japanese samurai swords
rolling stone asked:

Any Japanese history buffs who truly know if theses swords were constructed from Damascus steel as an outer coating for their katanas- I have found that they did have a softer grade of steel in the center for flexibility and durability. I just bid on one on ebay but am not sure if this could truly be a durable mix for practical use. I appreciate your help on this-

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5 Comments to “Did the Samurai use Damascus steel when smithing katanas?”

  1. shootersway says:

    No they didn’t but thier refining methods were very advanced and the purity of thier steel was well ahead of its time.

    It was a combination of steel and iron .The iron for a hard edge and the steel for flexiblity.

    The art of folding the the steel as the blade was forged is a purely JAPANESE method which has been copied by out fits like COLD STEEL using a computer controlled machine to fold and refold the the steel and iron .

    A sword made by a master sword smith will run you 100.000 USD to buy.

  2. bboy expulsion says:

    Well damascus is just a mix of different steels, so in that repect, yes. but they didnt do it for the durability, they made their swords out of scrap metal like nails or whatever was lieing around, but they folded the metal over so many times that it was extremely strong. the durability in the back of the blade is because they used a type of clay over everything but the blade while they heated it, so the blade was stronger and the rest was more durable. i forgot what the process was called though… its wat gives the hand-smithed katanas that kind swirvy pattern dividing their blad and the back of the blade… oh yeah my bad the clay was put on before they stuck it in the oil to cool it down, that way the stuff under the blade cooled slower and was less brittle… i havent studied this stuff in a while, but the durability difference isnt from different metals. funny i see the guy above me put steel and iron… the reason steel is better than iron is because its harder, iron is a semi-soft metal, bronze is harder than iron steel is harder thanbronze…. steel is made harder by the carbon in it but to make it less brittle it has to have something like a maximum of .3% carbon in it to make it not brittle, or else it’s just cast iron. I know my metalurgy lol i did bladesmithing for a while… never got NEARLY good enough to make a good katana tho

  3. lee49202 says:

    The history of weapons and empires is stone, bronze, iron and steel, with each being harder and more durable than it’s predecessor. Egypt used bronze weapons to build its empire but lost to the Hittites who used iron. The Greeks, Persians and Romans had steel.

    Japanese steel is not made from nails or whatever they could find. Like any good fabricator they had access to iron ore that they first smelted into a particular form which they then added carbon to in various amounts to make their steels. There are many videos of the entire process available on the web. Try searching for “Japanese sword making”.

  4. Malcolm D says:

    No, the term Damascus refers more to the folding process that creates a way “grain” pattern on the steel. The master japanese swordsmiths used several different techniques to create their weapons, some involved using different types of steel being wrapped around each other. The highest quality being used for the cutting edge. They commonly used tamahagane or iron sand which is fairly rare and expensive.
    The quality of the sword in many respects depends more on the processes used in manufacture such a clay tempering than whether the steel is damascus.

  5. Eric K says:

    The Japanese did not use Damascus steel, but you are right they did “laminate” their swords.

    The use of differential tempering using clay on the posterior edge of the sword allowed for a harder cutting edge. Of course, this edge was much harder, and hence they could chip if they hit another blade. This is why the true art of the Samurai was to strike and kill an opponent without ever having their blades touch. This was the art of one strike kill.

    Medieval blades, which were used by knights were actually stronger blades for striking another blade. Of course they were softer in comparison to the Japanese blade, but were heavy and able to take abuse. However, it seems possible that a very powerful strike from a Japanese Katana could cleave one of these blades in two, however it would take an immense amount of strength. I believe they tried something like this on “Mythbusters” and found it to be improbable. It would also likely damage the Katana.

    Beware blades you purchase on Ebay as some of these are “seconds” and can have less than perfect craftsmanship. You will not be able to afford a Japanese blade as these are many thousands of dollars to priceless. The Paul Chen Katanas are cheaply made but do well for the average practicioner, however you can do better if you wish to spend the money and look around.

    Good luck

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