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James Simonds

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  1. here is the one i made at his class. a really worthwhile expenditure i assure you! it was partly for fun, partly as research for my books. if i am writing about a bladesmith i thought i should know about it first hand. makes writing about Norse smithing a lot easier when you have hand made some pattern welded steel yourself. very happy with my desk ornament i am too.
  2. I am fortunate enough to be fulfilling a childhood (who am i kidding, lifelong) dream. I am having a sword made for me by some truly talented craftsmen. They don't need much introduction to anyone immersed in the world of bladesmithing, and i'm not going to try and speak for them. if you are lucky they might say a little here and there about this project themselves. Owen Bush I know because i took two courses at his most excellent school of bladesmithing in east london. I was already mulling this project over before i met him but i hadnt decided on the details or on who i wanted to make it. I only knew that i needed someone very familiar with historical pattern welding techniques and patterns, and someone with a passion and love for history and a little of the fantasy edge. We spent about an hour during my week long pattern welded seax class discussing the correct length of seax for killing various types of Troll in various situations. (the conclusion was my seax was correctly sized and designed for new-borns, sleeping, with parents out gathering villagers for food). After that week, i knew i had found the right man for the job. i think owen has a little of that Norse dwarven-smith blood in his veins. who better to forge a mythical Norse Sword? Petr Florianek i know only from his work and reputation. Owen was adamant, if i wanted a superbly fitted out and decorated blade from him, Petr was the man to share the project with. I have looked at what examples of his work i can find, and i cannot dissagree! Petr makes some absolutely gorgeous swords, he has a longstanding history of collaboration with Owen to produce some wonderful historical and fantasy blades. he is just finishing one at the moment and it is stunning. check it out on his instagram: gullinbursti_pf So, a little about the project. This isn't just any reproduction viking sword. This is a sword with a song to sing, a story to tell, a name and a 'history'. As well as being a new amateur bladesmith (you can find some of my work gumming up the 'show and tell' thread) I am also a part time author. I have been planning a series of historical fiction, based in an alternate reality of the viking age, for some time. I won't go into the books or the story too much here, this is a bladesmithing forum after all, but i will tell a little of the story of the sword, probably bit by bit as it is being made. we shall see. The sword is named 'The Light of the North'. It is a bright blade, made for dark times. The sword is carefully designed to tell the story of the time is was made, the features, pattern in the steel, the guard, the hilt, all play their part in telling that story. how it does this will be explained as we go along. This sword was made (so the saga says) by a famous smith fighting for the Northmen against invading forces from mainland Europe. with his world being destroyed he makes one final blade and then casts his hammer down, swearing never to make another until the north is freed again. His masterpiece, his final blade, will come to be a symbol of his people and a talisman in the resistance against the foreign foes. the legend says that as long as the sword is wielded by a loyal Northman, their people have a future. So, this is no ordinary sword. I will be exploring a little more of the 'history' of this blade and the meaning of its design as the project slowly moves forwards. Owen started some test pieces for the blade this week so I am getting my first excited look at some of the patterns that might end up in the blade. its like being a child at Christmas I can tell you. What are those patterns for and what do they represent? what materials will be used? how will they be assembled? Stay tuned for the answers... or for pretty pictures of a superb sword being made, whichever interests you!
  3. James Simonds


    Its unlikely to be indian. the indians used various versions of the British lee enfield from the late 1800's to almost present day. and that isnt an enfield bayonet. it doesnt look like a european type bayonet mounting at all, not from the major powers anyway. i cant rule out there is some eastern european rifle i have never seen that has that huge parralel lug on it. interesting find.
  4. James Simonds

    180 mm Feather pattern Gyuto (WIP)

    John, as someone who just made a feather pattern chef's knife. Wow! that pattern is so beautiful and subtle. it is patterns inside of patterns. mine was very stark and basic (as i specified, i was going for a very bold aesthetic with my flared tip and bright blue handle etc.) and yours is just the other end of the spectrum. All grace and subtlety. what a lovely Knife.
  5. James Simonds

    Eccentric Kitchen knife set

    rovtar forge in croatia. and yes, its very nice looking. also, works well too. well balanced and good weight, head size and form seems to work well. the edges are very nicely shaped and i can use them well for peening. it is the hammer i used for 80% of the above work. yeah, it was a nightmare with 3 of the 4 billets. both big ones split badly and i had to work around them. i think at first we were simply powerhammering too hard, causing too much lateral stress at the junction between what had and had not been hammered. i think alternating drawing out hits with upsetting hits could have helped. anyway, manged to get away with it. one of the blades had a tang that split like a tuning fork, but we bashed it back together and welded it up, its got brass finish, which is lucky, because it wouldnt take an etch now!
  6. James Simonds

    Eccentric Kitchen knife set

    So, with that prototype done, i moved onto the wedding set. i wont go into so much detail because of the similarities. here is a quick photo progression of the build and the end results. the set is a paring knife, a chef's knife and a carving knife (which will also be the cake cutting knife). firstly the steel. here is what i started with, 2 of each. feather pattern, simple and beautiful for a swept profile knife like these. The handle material is ash burl with swirly blue resin. super cool, dont know the maker as it was supplied through a middleman. Drew them out and basic profile under a powerhammer. however, i did as much forging as i could by hand, because i just enjoy it much more. Chef's knife and: Carving knife And then i drew out the tangs, finished the profile, stretched the blades out and hammered in the bevels by hand. i even hammered in the plunge line on the carver, because why not. it didnt all go perfectly. here is me having a 'man, i don't need that much tang' moment and an 'ah, that is pretty bad' moment. (i manged to save this billet, just cut around the failure and worked out just fine. that is the chef's knife now, its just smaller than intended) Starting to see the pattern come out in the forge scale. innit pretty? then, blades are forged in rough and ready for heat treatment paring knife makes an appearance: and the whole set, including hunting knife and bowie knife blanks that i made from other bits because, you know, the forge was hot and i like hammering. dont judge me ok! the one at the bottom is a scriber that i made from the offcut of that blade with the split in it. and very cool it is too. Post hardening and that cool pattern starts to emerge. to the grinders! i wont bother showing pictures of grinding. we all know what sparks and dust look like. so, approximately 4.2 years of grinding later (8 straight hours) The chef's knife has no mini integral bolster, the material i needed for that had to be cut off because of the split. the paring knife also developed a crack in heat treating, but right near the top edge. i turned this into the 'feature' of those little shaped cut outs, which i really like. i might do them again deliberately! turning problems into features is a linking part of this whole project. Taped up, handles rough burned on, ready for finishing and. yes, the carving knife does have a flaw in the centre. yes i did cry for a while. no, i decided not to throw it away as it seems to be stable. obviously for a outdoors knife, a chopper, a bowie that flaw would be terminal. for a cake knife? its ok. with the block handles and rough copper bolsters Detail here of that quirky double plungeline/mini integral bolster thing i am doing. its odd yes, but i like it. i tell you something, its either a lot of fun to grind, or a total pain, depending on your perspective! And now, all major stock removal done on the handles/bolsters but still rough. blades finished, brassed and etched Then handles 95% finished and done in the forge. more finishing to be done back home. some nice parting shots in the forge for 6 days of hard, hard work. (does this forum have a picture per post limit? lets find out) including the other stuff i did (2 part finished blades with wooden handles needed re-finishing, the bowie has a rough handle not shown here), here is the full results from those 6 days. not a bad haul at all eh? So, after a bit more work, edging, fine sanding etc. insert mental drumroll tada! Still actually need to tidy up the finish on the handles (re-shape the top one, because its too blocky and big in the hand), and possibly play with the etch (re-etch the centre one because the etch finish was damaged by an errant edge grind slip up), but we are nearly there. Need to polish those handles too, to make them super deep and lustrous. all in all a very satisfying set to make, super happy with the result. shout out to Dave Budd, whose workshop i used and who kept a eye on me and helped me not make a mistake i couldn't come back from. The style of these blades is very odd, with the combination of feather, blue/burl handles, brassing, temper colours, odd double plunge lines etc. but hey, unique is often good? they are so nice i might struggle to give them to my sister. that is going to be a tough one. As a bonus extra: what did i do with all the offcuts i hear you ask? i made a set of marking tools: a sort of kiridashi type thing (before and after etch, because its so shiny) A ground and etched centre punch (god i love this one, the pattern lines up so perfect its unreal) A forge finish centre punch, very different, and very cool. only ground the ends and etched lightly. so that shape is 95% hammered in and a double ended scribe/marker thing. Massive post i know, but that wasnt even all of it. 11 'things' made in total in one extended session. might update when some of them are 100% finished and polished and loved a little more. if you read this far, you are a champion sir. i have no idea how to get rid of this photo below, its an attachment i made by accident and it wont die!
  7. James Simonds

    Eccentric Kitchen knife set

    Long post alert!!! you were warned. I have nearly completed my third project: a collection of Kitchen knives. They are a set of 3, and then 1 individual knife. This took a bit under 2 weeks in various forges, spread over 4 months. its very much a labour of love (and expense) for someone without their own workshop. I also used offcuts and spare billets to knock together some other blades and a set of tools. because you dont waste good damascus! All the steel is supplied as pattern welded billets to specification by Mick Maxen and its gorgeous stuff. The set of 3 knives are feather Damascus and are a wedding gift for my younger sister. the individual one is for me. so, here goes: Blade 1: Double twist pattern/stabilised yew handle chef's knife This was my 2nd ever kitchen knife. my first was showcased in a thread called 'porkbane'. this blade was intended to be a full size chef's knife and i wanted it to be super thin, a real laser. however, due to a mistake/failure in forging, i wasn't able to get the full depth into the back of the blade near the tang. so it has ended up as a sort of medium knife with an unusual profile. despite this, I very much like it where it ended up. it has some unique features that i will continue to use. in fact, I haven't seen another knife exactly like it before. The build is quite complex and i made some major changes half way through when i was not happy with the outcome. so i will go through it. The knife started out as a two day build, relatively straightforward. Yew handle with a plain finished blade. the only complication was i decided to try a sort of miniature/half integral bolster and a large raised flat shoulder/ricasso area. My reasoning for this is that i dont like stick tang kitchen knives very much, the joint between blade and handle is often unsatisfying (when just blade and handle, not with any 'intermediate' component). I also wanted to have the separating shoulder area to give somewhere to pinch grip the behind the blade, and to give space underneath the handle of this relatively narrow blade for the forefinger. both so you can really slice comfortably in both main techniques with it, despite its smallish size. so, it was all about ergonomics. The handle/mini bolster is done by milling a slot into the end of the handle. it gives a really nice fit and also looks good. however, i was unsatisfied with the plain wood/steel transition shown above. it was nice but it just didnt blow me away or have the wow factor. I thought about it for a while then re-made the handle, re-finished the steel and re-etched with more contrast. it now looks like this. So. there are 2 obvious changes. I added a copper bolster to the front of the handle. this really looks superb against the yew i think, and also gives a much nicer transition to the blade. i peened the end of the bolster to there is no gap at all and its a cool aesthetic. no gap filling with glue required and its a nice effect. The second change is the finish on the blade. I wanted to have a contrast between the etched blade and the shoulder area. the plain brushed steel of the first 'attempt' didn't quite do it for me. it was nice, but it wasn't quite there. so, i heated and brassed the shoulder, very carefully, so that the temper colours extend almost to the edge of the shoulder. man, i love this effect. it came out so much better than i hoped. the brassing is hand done with a wire brush, so its uneven and fades in, like pain brush strokes. the temper colours are loud and contour really well to the plunge line. its so pretty. The mini/partial integral boster has a second large plunge line and this sweeps up towards the copper and includes some left over forging marks, which i like, gives it that hand made stamp. this photo shows it rough and unfinished, but you get the idea. faceted and geometrically shaped handle, more refined now than it was then. Anyway. the knife is now complete and etched and handle re-shaped and the copper polished to a shine. the etched pattern is extremely cool. a multi layered bar twisted with a low layered bar to give this river of tight twist in the middle, with these 'bites' of low layer along the edges. something that again i dont think i've seen before. all credit to Mick Maxen for that, it was his idea and the billet was flawless. I dont have a photo of the edge/thickness because frankly its just a bit think to photograph but its pretty thin, very flexible and laser sharp. by the plungeline the spine is 1.5mm, near the tip its 0.5 with a consistent taper in between. the edge was sub 0.2mm before putting the edge on with a slack belt. I love the bright unetched edge against the darker metal. The final feature is a custom mosaic pin with a copper hop leaf in, which is associated with my old family business. the pin doesnt hold the tang on obviously, its just decorative and adds a lot to the look of the handle. overall, this knife made my day/month/year. i love it. i expect the brassing will diminish and tarnish after a while (although its still fine 2 months on), and that and the temper colours will be fragile (and impossible to repair, the handle is epoxied on), however, the 'aged' look might be nice. if not, i will just polish the shoulder clean as per the original design. I then used this as the prototype for the 'wedding' set, which i will post next. love to know what people think, have they tried these 'odd' features before (long shoulder, brassing, temper colours, semi integral bolster) and what do they think of them.
  8. James Simonds

    Sheffield forging hammers

    It looks pretty hefty. he is a small man, so its hard to tell, but perhaps 5lb, a bit more?. if you have been swinging a hammer for 60 years a suspect you are most efficient with something that size even if you are a small guy.
  9. James Simonds

    Sheffield forging hammers

    You seen this video? possible its well known on this site, dont know, worth watching for those that havent. The last Sheffield bladesmith, using exactly the type of hammer you have there, with remarkable speed and skill. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpeyhC-UIFg
  10. James Simonds

    Southern England bladesmiths

    Allan That isn't outrageously far away. not exactly somewhere i can pop down for an hour or two! but doable for a day. James
  11. James Simonds

    ChickenBane - Hybrid Kitchen cleaver project

    Well, if you have a titanium Seiko chronograph then quite possibly yes! lovely watch. is half the weight it looks, barely notice it on my wrist but doesn't look 'small' and dainty.
  12. My latest foray into creative knife design led me to this creation. I wanted to design a knife that would be useful as a slicer and chopper of meat but also have a really bold aesthetic look. A classic Chef's knife simply wouldn't do on that front. I didn't just want to make a cleaver as I wanted a lightweight knife. So, after much scratching of heads and bad sketching on Anvils behold: ChickenBane! A fearsome blade whose silly name (suggested as a joke but too good not to keep) belies a near certainty that it will be ideal for precisely nothing except being really good looking. too light to be a cleaver, too clumsy to be a chef's knife, too curved to perfectly slice meat on a board but just right for posting on the internet. I think it will make a great herb chopper. A meticulously shaped handle of walnut, bone and horn that is curved underneath and faceted top and rear, all blended together into pleasing geometric shapes with precise meeting points of lines that will make any OCD sufferer (like me) relaxed. this handle has combined being slightly uncomfortable on the heel of the hand while slicing with being slightly too slim in the belly for good control when chopping. A triumph of form over function! A profiled front and spine reminiscent of an ancient galley prow looks graceful and flowing, but shows that while that shape might be great at slicing through waves, its probably not ideal for pushing through onions. So, a positive spin on a slightly failed experiment. wont be repeating this exact design. but then again it was a lot of fun to make and gosh i do like looking at it. In ChickenBane's defence, its not useless, It's straight as an arrow, has flawless twisted patterned steel (thanks Owen bush!) and sharp as a diamond. its just not particularly good at anything except posing.
  13. James Simonds

    early medieval steel. to bloom or not to bloom?

    Alan Super! thanks for the clarifications there. I did read some of the bits on here about different bloomer processes but i was/am really not able to piece the subtleties together into one unifying theory that makes sense in a way i can present to a layman audience but that will also not cause rolled eyes for those who know more about it. its a delicate balance. apart from anything else, different sources do seem to directly conflict but that is the internet for you! The idea that fast and charcoal heavy vaguely = more steel and slow and lower ratio = more pure iron is a nice base to start from. its so hard to compare videos when people are describing their input as 'a bucket per whatsit' or talking about fine tuning the balance and reductions of various impurities that the Norse would have known nothing about in scientific terms. I'm equal parts sad and relieved to know we don't really know what the answer is to this time period. to be more specific for context as to why i am looking so late in the viking era, the book is an alternate history where the Norse reject (violently) christianisation. its an exploration of what might have happened if the Nordic culture wasn't slowly subsumed in that way. so in my world, their ways of swordsmithing are retained for longer and merged with the advances in western blade design typified by the move from Oakshotte X to XI and XII. I would love to see what a XIa blade for example would look like if it was pattern welded and decorated/hilted by a Norse smith. so, thats what i am doing and why its so important i can believably piece together how exactly that would have been made. its a puzzle. Interesting that my understanding of blister steel seems to be wrong. I thought the process saw repeated hammering and re-heating of the same piece to thicken the steel layer and i saw at least one source that said they would separate the steel from the base iron by hammering it till it cracked off. maybe I am confusing that with what you describe as the combining of multiple carburised pieces. The observation about bog ore is interesting. i was reading about that, fascinating that they can literally harvest iron from bogs and then after a generation re-harvest from the same place, like a sort of ultra slow growing crop. Either way, my fictional Norse smithy is based in Uppsala in the lowlands of Sweden and i believe that at the time they were already using the high-quality iron ore available in that region, or at least partly using it. i wonder if anyone know what process that ore is most suitable for? i suspect it would be suitable for straight bloomery steel? or perhaps they would have to then do a secondary process, surface hardening or hearth smelting. Hmmm. fascinating stuff. I think i am leaning towards my Norse smith in the swedish lowlands making pattern welded swords from carefully separated (by steel grade) parts of blooms and my germanic smith using more mass produced blister type steel. Although, maybe i will include the hearth process in there for the Norse smithy. i like it for its simplicity, the historical evidence of it being made in a very local, distributed way fits in with the story although i am not sure how valuable pattern welding is to hearth smelted steel. would it not be mostly decorative at that point? or does the hearth smelted steel still vary a lot and markedly improve from folding?
  14. Hello I am a new amateur bladesmith and also writing a historical fiction book about the late viking age. The story centers on a smith from lower saxony taught in the western swordsmithing ways who ends up in Uppsala in the Norse kingdom of sweden learning about Norse swordsmithing and then creating a fusion between the two styles which i find very interesting. (thats not the main part of the story, its a side note but i want it to be beleivable). I am trying to make my book relatively historically accurate, or as i said, believable. This is not a scholarly work and i am not splitting hairs over the minor differences between hammer shapes or whatever, i am looking at the big picture. correct period and location sword/axe/spear/seax design and use etc. I have been researching this all very thoroughly, going as far as to forge my own seax with Owen Bush (there is a post somewhere about that). i am very comfortable about the differences in Norse and Western european weapon design etc. and the forging process. What i am utterly struggling with, and i am clearly not alone, is how the two different areas made and used their steel. I assumed it was pretty much known how medieval weapons were made in terms of metallurgy and process. i knew vaguely about bloomery steel, de-carburising and fining in general. but my recent research has turned up so much conflicting information about steel production and use that i feel like i have lost track of what is right. so, with that context, i am hoping you fine folk can help me out. and yes, i have read some other threads on this forum already but again, the often confused me more than helped in this particular case! this is because they mostly focus on what is possible, i want to know what was done at this specific moment and place in time. Here is what i think is my understanding of it and my main gaps. Norse 11th century swords were often pattern welded from a mixture of various grades of steels and irons. this was because the material was variable and mixing it in this way guaranteed a pretty good average effective material property and a blade without random weaknesses. also, it was developed into a visual art form. for things like axes, they often welded a steel edge onto an iron body. probably to reduce steel use. Germanic/frank 11th century swords were not pattern welded. they 'may' have been single piece iron (lower quality ones) or forge welded bars with low carbon centres and high carbon edges/exterior. some may simply have been single peice mono medium or higher carbon steel (fancy ones). I think all that is correct. Here is the problem. how did they get that steel and was it a different process in each area or a mix? i have heard so many different theories and i cant get to the bottom of which is correct. please note i am NOT talking about imported crucible steel from asia, Ulberht swords etc. i am talking about indigenously smelted and forged blades. 1. Blister steel. wrought iron was heated with a carbon source and forged, repeatedly, until a decent outer layer was hardenable steel. OR allowed to crack and the layers of steel harvested for further processing or forge welding. i get the impression this might be later than 11th centruy. could a german smelter have been using this? doesnt seem to be evidence that Norse smiths were using this process. 2. crucible steel. some sources swear the Europeans were using this technique in the early middle ages. i am far from convinced. this seems dubious at best. either way, you dont pattern weld crucible steel surely? 3. Bloomery steel. I cannot get to the bottom (and this is why it is my main question) of whether you can reliably get sword making quality steel from the bloomer furnace or not. i have watched a dozen videos, talked to lots of people and read articles and websites. the bloomery iron process is clear but most sources say this method as done in the middle ages produces pretty much pure (low carbon) iron for making wrought iron, that is then later processed into steel. However, some also swear blind that they could make ready to use steel by this process (after all, the japanese method essentially yields bloomery steel but with very different raw materials). some also say that you often get steel on top of the bloom, iron in the middle and something near cast iron at the base so the Norse smiths would take these different materials and mix them, hence the pattern welding. If they did use bloomery steel, how was the process different to getting bloomery wrought iron? different conditions? different types of fuel or furnace? different understandings? what is the truth here? its blowing my mind trying to get definitive evidence of this being used for steel production in the time and location i am interested in. It is clear that bloomery iron was made in both Norse and Germanic lands during this time, the question is, was bloomery steel in either? 4. Hearth forge. you take your wrought iron bloom and heat it with a lot of charcoal in the different furnace design with the shorter tower etc. and you increase the charcoal/iron ratio to create a carbon rich atmosphere. the result is a higher carbon bloom. So, can anyone help we decide on this question before i commit e-pen to e-paper about the different smithys my protagonist works in? many thanks
  15. James Simonds

    Southern England bladesmiths

    Joshua, considered it every way i can. i have a small garden with neighbours all round. noise is the main issue and there is no way around it. also i want to use a decent setup rather than a total minimalist one. i like having a proper anvil and space around it etc.