Sword Blade Steels
Throughout history and even today, there are many types of steels used to make sword blades. Each sword steel has a different purpose and qualities that it imparts to a blade. Sword blade steels vary wildly in their application and prices, so we will break it down for you below. Blade steel is important when choosing a sword, but the tempering process some would argue is much more important. It is therefore also important to research different sword manufacturers to see what steels they use and the trust level involved in their steel content. Generally a manufacturer chooses what steel to use based on what the sword will be used for and the price point they want to sell it at.

Generally, there are two main types of steels used in sword blades. Those known as Carbon or High Carbon Steel and those known simply as Stainless Steel. Carbon steel sword blades are used mainly for battle ready or functional sword blades, while stainless steel is mostly used for decorative swords.  Below, we will break down each steel type as it applies to sword blades.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is really good for decorative swords, but not the best choice for a functional sword. Stainless steel is great because it has excellent rust resistance and looks nice and shiny all the time. In knives, stainless steel can be somewhat functional. As far as swords go, stainless steel is not to be used for cutting do to it being too brittle and its inability to be hardened enough to withstand the rigors of cutting with it's longer blade. Stainless steel swords are usually of the cheaper variety, but can sometimes be used in beautiful movie replicas and cool looking fantasy swords.. Stainless steel is good in the fact there is little to no maintenance and looks great on a wall.

Q235 Steel - Q235 is a Chinese grade of steel that is a stain resistant mild steel used in the most inexpensive sword blades. Since this steel is usually only used in a decorative sword, it is actually not bad since holding and edge is not that important.

3cr13 Steel - Another Chinese grade of steel, which is a little "higher end" than Q235. 3cr13 is pretty much the same as American 420J2 which has been used in blades from Kit Rae and Gil Hibben as well as United Cutlery in their fantasy sword offerings. Tough and VERY rust resistant, 3cr13 is great for inexpensive decorative swords.

2cr13 Steel -  Very similar to 3cr13 steel, 2cr13 steel has higher corrosion resistance and less carbon content. A good steel for cheaper tactical style swords and machetes.

420J2 Stainless Steel - 420J2 stainless steel is pretty tough as far as stainless steels go, is super corrosion resistant and easy to sharpen. 420J2 steel will not hold an edge very long, but is great for decorative sword purposes.

420HC Stainless Steel -  420HC stainless steel is one of the better stainless steels. Used in a lot of knife blades its high carbon content results in better edge holding and toughness. 440HC is usually used in higher end decorative swords.

High Carbon Steels

High carbon steels are generally given their name based on the amount of carbon content.. The higher the carbon content, the harder the steel can become after tempering and hold a sharper edge. Some high carbon steel blades are differentially tempered, giving them a hard cutting edge with a softer spine. This gives them great edge holding with some flexibility which is great for cutting harder targets like bamboo. High carbon steel swords will require some maintenance and should be kept oiled lightly to avoid rusting, especially in humid areas. Also it should be noted that the higher the carbon steel, the harder it is too sharpen. Most Battle Ready Swords are made from high carbon steel.

1045 High Carbon Steel - 1045 is a great sword steel to choose for beginners or for those looking for a cheap sword that can cut well. 1045 (when tempered correctly) can hold a nice edge while not getting hard enough to worry as much about chipping on a bad cut. Usually, 1045 steel sword blades are mono tempered with a faux hamon, but not always. We recommend 1045 for those on a budget or as a first cutting sword. Most economy Battle Ready Samurai swords are made of this steel.

1060-1065 High Carbon Steel - Since there is little difference between 1060 and 1065 steels, we will talk about them together. 1065 high carbon steel is the middle ground in sword blades. Offering great edge ability with some resilience, 1065 carbon is the way to go for intermediate sword cutting enthusiasts. Most of the higher end 1065 high carbon steel sword blades are differentially tempered creating an authentic hamon, hard cutting edge and a softer spine. Prices vary wildly depending on the manufacturer or maker.

1095 High Carbon Steel - 1095 has a very high carbon content and is not nearly as ubiquitous as the other high carbon steels when it comes to swords. 1095 can make for a super sharp edge and is great for advanced cutters with hard targets. 1095 high carbon steel swords are generally priced pretty high from reputable sources as this steel is tough to work with due to its hardness.

Manganese Steel - Manganese steel can be very good for a sword blade, but it is difficult to manufacture properly. Manganese steel is lightweight, durable and wear resistant.

Spring Steels

Spring steel as it pertains to sword blades is an excellent steel. Spring steel gets it's name from its flexibility coming from the addition of silicon. Spring steel can be hardened like most other high carbon steels, but is very tough and can be flexed and return to true if tempered properly. Great for just about any type of functional sword, spring steel is used for everything from battle Ready Katanas to Medieval swords.

1566 Spring Steel - A high carbon steel with great edge holding capabilities and incredible toughness. A great steel for any type of functional sword.

5160 Spring Steel - 5160 spring steel has great durability, edge holding and shock absorption properties. Great for any type of functional sword.

9260 Spring Steel - Not seen in many sword blades, 9260 spring steel has 2% silicon content, making it super tough and durable. 9260 Spring Steel holds a great edge and has incredible shock absorption.

Tool Steels

Tool steels generally make a very tough sword blade capable of more abuse than most other steels. Not indestructible by any means, tool steels when forged and tempered correctly can be used to make a very tough and resilient sword blade.

L6 Bainite Steel - It is very rare to see swords made with L6 Bainite steel due to the expertise needed to properly forge and heat treat the steel. L5 Bainite swords are incredibly expensive, but are some of the toughest blades produced today.

T10 Tool Steel - T10 tool steel received much press when they started using it in sword blades. T10 is very similar to 1095, but has added silicon which can further improve blade strength and edge holding capability

Folded Steel

Folded steel is some of the most coveted steel for sword blades due to its aesthetic patterns and connection with older forging methods. Folded steel is not really a type of steel but a forging process where the billet is folded several times before the tempering process. After this, a blade is either acid etched and polished to bring out the pattern of the steel.

Damascus Steel - Damascus steel today is the general term for different steels being folded together to create patterns in the finished blade. Damascus steel swords are some of the most beautiful swords sold today if blade admiration is your fancy.

I hope you have enjoyed our list of Sword Blade Steels. Did I miss any? Leave a comment and I will get it added!


Patrick Moore

Date 5/27/2023

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