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grosse messer, 4-bar twist

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Greetings everyone!


I wanted to give my twisting machine/jig a workout (the twist-o-matic). Plus, I wanted to actually make a European sword. After all, I have only made seaxs. Or Chinese stuff.


Since I have made a couple of bauernwehrs, and no one really seems to be making a lot of messers, I thought I would give it a shot.


This is truly a, "work-in-progress." I am not too far along, and there are about a thousand ways that this can fail.


By the way, my quench tube is full of Parks 50. Do you guys think Parks is OK to use with 80crv2 and O1, or should I go with something slower by a tad?


There are 3 twisted bars. Each of these has a mass ratio of 4:3:2 (80crv2/O1/15n20). The edge is, "piled" construction, which means 7 layers. The ratio of this is not as neat as the others, but there is less 15n20. The edge will be 80crv2 and o1.




Here are the stacks with handles welded on. I welded them all together without any flux, and it works great!




welded, drawn, and made into octagons for twisting (about 3/4" in diameter).




New anvil stand deserved a pic (compare this to the plastic tub full of dirt it was sitting in above - see first pic of anvil in this thread)! The arm is of the rolling captain's chair I have in the shop, for when I am waiting for things or when I am working with jeweler's or engraving stuff.




The Twist-o-matic 3000 working hard. Inside that little firebrick forge, about 1.5" of the bar reaches a screaming welding heat. I just move the forge along the bar, one inch at a time. That is what the chalk marks are for. Move an inch, soak at welding heat for a couple of minutes, and give it 1.5 revolutions. Move another inch, repeat. I could easily do 3 rev's per inch with these steels. This little forge just sips the propane. I LOVE IT. I am going to use it for small knives, too. I built a mounting bracket, so the forge can come off of the post-and-rail assembly. Cool, isn't it. You know you should take a day and build yourself one of these (two if you build your own forge).





Twisted and squashes to .625". I cut the end off of the bottom bar, because I did not like the look of that one spot. You can see the fourth bar on the floor by my foot.




Here I am cleaning and squaring. Both are CRITICAL. If not clean, no welds. If not square, then the whole thing will shift as it welds, and you will get a crazy pattern where some bars are very small and others are very large in appearance. You need rectangular or square cross-sections. So, after clean, these were about 1/2" square bars.

Edited by Kevin (The Professor)
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OK, here is some more.


Here are all four bars, welded together with a temporary handle, into the forge for real welding.

I had to use flux on this. Basically, I can only go without flux when I can bring the whole area-to-be-welded up to temp and set the welds in one pass. This was just too long (about 14" total).


Aside, i forged the billet out some to get better welds. Forging to length a bit. Then, I got crazy and tried to forge the bevels wider. It cause a weld to break, finally. I had to shorten the piece by about 4".




billet welded and drawn, just before I started trying to forge to width and shape.


See how long this is? In the end, or at least as of this typing, I have a 19" blade and a 5" and a bit handle. I lost several inches to the aforementioned weld break.




Forged to shape general outline, with the tang ground flat. All of these welds are good! I ground enough to be sure that there were no inclusions or anything. The forge scale on it is from annealing it in my kiln.


So, now I need to finish the profiling. If you look closely, you can notice the subtle curvature. i am going to adjust the point some, and then grind on the primary and the false edge. I still have to determine the exact profile of the handle, too.


Edited to add: The blade is 1.8" wide at the widest, and about 1.6 or so at the forte. I am going to adjust the profile some. This is just basically a billet that has the shape of a grosse messer inside of it.




Here is a hint of the things to come, revealed by the fire.


I am open to advice, pointers, ideas, etc. Comments are welcomed. I have never made one of these, or even a European sword of any type. I am truly open for input.


Hope you decide to come along for the ride!





Edited by Kevin (The Professor)
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Cool.. I love the grosse messer.


I didn't realize the FORGE moves on your twist-o-matic. That makes sense now...


Any chance you will want black oak for that messer? ;)

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thanks for the encouragement, everyone!


I have made a little more progress. Here goes...(there will be a definite theme to today's progress. I think files are the best tools man ever created).





filing transition and drawfiling tang





Shaping tang (it is a full-tang short sword). Half-round cleaning and sculpting what was started with 2" wheel.




drawfiling spine (with a 14" bastard file). Did I mention, I love files? You can see a bit of the distal taper here. The taper on these is really important (aside: it is a lot like a goosequill dao, straight until the center-of-percussion, then a small curve, with a sharp false edge, balanced for attacks of both thrust and cut, or a bit of straight sword and a bit of saber is how the Chinese describe it).


The balance has to come from the distal taper, so it has to be very significant, and non-linear. The taper you see above is BEFORE the false edges are added.




final shaping of transition with file guide and big freakin' file.




What is that? Yep, you guessed it... filing in of the false edge. Push filed to establish, draw filed to refine. Files are great. Fast enough to do real work, but slow enough to see every little bit of progress to keep from really screwing up. Judging from my finger in the pic, my hands are starting to look more like a knifemaker than a typist. When you are a prof, if you aren't careful, you will develop all of the ripped and svelt physical attributes associated with sitting on your butt and eating all day.




Now that I am getting the profile almost done, and the false-edge established, it is beginning to look like a real messer. I learned something for sure, these things are wicked. That point is going to be vicious, and the spot on the back where the two curves converge will be a serious weapon, too. These blades are really brutal. This one still needs to lose about 30% of its weight, maybe more.



Here is the profile just before I finished for the day. I added a bit more profile taper after this pic. The blade is 18.6" long, 1.6" wide at forte, 1.85" wide at widest point, and 1.45" wide about 3" back from widest point. It gets slightly thinner until about 2-3" from the upsweep of the false edges, then gets wider again. This seems to give better balance.


The back of the handle is also straighter than shown in this photo. In the above pic, there is still a bit of an upward slant in the couple of inches leading to the blade transition. I filed that flat, with a slight drop about 1" before the rear end of the handle (where there will be a bolster but no pommel).


OK, next steps, more filing, and then heat treating. Thanks for looking.

Wish me luck.

Edited by Kevin (The Professor)
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Lots of good stuff here! Looking forward to seeing the final result. Also, I'm loving the twist-o-matic.

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Aside, i forged the billet out some to get better welds. Forging to length a bit. Then, I got crazy and tried to forge the bevels wider. It cause a weld to break, finally. I had to shorten the piece by about 4".

I've run into this same problem a few times, seems that forging in the bevels on a multi-bar pattern-welded blade is stressful on the welds. I'm stubborn and keep doing it though... :)


This is going to be an epic blade! I myself wouldn't want to quench O1 in parks#50, the good thing is O1 doesn't really need an engineered quenching oil, and I don't think 80crv2 does either... Used vegetable oil would be fine, IMO.


Your images are causing a bit of file envy here, I need a new set.

Edited by GEzell
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This thing is looking AWESOME! I l really love how wicked that false edge is. I'm curious what the weight on this thing is right now, and what your targeted weight is....?

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Looking good, Kevin! Messers are really cool and interesting swords.

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OK, no new pics, but the blade has SURVIVED HEAT TREATMENT. It is straight, and in its second tempering.


After forging, I patiently straightened at just the dullest red heat, for a crazy number of cycles to get everything absolutely straight. Then, I did a stress relieve/spheroidal anneal in my kiln.

Followed that with grinding and drilling.


Then, 3 normalizations.





Then, to harden...

1480F quenched into plain veggie oil. (George - I did agree with your comment and I changed my quenchant out for this project. Nice, slow, cheap veggie oil)

There was NO distortion. Well, about 1mm on the handle. That was it. I was able to straighten before the martensite had set. By hand. (I interrupted the quench after 9 secs in veggie oil).


Tempering: 1 hr, 400F. 1 hr 470F 1hr 480F.


O1 and 80crv2 both have specs that suggest 300C for 55 RC. So, I am tempering at the equivalent of 250C for about 57 RC. Of course, I don't have a Rockwell tester, so this is all interpolation based upon data sheets.


I have to admit, I just follow the specs given by the people who make the steel (or at least industry specs). Of course, I test each blade before I send it out, but I am testing for big problems like hidden cracks and such. I can't tell the exact hardness of what I make, just a range. I bet almost everyone is in the same situation, whether or not they will admit it.


take care,


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Alright! I always get a huge relief when something survives the quench. I really want to see a pic of the pattern.

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Randall, I would go for a little softer if this was a blade of w2 or 1075 or something that I often use (high-layer pattern weld composed of those two for subtle hada/vivid hamon). But, with the bulk of the blade being 80crv2, I think I can get away with just a little harder. After all, 80crv2, o1, and 15n20 are all pretty freakin' tough (and all have pretty similar tempering curves, luckily).


At least, that is what the data sheets tell me. I am going to massacre some maple saplings in a day or two, and I will know more then.


Collin - I can see the pattern because of the oxidation from heat treatment. It is cool. One of the best things is the difference in the various bars as you progress from spine toward the edge. The spine has been ground very little (though there is a progression from forte to point on it, too, due to distal taper).


What I am getting at is that all of the twisted bars were the same in terms of pattern, if not direction, when they were welded together. Now, after forging and grinding, there are some neat gradients to the pattern. The low-layer edge bar is not very spectacular at all by comparison. next time, I need to re-stack/re-weld that one two or three times to get more layers. But, I always wanted to make something with a piled construction, so now I have!



Edited by Kevin (The Professor)
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Greg - that is a definite! It wouldn't be a messer without the nagel. Honestly, the hilt is the most challenging part of this project. The blade is not much different from goosequill daos, and I make those all the time. They are my stock-in-trade. Making a messer hilt is going to be very new and different (though I have made a couple of bauernwehrs, and they at least had a nagel, too).

I should start working on the hilt some time this weekend. I have to file and polish today!

Here is a pic post heat treatment (there was almost zero distortion in these steels). For a person used to water and clay, it was a relief to quench tool steel in veggie oil. No drama, really.


This is post heat treat, with 80 grit grinder marks to get the oil off before tempering. The first temper is into the kitchen oven at 405F while I wait for the kiln to cool down so I can do the hotter tempers.

This is the first time in a long time that I have been able to file an entire sword. what I mean is, with a Chinese sword with clay heat treatment, the edge and part of the body are too hard to file, while the back is springy and can be easily filed. This whole blade is pretty springy (though harder than the soft back on a clay heat treat), so I can file the whole thing pretty easily.

Working with this steel now, I can really see by comparison, what a tendency it had to air harden in thin sections. I couldn't cut it with a bandsaw, and could barely file it, just by taking it from the forge and setting it on the anvil. I had to cycle it down in temp to below critical in steps of heating and cooling if I wanted to be able to use my tools on it.


the beginning of drawfiling. You can see where the grinder marks are getting filed away. This was after less than a minute of work with a 14" bastard file. IMPORTANT - buy your files from an industrial supply like McMaster-Carr and not Home Cheapo. You will get the same name on the product, but it will be far superior if you get it through the supply house. Same for Small Mart. Don't shop there for equipment for your shop, it will be second grade.


after about 3 or 4 minutes. You can see that this section is just about done. You can also see the pattern peeking meekly out of the steel. Real polish and etching will happen later.

Note: Belt grinders do not actually get things flat. First, there are the inevitable dips and peaks that come from accidentally digging the blade in or changing angles almost imperceptibly (the newer you are, the worse this will be, but it never goes away completely). Second, even if you are holding perfectly against the world's flattest platen, you still get the belt bunching up due to friction and cutting a little trough near the top of the cut. There will be a very small hollow to everything ground on a flat platen. You can't always see it, and you can get rid of it some by changing angles, but its there. Draw filing, or using a surface, or a disc grinder, will show this to you. It will also get rid of it!

The next best option, which is how I flatten full-tangs, is to use a magnet and press vertically against platen. This makes the bunching up of the belt only affect a small area. Then, you move the blade up and down some while grinding, and the area affected is negligible.

By the way - I realize that all of you who have been doing this for a couple of years or more (even a couple of decades) already knew all of this stuff. Forgive me. I am hoping that some of the newer folks can learn from this. I was hard-headed, and I read but ignored this sort of stuff in the beginning. It took a year of struggle before I realized that I should stop trying to re-invent the wheel and listen to those who have come before. If nothing else, I hope all of this typing on my part demonstrates that I have actually been paying attention to those kind people.



Here is where the blade stands at the end of Thursday. I hope to drawfile the other side today, and finish the false edges. maybe, maybe, begin polish. Oh joy, I get to polish something that won't have a shuangxue! This will be a lot simpler.

thanks for lookin'


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As a new guy, the advice and info is greatly appreciated. I learned a while ago that learning from someone else's mistakes is just about as effective as learning from your own without the pain! :)


Beautiful work!

Edited by Josh Brannen
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Nice one Kevin! I do the brass rod test, good enough for me! As far as hardness testing goes I also judge on the oil stone, how much 'bite' I get, 17 years of sharpening gives a good idea of hardness!

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I have got my life arranged so I can work on it tomorrow. It is heat treated, final shaped, and filed. Tomorrow is polish and etch. Then the fun starts, the hilt. I am going for a low or medium layer count random billet to make guard and nagel, so it matches the steel. Maybe have enough left for real bolsters, too. That is the plan. You can bet your behind I won't use o1 or 80crv2 in the fittings. I am tired of having to spheroidize everything before I can file/drill/mill it. This stuff is seriously resistant to abrasion.


I have white canvas micarta for scales (or several kinds of North American hardwood because I am an eco geek). Probably going with micarta since it is cool looking and durable. Very thick-walled mild steel tube for rivets. I decided to ditch the palm swell in the handle. All the originals I saw in period art had straight grips with no swell.


thanks for asking.


Edited by Kevin (The Professor)
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