Sharp enough to cut through fabric
Strong enough to survive cutting living bone
Lancelot share his insights and practical tips gained from
20 years of experience in dealing with sharp swords
From the beginning of my sword journey in 2000, I had been looking for a sword that could cut realistic target very well. Realistic as in fabric covered flesh and bone targets, which a sword in history would be facing. Back at the turn of the millennium, most modern reproduction European swords’ edges were made with a thick secondary bevel to withstand abusive cutting on things like plywood. Thus, they did not do well when cutting Japanese used tatami, or anything the resemble more realistic targets, like pork arms. I had to develop my desired edge geometry myself.
Through the years of practicing swordsmanship and test cutting, I was forced by necessity to learn sharpening, modifying the edge angle on my swords to better suit my usage. There were swords that came with much better edge angle than the European ones that I personally use, such as the Chinese swords and the Katana. I took note of that and put those experience into my edge development.
Later in time, I saved up and purchased Albion’s Museum piece, Brescia Spadona. It came with blackhole-like edges with no light reflection at the apex, and bullet shape geometry which were extremely sharp. It was the first time I noticed such features. It cut pork arm alright but suffered damage again, and again. Thus raised my awareness on the difficulties of “surviving cutting through living bone”. I remembered both my Tinker sword and the Martial Art Sword katana I helped review by cutting pork arm did not suffer such damage. So, I began to look for good swords which can survive cutting these types of targets while still staying very sharp.
It was also around this point I started scaling back from cutting pork arms, due to the overly hard calcified bone, and turned to synthetic substitutes that are better in simulating living bone hardness.
Pushing the best swords to the extreme. Testing to the point of failure
then scaling back to find the very fine line between surviving and failing.
I returned to buying swords from Tinker, and later turned to John Lundemo through Longship Armoury. These were extremely well-made swords using modern steel (5160H) and modern metallurgy, with an edge hardness of 58 HRC and tempered multiple times. To my understanding, if there were any swords that could hold the sharpest edge against the targets I cut, it would be these. So, I started putting extreme edges on them. They performed very well on soft targets like tatami and newspapers rolls. However, as I had success with these targets, I started to increase the difficulty by putting hard stuff into the center of the roll (from chopsticks to PVC to PPR pipes) to simulate living bone hardness. As a result, the extreme edge angle I put on the swords did not hold. Even the most expensive, advanced alloy of 3V at 61 HRC did not hold up. I was left with no choice but to adjust the edge angle to cope with the increased difficulty of the targets.
Edge damages occurred most often during failed cuts, when the edge was stuck inside hard material and the target fell, rotating and twisting the edge out of the plane of the strike.
The process of test cutting on realistic targets, then detecting edge damage
s and adjusting edge angle happened many times on my expensive, irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind swords. It was because I kept stepping up the difficulty of the targets I cut, from including fabric cover, to increasing the diameter, to switching to even more difficult core material as famous sword-smith Peter Johnsson suggested, to the numbers of targets I cut with a single swing. Finally, I settled down on an edge angle that can survive all successful cuttings, as well as some occasional failed cuts. It was a long, painful process filled with tears, sweat, and blood. Each time the edge was damaged on these precious swords, it carried tremendous emotional impacts.
The diminishing return of modern steel performance
After I determined at what angle I would make “Lancelot-Sharp™”, I compared notes with the top smith in the modern world that forges incredibly strong swords, Howard Clark, who makes L6 Bainite body, martensite edged katana. Many years ago he made a video where his sword went through a destructive test;there was a crack in the spine to begin with, it then went through crazy abuses, shrugging off the challenge as if it was a healthy blade. Well, let’s say, almost any normal healthy blade would not survive those tests as far as his damaged blade did. To say his sword was the pinnacle of modern performance, or even black magic, would be an understatement.
Howard kindly provided me his experience in the edge damage his Hira zukuri sword (extremely sharp, flat grind cross section) suffered when cutting a newly killed pig carcass, and that totally echoed my experience with my top performing swords, giving me confidence that I have found the sharpest angle of geometry for the best modern steel to survive such ordeal.
Then I also studied the different effects of various polish grits. Some were better on soft targets, like fabric, but less suitable for going through hard target. Some were better on hard target but lack the bite on soft targets. After much experimenting I found a grit that can do very well on both.
This is the story behind Lancelot-Sharp™.
Lancelot Sharp is not easy to make. Every blade has a slightly different geometry and hardness out of the workshop. So after the initial Lancelot-sharp modification and test cut on thigh targets, some hold up well, some don't. For those that do not hold up, all is not lost. They can be further modified to give them an even stronger edge apex at the cost of giving up a bit of the acuteness, and try again. If they hold up this time, it's great. Otherwise, the damage has to be repaired again and modify once more. The process will repeat till the edge is holding up eventually at the sharpest setting it could withstand cutting thigh targets.
That takes a lot of effort in modification, testing, and repair, and redo everything once again.
People do not realize that the sharpening is the key to a cutlery's performance. Even a 1 dollar knife will be performing extremely well when given a top notch sharpening.
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