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Toledo steel, historically known for being unusually hard, is from Toledo, Spain, which has been a traditional sword-making, metal-working center since about the Roman period, and came to the attention of Rome when used by Hannibal in the Punic Wars. It soon became a standard source of weaponry for Roman legions.
Toledo steel was famed for its high quality alloy.
The name "Toledo steel" comes from the city where these special steel products were most-notably crafted: Toledo, Spain. Toledo steel forging techniques were developed from ancient customs associated with culture in the Iberian peninsula, and used to forge many different types of weapons over the course of many centuries. In simple terms, the Toledo steel technique consisted of a steel blade surrounded by a wrought iron strip, thus preventing the steel from bending or cracking. As such, the strong and durable Toledo steel weapons were said to have had a "soul of iron".
In ancient Iberia, blacksmiths in Toledo applied their unique method of forging to the production of falcatas. Numerous tribes of ancient Hispania were known to use these falcatas, especially those of southern Iberia. These weapons were designed to inflict wounds thought to be more fatal than other weapons of the time.
Falcatas produced in Toledo were highly prized by Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca. These falcatas soon saw much greater use when Hannibal chose to outfit his Carthaginian soldiers with them during the Second Punic War.Over the course of the Second Punic War, Rome also gained an appreciation for the quality of Toledo, later making Toledo a standard source of weaponry for Roman legions.
The two swords carried by El Cid, Tizona and Colada, were forged in Toledo. Around that time, the Moors of Iberia adapted the forging of their scimitars to include the advanced techniques found in Toledo.
The peak of Toledo steel production was seen in the 15th and 16th centuries, the time of highest-quality swordsmanship in Europe and the Greater Middle East. By the end of the Reconquista, Toledo was considered to be the greatest sword-making centre in the world.And while Toledo steel set the standard for excellence of European weapons, there were also very few locales that surpassed Toledo in terms of production volume (perhaps only Solingen or Passau in Germany).
As armies began to replace swords with firearms, the blacksmithing tradition at large began its decline. In an attempt to preserve the techniques, methods, and quality of Toledo steel production, Carlos III ordered creation of the Royal Sword Factory in Toledo (Real Fábrica de Espadas de Toledo) in 1761.
As of 2021 there are only two artisan steel-producing workshops remaining in Toledo.
The production process of Toledo steel had been kept a secret until the 20th century. Toledo steel is basically two different types of steel (one high and one low in carbon content) that are forged together. Since the steels that were being forged together had different carbon content, one is considered soft steel and the other is a hard steel. Because both hard and soft steel are used in this material, it has material properties of both hard and soft steel. The actual process of making the Toledo steel was very difficult and long.[ citation needed ] Because of this, Toledo steel weapons were rarer. The process had to be followed very strictly, regarding time, temperatures, etc., or otherwise the product would not be of the highest quality. Then the steel was cooled in either water or oil for a certain amount of time.[ vague ] In the early production days of Toledo steel, the timing was done using prayers and psalms. As blacksmiths crafted these weapons, they would recite the same prayers, in the same rhythm, to make sure the timing was the same every time. Because of the intricacies of the production and the rarity of the product, the average blacksmith could only create about 2-3 Toledo steel weapons per year. Hydraulic systems were introduced at the end of the 19th century to greatly increase the production of Toledo steel products, and production went up by 200% towards the end of the 19th century.[ citation needed ]
Toledo steel consists of two steels of different carbon contents welded together by hot forging. Because the steels had different carbon contents, one of the steels was soft and one was hard. Welding the soft and hard steels together gave the material characteristics of both the soft and hard metals. Compared to other mainstream steels at the time it was hard enough and flexible enough to be efficient in war. The reason for the success of Toledo steel is due to the fact that the steel uses a combination of mechanical properties of materials of extremely different chemical compositions.
Damascus steel is the forged steel of the blades of swords smithed in the Near East from ingots of Wootz steel either imported from Southern India or made in production centres in Sri Lanka, or Khorasan, Iran. These swords are characterized by distinctive patterns of banding and mottling reminiscent of flowing water, sometimes in a "ladder" or "rose" pattern. Such blades were reputed to be tough, resistant to shattering, and capable of being honed to a sharp, resilient edge.
A forge is a type of hearth used for heating metals, or the workplace (smithy) where such a hearth is located. The forge is used by the smith to heat a piece of metal to a temperature at which it becomes easier to shape by forging, or to the point at which work hardening no longer occurs. The metal is transported to and from the forge using tongs, which are also used to hold the workpiece on the smithy's anvil while the smith works it with a hammer. Sometimes, such as when hardening steel or cooling the work so that it may be handled with bare hands, the workpiece is transported to the slack tub, which rapidly cools the workpiece in a large body of water. However, depending on the metal type, it may require an oil quench or a salt brine instead; many metals require more than plain water hardening. The slack tub also provides water to control the fire in the forge.
Pattern welding is the practice in sword and knife making of forming a blade of several metal pieces of differing composition that are forge-welded together and twisted and manipulated to form a pattern. Often mistakenly called Damascus steel, blades forged in this manner often display bands of slightly different patterning along their entire length. These bands can be highlighted for cosmetic purposes by proper polishing or acid etching. Pattern welding was an outgrowth of laminated or piled steel, a similar technique used to combine steels of different carbon contents, providing a desired mix of hardness and toughness. Although modern steelmaking processes negate the need to blend different steels, pattern welded steel is still used by custom knifemakers for the cosmetic effects it produces.
Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon with improved strength and fracture resistance compared to other forms of iron. Many other elements may be present or added. Stainless steels, which are resistant to corrosion and oxidation, typically need an additional 11% chromium. Because of its high tensile strength and low cost, steel is used in buildings, infrastructure, tools, ships, trains, cars, bicycles, machines, electrical appliances, furniture, and weapons.
Gladius is a Latin word properly referring to the type of sword that was used by ancient Roman foot soldiers starting from the 3rd century BC and until the 3rd century AD. Linguistically, within Latin, the word also came to mean "sword", regardless of the type used.
A blacksmith is a metalsmith who creates objects primarily from wrought iron or steel, but sometimes from other metals, by forging the metal, using tools to hammer, bend, and cut. Blacksmiths produce objects such as gates, grilles, railings, light fixtures, furniture, sculpture, tools, agricultural implements, decorative and religious items, cooking utensils, and weapons. There was an historical distinction between the heavy work of the blacksmith and the more delicate operation of a whitesmith, who usually worked in gold, silver, pewter, or the finishing steps of fine steel. The place where a blacksmith works is called variously a smithy, a forge or a blacksmith's shop.
Differential heat treatment is a technique used during heat treating of steel to harden or soften certain areas of an object, creating a difference in hardness between these areas. There are many techniques for creating a difference in properties, but most can be defined as either differential hardening or differential tempering. These were common heat treatment techniques used historically in Europe and Asia, with possibly the most widely known example being from Japanese swordsmithing. Some modern varieties were developed in the twentieth century as metallurgical knowledge and technology rapidly increased.
An anvil is a metalworking tool consisting of a large block of metal, with a flattened top surface, upon which another object is struck.
A blade is the portion of a tool, weapon, or machine with an edge that is designed to puncture, chop, slice or scrape surfaces or materials. Blades are typically made from materials that are harder than those they are to be used on. Historically, humans have made blades from flaking stones such as flint or obsidian, and from various metal such as copper, bronze and iron. Modern blades are often made of steel or ceramic. Blades are one of humanity's oldest tools, and continue to be used for combat, food preparation, and other purposes.
Wootz steel, also known as Seric steel, is a crucible steel characterized by a pattern of bands and high carbon content. These bands are formed by sheets of microscopic carbides within a tempered martensite or pearlite matrix in higher carbon steel, or by ferrite and pearlite banding in lower carbon steels. It was a pioneering steel alloy developed in southern India in the mid-1st millennium BC and exported globally.
Forge welding (FOW), also called fire welding, is a solid-state welding process that joins two pieces of metal by heating them to a high temperature and then hammering them together. It may also consist of heating and forcing the metals together with presses or other means, creating enough pressure to cause plastic deformation at the weld surfaces. The process, although challenging, has been a method of joining metals used since ancient times and is a staple of traditional blacksmithing. Forge welding is versatile, being able to join a host of similar and dissimilar metals. With the invention of electrical welding and gas welding methods during the Industrial Revolution, manual forge-welding has been largely replaced, although automated forge-welding is a common manufacturing process.
The falcata is a type of sword typical of pre-Roman Iberia. The falcata was used to great effect for warfare in the ancient Iberian peninsula, and is firmly associated with the southern Iberian tribes, among other ancient peoples of Hispania. It was highly prized by the ancient general Hannibal, who equipped Carthaginian troops with it during the Second Punic War.
Sword making, historically, has been the work of specialized smiths or metalworkers called bladesmiths or swordsmiths. Swords have been made of different materials over the centuries, with a variety of tools and techniques. While there are many criteria for evaluating a sword, generally the four key criteria are hardness, strength, flexibility and balance. Early swords were made of copper, which bends easily. Bronze swords were stronger; by varying the amount of tin in the alloy, a smith could make various parts of the sword harder or tougher to suit the demands of combat service. The Roman gladius was an early example of swords forged from blooms of steel.
A metalsmith or simply smith is a craftsperson fashioning useful items out of various metals. Smithing is one of the oldest metalworking occupations. Shaping metal with a hammer (forging) is the archetypical component of smithing. Often the hammering is done while the metal is hot, having been heated in a forge. Smithing can also involve the other aspects of metalworking, such as refining metals from their ores, casting it into shapes (founding), and filing to shape and size.
Knife making is the process of manufacturing a knife by any one or a combination of processes: stock removal, forging to shape, welded lamination or investment cast. Typical metals used come from the carbon steel, tool, or stainless steel families. Primitive knives have been made from bronze, copper, brass, iron, obsidian, and flint.
Bladesmithing is the art of making knives, swords, daggers and other blades using a forge, hammer, anvil, and other smithing tools. Bladesmiths employ a variety of metalworking techniques similar to those used by blacksmiths, as well as woodworking for knife and sword handles, and often leatherworking for sheaths. Bladesmithing is an art that is thousands of years old and found in cultures as diverse as China, Japan, India, Germany, Korea, the Middle East, Spain and the British Isles. As with any art shrouded in history, there are myths and misconceptions about the process. While traditionally bladesmithing referred to the manufacture of any blade by any means, the majority of contemporary craftsmen referred to as bladesmiths are those who primarily manufacture blades by means of using a forge to shape the blade as opposed to knifemakers who form blades by use of the stock removal method, although there is some overlap between both crafts.
Japanese swordsmithing is the labour-intensive bladesmithing process developed in Japan beginning in the sixth century for forging traditionally made bladed weapons (nihonto) including katana, wakizashi, tantō, yari, naginata, nagamaki, tachi, nodachi, ōdachi, kodachi, and ya (arrow).
Honyaki (本焼) is the name for the Japanese traditional method of metalwork construction most often seen in kitchen knives by forging a blade, with a technique most similar to the tradition of nihonto, from a single piece of high-carbon steel covered with clay to yield upon quench a soft, resilient spine, a hamon, and a hard, sharp edge. Honyaki as a term alone can refer to either mizu honyaki (water-quench) or abura honyaki. The goal is to produce a sharper, longer lasting edge than is usually achievable with the lamination method. The term has been adapted to describe high-end mono-stainless in Japan and carbon blades by non-Japanese bladesmiths that have a hamon but are made with Western steel, heat treat, equipment, finishing, and design.
A laminated steel blade or piled steel is a knife, sword, or other tool blade made out of layers of differing types of steel, rather than a single homogeneous alloy. The earliest steel blades were laminated out of necessity, due to the early bloomery method of smelting iron, which made production of steel expensive and inconsistent. Laminated steel offered both a way to average out the properties of the steel, as well as a way to restrict high carbon steel to the areas that needed it most. Laminated steel blades are still produced today for specialized applications, where different requirements at different points in the blade are met by use of different alloys, forged together into a single blade.
The Caetrati were a type of light infantry in ancient Iberia who often fought as skirmishers. They were armed with a caetra shield, swords, and javelins.