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Fake Swords

There are a lot of things which are marketed as swords, and look like swords, but are not actual swords. They are costume pieces, or decorations, and in most cases they are not built to take anything more than gentle handling. This video is an excellent demonstration of why you shouldn't try to play with these "wall-hangers."

Just to confuse the issue, such items are often advertised as "razor-sharp", "battle-ready", "tempered", or "genuine." All of these terms are misleading, and should be ignored. Traditional swords were not "razor" sharp; if they had been, they would have been as fragile as a razor is. "Battle ready" has become standard advertising language; it usually means that the sword won't break if you swing it around, but don't count on that. "Tempered" is equally misleading; I have seen swords advertised as tempered that were actually case-hardened. Case-hardening is a type of tempering; what it does is make the surface -- and only the surface -- of the metal very hard. The core is still essentially untempered. The result of this is that the blade will hold an edge, but if you hit something with it, it will bend and stay bent - or just break.

If you want a real, functional sword, here are some things to look for:

  • A good rule of thumb is that anything under about $200 is strictly for decoration. I can think of maybe two exceptions to this pattern.

  • Stainless Steel is never "combat ready". It's fine for knives, but knives are shorter; the length of a sword blade means that it receives more stress when you hit something with it. It is possible to temper stainless steel in a way suitable for a sword blade, but you're talking about a special, custom-made piece - not something you buy over the counter.

  • Check with a reputable source - Sword Forum International is a good place to start - and find out whether a particular manufacturer offers functional pieces, or whether they're strictly decorations.