This is a common question among people who are new to the concept of metallurgy. I thought I’d clear up any confusion. First off, there is no such thing as a “weakest” or “strongest” element or compound. There are only those which are more or less easily worked. Also, no element or compound is 100% any one thing. Every element has a little bit of all other elements in its makeup. The percentage varies from element to element. For example, the proportion of carbon in charcoal is about 60%. In diamond, it’s about 99.95%.
Which metal is the strongest one could make a sword out of? The answer, curiously enough, depends on what you mean by “strongest.” Steel is certainly the strongest material a human could use. It can be hardened and tempered to almost any degree desired. However, when I say “strongest” I mean it in the absolute sense, as in “nothing can break this sword.” In that case, the strongest metal would still have to be steel. To cut a long story short:
The strongest metal to forge a sword is Tungsten, but it will be really difficult to forge a sword made out of this metal. Realistically, the strongest metal you can forge a sword with is very high-carbon steel.
This is difficult to make because it requires very high temperatures to produce. But, it has extremely high tensile strength and will not break or bend under normal conditions.
One of the main reasons people don’t believe when someone tells them about the incredible strength of steel is they see it as “steel” and think it is the same as any other steel. But, it is not. True steel is very, very hard to obtain. And, when you do get it, it is so much stronger than any other metal that using it for anything at all makes that thing 10 times stronger.
Does Being Harder Mean Stronger Sword?
Actually, there are many different definitions of what makes a metal “strong.” But as it relates to the creation of a superior cutting edge, the strongest metal would be one that has the highest hardness, the most microscopic sharpness, and the quality of being impact-resistant or high tensile strength.
Finally, the hardest material would be one that cannot be cut by any other means than actually hitting it with a harder object. However, hardness does not equate to tensile strength. In fact, the harder the material, the more brittle it is.
How Do You Make A Strong Sword?
A sword needs to be worked in a different way. A sword needs to be forged. And, in fact, no metal can be forged. At least, not in the way a sword should be forged. What I mean is that no metal, including steel, can be forged to have the ability to absorb and dissipate the impact of a blow to the same degree that a sword should, because metal are smelted to form ingots, which are then used to forge a sword.
When a sword is struck with great force, it should not only cut the attacker, it should also absorb the impact of the blow so it won’t damage the sword. That’s why swords are tempered.
Tempering is the process of hardening and tempering the blade which makes it much more resistant to damage from impact. And, it does this without making the sword brittle. Tempering is what gives a sword its “temper.” It is the process of heat-treating the blade of a sword.
Heat treating is the process of heating a piece of steel to a very high temperature and then rapidly cooling it. This causes the molecular structure of the steel to reorganize itself into a much harder crystal lattice. In other words, it changes the steel from a soft, workable state to a very hard, strong state.
Titanium Swords: Are They Any Good?
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Titanium alloys are a class of metals that contain a significant percentage of titanium. They are very hard but are very light. This makes them ideal for making things like golf clubs and tennis racquets. However, they are not suitable for making any kind of cutting edge at all. If they are ground down to the proper size, they will become razor-sharp. But, they will not hold an edge. They will shatter on the first impact.
Titanium is about the weakest metal you could use when forging a sword of for anything that needs to last.
What About A Gold Sword?
Gold is the most malleable of all the metals. It can be hammered, sawed, and cut with sharp tools. But, it is too soft to make a useful cutting edge. Even if you tried to harden and temper it like steel, it would still be too soft to make a good cutting edge. The edge of a properly made sword will have a “toughness” that is much higher than the hardness of the material from which it is made.
This is necessary because the edge of the sword must resist being crushed and damaged by the impact of the opponent’s blade.
Gold would not be able to withstand such impact without being damaged itself. If you ever see a gold sword in a museum then most likely that sword was crafted as an ornamental piece or a piece of jewelry.
Bronze Sword: the Choice of The Ancients
Bronze is a mixture of copper and tin. It is very strong and much harder than either of its components. It has a hardness of about 3 on the Mohs scale. This means it is about a point and a half softer than steel.
Bronze makes an excellent choice for making cutting edges. And, since it flows when you work it, it can be hardened and tempered to any degree desired. This makes bronze an ideal material for making swords.
However, since it does not have the hardness and tensile strength of steel, it will eventually chip, crack, or break if you use it in the same manner as you would use steel.
Forging a Silver Sword
Further research showed that silver is more than half softer than steel and has a lower tensile strength than either bronze or steel. It also has a higher yield strength which means it will deform before it breaks. This makes it an excellent choice for making coins, currency, and other thin, flat objects.
However, it is not suitable for making any kind of cutting edge at all. If you tried to use it for this purpose, it would be very quickly dulled by the action of the edge against the resistance it has to offer.
Diamond Swords: Can You Really Use It in An Actual Swordfight?
Diamond is the hardest natural substance known to man. It has a hardness of about 10 on the Mohs scale. This means it is twice as much harder than steel. It is also one of the most brittle substances known to man. It will break or crack if you hit it with an ordinary hammer.
This makes it excellent for making rings, bracelets, and other jewelry. But, it would be totally unsuitable for making a cutting edge.
If you tried to use diamond to make a cutting edge, it would break off on the first impact.
And, it would be impossible to reground because it would be so hard it would act like cement.
In addition to steel, the answer is tungsten. It’s about 3 points less hard than a diamond in the Mohs scale and just as prone to breaking. It is used in a variety of products ranging from kitchen knives and jewelry to dental drills and golf clubs.
Tungsten is an extremely hard metal and it has the highest possible cutting edge; however, its tensile strength is low. Low tensile strength means that it is brittle. If you stress it beyond its limits, say for example if you try to hammer it or any other way “work” it to get it to flow like steel, it will shatter, but it can be hardened and tempered to almost any degree desired.
This makes tungsten an ideal material for making razor-edged tools such as knives, but not necessarily a good choice for making a sword, that is, if you’re going to make a sword out of it in the same manner as you would make a knife.
Can You Really Forge A Sword Out of Tungsten?
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Take the case of two identical pieces of steel. One is left plain, the other is given a very thin coating of tungsten. The steel will bend, the tungsten won’t. Therefore, tungsten-coated steel is the hardest material you can use for a sword.
But wait! I said, “the hardest material you can use” not “the strongest one you can make.” That’s because the percentage of carbon in steel is about 0.30% whereas the percentage of carbon in tungsten is about 15%. Thus, even though tungsten is harder than steel, it is much more difficult to work. If you tried to form a sword out of tungsten, you’d find it almost impossible to do so.
You could harden and temper it as hard as steel, but the resulting sword would be so brittle and break so easily, it would be virtually useless. In other words, tungsten is the hardest element or compound a human being could use to make a sword out of, but it is not the strongest element or compound a human being can make a sword out of.
Tungsten is the hardest material a human being can make a sword out of. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You can make anything out of anything if you have enough time and energy. If you had enough time and energy to make a sword out of tungsten, you could make the hardest sword in the world. But, making a sword out of tungsten is not the same as forging a strong and impact-resistant sword.