OF THE TOLEDO SWORDS
Toledo swords, for
centuries, when the issue of a fight depended not only on the personal
ability of the fighter, but also on another decisive factor - the perfection
of his weapon - with Toledo swords exceptional steel were forged the most
terrible arms in the world. Their extraordinary hardness made of each of
these Toledo swords an invincible force in the hands of an expert swordsman.
All European armies knew the superior quality of Toledo steel swords and
many great warriors relied only on sabers of Toledan provenance.
Their origin of the Toledo swords comes from the most ancient Spanish
customs. More than 2,000 years ago, in the 5th century B.C. , Iberian
blacksmiths already forged Toledo swords known as falcata which had an iron
blade inside and a special design made to increase the bluntness of the
Due to their fame, these Toledo swords were choosen by Hannibal for his army
and the Roman legions, defeated by those weapons, adopted them later and
supplied their centurions with the dread Toledan swords blades.
Door of the Toledo city.
The times of Excalibur kind of sword passed by. The Middle Ages blacksmiths
exalted the office, as they relied more and more on technological progress
and not only on the good quality of their steel. The Muslim armies feared
the sword that had defeated them. They didn't revere only the hand of a
Master - the Cid Campeador - but also the excellence of his weapon, a
Toledan sword, of course! The Muslims adopted such a technics to produce
their slender two-edged scimitars, transmitting their secret from one
generation to the other.
Then, the Toledan manufacturers would yield the famous rapiers so well
popularized through d'Artagnan and his fellow Musketeers.
Also todays Toledo is a quiet city with about 50,000 inhabitants, it has
been for a time the capital city of the widest empire in the world, an
empire where sun never set. Kings from all parts of the world have had
Toledo swords and sabers forged in Toledo. Even Japanese Samurai were aware
of the existence of Toledo swords steel as it had been introduced by the Spanish
merchants that followed the steps of the Spanish and Portuguese Jesuits. As
Japan lived in a state of continuous civil war, it is not surprising that
some of their Daimyos even came to Toledo to have their katana and wakizashi
forged there. They knew how important was a perfect design and finish for
the effectiveness of a sword of Toledo.
One example of what was once the most noble art in the world is no doubt the
gold inlaid hunting dagger of King Charles the Fourth, with the mark and the
name of the smith who did it engraved on it. Toledan craftsmen can be
rightfully proud of such a fine blade and splendid finish. This art is
actually disappearing because swords have been replaced by another type of
weapon, like pistols, guns, rifles.
The internal structure of the blade and the mystery of its fabrication were
a secret well kept by the manufacturers. It hasn't been unraveled until the
20th century! To make such an exceptional weapon, they had to forge at the
same time and at a very hot temperature hard steel with high contents of
carbon and soft steel. This way, they could obtain excellent mechanical
properties as well as a better fastness to wear.
sword of the Cid Campeador
An appropriate selection of raw materials, their adequate proportion in the
blade and the forging of both types of steel at a temperature of 1454 º F
during the exact interval of time required, give the most perfect sword ever
built in the world.
In old ages, the blacksmiths used to recite psalms and prayers keeping
always the same rhythm, in order to calculate the time that the blade would
remain inside the furnace. This timing had to be respected to avoid any
deviance: a longer time would melt the steel too much and on the contrary, a
shorter one wouldn't let the metal reach its melting-point.
Forging requires forcefulness and efficiency in a very short time. Then
comes the following step: cooling with water or - sometimes - with oil, to
get a clear and clean welded seam. In some cases, the blacksmith had to blow
even 20,000 times in order to get a perfect tempering, but such a level of
perfection wouldn't allow him to make more than 2 or 3 blades in a year!
In other parts of the world, craftsmen have tried to imitate the perfection
of Toledo swords steel, but they all failed. Damascus steel was too hard, not at
all flexible, because it contained only iron and carbon and wasn't refined
of all the mineral impure elements.
Swedish steel was based on a soft steel, carbureted in a furnace, surrounded
by animal horns and hair, leaves, etc. and heated at a temperature of about
1650º F. Swords were also manufactured in Solingen (Germany). There, they
twisted together wires of different thickness and carbon contents in order
to get a threadlike structure that combined hard and soft steel. the swords
of Nimes (France) were also recognized for their good quality.
photo of the city of Toledo