Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Sword Making Process: Forging. Tempering. Folding

The art of making swords has experienced renewed interest in modern society. Whether it's due to gaming, or a general interest in the war arts of the past, how a sword is made peaks the interests of many people. This solitary and efficient weapon is a favorite of every society. It is revered, and requires a dedicated passion to old arts, as well as, new notions of construction. Making a sword requires knowledge of metallurgical properties, and a love of efficiency.

Throughout history, sword makers have been tasked with the job of supplying reliable tools of killing to armed soldiers, guardsmen, and to collectors in the modern era. Tradesman swords are the product of a virtually lost craft, and certain artistic passions. Modern artists who concentrate their craft on producing authentic swords use methods from yesteryear to create unbelievably accurate models of authentic weapons used throughout history. These modern sword craftsmen use three processes to refine their craft: forging, tempering, and folding.

Forging a sword requires several important steps. The first is extraction of metals. In ancient days, sword makers were required to collect metals in amounts that could be used for practical purposes. This included separating iron from other minerals in great amounts. Once the metals were separated, they were heated and mixed. In a forge, the collected metals were heated to a point where they became liquid, and were poured into a mold. These were rough templates that mirrored the final form of a sword. The point of forging metals into a mold is mixing the metal elements together so they evenly produce a final piece.

The next step is tempering. Once a forged piece of iron is formed, it is subject to many cycles of heating and cooling. These cycles bind the molecules of metal to make them stronger. With every cooling and heating cycle, the metal is tamped by hammer into a desired form. This process represents the bulk of the sword-making process and can be quite laborious. With every tempering cycle, a rough sword form becomes stronger. 


Folding is an advanced sword construction process that was used by armory technicians. Just like a baker folds dough to smooth bumps in a loaf of bread, swordsmiths used folding as a way to infuse strength into each sword. When a heated piece of iron is folded, its molecules bind together to create added strength properties. Folding can be performed with a singular piece of iron, or with differing metals. The result of folding is a tempered alloy that is exponentially stronger with an enhanced construction and honing potential. 

Forging, tempering, and folding are the three most important steps that a sword maker engages in to create a functional and long-lived sword. The forge creates the desired shape, size, and volume of a weapon. Tempering delivers the elemental curing for a sword's strength. Folding is the process of infusing a sword with properties that exceed the typical properties of its design. These stages of sword construction require patience and an instinct for metal working. Well-crafted sword using techniques in each stage will appear more authentic, retain sharpness better, and provide more appropriate hilts for stylish and attractive handle design.

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