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I Forge Iron

1st try


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k, weight is about 2.75 lb, full length = 3'1". blade length = 27 an 1/2 inches. blade width = approximately 1 and 1/2 inches. blade thickness at center is 1/4 inch. balance is not very good, about 5 and 1/2 inches forward of the guard. and if i knew what a distal taper was i'd certainly tell you, haha

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You did a great job on shaping the steel. What you have is not a sword though. It is a piece of mild steel in the shape of a sword. That is only the first step...and it's the easiest.

The next phase is to learn to choose the right steel for the kind of sword you want to make. (Will it be for piercing steel armor?, Will it be for cutting through armor?, Will it be used for drawing? "Iaido in Japanese", Will it need to bend and still hold an edge?, Will it simply be a wall hanger?)

Then, learn to harden and temper it correctly. That's an art all by itsself... One that many blacksmiths are not very good at.

The final stage in making a true sword is learning to sharpen it without damaging the temper and learning to polish it.

Breathing life into steel is what a true sword maker does...

You did a great job and I don't mean to sound discouraging at all...but tool and weapon making are the highest forms of the art of blacksmithing (in my humble opinion!).

I collect swords, mainly Japanese, and I make them. I'm still learning and still have a long way to go. Definitely keep hammering...Keep studying...and reach for perfection!

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You have a real lot of patience, something that not many young fellas have.

That is a great job and you are doing it right by using mild to get the skills before trying harder and more expensive carbon steel.

I would give it another go and aim at the balance point in the correct position and just a better finish, then repeat again and again. Each time you will get better. Then move up to tool steel and heat treat the beast, not a job to take lightly.

Then the hilt has to be set up and a sheath, all skills to be learned in their own right.

All this advice is given by a simple tool maker, I do nothing like making swords, a few small knives for the kids but that is all.

Great first step!!

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...That is a great job and you are doing it right by using mild to get the skills before trying harder and more expensive carbon steel.

I would give it another go and aim at the balance point in the correct position and just a better finish, then repeat again and again. Each time you will get better. Then move up to tool steel...

I have to disagree with this advice. If you want to do blades, don't mess with mild, period. Firstly a proper highcarbon steel suitable for making a sword lengthed blade out of is not very expensive in comparison to the cost of mild steel. Brand new 5160 stock for example, in proper dimensions for blade work can be had for roughly $2-$3 a foot or for enough for a longsword roughly $8-$12. 1075/1080 about $2 a foot. Now something like O1 can become quite pricy, $20 a foot, but that is used mostly for knives. Not up on the current cost of mild flatbar or how the cost varies per region, but awhile ago, Im pretty sure mild steel flat bar in blade-workable dimensions was running up almost close to $2 a foot for new stock where I am. And these prices are the worst case senerio, brand new 5160 drops from a shop that does leaf spring re-arching and other work can usually be had for free if you go and ask nice and explain what you are trying to do, and if not free, pretty cheap. There are also old leaf springs that can be had at the scrap yard for the cost of scrap weight that will work for learning, but I don't recomend old unknown steel after you get some skills down. 5160 is an excelent steel both for beginning to learn to work with high carbon and alloy steels, and for its performance characteristics.

Banging out a mild steel sword like object, while it gives you a general feel for how to shape stock, thats really all it does. You will also have to go and re-learn how to work high carbons and alloy steels when you move on to them. They are much more picky about working temperatures and have a whole different feel to them. The sooner you learn to work with these things the better off you will be. Also, for the same amount of work that you put into a mild steel look-alike, you could actually have a sword, something that is heat treatable, will hold an edge, and will perform like a sword. The sooner you start working with the proper materials, the sooner you will be able to develop valuable skills like heat treatment, and the sooner you will be able to advance your skills and become better.

But a piece of advice, while you may want to make swords, they are not really the best place to start, and I say this from experience. I started out early on trying to do large pieces and as I learned more and more about the craft I soon reallized that swords take some special skills and I was getting ahead of myself, so I went back and kept things small for awhile. I still don't really do much in the way of swords due to lack of proper HT equipment to handle something as long a sword. I would recomend to keep things small for awhile until you can develop the skills necessary to do something larger, then work your way up. Knives and daggers and the like are much more forgiving and will teach you a whole lot about forging, grinding, heat treatment, and all the finishing steps and will build a good foundation for doing these processes on a larger scale. If you cant do these things on a small knife, you will not be able to do them on something as large and complex as a sword. Heat treating a knife is alot easier than heat treating a sword, and a knife will help you to learn the metallurgy behind what is occuring durring heat treatment, and once that is understood you can work on translating that into what has to happen to successfuly heat treat a sword. Same with grinding/filing/sanding/polishing, a knife is smaller and will take less time, therefore you can spend a bit more time on it to develop the proper skills then take them to something big.

And distal taper is a decrease in thickness (tapering) of the blade. So a blade that is thicker at the ricasso/hilt area, and gradually gets thinner as it progresses towards the tip has distal taper.
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Banging out a mild steel sword like object, while it gives you a general feel for how to shape stock, thats really all it does.

My point exactly, you need to get the feel for the combination of techniques then move up to the harder steels. Learn one lot of skills at a time. The expense is not really an issue but the ease of working is when you are learning the physical techniques.
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The problem with using mild steel when starting out is that you dont get a feel for the temperature tolerances of the steel. This leads to bad habbits like forging like too cold, that have to be corrected later on, meaning you have to take a step back to fix that before you can take another step forward. I think it wiser to start getting a feel for a good steel as soon as possible. If you are using some old leaf springs or some free/cheap drops from a suspension shop and skrew it up, no loss. You are still learning how to move the steel under the hammer like with mild, 5160 is pretty forgiving and not excessivly hard to move under the hammer like some of the other alloys so its good for beginners, but at the same time you will be forced to develop good forging habbits from the beginning, and if things go well you can take it a few steps further and start learning how to heat treat and finish the blade properly. With mild you are pretty limited to just the shaping processes. Sure you can finish it up and make it look good, but I personally dont find much satisfaction with a pretty piece of steel that isnt good for much else than looking at. Might as well give yourself the option of killing a few birds per blade durring the learning process. I guess my philosophy is to start developing all of the basic skills necessary from the beginning and gradually improve and expand them all as you go, rather than trying to just master one set at a time. Thats why I recomend to start small with knives and work up to bigger and harder blades. You start out with something simple that introduces all the basic skills then as you get proficient start doing more complex things.

I think we both agree, yet disagree at the same time ;). I agree about learning a set of skills and then moving onto other skills, but why not link that learning process of each of the skill sets together, rather than forcing it to be separated due to materials that will not allow the other skills to be learned?

Just my two cents.

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  • 2 months later...
We do agree but each choose a different path to the same outcome.


Strange making a statement of same out come, when as you already stated you have not done swords, but some that have posted have.

Start with small blade, using real steels, and work your way up to larger blades. While it may be fun to use mild steel, it does nothing to train you for making a real sword. But if all you want is to have fun, that's fine too. Else listening to those that have done it may have a better chance of getting you there. Edited by steve sells
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First, I love swords, and the one you did looks very nice!
I can't say that I agree fully with the advice about going ahead and starting with carbon steel. I tried that a few days ago and ruined a couple of good pieces of carbon steel. (Tiller blade and sucker rod to be exact.) Also I can get my mild steel realy cheep! 2"x1/4" flat bar is aprox. $0.50+ a foot
On the flip side if you do use carbon you will kill three birds with one stone: you'll learn to shape your swords, practice working carbon, (without splitting it like I did) and practice tempering properly!
I've been forging for about 2+ years and I have only made one knife and have never made a sword. My point is that it will take time! I have never tempered anything either. Well, actually I did temper my hardie but that was a complete accident!:o
One reason I haven't made a sword is that I like a long thin thrusting blade that requires maximum flexibility. I have no idea were to start as far as what carbon type and temper color, and can therefore offer no advice as to that.
Once again the sword you did looks great, and well shaped!
Dave Custer

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  • 2 weeks later...

I agree with this philosophy 100%. I'm just getting into this seriously after years of talking s.... As a carpenter for the past 26 years I have an eye for detail. I also know that you have to know how to do things properly before you can cut corners. I'm hoping that YOU all will guide me to unlock not just the old standards (which I do need to learn) but also new methods for manipulating steel

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