Volumes upon volumes have been written about steel chemistry and properties, and which steel is best for a particular job. The kobolds prefer if I keep it to around 500 words (kobolds have short attention spans), so I’ll quickly cover simple carbon steels and low alloy tool steels. Although stainless and high alloy steels have their uses, they cannot be used effectively for high impact weapons such as swords and axes, so perhaps we’ll deal with them at another time.
There are literally hundreds of types of steel, so we’ll only be scratching the surface and focusing on the most common types used in common cutting tools.
Simple Carbon Steels; or the Power of 10’s
Simple carbon steels, also sometimes referred to as 10 series steels, or spring steels, have the simplest chemistry of any of the hardenable steels. Although they can contain small amounts of alloying elements, for the most part they are iron and carbon. They are called 10 series steels because they are described by a 10 followed by a second two digit number. The ten simply means that it is iron and carbon without any significant alloying elements added. The second number tells how much carbon is in the steel. For example, 1075 contains approximately 0.75% carbon.
There are three basic edge geometries used on cutting tools, and those three types have some variations. Each has advantages and disadvantages, and some are useful only on specialized tools. Each type has its advocates, and some makers like one type so much that they specialize in making only that type of edge.
The Hollow Grind
The hollow grind, or concave grind, is probably the most familiar; you’ve probably at least heard of it, even if you don’t know what it is. It’s created on a wheel, either on a stone or a belt grinder’s contact wheel. Its primary advantages are extreme sharpness and the ability to approach a cut at a very acute angle and bite without sliding. Its biggest disadvantage is that it doesn’t have much steel behind the edge, so it’s fragile compared to other grinds. You have to be careful when initiating this grind to get it established at the same height on both sides of the blade. Once established, it’s the easiest grind to finish because the grinder wheel wants to stay in the hollow that’s created. This grind is often used on fine cutting instruments, such as razors and scalpels.
Remember asking for some video of stuff getting cut and smashed? Good! Check this video out:
What else do you want to see? We can do videos on the subjects of previous written Real Steel articles, or we can do something completely new. Tell us what you want to see! If we like the idea and it’s practical, we may just give it a try.
What video is next? I’m thinking something “edgy.” As always, feel free to axe questions… have I offered you a Danish?
The war club, in the form of a stick, was probably the first or second weapon ever used by human beings—a rock also being on that early list. Although a stout hardwood branch can get the job done, many cultures have improved both the function and appearance of the humble bludgeon. Native Americans have given us a number of designs, ranging from all wood with a large heavy knob, to a rawhide wrapped stone on a wooden handle. The Celts gave us the burda, and the Zulu the knobkierrie.
This is Real Steel, after All…
The version of the war club featured here has a steel head, mostly because this is Real Steel, not Genuine Wood. There was no smithing involved in making this one—and just a little simple machining. It doesn’t technically meet the specs for any historical war club I’m aware of, but it’s close to a burda…