The Riddle of Steel
The mystery behind the disappearance of pattern welded blades.
If pattern welded blades were so good, then why quite suddenly their production was abandoned in 11th century in favor of monosteel blades?
The answer seems obvious and simple: efficient methods have been invented for obtaining better material in large quantities, due to the increasing demand for an effective weapon, which was the sword.
At the same time, the often repeated myth that swords were not needed in large numbers, because axes and spears were used more and more effectively, becomes unfounded. Good swords in large numbers were very desirable because their practical and universal qualities were appreciated.
Short history of swords
As you know, swords in various forms have been used for over 3,000 years. Their length and form were determined by the quality of the material, technological possibilities, the type of protective equipment of the enemy and the tactics of the fight.
First blades longer than knives were made with bronze, then iron, then steel. Then, in order to obtain more durable blades, steel with various contents of carbon and other elements was forged and welded together, starting around 5th century. Thanks to this, the swords could finally be longer and more durable, and at the same time relatively light.
Iron was obtained in small metallurgical furnaces, then repeatedly forged and carburized. This process in Europe appears in the 2nd century BC and is constantly being improved.
Still, despite its utility advantages, it was an exclusive weapon. This was because of the difficulty of manufacturing such a quality swords and the shortage of specialized makers. Due to the style of the era, the weapon was richly decorated, giving it an even more exclusive and sophisticated character.
In the period of Migration and in the era of the Vikings, swords were very expensive and not very common weapon, but considered a very good weapon, also symbolizing the highest technological level.
However, the situation changed dramatically around the 10th - 11th century. Finally, at the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the small furnace was transformed into a permanent smelting furnace with a slag drain hole and an artificial air draft. The production of steel is becoming common and finally meets the needs of all social and military groups.
At the same time, the quality of the obtained steel becomes very good, it is more pure and uniform since 12-13th century. The heat treatment process is also improved.
Since then, swords have grown rapidly longer and more durable. They reach up to 135 cm in length already in 14th century and even more after the Middle Ages. The quality of steel and advanced heat treatment allow such long swords to be more resilient and harder than ever before.
In Europe, practically nobody made pattern-welded swords since 11th century anymore... Why?
Is there any other answer than this: They needed more swords, more good swords. Now they had better material, better technology. Also, they had higher requirements, higher demand.
Today, when we rediscover the beauty of pattern welded swords, with their complicated production process requiring forgotten skills, we appreciate the beauty enchanted in them, we find and appreciate the creativity and inventiveness of old craftsmen, once treated on a par with alchemists or sorcerers because of the secret knowledge about the technology of manufacturing and joining steel.
The mysterious riddle of steel, in time, turned into production technology, systematized science, to finally become a common knowledge and part of our everyday life.