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Viking age wolf tooth spears, the collected thread

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Here was an experiment with doing very fine teeth, and seeing if the teeth could then be drawn longer but it really did not work well, the teeth are there, but they're very muddled and not quite right. Spacing was about the same, but the teeth were a hair under 1/8 inch deep. They really did not stretch out much length-wise.




The good results above were from making the teeth about as deep as the space between them, in this case 1/4 inch spacing and 1/4 inch deep impressions. They were driven in using a hot cut hardy, which is much easier than using a chisel and MUCH faster than trying to use a saw. The mating teeth were then hammered over the cooled down edge billet to get the form / pushed mostly into the voids, and then the two pieces were brought to a welding heat and welded up.



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Hello. Not so long ago became the owner of this Viking spear. There are not many mentions of wolf teeth spears on the net. Perhaps this topic contains the largest number of images of such copies. And

Speaking of construction, I forgot to add this image from Ypey which seems to be fairly accurate for many of the pattern welded spears that I've seen   Here are some more viking age pattern welded

I wont clutter the thread with all the images, but I'll link them instead, here are the 15 pages on spears from Jan Pettersen's work, from which most of the spear typologies are based.   I dont rem

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I did one attempt like that once at Owen's Axe & Sax, using a hardy to make the cuts. But as they were V-shaped, the inserts didn't stay in. How do you manage that? Looking at the originals, the cuts are almost rectangular instead, using a thin blunt chisel. That would allow the inserts to stay in a lot easier.

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Ahh but there are no inserts! The only wolfsteeth with inserts are the above mentioned large saxes on the first page of this thread, all other wolfstooth patterned blades and spears I have ever seen, including the multiple ones in my private collection, use no inserts at all. The beauty of this simple construction is that when you forge the 'tooth' bar into the 'edge' bar, it makes a deep impression which 'keys' the two bars together such that they mostly hold themselves in place, and can only sit together in one position, without sliding or moving around.


The big thing that I have been looking for in my experiments is to get the same deformation pattern as the originals, so that the forging steps done end with results that look the same as original examples. My test piece above is the first one where I've REALLY seen an exact match for the deformation patterns seen in historical examples, i.e. the flat 'teeth' on one side (actually the unmarked face of the flat bar being cut with the hardy) the pointy teeth on the other, and the grain flowing around and into the teeth on both sides with no evidence of any removed material.


I'm not the first person to use this method, but the big difference is... scale. As modern smiths we're very very used to taking large pieces and reducing the size through forging. At the time in history when these artifacts were being produced however, it seems apparent that the opposite is true. They took smaller pieces and built them together to get the resulting size that they needed for an object. Working AT size, with bars already at the length of the spear or knife you want to produce seems to be the key to getting the teeth the right size and shape.


It is also a lot easier to do this with a charcoal or coal forge than it is propane, ironically. The ability to more tightly control the heat to a specific location helps immensely when working on small scale. It's not that easy taking two pieces of quarter inch square stock the length of the final blade you want and putting teeth into one with a hardy and then stacking another quarter inch bar ontop of it and forging it down, but the results are, when you draw that resulting 1/4 inch by half bar down on the side for the bevel, there's very little deformation of the teeth.

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I did one attempt like that once at Owen's Axe & Sax, using a hardy to make the cuts. But as they were V-shaped, the inserts didn't stay in. How do you manage that? Looking at the originals, the cuts are almost rectangular instead, using a thin blunt chisel. That would allow the inserts to stay in a lot easier.


If you look at my photo, at the top of the page, you will see that I overcame this problem by doing one tooth at a time. In a solid fuel forge I don't see how it would work any other way.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Justin... Do you know anything about the spearhead labeled 5 in the Bergen museum plate? That pattern is compelling to me.

I have always been interested in weapons from the viking age, but everyone seems to focus on the swords, being the most romantic and iconic of the viking weapons. Spears however were much more common, and just as highly revered and decorated, yet seem to be much less documented, and far less studied. The only books studying them that I've been able to find are academic works for which I haven't been able to access actual copies, just references by name. I've been looking for a copies of the following, if anyone has access to them, please contact me!


Norwegian Spear-heads from the Merovingian and Viking Periods by Bergljot Solberg - Universitetet i Bergen, 1984


Weapons Export from the Continent to the Nordic Countries in the Carolingian Period by Bergljot Solberg - Studien zur Sachsenforschung 7 (= Veröffentlichungen der urgeschichtlichen
Sammlungen des Landesmuseums zu Hannover 39), Hildesheim, 241-259 [Studies of Saxony Research 7 (= Publications of the prehistoric
Collections of the National Museum to Hannover 39), Hildesheim, 241-259]

Tension and Tradition: A Study of Late Iron Age Spearheads Around the Baltic Sea by Kristina Creutz - Stockholms universitet, 2003



Anyhow, that out of the way, I've been collecting as much info, images, and actual artifacts of one particular type of spear from the viking age. I first saw pictures of the helsinki spear, Helsinki 3631:2 I have always loved pattern welded spears, and this spear to me was the most clear image of pattern welding in a spear. One of the distinctive features on the spear is the wolfs tooth pattern which intrigued me. It was the first time I had seen that pattern on a spear, though I had seen tooth patterns on seaxes before, in particular the Sittingbourne seax and the hunting knife of Charlemagne. In searching for other spears with this pattern however, originally I had thought them to be extremely rare, finding examples in a few museums and but one other image of one from an 1800s museum catelog from Bergen Museum. In the years since then however I have discovered that they are apparently vastly more common than I had originally supposed, and in fact I now have five toothy spears in my own private collection.


Fair warning, I do not own the rights to many of the images that I am posting here (many of them come from other threads on this forum which I am collecting here, others I do not know the origin of)



The Helsinki spear, first the image that most people are familiar with, and second the true color image of the artifact.



The spear third from left in this plate from the Bergen Museum is also a wolfstooth spear



Now even from just these two images and renditions of extant spears, I could tell that the teeth were not made in the same manner as those on the Sittingbourne seax. For comparison, here are that seax, the hunting knife of Charlemagne, and another wolftooth seax with radiographs.






The teeth there are big and chunky, and look to be constructed in the same manner as this seax



The teeth in the hunting knife of Charlemagne are very hard to discern in the blade itself from images, but they're there, and much finer construction than the above two seaxes, but still not so small as those in the wolfstooth spear heads.





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  • 8 months later...

I haven't visited this thread in a while, so let me update it with some photos of toothy spearheads that I've obtained in the last year. The more of these that I see, in various states of decay, the more convinced I am that the very simple method above with a hot-cut tool is the proper historic method, and that you just need to work at the size of your final dimension, I have a few more test-pieces that I've done, so the next thing I hope to post is a blade with a historically correct wolfstooth pattern =)


this one is quite decayed, but , as with my other very decayed wolfstooth spears, it gives great hints about the construction method as well.






Next up, this one I purchased based on some not-so good photos in which I thought I saw a wolfstooth pattern and I took a gamble. It's hard to see in photos, but it most definately is a wolfstooth spear, with gorgeous twist cores on each side as well.







In this last photo I went in with editing software and faintly traced over some of the pattern lines with transparent reddish lines


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Finally is this spear which is in remarkable condition, with areas that look like they may be the original surface, you can not only see the wolfsteeth very clearly, but on one side you can VERY clearly see the twist cores on the sides as well, its a true beauty !


EDIT: Also a very very cool construction note on this spear. Take a look at the twist core bar where it's very visible, notice something on it? The twist stack was tapered prior to twisting, and then forge welded without distorting / stretching out the twist, so you have small stars at the tip getting progressively larger as you move down the spear, in fact the twist 'stars' are almost 3x the size at the base of the spear as the tip, but none of them are stretched out long as happens when you draw out a twist after twisting it. It's truly gorgeous! I would argue that this was a more beautiful spear than the famed Helsinki spear when new!






Edited by Justin Mercier
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  • 3 weeks later...

More photos of this last spear. The broken tip is interesting, it seems that the spear may have broken in period and been repaired with molten bronze, as that appears to be what is filling the crack on one side. Other areas of the spear appear to have been gilded, the teeth having been clearly outlined , and remnants of gilding remaining on the haft as well. I realized I had not included any photo with a ruler for scale either.



about 7.5 inches overal length











Remnants of gilding on the haft still, perhaps even fully intact under the surface encrustations




Some different lighting to see the texture of the spearhead






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  • 3 months later...

Really nice spears, Alex. I particularly like the blade of the first one and the silver wire on the second. Can you tell how the wings or lugs are attached to the one on the bottom of your last post?

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It is such a technology is applicable. In a week I will do you good pictures of this spear with wings



Ha! It is a dovetail joint! I never thought about that method, thank you!

Ха ! Це ластівчин хвіст ! Я ніколи не думав про цей метод , спасибі ! Google translate works both ways. :)
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Excellent, thank you for sharing ! I have a sizable collection particularly for a private individual in the United States, but I am feeling envious looking at some of your photos =) Most of the ones I own I was able to pick up for relatively cheap due to their poor state of preservation.

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  • 4 months later...

I keep re-reading this thread periodically. I really want to make some spears, and some wolf's teeth. I wonder about the possibility of making a key die which both pieces of the wolf pattern are forged into, and then the two put together. I also wonder how much evidence we have for spear length as it relates to spear head styles...

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I've had luck with using a chisel and then forging iron into it! My technique as it stands now is this:


Make the edge bar of whatever material, I usually use some medium to high layer random pattern weld

Mark your teeth, I did a spacing of like 1 every mm or so without any issue

File a notch to mark where you will chisel.

Grind a chisel to match the tooth geometry as seen in originals

Forge in the teeth

Let the edge bar cool, and then forge some white hot iron into the groove, twice

Let the iron cool (or if you're impatient like me just quench it)

Clean both surfaces and forge weld them together


I have been experimenting more and more with home made material now, and it is my conclusion that this whole wolfs tooth thing would be loads easier with bloom and hearth steel. Hope that might help! It's easy, just easier yet to psyche yourself out about how to go about it

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If you ever want to get together for a weekend and do a bunch of spear stuff, let me know I can drive on up. I'm working on building a hot cut wedge spring fuller tool for cutting teeth of consistent depth on my single blow air hammer. I've got an experiment right now going on with forging a bit of a wider wolf tooth bar that the teeth end before the end of the bar(1/2 inch), splitting it (with a saw) down to the edge bar past the teeth, and folding it out so I can have perfectly symmetrical teeth on 2 sides.



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Good ideas.


Perhaps one day I could host a mini spear forging moot...

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