The Decorative Sword vs. The Functional Sword
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The decorative sword and the functional sword are produced differently for their intended purpose. This article is to explain how we determine which swords are safe to use and which swords are best left on the wall.
1. Type of Steel :
Anything made of stainless steel is not a real sword but a decorative 'sword, the decorative sword is to be a display piece and stainless steel offers corrosion resistance and low maintenance. Stainless steel is too hard and brittle in long spans which can break, fracture or bend under the high impacts that swords endure during re-enacting or cutting.
The functional sword today is forged from a very pure high carbon steel which no longer lacks strength because of the impurities. Such as 1060 carbon steel, 1095 cabon steel, damascus folded steel, 9260 spring steel, clay tempered blade etc. Some decorative swords will also use carbon steels but they are pressed or cut into the shape of a sword blade and not forged like a proper functional sword.
2. The Blade Tang
The tang is the hidden piece of metal that is under the handle that in most swords you can't see until you have taken the sword apart. The tang can vary in shape, length and construction method. The good news for the decorative sword is all tang types will work. The only purpose for the tang on a decorative sword is to hold the hilt to the blade. This is where manufacturers came up with what is known as the “rat tail” tang or its equivalent, “the stick” tang. The rat-tail or stick tang design fails under repeated use and could be very dangerous to the wielder or anyone else within the blades flight path when the rod lets go of the blade.
Japanese swords often have tangs (called Nakago) that are locked (but not actually held) in place to the handle with one or two pegs called Mekugi. Half tangs and rat-tail tangs are especially prone to breakage when the sword is forcibly swung and cannot stand up the stress of making contact with another object.
3. Temper, Quenching and Flex
Functional swords are noted by the term "Battle Ready" these swords are made like real weapons. Functional swords can come sharpened or unsharpened depending on the manufacturer, so do not assume one way or the other. For a sword to be functional, it needs to be properly heat treated which is to achieve a balance between toughness and hardness. Properly tempering a functional blade is crucial for a swords performance. Production of a functional sword blade requires an experienced blade smith with a great knowledge of metallurgy. There is a delicate balance of heating and quenching that greatly affects the steels hardness, flexibility or rigidity. The smith will temper a functional blade so it will flex and return to its true shape. If the blade is too hard it will remain bent, fracture or break when put under stress.The Japanese sword smiths take tempering to a different level with a process called “differential tempering”. During the heating and quenching process the forged Japanese blades spine will be covered with clay. The differential tempering process also gives the Japanese sword its curve and hamon.
There are many other things to consider about the quality of the functional or decorative sword such as construction, handle or hilt materials, types of adhesives (if used), pegs, thread type and more. Decorative swords range in price from about $15 - $300, and range in quality correspondingly. Decorative swords are a perfect choice for anyone who never intends to hit anything with their sword. Please remember that "High carbon steel" doesn't mean it's functional", "Full tang" doesn't mean it's functional. There is a combination of things that need to be considered for a safe functional sword and all others should only look great on your wall or fireplace.
There are hundreds of different sword styles available you will find from HanBon Forge in our functional swords section, we also supply custom sword service, please feel free to contact with us if you have any questions or need further assistance.