Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Second Sword

This sword is the brother to the one shown here some time ago in every sense, made from the same antique metal, made by the same method and the same hand. 
They are also a pair in their purpose as symbols of dedication, heritage and protection to be exchanged between Bride and Groom.

So, the piece in question was begun in this way,  a stack is welded together and folded a dozen times to create a unique, new piece of steel that aims for homogeneity but achieves the lustrous, patterned metal that enticed our ancestors.
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This folded steel is then drawn out into a long bar and divided in two.
Between these two pieces a new piece of low carbon mild steel is forge welded in, forming a “core” to the blade.
This is now ready to be forged into the form of the sword, with its important central groove or fuller being forged in, as not to compromise the outer steel and reveal the soft steel core.

The Tang was forge welded on separately. This method was widely used in the past.
At this final stage, I noticed some cracks at the tip of the sword, and on closer inspection it seemed likely that I had overheated this part of the blade during the forge welding. This presented a quandary as I did not want to start the blade again due to the significance held with both swords being made from the same steel, but I also could not satisfactorily finish and deliver a sword with such flaws.

So it became clear to me that I needed to repair this sword.

Many ancient blades exhibit evidence of having been reforged or welded at some point during their life. The sagas tell us that breakages were a fairly common outcome of sword fighting and craftsman of the day had to repair those blades deemed too valuable to simply discard as broken.

This is quite an achievement as a sword that breaks in use is a sword that has been finished, has been ground and polished and is thus- thin. Too thin perhaps for most smiths of any era to confidently re- forge weld flawlessly to condition that the blade can be re-hardened, re- polished and returned to use. But, this they did.

With this is mind I began preparing for the repair which firstly involved making more folded steel.

The damaged area of the tip was cut off and the folded steel was forged and divided into two pieces, each piece being carefully formed to the tapering shape of the new tip.
The new steel was welded very carefully as a single misplaced hammer blow would leave an impression beyond what could be removed with careful grinding and polishing.

This was perhaps the most intense 20 minutes of forging I have ever done and I am proud to say that the result was a flawless weld that is as strong, if not stronger than the rest of the sword.

The fact that this area welded so well can be seen in the final polish and etch of the blade, where the decorative grain of the sword suddenly changes to the new steel. The contrast has to be looked for to be found but is an element of detail unique to the life story of this blade and I feel adds to the sense of history this sword.

Careful etching reveals the subtle character of the steel.

The hilt on this sword was a lot more intricate and involved than the hilt parts of the first sword. The pommel is loosely inspired by type B as if tapers in two directions. The rough form was forged and hot punched with a drift that was the clone of the tang, ensuring a tight fit with no need for fettling.

The top and bottom guard were to be overlaid with brass and copper. This challenging technique was very popular form of hilt embellishment for centuries and involves the careful preparation of hundreds of grooves, undercut and inlaid with wire. The wire is then planished (hammered with a small hammer with a polished face) this method spreads the wires until they butt up against each other.

Eventually, the entire surface of the guards was covered in this way.

To commemorate the repair or healing of this blade I inlayed this symbol into the pommel.

A wooden core was made from Pear wood, this will be wrapped with brass wire to add another layer of detail and decoration.

The power of these objects can only really felt when there seen together, as a pair.


As whole as these look, they aren’t yet fixed together. The peening of the tang is left to the very last moment to allow for small adjustments. When this final act has been finished, the swords are together, one object made from many pieces. They come to life at this point their balance is final and they finally feel like a sword.


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