Also check out my Twitter and Facebook pages!


Monday, October 8, 2012

Making a Sword

Picture Credit: http://medievalswords.stormthecastle.
One of the interesting tidbits I researched for my novel is the process of making swords. My characters function in a fantasy world similar to our own medieval period, so I specifically looked at making medieval swords.

First off, I need to forewarn readers that this contains interesting facts about sword-making, not step-by-step instructions. I did find a website specifically geared toward people trying to learn the craft of swordsmithing, so if that is your intent, visit it: http://www.anvilfire.com/FAQs/swords_faq_index.htm.

  • The average completed sword weighed 2-4 pounds on average--no more than 10 pounds for a very heavy "sword of war".
  • Swordsmithing is a dying craft (due to a lack of need today) and the swords manufactured today are of a lesser quality than the average medieval sword.
  • Swords came in different price ranges based on quality. A cheap sword could take a week by itself to make. Expensive swords could take up to a few months.
  • Before the "Work" is Begun, the swordsmith must look at exactly what metals should be used and the size and shape of the desired weapon
    • Swordsmiths specialized in making swords and were much more reliable for weapons than the run-of-the-mill blacksmith who worked mainly with softer metals and molds
    • An experienced swordsman will have his or her specific preferences for the weapon--customers worked with swordsmiths over a period of time, with each weapon telling the swordsmith what should be different next time.
  • Forging takes place
    • By the 10th century, swords were made out of steel (a combination of iron and carbon from charcoal) and iron. They forged the blade by taking bars of each and "folding" them together over heat to give the sword optimal strength and flexibility. 
      • If it was too flexible it wouldn't be as sharp and it would bend in battle, but if it was too stiff then it would break
    • While shaping the blade, quenching (or cooling it rapidly) will harden it and slow cooling will make it flexible so they used a combination of the two.
    • Too much heat in the fire or too little heat would make the sword brittle. Bellows were invented to help keep the heat regulated--before they were invented the apprentices would blow into the fire.
  • Annealing
    • After the sword is the right shape, it is slow cooled (usually wrapped in insulating material) to soften it enough to make the edges easy to grind and sharpen.
  • Polishing
    • Grinding is often referred to polishing. Initial grinding takes place at a stone grinding wheel, but then it is fine-tuned with small rocks or metals.
  • Hardening
    • Now the sword is put back in the fire to be quenched multiple times to increase the strength.
  • Tempering 
    • When the blade is done, the fine-tuned hardening is called tempering. The fire is kept much cooler and the blade is put in for only a short time before it is pulled back out and quenched.
  • Attaching the Hilt
    • Now the blade is done and the hilt should be attached. Hilts (like the blades) were specific to the swordsmen's tastes. Often, a cutler (or specialist in hilts) would be the one to attach the hilt.

For more fun, look at common misconceptions regarding swords and armor here: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/aams/hd_aams.htm

No comments:

Post a Comment