Swords have been made out of many interesting materials, so in this article, we will talk about the possibility of making a sword out of tungsten. Some people are saying it could be done while others claiming the opposite.
So, can you make a sword out of tungsten? It is possible to make a sword out of tungsten, however, the sword would be too heavy and too brittle. So, due to the poor flexibility of the tungsten, it wouldn’t make a good-quality sword. Except that, tungsten is incredibly hard to forge, which would make things even more complicated.
Next, we will talk more about this interesting material, the difference between pure tungsten and tungsten carbide, and some practical bits of advice if you decide on trying it.
Is Tungsten Good For Swords?
Pure tungsten is a dense grey metal with an extremely high melting point (6191.6°F). It is also known for its good corrosion resistance. The hardness of tungsten is quite similar to hardened steel or emerald. It is also fairly ductile. Pure tungsten is commonly used for welding applications and medical equipment.
However, when we say tungsten, we typically refer to tungsten carbide, its alloy. Namely, tungsten carbide is a compound of tungsten combined with carbon. It is renowned in the industry for its high melting point, strength, and durability. Tungsten carbide is commonly used in applications that require considerable impact or wear resistance, such as cutters, punches, abrasives, and dies.
When combined with carbon, its hardness is noticeably increased which also means better scratch resistance and edge retention. It also comes in grades, depending on the used binders. Unfortunately, tungsten carbide is too brittle which means bad news for a tungsten sword. As you know, swords require some amount of flexibility, due to the heavy-duty use. So, having a hard but also very brittle sword is not a great idea. It would probably crack after the first use.
Typically, tungsten carbine consists of approximately 85% tungsten and 15% carbon. Nickel or cobalt are also usually added. Since carbon content slightly reduces its brittleness, it makes it easier to work with. Cobalt or nickel acts as a binder, holding it all together and making it possible to work with.
Don’t forget about the weight of tungsten carbide. Namely, tungsten weighs twice more than steel. Again, not great news if you plan to make a sword out of it, especially if you are planning to use it. So, if you have two swords of the same size where one is made of steel and the other one from tungsten, the second one is much heavier. Having a heavy sword like that is not so practical.
A cutting sword has to be flexible to resist the angular momentum that is involved in cutting. So, trying to make a sword out of would be a good exercise in which you would try to do the best out of bad material. For instance, if you plan to make such a sword, I would recommend making a smallsword. Since large swords are typically biomechanically very demanding, tungsten is not recommended. On the other hand, smallswords are much smaller and lighter and also tend to have a balance center closer to the hand.
Also, probably nobody could effectively swing a thick long sword, so it is ideal to minimize the volume with a skinny, single-edge sword for maximum strength. By reducing the volume you would also decrease the mass.
Can You Forge Tungsten Carbide?
Ok, enough of the theory, and let’s get to the practical aspects. Even if the material is good, if you can’t forge it, it doesn’t matter. When it comes to tungsten, we already know that it isn’t an ideal material for swordmaking. But there may be people who still want to take a chance and find the answer for themselves.
So, can you forge tungsten carbide? You can forge tungsten carbide, however, it is extremely hard and unpractical. There is a great possibility of breaking during the forging process, mainly due to its brittleness. It is also not practical since forging it requires achieving at least 4000°F-5000°F). Another problem is that you would probably ruin the face of the anvil while forging it.
As you can see, the greatest obstacle for the efficient forging of tungsten carbine is reaching these extremely high temperatures. You can’t do that with an average propane forge. Even if you can reach it, it would require a lot of fuel. Last year I tried to experiment with making a tungsten knife. It was very hard to shape it due to its incredible hardness, but I managed to finish it somehow. Keep in mind that was a small blade, not a sword.
Another problem with forging a tungsten carbide is its fumes during heating. Due to the content of nickel and chromium, these fumes may present a health hazard that can even trigger asthma. Don’t think if you don’t have asthma that you are safe. Even low exposure can cause health problems. Note that also breathing any dust or mist containing tungsten carbide may be dangerous. To prevent this, you should have good ventilation in the shop, wear a good-quality respirator during work, and wear protective gloves. As always, proper clothing is required.
Down below is a video of a guy trying to forge a piece of tungsten carbide.
As you can see in the video, he is using a regular coal forge which is simply not enough. He couldn’t do anything to that piece of metal.
Pros and Cons of Tungsten Carbide Sword
Pros of tungsten carbide sword
- Super hard
- Super sharp
Cons of tungsten carbide sword
- Very brittle
- Bad edge retention
- Not flexible
- Not suitable for cutting hard materials
What About Mixing It With Titanium?
Since tungsten carbide by itself cannot produce a good-quality sword, there may be other options which include mixing it with another alloy. One that comes to my mind is titanium.
Mixing tungsten carbide with titanium for making a sword is possible but the quality would be questioned. The body made from titanium would be flexible whereas tungsten carbide would make a great edge. Since forging these two is hard and impractical, machining out a piece of titanium and then wedging tungsten onto the edge is a better option.
Note that titanium and tungsten are commonly used in producing turbine tools and blades. Making a sword blade out of these two materials is very intriguing, however, steel alloys are still a superior option. Don’t forget that tungsten carbide is stiffer than steel, not stronger.
Ok, let’s finally give some conclusion. As you can see, making such a sword is possible but the quality would be questioned. Tungsten is simply too brittle and stiff to make a functional sword. On the other hand, tungsten would make a good kitchen knife. In fact, there are many more kitchen knives made out of tungsten than there are swords. In my opinion, steel is still a greatly superior option when it comes to swordmaking, so I would choose steel. However, if you have enough money and time for this experiment then go for it.