Stainless Steel Blades vs Iron Blades

Kane

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I got in a huge debate the other day with my brother on stainless steel. He says that stainless steel swords should work fine because steel is supposed to be an improvement to iron, right?

However, I thought stainless steel blades is a weaker form of steel and not good for swords, But steel is steel isn't it? Would a stainless steel sword of today be better than an iron sword of the past? I think not, but isn't steel supposed to be stronger than iron regardless of the steel?

I've actually seen cases in which people have used stainless steel over aluminum, so that must mean it has some strength. But I always thought stainless steel is bad for swords.

So which is stronger, stainless steel or iron?
 
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Firona

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metallergically speaking steel is stronger than iron, however there are certain factors that play into the principals of metal work and sword making. First there is the fact that purity is not always the same. Stainless steel for example can be a range of different percentages of metals. iron can be the same way, it all depends on the ore you are using. I see the arguement between stainless and high carbon a lot as well and I say it really comes down to how the sword is built rather than what it is built of. If you get a stainless blade that was folded 400 times and a high carbon or iron blade all folded 400 times then you can say one is better than the other depending on the metal that was used. However the war swords of the past were folded thousands of times (that's not an exageration) making them more pure than almost everything we are making now. My opinion on the matter is if you are willing to spend the money for a high quality blade, go ahead, but if you just want to train then go for some decent 440 stainless. Unless you are actually cutting something or banging it on a counter (poor guy) then speculating on the metals of the sword seems pointless.
 

dearnis.com

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stainless is alloyed with chromium to enhance corrosion resistance, not toughness or edge holding. It can work OK, but cheap stainless tends to be brittle, hard to work, and difficult to sharpen.
 

Gama

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Firona said:
If you get a stainless blade that was folded 400 times and a high carbon or iron blade all folded 400 times then you can say one is better than the other depending on the metal that was used. However the war swords of the past were folded thousands of times (that's not an exageration) making them more pure than almost everything we are making now.

Actually, that is an exageration. Go to Swordforum and do a search on "folded times math", and you will find more information than you ever wanted to know on the folding of steel for sword making.
 

Blindside

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In conjunction with that search you might try "carbon diffusion" and "decarburization."

Lamont
 
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Firona

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Shinganae is generally folded about 10 times, resulting in about a 1000 layers. Kawagane is folded anywhere from 12 to 16 times, depending on the smith and the metal he is working with, and so could have from 4000 to 65000 layers. - taken from a historical book on japanese swor making.

Ok, appologies I was definately looking at the wrong number. *slaps himself in forehead*
 

Charles Mahan

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Granted, stainless can be made into a decent blade, but as a general rule it isn't. The vast majority of stuff made from stainless is total and utter garbage, unsuited to regular training. Best to steer away from the stuff in general, unless you can tell the difference.

Most training weapons are made of either a zinc aluminum alloy(iaito) or some form of steel(not stainless). I suppose you might have actually meant iron weapons, but it seems unlikely. Most sword making cultures have been out of the iron age for quite some time.
 
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Kane

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Let's say you are an army in the middle ages defending your country. You have a choice to use either stainless steel swords or iron swords. Which would you choose for your army, stainless steel swords or iron swords?
 

Gama

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Kane said:
Let's say you are an army in the middle ages defending your country. You have a choice to use either stainless steel swords or iron swords. Which would you choose for your army, stainless steel swords or iron swords?

When you say iron, do you really mean non-stainless stell, otherwise known as high carbon steel. High carbon steel is different to iron, and stainless steel. By the middle ages iron as a material for swords was out. (This is all assuming European middle ages) High carbon steel was then, and still is the best choice for swords.
 
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Nikolas P.

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Wow. I am sincerely impressed by the metallurgical knowledge of some of the people here.
 

Charles Mahan

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Actually this is kinda basic stuff. You should hear the smiths on SwordForum go on about dendrites, water quench as opposed to oil quench, etc. ad nauseum.

Makes my head hurt.
 
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Kane

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Gama said:
When you say iron, do you really mean non-stainless stell, otherwise known as high carbon steel. High carbon steel is different to iron, and stainless steel. By the middle ages iron as a material for swords was out. (This is all assuming European middle ages) High carbon steel was then, and still is the best choice for swords.
I've heard somewhere that in Europe in the Middle Ages used iron or some weaker metal (not steel). Japan used steel and that was why many people say katanas were the strongest built sword of that time. What metal did Europeans in the middle ages use to make swords?
 
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Nikolas P.

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Charles Mahan said:
Actually this is kinda basic stuff. You should hear the smiths on SwordForum go on about dendrites, water quench as opposed to oil quench, etc. ad nauseum.

Makes my head hurt.

Indeed, but my knowledge of sword composition isn't one-fiftieth of my knowledge of sword use.
 

Gama

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Kane said:
I've heard somewhere that in Europe in the Middle Ages used iron or some weaker metal (not steel). Japan used steel and that was why many people say katanas were the strongest built sword of that time. What metal did Europeans in the middle ages use to make swords?

The post you responded to has your answer right in it.... steel. There are so many myths and outright rubbish about swords from both cultures out there, mostly pushed byHollywood. If you really want to learn about swords, either Japanese, or European, you should check out the link to Swordforum I posted earlier.

Gary
 

Charles Mahan

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Steel is essentialy a blend of iron with some other metal(s). The exact blend changes the characteristics of the metal in sometimes dramaticly different ways. There is a rather wide variety of steel. The steel used in traditional Japanese swordmaking varies considerably from the steel that was used in Europe.

BTW - Softer steel is not the same thing as weaker steel. Softer steel will absorb shock a lot better than harder steels. In other words, a softer steel is less likely to break than harder steel, but it won't hold an edge as well.
 
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GarethB

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Actually Charles, you only need two substances to make carbon steel, iron and carbon. No need for fancy alloying materials like nickel, vanadium, tungsten or molybdenum, just iron and carbon. If you a chemical analysis of traditional Japanese steel you'd also find silicon, but that's mostly due to how and where the Japanese got their iron (from sand deposits with high levels of iron ore) and not all the sand was seperated from the iron before the steel was made.
 

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