Tempered vs. Non-Tempered (The Short Attention Span Version)
Tempered swords are good.
They are stronger than non-tempered swords and return to shape when bent up to 30 degrees. They also hold a much better edge if you choose to sharpen them. But it takes a lot longer to make a properly heat treated sword, so it costs more.
Do you need a tempered sword? If you plan to use the sword mostly for dress or for very light sparring, then no. But if you want to sharpen your sword or spar a bit (only under optimal safety conditions, wearing proper safety equipment. Please donít spar if you havenít been trained. Youíll probably die or be maimed. Which
would suck. Insert other relevant disclaimers here.) then you might want to consider shelling out the extra dough.
To give a little more durability, most (but not all) of our tempered swords have steel guards and pommels with no plating on them.
Tempered vs. Non-Tempered (The longer version)
Non-tempered high carbon steel is not likely to break or shatter but it will bend if enough contact is made (not that this is a huge problem, but youíll spend a lot of time straightening your sword, much like a competitive fencer does with his or her foil. And unlike a foil, a thick sword will weaken very quickly after
continuous bending and will probably break down the road). Also if you are looking to put an edge on your sword, high carbon steel in its native state will not hold a fine edge. High carbon steel tends to be relatively soft which makes it difficult to sharpen.
Tempering is the solution to both of the above problems (easily bent and hard to sharpen, for those of you who canít keep up). Tempering is part of a heat treatment process. The first part of the process involves heating and quenching. The
blade is heated to an extremely high temperature, so high that the blade will glow red. It is then cooled quickly by quenching (dipping) into an oil or water bath. This quenching process alters the metallic structure of the blade making it extremely hard. Unfortunately along with the added hardness, the blade also becomes
very brittle. The hardened metal can hold a very fine edge but because of its brittleness it can also break very easily.
In order to put ductility (which means flexibility and has nothing to do with ducks) back into the metal, the blade must be tempered. In the tempering process the blade is again heated and cooled but this heating and cooling process is much more gradual than before. The full heat/cool cycle can last several hours. The
tempering temperature is also much lower than the temperature used during the quenching process. When the process is complete the blade is flexible enough to withstand impact without breaking, but hard enough to hold a sharpened edge.