily. But if you put the tip of that heated and cooled file in the vise, you could push on the end and bend the file 90 or even 180 degrees without breaking it. It will have become soft. It could also be made into a spring. Heating the steel red hot and then cooling it very slowly is called 'annealing' the steel. Blades should always be annealed after the forming work is done and before the hardening and tempering part of the heat treating.
All of this should point out that you could either have or prevent having serious damage to the edge of the sword blade, depending on the quality of the steel and the heat treatment. Another good way of preventing blade edge damage is to avoid parrying with the edge of the blade, and use the flat or better yet, use a shield.
The angle of the bevel on the edge of the blade is important, too. A small angle, with a long, thin bevel will give a sharp edge good for cutting but it will be weak and easily damaged. A more blunt angle is better for a blade which will be used against armor or which will be used for parrying. See Fig. 5 diagrams.
A very important consideration in sword blade design is the weight of the blade. It may be macho, or psychologically gratifying to have a big, heavy blade. And it's probably more visually impressive, too. But it takes a lot of exercise to become capable of effectively swinging one. Especially swinging it more than once or twice. Notice the word 'effectively' there. That means accurately, predictably, frequently, and with control.
Remember, a sword is a cutting tool, not a bludgeon or sledge hammer. (Although the broadswords people ask me about making sound more like giant iron clubs, or maybe humongous axes!)
A small variation in thickness of the blade will have a big effect on its weight, because that variation is distributed over the whole area of the blade. For example (again), a blade made of steel 1/4 inch thick will be 33% heavier than one that is only 1/16 of an inch thinner, at 3/16 thick. It is also important for good balance to taper the blade in width and in thickness. Full width and thickness near the tip will keep the balance point far away from your hand. The closer the balance point is to your hand, the easier and quicker you can manipulate the blade, but the less impact or "hammer action" it has. A typical sword weighed about three pounds. A rather heavy sword would weigh about four pounds. A lightweight rapier is only two to two and a half pounds.
For more information, read the articles from "The Best of the Hammer" linked on my Information Page. These will be useful.
For an interesting idea for a broadsword hilt crossguard, see Fig. 4 diagram. This idea came from a great book called "The Singing Sword" by Jack Whyte. For more information about Whyte's books and his version of how to make Excalibur, go see my Excalibur page.
Here are some places, some on the internet, to look for more information that applies to making a broadsword:
First, since making swords is basically the same as making knives, read these magazines:
Second, check with your local library and get all the books they can find about making knives. There are many in print. (see myInformation Page.) A good place to find out just what's in print and available is to search for "knifemaking" at www.amazon.com.
There's a newsgroup called news:alt.armourers that often has questions and answers about swords. And there is some similar discussion on a message board of the Society for Creative Anachronism, but I'm not sure how to get to it. I've only read summaries or collections of messages saved in archives. And there is a mailing-list type of discussion group for knifemakers, with quite a few professionals participating in it. But I don't know right now how to get on the list, either. Some searching or following links from knifemaker's sites will probably get you there. I did see occasional discussions of sword-making when I was getting the list.
Don Fogg's katana forging sword class - D. Fogg Knives: http://www.dfoggknives.com/sword.htm
Modern Japanese Sword Smiths, Polishers and more: http://www.stanford.edu/~jgates/sword/index.html
Medieval Swordsmanship book [Paladin Press, or also from www.righthook.com, ]
Dr. Jim Hrisoulas's videos and books, the only books that I know of which cover making swords - and they also cover pattern-welded (Damascus) blades.
Salamander Armoury- Hrisoulas' own web site: http://www.atar.com/
American Bladesmith Society Knifemaking school in Texarkana, has a couple of one-week classes nearly every month on various subjects such as 'Intro to Bladesmithing' and 'Primitive Knives.' Contact:
ABS School Director Mr. Scotty Hayes Texarkana College 2500 North Robinson Road Texarkana, TX 75501 (903) 838-4541, ext. 237
Realswords, made in Spain by Colombatovich: [was at http://www.realswords.com/]
Forging Damascus Steel Blades http://www.navysealteams.com/UPLOADS/FORG.htm
SWORD FORUM Magazine Online - January 1999 Issue: http://swordforum.com/jan99/main.html
ALABAMA FORGE COUNCIL: [was at] http://www.the-matrix.com/afc/index.html
Blacksmith's Gazette HomePage: http://www.skagit.com/blacksmith/default.asp
BLACKSMITHS VIRTUAL JUNKYARD : http://www.forgemagic.com/blacksmith.htm
"anvilfire" online blacksmithing and metalworkers referencehas a lot of resources & FAQs http://www.anvilfire.com/
The Elektric Anvil : http://www.mcs.net/~frnklyn/elektric/anvil.html
These items are from a Society for Creative Anachronism discussion group:
<< Medieval swords, history of various types http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/rialto/swords-msg.html
<< Comments on the care of steel swords http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/rialto/swordcare-msg.html
<< Making sword scabbards. Different types http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/rialto/scabbards-msg.html
My Broadsword Making Project - November 2003
I received a commission to make a custom broadsword. Some description and lots of pictures are posted on the Broadsword Making Project page.
Finally, here are links to the feedback comments from broadsword makers:
1. Your Name could be the first to go here!
2. Your Name should go here!
3. Your Name should go here!
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