Movie swordmaking is a big long orange-glowing lie


Well, it’s called “Forged in fire,” not “cast in fire” :wink:
I’m thinking of the ep. where they booted the guy who basically just ground out his whole blade. =)


I just say this because at one point I was spending way too much time on a chainsaw forum…
Chainsaws have chain. That chain is comprised of cutters and links. A chainsaw chain comprised of knives or blades, while a thing of beauty, would completely useless.


Rule 34 applies to pedantry as much as to everything else, apparently.


You could rub tobacco leaves onto the sword. In addition to being toxic, tobacco is highly addictive, so it would be quite unhealthy for the stabee.


A billet of steel can only be folded around 20 times before it becomes a homogeneous block without any layers. You double the number of layers on each fold, so you rapidly build up hundreds of layers.

There’s two things going on with Japanese sword making and folding. Both are techniques intended to make up for low quality steel. The Japanese only had access to dirty ore, and their steel making technology was often outdated compared to other regions (thanks isolationism!)

So when making the base steel the bloom had to be repeatedly hammered and folded to remove impurities, voids, and work in additional carbon. In this step you would fold well more than 20 times. Not producing layers but a homogeneous billet.

Now ideally speaking when making a blade you want steel that is hard enough to take an sharp edge, flexible enough to avoid breaking, strong enough to avoid bending, and not so tough as to be impossible to grind/sharpen. And Japanese steel making simply couldn’t produce steel of that quality.

So what they did was produce different steels, with beneficial properties. And combine them in layers to get a blade that had the features neccisary.

A hard, sharp but brittle steel would be wrapped in a softer, dull, but flexible steel. To create a laminated blade. Or the steels would be folded together to create distinct layers. 2-3 steels, folded 8-16 times.

And that’s basically how pattern welding and lamination came about everywhere. Less “the best swords were pattern welded”. Than pattern welding/lamination was the best way to make blades out of not very good steel.

The Japanese weren’t the only ones who did it. And other places, like Scandinavia, were doing it a hell of a lot longer. Damascus steel wasn’t pattern welded.

The whole “Japanese swords are best swords” thing comes from a couple of places. First is that people are usually comparing 18th and 19th century Japanese swords to like 10th century European swords. But it’s also down to Japanese traditions of handing down swords, and making very high quality swords as offerings in Shinto temples. Means a very high proportion, of very expensive swords of the highest quality have survived in Japan. Where as in other places they have not.

Generally speaking the quality of swords made in Japan in any given time period was no better and no worse than any other place. And there were locations (Like Scandinavia, Sheffield in England, Damascus) where they were considerably better. Because again, Japan was making some pretty shitty steel until after WWII.


If you’re going for sturdiness you’re still better off with one well-aged halfling.

Old hobbits are hard to break.


Pretty much anything to do with boats fits this description. It is very rare that I can watch a movie that involves sailing or fishboats of any sort. Protip - if someone falls off the boat into the ocean, don’t jump in after him. That just means two people are in the ocean, the one who did it on purpose is not gifted with superpowers. Looking at you, Perfect Storm.

Also, I get the impression from most Hollywood portrayals of children and teenagers that they are written by people who do not have children and are just guessing what it might be like.


Dare I ask your opinion of The Far side of the World?


That’s a good enough excuse to drop my holiday pics again. :slightly_smiling_face:


Not quite.

The tricks the Japanese used to make their swords were ingenious, but they were mostly making a virtue of necessity. Japan was iron-poor, and what was available such as iron sand was often poor quality. The folding and the different types of steel laminated together were fixes that created some elemental homogeneity within the body of the sword. They created some great swords, but Japanese swords weren’t necessarily better than those from other countries.

Mechanical Damascus isn’t always “folded”. Sometimes cable is welded together or pieces can be put together and forge welded. Much of the aim is to make sure that impurities in the metal don’t lead to the blade breaking and to get the qualities of several sorts of steel into one blade.

Wootz? That’s a whole different discussion. Wootz is a crucible steel that incorporates several different crystalline structures in one piece of metal. It can look a lot like mechanical damascus, but it isn’t the same thing at all.

A lot of the impetus for these exotic treatments went away with the development of modern metallurgy. When you can get reliable, predictable high-quality spring steel by the ton there’s a lot less reason to spend days waiting for your wootz crucible to heat or cool at just the right rate or to fold and weld half a dozen times.


A lot of kerises in Nusantara were rubbed with lime juice and arsenic to bring out the patterns in the metal. Legends grew out of this that the blades themselves were poisonous.




“Nobody owns life, but anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death.”
― William S. Burroughs


Related question: Has anyone ever actually beaten a sword into a ploughshare? Would that even make sense or would it be easier to simply melt the metal down and start over entirely?


I don’t know the answer to this, but my brief perusal of Wikipedia revealed that the Greek hero-god Echetlus used a ploughshare as a sword, thus earning his name:

There is also at least one case of swords being melted into owchairs:


I think melting it would require more specialized equipment than just wacking it out. Apparently historically most smith’s didn’t process their own ore. And there were places and people who only processed ore, and didn’t do ant smithing. Plus you have to hammer the thing back out anyways.

So I guess it’s a question of whether it’s worth finding some one or equipment to avoid hammering it into a billet first.



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