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Toledo Steel vs Weeaboo Steel

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I don't think this should reflect badly on Japanese sword smith seeing as they neither had the resource nor the need to improve the quality of their swords. Despite the claims of some Weaboos there are definitely European swords created with analogous methods however they were later dropped in favor of other methods as the needs of troops dictated. Also at the end of the day it really doesn't matter as nethier the European Longsword nor the Katana were the primary weapon of their respective users. 

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The whole issue was always kind of annoying to me since it starts out with the false premise that swords "cut" through other swords when in fact the metal is broken or fractures.

 

It's all kind of silly since the whole thing is a Hollywood/Japanese cinema invention for the most part which no doubt draws from the use of theater swords. Taking the scene where Uma Thurman cuts through the Yakuza kid's sword like it's a sausage seriously is like someone watching old Westerns and thinking that Colt Peacemakers and Winchesters can be used as a squad automatic weapon because they cleared five black hats from their saddles.

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It seems kind of like a discussion on firearm ballistics and whether SCHV, Thuddy-cal or GPC is better and I am certain there were similar debates back then. Although, given the threat of violence and the possibility of having a sharp blade stuck into ones bowels, I'm sure the debates were more polite.

 

It's curious to learn how nuanced and important the differences were in the swords where the shape, length and weight of the blade and pommel were designed with particular fighting styles in mind for the consumer much like a good modern day gun manufacturer will craft a handgun or rifle for a particular purpose. 

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It seems kind of like a discussion on firearm ballistics and whether SCHV, Thuddy-cal or GPC is better and I am certain there were similar debates back then. Although, given the threat of violence and the possibility of having a sharp blade stuck into ones bowels, I'm sure the debates were more polite.

 

It's curious to learn how nuanced and important the differences were in the swords where the shape, length and weight of the blade and pommel were designed with particular fighting styles in mind for the consumer much like a good modern day gun manufacturer will craft a handgun or rifle for a particular purpose. 

 

The answer is "very nuanced". Matt Easton's channel has been very eye-opening in this regard. It seems swords were about as contextual as it gets; I'd argue more contextual than rifles, even, since you can't duel with projectile weapons in the same way.

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The answer is "very nuanced". Matt Easton's channel has been very eye-opening in this regard. It seems swords were about as contextual as it gets; I'd argue more contextual than rifles, even, since you can't duel with projectile weapons in the same way.

 

Oh really?

 

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The average bad guy moves 1 meters in the first second after they decide to enter kill someone, 2 meters in the second second, and 4 meters in the third.  There after they move at least 8-14 meters per second.

 

It takes a police officer 2 seconds to engage an enemy from status 3.

 

7 meters is your effective envelope.  If an advancing bad guy enters your 7-meter envelope EVEN unarmed, and ignores warnings to halt, then an investigator will draw a 7 meter circle around you.  Engage an unarmed man at 8-meters and you are a murderer.  Engage an advancing unarmed man at 7-meters or less and you are likely in your right.

 

FBI records say optimum engagement distance is 3-5 meters for handguns.  1-2 meters is point blank and not optimal. So the idea engagement point in a 3-second advance is second 2.

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vuetd1W.gif

7ix1ghe.gif

 

I don't think this should reflect badly on Japanese sword smith seeing as they neither had the resource nor the need to improve the quality of their swords. Despite the claims of some Weaboos there are definitely European swords created with analogous methods however they were later dropped in favor of other methods as the needs of troops dictated. Also at the end of the day it really doesn't matter as nethier the European Longsword nor the Katana were the primary weapon of their respective users. 

 

There's also the ore source issue.

 

Before the industrial age it wasn't really possible to create specific mixes of metals to create stronger types of steel, as material sciences hadn't progressed that far yet. More often than not, it was the other pre-existing metals in the ore itself which determined what sort of steel alloy came out of a medieval era forge.

 

So a longsword from Toledo and a longsword from France may have been made with the exact same technique but one would be better than the other.  In the case of the Katana, my understanding is that part of the reason they went into such extremely time-consuming production methods was because Japanese iron ore was really crummy in the first place.

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There's also the ore source issue.

 

Before the industrial age it wasn't really possible to create specific mixes of metals to create stronger types of steel, as material sciences hadn't progressed that far yet. More often than not, it was the other pre-existing metals in the ore itself which determined what sort of steel alloy came out of a medieval era forge.

 

So a longsword from Toledo and a longsword from France may have been made with the exact same technique but one would be better than the other.  In the case of the Katana, my understanding is that part of the reason they went into such extremely time-consuming production methods was because Japanese iron ore was really crummy in the first place.

 

Welcome back, Zinegata! I'm certainly no expert, but I've heard the same thing as you; that the ores available to Japanese smiths just weren't very good.

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Europe, Romans, and the Caliphate all had issues with iron in there turns.  

 

In the Caliphate in 985 you have the first chemists coming close to answering why iron mined in one area was superior to others.  Several iron processes from the Caliphate would be developed with local success such as adding various types of wood, puddling, raking, and multiple furnace heating, to get iron ready for end processing.  A sword made in the Caliphate that reached Europe could be worth 25 or 30 mouton d' or whereas a sword from Sheffield would be worth far less, at least in the 13th century.  

 

Paris in the 13th century had to replace execution swords every 2-3 executions because of breakage, and policy required the executioner to have at least five spare swords.  They were forced to use swords made in Nevers or the Cote d' Ventoux, where they were cheaper but the process was inferior.  

 

the Romans used the same sword makers from the 1st century BCE to almost the 14th century CE.

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Many of the surviving katanas also tend to be the "lucky" ones where the ore was better and the sword itself was better-maintained, which is why the lasted so long and were so treasured to begin with. There's an inherent bias towards the good swords surviving, whereas most of the swords were broken in combat or rusted down.

 

Take this also with a grain of salt because Cracked was the first place I saw this pointed out - but the Katana is also apparently harder to master and train on because of the compromises in design due to the crummy Japanese ores. Dunno if this is really true.

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As for the quality of blades, I think there are a couple of things going on. I too have read about the better quality of ores in Toledo

But what I think probably also occurred was a cascading effect where a better material made for better knives and swords which created greater demand which made for more prolific swordmakers who then became more practiced in making good swords who were then able use good ore to make better swords, etc all the while at the same time attracting/keeping good smiths who wanted to learn how to make good swords.

 

As a modern day example there is the aircraft manufacturer Boeing in my own backyard. Among the several reasons for its early success was the comparative advantage the company had in its ability to access cheap aluminum and electricity thanks to the construction of aluminum smelters and hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River. As time marched on, the cost of raw materials have become less of a factor in gauging the bottom line and the cost of unionized employees is seen as more of a deficit which is why management at Boeing has for over a decade now been trying to shift aircraft production out of Washington state and to a "right to work" state like South Carolina where they can offer lower wages and less benefits. In fact, other than nostalgia, there is no legitimate corporate reason to keep Boeing in the Pacific Northwest. The only trouble is that South Carolina doesn't have the manpower infrastructure in place to make their new state of the art plants in the South competitive. Boeing has not been able to the replicate and replace experience of its workers up in the Pacific Northwest because their new plant doesn't have the culture and know-how of running something as complicated as a commercial airline factory yet.

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As for the quality of blades, I think there are a couple of things going on. I too have read about the better quality of ores in Toledo

But what I think probably also occurred was a cascading effect where a better material made for better knives and swords which created greater demand which made for more prolific swordmakers who then became more practiced in making good swords who were then able use good ore to make better swords, etc all the while at the same time attracting/keeping good smiths who wanted to learn how to make good swords.

 

As a modern day example there is the aircraft manufacturer Boeing in my own backyard. Among the several reasons for its early success was the comparative advantage the company had in its ability to access cheap aluminum and electricity thanks to the construction of aluminum smelters and hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River. As time marched on, the cost of raw materials have become less of a factor in gauging the bottom line and the cost of unionized employees is seen as more of a deficit which is why management at Boeing has for over a decade now been trying to shift aircraft production out of Washington state and to a "right to work" state like South Carolina where they can offer lower wages and less benefits. In fact, other than nostalgia, there is no legitimate corporate reason to keep Boeing in the Pacific Northwest. The only trouble is that South Carolina doesn't have the manpower infrastructure in place to make their new state of the art plants in the South competitive. Boeing has not been able to the replicate and replace experience of its workers up in the Pacific Northwest because their new plant doesn't have the culture and know-how of running something as complicated as a commercial airline factory yet.

Unfortunately, in the chase for cheaper labor, many manufacturers ignore that fact.

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Worker quality is definitely a factor, but that is dependent on having an institution that can pass down skills from generation to generation which, critically, must also survive the eventual depletion of the ores in the locality.

 

In a discussion between Frankish steel vs Roman metallurgy, one of the key things of note was how the Romans had real factory structures that could import metals from all over the empire and could keep operating even after the mines ran out - which is also why they managed to keep making bronze pieces as bronze was better than iron or steel for some purposes (particularly armor). By contrast the Franks didn't really have an extensive trading network for moving ore around, so they basically let localities smelt their own ores to make their own swords.  

 

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Worker quality is definitely a factor, but that is dependent on having an institution that can pass down skills from generation to generation which, critically, must also survive the eventual depletion of the ores in the locality.

 

In a discussion between Frankish steel vs Roman metallurgy, one of the key things of note was how the Romans had real factory structures that could import metals from all over the empire and could keep operating even after the mines ran out - which is also why they managed to keep making bronze pieces as bronze was better than iron or steel for some purposes (particularly armor). By contrast the Franks didn't really have an extensive trading network for moving ore around, so they basically let localities smelt their own ores to make their own swords.  

 

.

So even back then, logistics wins wars. :P

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