How to Make a Roman Sword

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The basic anatomy of a Roman sword is the same as the anatomy of a medieval sword.
The basic anatomy of a Roman sword is the same as the anatomy of a medieval sword. (Image: c Deb Powers)

Hand-forging a Roman sword is a challenging project even for an experienced blacksmith. This article assumes that you understand basic blacksmithing terms and techniques. In the Middle Ages and older times, swords were most often made by teams of blacksmiths working together. A master blacksmith supervised each step of the process, and apprentices learned the secrets of working the metal by working at his side. Today, opportunities to learn from a master are few, and most blacksmiths work alone. The article below presents the basic steps for forging a Roman sword along with information about what makes a Roman sword unique.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 inch by 48" by 4" steel billet
  • Forge
  • Hammer
  • Files and grinder
  • Metal Saw
  • Leather for grip padding
  • Soft metal for pommel

Plan your blade before you start. Sketch the shape of the blade on paper, including the cross section. Be detailed, including the weight of your finished blade and the center balance point. When designing, keep in mind that a curved shoulder is less likely to break at the point where the handle joins the body. Sharp angles tend to concentrate stress.

Compare the strength of a rounded shoulder to an angled shoulder from blade to tang
Compare the strength of a rounded shoulder to an angled shoulder from blade to tang

Being working your blade by heating the steel to red heat. At this point, the metal will be malleable.

Heat the metal billet to red heat. (image by ArminH@stock.xchang)
Heat the metal billet to red heat. (image by ArminH@stock.xchang)

Hammer the metal into shape using a blacksmith's hammer and anvil. Reheat metal as needed to maintain malleability.

You can shape a basic Roman sword with hammer, tongs and anvil. (image by ukpala@stock.xchang)
You can shape a basic Roman sword with hammer, tongs and anvil. (image by ukpala@stock.xchang)

Shape point and tang of sword using hammer and anvil. Cut away shoulder from tang to blade with shears if necessary.Striking with both hammer and metal held at an angle with make it easier to shape the cross section and edge.

The Roman sword is characterized by a diamond-shaped cross section, as shown in this image.
The Roman sword is characterized by a diamond-shaped cross section, as shown in this image.

Allow the sword to cool completely before proceeding to grinding the edges with a grinder. Refine shape the shape with metal files.

Shape a crossbar from hard metal. Heat or hammer weld it to the forged sword just above the shoulder where the blade meets the tang.

Cut a wooden grip to one or two inches shorter than the tang. Bore or drill a hole through the center of the grip, then slowly enlarge it until it fits snugly around the sword tang. Sand and polish, or decorate as desire. Wrap the hilt with leather stripping for a hand grip.

Shape the pommel from soft metal. Historic Roman swords have either flattened oval pommels or round, flat pommels. You may thread the end of the tang and the inside of the pommel so that you can screw the pommel onto the tang if desired.

Wrap hilt with leather to pad hand grip.

Tips & Warnings

  • Read all that you can about sword making before beginning your sword.
  • You can cut out a lot of the time of making a Roman sword by starting with a purchased sword blank, or cutting your sword from sheet steel with an arc welder.
  • Use a round metal file for shaping the shoulder.
  • Always use appropriate safety wear when working with forge, welders and metal shaping tools.

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