metal hardness levels

i've been lookin over the web to find a listing of the hardness levels of certains metals, ie 440 stainless steel and so on. if anyone had a listing or knows. looking to buy a new sword with the highest hardness level possible.

It's not simply a matter of buying a sword with the "highest hardness level possible". Everything in sword design is a compromise.

First off--never bother with swords made of stainless steel. Stainless is OK for knives, but it is too brittle for long blades.

Secondly, if you want something with the "highest hardness level possible", you're going to have to go with a Japanese-style weapon, with a differentially heat-treated blade (this type of treatment is actually pretty standard with most Asian swords--Chinese, Filipino, etc). A katana may have an edge in the low 60s on the Rockwell "C" scale, whereas the back will be in the mid-30s or so, in order to keep the whole thing from shattering.

And that's the key, because...

Harder=More Brittle.

The problem with this design is that the super-hard edge can still chip, and the whole sword may "take a set" if bent too much, due to the soft back.

European swords, on the other hand, tend to be made with a stiff "spring" temper throughout the blade. This means that the edges are softer (tougher), which in turn means that they require more frequent sharpening, but they won't chip as easily, either. Also, they can typically be bent several inches out of line, and flex back, perfectly straight.

So, each design has it's pros and cons.



Swords are also sometimes made of several type of metal sandwiched together. A good Japanese sword should have a softer core and a harder edge.


Here is a classic example of a to hard blade, and also a lesson on actually using some of the cool looking crap that is sold.

I'm checking my archives to see if I can find a table I had of steel composition and uses.

LOL at that video. that's why it's best to go with full tang swords!

thanx for checkin on that table. i've hunted all over the web and haven't found anything. you'd think there would be something like that out there.

and just so people know i went ahead and bought this sword. now obviously it's not the functional hard blade like i wanted but saw it and loved it in the movies so i had to buy it.

TFS is correct.

Hardness does not equal strength. Stay away from stainless steel swords and if you have one, do NOT try to cut anything with it. No matter how much the maker claims it to be battle ready, it isnt. Trust me, I have broken a stainless steel katana just by swinging it around. I didnt even cut anything. Its not just the steel that inferior either. Most stainless steel swords have rat tail tangs, or no tangs to speak of at all. They are simply not constructed to withstand the forces of cutting.

If you want a cheap, functional katana, get a kris cutlery

The Paul chen Practical Katana or PK Plus, are also quite good for the price, I think.

If you want a good european sword, check out

ttt for that table if anyone found it yet

TFS is correct.

Also, what kind of sword are you looking for?

of course TFS is correct. I'm not sure what kind of chart you are looking for. If this was mentioned above, I'll just reiterate it. There is a difference between hardness and toughness. Each steel does not have a hardness of it's own... it has a broad range depending on the state that it is in. For example, in the annealed state (soft) a certain steel might test to 45 rockwell or something like that, but right after a quench it will test to 65 or so. With the 65 you have a brittle blade that will shatter if you drop it. You then bring hardness down a little by tempering the steel, say back to 58. What you have now is a great combination of toughness and hardness. One key with swords is that stainless as mentioned is bad. Too brittle. The best swords IMO are differentially treated with a spine of say mid 50s and an edge of high 50s if not 60. This will allow for a hard edge that stays sharp and a flexible spine that will absorb shock. A mastersmith Wally Jay makes awesome katanas and believe it or not he uses 1050 steel for his blades... while this is still considered high carbon steel it is definitely less 'hard' than 1060, 1080, 1085, 1095, etc. He chose this because it is a very tough steel. You see, if you have a very soft blade at low rockwell you will have a very soft blade that is tough as hell but won't hold an edge and the edge will roll. If you have too high rockwell, you will chip your blade very easily, which is harder to repair. Look at glass... it's very hard but not very tough. It sounds like what you want is a heat treating table that shows the various temperatures involved in quenching times vs. tempering cycles to give you a certain end rockwell. It's not easy stuff. Again, each steel has a certain rockwell range and you want to find the optimal rockwell for the steel AND your application. I.e. if you want a chef's knife you will want it a little harder so you can slice forever and if you want a camp knife that will do chopping then you will want a tougher blade that is easy to resharpen but wont chip when it hits a rock. With a sword, I would say you want to err more on the tougher side and again the stainless steels are very difficult if not impossible to differentially harden and when you get to a good rockwell for edge holding at that size you get a brittle blade. here is one chart showing some steels and their compositions. here is an article related to swords that kind of reiterates the above. One example perhaps of what you are looking for is something like this... scroll down to bottom right for 440C and BAustentize will be temp required to reach critical. Anything significantly above austentize temp and you risk shedding carbon (ruin the steel). anything significantly below and your quench wont be as effective. And then you have the tempering temperatures... as you can see, you can have a great quench and totally screw it up with the temper. fwiw, cheers

Krept,of course TFS is correct.You are far too kind sir--especially considering that you gave an explanation of metallurgy (as it applies to combative cutlery) that's way beyond anything I could write.Good post--we're all the more knowledgable due to it, which is what makes great.Best Regards,TFS

Good thread.

If its a sword, and I whip it and it does not bend and snap back, I will not use it.


LOL Ya like that Uru-kai sword too eh? It's pretty cool,though I wish they hadn't scaled it down.

thanks for the info krept, much appreciated