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Carbon Steel, Stainless Steel, Zamak – How Do You Choose the Right Sword For You?
There are literally thousands of swords in different styles, materials and price ranges available today. This can make choosing a sword a daunting experience to say the least. Hopefully with this article we can help narrow that down a bit and highlight a few things to watch out for.
This article will mainly cover blade materials and the situations they are best suited for, the time you want to invest in your sword, and the cost. As for the sword style, well, we can’t really help you. Sword style is as individual to a person as the way they choose to do their hair or the car they choose to buy.
Right now we’re going to be looking at three blade materials. That’s three. Two that we are all familiar with, carbon steel and stainless steel, and one that you may not know is Zamak. Zamak is an alloy that looks like steel, but cannot be sharpened.
Carbon Steel: Carbon steel swords are true functional swords that will stand up to riggers of use, but as with everything else they come in different grades. High carbon steel swords are the best, both in terms of strength and durability, as well as maintaining an edge. Carbon steel swords are also the most demanding swords in terms of maintenance. If not properly maintained and kept oiled, they will corrode very easily. If you see the term “Battle Ready” sword, it usually means a fully functional carbon steel sword.
These swords are for the hardcore sword owner. Someone who needs the sword to be functional and will not hesitate to spend the necessary time to take care of it. These are usually the most expensive swords, as they are usually hand forged.
Cost: carbon swords can work with any item from $30.00 to $30,000.00+
Stainless Steel: Stainless steel swords are not real swords as far as function goes. They are primarily a decorative sword. They look real, feel real, and most will have an edge, making them a great display sword. But to use them in any other way is to cause injury. The “chrome” compound is added to the steel and this is what makes it stainless. It also makes it brittle. A good enough hit on something with a stainless steel sword will break it and possibly injure you or someone nearby. Stainless steel swords are low maintenance and only need to be cleaned once in a while.
These swords are ideal for display and re-enactments. They are good for people who want a sword that looks and feels like a functional sword, but without the work or cost. They are cheaper than carbon steel while maintaining quality, due to the ability to mass produce them.
Cost: On average, these swords will cost anywhere from $20.00 to around $400.00.
Zamak: Zamak is an alloy mainly used by a company called Denix. It is composed of 95% zinc (Zn), aluminum, magnesium and copper. Swords made from this alloy are purely decorative and try as hard as you want, you cannot give them a functional advantage. This makes it, among other things, the perfect presentation sword for home or educational environments. These are very low maintenance swords. They will not corrode or attack human oils.
These are perfect decorative swords for someone who wants a sword that will look real on the wall, but probably won’t be taken down very often, if at all. Due to their blade material, they are great in home environments for security, and for costume, re-enactment, stage, screen, or as teaching aids. Also, thanks to the blade material, the cost can be kept low without sacrificing quality.
Cost: The cost of these swords ranges from $60.00 to $110.00
Tips for Buying a Sword
Now, in general, the old adage rings true. In for money. That doesn’t mean you have to spend top dollar on a quality sword. There are some really good mid-range swords on the market, and even a low-range sword or two worth looking into. Every rule has its exceptions.
What you need to decide first is how authentic your sword should be and how much you are willing to invest in it. This will help you reduce the field considerably.
Next, you need to realize that not all dealerships have your best interests at heart. There are many cheap imitation swords that, at least in their photos, look like popular and reliable swords. So how do you say?
Most reputable dealers who know they are selling high-profile swords will proudly state the name of the sword’s manufacture.
Let’s say you have two windows open side by side comparing the same sword on two sites. The image is the same and the name of the sword is the same, but the price is radically different. Site A has the sword at $57.00, while Site B has the sword at $230.00. Your thought it’s too good to be true! Guess what… it probably is. Now you look up and see that site B proudly lists the name of the manufacture, it may even be a name that you have seen several times in your search. Site A, on the other hand, does not indicate manufacturing. Why? They might not know the name…unlikely. Or they may know that if they put the wrong maker’s name on a knockoff, they’ll be stitched up.
Now that’s not to say that’s the case every time, but the top is an example of something that happened, and the sword was an imitation of the popular sword. Our advice would be to contact the website and ask who is making the sword. If the sword is level, they’ll tell you the name. If they won’t tell you the name, move on to another site. It is best to do this by email. That way you have a record of it in case you buy the sword and that’s not what they told you.
This is most common with prop replicas. Our advice in this area, again, if in doubt ask. Also know your sword.
Here are two examples:
There is a cutlas on the market which is an imitation of a prominent decorative pirate sword. It is advertised as being from Pirates of the Caribbean. The sword is a basket hilt cutlass with a ship on the hilt. There is no such sword in Pirates of the Caribbean.
Another favorite of mine is the Duncan MacLeod Highlander Katana. There is no jewel on Duncan’s sword! Get away from that.
In closing, I would like to start your way with a list of some of the most popular and trusted names in swords. This list covers quality swords from cheap to expensive.
Functional Swords (Carbon Steel):
CAS Iberia, Hanwei, Valiant Armory, Cold Steel.
Decorative swords (stainless steel and zamak):
Armaduras Medievals, Art Gladius, Denix, Fury, Marto, Maxam, United Cutlery.
FactoryX, LMTD, Master Replicas, Museum Replicas, NECA, United Cutlery.
This is by no means a complete list, just a few of the best. There are plenty of other exceptionally good corporate and private Smiths out there, and you’ll recognize them as you surf.
Good luck and have fun!
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