There is an opinion among edged weapon connoisseurs that blades made centuries ago are of higher quality than those made today or decades earlier. Some even tend to idealize them, to endow them with particular and, sometimes, mystical properties. For example, there is, if not a cult of the medieval Japanese katana, then a cult of this type of weapon.
But was the katana really that good? Materials experts frankly doubt it. The steel production technology for these swords involves the use of rectangular furnaces. In their lower part, a steel pancake formed, weighing up to 2,000 kilograms. After cooling, it was divided into pieces, from which blacksmiths selected the best. At the same time, the exact composition of steel remained lost, but it is known that molybdenum and tungsten were present in it at the rate of 0.04 and 0.05%, respectively.
These metals acted as alloy additions. They changed the crystal lattice, making the steel of the sword more resistant to mechanical damage. The “trick” is that in the Middle Ages there were no technologies for artificially alloying steel, controlling this process. The alloy was “natural” and directly depended on the composition of iron ore in a particular region of the world. The best ores and, therefore, steel were found in India and Germany. But Japanese ores in terms of the composition and amount of alloying metals were very poor.
In the 19th century, then in the 20th century, steel production reached a new level. If we compare the Soviet saber, released in the early 20s of the last century, with the medieval katana sword, then it is definitely better in composition. These checkers were produced industrially, which allowed them to be made of higher quality than the “piece” wares of the old masters. The pawn steel contained 0.6% carbon and 0.45% manganese, 0.3% silicon and 0.8% chromium, no more than 0.03% phosphorus and no more than 0.02 % sulfur. This steel was, indeed, of high quality.
If in a battle they started to fight with Russian drafts and Japanese katanas, then Russian weapons would have a better chance of winning the battle.
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