Introduction: Sword-hilted Broken-back Seax

Picture of Sword-hilted Broken-back Seax

Wherein Ben explains some of the processes he uses.

This instructable is from a tutorial on my website:

For more information about me and my work and links to my blog please visit my website:

Step 1: The Design

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Once I have decided to make a piece I begin by making several rough sketches. If I am
working with a customer then I use the feedback from these sketches to refine the design.
The Final sketches for this project include the profile view and a full-scale rendering of the hilt

Step 2: Forging the Blade

Picture of Forging the Blade

When I begin forging a major piece I write a invocation, on the floor of the shop.
The invocation for this piece is writen in the modified Aglo-Saxon Futhark and reads:
Forged in the cunning fire, honor and duty to inspire.  
If you have any questions about this please visit the philosophy page on my website:

Step 3:

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The steel I used for this seax is 1095 3/16x1 1/4" bar stock.
For most of my forging I use a 6 lb. hammer

Step 4:

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I mark the important demensions on the anvil so I can check the blade while I'm forging it.
In this case the blade is 15" long and 2" wide.

Step 5: Forging the Tip

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I begin forging by shaping the tip

Step 6: Forming the Bevel

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Then I draw out the bevels on the edge

Step 7:

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Here you can see how I work the bevels back along the edge a little at a time.

Step 8:

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Here the blade has been rough forged.

Step 9:

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Next I cut the blade from the billet.

Step 10:

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I use a roofing hatchet and a 3 lb. hammer to do the cutting.

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Then I draw out the tang , refine the shape, and straighten the blade.

Step 12:

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Here is the blade after I've finished the forging process.

Step 13: Filing

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Once the blade is forged to my liking I begin the filing process by defining the profile.

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Then I take the fire scale off using an old farrier's rasp, as the scale is very hard on files.

Step 15:

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I continue working the faces of the blade with the rasp until they are relatively flat
and close to the final dimension I want.

Step 16:

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I sight down the blade and mark the high spots with a felt tip pen. Then using
a file I slowly shave the blade down till the marks are gone. I repeat this until
the edge and spine are true, and the faces are flat.

Step 17:

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Another method I use to true up the sides is to use the tool pictured above like a wood plane.

Step 18: Sanding

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After filing, I beging the polishing process using 150gt sand paper and hardwood
or steel sanding blocks.

Step 19:

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I change direction each time I change from filing to sanding or between grits of sand paper.
This insures that all the marks from the previous grit are taken out at each step and
prevents nasty surprises from showing up later on.

Step 20:

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By holding the blade at an angle and looking at the reflection of a straight edge in it
one can see the high and low spots.

Step 21:

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I mark the high spots on the blade with a felt tip marker. The sqiggly lines are the ones
I derw while sighting down it. the straight ones are the ones I'll use as I sand.

Step 22:

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After finishing with the rough sanding I polish the blade to 220gt. always making sure the
sanding lines run along the edge to avoid stress risers during the heat treatment. At this
point I make sure the dimensions of the tang are the way I want them, and adjust if need be.

Step 23: Shroud

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I use a paper towel and packing tape shroud to protect the blade.

Step 24:

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I seal the shroud with scotch tape to prevent grit from getting in and causing scratches

Step 25: Stress Riser

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Using curves insted of sharp corners at the junction of the tang and blade greatly
reduces the chances of a blade snaping off at the hilt. It also reduces stress during
the heat treating process.

Step 26: Heat Treating

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For most of my pieces I use a marquench. This is the process I use for marquenching.
First, I normalize 3+ times (bring the blade up to the critical temperature then let it air cool).
Normalizing relieves the stresses put into the blade during forging, filing, and sanding.
Then, I bring the blade up to temperature, about 1600F for this steel. Bringing it up a
bit hotter than needed allows me to get the blade to the quenching tank at the right temp.
Next, the blade is plunged into 450F oil and allowed to cool fully to that temp.
Once the blade is at 450F it is semi-plastic and can be molded by a gloved hand.
As the blade cools it "sings" making a shimmering noise as the martinsite crystals form
and the blade reached its hardend state. Finally, the blade is given 3 one-hour heat cycles
at 475F. This converts more of the steel to martinsite, and releives the stress of the quench.

*A side note: I lost three blades in the HT (heat treatment). Also, a blade of these dimensions
will develop a forward curve during the HT so the final blade was forged with a backwards curve

Step 27: Testing the Blade

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After I finish the tempering process I grind the edge and polish the blade back to 150gt.
At this point I test the blade by flexing it and chopping with it. For this one I choose to cut a
through a 2" x 4".

Step 28: Polishing

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Once I am satisfied with the blades performance, I continue polishing it using sandpaper.
Starting with 150gt. I use 220gt, 400gt, 600gt, 800gt, and 1000gt which brings the blade
to a good finish. As before I use alternating diagonal and lengthwise strokes with each
different grit.

Step 29:

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I leave the blade with 1000gt diagonal scraches while I make the hilt and will finish it
afterwards with 1000gt polishing it lenthwise. In the corner you can see the pile of
used sand paper.

Step 30: The Hilt

This part of the Instructable is in cronological order rather then by individual pieces.
The reason for roughing out the hilt pieces is to get an idea of what the balance of
the piece is like. At this point I make any ajustments needed to change the balance
to what I want it to be.

Step 31:

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The first step in making the hilt is the lower guard (hilts are always described with the
sword pointing down). Here is the bottom of the lower guard with the inlet for the tang
finished. I use the same method to inlet both the upper and lower guards.

Step 32:

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It is important when fitting the lower guard to the blade not to have it too tight as that
can cause stress on the top of the tang (the weakest part of the sword) during an impact,
nor is too loose desirable for obvious reasons.

Step 33:

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Here is the lower guard fitted to the tang.

Step 34:

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This seax has a solid Afican Blackwood grip. First I cut the blank slightly over size.

Step 35:

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Then saw the blank in half.

Step 36:

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I flatten the insides of the grip using 150gt sand paper on a flat steel suface.

Step 37:

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I trace the tang on the inside of the grip. To ensure that the two sides match I inlet
the first side before I trace the second side, I clamp the two sides to gether and
mark the edges of the openings on the second side, then trace the tang being careful to
align the tang with the marks at the top and bottom of the grip.

Step 38:

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I do the inleting using chisles, Carving out the center part fist then carefully working
out to the edges.

Step 39:

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Here is the grip after the inlet is complete.

Step 40:

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When I glue the two halves of the grip together I use two clamps to give even pressure
along the joint. I use the tang to make sure that the grip pieces stay aligned as the
clamps are tightened, it also keeps the inlet clear as the the eccess glue is squeezed out.
It is important to remove the tang before the glue sets.

Step 41:

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The guards for this piece are made of 1018 steel, I mark the bar using a V-graver, and
use a hack saw to cut blank off the bar. I then cut off the four corners.

Step 42:

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I mark the guard and drill out most of the material from the inlet.

Step 43:

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Using a jeweler's saw and asorted files I shape the inlet for the tang.

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Here is the finished inlet.

Step 45:

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Here is the upper guard in place on the tang.

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Next I use files to shape the guard. Then I drill the holes for the pommel rivets.
and file the sides round.

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Here is the grip after the side profile has been cut.

Step 49:

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Next I rasp the corners off the grip.

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Here is the bottom of the grip after rasping the corners.

Step 51:

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I begin working on the pommel once I have an idea how the balance needs to change. In this
picture I have drilled the first rivit hole and will drill the second one through the
corresponding hole in the upperguard, using the pin for alignment.

Step 52:

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The primary function of the pommel is to balance the weapon by adding weight to the end of
the tang. I hollow out the pommel by drilling and chisling, this provides clearance for the
tang as well as improving the balance of the sword.

Step 53:

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Next I file the pommel to mach the upper guard.

Step 54:

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Then I begin to shape the pommel with a hack-saw and files.

Step 55:

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Here is the pommel after having been rounded and sanding with 150gt.

Step 56:

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Now that I have all the guards roughed out I can shape the grip using chisles, rasps.

Step 57: Engraving

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I mark the basic pattern on the steel with a pencil and one it is correct I go over it
with a pen. Then I chisle it out. After the basic pattern is cut I chisle in the details.
Once I've finished cutting the lines I file off the burrs and sand to 220gt.

Step 58:

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Here are the guards after engraving.

Step 59:

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I check the fit of the hilt components and refine the grip if need be.

Step 60: Carving

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The tools I use for carving are top to bottom:
1/4" flat chisle, 3/16" round gouge, 3/16" flat chisle, 1/8" flat chisle, 1/16" flat chisle,
chisle tipped pick, point and outside chisle pick. 80% of the carving on this piece was
done with the 1/16 chisle.

Step 61:

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I draw the design out on the piece in pencil then go over the lines with a pen, then cut in
the outline with chisles.

Step 62:

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Then chop out the back ground.

Step 63:

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Here the background has been cut out and the under-over patterns on the beasts have been defined

Step 64:

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After I've finished the rough carving I use steel wool to smooth the surfaces and see where
I need to take more out. Once everything is smooth I begin the detail work.

Step 65:

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On this piece I used two different methods to cut the fine details, the beast on the
left is textured using a 1/8" chisle in the norse chip carving style. The other three
beasts are textured with lines using wood burning techniques.

Step 66: Mounting

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I use traditional methods to mount the blade except that I use epoxy rather then pitch
to seal the hilt and keep mosture from getting between the guards and the blade. Mounting
the blade must be done quickly to avoid having the epoxy set before all the components are on
and the tang is peened. The sequence of mounting the blade is, first the lowerguard is
mounted and sealed with epoxy, the tang inlet in the grip is coated with epoxy and is
placed on the tang, the pommel rivets are placed in the upper guard which is sealed
and placed on top of the grip, and the tang is peened over on it. Peening the tang on
a piece like this where the rivets must be in place is a rather trying task.

Step 67:

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These three images show the riveting on of the pommel. The first shows the upper guard with
the tang peened over on it. The pommel is sealed and hammered on to the rivets which are then
cut about 1/8" above the pommel and peened into the counter sunk holes. the last picture shows
the rivets peened, then the rivets are filed down flush with the pommel and polished to match.

Step 68:

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There you have it, I hope that you enjoyed seeing how I work.
You can see pictures of the finished Seax and read the specs. by ckicking on the link below.

Here is an independent rreview of this piece:


Outbacksugarshack (author)2018-01-03

Beautiful blade. Im hoping to make one just like it htis summer

mmiller121 (author)2015-06-14

How much would a blade like this cost?

Eldalote (author)2014-05-11

I like the handle !

jbill (author)2014-02-20

very nice!

Orngrimm (author)2014-02-12

Nothing more to say about that piece of ART!
Superbly done! Congrats!

master_paradox (author)2012-10-06

I very much enjoyed this, thank you. It is always great to see good craftsmanship, and even better to see it shared. With that in mind, I think that some of the comments on page one have to be addressed. There is no single, right way to craft a blade, and although I personally would always encourage positive debate, we all need to be aware that or comments may be insulting to others. Positive, constructive dialogue: good. Negative or condescending comments: bad.
Once again, thanks to all, I have learned much from the instructable and the comments.

ekatdragon6 (author)2012-07-27

It looks freaking awesome. Where did you get the metal and for how much.

ben potter (author)ekatdragon62012-07-31

The bladesteel came from Admiral steel, and the hilt steel came from onlinemetals.
I can't remember how much it was but it is a lot more now.

skimmo (author)2010-10-09

i dont have access to a forge atm, you reckon that I could cut a piece of plate still into the same shape, I know its not the same but itll be closse

ben potter (author)skimmo2010-10-10

you can it is called stock removal.

skimmo (author)ben potter2010-10-10

i dont get it

ben potter (author)skimmo2010-11-01

There are two ways of crafting blades, forging(forming the metal into shape) and stock removal (starting with an over-sized piece of STOCK and REMOVING the excess until you have the blade). both are equally legitimate and with the right techniques make exelent blades. Good luck.

skimmo (author)ben potter2010-11-17

i get it now! thanks

ninja of suburbia (author)skimmo2011-08-23

Unfortunately, with a stock removal process, you do not get the infusion of carbon into the blade that you do with a forging process, but this can be accounted for by using very high quality steel.

That is actually untrue. There are very specific temperatures and conditions at which carbon is absorbed into the blade and most of the time when a piece of metal is in the fire it is actually decarburising not gaining carbon.

I looked at your profile, and one of your interests is blacksmithing. out of curiosity, are you a blacksmith, or do you just like blacksmithing? Either way, the loss of carbon in the forging process is slow, but the infusion of it at those temperatures you mentioned is very rapid. Put simply, it is like filling a leaky tank with a fire hose. this process is what allowed ancient swordsmiths to create steel weapons when forging from Iron ingots. Japanese swordsmiths still use this method to create rare and beautiful swords. their materials are mainly comprised of iron-bearing sand and low-grade iron. these materials are made into steel by the infusion of carbon during the smelting and forging processes. granted, most of the carbon infusion occurs during smelting, when the metal is at a liquid form, and thus far more susceptible to carbon infusion, but a substantial amount of infusion occurs during the forging process itself. It is preferable to begin with a high-carbon blank or stock piece, but the reasoning is that it simply is easier to begin with a high grade piece than it is to bring the carbon content of a lower grade piece up.

I am a blacksmith. From what I have read, mainly in the Wayne Goddard Art of Knife making book, what you say is untrue. If you have a source that shows otherwise I would be happy to read it but the conditions that you use to forge the blade are not enough to significantly add carbon. What you say about the carbon infusion during the smelting is true, about the forging I would say not.

no, of course it doesn't significantly add carbon, at least, not enough to raise the carbon content very far, which is what I've been saying the whole time. the infusion of carbon at those few temperatures isn't enough to, say, raise the grade of the steel, but it is more than enough to maintain that grade. So, it seems we've been arguing two sides of the same point, and that is, that smelting is the only practical way to significantly raise the grade of the metal, but that, by using certain forging techniques, it is possible to maintain the carbon content of the piece you are working.

It doesn't even have to be very high quality, anything above 1040 would be more than adequate.

skimmo (author)brandon_a_boyer2011-08-31

at the moment i am working on a stock removal saw using a chainsaw bar its coming out awesome

Grimmy Grim (author)2011-12-14

Simply WOW!

What talent and ability!

Ray from RI (author)2011-12-10

As Mr. Burns would say EX.. celletn!!!

You do nice work!!! And your Celtic/Norse art work is excellent as well!!!
I have been looking at collecting books on Celtic, Early Germanic, Anglo-Saxon and Viking Art. art history, mythology for over 20 years and have been creating my own interpretation of a Celtic/Viking style of art for 15 years.

I would say both your artwork and metalwork are outstanding!!! Very Cool!

black hole (author)2011-11-26

How thick is the blade after you're done?

curvy77 (author)2011-11-25

im glad to see another intrested in norse style. iv looked at this before and was confused on the design. of course that didnt stop me from borrowing it. where do you get your ideas for the handle?

deobomb (author)2011-11-17

good frigin god this is a proses GOOD JOB MAN!!

gloryhound100 (author)2009-12-25

I just ran through a translation with some of the runic alphabets that I have at my disposal, and I found a few things I wanted to ask about and also point out. First where is your alphabet source so that I can compare to the books and other documents that I use.
Second you spelled cunning like "cuning" in this invocation. Also the "D" in forged seems to be swapped with a "M" just thought you would want to know for future works.
Third where did you find your "C" rune for this since I am having trouble finding that specific letter. Yours appears to be a Anglo-Frisian "Ch" counterpart Khen
And finally if you have been using Aglo-Saxon Futhark then shouldn't your "O" runes be Odal instead of the Os runes from the Anglo-Frisian alphabet?

All that aside I really love and am inspired by your work but since I am also studying runes and there ceremonial applications I wanted to get your input and also share mine. 

ben potter (author)gloryhound1002009-12-28

Thanks for the comment. I am by no means a runemaster, I use runes as a craftsman of the time might use them simply  as a way of writing. The futhark i use for the invocations is a mix of acouple of different ones(eldar, anglo-saxon, and another that the name escapes me at the moment.) For pieces with engraving I will use one or the other of the historical futharks. I need to clarify that I an a Christian and do not use runes to gain any form of power but only as a means to write down the prayer for the piece I am forging. That said I also do not disbelieve that those skilled with runes could use them in that way only that I serve One who is more powerful.

dwisniewski2 (author)ben potter2011-10-05

No worries - it appears that MMDCXLIII may be slightly more experienced in runes than you, but hasn't managed to ponder out the difference between "they're" and "their." Also? Nice job on the weapon. You know, guys...the thing that this instructible was supposed to be about...? Yeah, that thing. It's awesome.
You mention that you put these runes down on the floor of your forge? Could you give us some idea of scale? Do you place your equipment in the center of the runes to do your work, or...?

ben potter (author)dwisniewski22011-11-09

The invocation fills the area between the forge and the anvil and is slowly worn away during the forging process. They are usually about 3ft in diameter.

ben potter (author)gloryhound1002010-05-24

I used a modified Anglo-Saxon Futhark, I can't remember exactly which version it is.  Thanks for the input.

MMDCCXLIII (author)gloryhound1002010-05-21

Their also coincidentally or not, a form of runes from J.R.R. Tolkien's world, you can find them easily in The Hobbit

brandon_a_boyer (author)2011-05-27

Some of your Information is incorrect.

Tempering converts some of the martensite back into iron and Iron carbide.

Also, why three heat treatment cycles? A single two hour cycle should be more than sufficient for this purpose.

The tempering has to do with gain structure rather then actual composition. Three cycles are necessary to convert as much of the steel to martensite as possible, for a full HT it takes three cycles over a tree day period to insure that all of the steel that is going to convert has and that it has all been tempered. The transformation to martensite happens as the steel cools and more of the steel will convert if you heat it and cool it additional times (Three times being the best as additional cycles do not convert much more steel and have other less desirable effects). There is a fair bit more to it but it would take too long to type it all out.

Three cycles are not necessary for total conversion of martensite.

there are several different structures that occur in an iron and carbon solution

ferrite (iron)
Iron carbide

the ones critical to our discussion are austenite and martensite. Generally speaking all martensite is, is an unstable form of of austenite that occurs at elevated temperatures. Rapid quenching freezes the molecules in place and causes the steel to remain in an austenitenitic structure. All you are doing by tempering is allowing some of the steel to return to it's austenitic state.

I'm sorry but whoever gave you your heat treat information was incorrect.

Actually, Ben is right. To simplify what happens, when high temperature steel is quenched, it locks the grains into a high tension structure. This structure is very hard, but is very brittle. The tempering allows some of the crystalline structure to soften, making the blade softer, but far more malleable. Heat treating allows the steel to not only convert to a Martensitic structure, but makes it more resistant to wear and heat, as this structure is very solid and hard to break down. Austenite steel is only formed when the metal is heated to high temperatures, and loses its magnetic properties during forging. This is very short lived, reverting back to the high tension crystalline pattern when quenched. Therefore, Austenite is irrelevant except as a time gauge to use when forging, as this property of lost magnetism indicates the optimal time to forge, as well as the optimal time to normalize, a process by which one lines up the blade with a compass needle, forcing the magnetic particles within the steel to align with the Earth's magnetic field, forming lines down the blade, rendering the blade stronger, and not unlike a very weak form of pattern welded steel.

You're only partially correct.

If you quench carbon steel while it's at high temperature (900 C +) it forms the non-equilibrium phase of martensite. Which is hard brittle, and unstable. What tempering does is it returns some of this marstensite into austenite, then into it's other equilibrium phases. Resulting in a more durable blade.

Ben said that tempering turns the steel into martensite, which is just flat out wrong. The only time martensite is formed is during the initial heat, and quench.

Sorry, but your statement about holding the blade in alignment with magnetic north is just ridiculous. It does nothing to make the blade stronger. It's an old smith's tale. Proper heat treatment goes much further.

Au contraire. The magnetic alignment may not affect the overall strength of the blade very much, but it does help to prevent chips in the blade, which is very desirable, for obvious reasons. We are in agreement about the tempering conversion, because tempering merely loosens the crystalline structure, giving a blade ductility.

It doesn't "loosen" the crystalline structure, it changes it so that the number of slip planes increases, making the material more ductile

Don't pretend that the magnetic alignment does anything for the strength of the steel. This does absolutely nothing. The closest thing to what you are talking about is a cooling technique that they use for turbine parts, and all that achieves is an increase in high temperature strength.

I don't know what you're talking about with turbine parts, all I know is what I have seen in my own experience, and it has been my experience that aligned blades chip far less often than non-aligned blades.

And that's probably true, but not because of the earth's magnetic forces. All that is happening is you are allowing the steel to air cool a bit, which causes some of the martensite to change into softer states, making the blade less brittle (AKA Normalizing.

Regardless, that's the way I learned from my master, and that is how I will continue to do it.

And that's fine. It's perfectly normal for someone to hold on to their beliefs. Although I would recommend either taking a materials science course or picking up a book specifically on materials science. Also the ASTM heat treater's handbook is a great thing to have.

_Scratch_ (author)2011-06-13

Do you have a full forge to heat your steel in? Or do you use a sort of smaller home made one?

ben potter (author)_Scratch_2011-07-20

I use a smaller forge for forgeing and a larger one for the heat treating.

zanshook (author)2010-04-09

great work!

who else wants to come with me to kill justin beiber with this!?!?!

The Metal One (author)zanshook2011-06-22

i do! i just made a dirk with this process and would like something soft and spineless to test it out on, lol.

The Metal One (author)2011-06-22

great instructions! i recently crafted a dagger using the same process, minus any heat treatment. i will post some metalworking and woodworking projects soon,so check em out when i post them.

_Scratch_ (author)2011-06-05

Amazing job. I can only dream of making something like that.

evilgenius 398 (author)2011-05-06

that is pretty amazing. you are good man

nuurgh (author)2011-04-22

This sir is an AWESOME build.
I regret being iterested in so many things I would try even blacksmithing...

About This Instructable




Bio: I am a full-time bladesmith working in the Celto-Norse style.
More by ben potter:Sword-hilted Broken-back SeaxViking wire inlay
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