Thursday, March 24, 2011

Other current/upcoming projects

This is a sword I absolutely love and represents my favorite era of swords. It's a Petersen Type Y Viking sword (falling under the Oakeshott Type X category; Petersen created a typology only for Viking swords and is based primarily on pommel and guard types, while Oakeshott's is for blade shapes of all sorts of swords of the medieval European era). This reproduction is a masterpiece of the talented young smith Michael Pikula of Volund Forge.
The owner sent it to hilt-assembly-and-scabbard-making guru Christian Fletcher, who fashioned this beauty of a scabbard of hand-carved poplar and covered in hand-dyed and tooled leather, complete with Urnes-style Norse artwork of his own design.

As this design is the type of artwork I love and spend hours drawing, I asked Christian on Facebook how he tooled that leather, thinking I could do something similar. He shared this picture with me, where he had carved artwork onto a piece of polycarbonate and made a die to press into the leather.


I whipped up this design on what looked to be a piece of polycarbonate I found in the shop scrap bucket. I then scratched it out with a scribe, and tried my untrained hand at engraving it, which turned out slightly repulsive.
After I "carved" it out, I soaked a piece of leather in warm water, wiped it of water, and placed it against the polycarbonate die between two wooden discs and clamped it tight. We'll see tomorrow what I looks like!


Also, using the new three-wheel belt grinder Don built, I'm working on establishing the geometry on the blank of a Russian "kindjal" shortsword I designed and had him help me draw on CAD. It was inspired by this original piece:

It's not very ornate by the standards of some kindjal, but I think it looks pretty cool. Mine will hopefully have the offset fuller, the rivets, and similar washers under the rivets. Here's the blank I have so far:

It's 3/8" thick and only mild steel, but should give me some good practice at grinding out the geometry. First I'll either mill or scrape out the fuller, and then grind a distal taper (graduating the thickness of the blade). Then I'll work on the bevels, although it'll probably be more lenticular in cross-section than diamond.

Finished shield too!

There's not much to say, because the finishing touches were simple, albeit VERY time consuming. The painting took hours and was difficult on the linen. The warp stayed. Next time, I'm going to seal the whole shield in linseed oil on BOTH sides simultaneously and hang it vertically to dry, hopefully preventing any warp. We'll then see if I decide to use linen again; that and the glue add ample weight, though they increase integrity. Plain wood would take the paint better, I think.

My penultimate step was to rim the edge with a strip of soaked rawhide, with copper tacks on both sides of the shield about an inch apart each. This task also took quite a while, but provided exactly the aesthetic I love, the historical accuracy, and also the integrity it was intended for: the rawhide hardens as it dries, resulting in a durable edge that also keeps the shield in shape and the boards tight together, explaining why the Vikings simply butted the boards together with some glue other than interlocking them with grooves somehow, which their prolific woodcraft and detailed carving work surely shows they had the skill for.

I had to decide between a wooden and an iron handgrip. I opted for iron after consulting Bill Short, expert on Viking combat who works extensively at Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester, MA. He told me they both were prevalent, but the iron provides greater strength at roughly the same weight, and more importantly, the grip of the hand would be closer to the spatial center of the shield rather than off to the side, providing greater ease of pivot and less fatigue on the hand and arm due to ungainly weight distribution.

As my eye for volume and length distribution in blacksmithing still isn't great, I cut this shape out on the plasma cutter to ensure it's symmetry. However, I still put it in the forge for a while and covered it in scale and light hammer blows to get the right looks! I drilled holes in the grip and the shield, both for the grip and the boss. I attached them all with clenched nails per period. It worked well, but once again, I resolve to use washers on the back side on my next shield to prevent cracking. A partial success in functionality and a total victory in learning!

It's been too long - Finished seax!

Well, that's all there is to say! I finished my seax (almost) in time for Freya's show in the Library Gallery, and here they are!


Handle components sandwiched together. The shiny metal pieces are phosphorus bronze, horrible to cut with the band saw but easy fodder for the disk grinder. The designs on them are simple Norse-inspired borders done with chisels. The upper and lower wooden sections are sandwiched poplar, and the innermost disk is ebony.

Here are the seven components! Each was individually cut, drilled, and filed to fit snug and flush to each other.

Poplar bits stained walnut and runes engraved into the ebony section with the tool in the background. They read "Elias gerĂ°i mik", which means "Elias made me" in Old Norwegian; the same runic inscription was found on a Viking-era Norwegian piece with a different name.


Two pictures of the seax epoxied together and laid next to the simple leather sheath, which was cut, wrapped, and sewn around the seax while wet. When it dried, it had adapted roughly to the shape.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Seax Progress and Filming a Quench

Well, things have been moving along, even though it seems I'll be missing Freya's first day of her show. But my seax for her has been moving along swimmingly, and here are some pictures to prove it. I've finished cutting all of the bronze disks for the "handle sandwich", cut pieces of wood to epoxy together and planed out a little groove in each side for the tang. Here are the photographs:




These operations all took untold hours at the drill press, end mill, band saw, and disk sander. Now what remains is to cut the same size disk from antler for the middle, chisel the designs in, epoxy it all together, and make the scabbard.

The shield remains warped, which I hope to fix today with a paint job.

Here's a video of my friend Jack quenching a sword blade in oil rather than water, to ensure a slower cooling and thus less chance of warping or cracking, an integral part of the heat-treat:


video