Confused on what type of metal to buy for swords

Discussion in 'Weapons' started by aaradia, Jun 13, 2021.

  1. aaradia

    aaradia Choy Li Fut and Yang Tai Chi Chuan Student Moderator Supporter

    After doing this for 17 years, I decided to invest in upgrading some of my older weapons. I have been using old swords that I bought early on. And before I knew how to properly take care of them.

    While I try to buy from my school most of the time, so that I support them, I want to explore some slight upgrades. Maybe a little more choice as far as hilt design and all. So I have been looking on Amazon and some other places.

    But I feel overwhelmed on the types of metal. I pulled up an old article on here that helped some, but not enough.

    I want to get a traditional Broadsword, Gim, and Sber over the next year or two. It can't be the flimsy wushu metal. It has to be unsharpened. I don't want to worry about cutting myself when practicing.

    What do you all look for? What do you avoid? Damascus, Carbon, Stainless, Spring............I feel overwhelmed! A lot of swords out there that say practice swords are stainless steel nowadays. The article said they are brittle. But honestly, I am only doing forms with them, so does that matter? I do want that Ging snap, but again, not the flimsy wushu.

    Any help would be appreciated! Thanks!
  2. Dan Bian

    Dan Bian Neither Dan, nor Brian

    I have an unsharpened stainless steel Jian/Gim that I use for form practice, and its absolutely fine for what I do.

    If I remember, the flexible wushu weapons tend to be aluminium, so avoid that.

    Carbon steel is needed if you're going to be test cutting etc due to the composition of the metal.

    The main thing to look for is a full tang in the hilt, as cheaper swords are usually "rat tail", meaning they're very skinny so a potential point of failure when manipulating the weapon, which can cause the blade to detach from the hilt and go flying.
  3. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Well-Known Member

    Rebuilding swords has been a hobby of mine for about twenty years. I could build something for you if you are interested. Send me a PM and we can talk more, I can send you photos of my work, etc.
    Dead_pool likes this.
  4. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Well-Known Member

    There are many types of steel that make a quality blade, if properly formed and heat treated. So there is no single best answer.

    Generally, stainless steel is to be avoided. Some types can be appropriate, but it takes a skilled smith who knows what he is doing to make it correctly. Otherwise, stainless tends to be more brittle and can break.

    the very cheap, super-lightweight Modern Wushu weapons are to be avoided. The blades are not at all real, are made from inappropriate metal and are simply a stage prop. Furthermore, the hilts are often poorly constructed of junk material and poorly fitted, resulting in a loose and rattling assembly.

    a quality piece can have a heavier blade, or can still be fairly lightweight if it is made from quality steel. A spring temper can be appropriate, but if the blade is too lightweight then it simply becomes floppy. A heavier blade can be a good choice and will challenge your technique and build your strength. Even a heavy blade should have some level of flex, so as to not be rigid and brittle.

    I have found that often pieces that have an acceptable blade still often have a poor hilt. The guard and pommel are often made of thin sheet metal, or a wood core covered in thin sheet metal, the grip is rough wood, and the assembly is imprecise and of questionable durability.

    I will post pictures of a recent dao rebuild that I did, including before and after pictures, and pictures of the original guard, pommel, and grip compared to the new pieces made from solid steel, and the flexibility of the blade. This is a fairly lightweight piece, but still of decent steel. The end result is far superior to the original piece. Guard is made from 1/4 inch steel bar, pommel is shaped from solid steel round stock.

    first three photos show the original piece, a comparison of spine thickness between three different Dao that I have rebuilt, and the flexibility of this blade.

    Attached Files:

    Dan Bian likes this.
  5. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Well-Known Member

    More pictures of Dao rebuild: comparisons of original guard, pommel, and grip to new pieces. Guard is 1/4 inch steel bar, pommel is shaped from steel round stock, grip is maple finished with linseed oil. Pictures of finished Dao.

    Also, the original blade had a more dramatic upsweep at the end and I trimmed it down a bit, making it slightly slimmer in profile and more easily mobilized.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jun 15, 2021
    Dan Bian likes this.
  6. SWC Sifu Ben

    SWC Sifu Ben I am the law

    I'll qualify this by saying that I like to be able to sharpen my blades even if I don't always do so. Personally I like medium carbon steels with a spring temper for longer blades and high carbon for shorter, stouter blades. That means usually anywhere from 1040 to 1065 for longer blades and 1095 for short blades. Heat treat is as important as the steel quality and a good steel with a bad heat treat is rubbish. An okay steel with a good heat treat can be great. Word of warning with carbon steel though, if you don't want to be checking for rust and oiling, it's worth it to coat it with lacquer.

    If you never intend to hit anything with it stainless can be okay. There are even high carbon stainless steels. If you're doing very vigorous forms though, I've seen stainless steel fail just from incredibly sudden stops.

    My honest suggestion would be to find combat capable blades which you like, and try to get the maker to ship them to you dull. There's more of a market for them since there aren't so many Asian blunt training swords besides wushu swords. Real blades can be had at pretty reasonable prices a lot of the time. Traditional Filipino Weapons is a good shop for one, and they've been pretty responsive to custom requests in the past.
  7. Tom bayley

    Tom bayley Valued Member

    I personally am against using metal practice swords due to a misunderstanding with an armed response unit and 7 policemen in riot gear. have you looked at the materials that are used for practice swords in HEMA. i think they use nylon. it has the advantage of being suitable for sparing and is much less likely to get you arrested. Even if the police do admit there mistake later and give you a lift home in a squad car. :)
    Dead_pool likes this.
  8. aaradia

    aaradia Choy Li Fut and Yang Tai Chi Chuan Student Moderator Supporter

    I use it at my martial arts school or at home, so I am not worried about a situation like this. I definitely want a real metal sword.

    Sounds like an interesting story though!
    Dead_pool likes this.
  9. Dead_pool

    Dead_pool Spes mea in nihil Deus MAP 2017 Moi Award

    Metal weaponry is for solo practice in private locations, I'm very surprised you managed to not get charged with something, you must of had plus 10 charisma that day!
  10. axelb

    axelb Master of Office Chair Fu

    My sister once asked to borrow my metal Dao for fancy dress as Beatrix Kiddo from kill Bill (with Bruce Lee yellow jump suit) it as blunt, but still had to explain why not when I found she was going to a club in public :eek:o_O
    my main objections were that it should have been a katana :D

    I'm not sure what US law is like, but unless it's changed (possibly has) in the UK, it has to be within 2 forms of cover, i.e. in a bag in a car boot.
    I recall my teacher being pulled over and even though it was in a bag in the car boot, there were still questions.
  11. aaradia

    aaradia Choy Li Fut and Yang Tai Chi Chuan Student Moderator Supporter

    My Sifu said if pulled over and it becomes necessary, don't use the word weapon. Say you have martial arts training equipment.

    It can be an issue. It helps to say you are on the way to your school or on the way back whenever feasible. I guess there can be issues if you keep it in your car at all times. That said, everyone I know at my school keeps it in their car. Because we go to the school and back so much, it would be a real pain to constantly load and unload. Also, I go there directly after work, so I really need to.
    axelb likes this.
  12. axelb

    axelb Master of Office Chair Fu

    I've recently been going back to training with my dummy, I have to walk from the car park past a few shops. I've had comments, so I wonder if I will get questioned at some point if the police are near as to why I appear to be carrying a body.
  13. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Well-Known Member

    San Francisco is a unique place in this regard. It is/was common for kung fu and Taiji groups to train in the parks. Weaponry was common. Nobody cared. I was lucky to be there.

Share This Page