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Thread: Speculation: Is a Katana made today superior than an ancient one?

  1. #1 Speculation: Is a Katana made today superior than an ancient one? 
    Forum Cosmic Wizard icewendigo's Avatar
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    I am wondering how likely is it that a Katana (samurai sword) made today (potentially using modern technologies and materials) could be superior (sharper or more resilient or better in other ways) to one made by something-century crafted Japanese blacksmith (limited technology but with the intention of making as good as could be for actual use in war)?



    a) For a normal Katana you can order online
    b) for a special order that wants it as good as could be with a budget equivalent to a new ferrari.


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  3. #2  
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    A new blade might not be superior if it costs $50, but a REAL blacksmith can forge a weapon that is much stronger than technology allowed a thousand years ago. It all just depends upon the blade.


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  4. #3  
    has lost interest seagypsy's Avatar
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    I would think a katana is only as good as the person wielding it.
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    It depends on the maker. And you need to research your maker. Many blade makers cut corners by forging the blade with only a tab where the handle will be. They then weld a bolt to that tab for the handle to attach to or just attach the handle directly to that tab.

    You can imagine how easily that will break...

    But they figure you won't be going into actual combat with it.

    A real blade extends all the way down the handle. The handle should be nothing more than rounding it out to fit the hand. Do not order from a maker that has a hollow handle or holes in the metal within the handle. The holes will cause a weight distribution issue should you really know how to wield the weapon.

    You want the blade properly forged by a blacksmith and not pressed, stamped or cast. Blacksmith or nothin.'

    You want U.S. Steel used (Or an alloy of your researched choice). The processing plants here do an excellent job of removing impurities (such as sulfur) that can cause brittleness or warping. When the inferior metal is heated to forge the blade and then cooled, it will warp. The maker will usually hammer it out but over time, the blade will slowly warp further.
    Not only do you not want your handle coming off- you don't want you blade to shatter like glass when it takes a heavy blow.

    The top or spine of the blade is used for deflecting the others sword (You NEVER block a blow by blade edge against blade edge) so ensure you have a thick and straight spine to your weapon. The spine can be an indicator as to the quality of the weapon- a thin spine suggests that the handle is probably a tabbed handle and crap. If they cut costs in some areas- they cut costs in others, including possibly the metal quality or pay of the blacksmiths.
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    Malignant Pimple shlunka's Avatar
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    There was actually a comparison on some television show, believe it was called "Weaponmasters". Forged a katana from high tensile steel, but it failed compared to a traditionally manufactured katana. Though, I imagine there may have been some detrimental changes made to the one the guys made.
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    I would speculate the that quality of steel today would be superior to the old days, if only slightly.

    However, the mastery of smithery would be much better in the old times.
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  8. #7  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope sculptor's Avatar
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    not so
    master smiths still practice
    but most folks don't want to pay for the labor involved in quality
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    not so
    master smiths still practice
    but most folks don't want to pay for the labor involved in quality
    Possibly. I speculated and could be totally flat out wrong.
    I have no idea how either of us could support the claim one way or the other. It's plausible that master smiths exist today that are fully knowledgeable.
    It's also plausible that smiths of old times that were worn ragged at their forges and in constant high demand were more experienced and better practiced.
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  10. #9  
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    fersure
    a sword smith is a rare speciality, and with practice comes mastery
    I do know a smith that makes damascus style blades that hold an edge better than anything I've found through comercial outlets
    but at 30-50 hours per blade, the're kinda expensive
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    They then weld a bolt to that tab for the handle to attach to or just attach the handle directly to that tab.

    You can imagine how easily that will break...
    if the weld breaks find yourself a new welder.
    Sometimes it is better not knowing than having an answer that may be wrong.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrispen Evan View Post
    if the weld breaks find yourself a new welder.
    The weld on that little bolt end will simply be too small- even for a good welder- to give the strength to resist consistent impacts at many different angles.
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  13. #12  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope sculptor's Avatar
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    I had heard that, assuming good penetration, a weld would always be stronger than the material around it.

    hearsay---I ain't no decent welder, but a few have tried to teach me and it was one of them that i quoted
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    Maybe a picture would help...

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-8yyHjMY-dz...0/IMG_1961.JPG

    It's not the weld itself that is the problem- it is the tiny and thin rod that is the problem.
    It can bend, flex or break where a blade that runs the full length through the handle would not.
    It is also poor for weight distribution.
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    Forum Cosmic Wizard icewendigo's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone for the input. Im just running a tabletop RPG game and was on the fence as to whether a character that has a modern day Katana would get a small damage bonus compared to medieval sword ex D10 instead of D8 (its typical in RPG to roll a dice to determine the damage done based on the weapon used ). Ive decided the sword was a special edition made with exceptional processes and given it a small bonus
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    has lost interest seagypsy's Avatar
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    Are you a dungeon master? DnD?
    Speaking badly about people after they are gone and jumping on the bash the band wagon must do very well for a low self-esteem.
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  17. #16  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard icewendigo's Avatar
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    Yes Im dungeon mastering the game, like a game of D&D. Im using my homebrew game rules (which we are just starting to playtest) instead of D&D, I think its a bit more tailored to the games setting(s), mythos and style.
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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by icewendigo View Post
    Yes Im dungeon mastering the game, like a game of D&D. Im using my homebrew game rules (which we are just starting to playtest) instead of D&D, I think its a bit more tailored to the games setting(s), mythos and style.
    I've only ever done the RPG thing once and it was D&D. A choice made under the influence of huge amounts of alcohol. My one shining moment in the game is where, as a rogue elf I shot an ogre in the butt with an arrow. Rolled a 20 for accuracy of aim and a 2 for damage. So the DM said I shot him with such precision that the arrow seated itself perfectly into the rectum of the ogre causing no real damage at all, but merely an irritation and a minor itch to the sphincter. And of course making it uncomfortable for the ogre to sit down.
    Speaking badly about people after they are gone and jumping on the bash the band wagon must do very well for a low self-esteem.
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  19. #18  
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    I can't speak for katanas, but if you've ever bought a chef knife, you can definitely feel superior steel. A Shun knife, for instance, is of a quality I doubt could have been previously attained.
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    Damascus steel has not been replicated in modern times. There is plenty of "damascus steel" blades, but they share very little to the damascus steel blades that remain from antiquity. And recent studies have even found steel nanotubes in them.

    Damascus steel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    And Neverfly, it is not exactly true that the only good blades are always full tang. There are plenty of top blades with a half tang.
    It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by pyoko View Post
    And Neverfly, it is not exactly true that the only good blades are always full tang. There are plenty of top blades with a half tang.
    Which is different from a metal dowel or bolt welded on to an inch long stub just past the hilt and nothing but that dowel from there to pommel.
    If you have a good smith, what you say is perfectly true. But it's like having someone fold your parachute for you.
    I have a strong preference for full tang- full width with handle halves.

    Picture your moment- as the handle suddenly gives and spins freely around the rat tail tang.
    That's nothing to say for the "display" swords most places gouge you on that have that dowel/bolt that wouldn't block a wiffleball bat.
    Or when you parry and the thing gives out since moisture got in there and ate away a portion that would still be repairable with the full end. Plus, the handle halves allow for disassembly for cleaning and maintenance.
    Just re-attach, re-wrap it and pop the pommel back on.
    Not set in stone for strength- but still it is my preference.
    Although modern steel outperforms these swords, microscopic chemical reactions in the production process may have made the blades extraordinary for their time. Woody biomass and leaves are known to have been used to carbonize the Wootz ingots used in Damascus steel, and research now shows that carbon nanotubes can be derived from plant fibers,[9] suggesting how the nanotubes were formed in the steel. Some experts expect to discover such nanotubes in more relics as they are analyzed more closely.
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    the old katanas were a mastercraft using sheets of folded magnetised steel It doesnt get much tougher
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    Quote Originally Posted by fiveworlds View Post
    the old katanas were a mastercraft using sheets of folded magnetised steel
    Source please.

    It doesnt get much tougher
    Right. Because we've learned absolutely nothing about metallurgy since then.
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  24. #23  
    Cooking Something Good MacGyver1968's Avatar
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    From what I've heard...what made the katata so great was the blacksmiths would use a "u" shaped blank of high carbon steel, with a blank of lower carbon steel inside. Giving the blade flexablity...but hardness where it counts. Someday I want to own a 4 body blade.
    Fixin' shit that ain't broke.
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  25. #24  
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacGyver1968 View Post
    From what I've heard...what made the katata so great was the blacksmiths would use a "u" shaped blank of high carbon steel, with a blank of lower carbon steel inside. Giving the blade flexablity...but hardness where it counts. Someday I want to own a 4 body blade.
    I remember a PBS show on the Masters of Japan showing a katana being made in the traditional way. High carbon steel and low carbon steel, folded 200 times.
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    Ah- so technique... hmmm....
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    This is the PBS documentary on making katanas.

    It's 5 parts, and this is part 3, where they discuss the structure of the blade.

    Neverfly likes this.
    Its the way nature is!
    If you dont like it, go somewhere else....
    To another universe, where the rules are simpler
    Philosophically more pleasing, more psychologically easy
    Prof Richard Feynman (1979) .....

    Das ist nicht nur nicht richtig, es ist nicht einmal falsch!"
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  28. #27  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by fiveworlds View Post
    the old katanas were a mastercraft using sheets of folded magnetised steel
    Source please.

    It doesnt get much tougher
    Right. Because we've learned absolutely nothing about metallurgy since then.
    Agreed. I'm pretty sure japanese smiths, even if they are "masters" can't surpass, a high precision lab produced, carbon fibre enforced handled, hyper omni-phobic inert cobalt-titanium blade (perhaps nickel-titanium/tantalum titanium).

    Just like compound bows woop traditional bows.
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    funny and interesting same time
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    btw we all understand they wont give the real secret just like coke and swiss army knife
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  31. #30  
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    We don't need the real secret anymore cuz science and engineering can make better katanas than them nowadays anyway.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChaosD.Ace View Post
    We don't need the real secret anymore cuz science and engineering can make better katanas than them nowadays anyway.
    prove it
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  33. #32  
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    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uL2bpuyTHto

    a
    nd that is just down to the production method of the steel.

    Nowadays we have far superior metals and alloys as I mentioned before, titanium-cobalt and other titanium alloys are harder and more wear resistant among other properties (such as elasticity in the case of nickel-titanium, and superior natural inertness in the case of tantalum-titanium, also I believe (can't be certain) that you can further enhance the alloy by reinforcing it with carboplatinum)

    Blades can also be laminated (the softer spine of course) with carbon fibers.

    Also using nano-particles we can coat blades (and the hilt for that matter) so that they are hyper-omniphobic. In other words, dunk in mud, water, cut 100 guys heads of and not a single drop will be left on the blade as prevention from ice crystals from forming.

    Using tech we can sharpen blades to a point that tradition master techniques cannot (could have it atom thick if you wanted to).
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    do you think the guy realy knows how to make traditional master katana? I didn't see a real test... in those two...
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  35. #34  
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    Back then, they made a blade to last.

    Nowadays, they make a blade to turn a profit.

    Quote Originally Posted by AlexG View Post
    I remember a PBS show on the Masters of Japan showing a katana being made in the traditional way. High carbon steel and low carbon steel, folded 200 times.
    Wouldn't they only need to fold it like 8 times to give it 256 layers?
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  36. #35  
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    I've not read the whole thread (sore eyes) so apologies if I'm repeating something that has been said already.

    Anyway, it's my understanding that the amazing qualities of the katana are actually a myth promulgated by the movie industry. By all accounts the sword was a fat-bladed wedge of poorly worked steel that saw very little development over the period it was in use. Medieval swords from Europe were of far superior quality - in every respect. As a weapon the Katana was hopeless.
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackscorp View Post
    do you think the guy realy knows how to make traditional master katana? I didn't see a real test... in those two...
    Have you no basic understanding of metallurgy or technology in general. you think some master japanese smith makes a katana, using primitive tools, crap metal and some "technique" and the katana gains magical abilities.
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  38. #37  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zwirko View Post
    I've not read the whole thread (sore eyes) so apologies if I'm repeating something that has been said already.

    Anyway, it's my understanding that the amazing qualities of the katana are actually a myth promulgated by the movie industry. By all accounts the sword was a fat-bladed wedge of poorly worked steel that saw very little development over the period it was in use. Medieval swords from Europe were of far superior quality - in every respect. As a weapon the Katana was hopeless.
    If it were truly hopeless, then I don't think anyone would have used it. There were other weapons available, like spears and clubs, but for some reason the Samurai preferred their swords.

    The accounts I know of say the Samurai were excellent close fighters. For example, they managed to repel the Mongols by attacking them on their boats, where they wouldn't be able to use their horse archery. The Samurai won handily, even though the Mongols, being from the continent, likely had proper iron in their weapons.

    The relative quality to a European sword would depend on how you're measuring quality. The weapons had different purposes. A european sword was designed to be used against an opponent in iron armor, who may have an iron shield or maybe even an iron mace. It had to be really strong to ensure it wouldn't just shatter when it hit those things. For an opponent who can't easily be cut, it had to be able to double as a bludgeoning weapon. A typical longsword was long and straight and came to a point, so it could hopefully be jammed through a breastplate to kill the man inside. A katana probably wouldn't last very long if it encountered iron armor.

    On the other hand, a European longsword was a bigger and less graceful weapon. In unarmored combat, or even combat involving nonmetal armor, it probably couldn't be wielded quickly and skillfully enough to hold off a katana wielding Samurai. You'll notice that medieval longswords are not very popular among fencers. They prefer a lighter sabre. A katana probably sits somewhere between those two extremes for quickness.
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    europian swords where just like maces... adding nothing more just different name...
    Last edited by blackscorp; October 28th, 2013 at 10:03 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChaosD.Ace View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by blackscorp View Post
    do you think the guy realy knows how to make traditional master katana? I didn't see a real test... in those two...
    Have you no basic understanding of metallurgy or technology in general. you think some master japanese smith makes a katana, using primitive tools, crap metal and some "technique" and the katana gains magical abilities.
    not magical abilitis... just good work and much knowledge on subject gathered in couple centurys
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    For an alternative view, you could try a lindtbiege video:





    p.s. that longswordv katana tv thing received a lot of criticism.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zwirko View Post
    For an alternative view, you could try a lindtbiege video:





    p.s. that longswordv katana tv thing received a lot of criticism.
    critism is good... im not basing my information on that show only but its the best so far where the 2 are being tested... the others talk only and no test was made...
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    The point is that you shouldn't be testing two different swords, designed for different functions, in a way that they were not intended to be used and then draw the conclusion that one is better than the other. So, you've pierced the armour of you enemy - somehow you are still alive since you've no shield - and then you discover the dude is wearing chain mail underneath his armour. In that situation I think a better option would be to have a sword with a long sharp point, because a katana will not penetrate the mail to any great extent.

    If, on the other hand, you want to spend your time slicing up blocks of ice (as in the video), then I guess a katana is a worthwhile tool for the job.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zwirko View Post
    The point is that you shouldn't be testing two different swords, designed for different functions, in a way that they were not intended to be used and then draw the conclusion that one is better than the other. So, you've pierced the armour of you enemy - somehow you are still alive since you've no shield - and then you discover the dude is wearing chain mail underneath his armour. In that situation I think a better option would be to have a sword with a long sharp point, because a katana will not penetrate the mail to any great extent.

    If, on the other hand, you want to spend your time slicing up blocks of ice (as in the video), then I guess a katana is a worthwhile tool for the job.
    you didn't watch the whole video... in the end you see even point of katana is better...
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    Hold up, how did this become about Europe vs Japan, that is not the point I was arguing originally, my point was that katanas made with todays methods (science and engineering) are superior to the ancient katanas made by their traditional techniques (a.k.a traditional tempering, and forging)

    as I and Zwirko have pointed out traditional Japanese katanas:

    Quote Originally Posted by Zwirko View Post
    By all accounts the sword was a fat-bladed wedge of poorly worked steel that saw very little development over the period it was in use.
    Folding steel was just a method of evening and making the micro-structure of steel more uniform, thus improving it's strength. This was achieved with primitive tools. We have not only better materials but superior techniques now, thanks to as you yourself have said:

    Quote Originally Posted by blackscorp View Post
    just good work and much knowledge on subject gathered in couple centurys
    work and knowledge gathered by scientists that allow us to have skyscrapers, modern planes, space shuttles etc.

    As i have stated before we have superalloys now, which are far superior to steel ( that alone makes modern katanas superior) and have a whole array of additional special properties (inertness, metal elasticity)


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superalloys
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precipitation_strengthening

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChaosD.Ace View Post
    Hold up, how did this become about Europe vs Japan, that is not the point I was arguing originally, my point was that katanas made with todays methods (science and engineering) are superior to the ancient katanas made by their traditional techniques (a.k.a traditional tempering, and forging)

    as I and Zwirko have pointed out traditional Japanese katanas:

    Quote Originally Posted by Zwirko View Post
    By all accounts the sword was a fat-bladed wedge of poorly worked steel that saw very little development over the period it was in use.
    Folding steel was just a method of evening and making the micro-structure of steel more uniform, thus improving it's strength. This was achieved with primitive tools. We have not only better materials but superior techniques now, thanks to as you yourself have said:

    Quote Originally Posted by blackscorp View Post
    just good work and much knowledge on subject gathered in couple centurys
    work and knowledge gathered by scientists that allow us to have skyscrapers, modern planes, space shuttles etc.

    As i have stated before we have superalloys now, which are far superior to steel ( that alone makes modern katanas superior) and have a whole array of additional special properties (inertness, metal elasticity)


    Superalloy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precipitation_strengthening
    I don't see where it say we know more now than they knowed then
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackscorp View Post
    I don't see where it say we know more now than they knowed then
    So now you are implying japanese katana smiths knew everything that newton, einstein,bhor, georgius agricola discovered before they discovered it.

    And they had the means to produce heats above 1600 degrees, and maintain them for hours, that they knew about titanium and cobalt (which are far superior to steel when alloyed) and never used them. Because that makes sense.

    And that they could make weapons completely resistant to corrosion and even repel water, ice, lipids and oils. Which means you imply they had the technology to manipulate matter at the atomic level.

    History of Metals

    this details the early history of metallurgy,

    Katanas= 1392 - 1573

    Katana - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    They did not have titanium.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChaosD.Ace View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by blackscorp View Post
    I don't see where it say we know more now than they knowed then
    So now you are implying japanese katana smiths knew everything that newton, einstein,bhor, georgius agricola discovered before they discovered it.

    And they had the means to produce heats above 1600 degrees, and maintain them for hours, that they knew about titanium and cobalt (which are far superior to steel when alloyed) and never used them. Because that makes sense.

    And that they could make weapons completely resistant to corrosion and even repel water, ice, lipids and oils. Which means you imply they had the technology to manipulate matter at the atomic level.

    History of Metals

    this details the early history of metallurgy,

    Katanas= 1392 - 1573

    Katana - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    They did not have titanium.
    I don't think there was any need to know einsteins work for a katana... they knowed what they needed to know...
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackscorp View Post
    I don't think there was any need to know einsteins work for a katana... they knowed what they needed to know...
    You're missing the point:
    Quote Originally Posted by blackscorp View Post
    I don't see where it say we know more now than they knowed then
    Are you claiming they knew more then (about sword-making in particular and the attendant disciplines) than we do now?
    "[Dywyddyr] makes a grumpy bastard like me seem like a happy go lucky scamp" - PhDemon
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by blackscorp View Post
    I don't think there was any need to know einsteins work for a katana... they knowed what they needed to know...
    You're missing the point:
    Quote Originally Posted by blackscorp View Post
    I don't see where it say we know more now than they knowed then
    Are you claiming they knew more then (about sword-making in particular and the attendant disciplines) than we do now?
    yes that's what you can say not necessary they know more but just some points in todays life we would miss it... but yes im saying they where ahead of their time and maybe it cannot win from todays steel but for sure is not doing under it
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    Forum Sophomore ChaosD.Ace's Avatar
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    The last name i mentioned, Georgious agricola was a very prominet figure in the field of mettallurgy, his work laid the foundations for the development of superalloys and better purification techniques.

    If you are as Dywyddyr has pointed out, suggesting they knew more about making swords then than we know now, people also thought that about bows and yet traditional bow makers can't even begin to approach how to make a bow that can surpass a compound bow, which was designed and manufactured using our recent knowledge of science and engineering (which obviously have proven to be better than "mythical" techniques)

    Techniques are just ways of getting materials into the forms you want them in, folding steel for example was one of the best techniques back in those days for achieving a uniform microstructure in steel, for which we have better techniques now, thanks to advances in metallurgy. Las time I checked we can manipulate matter at the atomic level now (which they couldn't do back then (1x10-100000000000000 % sure they couldn't))
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    Forum Sophomore ChaosD.Ace's Avatar
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    My bad you posted before me.
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    here's the posed question could you forge a weapon using the same heating/ folding technique to create the micro layers moving the stronger metals like the Ti alloy to the spine and a high carbon rigid steel to the edge for sharpness achieving a stronger, lighter, and sharper sword. it is understood that after folding, reheating, and repressing 2 or more metals repeatedly you get a unique final product that has different metallic properties throughout the blade. However given the wildly differing melting temperatures etc. is this concept even possible. I know that modern metallurgy can achieve much more precisely controlled alloys, but the actual process of making a folded metal blade hasn't actually been improved much over time
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    Quote Originally Posted by Myonen View Post
    here's the posed question could you forge a weapon using the same heating/ folding technique to create the micro layers moving the stronger metals like the Ti alloy to the spine and a high carbon rigid steel to the edge for sharpness achieving a stronger, lighter, and sharper sword. it is understood that after folding, reheating, and repressing 2 or more metals repeatedly you get a unique final product that has different metallic properties throughout the blade. However given the wildly differing melting temperatures etc. is this concept even possible. I know that modern metallurgy can achieve much more precisely controlled alloys, but the actual process of making a folded metal blade hasn't actually been improved much over time
    No, folding does not help your blade. In ancient times, metal was impure, so they would fold it to mix the impurities throughout the blade, which made it much more resilient than, say, a blade with concentrated impurities in one spot. That sword is going to break in the impure spot. If your metal is already refined and pure, like it is in modern times, folding it creates layers that are unstable, significantly weakening the blade. Katana blacksmiths like to pretend that hand-forging is still superior, simply because they hang onto tradition. There is a certain amount of comfort in making a blade yourself. It's empowering, in a way. Most people don't like to accept that they can be bested at their craft by a machine, but truthfully, a sword made of pure metals, properly machined, sharpened and tempered using modern technology will be far superior to one smelted from a mountain in a forge 1000 years old.
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