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bloomery Seax blade.

owen bush

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This Bloomery seax blade is a 4 bar construction, with 4000 layers of bloom steel at the edge , then 2 twists of 5 layer material using lee Sauders phosphoric bloomery iron for contrast and then irony bloom at the spine (folded a couple of times).

This was interesting material to work and I couldn't get the twists anywhere as tight as with modern material , I think I will process the phosphoric iron a little more for next time. I am getting more certain that the twisting in these materials is a visual proof of material quality.....

I still need to work on how best to bring the pattern out , I am not a big fan of the mat grey as etched finish even though it brings out the most contrast in the material (I just cant see it in a bigger historical context). This blade was polished to 600 grit. Then quite heavily etched in ferric and then polished with red iron oxide and oil and rotten stone.

I would be interested in any ideas as to how to best bring a little more contrast or if that is at all necessary.

I will be diving a little deeper with this material as we seem to have a little better understanding of one another as of recently.

from a distance the pattern is subtle, I would like to get it just a little more contrasty (and learn to take better photos of it.


getting closer we are a little more obvious.


up close loads going on, I find the slag distribution interesting between the processes and less processed elements.


I need to figure a better macro finish for this blade before handling it.

thanks for looking.

forging soul in to steel



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thanks for sharing these experiences, Owen. They give hope to many of us. Good work, as always.


please visit my website http://www.professorsforge.com/


“Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the earth. I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” E. V. Debs

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This is a very important work and also thank you for sharing the experiences. We still diden´t know how the seax blades really look in old times. I mean how shiny are they ? Was the pattern more subtel like this ?

Or was it clear and with a strong black and white contrast ?

And what kind of technique was used for polish the surface.

So a work on a blade like this is very important for everyone who is interested in history.

Edited by D.Kraft
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Nice blade!


Well, they probably didn't have ferric chloride readily available, but they did have various vinegars and such... This really is one of those things we'll probably never know no matter how much we'd love to... :(


Do you have a copy of Tylecote and Gilmour's " The metallography of early ferrous edge tools and edged weapons?" That last picture of yours looks strikingly similar to some of the originals when polished and etched in 3% nital. B)

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Inspiring! The bloomery iron looks a lot like what we usually call wrought iron...(I wonder why :P)

“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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Love that seax Owen. I wish I hadn't been a dumbass, and forgot the bar on top of my sword.


When I made up my twisted bars from Lee's high P iron, and my low P iron, the contrast stood out very well as soon as I started the polish on it. Usually 10 min. after I was done polishing for the day, the contrast would start to show through. I guess, just from the dampness of polishing.

Even in 60 grit polish it was very cool.

When I used the old wheel stone on the fuller, (not sure what grit) less the 100 for sure? It was very sweet.




Not sure what period polishers could get to. Likely 4-600 would be tops. But, I did test just a bit of vinegar on the small blade in very basic polish and it showed up very well.

You can see it here:


I plan to make the climb up to the high P mines this winter and smelt some for myself, or maybe, just trade some of my ore with Lee.



Mark Green


I have a way? Is that better then a plan?

(cptn. Mal)

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<p>thanks for the comments.</p>

<p> </p>

<p>Mark, I think that if the material is processed a little further that tighter twists may be possible , I am also going to play with heat as that changes a lot from material to material. the phosphoric iron in this was not folded but used as forged down from one of Lees bloom slices.</p>

<p> when working modern materials I sometimes forge weld the twisted bar into a swage and do a little upsetting along the length as this seems to reset the bar, you can then carry on twisting further. I shall try this as well.</p>

<p> I got a very visible etch on this from my grinding quench water, the phosphoric shows up best against high carbon steel .</p>

Edited by owen bush

forging soul in to steel



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Top notch! I have a growing (already huge) appreciation for bloomery steel, and seeing it in such great pieces is inspiring! If I hadn't just gotten out of a week 20 hour days, I'd be down in the shop in a heartbeat 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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I love the shape, it looks big...

Well done, sir.

George Ezell, bladesmith

" How much useful knowledge is lost by the scattered forms in which it is ushered to the world! How many solitary students spend half their lives in making discoveries which had been perfected a century before their time, for want of a condensed exhibition of what is known."

view some of my work

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Caution....reading this may hurt your brain...


I have an old (1977) US Navy research article "NATURE OF THE PASSIVE FILM ON IRON IN CONCENTRATED NITRIC ACID" by Herbert H. Uhlig and Thomas L. O'Connor. Though their experimentation mostly utilized a Nitric acid etch(obviously), they also achieved the same results with Potassium Ferrate and my understanding of the chemistry indicates that Ferric Chloride leaves the same Ferric Acid residue and should therefore give the same results.

They reported that Ferric Acid is formed by the acid reaction and a portion is chemisorbed into the surface of the iron/steel. This layer is believed to slowly break down into metastable FeO4 (stability induced by the "chemical attachment to the metal lattice underneath") and a small ammount of Fe2O3. Which will in turn adsorb into the surface of the iron/steel and form a semi-permanant pasivation layer, which both colors the steel and protects it from rusting.


Another article, which I can't find at the moment, indicates that immersion of the passivated iron/steel into boiling water hastens the conversion of Ferric Acid without releasing it from the surface bond. The boiling water will also aid the decomposition by converting the Fe2O3 (rust) into Fe3O4(magnatite) a portion of which also becomes locked into the passivated surface.


If the iron/steel is transfered to the boiling water prior to any polishing which removes some of the Ferrate and other oxides, it should in theory create a deeper/thicker passivation/colloration layer which by virtue of being deeper/thicker will also be darker and increase the contrast in a pattern welded material.

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave. ~Mark Twain

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