Butterfly Sword, what is good steel for the blade?

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

  1. David43515

    David43515 Master Black Belt

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    I just looked again at the ones on Traditionalfilipinoweapons.com and I realized I made a mistake when I said they had 18" blades. They`re actually 16". My mistake.
     
  2. MPC1257

    MPC1257 Yellow Belt

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    I don't have that information but I will forward these questions to him and let him either post here or send me an email which I will post.
     
  3. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Grandmaster

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    I actually was just sharing some emails with him, I believe I've got the information now.

    Thanks again, I appreciate you bringing these to my attention. Very good looking stuff!
     
  4. MPC1257

    MPC1257 Yellow Belt

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    It was my pleasure. This is why I'm on this forum, to learn and possibly help someone else out. Good luck with whatever you buy.
    Marty
     
  5. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Grandmaster

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    I purchased a pair of these and they arrived yesterday. I thought I'd give a brief review of the weapons, understanding that I have not had a chance to train with them yet.

    Firstly, I believe these are solid, well made, well crafted pieces, made of quality material. They are very good knives, for a very fair price. The quality of the steel is high, the guards are made of thick and robust steel, the grips are nicely shaped hardwood. They are attractive and well made and are very sharp.

    The blades are not as wide as many that I have seen. This narrower profile makes them less point heavy and they feel a bit more like a small sword, than a meat cleaver. If the heavy chopping meat cleaver is what you desire, these may not be the ones for you. But I find them to be very lively and quick and I like the narrower profile. The blades are appropriately tapered both distally and from spine to edge. Unlike the cheap practice pieces that have a blade cut from flat sheet metal, this tapering also reduces the weight and makes them less point heavy.

    Minor complaints: The grips are flat on one side to allow them to fit together in the sheath. This is fine all by itself, but the flatness creates an edge on the grip that is a bit uncomfortable. I will take a file and some sandpaper and round those edges a bit, and I think that will improve the comfort a lot. It should be an easy fix.

    The handle appears to be permanently attached, which I regard as a good thing with these knives. The only drawback is that I cannot view the tang and see how robust it is. GIven the overall quality of the piece, I am willing to accept that the tang is probably well made and robust, but it would be nice to see it or otherwise know for sure how robust it is. This is an issue that I feel is better if it is overbuilt, and knowing that gives me a bit of piece of mind.

    The sheath is a leather piece and is acceptable and functional, but I would suggest it be made of a thicker and stiffer leather. Again, I tend to favor over-building.

    these are minor issues and should not be taken as an indictment of these pieces. I am very happy with them, I believe the overall quality of materials and workmanship is very high, and I would definitely recommend them to others. The price is surprisingly fair, given the quality.

    I also have my eye on the dao and gim that is listed on the website. If the quality is equal to the butterfly swords, those should also be very good pieces for an extremely fair price.

    Go buy some. You won't be disappointed.
     
  6. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng Sr. Grandmaster

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    Don't DO this to me.... I look at the Dao and then I look at thier Jian and now I want to buy them :disgust: :uhyeah:


    Thanks for the site, I may be purchasing from them as well, I've been looking for a good Jian. Let me know what you think about the butterfly swords after you trained with them a bit
     
  7. clfsean

    clfsean Senior Master

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    That shape you have is "the" butterfly sword. The larger blades (like mine) are referred to as "melon choppers" even though for ease of use are called butterfly swords.
     
  8. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Grandmaster

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    I didn't realize there was a distinction, other than variations in design. Do you happen to know if the different systems that train butterfly swords prefer one over the other, and if method and technique reflects this?
     
  9. clfsean

    clfsean Senior Master

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    Honestly I don't. I think it probably (IMO & unsubtantiated) originated from what was available or better suited to the local region. Kinda like how there are different versions of machetes.
     
  10. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Grandmaster

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    That would make sense. use what's available. If you know a smith who can make something more refined, use that.

    Kinda like I asked sifu if there was a difference in useage between a normal dao and a willowleaf dao. He told me no, use is the same, willowleaf can just be lighter from the narrower blade.
     
  11. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng Sr. Grandmaster

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    When I started Wing Chun the first time I bought these... are these what you are calling Mellon Choppers

    [​IMG]
     
  12. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Grandmaster

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    I bought a pair of those way back when I was a kid. There was a bit on the guard that extended past the butt of the grip, and it jabs you in the wrist if you aren't careful.

    worst design I've ever seen.
     
  13. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Grandmaster

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    melon choppers
     
  14. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng Sr. Grandmaster

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    They don't look that way amnymore.... I customized them so they would not kill my wrist. :EG:

    BUt I will admit they are rather cheap and if I go back to serious Wing Chun Training I WILL be buying a much better set
     
  15. Jeffrey Modell

    Jeffrey Modell White Belt

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    The “Best Steel” for Chinese Butterfly Knives


    I design Butterfly Swords (“BFS”) for personal use and on a professional basis (in the evening, not my day job) under the Modell Design LLC umbrella, http://www.modelldesignllc.com website. You can also see work product at http://www.everythingwingchun.com/wing-chun-butterfly-swords-s/35.htm web-site (look for the integral knives and flagship line). I recommend that anyone who has a serious interest in BFS read the following two articles:

    Jeffrey Modell, Esq., History & Design of Butterfly Swords, Kung Fu Tai Chi Magazine (March/April 2010)

    Jeffrey Modell, Esq., Modern Butterfly Swords, Kung Fu Tai Chi Magazine (July/August 2011)

    The proper design of each butterfly knife varies by style, school and individual. For example, Hung Gar uses a blade length a few inches past the elbow when held in reverse grip, and a stabbing blade shape that also slices. Wing Chun, depending on lineage, measures to the inside or outside of the elbow; it varies depending on the techniques the lineage uses. Longer is better unless you use an inside twirl that slices your bicep! Wing Chun uses a variety of blade shapes including bellied chopper, with preference depending on philosophy and school as well as the balance between stabbing/chopping/slicing techniques. There are 3 dimensional D Guards, flexible strip D Guards preferred by Moy Yat lineage, trapping D Guards, flipping D Guards, and D Guards that balance the two. There are individual preferences between full handles, slim line handles, War Era two-in-one handles, and Wing Chun “true” two-in-one handles. There are also school preferences for the balance point, traditional versus Machete style (a rarity).

    BFS were actually used for the village water wars, by militia, security guards and criminal gangs. You can design them for cheap manufacturing or you can design and spec them as real weapons. I only do the latter but once you have weapons-grade design, balance, construction and materials, the knives are dangerous even if blunt.

    I recommend in the strongest terms against training with live blades; if the construction is shoddy the blade may go flying and if it is good one slip can cut through tendon and bone. If you are at the Master level and insist on doing so, do it in private for the safety of everyone around, as shiny knives are an attractive nuisance.

    BFS are really just big knives. If you have a Chinese long sword, you are not going to risk the relative brittleness of a stainless steel. But for BFS anything done well that works on a big Western style knife will probably work on a BFS and that means the good stainless steels are an option as well as the medium and high carbon steels.

    The “best steel” depends on how you plan on using the knives. All of these answers assume you require a weapons-grade steel. ALL weapons-grade steels, including stainless, rust. Weapons-grade stainless is low maintenance, not no maintenance.

    If you use the knives just for single person practice, and you transport them to and fro in your trunk (especially in the Winter), the chief steel choice concern is going to be corrosion resistance which is impacted mostly by the balance between the carbon and chromium in the steel. So, you will want a stainless steel, or a high carbon steel that has been blued or covered in a good coating. Avoid chrome coatings, they flake off with age – especially if you store in your trunk during the Winter (expansion and contraction) – and impacts. Stainless steels have certain classifications, and the precise carbon/chromium mix is likely an allowable range to qualify for that classification. Of course, the steel furnace can be just plain dishonest or shoddy. Anyway, the less carbon (other elements also impact this but carbon is the primary one for the affordable steels) the softer and easier to manufacture so generic 420, a cheap non-weapons-grade stainless referred to as “Butter Steel,” is a likely culprit for crap knives. On the other hand, we can get quality Japanese 420J2 with carbon on the high end of the J2 range that can be professionally heat treated to weapons-grade. That would be about the least expensive weapons-grade stainless. Moving up the expense and quality chain, there is 420HC, 440B, 440C and the modern super knife steels.

    If someone says 440 and doesn’t have a letter A through C you should get a very bad feeling. If someone says “surgical grade steel” it could be 420J2 or not, all it needs to be is able to be easily sharpened to a fine edge that it need only hold for a single operation and hopefully not leak out carbon molecules into the wound. Basically it is meaningless sales hype. Many knife snobs think very badly of anything that starts with 420, and they are usually right because whatever knife they experienced had a straight 420, or a low honesty/low carbon 420J2, with improper heat treatment. They would be wrong with respect to a 420J2 or 420HC made by a reputable manufacturer, with a good carbon count, and properly heat treated.

    A proper heat treatment is more important than the precise steel grade once you have a certain minimum steel quality. It is not about making the knife edge hard, it is about making the whole blade the optimal balance between hardness and resilience, there being a trade off that varies steel-by-steel.

    Anyway, Randall knives smiths their stainless steel blades from 440B or 440C (guy over there said there is a lot of overlap but that probably has more to do with their steel source) so you KNOW that a good quality, professionally heat treated 440B is weapons-grade. 440C used to be the Cadillac stainless steel for U.S. custom knife makers due to its excellent balance of characteristics, and a couple of my favorite knife makers still prefer it as do I. The top U.S. custom knife maker does most of his military work in 440C (bead blasted for a non-reflective finish). Many of the U.S. custom knife makers now use the new super-steels, such as ATS-34 and S90V. These super knife steels are tweaks on 440C. They trade off corrosion resistance in return for different factors such as better edge holding capability or lateral stress resistance. A friend of mine left his ATS-34 knife in his car trunk for a relatively short time period – maybe a week, I don’t remember – and it rusted – so if you are using one of these steels on a combat knife seriously consider a Cerkote coating. One of my associates left an Everything Wing Chun (“EWC”) Flagship line knife soaking in water for weeks (not sure how long on that either but I remember when he told me I thought it was a long time for a knife) (not intentionally) and while the handle rotted, the blade was fine. It was made out of Bohler (German) 440C.

    Now a comment was made in an earlier thread about there being too much brittleness from certain stainless steels. If it is not heat treated correctly, and if the designer did not specify an intelligent hardness for the edge of the specific knife, I can easily see that happening. Heck, I doubt if most manufacturers making Butterfly Knives even know how to use them. How would they know what to ask for even if they were willing to undergo the expense of sending the blades out to a third-party heat treatment specialist?

    Just a comment on grind. Most folks who order custom BFS want them to look great, and they specify a wide hollow grind (i.e., concave like the inner surface of a sphere). That is the grind that will take the sharpest edge, best for flesh on flesh, but it is not a good choice for weapon vs. weapon as it nicks easier since there is less steel at the sharp edge and less steel supporting the edge. The traditional lenticular grind (convex like the outside of a sphere) takes a less fine edge so there is more steel at the sharp the edge and more supporting steel behind it so it is better for resisting nicks from bone and other weapons. For a true beater blade for weapon on weapon, you would want a fat rounded edge, but those are pretty heavy (slower on blocks), ugly and they do impact the balance of the knife (likely slower on blocks). Basically for beating, a flat fat piece of steel with a rounded edge blade and a blunt tip will last the longest. And speaking of weapon vs. weapon, it may be safer for your knives to dent and bend by virtue of being soft, or softer than weapons-grade (heat treatment/steel issue), than to be too hard and brittle and break so consider carefully what you want out of a knife. A knife that soft will probably mark up quicker from blade on blade contacts during individual practice (when your two knives touch).

    Anyway, if you are doing single person practice, carbon steel is a maintenance intensive choice. It needs to be kept oiled when not in use and stored in a dry environment, not that I would want to store any knife in a wet or humid environment. Before each use you need to remove the oil. After each use you need to clean and re-oil. NEVER store any steel blade in or near leather, whether stainless or carbon steel, as the chemicals and vapors from the tanning process promote rapid corrosion.

    Most martial artists who do not own an expensive Japanese Katana do not take care of their weapons the way they should, the way a hunter would. That’s why I shudder at the thought of martial artists using medium or high carbon steel weapons and leaving them in the car overnight, going to and from practice, sweating on them and leaving oil residues on them.

    If you plan on using your BFS for weapon vs. weapon practice, you should be looking at a carbon steel, not a stainless steel. 440C is a tool steel used to make dies that cut other steels. So, it can get really hard, but it trades off resilience and flexibility in return for corrosion resistance and is more likely to nick or break than carbon steel. I have personally chopped up hard wood using a dull hollow grind 440C blade (my integral knife design), only running into trouble when I started smacking two of the same blades edge on edge and edge on spine. Our forge master just sent me a video of him chopping wood with a hollow grind Bohler 440C blade (my Hung Gar long stabber design), leaving no marks on the blade. But it is the wrong grind and steel. (I advise you against weapon vs. weapon training or cutting, it is dangerous and your weapon will eventually fail if you continue at it (so inspect before each use), I assume no responsibility for any such training by you, your use, misuse or abuse of the info herein, etc., etc., etc., -- basically you are on your own, use this info at your own risk and you cannot sue me. And really, no sharps, just think about it. )

    The quality ladder for common carbon steel ranging from medium to high carbon is pretty much AISI 1055, 5160, 1075, then 1095. 5160 is a good medium grade, fine for “beater” swords. AISI 1075 is good high carbon steel and 1095 the top of the normal high carbon steel food chain. While I have seen someone say oil quenching is the best, that’s not my understanding, rather it is the easiest for the forge. To get the most out of 1075 you need to water quench, and water quenching means some of the blades may crack so it is obviously a more expensive practice. Ditto on 1095. There is no sense upgrading to 1075 or 1095 if you don’t water quench. This is an example of my earlier comment about the relative importance of the heat treatment versus the steel quality.

    A billet of good 440C costs about 3 or 4 times as much as a billet of AISI 1095, and the 440C knives are going to cost more, so you are less likely to want to beat them up. Another reason not to use stainless steel for weapon vs. weapon.

    D2 is a specialty carbon steel used to make dies that cut other steels. It is often called “semi-stainless” steel because it is more rust resistant than your typical carbon steel. It is easily resilient enough for a BFS blade if of good quality and heat treated properly. We have a video of our forge master bending one of the EWC flagship D2 blades in a vice backwards pretty far, and it snapping back to position fine. (He also used the edge to cut into the steel of some of his shop equipment with some very light tapping chops – don’t worry, the blade was fine). It is rough and tough and takes a fine edge and holds it well. You can only sharpen the edge with a sapphire or diamond hone, forget about your normal stone, and it takes four times as long to sharpen. It is more expensive to work and costs more than a lot of other steels. It is in the opinion of many top Western knife folks the best carbon steel for knives. In my opinion, if you take a quality D2 and PROPERLY, professionally heat treat it finishing with the edge at an APPROPRIATE hardness for a BFS, it is an outstanding blade choice for a real weapon.

    A friend of mine, Master Jay Penfil, makes tonfa out of a lot of the exotic woods including Lignum Vitae. The Lignum Vitae is so hard his tonfa damage partners’ tonfa in weapon on weapon practice. D2 is like that, only for steel. One of the folks who purchased and EWC flagship D2 pair of BFS complained it was destroying the opposing weapons, which is exactly as I would expect.

    There are a number of ways to help protect carbon steels from corrosion, including bluing the steel and coatings. The legitimate coatings vary from a powder coat that is baked on at the low end to a two-step Cerakote at the high end. The Cerakote is extremely durable, but you will probably not cover the edge so that still needs maintenance. Plus, over time, you are going to scrape coating off. That is why I think it is better to have a steel that is naturally corrosion resistant through and through if maintenance is a concern. I did a pair of sharp Hung Gar long-stabbers out of 5160 carbon steel, covered in a baked on black powder coat, and they looked so awesome a Sifu who was stopping in to pick up his pair of 440Cs (looked sharp but actually had a 1mm flat unsharpened edge) decided he also “needed” the black pair for “home defense” -- at least that is what he told his wife.

    Next a comment on lamellar steel (often mistakenly called “Damascus”). Today it is mostly made from two different hardnesses of high carbon steel layered into decorative patterns. Most of what you will see in the way of lamellar today is not weapons-grade. Originally in China even cheap Butterfly Knives were made of lamellar (folded steel, not decorative intent) at the village smith because they had to due to low steel quality – the blades were more resilient just like modern plywood. Good quality modern mono-steels are just as good, and better than most modern Damascus. That said, there are a few custom smiths who make weapons-grade Damascus BFS. Stainless lamellars are harder to find, and cost more. Stainless is tougher to forge than high carbon steel.

    If you are not going to actually use your BFS, if you are a collector, then you may want to get one of the knife super-steels for snob appeal, a lamellar for aesthetic appeal, or a differentially tempered high carbon steel with an artistic true hamon line.
     
  16. fitnessguy

    fitnessguy White Belt

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  17. Bino TWT

    Bino TWT Orange Belt

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    Steer clear of the cheap sets with the tang centered on the blade. The geometry is totally wrong.

    I also find it disturbing that a lot of places that sell these don't know the difference between the Wing Tsun Baat Cham Dao (Eight Slash Swords) and the Woo Dip Dao (Butterfly Swords).
     

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