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Toledo steel, known historically as unusually hard, is from Toledo, Spain, which has been a traditional sword-making, steel-working center since about 500 BCE, and came to the attention of Rome when used by Hannibal in the Punic Wars. Soon, it became a standard source of weaponry for Roman legions.
The origin of Toledo steel comes from ancient Spanish customs. Toledo steel was used mostly in crafting weapons for armies during the 16th-19th centuries. The name comes from the city where these special steel products were crafted: Toledo, Spain. During times of war in the 16th-19th centuries, armies would usually be heavily armored and/or be using shields. Thus, a hard and flexible weapon was needed to counter this, and the Toledo sword was that weapon. Daggers and short swords were also crafted using the Toledo steel. The Toledo sword became known for its strength and durability, and soon became the most sought after weapon for Europeans. These Toledo swords were chosen by Hannibal for his army. Kings from all over the world had special weapons crafted in Toledo using the Toledo steel. Other countries tried to produce their own Toledo steel, but they failed.
The production process of Toledo steel had been kept a secret until the 20th century. Toledo steel is basically two different types of steel (one high and one low in carbon content) that are forged together. Since the steels that were being forged together had different carbon content, one is considered soft steel and the other is a hard steel. Because both hard and soft steel are used in this material, it has material properties of both hard and soft steel. The actual process of making the Toledo steel was very difficult and long. Because of this, Toledo steel weapons were rarer and powerful. The process had to be followed very strictly, regarding time, temperatures, etc, or otherwise the product would not be of the highest quality. Then the steel was cooled in either water or oil for a certain amount of time. In the early production days of Toledo steel, the timing was done using prayers and psalms. As blacksmiths crafted these weapons, they would recite the same prayers, in the same rhythm, to make sure the timing was the same every time. Because of the intricacies of the production and the rarity of the product, the average blacksmith could only create about 2-3 Toledo steel weapons per year. Hydraulic systems were introduced at the end of the 19th century to greatly increase the production of Toledo steel products, and production went up by 200% towards the end of the 19th century.
Toledo steel consists of two steels of different carbon contents welded together by hot forging. Because the steels had different carbon contents, one of the steels was soft and one was hard. Welding the soft and hard steels together gave the material characteristics of both the soft and hard metals. Compared to other mainstream steels at the time, Toledo was decent. It was hard enough and flexible enough to be efficient in war. Other countries tried to make their own version of Toledo steel, but failed. The reason for the success of Toledo steel is due to the fact that the steel uses a combination of mechanical properties of materials of extremely different chemical compositions.
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- "The Toledo sword: Last remaining craftsmen struggle to keep age-old tradition alive". Alex Newman. 2015-06-15. Retrieved 2019-08-19.