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making my first "sword".. Ideas?


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Hello, my name is Juris and I Am still fairly new to blacksmithing, One of my friends from highschool has seen and played with a few of the farm knifes that I have made for utilitarian purposes and his younger brother has now requested me to make the older brother a sword for his birthday.. He then handed me a 4', by 2", by 3/16" piece of mild steel and asked that I make the sword out of this.. I told him that I will TRY and see what I can do, now I have little Knowledge of heat treating, especially on big stuff.. thankfully he will probably just be hacking at old trees in the woods with it so it doesn't have to be "pretty" just somewhat useable.. and he said something akin to the sword in "Braveheart", the large one carried by William Wallace, for the style of blade..

I would like to know if I can harden the mild steel enough to obtain an edge that is decent, to hold an sharp edge for a few sessions in the woods before resharpening, also I will probably use old motor oil for a quench, or a mixture of lard,cooking oil, and paraffin mixed for a "goop" type edge quench, the main thing I am worried about is that while he is using it, the blade will bend and not return to the previous shape, will heat treating and quenching imbue enough "spring" to it to overcome this? idk where he got the steel but it looks like flat stock that you can get from a fleet supply store and I don't think it has a lot of Carbon content to it,
Now I have some old stainless steel that is about the same dimensions and also a few leaf springs from an old truck, would it just be easier to use either of these or stay the course with the mild steel? I've heard stainless can get tricky..
and he wants it asap haha.
any input is appreciated..

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Sword-making by relative newbies is a somewhat controversial topic around here. There's the "go for it, dude," faction, and there's the "if you have to ask, you don't know enough to safely attempt it" faction. The former accuses the latter of crushing newbies' dreams. The latter accuses the former of being irresponsible. I note that the professional swordsmiths and highly experienced amateurs seem to shake out mostly into the second group.

In my view, as someone "fairly new" to blacksmithing and evidently with little knowledge of heat treating, the best thing you can do is hand your buddy his piece of steel back and tell him you'll give it a shot in a few years. You're talking about making a sword that from the sound of it is going to be sharpened, then taken into the woods and used to hack away at whatever your buddy finds there. A mistake on your part, which frankly is not unlikely, may very well lead to a two-foot chunk of steel boomeranging off at high speed and embedding itself into your buddy, his younger brother, you, or someone else. Hilarity will not ensue.

Mild steel is pretty tough and not especially predisposed to brittle fracture, and its low carbon content makes it difficult to form enough martensite in the stuff to make it brittle. But through overheating or burning it, repeated bending during use (which can cause it to work harden), etc., it's certainly possible to set it up to break. And that's very dangerous in a sword. Ditto for most stainless. Leaf spring generally can form plenty of martensite -- which probably only increases the danger of a brittle failure if you don't know what you're doing.

Oil quenching will not appreciably harden mild steel, "goop" quenching even less so. The same goes for most common grades of stainless.

Just my two cents.

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OK well Matt sort of swayed me in the direction of putting off the sword in question and I will not be making it, I will probably just cut it in smaller pieces and use it to make him a few different, more "safe" implements, or make him a small machete type thing that has less change of bending and breaking, or take some of my higher carbon steel scraps and make a hatchet or two for him instead.. I didn't really think about the whole breaking thing as much as I should have..

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I can of go with both Groups that were mentioned above. I think there is great value in getting into the shop and forging as much as you can no matter wot you intended to make at onset. I also noted that you may have overlooked one of the things mentioned above about mild not being heat treat able by most folks in most shops. There is a ton of information on this forum about things like this. The heat treat stickies are always a good read. If you scan through the questions and answers in this and the knife section you will gain more information than you can imagine. One thing you may note in looking here is that a lot of folks recommend reading a copy of Jim Hrousalas' Complete Bladesmith. It has more answers that I have questions. Posting questions on here are great for a few reasons. Like maybe you will get a few answers that help you and even more so maybe a lot of us will learn from the thread you start. At times a few of us are a bit slow to answer in depth in the thread as we have at times spent a lot of time answering something quite similar in the past. My suggestion is to go slow and learn basic forging, then follow that however you wish as you develop.

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sometimes when i see these type of threads i feel sad if a beginner/novice is put off and his enthusiasm dampened by well meaning experts - but the well written non patronising answers on this page are great and they are why the advice has been taken in the spirit it was intended :) safety is a massive issue which i would not at all want to diss, but like rich just said (bravo rich :) ) there is huge (unaccountable) value in following what you Want and Need and Feel like making - its a fantastic way to learn, and its what keeps you engaged with the whole subject. sometimes having to make a billion nails first before your let loose on The Sword is not necasary - you can practice practice practice on the basics WHile having some fun at the same time with what your really dreaming of - there is no harm in that at all, particularly if your prepared to listen to the generous advice of the pro's! nice one barbar - hope you have a lot of fun with the machete, or whatever you decide to make, happy that you have had very good balanced advice!

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