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Sean Manning

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Everything posted by Sean Manning

  1. What kind of wrought iron is it? 19th/early 20th century iron or modern bloomery iron? I hear that some of the first kind can be nasty to work with, but modern bloomers find that good soft iron is hard to make.
  2. I find that maker communities online often feel right for me. Maybe because to make something good with your hands, you have to accept the limits of your skill and your knowledge? And its hard to slip into 'all talk and no action.' The social media era does fund people like Tod or Dimicator do to cool research that academic institutions won't fund and rich patrons won't fund. But I don't think that the personalistic kind of marketing which social media reward is right for me or for many of the makers I respect.
  3. The ArmourArchive thread Traditional Armor Finishing Processes might be helpful, it has primary sources and posts by people like Robert Macpherson.
  4. http://myarmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=37332&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=100 It has the same aggressive distal taper in the first 15-20 cm, which fades to a gentler distal taper for most of the length of the blade, as the early 17th century rapiers in Vienna measured by two Austrian rapier fencers. Quoting the owner, Adam Simmons:
  5. There are some things where the videos of the smartphone era are very helpful. Today we can watch people in Turkey or Pakistan who practiced a craft since childhood practice it! We don't have to learn everything from other amateurs or old books. Without videos we might still believe that medieval helmets were raised like coppersmith's work not squashed by teams of beaters or trip-hammers. But I also find that when I want factual information from the Internet, its usually either a site by a major institution, or an 'early web' site or forum. FB etc. are useless as places for finding information or having conversations with knowledgeable people.
  6. I can't think of anyone sensible who boosts ideas like "a good sword should be able to chop down a 3" tree without damage!" but for random people on the Internet to push back against a giant, well-funded media machine is not a fair fight! There was a period when YT wanted a lot of "pointy things" vloggers, and then a period when they demonetarized most of them. A lot of history vloggers are moving to independent sites because mentioning Axis atrocities or showing dead bodies in a WW II documentary can get them put behind an age-restriction wall and hidden from searches. A three-person media company vs. Google is not a fight they can win, even many of those tiny companies join together.
  7. Darrell Markewitz of Wareham Forge has some rants about social media culture and the culture of turning everything into a side hustle before you have learned the craft on his blog https://warehamforgeblog.blogspot.com/search/label/comentary I miss the open Internet too, and it was really important for people in rural areas or stuck at home, but all I have energy for these days is keeping up my sites and behaving in ways which make sense to me. And haven't we all told ourselves that we are wasting too much time in front of a computer and should get up and make something? I notice quite a few thoughtful sword people like Maciej K pushing back against ideas from shows like Forged in Fire, but it feels like bailing the Titanic with a teaspoon.
  8. Denis Topal has some well-illustrated articles on western akinakai in English (ResearchGate). Here is some data on one from a dealer in Iran. The style of decoration and the ring pommels on the small knives said 'eastern steppes' to me.
  9. Now that I can't rightly say, usually photos and museums give a 'side on' view so it can be hard to see details like that. I have seen medieval knives where the end of the tang was just bent over the butt of the handle, and occasionally a full-length whittle tang / hidden tang is peened over a button or an end plate for a little extra decoration. Wade Allen has a selection of originals from the Thames and the Netherlands here (link) but he's more of an armour person. The Met has this one with a snazzy rock crystal handle (link). The fun thing with European knives from this period is that there are so many blade shapes and handle constructions and types of decoration, you can usually find something you like to inspire a project.
  10. Enjoy! I don't see a lot of modern knives with that grip construction, it could be a fun way to use up some scraps of brass sheet and bone / horn (or something from the local gem and stone show). I fixed the link to the 'theory' article with diagrams. Edit: here is a link to the photoblog on how he makes those many-part grips. He cuts the holes for the tang in all the grip elements and stacks them, inserts the blade, peens it if it has a full-length tang and glues it if it has a short tang, then files the handle to shape.
  11. The Viennese bloggers at https://neuesausdergotik.blogspot.com/p/messerertisch.html have a series of posts on their replica knife projects. They concentrate on Austria in the 13th and early 14th century and on the style of knife most associated with that place and time: whittle tang / hidden tang / Griffangel knives with the handle assembled from many discs of different materials (Griffplättchentechnik). If you read German, the knifemaker has a good post on the development of the Griffplättchentechnik which is clearer and more complete on this style of knife than some of the academic studies I have read. If you don't, you can enjoy projects like a big stabbing knife and this knife with a carved handle.
  12. If you're interested in medieval European knives, you probably know Cowgill et al.'s book on knives from London and the Archaeology of York volumes on early medieval and late medieval knives from Coppergate, York. A little less famous in the English-speaking world is a PhD thesis by Gerhard Folke Wulf Holtmann. It covers 1300 knives from the Netherlands, both Germanies, Poland, the western former USSR, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The typology is a bit opaque (88 categories with names like IIIb1.1 which become 17 Auswertungsgruppen!) and the drawings are not as nice as in Cowgill's book, but it has lots of measurements and it has some types of knife which were missing at London and York. It also has more big knives for whatever reason. I wish the author had been able to turn it into a book because it seemed like he was rethinking his typology but ran out of time. Gerhard Folke Wulf Holtmann, Untersuchung zu mittelalterlichen und frühneuzeitlichen Messern. Dissertationsschrift, Fachbereich Historisch-Philologische Wissenschaften, Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen (1994) http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-1735-0000-000D-F215-B
  13. From what I have read (and I am not an archaeometallurgist just someone with high-school physics and chemistry who tries to read the literature) we still can't push quenched steels much back before Philon of Byzantion around 250 BCE and the La Tenè sword that Peter Connolly saw. And in Luristan the same people seem to have been working bronze and iron. What I don't know is if the Near Eastern and Greek mines had anything like the "phosphorous irons" in northern Europe which get harder than mild steels without quenching. The Italian, Greek, and Iranian iron just has not found its Pleiner yet :( I just don't know why we see long swords in Assyria, Greece, and Halstatt early in the Iron Age then they fall out of fashion after 700-600 BCE as iron technology is improving. Or why Roman infantry swords get shorter as Rome gets richer with smaller armies and better iron industries.
  14. There are also issues with what happens to iron when it has been in the ground for so long which I don't understand, the archaeometallurgists throw around terms like mineralization. And the way the rust eats away at the surfaces and the thin parts, which is where we would expect them to put the hardest iron and any quenching to have the most effect, is tough. I might be able to scrape up some grant money for X-rays, CT-scans, or archaeometallurgical tests in the early-2020s ... but I don't want to be the kind of academic who walks into the salle or the shop, walks out a few months later and announces that they are experts with important insights because they made six knives or learned six cuts :)
  15. Thanks Alan. One reason I posted here is that Jeroen Z. still hangs out here (he has come over to the dark side of that other metal!) It would be great if one of the primitive smelting folks like Lee Sauder could write up a book (or if Peter Johnsson could finish his!) The thing is, I am an armour and textiles person, so I would have to cut one of the trades I already practice out of my life to learn another (grinding a couple of blades out of mild steel or 1045 or taking an evening class in blacksmithing is one thing, but that just does not make you a bladesmith any more than taking one first-aid class makese you a nurse- and to do primitive smelting you really need a house with tolerant neighbours and a truck). So I am interested in what I should be looking for and measuring. Sometimes people don't think to describe the cross-section and how the thickness of the blade changes from the hilt to the point, and if you don't measure that while you are there other people can't see it in photos. It seems like a lot of people who have handled original swords find that they are thicker in the spine and thinner near the point than they expect. So that is why I am interested in hearing what about the three-dimensional shape of swords people wish the books and articles described. The size and metallurgy of early swords are topics where what I see in the site reports and the catalogues and the metallurgical reports does not match our preconceptions. The early iron swords and knives from the Aegean which Effi Photos studied had carbon contents averaging around 0.1-0.4% in the blades (with a lot of variety!) So far I have not seen any sword-blades as soft and low-carbon as some of the ones from northern Europe (the Assyrians were churning out hundreds of tons of soft iron for everyday use, but so far I have not found weapons made of the stuff). There have not been a lot of metallurgical studies, and some of them like the ones by Cyril Stanley Smith are very early, but the old guys could tell the difference between slaggy iron and carburized slaggy iron. One of the things I am puzzling over is that between 100 BCE and 100 CE, Roman infantry swords get shorter as Rome gets richer, replaces its mass conscript army with a small professional army, and absorbs the ironworking cultures of the Alps and Thrace (from about 65 cm of blade to about 45 cm). Everyone talks about the sword from Delos but this one from Egypt is much better preserved (the archaeologist who published it in 1910 thought it was Persian!) And early on, when you would expect the smelters had the worst problems with quality control, is when we see some of the biggest swords. If swords were as big as they could make them given the available materials, they would be getting longer over time. Its just like how swords in Greece lose the gold and silver and ivory decorations in the same period that Greece gets richer with more access to materials from distant lands. So they must have been considering several factors when they chose to make most of their swords small, like desired price-point and the type of fighting they expected. I notice that often happens in the history of technology: people take an improved technique and use it to make much cheaper but slightly worse products.
  16. In my academic work I come across information about western ferrous swords in the middle of the first millennium BCE. There seem to be a lot of misconceptions about these in the English-speaking world, partly because they are located in places like Greece, Iraq, and Iran not Sweden and Wales, partially because they are just so old and so badly corroded, partially because they didn't leave us the stories that went with the swords. (So far the metallurgy is not so exciting but we don't have our Pleiner yet: akinakes and lancehead with Gärbenkonstruktion). But I have seen swords from this period more than a metre long in the same graves, rivers, and temple deposits as the normal-sized swords! If anything the ones around 700 BCE tend to be bigger than the ones around 400! And there are swords with square cross-sections in the forte to go alongside the lenticular and flattened diamond shapes with fullers or medial ridges which you would expect. So they were thinking of something when they made most of their swords relatively short, and they are not all wide flexible cutting blades. But I am not a bladesmith or a blade grinder or primitive smelter, just a historian who fences a bit. What should I be reading so I can see more when I stare at the photos and archaeological drawings and hopefully later the actual artefacts in museums? - there are the 'connoisseur'/collector kind of books by people like Oakeshott that sometimes let things slip like 'this shape of blade is a bit flexible on the thrust' - Patrick Kelly's "Understanding Blade Properties" http://myarmoury.com/feature_properties.html - Peter Johnsson's talk "Paradoxes of Sword Design" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyAc5HbUuqw - Vincent le Chevalier's site (which is a bit oriented to people who already have the sword or a replica in hand) - and of course handling and sketching as many old swords as you can is always good! (and trying to reproduce them if that is your thing) Sword and knife people on the Internet throw around terms like appleseed and hatchet point and secondary bevel which I am sure make sense to them when they can pass the blade across the table and show what they mean but that I never learned. Is there any information that you always wish archaeologists would write up when they publish blades? (Again, keeping in mind that these are twice as old as "Viking swords" and mostly more oxide than iron and there are not a lot of nice muddy lakes in Greece or Iran- slapping one end of the blade and watching the vibrations is not in the cards). I don't see the same things that a blacksmith or an archaeometallurgist sees, but I would like to get some information on these swords out where sword people can appreciate it.
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