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4 Best Steel For Swords – Let’s take a look

best steel for swords

Which is the best steel for swords? This is a frequently asked question by many beginners.

Now here, let me tell you the word ‘best’ will depend on the sword type and its intended use.

Not to miss, there are other factors also than just the steel type.

I can explain with an example- More than the steel itself there are two more important things, the heat treatment and the forging quality which the steel undergoes. Any normal plain steel if properly treated with heat will prove to be better off than the L6 tool steel which is considered as one of the best quality (provided the blade isn’t tempered properly).

PUTTING IT IN A SIMPLER WAY!

Changing the question to what are the commonly used steels for creating sharpest swords along with their benefits and drawbacks- Of course with the perfect tempering!

In the write-up below your query will be answered in the best possible way and you will get to know your preference along with budget for a sword.

Also Read: 6 Best Battle Ready One Piece Swords For Decoration

We have stainless-steel, spring steel, and tool steel types mentioned below.

1. Stainless Steel

Perhaps, stainless-steel is the most commonly used material to make swords. But this is much related to the most low-priced decorative ones.

These type of swords could turn out to be flimsy and brittle when talking about some serious usage due to the reason that they shatter easily.

stainless steel swords could turn out to be flimsy and brittle

The technical aspect of stainless-steel

Why stainless-steel is stainless?

Because it comprises of high Chromium content- over 11%. Since we are talking about swords and if they get 12” long then the steel may weaken leading to stress points. So, these types of swords are more for admiration from a distance.

Note: Exceptions to the rule!

Because it comprises of high Chromium content- over 11%. Since we are talking about swords and if they get 12” long then the steel may weaken leading to stress points. So, these types of swords are more for admiration from a distance.

2. High Carbon Steel

For a proper functional sword perfect tempering is required- 'High Carbon steel sword'.

This exactly means…..

The sword manufacturers use a scale by the American society of automotive engineers- SAE. According to them too, the most common type of steel type used to make swords is plain carbon steel.

For example steel classification:

1. AISI 1045 has 0.45% carbon content

2. 1060 is 0.60 carbon content

If the carbon content ranges between 0.05 - 0.15, then it is supposed to be low carbon steel and between 0.16 - 0.29 is mild steel. There are not suitable for functional swords.

A decent treatment can be given to any carbon content which is less than 0.40%. This again is not so suitable for swords but great for fittings.

What do the sword experts say?

An ideal range for a sharp and durable sword that can hold a decent edge promisingly is between 0.5 – 0.7 carbon content.

Some more important carbon steels are highlighted below:

- 1045 CARBON STEEL

The swords made of this steel are quite inexpensive, relatively softer, and convenient to make. They can be made easily by machine milling, hand forging, or pressing.

The starting point of the minimum carbon content is 0.40% and the carbon steel is 0.45% and perhaps this is the minimum acceptable steel that’s required for a practical blade.

The 1045 could be impressively strong and you will get it around or under US $100, and if it says carbon steel, then probably it is nothing else but 1045.

If you talk about the modern standards then probably this may be the lowest in steel quality. The quality carbon steel sword 1045 can exceed the historical originals like the Japanese Tamahagane and this difference is due to its proper tempering.

- 1060 CARBON STEEL:

This type of steel is again a great settlement between pliability- strength + hardness- edge-holding capacity.

Swords such as Cold Steel, Darksword Armory, and Ronin Katana are well known for their robustness and are made using 1065- carbon steel.

These are more popular and a bit more difficult to forge, sharp, and polish and involves a lot of time too. This calls for a higher price tag than the 1045 and it ranges between $150 to $500 (dictated by factors such as tempering type, polish, fittings, and more).

- 1095 CARBON STEEL:

This is very hard and could be problematic if improperly heat treated.

The biggest benefit of the 1095 carbon steel swords is the edge that it retains over the others (with lower carbon content) if well-tempered.

What effect does a sword of 1095 carbon steel- properly heat treated can do to a 440 carbon steel wall Hager (untampered).

sword of 1095 carbon steel- properly heat treated can do to a 440 carbon steel wall Hager

You can witness the results- ruined, savaged, and bent stainless steel sword.

They are priced between $200- $600 and that makes them a bit more expensive than the ones mentioned above.

3. Spring Steels

Generally, there are two types of sprig steel swords:

o 5160

o 9260

Where the last two digits mentioned represent the carbon content. Henceforth, both have good compromise between durability and hardness.

Proper heat treatments on spring steel let the objects return to their original shape even if notable twisting or bending occurs. The 1060 spring steel gets a special kind of twist this way.

spring steel

Take a quick look at different steel-types:

- 65MN SPRING STEEL

This is a kind of Chinese steel which is known for being inexpensive yet strong. Somewhat similar to US 1065 carbon steel this has some additional elements and manganese.

Basically a more budget-friendly version of 1060 carbon steel this is used for truck springs in China and bayonets for AK47 (former Soviet countries).

- 5160 SPRING STEEL

This is low Chromium alloy-steel that comprise of 0.7 chromium (where a minimum required is 13% Chromium for stainless) and if combined with a small amount of silicon (0.2%) results in a tough and durable sword.

Favoured by sword makers like Angus Trim, Generation 2. The blades are designed by Michael Tinker Pearce.

These also form the choice of popular Nepalese Khurki and can even cut buffaloes as the blade is strong and sharp.

These are also used on medieval-style swords and mono tempered Katana.

Their lowest price could be $250, but may go higher depending on the style, fittings, and who designed it.

- 5166 SPRING STEEL

This shares similar properties to that of 5160 spring steel but has an add-on manganese alloying agent which gives more strength along with flexibility.

Another good thing is that 5166 is slightly more wear-resistant than 5160 and can be said to be somewhere between 5160- 9260 spring steel.

- 9260 SPRING STEEL

This is made by a well-known Cheness cutlery and is used by Brendon Olszowy from Fableblades- an Australian Sword Maker.

The 9260 consists of 2% silicon (offers resilience against lateral-bends) along with so much flexibility. Even if bent at 90-degrees this allows to spring back.

As the 9260 boasts of durability, they can be rarely damaged or broken and I have tried this myself.

The swords made by 9260 steel are difficult to heat-treat (as they come out with many twists and bends). It is rare that they remain straight as are resistant to return to their basic shape. The sellers claim the blades of 9260 under $200.

4. Tool Steels

The swords made using tool steel have gained more popularity in the recent scenario. The swords constructed with tool steel retain great edge, hold well, and stay very tough. The more popular ones are T- 10 tool steel and legendary L6 Bainite.

- T-10 TOOL STEEL

This is Tungsten alloy steel that comes with a high carbon content- 0.9 to 1.0% approx. along with a little silicon- .35% approx. The steel is also referred to as ‘High Speed Steel’.

After proper tempering this becomes very hard (above HRC60) thereby enabling it to be more resistant to any sort of abrasions and scratches.

This sits tougher than the other swords which have the similar carbon content.

Hard and durable, this steel is something I really appreciate.

Hard and durable, this steel is something I really appreciate.

Sword series made from T10 Tungsten steel-

1. SBG Custom Katana

2. Ryujin Custom Katana

- L6 BAINITE

This is actually band saw steel and ‘L’ signifies low alloy steel. After proper heat treatment the steel is said to make the toughest swords ever available in the market.

In the late 1990’s even a smith from Bugei Trading Company started to make this steel as was impressed by the innovative custom sword-work of Howard Clark.

This sword is on an expensive side and after proper heat treatment flaunts of being the toughest but on the other hand is prone to rusts and needs more maintenance over the others.

- S7 SHOCK STEEL

This has many of the attributes of L6 tool steel, and is shock resistant and its name says so.

The S7 is a rare type of steel for production swords and is said to outperform other sword steels. Though not magical or indestructible.

- Damascus Steel/FOLDED STEEL

This is often asked by many of the people that Damascus steel is the best one- but the truth is, this one is also like any other one and just folded many times. It is folded steel and many again think that the folded steel is better than the unfolded one.

They will cut well or be more durable.

However this is again not true!!

The Japanese Katana is related to Damascus steel and historically the technique was used for Japanese iron-ore. Probably, this type of quality is modern steel is not required now.

Note that if the folding is done quickly and without any serious attention then this may lead to weakening of the blade and even fatal sometimes.


A BROADER VIEW – Check the Steel

You can see four different type of steel swords. Though the sword collectors tend to have a typical eye for this but in several cases the true steel-type gets revealed after use.

For e.g 1045 carbon steel blades tend to chip or bend with ease.

Cross-section of a Folded Steel Blade

One more way to check is the Rockwell hardness files. A section of the blade can be scratched by using these files (initiating from softest steel to the hardest) and the mark indicates about the sword hardness.

One more essential thing: Beware and avoid unknown brands, questionable vendors and ensure you get what you pay for.

To be on safer side you can always consult SBG- Sword Buyers Directory.