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Author Topic: Steampunk swords?  (Read 23922 times)
CapnHarlock
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« Reply #50 on: December 05, 2009, 04:27:40 am »

From SCA-only experience (YMMV), the really-long blades (Cleidh-morh and longer, as well as halberds, etc) were best used from behind a shield-wall, where they could be devastating.  Without a bit of protection from shielded wingmen, or spears, the greatsword-wielder tends to rapidly become a "dead-guy/tripping-hazard" in close combat, regardless of how sharp the edge may be.

The Japanese naginata (halberd/staff-sword) is somewhat of an exception to this "rule" as its correct use entailed almost-supernatural speed. In my cockier martial-arts days, I had my derriere  beaten by an 80-year old Japanese woman who hardly seemed to be moving at all but still laid-about me very soundly.
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Mat
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« Reply #51 on: December 05, 2009, 04:34:45 am »

I always liked this one!   Grin

http://www.myarmoury.com/albums/displayimage.php?album=39&pos=2

I don't actively practice in the SCA anymore (don't ask...), but rapier wise I loved my self hilted Angus Trim!  Not really steampunk, but cool none-the-less!

« Last Edit: December 05, 2009, 04:38:08 am by Mat » Logged
Mr. Boltneck
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« Reply #52 on: December 05, 2009, 05:42:40 am »

Really long swords generally seem to have found utility either in relation to cavalry or for dealing with pikes and spears. When big cavalry actions became rare in Japan after the ascendency of the Tokugawa shogunate, a number of tachi blades were cut down from the tang end to be refitted as katanas. The tachi didn't entirely disappear, even as a personal weapon, but the awkwardness of carrying it, the difficulty of drawing it quickly, plus the fashion and etiquette issues, made it a rare weapon. Before, it was useful either on horseback or for dealing with someone else who was mounted.
On the other hand, the German fencing schools kept big two-handed weapons around for a remarkably long time, and these do seem to have been used for personal combat. It may be because dueling in Europe largely descended from judicial combat, and people may have felt it was more proper and customary to use am older, more military/"knightly" and traditional weapon. Or it may have been because it's a lot harder to learn how to use one without looking like a total jackass, i.e. tripping on the blade and falling, which may have discouraged the kind of dueling mania that the rapier and smallsword accompanied and enabled in France or England.
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Vagabond GentleMan
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« Reply #53 on: December 05, 2009, 08:33:27 am »

Here's the thing:
There is an absolute plethora of written, documented material from the late medieval period in both Germany and Italy (search for Liechtenaur, Fiore, Talhoffer, Ringeck, Von Danzig, et al.) showing fighters in and out of armor (blossfechten and harnissfechten) fighting with longswords in duels, using all sorts of techniques (long-edge  and short-edge, wrestling and throws, half-swording, etc.) as well as very regularly holding the blade of the weapon (the 'mordhau', etc.), especially when fighting in armor.

We as modern folk can speculate all day long, but the period source material is there for any interested parties to read.  The Old Masters left a very real record of exactly what they were doing with their longswords.

Check out www.thearma.com
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« Reply #54 on: December 05, 2009, 08:47:29 am »

I am also of the opinion that there are enough wonderful blades in period that you wouldn't have to do anything to make them Steamy... they already are...

I also play rapier in the SCA, and I use a CAS blade similar to the one mentioned above... and my cut-and-thrust (as opposed to strictly poking) blade is this blade right here (and it even comes with a scabbard...)

http://www.casiberia.com/images/products/SH2076.jpg

Looks great on my belt off side of my Mare's Leg... and surprisingly, people think it looks awesome...

If you want to get a good feel for how the sword was considered in Victorian Society, I suggest reading "The Sword and the Centuries" by Hutton.  It was written about 1900... great texture (and shows the attitude of the period very well!)
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Captain Sir Seamus O'Shannon
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« Reply #55 on: December 05, 2009, 11:24:54 am »

Historically accurate and different from the usual offerings of swords;
http://www.cozun.com/Blades/blades.htm
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Mr. Boltneck
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« Reply #56 on: December 05, 2009, 07:38:23 pm »

There are also some modern translations of some of the old German combat books. I have a volume here, and have long been interested in the fact that it shows a variety of dueling situations, most of them based around the two-handed sword, from a time when much of Europe had become accustomed to the more civilian rapier styles. I definitely agree that primary sources rule: both my parents are historians, so this was sort of drilled into me as a youth. That's why I tend to ask questions, since a great deal of the major writing on the subject of medieval and Renaissance arms has been by Victorian-era antiquarians and their followers, most of which is dubious and much of which is romantic codswallop, if very authoritative in style.
My speculation that the late continuation of this customary form of the duel was at least partly a means of control is mostly drawn from the fact that nobody was likely to lug such a large weapon around town on a daily basis, which may have helped to create a different dynamic from the immediately available rapier, allowing a bit more time for mediation or other intervention. And of course, the sheer difficulty that must have been involved may have also discouraged the casual user from trying to get into duels. So far (and this may change) I have not seen evidence for the sheer volume and frequency of duels (or at least these formal types) experienced elsewhere at this point in history.
I agree with Vagabond Gentleman, this is all speculation, but given the complex interactions between society, utility, and weaponry, it is a point I though worth raising.
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Vagabond GentleMan
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« Reply #57 on: December 05, 2009, 08:25:59 pm »

Ok, cool.  I see your point.

However, I DO want to point out something, even though it's small.  In Act I Scene I of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, as soon as Capulet is aware of the budding streetfight, he calls:
"Get me my long sword, ho!"

So this a period work where an urban Gent IS lugging a longsword around for personal defense, not just dueling, while the folk around him are more likely than not using rapiers and the smaller urban arms.

SO MUCH was written about longsword fighting that I just can't help but think that people (who could afford them) were using them all the time.  The same way a Samurai in Japan would be lugging around his longsword (katana).

Many of the Historical European Martial Arts enthusiasts of today will vehemently argue up and down that the longsword is the BEST, most versatile bladed weapon in history.
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Elliot_Pending
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« Reply #58 on: December 06, 2009, 01:20:04 am »

However, I DO want to point out something, even though it's small.  In Act I Scene I of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, as soon as Capulet is aware of the budding streetfight, he calls:
"Get me my long sword, ho!"

So this a period work where an urban Gent IS lugging a longsword around for personal defense, not just dueling, while the folk around him are more likely than not using rapiers and the smaller urban arms.

Well, having someone else lug it around for him, anyway.  Tongue
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Vagabond GentleMan
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« Reply #59 on: December 06, 2009, 01:40:12 am »

Word.
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Mat
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« Reply #60 on: December 06, 2009, 03:26:07 am »

To all sword enthusiasts (be it rapier, smallsword, longsword, bastard sword, etc), check out www.myarmoury.com and go from there.  A LOT of information can be found there on the subject.   Grin

Shakespeare was a writer of the time, basically hollywood of the day.  Don't take what a play says as true history!
« Last Edit: December 06, 2009, 03:29:03 am by Mat » Logged
mephit
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« Reply #61 on: December 06, 2009, 06:20:06 am »

So, with all due respect, I'd have to argue that neither was the sword useless against plate, nor was its use necessarily neglected in favor of other, odder weapons.  As an addendum, there was a lot of armored wrestling with daggers as well, again seeking to thrust the dagger into the armor's joints and holes (eyes, neck between helm and gorget, crook of the elbow and knee, groin, palm of hands, etc.).  Ringen is what the Germans of the time called their wrestling style.

I'm going to respectfully somewhat disagree with you here, good sir. You are quite correct that Fiore, Talhoffer and others discuss and illustrate halfswording techniques and "murder stroke" attacks with the sword hilt used as a hammer. But that's rather the point, isn't it? It's teaching the nobility (who were strictly bound both by concepts of chivalry and by a romance with the sword far stronger than ours today) how to reasonably effectively use the sword to emulate other, more "peasant" weapons (stiff thrusting weapons and heavy, crushing ones) better suited to opening up a can of whup-knight on the field. The sword was as much a symbol of rank as it was a weapon. Hence it's use even today in militaries world-wide to denote officers. Remember that until the end of World War I it was still most common for officers in any army to be from that country's ruling class, not promoted from the ranks. On top of that, Fiore and Talhoffer certainly (and rapier master DiGrassi much later) all specifically teach the use of the pollaxe, spear and/or halberd as well as the sword. I'm sure others have as well, those are just the three masters I have mostly studied the last few years. These points combined mean that the sword wasn't necessarily really good at those types of attacks, just that those attacks were what were taught to the nobility to be done with the sword they were already going to be carrying anyway.

However, I DO want to point out something, even though it's small.  In Act I Scene I of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, as soon as Capulet is aware of the budding streetfight, he calls:
"Get me my long sword, ho!"

Please don't assume that just because Shakespeare used terminology which to our modern brains produces a specific image, that the author or his originally intended audience would have gotten the same image. First, words like sword, rapier and such seem to have been pretty interchangeable in the 16th and 17th centuries. Second, the foremost English swordsmaster of the Elizabethan period was George Silver. Among other things, he railed against the too-long Italian weapons, entreating his students (and by extension all proper English gentlemen) to avoid such foreign influences and stick to the good English war sword with it's much shorter blade. Therefore being as Shakespeare was an Englishman writing for an English audience, the reference could well have been interpreted to mean "overly long foreign sword" i.e. what we would call today a rapier. This is also logical since in the action of the play it is clear that it's illegal to walk the streets of Verona with any sword at all due to the prevalence of dueling. So Mercutio is calling for someone to fetch him the rapier he's not allowed to carry normally.
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Amelia Culper
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« Reply #62 on: December 06, 2009, 06:45:14 am »

I'm quite astonished that no-one thus far in this discussion has suggested the possibility of a sword cane.

In my research about Victorian/Edwardian fashion, I read somewhere that swords themselves were actually prohibited, so gentlemen began to carry canes in case they needed something to hit things with.

According to Wikipedia, since I'm not certain on which of a few dozen obscure little sites I read the piece of trivia about swords being forbidden:
Quote
The swordstick was a popular fashion accessory for the wealthy during the 18th and nineteenth centuries. While the weapon's origins are unknown, it is apparent that the cane-sword's popularity peaked when decorative swords were steadily being replaced by canes as a result of the rising popularity of firearms, and the lessening influence of swords and other small arms.

Soon after their introduction, other "gadget canes" became popular, holding the tools of one's trade rather than a blade, compases, and even flasks for keeping alcohol.
Swords or weapons derived from them would certainly be in keeping with a Steampunk rogue or pirate's character, but I would picture a fashionable gentleman as far more likely to carry a cane.
It all depends on what look you're going for, but keep in mind that some characters might not have been conspicuously armed at all.

-Miea
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mephit
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« Reply #63 on: December 06, 2009, 06:49:09 am »

If I was taught correctly By John Clemments of ARMA, the blade on the Langenschwert (longsword, Bastard Sword, whatever) was essentially divided into thirds.  The third closest to the point was quite sharp.  The middle third was sharpened, but not honed like the first third.  The third closest to the hilt was not sharpened.  So yes, while wearing gloves or gauntlets, two-thirds of the blade could be gripped without too much risk.  But truth be told, there are period illustrations of fighters holding the blade without any protection on their hands.  As long as the hand doesn't slide along the edge, it most likely won't be cut, if gripped firmly and confidently.

Does seem sort of crazy to moderners, though, huh?  I'd be wary of trying it, for certain sure.

I'm not certain I would agree with Mr. Clemments, though I'll freely admit that he's studied sword-fighting far more avidly and for far longer than have I. As far as I can tell, really sharp, honed tips on swords don't seem to be common until the late renaissance with the advent of what we think of today as the rapier and the potential for tip cuts and slices. The rapier, as a primarily civilian weapon, would have been largely used against unarmoured opponents, making these slashing tip attacks worth doing. They're utterly useless against armoured opponents, though. Think of it like using an axe to split wood. If you sharpen the axe down to a fine, shaving edge, you'll get beautiful splits for a few strokes, but it will dull quickly with the impacts. If you sharpen the axe with a less honed, more chisel edge, however, you get an edge which still splits well, but lasts for much, much longer. The same holds true for swords against armour. You want a durable edge, not a razor one. Yes, the tip was very sharp, like an ice-pick, but the edges leading up to the point? Probably not that sharp.

Oh, and I have half-sworded with only gloves on (against a pell). It tears the gloves up a bit, but it's certainly possible to do without damaging yourself. If your hands were callused enough, I expect you could even do it bare without serious harm. You will slide your hands some, though. No way around it. When you shove the point into the very un-yielding opponent's armoured frame, the hand up front will slide a bit.
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mephit
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« Reply #64 on: December 06, 2009, 07:29:11 am »

Oh, and to make a post on this topic that's actually on topic (shock! gasp!), while it's true that combination weapons such as gunswords and the like are largely less than effective in real combat, there were plenty of people (just as today) with no real need for or experience with weapons who, none-the-less, for reasons of paranoia, feelings of personal inadequacy or whatever, felt the need to own and carry weapons of many kinds. Add this to the Victorian love of gadgets and gizmos and you have a rich environment for the development of ridiculously over-engineered weapon foolishness, which would seem to me to be rather the epitomé of steampunk. Perhaps an electrified blade, with a bakelite grip encasing the leyden jar capacitors which power the sword electrification? You'd have to have have a trigger switch of some kind on the grip so as to power the shock through the blade. Hmmm..... A red enameled trigger lever which comes out from the juncture of the guard and grip that you depress with your forefinger when you draw the blade from the bakelite and brass scabbard. Stress risers at the guard-grip junction? brittle materials? Who cares! It'll shock the crap out of your enemy! Heh.

And for combination weapons, nothing but nothing compares to the 16th century lantern shield in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Buckler with center spike combined with a gauntlet with one-foot (!) knuckle spikes; a slide-out shortsword; and a cable-operated, pop-open lantern for blinding your opponent. Oh, and entirely lined in crimson velvet. Because the rich moron who bought it wouldn't have taken it any other way. Talk about ridiculous. But damn it's nifty. One day I will see it in person!

http://www.myarmoury.com/images/features/pic_spot_combo62.jpg
http://www.myarmoury.com/talk/download.php?id=22901
http://www.myarmoury.com/talk/download.php?id=22900
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Darkhound
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« Reply #65 on: December 06, 2009, 08:57:59 am »

Well, if we're going to toss practicality out the window, I must confess to a partiality for a late nineteenth century British theoretician's brainchild. Not content with building a heavy revolver into the hilt of a saber, he proposed carrying it in a scabbard in three sections with locking hinges, and a lug on the drag to lock into a slot on the grip, making it serve as a carbine as well! Sights were to consist of a notch in the upper edge of the guard and the tip of the blade! In theory, this was the perfect cavalry weapon, as it combined the trooper's three major weapons into a single unit. Practically, it would combine a clumsy, ill-balanced sword, with a very clumsy unaimable pistol, and an unmitigated disaster of a carbine, not only inaccurate but painful to the shoulder and dangerous to the hands when fired, and slow and complex to assemble to boot.

It's probably for the best that none were ever built, but you can admire facsimiles of the design sketches in Winant's Firearms Curiousa, along with many other strange and wonderful devices, some of which actually worked.
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akumabito
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« Reply #66 on: December 06, 2009, 12:05:27 pm »

If you're looking for novelty, I've got a bit of a soft spot for this item..
http://www.trueswords.com/rifle-sword-cane-p-4491.html

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
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Narsil
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« Reply #67 on: December 06, 2009, 01:35:16 pm »


I'm not sure I agree with the point about sharpness. Its certainly true that different edges require different geometries but there's no advantage in an edge which is actually blunt. With the correct temper and grind its not difficult to produce an edge which is highly resistant to impact and capable of maintaining a sharp cutting edge. Its certainly possible that there were swords with unsharpened sections near the hilt to allow the blade to be handled but the idea that a heavy tool/weapon shouldn't be sharp is a myth. It increases the effort required to use it for no good reason.
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mephit
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« Reply #68 on: December 06, 2009, 06:15:10 pm »


I'm not sure I agree with the point about sharpness. Its certainly true that different edges require different geometries but there's no advantage in an edge which is actually blunt. With the correct temper and grind its not difficult to produce an edge which is highly resistant to impact and capable of maintaining a sharp cutting edge. Its certainly possible that there were swords with unsharpened sections near the hilt to allow the blade to be handled but the idea that a heavy tool/weapon shouldn't be sharp is a myth. It increases the effort required to use it for no good reason.

I didn't say not sharp. I said not honed to a razor edge. A wider angled chisel-type edge is quite sharp, but far more durable. And tempering is something I have a fair amount of experience in, actually. Tempering is the fine art of toning down the brittleness of hardened steel to something that won't break like glass while still retaining enough to hold an edge. The softer the steel, the more resilient it is, but the less it will hold an edge. The harder it is, the better the edge, but the more brittle the steel. So, really, no, the more resistant to impact the edge is, the less capable of holding an edge it is.

Add on to the above the fact that no-one in the middle ages understood the underlying metallurgical mechanisms of either making steel or hardening it, and assuming medieval weapons were very sharp is not a good idea. Modern metallurgical analysis of both armour and weapons of the middle ages has shown wildly divergent levels of carbon (what makes it steel and therefore hardenable) and other impurities in the iron, even in pieces with the same armourers mark or the like. The only real hardening I've heard of on actual medieval pieces is case hardening, where only a thin outer shell of the metal is hardened, rather than the whole piece. In fact this lack of knowledge is likely what brought about tales of magical swords. Someone managed to accidentally get the circumstances right to produce real, hardened steel and blammo, it hacks through the soft (and surprisingly thin! often 20 - 22 gauge) iron armour and stays sharp "forever"! Magic!

So combine the fact that a sharply angled, well honed edge on a blade doesn't take kindly to hacking at things (tending to shatter off or wear down quickly) with the fact that until the 18th century, understandings of the actual properties of steel were very thin and you have a pretty high probability of swords in the age of chivalry that would have been what we today would have considered quite dull but very resilient. And yet, they still managed to kill people quite effectively. Perhaps they knew more about swords than we do......
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Narsil
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« Reply #69 on: December 06, 2009, 08:21:47 pm »



A blade need not be particularly hard to have a very sharp edge. A properly sharpened axe can shave hair and still keep its edge under heavy use.

Knowledge of modern models of metalurgy aren't required to produce high quality blades as is proved by teh japanese swordmaking tradition, the fact that western methods are less well documented is no reason to assume that european makers were any less skilled or knowledgable. In fact it seems incredible to me that anyone could work with steel for any length of time and not discover how to harden it.
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Matthias Gladstone
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« Reply #70 on: December 06, 2009, 08:58:55 pm »

Is the ability of a blade to hold an edge dependant on its hardness, the type of steel or some other factor? (I know the two are linked BTW)
-Matt
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« Reply #71 on: December 06, 2009, 09:14:46 pm »

Is the ability of a blade to hold an edge dependant on its hardness, the type of steel or some other factor? (I know the two are linked BTW)
-Matt

from my understanding, both play a role, along with the heat treat and the angle of the edge.
the harder the steel is, the better the edge holding (theoretically) to a point, after which it starts to get too difficult to sharpen.
different steels of the same hardness behave differently, due to their differing makeups, producing different crystal structures (or something along those lines)
even if you have the same steel, at the same hardness, the heat treat can also affect the edge holding, as the same hardness may have differing structures due to quicker/slower quenches, higher temps ect.
the angle of the edge affects how quickly the edge will wear down (thinner, lower angle, edges slice better, but wear down faster)

further info can be found on sites such as knifeforums or bladeforums, where you can get bogged down in the never ending arguements about which steel is best.
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Narsil
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« Reply #72 on: December 06, 2009, 09:56:58 pm »

Is the ability of a blade to hold an edge dependant on its hardness, the type of steel or some other factor? (I know the two are linked BTW)
-Matt

Its very complex. There are a number of factors which can cause a blade to become less sharp, if it's too soft the edge will roll, if its too hard the edge will chip. Generally a tiny bit on the soft side is preferred since a rolled edge is easier to fix than a chipped one. Stright forward abrasion/wear is also a factor, especially cutting hard or fiberous materials as is chemical corrosion.

Another factor is the grind profile and angle, a steep convex grind is generally the strongest and a shallow hollow one is the most fragile. Profile also has a significant effect on cutting efficiency in various different materials.

There's also the sharpening technique to consider, a highly polished edge is more durable and effective for 'push' eg carving wood and a coarser edge is more effective for 'pull cuts' eg cutting rope or leather but is less durable and cuts less cleanly/precisely.

Steel composition is also a factor, partculalry  suspended carbides, Stainless cutlery steels, for example, tend to have a lot of suspended hard carbides in a relativly soft matrix which means they behave more like microscopic saws. This means that 'hardness' in the context of edge holding is not an absolute term and two steels with nominally the same hardness can behave quite differently.

Heat treating also affects properties other than hardness, grain size in partcicular is a crucial factor in overall performance.

The mechanical loads on the blade as a whole are generally not directly linked to the edge holding equation since laminated or differentially hardened/tempered blades can be made with hard edges and tough backs which goes a long way towards mitigating problems with shock loads and very hard edges are generally not desirable in these cases anyway.

Yet another factor is that there is a compromise with ease of sharpening, In some circumstances it may be prefereble to have a blade with reduced edge-holding and sharpen it little and often than one which has better edge holding but takes an enormous effort to sharpen.

In most circumstances there is a fairly narrow optimum range of hardness for a given steel and edge geometry with litttle advanage in making it significantly harder or softer in terms of edge durability.

There are also special cases of certain 'exotic' steels where rather different rules apply, crucible steels and those with a high proportion of bainite for example. Bainite os formed by quenching a suitable steel in a high temperature quench medium (eg molten lead or salts) holding it at this intermediate temperature for a specific time and then allowing it to cool. Bainite behaves very differrntly from conventionally heat treated carbon steels and is exceptionally tough at high hardnesses.


« Last Edit: December 07, 2009, 02:38:29 am by Narsil » Logged
Matthias Gladstone
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« Reply #73 on: December 07, 2009, 12:22:58 am »

Ah, cheers for that. I love metallurgy, and working with metals - i'm just not very good at it   Cheesy
Hopefully i'll even be tought machining at university, you never know...
-Matt
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MWBailey
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« Reply #74 on: December 07, 2009, 08:05:48 am »


How about some insanely over-engineered high pressure water knife?

HowStuffWorks Show: Episode 4: Water Jet Cutter

-B

I'd like to see the pistolgrips you put on that thing...
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