Sword Making - Option 5 / 6 : The Real Thing
If you skipped options 1 through 4 then you have missed all the prerequisites. We'll assume you are an experienced craftsperson with all the skills described above.
There is more than one way to make a sword. Forging, stock removal or Damascus (laminated steel) which combines both techniques. Then there are options to the Damascus. You can forge your own billet, you can purchase a Damascus blank or you can buy a finished blade and fit furniture to it. Many makers use blanks made by others and some of the pre-finished blades are less expensive than blanks. . .
In each case you must have a design in mind. You may want to have made a prototype in wood. If you have completed option projects 1 through 3 then you should know how to design and layout your blade. If you have completed option projects 3 and 4 you should know how to fit the furniture to a steel blade and have some idea how you want to proceed from this point. So all that is left is to learn to do is make a long blade rather than a short one.
The decision as to how to make the blade is yours and yours alone. The biggest difference between making a knife and a sword is the equipment necessary to handle the length of the blade.
You CAN finish any blade with files, hand scrapers and natural stone. If you prefer to use machines the grinding equipment to do simple finishing is nearly the same for a forged blade as for a stock removal blade. Powered grinders have been used for centuries.
To use machinery rather than ancient hand methods you will need a good belt grinder. Where 2" (50mm) wide belts are suitable for most blades it is recommended that you use a 6" (300mm) wide belt for sword making. The machine cost difference is considerable.
Forging a sword does not require a long heat. If you heat the entire length of a sword to a red heat it becomes limp and hard to handle. Forging is done in short sections and can be done in most forges. A long trough forge is most convenient because there is room for the extra length.
For heat treating you need to heat the entire blade evenly at one time. This can be done two ways, horizontally and vertically. Both methods require a long forge or furnace. If heated horizontally the blade must be carefully handled to prevent bending under its own load. The blade must be supported carefully between furnace and quench tank. If heated vertically the blade can be lifted with a hook or by the tang and there are no bending loads on the blade. However, to get an even heat the furnace used must have good circulation. Salt pots are often used for these long vertical heats because of the more uniform heating and lack of oxidation.