Titanium vs. steel Samurai Swords
A discussion started in 2001 but continuing through 20202001
Q. How much would a 28 inch Titanium Samurai Sword cost and how long would it take to make and sharpen?Brett B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- South Bend, Indiana
A. Hello Brett!
You may want to post this question on the rec.crafts.metalworking newsgroup. One way to get there if your ISP doesn't offer newsgroup access is through a web portal
like Google at groups.google.com/googlegroups/deja_announcement.html
[Ed. note: link no longer works]
Rec.crafts.metalworking has an active bladesmithing community, including many folks who sell.
metallurgist - E. Aurora, New York
A. Titanium is not a good material for swords or any blades. Steel is far better. Titanium cannot be heat treated sufficiently to gain a good edge and will not retain edge. Check out swordforum.com for further info and proof of my above comment.
A properly manufactured steel sword will actually cut into a titanium blade and possibly cut it clean in half. Do not be fooled by films such as "Blade" [affil. link to book info on Amazon] (titanium sword cutting into marble block - would never be possible in reality).
My advice would be to purchase an authentic historic samurai sword (all of which were made of steel). Hope this helps.Barrie B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- south west U.K.
Q. Do you think it would be practical to use titanium as a buddy material with another to make a sword. After all, the Japanese samurai sword came to be developed when it was found that when a special type of iron was folded with steel that it produced a type of steel that was not as brittle. I'm thinking maybe titanium needs to have it's flaws balanced out with another material to make a superb sword. Do you think so?Brian F [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Hobbyist - Springfield, Oregon
Q. Hi, my name is Joseph. I'm an average guy who has a great fascination in sword making. I work with my uncle in a machine shop and I took home a scrap peace of metal what seems to be titanium. the metal its self is incredibly dense,light and very hard. I tried cutting it with a hacksaw and it took me about 30 min. to put a deep scratch in it. My question is how, on a small budget, do I get the right tools to make my own swords, and what do I need.
Thank you very much for your time and service.
parts cleaner - Ventura, California
A. Hi there. Titanium in itself is not a very good metal to make a sword from. I believe that one person said it does not keep edge very well, and this is true. Also, in order to make it as strong as a regular blade, the Titanium blade would have to be about 3 times as broad and thick as the regular blade.
If you want a really strong blade that still has Titanium in it, try to get one made from Titanium 6-4. This an alloy containing about 94% Titanium, some aluminium, some carbon etc. This is the type of metal used on space craft and has many of the advantages of Titanium, such as light weight, as well as strength and edge quality.
Hope this helps
- East London, South Africa
Q. Hi my name is Ethan. Would a possible solution to the "titanium not holding an edge well" problem be if you coat the blade in clay (like making the hamon, or temper line, on a Japanese sword) but instead of dunking it in water, expose it to carbon monoxide so as to make the edge titanium carbide, (which does hold an edge well).Ethan C [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Norwich, Vermont, USA
Q. Why is it that titanium will not hold an edge it is one of the strongest metals around.
I mean sword smiths heat a blade and cool the front of the blade to make it bend with out cracking is it that it cracks easily because I have worked with titanium and never thought it could crack.
watch and jewelry - South Lyon, Missouri
RFQ: I need a a sword blade made of titanium and can somewhat keep an edge. Who can make it, and how much, and how soon can they have it.Jason R [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
army - Indiana, USA
A. Sorry, but Titanium is a horrid metal to make a sword out of, even in alloy form.
Titanium is basically an over glorified aluminum, it is light, and strong for it's weight, but it is not stronger then steel, it is just lighter. the sword would be purely for show, even basic cutting could damage the blade. not to mention a steel blade would probably cut it in half, but that is not so much a problem nowadays... unless... you know... you get caught in a time warp and happen to have it...
- Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
A. Actually very few if any excellent blades are ever made from a single compound ... and titanium WOULD make a good base alloy due to weight versus strength characteristics ...
The essential elements of edge hardness would be determined by the additives .... [very good candidates are cobalt, carbon, etc]
The proper mix however is something that would take CONSIDERABLE research and expense
BTW my background is that my father was a blacksmith with making blades as his speciality and I grew up working a forge ... also reference the metals in good blades like cold steel, etc.
- Sartell Minnesota USA
A. Well I created a 26" x 1" x 1/4 single edge drop point sword using the high grade titanium 6-4 (grade 5). I will be testing it over Christmas, I will use it in practical applications such as machete and pry bar (I'll test it against a steel sword too!) I will not be hardening it because it is already very strong and the harder any material gets the more brittle it gets. The hilt is made of the same Ti and I'm making the handle and tactical sheath out of high grade aircraft aluminum. I was thinking of showing them to my military friends because of the non-corrosive and non magnetic qualities of titanium.ken r [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- wanchese, North Carolina
March 11, 2008
A. I would suggest looking up the young's modulus of any type of metal you are thinking of using. The higher the young's modulus the better. I believe steel has a higher young's modulus than titanium (btw steel is IRON with a carbon impurity in it) but am unsure about the different types of alloys around. So what I would suggest is to look up the different types of steel alloys produced and find out which one has the best young's modulus. If you have no idea what the young's modulus is, just look it up in Wikipedia. Basically the young's modulus is the metals ability to return to its original shape (not dent and things like that). So I would think that would be an important factor in the sword. Just so you know, I am aerospace engineer and have some background in metallurgy. (too bad my spelling is bad lol) Hope this information helps.Joe Black
- Austin, Texas
Hi. Young's Modulus is stress/strain, i.e., the elastic modulus or stiffness. It could be used in determining things like this: if you rigidly held the hilt in a vice, how much would the tip of the blade deflect under a given load. The Young's modulus for steel is about 29 million (depends a bit on temperature); the Young's modulus of some Cr-Mo steel alloys is slightly higher, but not much. The Young's modulus for titanium is about 15.5 million -- about half. If the dimensions of the blade are the same, it will deflect almost twice as much under the same load as a steel blade.
The word "iron" can be a little problematical because while it's true in a definitional sense that steel is iron (pure Fe) with a small amount of carbon added to it, when people think of iron they picture cast iron, which actually has far more carbon in it than steel does.
The yield point/ yield strength is the point at which steel loses its elasticity and takes a permanent deformation, elongation, or dent.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading
April 5, 2008
A. Ok just to clear some things up for everyone. I am a metallurgist. Titanium is 1.506 times stronger than steel for the same amount and does have a very high melting point. That being said though, unless you can heat and temper it to a certain degree, it will not hold an edge and will crack. I would recommend for a sword made out of titanium (if you are very passionate about this considering it won't be exactly pocket money) that you make it carbonized titanium (again it will be very expensive but it will create one of the strongest swords known) and if that isn't in your price range then I would make it into an alloy along with another metal.Eric Donny
- Kincardine, Ontario, Canada
June 1, 2008
!! Titanium is 10 times stronger than steel and is the sharpest metal on earth. Steel is no match for titanium I would know I own one that I made myself. I have sparred with many people and I cut three swords in half with minimal force it is like a hot knife through butterJames Niles
- Cedar, Michigan, United States
July 16, 2008
A. I and my old teacher worked with titanium before. I will tell you what we know in a basic way. Titanium in it's normal stage may be light and a bit strong but it's from flaws you can't see with the naked eye. We even removed the flaws from a dagger from a set we got from a (friend) it proved without flaws in the metal. It is 7.839 times stronger then a steel dagger but it costs to say the least a small fortune to remove the flaws so I suggest using steel swords -- it's a lot cheaper.andrew Oliver
- bega,nsw, Australia
September 30, 2008
A. There are a lot of misconceptions about titanium. Pure titanium itself, from what I've heard, is actually quite brittle. The reputation that titanium has received (being the strongest thing on Earth, and such) is actually due to a titanium alloy.
Another misconception a lot of people have is that because something is strong, that it'll make a good sword material. That is wrong. The reason titanium can't hold an edge is because it is too soft. However, steel can hold a good edge (depending on the type of steel you use) because it has better wear resistance. It is the carbon content in steel that gives it its wear resistance. Basically, the harder it is, the better it'll hold an edge, but the weaker it becomes. On the other hand, the softer it is, the stronger it becomes, but it won't hold an edge.
If you are looking for a good sword, I'd suggest one made of high carbon steel or a type of tool steel. To be more specific, in your case I'd recommend a katana made of 1075 or 1095 carbon steel, or L6 or S7 tool steel. Also, I'd suggest one that is differentially tempered and hand forged (and possibly folded). If you want the best of the best, then go for a traditional katana made of tamahagane.
I myself am researching to become a sword smith myself (specializing in katanas), and I do know quite a bit, but not as much as the professionals. I know that if I wanted a katana, I'd go with either tamahagane, or 1095 carbon steel wrapped around a low carbon steel (like 1045 or 1018 carbon steel) and then differentially tempered.
- Hollywood, Maryland
November 5, 2008
Q. This is just a shot in the dark, but how about a TiFeC combination introducing enough Ti to reduce the weight of the blade while maintaining a steel edge to reduce wear?
I'm not a metallurgist or smithy, so I'm unaware of the "What you say is madness!" point of no return on this issue.
I've just been reading that TiC didn't work due to its softness and FeC has its weight issue, so I pondered the "best of both worlds" approach and formulated this inexperienced question.
- Orange Park, Florida
August 11, 2009
A. First, a titanium sword made by folding the titanium like one would do with damascus will give the titanium several macroscopic layers of cutting edges on one large edge, slow cooling the blade after this is done will keep the titanium in Alpha phase rather than slipping into the beta phase where the blade becomes super hard and super brittle. Second, If the titanium is made right with no beta in it at all, and the titanium being any commercially pure grade, your sword will need to be put under 250,000 pounds of stress in a single instant for it to break. Finally, with a good 30 in. blade starting at 1/2 in. narrowing to 1/4 in. thick and a 2 in. 1 1/4 wide blade (until point where it closes off to tip) you will have a strong, impact, corrosion, and acid resistant blade that WILL, if made damascus style, cut any steel sword in two.Kevin Carney
renaissance reenactment - Oceanside California
August 12, 2009
Hi, Kevin. I have to admit that this topic is starting to interest me, as the proponents of steel claim that any modest steel blade will cut any titanium blade in two, and the proponents of titanium claim that a well made titanium blade will cut any steel blade in two :-)
I am not a metallurgist, nor a sword crafter, nor a re-enactor, but I am an engineer and know that titanium is not "10 times stronger than steel", and doubt that either blade will be cut in two by the other. But I'd like to place a $5 bet on a good Damascus steel blade faring better overall. Where can I see this contest? Anything on youtube?
Where did the battlebots go now that we need them to wield swords and settle all this talk, talk, talk?!
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading
April 2, 2010
A. Titanium is not good sword material. I would try wootz steel, the same steel used in the famous Damascus blades, using the woots steel refinement.
Hope this helps,
- Mendenhall, Mississippi, USA
March 20, 2010
A. Titanium swords are just no good, since (in layman terms) its good to block blunt force damage, but cutting is out of its league. Titanium is more springy, so it can take a good amount of punishment if there is enough of it.
However, there is an interesting use for titanium in swords, and the closest useful sword you can find is this one:
This is the G-1000 titanium infused sword, which has the advantage of looking great, being rust proof and scratch resistant, and extremely functional sword.
- Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
December 8, 2010
Q. Hi My name is Adrian. I'm a sword collector and sword practitioner. I've used katana's and broad swords in my training. I like the look of the broad sword and the weight of the katana. One person stated that a high carbon titanium blade would make for a light but stronger than steel blade. Is this true? And if so who would make such a blade?
Sword collector and practitioner - Mansfield Pennsylvania USA
June 12, 2011
A. Titanium is very difficult to work with in general. Even with the proper modern tool sets, its difficult to work with.
It is very expensive as well. There isn't very much engineering data out there that concerns the application of titanium and titanium alloys for use as conventional blade material.
There is plenty regarding its use in drilling and as a structural material...
but if you are a blacksmith... even a blacksmith who has extensive undergraduate/graduate level education in materials science and metallurgy, it may be difficult to adapt the existing engineering data for use as a material for making blades. It would really take a professional Ph.D. scientist or engineer, most likely specializing in some form of relevant materials science, to do the R&D necessary to produce something "special."
Really, this is the type of thing that requires genuine research and development. This type of research and development is genuine cutting edge research. I am talking about making samples, doing the usual basic engineering hardness and strength testing, BUT ALSO busting out the SEM/TEM, the XRD, and many other complicated and expensive analytical tests to study the structure and composition of the alloy samples you have created.
Remember another simple and important fact: you cannot work titanium in a conventional heat source.
One of titanium's well known properties is its supremely high melting point. This is why it is used in high performance aircraft and in turbine engines. It can be heated to thousands of degrees and not melt.
So, in order to work it by introduction of defects (or removal of defects), and to get it above any transition temperatures necessary to introduce new crystalline phases in the pure metal or alloy, you will need to heat it to >1 thousand degrees C. Similarly, to get the diffusion properties (rate of diffusion, diffusion length, etc) high enough to incorporate other materials for use as an alloy, you will also need to heat it above 1000 °C.
You must remember that the point is NOT: "Can you make a titanium sword?". The point is: "Can you make a titanium sword that has special properties that exceed what is possible with high performance iron alloys?"
The answer is: "probably yes, but no one (or very few people) have genuinely applied the necessary expertise or investment to see if this is possible"
Hell, at the end of the day, even industrial engineers, scientists, aerospace engineers, etc. AVOID TITANIUM if they can, because it is expensive and hard to use.
Titanium is used when there is NO OTHER ALTERNATIVE that gives the properties needed at a reasonable price.....
Hell, it would probably be better to make a sword out of "metal glass" (metallic "glass" frozen in amorphous phase), but that would make the sword cost about $100,000 in materials alone.
- Goleta, California, USA
June 20, 2011
A. To add to the argument against making a titanium sword, consider this. Titanium will BURN before it will melt. If you somehow heat it to its melting point, it will be reduced to a pile of white powder, Titanium Dioxide. TiO2 is cheap and essentially useless as a metal. In order to melt titanium, it must be in either a vacuum or a noble gas environment.
If you are determined, buy a stick of military grade titanium alloy and file it in order to sharpen it. You cannot smith titanium.
Similarly, pure titanium cannot be welded...
The most promising application is as the core section of a multi-layer katana. However, why use titanium, when aluminum would be even lighter? Consider this...a Masamune style 7-layer sword, with an aluminum alloy, heat treated core, high-strength, hardened titanium sides, and a true, high-carbon tamahagane steel blade. If you can make them stick together, you would have quite a sword.
- Van Etten, New York, USA
February 17, 2012
A. Grade 5 titanium can make a fairly decent blade since it is one of the Ti alloys that can be heat treated to a Rockwell C hardness over 40. A good steel sword is anywhere from 50 to 60, anything over 60 will be brittle. I have made swords from grade 5 and have had good results. It is more difficult to shape and grind but it's very light but you'll need a diamond sharpener to put a good edge on it.Morgan jones
- Canyon Texas us
June 20, 2012
Q. I've been looking into interesting special materials for an idealistic sword, created under ideal conditions, i.e. unlimited resources. If not Titanium then what other unusual materials or metals would you suggest? either in pure form, or as alloys.
I've discovered that Osmium and Iridium are the hardest elements in the periodic table, and some of it can only be found on meteorites. I imagine the hardness might suggest brittleness as well in a sword, and it's so difficult to smelt because of a really high melting point, but assuming that were possible, how do you think pure versions of these metals would work? or how would they improve certain alloys? if at all.
- Santiago, Region Metropolitana, Chile
June 21, 2012
Q. What about tungsten carbide? Would this be a good material for swords?Ryan Delk
- Tempe, Arizona, USA
November 4, 2012
A. Just heat and cool the titanium more times and it would be less brittle ... But also find out a way to sharpen it. Maybe mixing metal to make it less brittle and softer for easier sharpening and for the weight. More weight = more damage (more force) but harder to get it to the speed (power), harder to handle. Harder to move the blade.
Tungsten would be too heavy. You wouldn't be able to swing the blade. But it's harder than titanium and osmium (a bit harder than osmium).Yamato Sama
- Aukland New Zealand
September 12, 2013
Q. What if I made a sword from tungsten, and used titanium as a Core because tungsten is significantly harder than any other metal but can bend easily, whereas titanium is softer in a sense but much harder to bend or bow?Kaleb Neubarth
- USA, Stafford Virginia
October 2, 2015
So many people spouting all kinds of wildly exaggerated steak-and-cheese, it's enough to twist me hankies.
A brief read of wikipedia states clearly that commercial grade titanium (99.2% pure) is JUST AS STRONG, (not stronger, not weaker, EQUAL) as COMMON, LOW-GRADE steel alloys.
More reading states "titanium is recognized for its high strength-to-weight ratio. It is a strong metal with low density that is quite ductile. --- Titanium is not as hard as some grades of heat-treated steel, is non-magnetic and a poor conductor of heat and electricity."
In other words, it's light, can bend a lot without fracturing, is a relatively soft metal, and is about as strong as steel.
However, keep reading and you find that there are a barrage of restrictions, such as a limit to how hot you can heat it, what methods you use to smith/machine it, etc.
In other words, you might be able to make a titanium sword that works about as well (or maybe just as well) as a steel sword, but it would seem to require an astronomical amount of money more in specialized tools, knowledge, and many many hours of trial & error to craft it, compared to any other metal.
Not worth it. Titanium is mostly hype anyway. Probably from those (exaggerated) stories of guys whose titanium ring deflected a bullet from a mis-handled gun and saved their finger. pffft. Riiiiight.
- houston, texas, united states
April 24, 2019
! There are a few folks making titanium alloy blades. Madscienceforge.com has done R&D to successfully create blades. The web page has a Q&A in regards to what he does. If you want a real titanium blade, you should check it out.Stew Taylor
- Longview, Washington, United States
April 18, 2020
! ` Oel ngati kameie!
How about Titanium-3-Gold (Ti3Au)? It's about three times stronger than even military grade steel in its beta molecular phase. I'm thinking that if you coat the spine in refractory porcelain clay to keep the spine in the more flexible alpha molecular stage and temper the edge to the stronger beta molecular stage, you'd have a sword that, with the right person wielding it, would probably cut through the barrel of a tank's turret like butter and not sustain any damage.
Here's a link to a datasheet:
- Covington, Louisiana, United States of America