Viking/Norman Sword: Having fun with an open commission.

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I was asked by my Grandmother to make her a family sword for her birthday. It was a really nice commission as I normally deal with sword junkies who know exactly what they think they want (but do often need some practical guidance). To most (normal!) people though a sword is a sword so I had really free reign to make anything I wanted.

I decided to go with a transitional Viking/Norman style of sword, as they are shorter than later swords and much easier to display. They also often had wonderful decoration and I really need to work on my inlaying skills, so I threw caution to the winds and chose a design that would feature simple but extensive inlay. Did I mention I am not a very organised person? I had three weeks to make it! In the end it took about 50 hours squeezed in over weekends and around work.

Technical info: The blade is heat treated EN45 carbon steel, the crossguard and pommel are both made of mild steel which is the closest analogue I had to hand for medieval iron. The grip is cored with oak and covered with veg tanned leather stitched over leather risers.

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Here the pommel has been formed and tested for balance, then I laid out my design and ever so slowly started cutting in the lines with gravers. Slowly shaving off layers of steel I cut the trenches about 2mm deep and then undercut the edges to grip the copper. Then I heated my copper wire to dull red and quenched it in order to soften it, at which point it becomes much easier to deform. I then hammered it in and polished the whole thing.

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This is the crossguard, hot forged to shape and with the tips carved into a fishtail shape. I inlayed it in exactly the same way as the pommel, but I got a bit carried away and came back later to add more. Grinding down the second layer destroyed the undercut lip that was holding the first layer (seen above) down, and it fell out! I had to recut the lines, lesson learnt.

As I was in such a hurry, I didn’t take too many photos of the making process, but I made sure I took a lot of the end result as I am pretty happy with how it turned out. So here it is in all its glory, weighing in at 1100g and with the balance and feel of an excellent cutter. I’m happy with the inlayed and punched decoration, but I still want to get more practice in!

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Every sword is still an exciting journey!

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