I finished up the sword I was making for my Grandfather but totally forgot to take photos! Luckily I visited a couple of months later and was able to take some quick shots.
The biggest challenges of this sword were the handle details. The entire thing is knife carved, and the gold leaf was really tricky to apply and in the end I had to touch it up with a liquid gold suspension. Something I look forward to mastering one day!
I really like how it came out, it has the slightly garish look I associate with the Dark Ages! The scabbard is a little on the simple side, but it did get a small tassel for bling:
The first post on making this bad boy: Large Seax Style Shortsword -Hotforged
Another gift, I made a seax styled shortsword for my grandfather. I decided to do a seax both because I love the blade style and because my grandparents live in Sussex, home of the Southern Saxons for whom the seax is named.
I had a bit more time on my hands than usual, at least at the start of the project, so I decided to forge the distal taper into the blade rather than grind it out. As seaxes have a really unusual taper where the thickest point is towards the tip of the blade, this would allow me to make that area extra thick and give a real dynamism to the feel of the finished weapon.
I cut a bar to the approximate edge taper I wanted and through precise hammering moved the bulk of the metal of the blade from the base up to the tip, ending up with about 3mm thickness at the handle and about 1cm at the tip. Here is a little forging montage, starting with the rough cut bar and ending with the pointed and tapered blade. Because of the unusual section, it doesn’t appear to change much but in each photo the blade curves a little more as the edge is thinned and the spine thickens.
So here is the finished rough blade. I gave it a quick cleanup on the belt grinder, turned off the lights and heated the forge up to quenching temperature:
After quenching and tempering the blade I spent a few days profiling and detailing the handle. These pictures were taken in the early stages of work as I burnt the blade into the handle to get tight fit. This is a bit of a tricky operation as if you push too hard or too fast the handle will split but if you go too slow it will char a huge hole in the centre and the handle will not fit. Practice and a tolerance for acrid smoke are a necessity!
Here the handle is fitted, and I could continue with the carving without fear that I would put hours of work into it only to have it crack as I fitted it! In the end I removed the rounded end and covered the whole surface in basket-weave knotwork stained to an almost ebony shade. The raised bands were then covered with gold leaf which was a pain in the a**e but gave a great and gaudy look that I think is appropriate for a blade from the dark ages.
I don’t have any pictures of the finished sword but I’m hoping my Grandfather will take some glamour shots for me as he is an amazing photographer and it would be nice to have some better pictures than my phone can produce!
Edit: Finished sword: Finished Seax style shortsword
I love fantasy literature. Pretty much every swordsmith I have ever met loves fantasy literature. Not, perhaps, a huge surprise but it is really nice to meet up with people who whilst being very practical are also massive geeks.
This is my current project, a leaf shaped knife blade to be hilted in the manner of Sting from the Lord of the Rings films. I may even engrave or etch the elvish script onto the blade as I do find it rather lovely.
This is not intended to be a slavish copy of the film prop, but rather my own version with a similar form. I have collaborated with my master on a number of extremely accurate replicas of medieval weaponry, and although it is always a challenge it does lack a certain spontaneity so I rarely do it in my own time.
This is the first photo I took of the knife. Its the point when it transitioned in my mind from idle fiddling with steel to having a larger purpose. I had ground the fuller into the “raw” file, as its much easier to grind an accurate trench into a flat surface than onto the peak of a profiled blade. I then roughly ground in the edges and the ricasso to get an idea of the proportions of the blade.
At this stage, the edges were still parallel and I wanted more leaf shaped profile. There are several ways to do this and they vary from fairly simple to incredibly tricky. I did the simple one, obviously, and ground the edges to the shape I wanted before restoring the bevel at a stronger angle. It is possible to develop the leaf shape straight from the bevel angle, but it is painful and tedious work and the result is exactly the same.
After I had the shape I wanted, I gave it a rough normalising cycle by heating it to a dull red and allowing it to cool slowly. it may seem counterintuitive to soften the steel before hardening it but will reduce the chances of failure during the stresses of quenching. And it looks really cool, right?
In a similar vein, I forged this crossguard to shape with the intention of using it with this blade. I decided not to use it in the end as I want to make something a little more fantasy, but I think the glowing metal looks really cool so it makes it into the post nonetheless!
This post is more of a record post for myself, as I didn’t take any work in progress shots of this one.
It was one of those moments where I was seized by the desire to make a present for someone I love, and also took the opportunity to try out a new technique. I have seen this style of blacksmith twist done before and have always thought that it looked fantastic. Given its angularity I thought it would look great as a serpent like skin texture and as it was a work of love the eternal world snake of Norse mythology seemed like a perfect subject.
I did the chisel work for the twist first, which was quite a challenge as for the effect to work it had to be really precise and uniform. Any mistakes would be massively amplified by the twisting process and as the metal stretches there would be a real danger of it shearing off as it deformed. In the event it was a resounding success, and I am very happy with how the twist turned out. After I had my twisted bar, I forged the head and tail and chiselled in some minimal lines to indicate serpent like features and heated it again to bend into a ring.
In the end I think she liked it, but it is rather massive and has perhaps more validity as an art piece than as jewellery. Never mind, I loved making it and its one of those rare pieces where I feel a part of my soul was burned into the metal. Its moments like that which raise the job to a passion.
It’s always the way, without an event in my social life projects can spend years on the bench as I have the attention span of a butterfly. In this case, my fencing club had a raffle at the Christmas Banquet and I volunteered to provide the first prize. With the deadline approaching and work at the forge entering the final stages of the Christmas rush, I cast about for something that already had most of the work done on it.
I came across the dagger I have been working on for a couple of years, its so old in fact that this was one of my first experiments in drawfiling a diamond section blade as a new apprentice. So after I’d had a good laugh at my previous efforts i polished up the blade and did some work on the crossguard and pommel to make it a more elegant weapon. The crossguard was shortened and given a convex cutoff to give it a bit of movement and I lightened the pommel to improve the balance (it sat a bit too far towards the heel of the hand before). I also carved six shallow radiating trenches in the top, a common detail on medieval daggers. Sadly due to the looming deadline, I forgot to take more glamour shots, the only ones I had were taken for the Banquet webpage.
The grip is the same wood as it was in the beginning, spirally carved and then overlaid with soaked leather. I added dagged (spiky) collars at the top and bottom to add a little visual interest and to mimic the carving on the pommel.
All in all I think it turned out a rather handsome knife, and the raffle winner was very pleased with his prize. It is currently razor sharp but I have offered to blunt the blade for him should he want to use it to fence. Personally I rather think that would spoil it but I’d always rather see something used than just sitting in a drawer!
Original Quillon dagger post!
This report is well overdue as I went on this course during the summer, but better late than never!
I went to South London to learn how to pattern weld steel under the excellent tutelage of Owen Bush. We had learnt how to do the weld by the end of the first of the three days, and the rest of the time was spent practising the method and increasing the layer count of the billet. This sounds somewhat repetitive, but honestly the work needed constant concentration and attention to ensure that everything was optimised to give a good weld. Not for Mr Bush of course, he was welding things with a devil-may-care ease, but the rest of us really sweated to get our billets!
One of the most exciting bits for me was exploring Owens hundreds of metalworking tools and getting to use the power hammer on the higher layer count section of the blade. I have always wanted to use one and I was not disappointed, its quite a beast! It saved a huge amount of elbow grease though, we welded our first billet by hand with the hammer and the second on the power hammer, and it increased the welding and folding speed about tenfold. I now desperately want one!
Here are some shots of my finished blade blank. I forged it out into a rough seax shape to maximise the amount of material in the finished blade, as I want a meaty shortsword style seax. The body of the blade is random pattern damascus but I have sadly forgotten what the layer count was, but I think it was in the region of 200 layers. On the final blade, the hammer blows create a wood-grain effect that I have always loved to see in steel, even though it is the easiest pattern to make. The nasty scaly bits of the billet are in fact nasty scale, as this is straight from the forge with only a section cleaned and etched so that we could all bask in the glory of our efforts ;).
The spine of the blade has a chevron pattern created by twisting a stacked billet at welding heat to form a spiral within the steel, and the cutting it in two and aligning it so as to create the pattern. I found this incredibly hard to do, I think I was being impatient during the heating, and the billet sheared three times whilst I was twisting it. Not a big deal but it meant I had to make the spine a little thinner to compensate.
Here is the billet lined up with my apprentice seax, they are of a size but the forged one is about twice as thick at the moment which means that I can really play with the taper when I grind it to finish. Here’s hoping that the welds don’t crack when I quench it! (No, seriously, cross your fingers for me!).
I finished the buckler I had been working on a while ago and took a picture of it in its glorious, unbattered state:
I have since used it in about 20 historical fencing bouts as well as innumerable relaxed sparring encounters, and it has held up very well. Far better than the previous all metal incarnation as thicker steel for the central boss worked well. The leather rim is doing surprisingly well, only showing a few nicks and scratches despite the fact that my regular sparring partner loves his longsword. I think that I have pretty much perfected my Secret Leather Hardening process (every leatherworker I meet has one!). Here it is after considerable punishment:
The beautiful yet fragile blue oxide coating has been pretty battered but I actually quite like the silver accents that have emerged. The leather on the front is almost untouched. On the back things look considerably more ragged. As I had to have it finished for an event, I of course only put it together the day before and as I was finishing the handle at home I realised that I had left all my leather and string at work! The only thing I could find round the house was some knitting wool which was lovely on the hand but didn’t survive for long. I need to revisit it with a tooled leather grip at some point…
Whilst rereading the previous post, I realised I hadn’t taken any photos of the fittings which was a pity as I spent a bit of time making them more period appropriate.
Firstly I hand engraved flowers around each of the rivets. It takes a little while to do with a hand graving chisel, but as Daggerandbrush noted in the comments it really does enhance the look of the whole shield when viewed close up:
Floral motifs were extremely popular on historical weapons, and I think the entire buckler was going that way so I decided to continue with the vegetable look on the handle. The main element of this was forming and chiselling a leaf on one end of the handle, the other end forms a belt hook and needed to be bent over after riveting so I kept it simple with a little punchwork on the top:
As a final detail, I decided not to use modern washers under the rivets as they really do stand out on an otherwise handmade object. Mine were cut, chiselled and punched out of a sheet of steel and as such are all different. Not because I am lazy and couldn’t be bothered to measure, its because its historically accurate ;). The square shape was common at the time as it is much easier to make and works just as well:
So all in all I’m very happy about how it turned out, now I really want to make one of these:
So many projects….!