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Memories of the 28th Century

Plowshares into Swords

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Plowshares into Swords

I was planning to write about the reforestation of North America after the last glacial maximum. It is still going on, as the early cold weather trees continue to die off and leave space for hardwoods and warm weather trees. The process is clear to anyone who has thought about it or observed that while Maine was known as the Pine Trees there have been getting replaced by hardwoods. But anyone cane write that post, so I decided to write about beating plowshares into swords.

Modern ploughs use high quality steel in the shares or blades and the shank to which they are welded are also good quality. New bottoms can be bought for prices from $20 to $100, but they can also be found used or as scrap for lower prices.

Scrap plows probably are the best deals; in addition to a low price, there are shanks attached to the remainder of the bottoms, and those shanks can be forged into tangs for the swords. In the course or forging, the shank and the bottom and the bottom will become even more closely connected than the weld that was there, so the shank can be incorporated into the blade, with the bottom being only the edge itself, while the shank will become the back of the blade.

The first step of the forging is to anneal the steel, so it will be soft enough to hammer-at lower temperatures. Heat the steel to yellow, forging temperature and leave it to slowly cool; do not quench it or beat it; those come later. After the steel has been annealed heat it to yellow and hammer it into shape, trying to hammer the plow bottom into the shape of the swords, while holding the piece by the shank and using the shank as the tang and back of the blade. The metals will mix further, and that is fine. Continue heating, hammering, and quenching the sword until it is the desired size and shape, making sure that the blade has a suitable taper from back to edge.

Because of the shape of the plough shares or bottoms, it will be necessary to hammer on the edge, and hat can make the metal fold, rather than collapsing into itself, but that can be dealt with. Or it might be easier to fold the flat part over and hammer and heat it together.

Hardening and tempering the hardness are very important, and quenching in oil can improve the steel. Harden the blade to full hardness by getting it to bright red and then quenching it . That will make it brittle, so it must be reheated so the surface oxidation is blue or purple and then quenched. That should leave it quite hard but not brittle, so it could be used to chop wood, if necessary. It is a good idea to shape the edge before hardening, but the actual sharpening has to be done after hardening and tempering.

Making a sword from a ploughshare isn't particularly difficult, but it takes time and some skill. Perhaps the most difficult part is the heat treating, because the blade can become warped or twisted when quenched, and that would require carefully hammering it so that there were no areas that had more tension than other areas. That might be why there are stories of of smiths plunger the blade into a human to quench it. That wouldn't be better than water or oil, but putting between ribs might keep it from becoming warped. I think that careful hammering would be neater, but that's only my opinion.
If making a sword is your first adventure in blacksmithry, then you might want to make a few smaller knives for practice first.

hardening and tempering

some replacement shares

John Derre shares