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'Old Copper' culture knife


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The knife was made from native float copper..copper that was scoured by glaciers and deposited in various places in Northern Wisconsin. This copper was used extensively by the 'Old Copper' culture some 3,000 to 5,000 years ago for weapons, tools and jewelry in the Great Lakes region. It somehow got traded great distances and has even showed in up in Northern Africa. The copper was heated, annealed, pounded flat, chiseled and forged to shape. It was hardened by 'work hardening'.. a process of physical hardening achieved by very careful forging at very thin thicknesses. This blade shape is a common type found among Copper Culture archaeological sitesand the handles were known to be bone, antler or wood with leather wrappings. I added a touch of red here and there to reflect the use of red ochre on various objects of the time period.

 

 

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That's awesome Scottt.

Thanks for the history, I love the rustic look of your knife. Making somthing new look old is more of a challenge than some would think, your's is spot on!!! I was born and raised in MI and spent a lot of time in copper harbor in the UP so this post brings back old memories . Also great work on the photos that is an area I hope to improve in the future. Thanks for sharing and great work as always!!!

 

Kip

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Thanks guys!

 

I need to take a closer picture of the copper blade..I forgot to mention how cool it is to see a natural and almost wood-grain like effect in this native copper. I'm assuming it was formed in some lamellar manner. Also.. it was neat to see the bubbles forming in the surface of the copper just like what was described by the archaeologist Neubuaer who documents this in the actual artifact as well as his own research into their methods.

 

I'm hoping to find some pieces with silver in it! Some of the artifacts have streaks of silver that demonstrate a low annealing temp to avoid melting out the silver...

 

It's also amazing to feel this copper harden up under the hammer after the last annealing cycle. You can actually flex that thin tip a bit without bending! This is a real knife.

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Awesome Work Scott , Would you mind a show and tell about that LIL blade vice you have in the photo ? I am very interested in it .

 

Sam

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Sam.. that is a jeweler's 'bench pin'. It's main use is for the jeweler's saw.. but that little bit of machining is handy for sanding small blades. But an actual rotating knife vise is better.

 

Speaking of jeweler's saws... I had to put in a plug for Patrick Hasting's little scraper in that picture too. Awesome little tool...

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Really nice. How does it perform with respect to sharpness and edge retention compared to steel?

Well.. not even close to modern steel. And it's not bronze either. But it works as well as the work hardened iron that I've experimented with. Those folks just didn't have a choice and it's better than a sharpened stick! For fibrous cutting and skinning, however, it is a real tool and a real knife. The edge will require more maintenance.. but it cuts as the edge is very thin and honed. It also has some resistance to warping along the edge and at the tip. I have not yet tested the hardness with a machine.. but I will soon. The scholarly papers quote a Rockwell of 50 after work hardening.

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Thank you Scott, I was looking at a lil Rotater vice just this Mornin.

 

Sam

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Wow, Scott, your creativity and energy boggle the mind sometimes. Looking at your work is like reading a good book, I come away from the experience flush with ideas and eager to see more.

 

Did you run into any trouble with impurities in the copper while hammering it out?

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Wow, Scott, your creativity and energy boggle the mind sometimes. Looking at your work is like reading a good book, I come away from the experience flush with ideas and eager to see more.

 

Did you run into any trouble with impurities in the copper while hammering it out?

I really appreciate it Tyler.

 

No problems at all Tyler. The main issue is with arsenic.. but I guess you know right away if you have that kind of copper because it will start crumble while pounding. I mentioned above that silver is sometimes present.. but unfortunately.. not in mine yet. You get silvery streaks if you don't overheat while annealing. I did get the surface bubbling that has been documented.. but you just hammer those back in ... and thankfully this didn't occur near the edge.

 

Can't wait to start on the next.. either ulu or socketed spear head.

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I love the work, is that kind of copper available through a vendor or do you have to go find it?

You can find it on ebay. There are folks that look for it and put it up for sale. Everybody around here knows that I covet the stuff so it is now always showing up at my doorstep. It is often found by the folks who process gravel for roads. But I also have connections in the actual copper mines who give me stuff.. but for forging you want actual 'float copper' as the stuff that was closer to the ground has fewer inclusions and impurities.

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Absolutely wonderful. I have a few pounds of copper bus bars that's I've been wondering what to do with, and now I have an an idea.

 

Now all i have to do is figure out how to weld them into a large enough mass to make a blade.....

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That is awesome, beautiful colors and shape.... I love what you did with the handle also.

 

North Africa you say? Interesting... I've seen other indications of trade routes from the Americas to Africa and back, our ancestors were more mobile than most realize.

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Boy Scott, that is something really out of the ordinary..it looks great and really it is a great reminder that blades were not always made from steel...very cool

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Too cool Scott! I live what you are doing with the native copper, especially because it is so local.

 

John

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