Butterfly Sword, what is good steel for the blade?

Discussion in 'Chinese Swords and Sword Arts' started by Flying Crane, Oct 25, 2011.

  1. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I'm in need of a bit of advice here, maybe some people with more familiarity with butterfly swords can give some guidance.

    I see some butterfly swords that look pretty good, on Sifu Wing Lam's website, www.wle.com. Specifically, I'm looking at item number W450.

    I called them, and was told the blades are made of "stainless steel". Similar items, number WGL304 and WGL303, are listed as "high carbon stainless steel", and apparently the W450 is sort of a base model that Sifu Wing Lam then customizes into the other models.

    I know that stainless steel is generally frowned upon as a sword blade, but am not sure how it would perform as a shorter yet heavy Butterfly sword. I also know that there are many types of "stainless steel", and obviously do not know specifically what this type is. Does anyone have any thoughts on this, or does anyone have any experience with these particular items from Sifu Wing Lam?

    I asked for more information about the tang, how robust it is, and whether it goes all the way thru the handle. The woman on the phone is going to send me an email when she gets an answer to these questions.

    Thanks!
     
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  2. David43515

    David43515 Master Black Belt

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    Well, different steels are made for different purposes, so I guess I should ask what you plan on doing with the swrords. Heavy chopping? Forms training? Blunt the edges and do weapon on weapon demos?

    Most modern kitchen knives are made from some type of stainless steel, so for basic cutting at a demo ( soft targets like vegies etc) anything should be okay. If you were thinking of cutting something harder (heavy cardboard rolls, bamboo poles, a large hunk of meet w/ bones in) I`d stay away from D-2 because it can be brittle and chip at the edge or tip. for weapon on weapon demos you wouldn`t be doing any actual cutting ( I HOPE) so your main concern is whether or not the tang will hold up w/o breaking. Really only Sifu Lam can tell you how wide the tang under the handles are since he removes the handle and customizes them.
    I`d assume anything he`s selling would be good enough for solo practice and demos. If you want something for cutting practice I`d stay away from D-2 because of the brittleness and 440 series(labeled 440-A, -B, or -C) because it won`t hold an edge well.I doubt if you have to worry about finding D-2 because it`s expensive tool steel used to make dies. It slices like a dream but doesn`t make good choppers.
     
  3. Carol

    Carol Crazy like a...

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    If Sifu just describes his blades as "stainless" then I betcha dollars to donuts he doesn't do his own bladesmithing, he either resells production knives or buys the blades founded by someone else. There's nothing wrong with this...however, it may make the origin and the materials difficult to track down. He and his staff many not even know what it is made of. There are lots of blade shops in Asia (esp. China) making blades for export to the west, where they are sold at a tidy profit. Its difficult to know without more information, and it is extremely difficult to tell without looking at the blade. Stainless steel has a grain, not unlike the grain of a wood. The finer the grain, the better the steel is for making blades.

    As far as stainless goes, there is some fine stainless out there in blades.

    Stainless 440C, pooh-poohed as it is, is one of the first "high end" steels that was founded. Its carbon content is substantial. The difference in the 440s (A, B, C), is that they all introduce some carbon content, A is medium carbon, B is high carbon, C has the most carbon. The additional carbon makes the blade tougher and able to hold a sharper edge. (It also makes it more difficult to sharpen, and requires more skill in the founding).

    That being said, the steel foundry has seen some tremendous improvement in technology in recent decades. 440C is less of a steel of choice, especially for smaller blades because better precision steels have been developed from newer alloys...many developed in Japan. To the consumer's advantage, amounts the size of a smaller knife (such as a folder) can be used while still keeping prices reasonable. In larger amounts, it becomes more difficult to keep the price down. These higher grade blade steels often use a wee bit less chromium, and blend other elements in to the steel such as vanadium and molybdenum to make it tougher....less brittle, able to hold an edge longer. They are also more difficult to sharpen.

    Lots of stainless alloys in bladesmithing.
    AUS-8 steel, a very common knife steel, is a steel with the carbon of 440B (high carbon), with added vanadium to make the steel tougher.
    AUS-10 similar to 440C (higher carbon), with the added vanadium.
    VG-10 (common in Spydercos, and my fave), is a stainless that has slightly less carbon than 440C but other elements such as cobalt to make the blade very strong.

    Companies like Ka-Bar tend to use tool steels.
    1095, a high carbon steel used in safes, was fortified with Vanadium, to make 1095CV -- this is their predominant steel used in some variation by our troops for decades.
    D2 (which David metioned) is a newer steel that has a lot of extra alloys, it can hold a seriously sharp edge, but is not as good of a chopping steel.
    Many fledgeling and independent bladesmiths try to buy up old files at garage sales...the blend of tool steel is extremely tough, excellent for making a good quality blade.

    You get the picture. Many blade steels take 440B or 440C or some other common stainless or tool-blend steel and kick it up a notch with the extra alloys. The best blend depends on its purpose.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2011
  4. clfsean

    clfsean Senior Master

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    Dude... are these for you?
     
  5. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    yup.

    Sifu's first White Crane teacher, Luk Chi Fu, came from a Choy Lay Fut background, and our Butterfly Swords are from that history. They may have been modified a bit to fit better into White Crane principles, but it's originally from CLF.
     
  6. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Mostly forms practice, but I like the idea of having weaponry that is as real as possible. I detest training with "toy" weapons, cheap Modern Wushu crap. I stopped playing with toy weapons when I was about 12.

    thanks for the comments, I appreciate it.
     
  7. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    yes, this is what he is doing. These originate in China, and he does some customizing on them. I believe it is entirely possible that he does not know specifically what kind of stainless steel these are.

    good info, thanks!
     
  8. MPC1257

    MPC1257 Yellow Belt

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  9. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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  10. clfsean

    clfsean Senior Master

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    www.kriscutlery.com ... they are one of the few "butterfly sword" purveyors. I'd send you the direct link but the firewall/Net Nannie frowns on "weapons". Wing Lam's custom ones are really nice & also are "butterfly sword" design. They're more expensive by about double than the Kris Cutlery ones & I can't justify the price difference.

    I've got a nice heavy set of "melon chopper" bladed ones (most commonly found) I got from Bak Li Tat or Bok Li Po... I forget which. Great for training & I don't worry about the blades because they look like a stainless or plated at least.

    I'll look at home for more info & get back to you.
     
  11. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    yeah, another website I can't see until I go home.

    Thanks for the link tho, I'm definitely looking for a better quality pair, I don't care who makes them as long as the quality is good.
     
  12. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng Sr. Grandmaster

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    Do you mean Bok Lei Po

    http://www.bokleipo.com/product_info.php?products_id=1883
     
  13. Blindside

    Blindside Senior Master

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    Someone beat me to it, an advantage of at least taking a look at KC's product is that they are in your neck of the woods (Pinole, CA) and that you could probably get to actually handle them in person if you ask nice. :D
     
  14. Carol

    Carol Crazy like a...

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    Big +1 for the Traditional Filipino Weapons site. Ron Kosakowski is the real deal. I've heard good things about Kris Cutlery too, but personally I'm partial to Ron, many of us here have interacted with him (he's a member of MT) and/or know him personally.
     
  15. zepedawingchun

    zepedawingchun Black Belt

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    A couple of students and I have these exact pair you're asking about. They also came from WLE. They are great swords for demos and training. They are not sharp, and pretty sturdy. We use them for training against rattan, bamboo, and hardwood weapons. They can take a good bit of punishment. The tangs are very sturdy also. From experience, I can say you can't go wrong with purchasing a pair, as long as you use them for training, demos, and even decoration.
     
  16. clfsean

    clfsean Senior Master

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  17. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Thank you. I was not hopeful that someone here would have direct experience with these. Glad to find I'm wrong. Much appreciated.
     
  18. cdunn

    cdunn 2nd Black Belt

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    Good post, Carol.

    Something that we have to remember, too, is that while many people hammer on the idea of stainless for longsword geometries, that the blade geometry and the steel work together to make the functional strength of the sword or knife. The geometry of a butterfly sword, with the broad blade and short length is going to be more forgiving of brittleness than a katana. The WLE W450 may well be perfectly fine, even if it's made of 440C - but the SG108 is a bad idea, because the tachi / katana is designed around layered steel.

    Every blade is a series of compromises. Some are made in the metal; as carbon content goes up, hardness of the steel goes up, and it holds a sharper edge and wears less, but toughness goes down, and the metal is more brittle, and breaks more readily. This isn't always bad. Stainless involves more of a trade off of toughness and flexibility for corrosion resistance. Some compromises are made in the shape: What are we asking it to do? Thus, we make scapels and razors out of tempered 400 series stainless - it's hard, holds its edge a long time, but it's never going to be asked to flex. A longsword has to be able to flex, or it shatters - 400 series stainless is thus a poorer choice. A butcher's knife or butterfly sword? Well, how much flexing do they really do?
     
  19. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    These are EXACTLY the issues that I had in mind when I started this thread. Thanks!
     
  20. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng Sr. Grandmaster

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