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I Forge Iron

Failed Sword


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Here's a sword I made (unfinished in the pictures) though it's broken now seeing as I butchered the heat treating. This is (was) one of my first "real" pieces so please be kind.

My anvil was a slab of railroad track and my forge was an oven built out of logs using hardwood embers so it was a pretty crude set up to say the least.

The steel was from an 18" wrecking bar (crowbar) and I'm not entirely sure what steel it is, maybe 1040? No folds or welding, just drawn out and shaped.

I also don't have a lot of the proper tools so the polishing job and shaping aren't quite perfect.

Handle is double pegged and made of maple. No hibakki or saya were ever constructed.

Anyway, just looking for constructive criticism, and comments or advice would be great.

ps. sorry about the poor image quality




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The polishing job looks good Alex, what did you use for it? The handle also looks good, nice and simple. Your next step, in my mind, should be making a collar and cap for the handle. I know the saya is the scabbard of the japanese sword, but what is the habikki, wait...nevermind. I just found it in my book. (Talk about up to the minute posting) For those like me who don't know what it is, according to my source the correct spelling is habaki, and is "A metal ferule surrounding a Japanese blade next to the guard." It's the little collar on the sword that keeps the blade snugly in the saya (scabbard).

A question on the construction. Did you make the handle from one solid piece of wood, or two pieces? The only handle I've made was for a small dagger, in a style reminiscent of the roman swords. I made it from one solid piece of wood that I a slot into to fit the tang of the blade. The fit was so snug that I didn't need any epoxy or pins to keep it on.

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I used water as my quench for heat treating instead of oil and I guess it was either just to harsh or not warm enough or something because the blade came out with all kinds of cracks. Also, uneven heating (I assume) caused a major warp in the blade and upon trying to straighten it the blade snapped with the slightest amount of pressure. I'm salvaging what I can, turning one broken piece into a tanto and the other into some kind of all purpose hacking tool (hopefully I'll get those up here when I'm done them).

For the polishing I first went to the grinder (wheel and not belt which I think would've made things a lot smoother), then the file, and lastly sand paper.

The handle was made from one solid piece that got cut into two. The two halves were then hollowed out as tight fitting as possible, then glued back together (the wood was glued, not the tang. The blade can still be removed for cleaning). The blade fits in the handle snugly, but if swung would probably fly out without the pins.

Thanks for the feedback guys, it's appreciated.

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I'd also like to say great idea on the tanto. No use wasting work because it didn't turn out EXACTLY as planned. Another question, what grit did you use for sand paper? I've got a 6" belt grinder with a 160 grit belt on it I believe, thought it MIGHT be a bit higher. As tedious as it would be, the results from a very fine grit sand paper would be worth it. I haven't done any heat treating, but from what I've read, it sounds as though you were correct in assuming the water was to harsh on the steel. If the metal was cooled too quickly, it could become brittle, and snap, as has happened in this case. In my mind, uneven heating could have cause the warping, but someone with a litle more heat-treating experience might have more to say about it. good luck with your forgings.

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Yeah, it would've been much easier with proper facilities, but I slowly acquire more here and there.

Well, in terms of actual grit on the sand paper it started somewhere around 80 and moved all the way up to 320 I think. I polished it every now and then with an electric sander but most of it was done by hand working in broad strokes along the length of the blade (careful not to stab your hands near the tip... ouch). It takes a long, long time. I've found since then though that it really helps to do a lot of work with a file first to get the surface nice and flat otherwise it'll get nice and shiney, but still have that bumpy look.

Glad to hear you guys like it, I was a little intimidated by some of the stuff I've seen on here.


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  • 1 year later...

Hi Alex,

Nice job on the blade. Can't believe you did that on a piece of RR track!?

Question for you:

Did you aneal the blade after forging it?

The forging process imparts a lot of stress in the material and could be one reason why your blade broke. Also, water is a very fast quench medium and probably not suitable for use with the metal you chose. Maybe a light oil or proper quenching solution might work better.

All the best,


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  • 4 months later...

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