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A viking sword from Suontaka


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Hi

 

This is a project I finished late last year and brought it with me to Owens forge in last month. After showing it around I thought of maybe do a thread on how I made it.

The sword is a blunt re-enactment sword heavily inspired by a sword from Suontaka, Finland, but with some of my own touches and a hollow hilt.
A couple of years ago a friend of mine approached me asking if I could make a sword from this finding, and my initial reply was a blunt, but polite "no". Everyone who has seen the original know the amount of detail on the hilt and my wax carving skills are not up to that task, by far.
But she continued to ask me and after a while I got hooked on the idea. After all, it is a huge challenge and it would be fun to solve it.

So, after doing some re-search I found out that you could get 3d models printed for a relatively small amount of money and with a fairly high level of detail. Since I work as a gamedeveloper and has experience with 3d modeling that was a metod I could work with. So, I agreed to do the project in 3d, print it and then cast it in bronze.

 

Here is the result:

 

Nils_Suontaka_1.JPG

 

Nils_Suontaka_2.JPG

 

Although it is fairly heavy (1.195g) it can easily be maneuvered around because of the pivot points. It feels big in the hand and like it want to do serious stuff.

The blade is made by Szymon Chlebowski, but with some modifications to the fuller and silhouette by me. I retrospect I wish I would have made the blade my self since I would have had a greater control of the outcome and how the components come together visually. I might do another version later on...
As I mentioned above, the hilt is hollow so it allowed me to make it fairly big (as the original) without adding any significant weight.

Nils_Suontaka_5.JPG

Nils_Suontaka_6.JPG



So, this is how I made the hilt:

I started out building the 3d model for the hilt with a flat plane where I made the pattern itself:
Nils_Suontaka_Sword_1.jpg

 

Then I filled in the gaps and started to extrude the pattern. I do that while it is flat since this is easier to control the thickness etc. in the program. After that I start to form the overall curve of the piece.
Nils_Suontaka_Sword_2.jpg
Here is a wireframe version of the model for those of you who care about that:

Nils_Suontaka_Sword_3.jpg

 

Here are the finished pieces before printing. In order to be able to make the finished hilt hollow I only made half of the parts, but completely symmetrical. By doing this the casting company could later cast these parts in wax, glue them together with the holes for the tang and fill them with paster. Then lost wax the whole thing.
Nils_Suontaka_Sword_3a.jpg
One of the things you might think is that making the model in 3D might be faster than doing it by hand, but that might not be the case. I used many, many hours on this model, partly because I have little experience with the amount of detail I need to put into the model for it to work when I print it later on. Also, the aspect of looking at something on a screen is completely different to holding the same thing in your hands. So, during the process I made a couple of test prints in order to get a good sense of what I was doing and that is kind of the big advantage by using this method. You can care about proportions and size later on and even experiment with it. When you carve it in wax you need to figure this out at the start. On the other hand when working with physical things it is easier to grasp how it will look in the end.
Here is one of the test prints I did during the process:
Nils_Suontaka_Sword_4.jpg
And here are they on the blade:
Nils_Suontaka_Sword_5.JPG

 

 

One of the drawbacks of printing in 3d (at least for the cheaper alternatives) is that the surface is going to give very visible clues about the process. In the printing process I chose the model is formed by layering very thin layers of plastic on top of each other. Since the resolution here is limited "steps" is formed in the model like the ones you can see here:
Nils_Suontaka_Sword_6.JPG
My goal was to make something that felt and looked handmade. It was not supposed to be sloppy, but at least not have any signs of printing. So after I got the finished models I scraped the surface with a carving tool to remove all the marks. So, in many ways the 3d model piece works as a blank that I work with until it gets the right amount of detail.
Nils_Suontaka_Sword_7.JPG

 

To the left in the picture you can barely see the "steps".
I did not deliberately make any highly visible tool marks, but I chose not to remove the ones I ended up making. You can see similar marks on originals so I think it works fine.
Nils_Suontaka_Sword_12.jpg
Here are the models back from the casting company.
Nils_Suontaka_Sword_9.JPG
After this I oxidized the pieces and mounted them.


I learned a lot by making this hilt. As I said earlier on it did take a lot of time making it, and I maybe used as much time as a skilled wax worker would do. Also, making something that looks alive is harder on a PC. When you make something digital it tend to almost stress the eye... it is not easy to look at and it does not look natural. That is something I worked a lot to avoid. When doing things by hand in a physical world this is something that is achieved naturally since you are making small "errors" here and there. I kind of had to simulate this in the 3d program. Cleaning up the models by hand and the oxidation in the end also helped to make it feel more hand made.

I like mixing different working processes and skills and with this project I got to use a lot of them and in the future I would like to explore different combinations of digital and classical working methods some more.
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When i have time to properly reply i will. Until then awesome work. Never thougt to 3D print the molds. My brother is getting a $2500 economy version one of these days.

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A wonderful mix of technology and art!

 

 

I learned a lot by making this hilt. As I said earlier on it did take a lot of time making it, and I maybe used as much time as a skilled wax worker would do. Also, making something that looks alive is harder on a PC. When you make something digital it tend to almost stress the eye... it is not easy to look at and it does not look natural. That is something I worked a lot to avoid. When doing things by hand in a physical world this is something that is achieved naturally since you are making small "errors" here and there. I kind of had to simulate this in the 3d program. Cleaning up the models by hand and the oxidation in the end also helped to make it feel more hand made.

I like mixing different working processes and skills and with this project I got to use a lot of them and in the future I would like to explore different combinations of digital and classical working methods some more.
I messed with 3D modeling for a few years, and I understand the time that goes into a project like this, and the difficulty in achieving an organic feel with polygons... you have done well I think.
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That is a very unique approach. I very much like the result, good job.

I would be very interested in seeing the original sword if you don't mind, I love Finnish swords, I don't believe I have seen this one though.

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I used a photosensitive wax polymer for similar designs on dirks & jewelry, but the company went out of business. It was very convenient. I have thought about trying the laser-printed iron-on copper etch process, but doubt it would get enough relief and maintain detail.

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I got to play with this sword at Owen's, and you truly cannot tell it was ever a digital creation. It is quite organic in the hand. Thanks for posting it, Nils!

 

Here it is in my grubby hand:

 

Owens 25.jpg

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With most printing / photoetching techniques you can draw your design, scan it in and go from there, which still preserves the mark of the hand... the danger of computer assisted design is definitely sterility...

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Thanks a lot for the kind words :)

 

The sword was found in a womans grave in Suontaka, Finland together with another sword..

 

Here are some pictures of the original:

IMG_1232.JPG

 

 

IMG_1240.JPG

 

And more can be found here: http://www.vikverir.no/ressurser/usages_mythes_symboles/?dir=&page=14

 


The company I used was http://www.shapeways.com/ and they are fairly cheap. The prints I did was in some kind of plastic so the casting company had to make a silicon mold of that and then cast the wax. Yesterday they announced that you can now print in meltable wax, so that is exiting :)

 

 

Alan Longmire - I am happy that it turned out as something that looks hand made. I must say that the sword looks enormous on that picture... the grip is only 8.5 cm :P Your ax was awesome, it almost gave me the thought of starting with smoking ;)

 

J. Arthur Loose - I remember that you talked about that at Owens, and that would be so cool if that still was around. About the sterility, I think that a good way of using 3d print is to use it as a base for further work by hand. So it maybe takes you 90% of the way, but the rest you have to do yourself. That at least does the trick for me together with not using all kinds of digital guidelines. I am using techniques that will not give exact results and create "errors" along the way, that helps also.... Another very interesting aspect is that some museums does 3d scanning of their artifacts... some of them even puts them on the internet. Now you can truly make a copy, or make one that you can have beside you when you do the real one in wax. Loads of interesting possibilities.

I have also been playing with the idea of making "sketch" models of objects I document in the museums by talking loads of photographs of them and using as a basis for a 3d model. This can be done with programs like this one: http://www.123dapp.com/catch This is not super acurat at the moment and loads of details is lost. You can even find distortion in the models, but it might be a good basis to get something you can hold, look at and analyze. You do not need to be very technical to do this, and that is cool :)


Again, thanks a lot and nice to know that you find it interesting :)

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Thanks for posting this topic. I have been thinking about how to possibly use 3D printing for hilts and pommels, and it's great to hear about an actual attempt.

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That is incredible, thank you for posting the process behind your beautiful creation. Seeing the cast pieces first I never would have thought the master was printed.

 

Cheers!

 

John

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I daresay that your friend will have the best re-enactment sword on the field. That turned out beautifully. Thank you for sharing.

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Thanks Wes and Peter :)

Peter, I had planed to talk to you about your experiences with the sword you made for Albion. That hilt is a mountain to climb and it would have been interesting to hear someone elses experience with it. Well, if our roads cross sometime in the future, I would like to do that.

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