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peter johnsson

A mid 15th C longsword

28 posts in this topic

Summer matures and evenings start to grow darker, but autumn is still only a distant promise. To me the season of harvest and turning leaves always brings promise of work and progress. A couple of weeks on vacation with family has ended and yesterday I got to finish a sword that has been a while in the making. It was initially intended for the knife maker show in Solingen this year, but I had to cancel my table as I got some warnings of my tendonitis rearing its ugly head. I stopped in time, but work was slow for a while.

 

The sword is based on studies I have made on a few surviving swords in the Castillion group (a sensational find of some 70 or 80 swords in the Dordogne river. They reached the antiques market individually over a couple of decades. Some have found their way into museum collection and are so available to research and documentation). My sword is not a copy of any single sword in this group, but has borrowed details in the design from a couple different originals. It was still important to me that function, balance and heft were true to original swords of the same type. I wanted to make a long sword of medium size with a powerful and compact feel, in balance and heft much reminding also of another sword I studied many years ago: the sword of Svante Nilsson Sture. It has a pretty hefty weight but a very lively and responsive balance, that makes you think it weighs much less as you wield it. The dynamic balance is such that it can "turn on a dime" and provides an exact control of the awl shaped point.

 

Total length is 119 cm, blade length 88,5 cm. Width at base is 5.2 cm and thickness 1 cm. Weight is 1.96 Kg (a pretty hefty weight for a sword this size) and point of balance 7 cm in front of the guard. Forward pivot point is right at the point of the blade, making the sword naturally "lock on target" as you move the hilt from guard to guard. The hollow ground cross section makes for a stiff spine and acutely biting edges that are sharpened in an apple seed shape. The point is sturdy and shaped like a leather awl with two sharp edges. A sword like this may be wielded in one hand from horse back but invites two handed use when fighting on foot.

 

The quality of the photos below are not the best. especially the wip pics are crude snapshots taken with my phone camera. I hope to add a couple of professional photographs of the whole sword later on.

 

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One of the original swords of the Castillion hoard that served as inspiration to this project:

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Another Castillion sword with interesting decoration and file work on the guard, a detail I shamelessly stole and re-used on my sword:

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A german long sword from the end of the 15th that provided inspiration for the spirally cord wrapped and embossed grip:

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Some images showing some stages in the making:

 

I use a set up allowing me to wet grind the blade after heat treat. This is of great help especially with hollow ground blades, where the edge otherwise easily gets overheated. Staying in the groove without the need to remove the bade for frequent dips in water is also helpful when grinding a long double edged blade.

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After wet grinding, hand sanding with a wooden block, first dry with 80 grit:

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...Then progressively finer emery paper lubricated with canola oil:

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The pommel is forged roughly to shape to fit the dimensions of a mock up pommel made from plasticine. At this time I have decided what the final balance and weight must be, and can so calculate the proper weight for the pommel. Knowing the correct volume makes it possible to experiment with different shapes in plasticine and know that final weight and balance will be on target:

IMG_0458.jpg

 

I then drill a 10 millimeter hole through the middle, ending just shy of the top. This makes filing the fit for the tang less tedious work. To hold the irregularly shaped pommel, I first spot weld it to a square tubing that can be held by the vice.

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Then the pommel is ground and filed to shape:

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..and fitted to tang:

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The guard is forged roughly to shape and a slot is cut to recess the shoulders of the blade. A proper fit is assured by making a special tool that has the same cross section as the blade:

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And shaping of the guard and its sculpted mid portion is made by filing:

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I did not capture the final stages in the making of this sword. If you are interested you can see this kind of work described in another post: http://www.bladesmithsforum.com/index.php?showtopic=15010

 

Thanks for looking!

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Peter,

 

Stunning work.

 

I love the way in which you slotted the crossguard. Brilliant idea.

 

The half wire-wrapped hilt and molded leather are also really nice.

 

Thanks for taking the time to document the process. I learned a lot seeing it.

 

--Dave

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Beautiful work on the handle, Peter. Nice work on fitting that guard to the blade profile too :)

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Wow! :ph34r::blink::huh:

 

A wealth of information indeed, thank you, Peter. It's beautiful.

 

Keep that tendonitis in check!

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Absolutely stunning work! I particularly love the way you outfitted the hilt

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Really beautiful sword with elegant leather work on the handle!! What steel did you use for the blade, guard and pommel? Also, any thoughts of making a sheath?

 

Tom

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Thank you very much for your comments guys. It is much appreciated.

 

Tom, I used a steel that is similar to 6150 for the blade. For guard and pommel I use a steel similar to 1050. Sometimes I heat treat guard and pommel as well, but I did not do so this time. I prefer working with a medium carbon steel for furniture, rather than mild as it files better and is a bit harder, even without dedicated heat treating.

 

The grip core is carved out of chestnut and bound with cotton cord. The leather is calf skin for the embossed part and very thin goat skin for the thin cover under the iron wire wrap.

 

I do not think I will make a scabbard for this sword.

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Peter,

 

Stunning work.

 

I love the way in which you slotted the crossguard. Brilliant idea.

 

The half wire-wrapped hilt and molded leather are also really nice.

 

Thanks for taking the time to document the process. I learned a lot seeing it.

 

--Dave

 

Thanks Dave,

This method of slotting the guard is something I´ve learned directly from those long dead masters of our trade. It is just about universal that this is done to the hilt. The only variation is how tightly the slot fits the blade. During some period and for some types, the slot is simply a rectangular channel that is very generous in size. For the period I was looking at, the fit is usually tighter. Sometimes so tight you could not push a paper between the blade and the guard.

For the tighter fits this means you have to make a new tool for each sword you make. One of those little things that add both joy and work time to any project B)

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Wow! :ph34r::blink::huh:

 

A wealth of information indeed, thank you, Peter. It's beautiful.

 

Keep that tendonitis in check!

 

Thanks Alan, I have focus on training and stretching and am out of danger for the time being. Now I look forward to getting back to work in ernest again!

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Peter your fit and finish is truely awe inspiring . great work. Jeff

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Beautiful blade sir!!

 

Just one more reason that this site is so very worthwhile to frequent. The friendly atmosphere is of course first...but even without that...the amount one can learn simply browsing is absolutely astounding!

 

Thank you!

 

Cris

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Peter.

 

Looking trough all pics and I mean realy looking with serious thought

I have to say, you truly are skilfull craftsman.

 

What jumps in my eyes is the level of your finishing touch, of all steps

of this or any craft the finishing is what gives the final soul.

 

I think that those long gone dead craftsman at 14 -15 are more than happy

to look at your work and what beatifull tribute you hold in your hands to they work.

 

Great work Peter and thank you for sharing this.

 

If you dont mind one guestion...

 

Is there shoulder(s) in side the guard to support the blade that is dosent slide trough in ither way..from tip or to tang.

Or is it just tight fit that presses guard to blade.

 

Thank you Peter

 

BR

Niko

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Peter,

Like the rest said..Thank you for the education...smile.gif. I like seeing it in hand ... It gives a really good feel for the size of it... I love your sanding sticks .. and the slotting tool... they show the patience it takes to produce such a piece.. nice forging too... I liked the discussion of weight and and the use it may have seen as well... Thanks...

I don't mean to make you sound old but you are a living museum ...happy.gif thanks for being so willing to pass it on..

 

Dick

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Hi Peter

 

marvelous blade ! It is definitely your strong point ... ! awesome

 

i have a hard time to hollow grind a 3 inch blade, never mind a long one like that... that turned out fantastic

 

looks like a 5 inch wheel?

 

do you think original was forged into a diamond shape then ground on stone wheel to have hollow... i wonder what the original shape was before it was taken to the stone wheel ? (if it was a stone wheel ? )

 

 

Greg

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Thank you all for kind words and enthusiasm.

 

It means much to me to get feedback from fellow craftsmen.

 

Niko: the guard is countersunk or slotted partway to allow the shoulders of the blade be seated, but only the tang goes through the whole way. The countersinking is normally about 3-6 millimeters, depending on style and type of sword. On this one I now showed it is about 6 millimeters: this type of guard with its little leaf decoration and swelling shape invites a bit deeper countersinking. Some viking hilts can also have pretty deep countersinking. With a good fit of this grove, I find it easier to get the tang and guard to be closely matched and nicely joined. You can use a hot chisel to cut the hole for the tang as well. This is how they would have done it back in the day. As the tang on my swords always vary in dimension from sword to sword, I find it more practical to drill and file the hole for the tang, after I´ve forged the slot.

 

Greg: The wheel used for this blade was the 6" diameter, I think. I also have a 4" but that would have been too small and the 8" is too big. I use 4" and 2" for broader fullers in viking style blades and the larger wheels (6", 8" and 12") for wide hollow ground sword blades.

Originally I would think they normally forged closer to shape than I normally do with these cross sections. They did a lot of grinding and were very good at it, but forging to shape would have been common. I think blade smiths had good tooling: upper and lower fullering tools for both hollowed and ridged blades of various cross sections. This kind of work was done with the master holding the blade and the upper tool, while his helpers struck with sledges. I guess you could make tooling to be used in treadle hammers, but they need to be more adjustable than simple guilliotine-fixtures. The angles will have to change as you work from base to point: it is never a simple constant cross section that can be cranked out of a rolling mill (if you do not build very dedicated rolling tools!).

For some very wide and thin blades that had concave faces, most of the shape may have been established by grinding on large stones. Originals in good shape have tell tale signs of wobbling that repeats down the surface: you can tell the width of the stone wheel!

 

If you produce blades in larger batches it is really the only way to go about it to have dies and fullering tools. Working like I do, with one blade at a time, never the same blade twice, making a gladius one day and a rapier the next, having effective tooling for all those variations is not very practical. It would be fun to make a set up of some common forms for use in the powehammer.

...One fine day :rolleyes:

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Peter ,

this is a wonderfull piece .Simple grace and beauty.

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very cool, I love your work >_< that grip is fantastic...your leather work is my favorite

Edited by Nathan S

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Hi Peter,

 

I must admit that I admire your work not only for the quality of your workmanship but the wealth of your knowledge that goes in the inception of your creations.

 

I wonder if you have ever thought of writing a book on swords, i think you owe that to yourself.

 

Gabriel

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Thats a simply beautiful piece. And much respect for posting some inside views on how you work.

Cheers!

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Amazing work.

 

I'm just slightly confused about one point:

 

Niko: the guard is countersunk or slotted partway to allow the shoulders of the blade be seated, but only the tang goes through the whole way. The countersinking is normally about 3-6 millimeters, depending on style and type of sword. On this one I now showed it is about 6 millimeters: this type of guard with its little leaf decoration and swelling shape invites a bit deeper countersinking. Some viking hilts can also have pretty deep countersinking. With a good fit of this grove, I find it easier to get the tang and guard to be closely matched and nicely joined. You can use a hot chisel to cut the hole for the tang as well. This is how they would have done it back in the day. As the tang on my swords always vary in dimension from sword to sword, I find it more practical to drill and file the hole for the tang, after I´ve forged the slot.

 

This is as I'd expect, however, in this image:

post-23694-128110234122.jpg

 

I don't see any evidence of countersinking...The slot for the blade appears to go straight through, with no "ledge" for the shoulders of the blade to rest upon. I must be missing something, or misunderstanding what you said above.

 

Also, to expand on this process: How do you complete the forging of the guard (drawing out the "arms" of the guard) without warping or stretching the slot you've made. I assume that even with the tooling in place, some distortion would still occur during forging (this has been my experience)? Does it just take a very careful hand, or is there a special technique that I'm not aware of?

 

EDIT: I just re-read this portion of your post, and it appears that further shaping of the guard was done through stock removal. Is this correct? Do you have any thoughts on how this might be accomplished through forging? One thing I was going to try was to create the initial hot slit at this unfinished blank guard state, then forge to shape, then, finally, use the blade shoulder tooling to expand and form the slit to its final state. Thoughts?

 

Thanks for taking the time to post these in-progress shots along with explanation!

 

Dustin

Edited by dustin reagan

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It is a deep slot, therefore it looks like it goes all the way through. In reality it goes less than half, more like a third.

 

The guard can be forged more close to shape before you cut and countersink. With this one I did not dare work closer to shape while hot, because of the leaf decoration that protrudes in the middle. At this time I was not willing to risk one guard to possible failure just to have to draw out another guard. I wanted to complete the sword and have it out of the workshop.

 

When you forge after the slot has been shape you need to insert the slot tool before you do any shaping. Otherwise you´ll close the gap and may stretch it in length. The effect is not beautiful.

Sometimes you have to forge without the tool in place. Then you´ll have to reopen a bit and adjust the shape countersink afterwards. Careful work. You can´t do too much drastic shaping of the middle after the slot is shaped, only some tweaking. You may work on small details, that does not involve the general volume and form and you can work on the arms of the guard. Try to avoid having to do any major straightening that involves the middle of the guard. This will easily push the slot/countersink out of shape.

 

Forging guards is a matter of keeping things equal and mirrored. Planning ahead and judging how much material you need and how much you may loose in fling afterwards. The tooling is done with cutting chisels and one or two specially made blade section drifts.

 

I´ll try to have the camera ready next time I do this. Every time is a bit different.

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It is a deep slot, therefore it looks like it goes all the way through. In reality it goes less than half, more like a third.

 

Ahah! i see, it's a bit of an optical illusion. The bottom of the slot appeared so similar to the anvil that it looks as if the slot goes all the way through. After your explanation and looking at the picture more closely, i see that it is a slightly different texture and depth. Thanks again for all this helpful explanation.

 

Dustin

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Great info Peter thanks so much! It is good almost that your visit to Ashokan has been rescheduled for next year, gives me time to make headway on a sword!

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