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What does a Swordsmith do?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2016
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A swordsmith is a skilled artisan and craftsman who makes swords and other bladed weapons. Sharing many of the same skills as a blacksmith, a modern swordsmith may use a blend of techniques to create decorative and practical swords, daggers, and knives. Although once a widely practiced craft, swordmaking is considerably more rare in modern times, as swords have gradually fallen out of use as weapons.

The art of swordsmithing is thousands of years old, and has roots in ancient cultures all over the world. Some of the earliest known swords were forged from copper, iron, and bronze around the 17th century BCE, and were made in many different regions, including Egypt, China, and India. As technology developed, steel swords became overwhelmingly popular for their durability and strength. As firearms developed, the prevalence of swords on the battlefield dwindled; since the 20th century, they have rarely been used militarily for more than decorative purposes.

A swordsmith typically uses a forge to create blades and hilts from metal, although hilts may feature wooden or gemstone accents as well. Depending on the style and design of the sword, the smith must shape and sharpen the blade using a variety of different tools. Typically, the blade material is heated, then shaped using hammers and an anvil as a base. After the blade is completely shaped and tempered, it is joined to the hilt and pommel and finally sharpened to complete the weapon.

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Although swordsmithing is not as popular in the modern era, there are still numerous societies, training programs and groups for artisans and trainees interested in learning the craft. Unlike ancient systems, where a swordsmith was either apprenticed at a young age to a master, or was born into a dynasty of smiths, modern smiths typically must pay to train with a master. Mastery can take several years, and guidelines for becoming a master may vary between smithing organizations.

Legends and myths abound with tales of famous swords and their skilled, sometimes supernatural smiths. European myths tell of Wayland the Smith, a mercurial man who fashioned Gram, the magical sword the hero Seigfried used to slay the dragon Fafnir. One of the most famous real swordsmiths is Masamune, considered by many to be the most famous Japanese swordsmith of all time. In addition to his superior craftsmanship that dominated 14th century Japan, Masamune known for creating stunning swords that glittered thanks to an embedded crystal component in the blade.

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