The Last Samurai *possible spoilers*

  • Thread starter chroot
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  • #26
Gokul43201 said:
Carbon is definitely NOT considered an impurity in steel - in fact, it is a primary alloying element (at least in low allow steels) and is what makes steel harder than iron. And, the carbon content of a steel (or any other metal, for that matter) can not be controlled by heat-treatment. What the heat-treatment does is determine the microstructure of the steel, and this is what primarily determines the hardness (yes, the total carbon content is also important, but that is not affected by heating/cooling). The hardness is usually a nealy linear function of the amount of a phase known as martensite, that is stabilized by the heat-treatment. It is also a function of the particle size, which too is dependent on the cooling rate.

Slow cooling, or annealing, generally results in a tougher but softer steel, while rapid quenching results in a harder but more brittle steel. There are more factors that go into determining the properties of the steel, and they would take up a good chapter to describe.
You are absolutely correct sir...carbon is not an impurity in steel, it is however in "iron" and it is that particular impurity that produces steel. A case in point though...too little carbon makes for a soft blade, none at all is simply iron, too much carbon resultes in to rigid a metal and is called "cast iron".
 
  • #27
Gokul43201 said:
Just to clarify my intent Anthony, I don't mean to argue. I'm sure you're trying to give us the layman's version, and your description of the sword forging process is very instructive (at least to me - I know nothing of swords). I just wanted to make sure there would be no misunderstanding of your content...especially by someone who will later try to argue the finer points of steel-making based on knowledge gained from a single post found on the internet. This happens too often.
Goku...I do hope you are referring to yourself regarding knowledge gained by a single post on the internet...I have actually been studying this subject for some time and I am continually learning the finer points of the process for forging of swords, the physics and metallurgy aspects involved and it is my intent to inform based on good solid knowledge instead of internet hearsay and misimpressions based on what was seen in a movie or heard through the grapevine.

I am a firm believer in "study and know your subject"...I am certainly no expert on sword forging or the metallurgical aspects involved however, from the fair amount of consultations I have done from those who are very knowledgable (i.e. bladesmiths, metallurgists and physics instructors), I think I can put forth with some sureity a decent argument on the subject.

even distribution of carbon is a key factor in the forge process to prevent weak spots in the blade...folding the metal numerous times was a way of acheiving that goal. The carbon content can be regulated by the heat of the blade as well as the working of the metal to drive the impurities to a desired level from the blade. Carbon can also be burned out or allowed in by regulating the temperature...how far you hold the metal from the forge is also another way of gaining an even distribution of carbon on the surface as the forge itself (the coals) is the source of the carbon.

as for the wonders of the Katana and its ability to cut through other metals such as automobiles and machine gun barrels, the point of my original posts was to educate those who would believe these things possible by examining the methods of construction and materials used in the process as well as a breif examination of some basic laws of physics and what is and is not possible given the design of the weapon and the materials used.

the big question is...have I done this satisfactorily?

You were also right in stating that getting into the dynamics of the metallurgy alone is worthy of several chapters of text let alone a few paragraphs in a BBS post and I currently dont have enough data nor the interest in creating a post that size to cover it so, this will have to do.
 
  • #28
Gokul43201
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True. I've conceded that. The first step in the metallurgy (at the steel making stage - in modern times that is just a matter of choice. You want a certain type of steel, you buy it.) is getting the correct composition.

<And please don't call me 'sir'. I'm just a regular grad student. You are the expert here.>
 
  • #29
The Last Samurai

chroot said:
Have any of you seen the movie The Last Samurai? What did you think of it?

I really know nothing of the Samurai, or how they existed, or how well the movie portrayed them. Does anyone have any historical knowledge of them? Did they really get wiped out? (I assume a white dude did not end up being their only survivor. ) Is the story completely ficticious?

I have to say I was stunned when I thought about the way the Samurai chose to fight with primitive weapons, because it allowed them to see and know their enemy. They chose to fight with primitive weapons out of respect for the humanity of their enemies. It's far too easy to use a gatling gun (or, by extension, a missile or nuclear warhead) to wipe out people you never even see. That's very cowardly.....

What are your thoughts? Did you like the movie?

- Warren
Well, I would have to say as entertainment, it was a pretty damn good movie...I sat through the whole thing and when it was over, I sat for a moment and thought, wow! that was really good. I was satisfied that I had seen a very well done movie.

I will totally buy Tom Cruise as an alcoholic Civil War vet with a death wish...I had a hard time with the implied romantic interest between his character and the wife of the deceased Samurai...who by the way was depicted as not a very nice or noble guy...killing an unarmed man who has been beaten is just bad form.

A bit (a small bit mind you) of research on the subject I have found suggests that the Samurai did not all live by the same code...it tended to vary from household to household. To kill ones self in the event of a failure was considered honorable but, it need not be a physical death...if one were to "give up" the way of the Samurai, the life, his family, name, fortune, etc...and persue a "new" life, this would generally satisfy the condition of "self imosed" death to regain ones honor.

Not all Samurai were "elite" or aristocracy...some were warriors who had done very well in battle and had "earned" a respected position within the house of the lord who employed them. It has also been suggested when I had written to an instructor of Ninjutsu (the way of the ninja) that the Samurai and Ninja tended to overlap and were not always entirely separate entities. ( I can see the posts coming on that thread already)

Back to the movie however...It was full of what we "know" of japanese culture and alot of what has been romanticized for centuries. This was a very good portrayal of the Meiji restoration period...Emporer Meiji favored western influence and had all but abandoned his patronage of the Samurai class...those who once commanded great respect and fear and had the authority to take life at will, were in turn treated like vermin and eventually lost their lives for what they believed in.

a post regarding "primitive" weapons on this subject needs a little addressing...primitive? were they using clubs and stone daggers? these were not primitive but, were however no match for the gattling guns, pistols and breach loaders that the opposing side was using. These were elegant and very deadly weapons and although inneffective against heavy artillary, were far from "primitive"...I am not sure as to the accuracy of mounted samurai making swift assaults in the fog and striking fear into the hearts of the "new" japanese army but, it looked really kewl didn't it?
 
  • #30
Thanks...

Gokul43201 said:
True. I've conceded that. The first step in the metallurgy (at the steel making stage - in modern times that is just a matter of choice. You want a certain type of steel, you buy it.) is getting the correct composition.

<And please don't call me 'sir'. I'm just a regular grad student. You are the expert here.>
Not an expert Gokul...just well informed...not as much as some, a bit more than others. one thing I hate is misinformation...I wrote an article some time back that I am still in the process of getting published, the subject was the Two Handed Great Swords of Europe. The purpose was to argue against those who insisted that the Great Swords were unsually heavy weapons designed to hack through plate armor. My mission was to dig up as much data as I could to counter that supposition and I did a very good job of it too.

I like to research things, especially things concerning swords...or more the point things that dispell the common myths and misconceptions concerning swords. The great swords for example were not the unusually heavy things the media portrays them to be...generally not exceeding 5 - 8 lbs for combat weapons and 10 lbs for "ceremonial" weapons...this includes the big German Zwei-handers, the Flamberge and the Scottish Cleidghmhor. My information was based on email communcations with The Royal Armories at Leeds in England, as well as the Wallace Collection, The Royal Armories at Stockholm and the National Museum of Denmark as well as several texts and on line articles on the subject.

A copy of my article is posted at Http://www.tribe.net in the Students of the sword tribe.

I'm no expert...just a PC tech with a passion for good information and a love of stomping "myths" into the ground.
 
  • #31
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Ummm :redface: I too thought the greatswords were really heavy, and in my opinion, an 8 lb anything is quite heavy. I just tried swinging about a bag with two phone books in it, total 5-6 lbs - wasn't especially in control. I mean, I could swing it about and such, but not like I would, say a baseball bat.
 
  • #32
Gokul43201 said:
Ummm :redface: I too thought the greatswords were really heavy, and in my opinion, an 8 lb anything is quite heavy. I just tried swinging about a bag with two phone books in it, total 5-6 lbs - wasn't especially in control. I mean, I could swing it about and such, but not like I would, say a baseball bat.
and a baseball bat is not how you would use this weapon either my friend. yes, for a sword, 5-8 lbs is heavy but, consider that the common misconception is in the 15 - 20 lb range and some have even bragged of 30+ pound weapons.

The Great Swords were not simply a bludgeon with a point...they were not "smashing" weapons weapons for beating up on fully armored knightes, the were trusting weapons with extended reach and blades that were designed to get between the unprotected spots in the armor...like the joints.

This weapon had a balance point along the blade in an area called the "ricasso". This was an unsharpend area above the quillons which could be held by a combatant to enable the weapon to be used like a staff for close quarter fighting. The term "pummeling" comes from the use of the "Pommel" on the end of a sword hilt which could be used for "smashing" at an opponents face or body. The quillons them selves could be used for hooking an opponent or his weapon. in general, the weapon was held one hand at the pommel and one hand at the quillons and was then wielded on a pivot like motion...this made the blade seem much lighter and easier to handle.
 
  • #34
sword weight

Gokul43201 said:
Ummm :redface: I too thought the greatswords were really heavy, and in my opinion, an 8 lb anything is quite heavy. I just tried swinging about a bag with two phone books in it, total 5-6 lbs - wasn't especially in control. I mean, I could swing it about and such, but not like I would, say a baseball bat.
Well, to be honest, your experiment would not be truly representative of how it would feel to wield an 8 pound great sword. first, the way you were holding the bag of books would not be the same as holding the great sword. when swinging the books, you are just swinging dead weight. A sword, especially the great sword is handled differently! The grip is held with one hand at the pommel and one at the quillons. This provides you with the ability to move the weapon on a "pivot" which in turn makes the weapon easier to control and seemingly lighter because you are working from the balance point and not simply swinging a sharpened pointed dumbbell.

nor was the weapon held like a baseball bat and swung wildly in effort of hoping for a conneting blow. it was a controlled strike in which one had to "jockey" for a good position to make an appropriate strike. If one missed a blade strike, the weapon could be used in an inverted fashion to punch with the pommel and then follow through by using the weapon much like you would a quarter staff and then a finishing blow as if using a spear. This weapon required skill more than strength to use although it was certainly an advantage to be physically fit.

Try this link to the article regarding the great sword which was recently posted on the Electronic Journal of Martial Arts and Sciences.

http://www.ejmas.com/jwma/jwmaframe.htm
 

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