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Sword Making for the Home Workshop

Updated on September 28, 2017
twayneking profile image

Tom King is a freelance writer, author of 5 books, grant-writer, canoe instructor, river rat, and nonprofit consultant from Texas.

Some Basic Sword Types

Katana (samurai) Standard single-bladed weapon of the samurai. Extremely sharp!
Katana (samurai) Standard single-bladed weapon of the samurai. Extremely sharp!
Scimitar - Middle eastern sword popular with sailors and pirates. The thick curved blade is good for cutting ropes.
Scimitar - Middle eastern sword popular with sailors and pirates. The thick curved blade is good for cutting ropes.
Cutlass - The cutlass, similar to the scimitar, is the sailors side arm because it is heavy enough to cut ropes, canvas and wood.  Short enough to use in close quarters combat the cutlass was simple to use and required little training.
Cutlass - The cutlass, similar to the scimitar, is the sailors side arm because it is heavy enough to cut ropes, canvas and wood. Short enough to use in close quarters combat the cutlass was simple to use and required little training.
Bronze Centurion Sword - Shorter than the average sword because of the limitations of bronze. Predominantly used for stabbing. Useful against massed shields. The Romans later developed a similar guardless iron short sword called the gladius.
Bronze Centurion Sword - Shorter than the average sword because of the limitations of bronze. Predominantly used for stabbing. Useful against massed shields. The Romans later developed a similar guardless iron short sword called the gladius.
Medieval Broadsword - The hilt and guard varied significantly from the wide quillions of the type shown to the virtually absent guard on many Celtic sword variants and the Germanic spatha of the Middle Ages.
Medieval Broadsword - The hilt and guard varied significantly from the wide quillions of the type shown to the virtually absent guard on many Celtic sword variants and the Germanic spatha of the Middle Ages.
Two handed Sword  Very large, designed to be wielded with two hands, although some very strong swordsmen could handle it with one. Useful against cavalry for sweeping the legs from under horses and infantry alike.
Two handed Sword Very large, designed to be wielded with two hands, although some very strong swordsmen could handle it with one. Useful against cavalry for sweeping the legs from under horses and infantry alike.
Falchion  The falchion is a single bladed French medieval sword that draws its design from a butchers meat cleaver. An easy to use weapon, they were made in quantity for use by conscripted troops.
Falchion The falchion is a single bladed French medieval sword that draws its design from a butchers meat cleaver. An easy to use weapon, they were made in quantity for use by conscripted troops.
Flamberge - Long leather wrapped grip so the wielder could choke up on and swing in shorter arcs. The undulating blade that may be found on both heavy and light swords and causes an unpleasant vibration in an opponent,s sword.
Flamberge - Long leather wrapped grip so the wielder could choke up on and swing in shorter arcs. The undulating blade that may be found on both heavy and light swords and causes an unpleasant vibration in an opponent,s sword.
Claymore--The large two-handed claymore was used by Scottish Highland troops in the late Medieval and early modern periods. The Claymore, an intermediate sword, smaller than the standard European two-handed sword, was larger than most broadswords.
Claymore--The large two-handed claymore was used by Scottish Highland troops in the late Medieval and early modern periods. The Claymore, an intermediate sword, smaller than the standard European two-handed sword, was larger than most broadswords.
Ceremonial Sword  A more expensive broadsword used by nobles and kings, often decorated with jewels with elaborate handles, pommels and quillions.
Ceremonial Sword A more expensive broadsword used by nobles and kings, often decorated with jewels with elaborate handles, pommels and quillions.
Rapier - A very sharp two-edged sword and thin compared to most swords. Made to used at the point for stabbing, finding weaknesses in enemy armor and for slicing. Requires finesse and training to use effectively.
Rapier - A very sharp two-edged sword and thin compared to most swords. Made to used at the point for stabbing, finding weaknesses in enemy armor and for slicing. Requires finesse and training to use effectively.

Basic Blade Forging

Introduction

Swords come in a wide variety of configurations. The long sword is generally an iron or steel straight broadsword, thicker in the center and tapering toward the edges. An iron plate in front of a minimal guard protected the hand in Celtic Swords. These have an anthropomorphic human looking head was attached at the end of the grip and legs and arms spread at either end of the grip protected the hand. Later broadswords had elaborate handles, engraving on the blade and a wide variety of hand guards in front of the handle. Short swords like those favored by the Romans tend to be thicker and wider and often have little or no guard in front of the grip. Rapiers, cavalry sabers and other gentlemanly weapons are often more slender of blade and more elegantly decorated. Working swords like cutlasses were little more than modern day machete's in the complexity of construction.

In this article we're simply going to look at the key element of sword making - how to forge a blade. The rest is mostly decoration and basic craft work. Making a decent blade, however, is something of an art and requires a great deal of practice to get right. Here's what it takes to forge the basic blade.

Equipment

  • Power grinder
  • Power polisher and pads
  • Drill press - for drilling holes in the handle for attaching grips, knewels and other decorations.
  • Anvil
  • Rounded hammers of varying weights
  • Shaping tools, bicks, fullers, swages, chisels, punches and drifts.
  • A forge - for heating the metal to be shaped.
  • Quench tank - full of oil to submerge hot swords after shaping
  • Slack tub - full of water to quick cool swords and tools
  • Heavy tools like screwdrivers, files, vises, grinders, pubbers, torches, metal saws, pliers, buffers and wrenches.

Materials:

Depending on how authentic you want your sword to be, you will need a piece of metal roughly the shape and size of your blade. The forge will heat it to a point where you can shape it into the blade shape you want. Just have the metal blank cut as close to size as possible.

You will also need material like wood, leather or to make hand grips and decorations. You'll also need straps, bolts rivets or glue to boltc glue or rivet all of this together to make a nice decorative and comfortable handgrip and/or guard.

Forging the Blade

Forge the blade by heating a bar of iron, steel or other desired metals to glowing in the forge. Beat the blank into rough shape with hammers. Hammer one six inch section at a time.

Heat and hammer the sword blank many times to temper the metal and make it strong and flexible. Keep working one six inch section at a time till the sword is in the proper shape. Some sword makers include a one piece core and end ball for the handle in the completed sword blank.

Anneal the sword by heating it till it glows and then let it cool very, very slowly. Wrap the sword shape with a heat resistant insulation material so it cools as slowly as possible. Let it cool for 24 hours to make the sword soft and easy to grind.

Grind the edges of the sword with a power grinder to sharpen it and shape the point of the sword and the handle and guard. If you are making a stage sword, flatten the edges to prevent accidentally cutting your sparring partner. While the sword is soft you can do any etching you want to do on the blade and exposed parts of the handle.

Hardening the Blade

Harden the blade by repeatedly heating the sword and then placing it quickly into the quenching tank so that it cools evenly and quickly. This hardens the metal, but leaves the sword brittle.

Tempering the Blade

Temper the blade by heating it to a lower temperature than you did when you were hardening it. The metal shouldn’t reach the glowing point. Repeat this over and over, dipping it into the slack tub full of water to cool the metal between reheatings. It takes practice to understand when you have tempered it enough to make it hard and flexible without the metal losing its ability to hold an edge.

Polishing
Attach the handle, pommel and guard to the hilt of the sword and decorate it however you want to. Finally, polish the blade to a bright gleam with the polisher and gently hone the blade to a fine edge if you want an authentic edged weapon. Flatten the edges if you are using the sword for stage or re-enactments..

Resources:

Making a Prop Sword Look Real to the Camera - http://www.cvisual.com/film-techniques/film-make-prop-sword-look-real.asp

myArmoury.com - http://www.myarmoury.com/home.html

Museum Replicas Limited - http://www.museumreplicas.com/c-135-create-your-own-sword.aspx

Stormcastle Blacksmithing - http://www.stormthecastle.com/blacksmithing/how-to-make-a-sword-complete-tutorial.htm

Peter Johnsson - Swordsmith: http://www.peterjohnsson.com/the-making-of-a-long-sword/

All Things Medieval - http://www.knight-medieval.com/knight-castle-medieval-articles/how-to-make-a-sword.htm



Four Part Video on Sword-Making

© 2010 twayneking

Comments

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    • kryptowrite profile image

      Rodney C Lawley 6 years ago from Southeastern United States

      Interesting article. I learned something new with the hardening and tempering information. Thanks.

    • twayneking profile image
      Author

      twayneking 7 years ago from Puyallup, WA

      Thanks, Angela. Good luck with the article.

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 7 years ago from United States

      This is super neat. I am writing a hub on pirate weapons. I am putting this as a link towards the side as a fun addition to it. :) Voted up and awesome!

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