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Based on this question over in RPG, I'm trying to figure out how long it took to forge a sword in the Medieval/Renaissance smith to make swords. I am recalling a figure of about 9-12 months per sword, some other references indicate that Katanas would be made quicker. My google-fu is bringing up tons on the individual steps "hammer until it's the right shape", "grind until sharp", etc. but no real estimates of how long these steps individually take or how long the whole process is.

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are you sure it wasn't 9-12 days? – Ryathal Dec 7 '12 at 21:43
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Studying blacksmithing at UC Santa Cruz, making a good knife only took me a weekend, and that was as a student who didn't know much yet. I'd be amazed if a sword took more than a few weeks, tops. – Joe Dec 7 '12 at 21:49
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I agree with the other comments here, I think you're talking a matter of days for a bog standard long sword. What would stack up the time considerably is how ornate the sword is, what precious metals are used in the hilt, what engraving was used etc, all would add time to construction. There's a few websites out there about reproduction medieval armour, I was looking at one the other day, they would give you a better idea of time scales. – spiceyokooko Dec 7 '12 at 22:52
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@Pulsehead, that was with a coal forge, hammer, tongs, anvil, and a foot-pedalled grinding wheel. We all trained on the hand tools before moving on to powered equipment. – Joe Dec 8 '12 at 1:40
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Six to Eight weeks – DVK Dec 11 '12 at 6:13
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Wikipedia's page on Japanese swordsmithing provides some information on the time frames involved in the manufacture of good quality blades:

The forging of a Japanese blade typically took many days or weeks, and was considered a sacred art, traditionally accompanied by a large panoply of Shinto religious rituals. As with many complex endeavors, rather than a single craftsman, several artists were involved. There was a smith to forge the rough shape, often a second smith (apprentice) to fold the metal, a specialist polisher, and even a specialist for the edge itself. Often, there were sheath, hilt, and tsuba specialists as well.

The page also contends that the production of steel from iron would take four or five workers at least a week. It also goes on to mention that, depending on the quality of the sword, the polisher might take weeks to get things done just right:

When the rough blade is completed, the swordsmith turns the blade over to a polisher called a togishi, whose job it is to refine the shape of a blade and improve its aesthetic value. The entire process takes considerable time, in some cases easily up to several weeks. Early polishers used three types of stone, whereas a modern polisher generally uses seven. The modern high level of polish was not normally done before around 1600, since greater emphasis was placed on function over form.

Assuming that the steel is already available, I think that it might be safe to extrapolate that a cheap but functional Japanese sword could have been made in a few days, a good sword in a couple of weeks or more, and a great sword in a month or more.

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I have friends that forge knives and swords. Assuming you already have your steel stock, a couple days will be sufficient. Maybe less than one day if you work hard at it.

This will vary by smith and by sword type. An apprentice might take a week or more.

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i assume there are some modern shortcuts and/or handicapts removed when comparing smithing an item today and smithing an item in the middle ages? – jbabey Dec 9 '12 at 15:13
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The only modern shortcuts the folks I know use are to buy alloy stock rather than trying to make it themselves, and to use propane to fire their forges. Still using an anvil, hammer, strong arm, and bucket of water. Plus assorted tongs and other tools. – David Paigen Dec 11 '12 at 2:52

In medieval Europe it took a standard blacksmith about a week to make a decent average steel longsword. If they where making something for their lord or king they would often spend as much as 6 months ensuring they had the ornate design perfect, but that's about it. Usually a sword would take about 1-2 months to finish, not because they where spending that long making a sword, but because they'd be making a dozen or more swords at the same time to better make use of their resources; there's a lot of waste when you're smelting metals.

If you did nothing else, working a full 12 hour day, you could probably make a decent sword in 2 days if you know what you're doing. This depends on the style of sword and the method you're using to make it, but generally most steel swords are made by hammer and grind, heating and folding, or the more advanced technique of splitting into vortices; plaiting and welding. The latter method puts a natural fuller into the blade and was the common technique from 6th century onwards in western Europe.

Now, people will often talk nonsense about Japan, because the internet has a rather sad raging boner for anything Japanese. I'm going to set the record straight here, and this is coming from someone who honestly loves Japan from a cultural and historical view; but it needs to be said. Japanese swords, (ie. Katana) where crap. They where folded steel over 1000 years after Europe largely stopped using folded steel and moved on to plaited pattern welding. Japanese iron ore was also poor quality, making the katana generally quite brittle. Lastly, the swords design both lacked a proper guard (usually), and was a rather fat blade making it inefficient against any real armour and not especially sharp. Sure it'd cut through an unarmoured peasant with ease, but it was Yuri armed with bows and spears that actually saw high usage on the battlefield; the Samurai with their katana where basically just posers and nobles playing at being important because of "honour". In effect, the katana is just a sharpened metal bar with a handle on the end, and anyone making out that they're anything more needs a reality check. Really all swords are this, but the katana is a single edged, slightly curved, non-flexing sword with no fuller, no proper thrusting point, and no guard; by sword standards it's painfully simple.

Oh and, 私は日本に行きました、日本語はわかります。 Just in case we have any weeaboos reading who feel the need to jump the the countries defence. Don't bother, please just don't.

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