Is my sword "real"?

Discussion in 'Weapon Resources' started by Anth, May 4, 2005.

  1. Anth

    Anth Daft. Supporter

    Hi all,
    You have just bought a sword, but how do you know that it is safe to use? The main way is by looking at the material. The most common material for cheap swords is called 440 Stainless Steel. However, there are some bad properties of this material that make it a dangerous material for swords.

    Have you noticed how motorcycles are covered in chrome? Have you also noticed that chrome is in stainless steel (16 - 18% in the variation 440A)? This is because chrome is shiny and looks good. However, chrome can also be very brittle (notice how it can flake off a base material?). Because of this (and correct me if I am wrong), an alloy containing can be weakened, making it dangerous to hit another item (such as bamboo, tatami, another person) with a blade made of it (in small quantities, chrome improves the metals “grain”).

    Now move onto the main "problem" with swords such as this (wall-hangers): the tang, or the part of the blade that goes into the handle. On a "real" sword, the tang is the same width as the blade (or at least 2/3 the width). On a sword such as this, the tang will most probably be a "rat-tail" - meaning it is very thin (as little as 5mm^2). TeJitsuDo posted a picture of the tang in his sword of this type:


    and I have a picture of the tang on the sword I took to bits:

    As you can tell from the pictures, the tang is "sub-standard", and the welds on them do not look very strong at all, and the tang shouldn’t be welded anyway, it should be one piece of metal. Thin tangs also affect the balance of the sword, making it more “blade-heavy”. In both pictures, you will notice that there are no holes in the tang. There should be holes for rivets or mekugi (in cheap swords the mekugi are steel, in more expensive, bamboo), but in these, the tangs are so thin that a hole would weaken the metal even more, and just shear, getting me onto my next point (no pun intended).

    With these two weaknesses, a sword like this one is quite frankly a death-trap, not only for yourself, but for anyone around you. If you hit something with it and it shatters, it could take someone’s sight out (have you seen metal shatter? The fragments fly everywhere). If you swing it and the tang gives way, then you have a spear. A completely uncontrolled piece of stainless steel flying through the air that could stick harmlessly in a wall or it could fly into a mate. There is actually a video of such a sword snapping after only a couple of light hits on a table, which can be found HERE.

    Another way of telling if your sword is “real”, is by checking how much you paid for it. A “real” sword that won’t shatter or shear-off as easily will, unless you find a brilliant deal (and if you do, tell us where!), cost over £150/$300. For this money, you will get a sword that can be swung around safely, and possibly used for cutting (depending on the sharpness). A 440 Stainless sword will cost a lot less than that, with some UK shops selling sets of 3 swords with a stand for as little as £30/$60. With swords, you will always get what you pay for.

    Even if you know the dangers, if a mate sees it and starts swinging it, you have the same problems.

    Short of informing everyone who is ever likely to go anywhere near the sword, it would be safer to buy a "real" sword such as those at Nine Circles, A Trim Blades, Sword Store, or another site that someone from another country could give you. It would be a lot safer, and you could swing it around until you are bored :)

    Warning! Any sword-work is dangerous! Do not use a sword against another sword unless you have years of experience or are in a supervised environment with an instructor. When in doubt, use a bokken with armour being used for sparring.
  2. TheCount

    TheCount Happiness is a mindset

    Just to expand.

    Look out for carbon steel, grades 1050and 5160 in particular for these are the main strong grades used for swords. Also look out for 3 pins and full tang. Both these ensure a much safer and more versitile sword.

    Paul Chen and Cold Steel are good companies for such weapons, the Paul chen weapons being differentially tempered and forged using traditional clay methods.

    A GOOD katana (as proven in a video that was posted long ago) can be shot 7 times by a hand gun and only break on the 7th bullet. That is the strength of a good blade (don't try it!).

    So if you looking for a good sword for Tamishigeri (SP? ) or similar look out for the above points.
  3. Cudgel

    Cudgel The name says it all

    just FYI thecount. Traditional katana did not have a a tang the full length of teh tsuka and they had only one pin holding everyhitng together. The 3 pin design is jsut a modern thing to cash in on teh more is better idea. Nad how would 3 pins make a sword more versitile?

    Paul Chen or rather Hanwei forge blades are hand forged and such but they are also mass prduced. Ive heard good and bad things about Hanwei katana mostly because the quality control is a little hit or miss. And its differntial hardening not tempering. Katana are not usually tempered.
  4. TheCount

    TheCount Happiness is a mindset

    Yes, so i've been told but I think generally 1 pin would suffice depending on the structure of the sword itself.
  5. Cudgel

    Cudgel The name says it all

    one of the reasons japanese swords are so expensive is because of the precision need when making the fittings for teh blade. The tsuka has to fit super snug on the tang and is mainly held on by friction. The one pin is only really a back-up retaining feature and the reason it is made from bambo is because bamboo doesnt really break cleanly it usually only snaps through part way and then there are still a lot of fibers left over the aid in retaing the sword together.
  6. Shantari

    Shantari Valued Member

    didnt see this post before, but i was hoping you guys would put something like this up, thanks for that
  7. l3LUE-ghost

    l3LUE-ghost New Member

    wat's the difference between 440 steel and 420 steel? does 420 lack the chrome, which may make it stronger, or is it still weaker than 440?
  8. Cudgel

    Cudgel The name says it all

    420 is a stainless series of steels just like 440 hence both series of steels have chromium and are there fore both subject the bad grain formation inherent to stainless steels.

    And IIRC the 440 series of steels are harder adn stonger than the 420 series. Which is why you rarely see it being used for knives and you see 440 steels alot.
  9. Domenico

    Domenico Valued Member

    It looks like 420 sees a lot of knife usage, but not swords. It actually has a fairly high Carbon content, but too high for a sword. It's Rockwell range is listed as primarily 54-56C, which would push it into the brittle end (swords tend to get made in the 48-52 range).
  10. Cudgel

    Cudgel The name says it all

    all the knives I have seen made from 420 have been in such wonderful catalogs as BudK knives not high quality stuff IMO. Out side of BudK I cant recall seeing any knife made of 420 but i have seen lots of knives made of 440, moslty 440c but some 440a which isnt as good as 440c.
  11. Hyaku

    Hyaku Master of Nothing

    OMG That's not a tang. This is what a tang looks like. Its also instrumental in creating a counterbalance for the blade.

    Its truely frightening to think what might happen if someone swung that thing. At least the old Spanish car spring replicas had a hilt.

    Is metal so scarce that they need to cut corners like that?
  12. Cudgel

    Cudgel The name says it all

    umm hyaku did you mean to post apic of a real tang?
  13. PangQuan

    PangQuan New Member

  14. fast-edge

    fast-edge New Member

    I was able to make a few ,safe to use , sword "katana replica" that can be used for cutting exercises or kata , i made them out of chainsaw bars and i cold cut the sleel so it does not loose its hardness . Verry time consuming but the end result is quite phenomenal . Of course, i woulnd compare my work to the real thing . To produce a real sword of incomparable quality can take a life time of sword making experience . I am only a regular joe who had the chace to study Aikido at a youg age and who is quite handy with shaping metal . once again , no mather where you get a sword , my suggestion is to ave any blade you have inspected with someone who have a good knowlege about swords an metalurgy.
    The representation of a katana is often misconcived , they are to be handle with knowlege and respect.
  15. fast-edge

    fast-edge New Member

    Sorry TheCount ,
    My last entry war in response to Gaskell

  16. l3LUE-ghost

    l3LUE-ghost New Member

    i found a site that sells swords that are either stainless steel or carbon steel.

    they also label the stainless steel in two ways, either stainless steel, or 440 stainless steel. is there a difference or were they just 2 lazy to put the 440 in there?
  17. Cudgel

    Cudgel The name says it all

    Not all stainless steels are of teh 440 series so its probably not laziness. And there are differnces between differnt tyopes of stainless steels.
  18. Kakita Aiguchi

    Kakita Aiguchi New Member

    Never trust weapons made from stainless steel: they are crap.
    Also, don't trust online shops... eBay can be ok, if you are an expert and you can examine the blade before buying it.
    The best swords online are probably sold by Del Tin (I think his website also has an English version), the only problem is that swords with an edge sharper than 1mm are illegal in Italy, so he doesn't produce completely sharpened blades, not even on request.
  19. Dave Humm

    Dave Humm Serving Queen and Country

    The following series of images are those of one particular sword in my collection,

    Ask yourself the following questions:

    1. Is this a genuine Nihonto ?
    2. Is it a Zink Alloy Iaito ?
    3. Is it a Chinese Copy ?
    4. Is it worth the money the seller wants ? (if you were looking to buy)
    5. Is it actually what the owner describes it to be (if it were for sale)
    6. Is it a live egde ?
    7. Is it entirely blunt ?
    8. Has it a full or part polish ?
    9. What is the writing on the tang ?
    10. How old is the blade ?







    The point I'm making is that you cannot fully answer any of those questions unless...

    a. You handle the sword yourself
    b. you actually know what your talking about.

    So the answer to the question of this thread is ALWAYS do your research BEFORE parting with your cash or enlist the help of someone who knows what to look for.

    Answers to my 10 questions here if you like and I'll reveal the correct answers in a little while.

    Last edited: May 25, 2005
  20. Cudgel

    Cudgel The name says it all

    I have got a question....what does same feel like? it kinda hard like plastic?

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