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Tiodhlac: Gift of the Ghillie Dhu

Scott A. Roush

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Forged from a star,

Quenched in sap of the Birch,

Was Tiodhlac - The Gift of the Ghillie Dhu


:-) I felt like making a sword with no historical restrictions as well as any pre-fabricated mythological conceptions. So... I'm making up me own. There will be more to that story later...


I wanted to use my favorite materials for the blade.. wrought iron, pure nickel and a modern steel (1095) and I wanted the pattern to look like the grain of wood.


So the first part of the billet was wrought iron and sheets of pure nickel. This got wrapped in a packet of heat treat foil, forged and folded twice.




Then to this was added layers of 1095 and folded twice:




The blade was then forged out to 29" and a uniform thickness of 1/4" using spacers on my press, profile cleaned up and the hollow ground free-hand with 8" contact wheel:








The pictures above are a test etch after grinding to 220. As the blade is not yet heat treated, I'm still fiddling with the over-all profile. I suspect that I will narrow it down more towards the tip.


I'm also still sketching ideas of the cross-guard but the grip will be birch. It will be a very long gripped two-hander. I like the idea of a relatively short, fast blade with a two-handed grip.


I will be slowly working on this in the upcoming weeks...

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A most excellent start. I love the contrast between layers, and the idea of forging some of your own mythos into it is neat. Watching with interest B)



Not all those who wander are lost. -J.R.R. Tolkien

-Shards of the Dark Age- my blog
-Nine Worlds Workshop-
-Last Apocalypse Forge-

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Cool Pattern !!,I too will be on the watcher list...... B)

If ya can't be good don't git caught  !!                                        People who say stuff can't be done need to

                                                                                                        git the hell outta the way of people who do stuff   !!!

Show me a man who is called an expert by his peers         

And I will show you a good man to listen to ......

Show me a man who calls himself an expert

and I will show you an egotistical asshole...............!!



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thanks folks. Troy.. I hope it doesn't become shards... like my last. I will be in touch if it does.


I was looking through all of my books last night and came across a two-hander that had a clamshell guard in addition to long quillons. I really like the idea of forming a bronze or copper leaf guard of a similar style.. shaped like birch of course.. and then giving a strong green patination. I will try to get some sketches together. The grip will be a combination of masur birch burl and stacked birch bark.

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Well I took a second from cleaning up the profile and preparing for heat treat to work on the hilt design. It's going to be a bit before I can heat treat as I'm right smack in the middle of making the digital control for my new sword heat treat kiln. I will show some pics of that later as well.


I'm basically shooting for a scaled version of a Scottish claymore. But with copper birch leaf 'clam guard' as well... this piece will be forged and then given a powdery green patina. But here is the first in a series of paper mock ups that I will do to nail down proportions and angles. You can also see the copper that I'm laying out to prepare for forging the leaf design.



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Thank you Phil...


A question about edge geometry and hollow grinds. This is the first hollow ground sword I've done and I'm hoping for this sword to be more of a cutter. Historically.. what would the edge geometry be like on a hollow ground blade? Obviously it would be very fragile if ground all the way to edge. But would I go for a hard secondary bevel or more like a blended cannel grind?

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A blended secondary bevel is the way to go. A hard secondary is distracting to the aesthetic, in my opinion, and the additional hard angle ridge will affect its ability to cut.


You may already know this, but for the benefit of those who may not: The trick with hollow grinds is the tip. If the edge at the base is at the apex of the wheel, then as the bevel narrows, you end up with the edge further and further away from the apex, creating a thicker edge.


Some illustrations: Imagine you were grinding the base of the profiled blade. If the wheel is appropriately sized, here's what you'd hope for:




But as the profile narrows, if you use the same diameter wheel, you'll end up with this:




To counter this, pull the tang of the blade slightly away from the wheel as it approaches the tip. This increased Y angle on the wheel will compensate for effect I just mentioned.


It takes bit to get used to the feel of it.


Hope this helps!




"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly." -- Theodore Roosevelt


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Dave, that hollow-grinding explanation just lit a BIG light bulb over my head. I've been wondering why my hollow grinds get thick at the tip.

Now, the trick is getting my hands to do what my head understands.



That is a wicked-cool blade. I can't wait to see it finished.

- Dan

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Thanks Dave.. very helpful. I always fight the tip.. but I eventually get it. I will have to pay attention to how I address that area and see if what I do is what you are referring to!

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For a good working edge geometry, follow Dave´s advice and shoot for a blunt edge thickness of some 0.5 mm (depending on width and thickness of your blade and the diameter of your wheel, this will vary somewhat) on this blunt edge form a cutting sharpness in an apple seed cross section. The transition from concave to convex will start at around 3 mm back from the edge. Again the exact measure for this will depend on the scale and geometry of your blade.


On hollow ground blades made back in the day, you will see variations on this theme. There is always a zone of transition between hollow main bevel and convex cutting edge.

On thin and light blades, the cutting edge can be very thin and the zone narrow. Something like 1.5 mm wide or less shaped on a thickness of 0.3 mm: this is for a "cut and thrust" type of blade of the 16th century mounted in a swept hilt, to a stout 5 mm wide edge zone shaped on a 0.8 mm thick blunt edge, for a large and sturdy war sword.


Sword edges are in many cases much thinner and more acute than people today generally think they are. A sword edge may often have more in common with a fine woodworking axe or a knife, than a heavy chisel or cleaver blade.


When I do hollow grinds I twist the blade and lift the tang as I come into the point region of the blade. Otherwise it is *very* easy to grind away too much of the midrib, resulting in a weak point. With a narrow profile, like that on your sword, I would leave grinding the last two inches of the point until after the geometry of rest of the blade is more or less set. I can then focus on carefully shaving away material in the point little by little.


Once I have the hollow grinds running from base to point well established and evened out by hand sanding, I return to the grinder to establish the sharp edges. I shape them down to paper thin and turn again to hand sanding to blend the concave and convex zones together. This tends to make the edge a little bit thinner and almost cutting sharp. Enough sharp so that I only need a few passes with a stone to get them screaming sharp. I can then establish this sharpness without marring the edges.

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Thank you Peter.... especially the bit on how thick and how far back to establish these cutting edges. Valuable information! And yes I learned from even my flat ground swords that it's easy to cross over that mid-rib at the tip (and also by the tang for some reason) so I've held off on establishing my final distal taper until my edge thickness, profile and everything else is set. Then I will put on my work rest and carefully shape the tip.


Thanks again... since I've lately been doing a lot of blade testing for ABS performance stuff.. I've gained a new appreciation of edge geometry!


As to progress on the sword.. I've now diverted my attention to the copper 'leaf guard'... which I may end up using some bronze sheet and fold forming it instead of using the copper plate. Fun stuff. I'm also finally finishing the PID controls for my sword kiln.

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Also... a little background here. The Ghillie Dhu: Think of the bowhunter in his leafy ghillie suit and you are on the right track. Most probably don't know that the ghillie suit was inspired by Scottish folklore. The Ghillie Dhu is among the sidhe (faery folk) of the Scottish Highlands and likes to live in birch groves. He is adorned in leaf and bark, fears Man, but is friendly to young folk. So this is a story of how a Ghillie Dhu came to make a sword. :-) Bear with me.. I'm having fun with this and my son really enjoys it!


Edit: I will be adding stanzas to my 'lay' as I go.. as well as edits.


Here is the new version of the opening lines:


Forged from star-born iron,

Quenched in sap of the Beithe,

Was Tiodhlac: Gift of the Ghillie Dhu

Edited by Scott A. Roush
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That's looking wonderful, Scott. I'll follow with interest.


One thing I thought I'd mention (you probably know already): with such a short blade, be very careful with your handle. It seems you're shooting for a long two-handed grip... depending on blade thickness and width (and at least that last one seems rather slim), it might get difficult not to make the sword overly "hilt heavy" (for lack of a better word). I suggest you watch closely how your harmonics are shaping up. The way I do it is getting the blade very close to done and then play around with different pommel weights, tang lengths, etc.

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Thanks Lukas.... yes... I've been thinking a lot about that. Especially since the blade is already approaching decent balance without any hilt fittings at all! I will most likely shorten the hilt from what you see in my initial mock-ups. But I do like the idea of a long hilted, short blade. So... my plans are to go with rather light cross guard... and go from there. The nature of this piece will require rather light, 'branchy-like' fittings anyway... and skinny grip.

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If I were you, I´d shoot for a pommel that is mostly hollow.

Or else it might have to be silly small...


It is possible to forge pommels from iron pipes:"strangle" the top and neck down with a top and bottom fuller, or even better, in a black smith guillotine.

Such a pommel will weigh next to nothing but will still have volume.

I have made rapier pommels this way.

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Thank you Peter.... Yes I think you are right. I started thinking along those lines today and am excited about the creative potential! I do believe the cross guard, leaf guard and handle material will put the balance right where I need it.. without a counter-weighted pommel... as you say.

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Hey, This is a cool project! I personally dont like the idea of a long grip on a short blade, but everything else about it looks great. I like the idea of the leaf being bronze instead of copper (unless you did some sort of brown or green patina).


Again, very cool. I like the idea of a faery sword :P:lol:

“Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.”

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