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Thread: Close up of real Chinese swords

  1. #1
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    Close up of real Chinese swords











    the swirley patterns you see above are the result of the grain patterns that result from the sanmei construction/lamination process (various steel alloys of varying carbon levels IE varying hardness are welded/forged in a heterogenous mix to make the sword extremely strong and sharp and extremely durible

    the patterns at the very edge of the blade are result of differential heat treatment patterns. thick clay is grafted on to the spine of the blade and while thin clay is grafted on the blade. it is then heated at different temperatures and then cooled. the clay on the blade will cool faster.

    below is a diagram of the different resulting grain patterns



    below is diagrams of archeaologically dug up swords and their lamination constructions



    as you can see from the right side of the diagram above, the Han dynasty steel Dao and Jian have forge welded plates of varying carbon levels.

    the credit for this process is for some reason given to Japanese people
    Last edited by YangLiCheng; 07-06-2005 at 07:05 PM.

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    WOW!! Excellent pics!! I wish I could make stuff like that in my shop...
    Those that are the most sucessful are also the biggest failures. The difference between them and the rest of the failures is they keep getting up over and over again, until they finally succeed.


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    i'd rather someone comment on the grain patterns that result from the sanmei construction/lamination process or the patterns along the blades resulting from differential heat treatments

    the forging process of real Chinese swords is for some reason a mystery to "Chinese swordsman" these days

    i've heard "kung fu" guys tell me ridiculous B.S such as

    1. Shi Fu Yang Jing Ming of boston actually had the nerve to tell people that Chinese didn't use steel for swords until after the Tang Dynasty (forged blades of high carbon steel undergoing an extremely unique process had totally replaced bronze for swords by 100 B.C

    shi fu yang's ignorance is especially funny since its widely known that cast iron(iron with extremely high carbon content) was known in China for almost 3000 years. the perfect steel alloys for swords is steel with carbon levels between cast iron and wrought iron

    2. an anonymous Shi Fu once told me that that the sanmei construction/lamination process is of Japanese invention (even though the process is Chinese and the term "san mei" itself is Chinese). i obviously left his school shortly afterwards
    Last edited by YangLiCheng; 07-06-2005 at 07:22 PM.

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    I really can't comment, I don't have the knowledge of that type of metal working.


    I do know I could probably make a superior sword by cutting the pattern out of a stock of ATS-34, and haveing it heat treated to rockwell 56-58 though. THAT, I could do in my shop if I so desired.

    I would be interetsed in the metal working procedures used in ancient times though.
    Those that are the most sucessful are also the biggest failures. The difference between them and the rest of the failures is they keep getting up over and over again, until they finally succeed.


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    if it struck a blade made out of the same material, would it break?

    swords of heterogenous metal alloys are not only incredibly sharp but durible as well, the softer alloys act as a cushion for the blade plates

    all real Chinese swords (japanese ones to) undergo lamination processes (as well as steel folding and differential heat treatments)

    just making a piece of metal that is sharp simply doesn't work that well

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    ATS-34 is some strong steel. I'm sure it would break a multi grade steel sword. It's dense, and heavy, and has good bendability for absorbing impact. It's basically a high carbon stainless steel...but will rust if in a really wet enviroment.
    Those that are the most sucessful are also the biggest failures. The difference between them and the rest of the failures is they keep getting up over and over again, until they finally succeed.


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    Sorry I misunderstood your question, in my experiance, no, it won't break. You'd have to have one he11 of a swing to dammage it, even going sword against sword.

    Modern steels are not brittle enough to "Break". Bend under SEVERE (I mean SEVERE) impacts yes, but break is very hard to do. If you cracked it as hard as you could against an I beam your going to dammage it, but a clean break I doubt highly. The edge would get chewed up for sure though, no matter what steel you have.

    Now 440c or 420-j you might be able to break. ATS-34, no way, it's too dense.
    Those that are the most sucessful are also the biggest failures. The difference between them and the rest of the failures is they keep getting up over and over again, until they finally succeed.


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    Quote Originally Posted by YangLiCheng
    the swirley patterns you see above are the result of the grain patterns that result from the sanmei construction/lamination process (various steel alloys of varying carbon levels IE varying hardness are welded/forged in a heterogenous mix to make the sword extremely strong and sharp and extremely durible

    the patterns at the very edge of the blade are result of differential heat treatment patterns. thick clay is grafted on to the spine of the blade and while thin clay is grafted on the blade. it is then heated at different temperatures and then cooled. the clay on the blade will cool faster.
    Nice post. Interesting.

    I'm not really clear on your description above though... perhaps you could explain it in a little more detail: the Japanese are supposed to have a unique way of forging, and I'm pretty sure although similar, it is in fact different to that you've started to describe.

    If we can work out those differences you can explain them more clearly to questioners.

    Of course, there's a fair chance you already know more than me about the Japanese processes...!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mat
    Nice post. Interesting.

    I'm not really clear on your description above though... perhaps you could explain it in a little more detail: the Japanese are supposed to have a unique way of forging, and I'm pretty sure although similar, it is in fact different to that you've started to describe.

    If we can work out those differences you can explain them more clearly to questioners.

    Of course, there's a fair chance you already know more than me about the Japanese processes...!
    please click on the diagrams i already posted. if they answer your questions, you're wasting my time trying to re-explain everything

    its not different, you were lead to believe so. As was I for a long time. In fact, i was so angry that i've been lied to by my Shi Fu about the history of Chinese sword metallurgy that i quit shortly afterwards

    the japanese called it the process "sanmai", same as Chinese "sanmei". The lamination process was created even before Chinese used steel for swords .Japanese elaborated on the process MUCH later but it remained essentially the same. the only ellaboration they made were altering the shape of steel plates used in the laminations.

    don't get me wrong, the swords that Kung Fu guys use today are complete crap but thanks to the hard work of people at Zheng Wu Tang, Long Quan, and Hua Nuo, real Chinese swords forged the real Chinese way. i've talked to guys who work these companies and they confirm that most of the people who buy their swords are not kung fu guys but mostly collectors.

    folding of the steel is not a process unique to anyone so i'm not going to even bother

    the steel that is used for Chinese, Korean as well as Japanese swords is created from cast iron (first used in China). Cast iron has high carbon levels making it extremely brittle. However, a method to siphon carbon levels in the iron made steel alloys that were perfect for swords.

    the lamination process is when you forge a blade using steel alloys of different carbon content. if you could map out the sword by alloys, you would essentially see three plates which are purposely made from cast iron with different levels of carbon taken or added into it.

    for Chinese sabers and Nihonto(japanese sabers), the middle plate or internal plate is the softest steel alloy. so basically when it strikes a hard object, the soft steel alloy opposite to the steel alloy plate on teh cutting edge is cushioned and doesn't chip or break easily

    for Jian, its more unique since it has dual cutting edge. the plates on the broad edge. one side has a carbon content more or less similar to the content found in the cutting edge while the opposite side has a carbon content much lower (harder) than the other side

    the Japanese process is the same but for each type of sword, the process is altered to fit the design of the blade. it does not mean its that different at all. same concept

    DON'T FORGET: both real Chinese swords and japanese swords show grain patterns, this is the result of different metal alloys mixing IE the lamination/sanmei construction process

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    Thank you for your explanation.

    Sorry if I was wasting your time

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    Nice photos! I was particularly fond of the straight-grain blade section you showed in the photograph comparing blade grains. That was off a jian which would have had... let me guess... six more of those little brass plugs spaced along the length of the blade, yes?

    Now if only I could find a sword like that rather than the wushu junk piece I currently have hanging in my living room.

    PS: The Burl-Grain pattern blade reminded me of some examples of damascus steel that were on offer at a sword store in London. Do you know if that blade was a damascus steel blade or just another with a pronounced tonal variant in the grain?

    PPS: The sword issue of Kung Fu Magazine had an article regarding a smith in China who was constructing Bronze Jian using the rod method. I don't know if he was using differential levels of tin between cutting faces and rod (I left my copy of that issue in Canada by mistake ) but I imagine he was. Did you read that article by any chance?

    PPPS: There is a lovely Jian on display at the museum in Lishi. I spent a good 5-10 minutes gawping at it (about as long as I spent in the Ming pottery room) my first reaction was to assume it was bronze because of the stated age but it was highly discoloured with age and I am wondering now if it might have been an iron blade. Relative long; perhaps a 75 cm blade...
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    the two different metals are stacked on top of each other and forged to get 100 or more levels. the swirly patterns can be brought out more by dipping the metal in acid. it eats away at some of the metal and not the other. ( assuming diferent carbon count metals were used) . this creates a microscopic serated edge on the blade. it makes the blade excelent for cutting flesh. it is refered to damascus or pattern welded steel. not sure wich is the correct term. the japanese blacksmiths would draw out the metal and bent it length-wise to forge instead of bending it in half width-wise. not sure how the chinese blacksmiths would do it. the blade edge is heat treated to cool quicker to give it a hard brittle edge to keep an edge. the spine of the blade is heat treated to cool longer so it is softer so the sword will bend a little instead of breaking. the different color edge on the blade if from the different layers of clay used in the heat treating. many blacksmiths would havr a "pattern" to mark their own swords.
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    patterns can also be achieved by twisting rods around each other before firing and hammering them. This technique is seen in the ways the brits used to forge theirs back in the day.

    I watched a dilly on this on the discovery channel. the outcome was a beautiful british style roman gladius with remarkable patterning on the blade and durability because of the process.

    nice pics though. Those blades look pretty decent even in the macro shots.
    Kung Fu is good for you.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by gwa sow
    the two different metals are stacked on top of each other and forged to get 100 or more levels. the swirly patterns can be brought out more by dipping the metal in acid. it eats away at some of the metal and not the other. ( assuming diferent carbon count metals were used) . this creates a microscopic serated edge on the blade. it makes the blade excelent for cutting flesh. it is refered to damascus or pattern welded steel. not sure wich is the correct term. the japanese blacksmiths would draw out the metal and bent it length-wise to forge instead of bending it in half width-wise. not sure how the chinese blacksmiths would do it. the blade edge is heat treated to cool quicker to give it a hard brittle edge to keep an edge. the spine of the blade is heat treated to cool longer so it is softer so the sword will bend a little instead of breaking. the different color edge on the blade if from the different layers of clay used in the heat treating. many blacksmiths would havr a "pattern" to mark their own swords.
    you're referring to steel folding which occurs after laminations and sometimes before or after differential heat treatment. there isn't 100 layers, the varying plates/different steel alloys are folded to make the blade thinner

    dipping the metal in acid is an aesthetic effect, it has nothing to do with a heterogenous mix in metal alloys

    i thought i explained the differential heat treatment already anyways

    japanese smiths didn't forge their swords any differentally. thats a myth spread
    by kung fu guys who use cast metal false blades

  15. #15
    The Vikings also had pattern welded swords …but either the know how or tradition stopped around 900AD

    YangLiCheng is dead on! Pattern welded/ folded/multi layered whatever you called the process, did as far as they can tell originated in China, during the warring states period (our Bronze age) and Archeologist and Historian think probably the Japanese learned the process from the Chinese. I would love to find out were the Viking learned tit from….self discovered…or trade with the far east?

    However, as far as function goes, a sword that is hammered on of a billet and heat tempered correctly is just as good as a pattern welded sword. The pattern welded sword looks way much cooler…but the ability to keep an edge/resist shock are the same.



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