The steel your sword is made of is crucial to it’s performance and ability to withstand cuts and thrusts without any damage to the blade or the wielder. Regardless of the type of sword you purchase, if you are thinking of taking the sword outside for a couple practice swings against tatami mats or any other cutting material, you should make sure you have the right steel for your sword. Choosing a cheap sword with the wrong steel can prove to be both dangerous and a waste of your money if something should happen during your cutting.
Read below for what could happen if you buy a sword with “sword like object” steel!
What happens if I buy a stainless steel sword?
I will start this off with a little video of what can happen if you should choose a sword with stainless steel for the blade steel.
Now these are Katana’s (fake, obviously), in the video but any sword with stainless steel or other non-sword steel can break like this if used. As you can see also, it proved to be dangerous and a bad decision to use these (even though they weren’t technically being used). If these blades can do this just by hitting them a little bit on a table, just think about how they would stand up when you are putting them through the abuse of cutting…
These sword like objects with these metals are best left as wall hangers or kitchenware.
Steel used in REAL European swords
1045 Carbon Steel
1045 carbon steel is like the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to sword steel types. It is cheap and easy to work with, and as such, the price tags on swords made with 1045 are significantly cheaper than those made with other steel types such as 1060 and 1095.
Most, if not all, swords that simply state “high carbon steel” as a blade metal type are probably made out of 1045 carbon steel.
Now I’m not saying that 1045 is a bad steel being that it is a heck of a lot better than stainless steel. 1045 can make quite an excellent usable sword provided it is tempered properly. Another thing that should be noted about 1045 is that it is the MINIMUM acceptable steel in creating a fully functional real sword. Sorry folks, stainless is not a real blade.
1060 Carbon Steel
Now we are getting to some better steel for forging real swords. 1060 carbon steel has a carbon content between 0.55-0.65%. This steel is very durable and can take a good beating when you are using your sword to cut.
1060 carbon steel is harder than 1045 and as such is harder to work with. You can expect and will receive a bit of a higher price tag on swords that their blades are made out of 1060 carbon steel. It does vary from forge to forge though in the end. The forge that comes to my mind 99% of the time when it comes to 1060 carbon steel forged blades is Darksword Armory. Pretty much all their swords and daggers are made with 1060 high carbon steel. It does make an excellent blade. If you can afford a little more money, I highly suggest picking a 1060 carbon steel blade over a 1045 carbon steel blade.
Here is a little video by Sword-Buyers-Guide that really shows you the durability and excellent craftsmanship of a Darksword Armory sword forged in 1060 carbon steel.
1095 Carbon Steel
Here we are now at the last popular plain high carbon steel type for sword making. The extra hard 1095 carbon steel. This steel type is one of the better steels for making a sword to hold an exceptional edge. However, as with 1060, if it is not properly tempered, it becomes very very brittle. 1095 carbon steel is not as durable as 1060 and quite honestly, in my opinion 1060 is a better steel for sword making. You get a better balance in edge holding capability and strength in the blade. But like I said above, 1095 will hold an edge better since it is so hard, but try not to strike anything to hard with it as you risk damaging the whole blade.
All in all, 1095 carbon steel can produce excellent sword blades no doubt. It depends on what you as an individual are looking for in a sword and how well the swordsmith does his job. All 3 of the above mentioned carbon steels can produce great swords that will last you a lifetime and then some.
But there is still more!
5160 Spring Steel
5160 spring steel is an alloy steel used to make blades on swords and knives. It is known for being both tough and durable while having good wear resistance. Some well known forges that use 5160 spring steel to forge their blades are Hanwei Forge and Generation 2.
Personally, I think that 5160 spring steel can make an excellent sword. It depends on the maker and how it was made. Heat tempering plays a huge role on the quality of a sword. Tempering a sword determines the hardness of the blade. Make a blade to hard and it becomes brittle and can break. Make it to soft and the blade will bend easily and it can cause an effect called a “whippy blade”. Basically, the blade will have to much flex.
All in all, like I said above though, a sword forged with 5160 spring steel can be a good sword as long as it is made correctly.
So we have covered some of the most popular steel types for forging a proper European style sword that can be classified as a real, battle ready sword. In my honest opinion, I believe the best steel type on this page is 1060 high carbon steel. Darksword-Armory has made many very excellent, quality swords using this steel. It has the right qualities to make a sword that will be able to be used in real combat. I’m not suggesting that you start the next battle of Hastings in your back yard though.
There are still a couple tool steels like T-10 tool steel and L6 Bainite that make excellent swords too, but they aren’t used too often. They are around though and some forges are starting to use these two steels a little more.
All of the sword steels listed here can produce real swords that are quality. Like I said though, it depends on WHO made it and HOW it was made. Keep this in mind always and only buy from trusted and known sword forges for your own safety and happiness.
Thanks for reading this article on steel types for European swords. Check out the rest of the site for more real sword information and keep learning about real swords. They are awesome after all.