How hard should a sword blade be? Sword vs. Machete and Chef Knife

There are a lot of debates on the internet about how hard a sword blade should be.  Some folks seem to be of the opinion that harder is better.  I think that this comes from the world of knife collectors and makers, but for swords it's just not the case.  Instead, the hardness of a sword needs to be suited to the task the weapon will be used for.  That's why we harden and temper our blades to 50-52 Rockwell using a molten salt process that helps ensure the right balance between hardness and durability. 

Anglo-Saxon sword

Arms and Armor Anglo-Saxon Sword

In today's video blog we test an Arms and Armor Anglo-Saxon Sword blade in edge to edge contact against a machete and a chef knife to demonstrate how hardness, blade profile, and brittleness interact, and why a sword blade needs to be hard enough to hold an edge, but flexible and durable enough to stand up to abuse. We discussed how this was done in medieval period in our post sword making and heat treatment.


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 and armor since 1985.

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