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For beginners who are just starting to collect and use Japanese swords, one of the most commonly asked question is what kind of steel is used on these samurai swords?

The next question is usually about the differences between the steel properties on different Samurai blades.

Before you make a purchase, ask yourself what do you want the sword for?

If you think you might want to learn Japanese swordsmanship and want something useful but not sharp – then you might want a iaito sword (blunt sword)

The other option is having a shinken katana (sharpened sword) that can stand up to the rigors of real test cutting.

A functional samurai sword should stand up to a certain amount of abuse, keep a sharp edge, and be constructed correctly.

Espadas Shinken

Shinken are functional katana swords made for real use. If you need a katana that will stand up to the rigors of real training in the dojo, or your backyard practice cutting, these are the swords you should be looking at.

Iaito are used for basic training practicing such as swinging and kata (forms). They are not made for banging together or cutting anything.

Iaitō are unsharpened practice swords with no cutting edge that are designed and manufactured much in the same way as Shinken. They are frequently made of materials other than steel.

During checkout you can always decide whether you want your sword sharp, not sharp or ultra sharp.

Continue reading to find out about the different steel types available for your sword.

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Carbon Steel vs Stainless Steel

Most functional samurai swords are made out of high carbon steel. and Most of them are very high in carbon content.

Stainless steel is excellent for making knives, however when it comes to longer blades, it tends to be very brittle, and usually swords made of stainless steel are for decorative purposes only.

Some of the most commonly used high carbon steels are 1050, 1060 and 1095.

As suggested by the number, a 1050 carbon steel has 0.50% of carbon content, a acero al carbono 1060 has 0.60% carbon content, and a Acero de Carbono 1095 has 0.95% carbon content.

As carbon content rises the metal becomes harder and stronger but less ductile and more difficult to weld.

Steel can be heat-treated which allows parts to be fabricated in an easily-formable soft state.

If enough carbon is present, the alloy can be hardened to increase strength, wear, and impact resistance.

El purpose of heat treating carbon steel is to change the mechanical properties of steel, usually ductility, hardness, yield strength, or impact resistance.

Another modern steel that is superior than most other swords made of high carbon steel in terms of hardness and durability is the Acero High Speed T10.

T10 Tool Steel has gained notoriety because of its toughness. All of the elements that make up the T-10 made it stronger and it’s the most preferred by many collectors and sword enthusiasts.

Tamahagane steel is the traditional Japanese steel made from iron sand. It is known for its high quality and is used in the production of traditional Japanese swords.

The process of making tamahagane involves heating the iron sand to a high temperature and then hammering it to remove impurities and refine the steel. The end result is a hard and durable material that is highly valued for its strength and sharpness.

Steel Types Comparison

Acero de Carbono 1060 Simple

1060 steel is a type of high-carbon steel often used for traditional newly made samurai swords. It is known for its balance of hardness and flexibility, making it ideal for entry level Samurai swords.

  • 0.60% carbon content
  • Heat tempered
  • Folded Steel (Optional)
  • Found on most entry level samurai swords
  • suitable for cutting soft objects or medium targets
1060 Steel Swords

Acero Elástico (Spring) 9260 Simple

9260 spring steel is a type of high-carbon alloy steel used for making samurai swords. It is known for its high tensile strength and flexibility, making it ideal for  swords that require resilience and flexibility.

  • 0.60% carbon content
  • Heat tempered
  • Folded Steel (Optional)
  • Flexible, can bend, twist and revert back into its original shape
  • High shock absorption
  • Great compromise between hardness and flexibility
  • suitable for cutting advanced target like bamboo poles.
9260 Spring Steel Swords

Acero al carbono 1095

1095 carbon steel is used for making Japanese swords. It is known for its excellent edge retention and hardness, making it ideal for applications that require sharp, durable cutting edges.

  • 0.95% carbon content
  • Clay Tempered (Recommended)
  • Folded Steel (Optional)
  • Toughness
  • Edge Retention
  • Suitable for most target cuttings such as bamboo, tatami mats, tree branches
  • Designed for extensive Tameshigiri (test cutting).
1095 Steel Swords

Acero T10

T10 steel is a type of high-carbon, tungsten-alloy steel used in the production of newly made samurai swords and other cutting tools. It is known for its hardness and strength, as well as its ability to hold a sharp edge and being more scratch resistance than other steel types, making it ideal for making Japanese swords.

  • 1% carbon content
  • Clay Tempered
  • Folded Steel (Optional)
  • Edge Retention
  • More resistance to scratches
  • Suitable for most target cuttings such as bamboo, tatami mats, tree branches
  • Designed for extensive Tameshigiri (test cutting).
Espadas de Acero T10

Acero Tamahagane

Tamahagane steel is a type of traditional Japanese steel used for making samurai swords throughout history. known for its unique luster, high carbon content, and good balance of hardness and toughness, making it highly valued for its ability to produce sharp, durable, and aesthetically pleasing Japanese swords.

  • 1-1.5% carbon content
  • Clay Tempered
  • Acero plegado
  • Toughness
  • Edge Retention
  • Distinct look
  • Traditional steel
  • Suitable for most target cuttings such as bamboo, tatami mats, tree branches
  • Designed for extensive Tameshigiri (test cutting).
Espadas de Acero Tamahagane

Folded Steel or Non Folded Steel

The folding process used for nihonto (traditionally made Japanese katana) was part of the refinement process for the steel in ancient Japan.

When the steel is folded, It produces a subtle hada (grain) in the surface of the blade. If you want a blade that has those characteristics – you want a folded blade.

With modern steel, the folding process does not improve the hardness or performance of the sword. It is mainly for artistic value.

Folded blades are much closer to traditional nihonto made of Tamahagane and that is worth the price for many people.

Many production shinken are not folded. They are made from a single monolithic piece of steel. There’s no correlation between folded vs. monosteel swords and cutting ability, durability, or edge retention.

The steel used and the tempering process are much more important for the functionality of the sword.

The downside of folded blades is the possibility of weld failures between layers. Unless done correctly – the folded blade may be much less durable than a mono-steel equivalent.

It seems like everyone want to know how many times the blade is folded. Some manufacturers make the number of folds a big selling point.

You get 2 layers when you fold it once, 4 layers when you fold it twice (8,16,32,64,128,256,512,1024, etc…)

You get 8192 layers if you fold the blade 13 times. You get a million layers if you fold it 20 times.

However, with today modern steel the folding process does not improve the sword. if you like your sword to feature the beautiful Hada grain pattern, then you should choose a folded blade, we offer the folding process for all types of steel.

The Importance of Clay Tempering

Many traditional forged Japanese swords have a hamon (a visual effect created on the blade by the differential hardening process) or temper line artificially added. 

When done artificially, They use a purely cosmetic surface treatment that makes the Katana look like it was differential hardened.

They do this to make the katana look more authentic (well not really if you know what you are looking at).

A clay tempered hamon katana (as opposed case hardened or tempered) has a hardened edge and a soft spine.

The edge is hardened so it will retain a razor sharp edge while the spine is left softer so it will bend and not break.

This is usually done with a traditional clay coating tempering process. Most practitioners believe that clay tempering (differential hardening) is key to making a sword that will be used for extensive tameshigiri (test cutting).

Expectations are that a functional sword should survive at least 10,000 tatami omote cuts (10 years of heavy use) and only need minor sharpening after every 500 (six months of heavy use).