Jump to content
B. Norris

Rus Sax with Bear Theme WIP - warning picture intensive

Recommended Posts

I have been commissioned to make a sax for a person who plays in the SCA. His persona is that of a Rus trader and he wanted something sufficiently "viking" and with a bear theme. So... The requirements are about 7" in the blade, dark wood handle of a wood native to that region of the world, "Gotland" style sheath and, a bear theme. He also mentioned that he is hard on knives and has broken several in the past. After a bit of back and forth we settled on a Borre style of art for the fittings and sheath.

 

The first thing I did was look for Norse bear motifs. There are not many.

 

Bear grave marker 6th Brampton England.jpg

The first one I found was this illustration of a "grave marker" found in Brampton, England and dated to the 6th Century. Not quite from the area I was looking for, wrong area and time.

 

Bear shaped grave marker 6th Yorkshire.jpg

Then I found a photograph of bear shaped "grave markers" from Yorkshire, England also dated to the 6th Century. One of them looks like the illustration.

 

Jet Bears 8th Yorkshire.jpg

Next were a pair of carved jet bears, also from Yorkshire, and dated to the 8th Century. Closer in time.

 

I just was not finding what I needed and so I started looking at the art of some other ethnic groups of people that the Rus traders might have had contact with.

 

Permic_bear.jpg

I found this bear in the Permic style from Finnland. Pretty cool but, not exactly Borre.

 

Scythian bear.jpg

The Scythians also yielded a bear image.

 

viking_borre_style_bear_heads_concave_disc_mount_022415_1_thumb2_lgw.jpg

Somewhere in there I got lucky and stumbled upon this antique for sale. It was listed as a "viking borre style bear heads concave disc mount." Closer but, not sure I could use something like this on a knife. Maybe I could use one of the bears heads as a thematic element.

 

borre style bear belt mount.jpg

Last was this belt mount from Armour and Castings. When I first ran across this image it was on an outdated website that did not give any information on provenence and time frame. Later on I found the newer website where it is listed as being from Iskorosten, Russia and dating from the 10th century. At last, something from exactly the right place and time.

 

~Bruce~

Edited by B. Norris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll definately "bear" this one 'till the end! :-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I worked up a preliminary sketch, kind of a way to try out some different ideas and to communicate to the client what I was thinking. At this point in time I was still thinking that using one of the bears heads from the disc mount was the way to go.

 

Rus_Sax_small_image_001.jpg

 

Rus_Sax_small_image_004.jpg

Since sketching this sheath up, I have learned that the piece that attaches the ring to the sheath is covered by the other metal pieces instead of being on top. One of the little details that I took away from Axe 'n' Sax-In.

 

Rus_Sax_sml_image_005.jpg

Moving forward on other fronts here is the blade for the knife forged out, next to the cardboard cutout I used when forging to shape. The blade is forged from 6150 steel, it is around 5/16" thick at the base of the spine and, unlike the originals, has a distal taper from the base to the tip. Steel selection and distal taper choices are to meet the clients budget and my attempt to make a knife tough enough to stand up to him!

 

~Bruce~

Edited by B. Norris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Slowly but, steadily work continues on this piece. The bear design has been set aside for the time being. I intend to pick the brains of more informed individuals than myself at Axe 'n' Sax-in.

 

At the event, I have the opportunity to talk Petr about bears and viking ornamentation. He confirms what I have been finding, a vast absence of bears in viking art. Shortly afterwards is when I revisit the Armour and Castings website and get the up-dated information of the borre style bear belt mount. That pretty much seals the deal and at this point I am trying to move forward on the design motif and the knife at the same time. I make the decision to keep the end of the handle round and use it as a canvas for the decoration. Also, I talk to my client and he comments about some of the bears looking "cartoonish" that helps steer me in the decision about which bear to use. Looking closer at the "viking borre style bear heads concave disc mount" it does not seem to display characteristics of the borre style or, even, of a viking style of art.

 

Rus_Sax_small_image_006.jpg

I have chosen to go with white oak for the handle and plan to use vinegaroon to dye it black. Here is the handle roughly shaped. I am trying to go with a shape similar to what you would find on a Sami Leuku knife.

 

Rus_Sax_small_image_007.jpg

View of the spine, showing the thickness and distal taper.

 

Rus_Sax_small_image_008.jpg

View of the edge.

 

How to go from a photograph of a 3 dimensional casting to something I can draw the lines of? I end up taking the original photograph and creating a negative image to get rid of the background. I print this out on the printer and take it to FedEx/Kinko's and have them scale the image.

 

borre style bear belt mount 02.jpg

This is the negative image from the thumbnail of the belt mount.

 

~Bruce~

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The handle was getting there but, still not quite right. I set it down for a week and started looking at every image of a Leuku knife handle I could find. Then I took a critical look at what I had done. Some of the lines were not right so I did my best to get them right. Sorry, in advance, about the poor image quality of some of these. I have been snapping pictures with the phone, as I go, and texting them to my client. I haven't quite figured out the focus on the camera yet.

 

Rus_Sax_small_image_009.jpg

Here it is from the side, showing the lines of the handle. I dyed the handle with vinegaroon to give the client an idea of what it will be like finished.

 

Rus_Sax_small_image_010.jpg

On edge.

 

Rus_Sax_small_image_011.jpg

A shot of the spine, with my hand in there for scale.

 

I am torn about how to handle the decoration on the end of the handle. The first thought is to make it large and use a single bears head but, that requires the keeper for the ring to go through the bears forehead. Another option is to use multiple bears heads and make a design similar to borre style brooches.

 

Rus_Sax_small_image_012.jpg

Here is a large bears head idea that I accomplished by scaling up at Kinko's and then using a light table to trace in the center of a laid out disc. The other sketch is to show the idea of multiple bears heads.

 

Rus_Brooch_2ttt.jpg

I found a Rus brooch, that I particularly liked and the area it was found was not too far from the location of the bears head belt mount. The empty areas contained gripping beasts that I used Paint to erase.

 

Rus_Brooch_2ttt 02.JPG

Again, this is a rough mock up using Paint. I am not able to orient the bears heads appropriately, or scale them, using the computer.

 

~Bruce~

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rus_Sax_small_image_013.jpg

A bit more detail added to the idea of a single bears head.

 

Rus_Sax_small_image_014.jpg

Some serious work on the idea of multiple bears heads with 4 fold symmettry. Still not quite right but, I think I'm on to something here. This is looking very viking borre style.

 

I show the 2 images to my client and (like the rest of my family) he prefers the one with 4 bears heads. How the hell am I going to do detail work that small? I start looking at images of borre style disc brooches. I am looking at the way the space of the piece is used, design details, how empty spaces are used, symmettry, etc.

 

3.jpg

I like the faces in this one and the use of the triangular design on the border.

 

full28662501_a.jpg

This one has a slot in the center that looks like it was made to accept a ring keeper!

 

large-borre-style-pin-norway_2.jpg

This one is just incredible.

 

~Bruce~

Edited by B. Norris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rus_Sax_small_image_015.jpg

I decide to get rid of the ring dots and add in the faces and serated border of the first brooch. I think this is it and my client thinks it is awesome!

 

Now, I just have to get it onto a piece of brass. I would like it to have more of a 3 dimensional look but, at this point, will probably print out a negative image (once again) this time on acetate sheet. I can transfer the toner from the overhead transparency onto the brass with an iron and it will work as a resist so that I can etch the design with acid (ferric chloride.) Depending on how it comes out, I may use some small punches and scrapers to add detail and depth. I would prefer to carve the design in wax and cast it but, I am not set up for that and could not accomplish it in the time frame that I have.

 

~Bruce~

Edited by B. Norris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Double post. My computer doesn't want to behave tonight.

 

~Bruce~

Edited by B. Norris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

cool project. my inclination would be to pierce the pommel plate to remove the negative shapes surrounding the bear heads before etching in the details - i think this would emphasise the bears much more and cement them as the central theme of the knife...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love where you're going with this....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Decisions,decisions! I would'nt cope with all of them! Looking forward to the finished project!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

cool project. my inclination would be to pierce the pommel plate to remove the negative shapes surrounding the bear heads before etching in the details - i think this would emphasise the bears much more and cement them as the central theme of the knife...

 

What Jake said. B) And try carving the brass, it's easier than you might think! Unless the time factor doesn't allow, of course.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cool project! Cant wait to see what you come up with.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Carved out a groove for the brass wire wrap to go in, it ended up a bit too deep but, I think I can glue a few layers of cloth under the wire. Who knows, it may even hold the wire better that way. I bought 26 gauge brass wire, after seeing the original in Jeff Pringle's collection, this gauge is in the ballpark. Another option would be to twist 2, or 3, wires together and use the twisted wire for the wrap.

 

Rus_Sax_small_image_017.jpg

This is the groove, seen from the side.

 

Rus_Sax_small_image_016.jpg

This is the back of the handle. Notice the groove and the 2 holes? I am basing this wrap on the before mentioned original from Jeff's collection although, with only 1 wrapped section instead of 3. On that one, the wrap was started in the middle of the wire, one piece ran under the wrap and, at the end, the 2 pieces were twisted together for a short length before getting fastened down. This creates a registration point, so that you can feel where the back of the knife is.

 

Piercing the brass and removing the negative space around the bears heads is a good idea and would work well if I was making a brooch. On a knife pommel, I want all of the end grain of the wood covered and sealed. I do agree that removing metal there would look better, my plan is to use liver of sulfur and blacken the background. On some original pieces, I have seen a textured pattern that looks like a surface prepared to accept the wire for Koftgari. I was trying to reproduce that look.

 

As far as carving the brass... I have a few bits for my dremel and gave it a go on some scrap. It cuts very easily. I am just unsure about being able to work as small as this piece would require and there is a lot of detail (and work) in this design. I may etch the pattern on the brass and then use the dremel from there to create some relief. I haven't decided yet, much of it will depend on how it looks and the amount of time I have. My deadline is the end of November.

 

~Bruce~

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

awesome, got a little inspired I'd say,,,

 

 

me too,,,

 

 

 

jm

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bruce, i understand what you mean about the end grain - Jacobite dirks had pierced pommel plates with cloth under layer showing through the piercing - the cloth taken from the red-coats of the southerners the dirk had taken...

 

i think twisting the wire would be well worth the 5 minutes or so it takes to do with a twist drill - it will give you the extra thickness, and is much easier to get a finished looking wrap, in my opinion. you might also consider finishing the wrap at the blade side of the groove - it makes it much easier to get the wrap tight, by fixing the wrap at the pommel side of the groove, wrapping, and inserting the end in the blade side hole, you can grip the end with needle nosed pliers, and pull everything down tight, and crimp it down at the edge of the tang hole...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Finally! Some more progress to show. Work around the holidays kicked my butt and I took a couple weekends off (after working weekends for so long) before getting back to this.

 

Here it is with handle wrapped in brass wire and blade glued into place.

 

IMG_20140113_132642edit.jpg

 

~Bruce~

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's coming along nicely, Bruce!(Can't wait for the end cap!)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Today's progress.

 

Managed to screw up and shave too much leather off the sheath. Time to start over. I console myself with the thought that this one can serve as a pattern for the next one and that the next one will be better. Still bites though.

IMG_20140119_152526smallimage.jpg

 

~Bruce~

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I know how that feels Bruce... The sax looks great and sure deserves a great sheath.

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...