Glossary of Terms

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I sometimes take for granted that every one knows and uses the terms in this web site on a daily basis.   It has come to my attention that this is not always true.   While these definitions I provide may be not entirely accurate in a global sense, they are a step toward the understanding of what I am talking about.


Austempering   A heat-treating process where the steel is cooled from austenitic fast enough to avoid the formation of pearlite, but held above the martensetic transformation point for long periods

Austenite   The non magnetic state steel takes when the carbon is in a face centered cubic form.   Some stainless steels are naturally this state, other steels are heated to get to this state.   Also the first phase formed as liquid steel turns solid.


Bainite   A very tough form of steel that forms during the austempering process.   Can be created by holding the quenching temperature at 600F to 800F resulting in upper bainite.   If the temperature is held at 450F-600F, this will allow the formation of lower bainite.

Brass   An alloy of varying amounts of copper and zink.   Of the alloy's I use, yellow brass is 67% copper and 33% zink, and the red brass is 85% copper and 15% zink

Bronze   An alloy of varying amounts of copper and tin.   The copper content ranges from 70% to 97% with the balance being tin.   There are variations such as Phosphor bronze, and Aluminum bronze.


Carbon (C)  Element number 6.   Its addition into iron creates steel.   Increases hardenability and strength.   For blades to harden they need to contain about 0.4% carbon or more.

Carbon Migration (C)  is the term for when carbon defuses to a lower carbon area.   High tempratures cause acceleration of this effect.   Must be watched for when at pattern welding temperatures.

Case Hardening  is the process of leaving iron, or mild steel in a carbon rich environment to encourage carbon migration into the metal.   In times past, one of the few ways to create steel.

Cast Iron  is the form of iron based metal generally containing above 2.5% carbon.

Cementite  Fe3C also known as Iron Carbide presents itself in two forms, plate and lathe.   These are very hard and brittle carbides.   In hypereutectoid steels there will be pearlite and some cementite when slow cooling of the steel from austenite.

Chromium/Chrome (Cr)  Element number 24. Its addition to steel adds in deep hardening.   In amounts exceeding 13%, it creates stainless steel.

Cobalt (Co)  Element number 27.   Its addition makes steel very hard, wear-resistant, and high-strength alloys.

Curie Temperature   The critical temperature at which steel transforms into austenite, and loses it magnetic properties.   Also refered to as AC3 in the transformation charts.


Dagger   is a bladed weapon under 18 inches long.   Most are double edged.

Dirk   is another term for a dagger.

Distal Taper  is a blades gradual narrowing with distance from its base toward the tip.




Ferrite  Iron with 0.02% dissolved carbon


Galium (Ga)  is element number 31.   A rare element found in Meteorites, amd in trace amounts in bauxite and zinc ores

German Silver  Also known as Nickel Silver.   One alloy consists of 65% Copper, 18% Nickel and 17% zink, another I use has 55% Copper, 25% Zink and 20% Nickel


Hardness  The ability of a material to resist plastic deformation. The common measurement system used for blades are the Rockwell "C" scale.

Hypereutectoid  Steel with more than 0.83% carbon.


Iridium (Ir)  is element number 77.   It is commonly found only in meteorites.   Iridium is used in high-strength alloys that can withstand high temperatures, and is notable for being the most corrosion-resistant element known.   It is used in high-temperature apparatus, electrical contacts, and as a hardening agent for platinum

Iron (Fe)  is element number 26, and is the main component of Steel.





Knife  is a bladed weapon commonly found with a single cutting edge.


Low Alloy 


Magnesium (Mg)  is element number 12.   the main component of Aluminum alloy wheels.   Used as an igniter in thermite welding.   The free element is not found in nature.   Once produced from magnesium salts, this alkaline earth metal is used as an alloying agent to make aluminium-magnesium alloys

Manganese (Mn)  is element number 25.   Added to steel as a deoxidizer and assists in hardening.   Counters brittleness from sulfur, a required trace mineral for all known living organisms.

Martensite  is the hardest form and strongest of the microstructures. Formed from austenite during quenching portion of the heat treating of steel.

Meteorite  is a chunk of rock from outer space.   Usually from exploded star or planet, comes to earth as an asteroid or comet.   The metallic types I use are about 93% iron, 6.3% nickel, and the remaining balance Iridium, Colbolt, and Galium, and maybe a few other things.   Occasionally used as layers in pattern welding.

Molybdenum (Mo)  is element number 42.   Deepens hardening, enhances corrosion resistance and increases wear resistance.   It has the sixth highest melting point of any element, it is often used in high-strength steel alloys.


Nickel (Ni)  is element number 28.   Contributes to the silvery part of the pattern welded layers.   aids in strength and toughness when added to steel

Nickel Silver  Also known as German Silver.   One alloy consists of 65% Copper, 18% Nickel and 17% zink, another I use has 55% Copper, 25% Zink and 20% Nickel

Normalizing  is relaxing the stress that was created in the steel during forging and grinding.




Pearlite  Structure made up of alternating bands of ferrite and cementite, that forms when simple steels are cooled slowly.   Under a microscope it has a mother of pearl appearance, giving it its name.

Periodic Table  The chart from Chemistry class showing all the elements laid out according to family's and various properties.   Elements are listed by name and a number assigned by atomic weight.

Phase  A physical condition of the arrangement of atoms in a crystal. IE steam is a phase of water


Quench  Term used for the controlled cooling of metals




Silicon (Si)  is element number 14. It deoxidizes, improves hardness.

Stainless Steel  is the term used when available chrome in steel is above 13%.   Its very difficult and costly to heat treat Stainless, therefore inexpensive blades that have been made from Stainless are not heat treated properly, giving stainless steels, an undeserved bad reputation for blades.

Steel  is created when carbon is added to iron.

Steel types: Numbers

  10xx  simple carbon steel with 0.30 to 0.90 Mn.   The xx is for the numbers that denote the steel's carbon contentIE 1095 would be 0.95% C   The speical made 1087FG I have is 0.87 C 0.80 Mn and 0.025 V

  4150  C 0.5 Cr 0.95 Mo 0.25

  5160  C 0.6 Cr 0.8 Mn 0.8

  6150  C 0.5 Cr 0.85 V 0.15

  9260  C 0.6 Mn 0.85 Si 2.0 Cr 0.4 Ni 0.8 Mo 0.1

  8670m  C 0.7 Mn 0.5 Si 0.25 Cr 0.4 Ni 0.8 Mo 0.2

Tool Steel: Letters

 15N20  C 0.75 Mn 0.75 Si 0.25 Ni 1.5

  A-203/E  C 0.09 Mn 0.64 Si 0.34 Ni 3.58 Cr 0.03 Mo 0.01

  D-2  C 1.5 Mn 0.60 Si 0.40 Cr 12.0 Ni 0.30 V 1.0 Mo 0.90

  HSS  this is not really a grade, but a general term meaning high speed steel

  L-6  C 0.75 Mn 0.70 Si 0.25 Cr 0.80 Ni 1.5 Mo 0.30

  M-2  C 1.0 Mn 0.30 Cr 4.0 Ni 0.30 V 2.50 Mo 5.50 W 6.0

  O-1  C 0.95 Mn 1.20 Cr 0.50 Si 0.30 V 0.20 W 0.50

  S-7  C 0.50 Cr 3.25 Mo 1.40

Sulfur (S)  Element number 16.   It can make knife steels brittle.

Sword  is a blade usually over 18 inches long.


Tin (Sn)  Element number 50.

Titanium (Ti)   Element number 22.   It weighs about half that of Iron, but is almost as strong.   rarely used for blades, but often used for decoration.   Forms carbides, reduces hardness in stainless steels.   Titanium can be alloyed with other elements such as iron, aluminium, vanadium, molybdenum and others, to produce strong lightweight alloys

Tempering  is the gentle heating of a hardened blade to cause the stress from harneding to relax brittleness, increase toughness, and relieve stress.

Troosite  is an old term referring to tempered martensite

Tungsten (W)  Element 74, also known as Wolfram.   Added to increases wear resistance and raises hot strength and hot-hardness.   It has the highest melting point of all the non-alloyed metals and the second highest of all the elements after carbon.




Vanadium (V)  Element number 23.   Increases hardenability, and fine grain structure


Wootz  A high carbon steel created in a process originating probably in India.   This involved sealing iron and carbon in a chamber and heating to extremely high temperatures.   The excessive carbides in the material produced and their segregation would produce a visible pattern in the steel, resembling a fine layered pattern welding.   These blades also produced a very abrasion resistant edge.

Wulfram (W)  Old name for Tungsten







Zink (Zn)  Element number 30.   Its fumes are toxic, but where alloyed, its safe enough at normal room temteratures.


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