Experimenting with the impact of Medieval quenching recipes on steel hardness

On Oct 25th The Oakeshott Institute live cast their latest quarterly lecture on researching involving the Institute, Arms & Armor Inc and The University of Minnesota Material Science Dept.

The archived video is available to watch below. The research involved looking at period writings on the recipes needed to keep armor burnished and its magical affects in legend. This being part of a larger work on the recipes for dealing with the world from medieval writers in a future book to be published by Dr. Taylor and Dr. Beck. 

Using some of this information they created two recipes for hardening weapons listed in the works of Caterina Sforza's ca. 1490 and MS 3227a or pseudo-Dohbringer German commonplace book. We also quenched our test samples in water and rape seed oil (Canola Oil for those in the US).

These samples of steel were then tested by the Chemical Engineering and Material Science Dept at the University of Minnesota. In the video Dr. Mara shows the testing processes and results of the different quench media. Then discusses the micrographs showing the different structures in the testing materials resulting from the different media.

The presentation ends with some excellent questions from audience and viewers and we look forward to doing more interdisciplinary research around these subjects.  

Lecture supports
Text and slides from Dr. Taylor and Dr. Beck's Lecture
Slides from Dr. Mara's presentation


Amanda Taylor, Ph.D.
Research Affiliate, Center for Premodern Studies
University of Minnesota
Research Fellow, Oakeshott Institute


Emily E. Beck, MA, Ph.D. 
Assistant Curator, Wangensteen Historical Library https://hsl.lib.umn.edu/wangensteen
University of Minnesota | umn.edu 


Nathan Mara, Ph.D. Materials Science and Engineering
Professor and Director if Undergraduate Studies in material Sciences and Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Material Science
University of Minnesota | umn.edu 
Research - Cuong Ho and Mauricio De Leo


Craig Johnson, Sec. The Oakeshott Inst/ Arms & Armor Prod Mng.

Resources for more info:

Hardness Conversion Chart

Heat Treating Medieval Swords more historical info

divider swords

Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography. He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.

Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons

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