Jump to content
Petr Florianek

Langsax research

Recommended Posts

I started conversation with Jeroen, as i respect him as authority on saxes. We thought that it would be great to share fruits of it so i made this thread.

 

My questions were (but many more will come, as i plan to make this weapon sooner or later (better sooner)

 

I think that i want to make something with metal rings on handle like in Jessenwang example. But i also saw some pictures of simillar saxes from Britain, you mentioned Mortlake, but it terribly hard to get some info on net.

I expect they could be in use up to 9th century, according the dating of stuttgart psalter. is that ok?

What would be a median (average) dimensions?

I really love the long handle, would be 30 cm extreme? or better 25?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would like to know something about blade construction...

welded on edge? sandwiched? I think about those non pattern welded, no sawtooth welded

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I started conversation with Jeroen, as i respect him as authority on saxes. We thought that it would be great to share fruits of it so i made this thread.

 

My questions were (but many more will come, as i plan to make this weapon sooner or later (better sooner)

 

I think that i want to make something with metal rings on handle like in Jessenwang example. But i also saw some pictures of simillar saxes from Britain, you mentioned Mortlake, but it terribly hard to get some info on net.

I expect they could be in use up to 9th century, according the dating of stuttgart psalter. is that ok?

Roughly around 800, they seem to go out of use on the continent. However, in the UK, they develope into the broken back style long sax, which continuous to be used up until the 10-11th century. I know of two broken back style long saxes from the Netherlands. They are described as possible imports, though naturally it may be possible that they were in use here still, just not as common anymore. Regarding the long sax in the Stuttgart psalter, this may be a very late curved back long sax, or it could already be a broken back style variant. Worthwile noting is that of 340pages of the psalter, only two show a long sax, all others double edged swords. Also worthwile noting is that there are also two pictures of Honeylane style broken back saxes, so the broken back shape was in use at the time the psalter was drawn.

 

What would be a median (average) dimensions?

Below is an overview of sax lengths gathered from various sources by Michael Merkel (ref. "Das fruhmittelalterliche Graberfeld von Altheim, Stadt Blieskastel, Saar-Pfalz-Kreis; Dissertation zur Erlangung des Doktorgrades der Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftlichen Fakultat der Christian-Albrechts-Universitat zu Kiel", Michael Merkel, Hamburg 2004)

 

sax_dimensions_Das_fruhmittelalterliche_graberfeld_von_Altheim_Michael_Merkel.jpg

 

Thicknesses are not mentioned in there, but in "Untersuchungen an Langsaxen aus niederländischen Sammlungen" by Westphal IIRC shows thicknesses ranging 5-9mm.

 

I really love the long handle, would be 30 cm extreme? or better 25?

I would go for about 22-24cm personally. One long sax reconstruction shows a hilt of well over 30cm, but I think that may be rather extreme (although there are broad saxes with tangs over 25cm, so there it may have been possible). With 22-24cm it seems fairly safe IMO, as you can fit the Jessenwang hilt in it, and it matches some lengths of other saxes. It's difficult to make any conclusion on hilt length range, aside from using the tangs as minimum, and the maximum preserved length as maximum.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would like to know something about blade construction...

welded on edge? sandwiched? I think about those non pattern welded, no sawtooth welded

In "Untersuchungen an Langsaxen aus niederländischen Sammlungen", some long saxes are described as having no visible welds, so made from the same steel or iron all the way through. However, at the welds top to bottom, not side to side. Some cross-sections of langsaxes show complex constructions both top to bottom and side to side. I'll post pictures of this later.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, I have read that on the picture with Jessenwang sax. But it would be very unusual to have sax all steel in 8th century and not very practical (while possible) to have it all iron.

As these blades are long and broad, i would expect sandwiched construction to avoid bending. But that is only my conclusion... Logic is the best way how to make mistakes :-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, I have read that on the picture with Jessenwang sax. But it would be very unusual to have sax all steel in 8th century and not very practical (while possible) to have it all iron.

Not very practical, but sometimes it's all you have :) Although in the Jessenwang sax, I think it's unlikely that a sax with gilded silver bands on the hilt would have had an all iron blade, particularly one as long and thin as this one. Mind though that even with all steel, when only the edge is hardened due to either the shallow hardening of the steel or a forced hamon, you still have a large part of the blade in soft condition. The hardened edge won't do much against bending strength of the blade. Unhardended steel is still a fair bit stronger then pure iron, so it still adds to the bending strength, although far less compared to when it would be hardened of course.

 

As these blades are long and broad, i would expect sandwiched construction to avoid bending. But that is only my conclusion... Logic is the best way how to make mistakes :-)
Mind that the bending strength is determined mostely by the strength of the material on the outer layer, as the stress in the material is highest the furthest from the centerline. If you have a sandwich with weak iron on the outer layers, it's almost as weak in bending as if there was no steel core inside (even more so if only the steel near the edge is hardened).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Below follow some examples of the construction of long saxes. First a diagram by Westphal based on German long saxes. Mind that Westphal only lookes top to bottom, not side to side:

 

langsaxen_aus_niederlandischen_sammlungen_409.jpg

 

Below are two Dutch long saxes (from Dorestad, 8th century IIRC), which Westphal describes in "Untersuchungen an Langsaxen aus niederländischen Sammlungen". The top one has no visible welds, the lower one has a steel edge welded onto an iron back.

 

Dimensions upper long sax: L=645mm, W=46mm, T=5mm

Dimensions lower long sax: L=651mm, W=51mm (near front), T=7mm

 

04260015.JPG

 

04260022.JPG

 

And below are examples cross-sections of British long saxes:

 

Kempsford, UK, 9-10th century, L=78cm, W=42mm, T=8mm

SAX.L78w42t8.ThmR.KempsfordEngland.9-10th.MEF.jpg

 

Reading, UK, 10th century, W=28mm

SAX.w28.ThR.ReadingEngland.10th.MEF.jpg

 

Leyton, UK, 9th century, W=37mm, T=8mm

SAX.w37t8.LeaR.LeytonEngland.9th.MEF.jpg

Edited by Jeroen Zuiderwijk

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Langsaxen.jpg

From 'Untersuchungen an Langsaxen aus niederlanfischen Sammlungen', this gives the dimensions of a few langsax, plus some other information I don't quite comprehend... :blink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

http://i665.photobucket.com/albums/vv18/GHEzell/Langsaxen.jpg

From 'Untersuchungen an Langsaxen aus niederlanfischen Sammlungen', this gives the dimensions of a few langsax, plus some other information I don't quite comprehend... :blink:

Top table left to right:

Gravefield/find location - Inv. nr. - Catalog nr. - Picture nr. - Length - Width - Thickness - Preservation - Tip shape (in line with back, middle or cutting edge)

 

Lower table left to right:

Gravefield/find location - Nr. of grooves (side 1, side 2) - Nr. of fullers (side 1, side 2) - Nr. of welds - Nr. of tooth welds - Patternwelding (solid, inlay) - Dating (archeological, technical)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Even more sax info :-)

 

I´d thought I´d add some snap shots.

First an image showing what a late broken back long seax might look like in detail. It is an anglo saxon one with three billet construction, the middle being a torsion rod, the back and edge piled structure, with the back material being less fine than the edge.

 

DSC01315.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...And an example of a "mono-steel" lang sax where the hardened zone stands out pretty clear in dark grey.

Note the rather corse strands of the material.

This one had a narrow and not too well defined fuller (rust deterioration?) along the back on both sides.

Note also that evenif this blade is rather far gone in rust, it bears witness of being rather carefully shaped. This is especially clear in the shot showing the back

 

DSC02303.jpg

DSC02305.jpg

DSC02307.jpg

Edited by peter johnsson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...And a question:

Any one have an idea of how the silver bands on the grip of the Jessenwang sax are put on and affixed to the grip. I assume the grip has a leather cover over the wood?

The cross section of the grip also probably changes in cross section along its length. From the drawing it looks like the butt end of the grip has a slight swelling: a cap formed in wood, almost like the butt end of a base ball bat, but smaller.

It also seems to me that the grip grows more narrow in width towards the butt end.

I would guess it grows larger in thickness and the width diminishes towards the "pommel".

 

All these changes in dimension would make it tricky to fit gilded silver bands: the blade end is the widest, but least thick, the butt end has a cap that is larger in diameter than the rest of the grip. I do not know how I would go about it. Anyone care to offer some suggestions on how this may be done?

I wonder if they are simply bent around the grip? It would be great to know if they are soldered or not, and if so: how?

Edited by peter johnsson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...And a question:

Any one have an idea of how the silver bands on the grip of the Jessenwang sax are put on and affixed to the grip. I assume the grip has a leather cover over the wood?

There's no mention of any leather, just wood. There's also no mention how the bands are attached that I'm aware of. The text mentions that the rings have a dotted pattern, it could be possible that these dots are tiny rivets that attach the gilded silver strips to the wood. I know this as a common method used in earlier times (f.e. in the bronze age generally tiny gold rivets were used of 0.2mm diameter and 1mm length).

 

The cross section of the grip also probably changes in cross section along its length. From the drawing it looks like the butt end of the grip has a slight swelling: a cap formed in wood, almost like the butt end of a base ball bat, but smaller.

It also seems to me that the grip grows more narrow in width towards the butt end.

I would guess it grows larger in thickness and the width diminishes towards the "pommel".

I'm not seeing that in the remains. IMO there's just a bit more wood still present at the end of the hilt then between the bands. The grip IMO would have been flush with the bands, either smooth to the end, or maybe with finger prints between the rings.

 

Thanks for the great photos! Do you know the find locations of these saxes?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, tiny rivets was something that crossed my mind as well :-)

Good to know there was probably(?) no leather used on this one.

 

It would be really great to get hold of a better image of this sax!

 

I stay undecided regards a "pommel" swelling. It may be just more wood like you say, or there can be a slight swelling. I see both as possible but would welcome more detailed information!

Edited by peter johnsson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Top table left to right:

Gravefield/find location - Inv. nr. - Catalog nr. - Picture nr. - Length - Width - Thickness - Preservation - Tip shape (in line with back, middle or cutting edge)

 

Lower table left to right:

Gravefield/find location - Nr. of grooves (side 1, side 2) - Nr. of fullers (side 1, side 2) - Nr. of welds - Nr. of tooth welds - Patternwelding (solid, inlay) - Dating (archeological, technical)

Thank you very much.

 

...And a question:

Any one have an idea of how the silver bands on the grip of the Jessenwang sax are put on and affixed to the grip.

I have a theory. On a bare wooden handle, carve very slight groove into the handle, then cut a strip of metal the length of the handle diameter, then file the ends of the strips slightly so it is just a bit undersized. Solder shut, then heat the ring to just under the soldering temperature to make it swell, and slide/tap into location... this is where having a slight taper to the handle in length and/or thickness would be useful, at least on one end. After it has cooled and contracted, punch the dots to further fill the grooves and secure the ring.

 

I don't know if that's how it was done, or if it would work, but it seems possible. Looking at the image, it appears to maybe have a slight pommel shape carved into the end of the handle, just maybe...

 

Thank you very much for those images. It is interesting how the grooves on most saxes come together into a point, but the anglo saxon ones I've seen tend to run parallel to the back the full length of the blade, almost appearing to run right off the end of the blade in some cases.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you very much for those images. It is interesting how the grooves on most saxes come together into a point, but the anglo saxon ones I've seen tend to run parallel to the back the full length of the blade, almost appearing to run right off the end of the blade in some cases.

This is a difference in dating rather then location. In 8th century long saxes with a curved back, the grooves/fullers come together at the position where the back curves down. With the later broken back style, the grooves keep running parallel. Also the location of the patternwelding is different in both: within the fullers in the 8th century curved back style, below the fullers in the later broken back style. Of course the long saxes go out of use on the continent at the transition from curved to broken back, so the broken back style occurs mostly only in the UK.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you very much.

 

 

I have a theory. On a bare wooden handle, carve very slight groove into the handle, then cut a strip of metal the length of the handle diameter, then file the ends of the strips slightly so it is just a bit undersized. Solder shut, then heat the ring to just under the soldering temperature to make it swell, and slide/tap into location... this is where having a slight taper to the handle in length and/or thickness would be useful, at least on one end. After it has cooled and contracted, punch the dots to further fill the grooves and secure the ring.

I don't expect that to be possible. One reason is that heating the metal will expand it, but the expansion is very very small. This works for very close tolerance metal rings over metal axles, but not for metal over wood. Second, if you heat the ring, it will cool very very rapidly, giving no time to slide it in place. Thirdly, it won't slide smoothly, and get stuck along the way (if it doesn't completely deform out of shape first), burning marks along the way. Fourthly, when it is in place, it will burn away a lot more wood (if at that point it hasn't completely cooled down already) then any shrinkage will compensate during cooling, so it will be quite loose.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

is there any reason the jessenwang sax handle couldn't be a stacked construction, like modern art puukkos? if it were stacked with a pitch/ash/resin type glue, could this not account both for the slightly better survival of the handle material between the rings (stablised by the glue) and the fact that the 'rings' havent come loose as the handle material breaks down?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

is there any reason the jessenwang sax handle couldn't be a stacked construction, like modern art puukkos? if it were stacked with a pitch/ash/resin type glue, could this not account both for the slightly better survival of the handle material between the rings (stablised by the glue) and the fact that the 'rings' havent come loose as the handle material breaks down?

The tang only goes 160mm into the hilt, the hilt is 235mm long. So the rings are mostely over the area that isn't supported by the tang. Therefore a stacked construction is unlikely.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

jeroen sorry to bug ya, but the bronze plate that anchors the ring for drawing the saxes, are those appropriate to the schmaler breitsax or were those just on the straight backed scandinavian langseax's

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not Jeroen, but...

 

The ring & butt plate set up is something you see on knives from the viking period in lands around the baltic sea. I am not sure how far east this feature is popular. I have a feeling it is a nordic/eastern thing. I have only seen it on small every day carry knives and those long and narrow war knives (that some call saxes: I don´t know how to properly classify them) found in horsemen graves of high status.

I have never seen a ring & butt plate set up for a sax, but that is not saying it may be in use somewhere and some time period...

 

I do think it is a "viking" knife thing.

 

A long war knife first:

Helbild.jpg

Grepp, ändbeslag.jpg

 

A knife from a womans grave:

vikingknife1.jpg

vikingknife2.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i'd just seen another smith mount one on a seax, thanks for the clarification :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

how were these assembled? i'm thinking a whittle tang glued in place, with the bail spread out under the butt plate so when the but plate is pinned in place, the bail/loop is locked in place as well,but it seems you'd be putting a lot of faith in the pins/glue to hold the thing together, particularly if the ring is used to draw the knife. i'm working on a gotlandic woman's knife at the moment and wondering how to do this - at the moment it has a through tang, but that could be shortened, though for securities sake, i may have a hidden nut as well.

 

woman\'s knife 1.jpg

 

woman\'s knife 2.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jake, I really like the blade on that one!

 

Those cases where the construction has been more or less evident, the tang ends short in the grip and the little ring holding the thong at the butt end of the grip is inserted separately. The bronze end plate is usually tacked down with three or four little bronze nails (or iron).

It is fairly common to see color contras achieved in the bronze plates by tinning the surface and scraping decorative lines along the edges. The little cut outs that are cross or step shaped often reveal a thinner bronze plate that is not tinned.

 

I once made a long knife with the ring as an integral part of the protruding tang by cutting the exposed end of the rivet shank in two. One was wider and the other was just a narrow strip. The wider part I used to rivet down the tang / grip assembly (With the help of a drift) and the narrow strip I shaped into the ring for the thong. At that time I thought this was how it was done. Now I am not sure. It may have been used sometimes. I think that some knives with full length tangs that I have seen may originally have had rings for thongs even though they have now rusted away.

Most commonly, the ring is a separate piece, I would think.

The thong was sometimes decorated with little bronze beads and bronze thread spirals.

 

Returning to long saxes: I have seen several scandinavian long saxes where the tang is the full length of the grip and a small length protruded at the end of the grip. This was not formed into a neat rivet, but simply folded over at right angles. There are no remains of any other metal mounts on these blades. Most probably they were just wood, possibly with leather cover. The wood may well have been given carved decoration, but there is no surviving grips to testify to this. Earlier sax grips from the Vendel period are commonly carved in zoomorphic or geometrical lace work. I have a feeling this practice was not abandoned with the later saxes.

Note: this thing with decorated grips may be an isolated scandinavian thing. Possibly spilling over into Anglo-saxon culture?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...