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John Page

The Legacy of Oakeshott

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I have often seen seen or heard, more typically when in regards to printed media, song, or cinema, of people recreating things which have had a profound impact on their lives. Sometimes it is as a trip which takes them through the filming locations of one move or another, or a pilgrimage to some meaningful destination. Over the past few months I have been working towards the refinement of my skill and technique leading up to something quite similar but in a very different way. Ewart Oakeshott's work on the classification and documentation of the Medieval sword is partially to account for what drew me into bladesmithing and, without a hint of doubt, served as a guide to bring me closer to that particular era in history of which I have held a lifelong fascination. In the coming months, perhaps even years, I am embarking on a journey to recreate one each of the 22 typographies and sub-classifications of swords in Oakeshott's study, beginning at the start with the Type X.

 

Some recent upgrades to the shop will allow me to achieve a level of satisfaction with the result of which I can reasonably be pleased. For the sake of practise, repeatability, and comfortability, I will likely make them all from the same grade of steel, and the fittings from mild carbon. One thing of which I am curious, however, is finding typical dimensions for the cross sections in each typography. While Oakeshott does a fantastic job documenting nearly everything else, width and thickness are disparagingly absent. If necessary, I will take measurements off of several of the documented examples complied with other references, but I am curious of there is any place that succinctly presents this information? If so, I have not yet found it.

 

Anyway, I am extremely excited about this undertaking, although immense and perhaps even a bit frightening. Throughout the progress I make, I will be posting updates here (wasn't quite sure where to post this topic) and am open to suggestions, comments and criticism along the way. More than anything, this will be a lesson in my own development and familiarity with the art of the sword.

 

Cheers!

 

John

 

Edit-

 

Figured I'd post links to the posts where I begin each blade. Not too interesting yet, but I hope it will be more useful later on.

 

Type X

Edited by John Page

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Aah! Gateway timeout made a double post. Sorry!!

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Wish you all the best, John. I know that some people have been surprised to find how thin historical sample are. Also, isn't Oakshott's collection located somewhere in the states?

 

Doug

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Sounds like a great project!
I've had some ideas recently for sets of swords. But I won't talk about my ideas, I don't have the tools, materials, or skills as of yet, besides, this is your thread!

Excited to see your progress!!

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Doug, I though most of the blades he studied were from various armouries and private collections. If they are (somewhat) in one place, I'll be making a pilgrimage there in the near future B)

I think that the 'Collection' that is part of the Oakeshott Institute is more research based rather than artifact, although there are doubtless several pieces that Oakeshott himself had which were made publicly available.

 

Collin, the best way to learn is by doing! Although there are certainly a few basic tools needed, I've found that a great deal can be done with very little ;)

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I won't swear by it but I think that I remember reading, maybe on My Armory, that his personal collection at the time of his death, was placed in a university museum in the states. I believe that you are right that most of the blades featured in his books were from other collections, though he may have owned some of them himself at one time.

 

Doug

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Awesome! Even a little piece of the collection would be great to see. I regret that most of the historic pieces I've seen were seen on trips when I was either too young or naive to truly appreciate the opportunity.

 

Also, thanks to the mods for deleting the double post!

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Contact Christopher Poor at:

 

Arms & Armor, Inc.
1101 Stinson Blvd. NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413

Chris is good enough to host a meeting of the Guild of Metalsmiths (just about) every year at Arms and Armor. Usually the the April meeting. We actually get to handle some of the artifacts!

 

Looks like the April meeting has not been finalized yet. Either way, I cannot speak for him, but I am betting Chris would be more than happy to provide you access to the collection for this kind of research.

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Thanks gents! Ric, I've been to that site a number of times, but didn't see anything specific to the pieces available to be examined there. It seems that there is a bit of a revolving door of artifacts coming in and out as loans from various other places.

 

Dan, thanks for the contact info. It's a bit of a hike at the moment, but I may have to make a trip to Arms and Armor. Sounds like a great event!

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I originally wanted to post some progress with the first post, but going through the couple of photos I took yesterday I realized that they didn't say much. With nearly half the day in the shop today, I made some decent progress on the Type X, amongst other things. So here we go...

 

-Type X-

 

I decided to go with 5160 for the blades, and since Aldo is currently out of reasonable sizes, I had to use what I had lying around. The starting stock was 1.5"x.25"x22.5", a little shorter than I would have liked, especially with an intended ~70cm blade +tang. I may have to weld a stub tang to the end of it, depending on how much more length I can get out of the blade before moving to the grinder.

 

Because the stock was a bit thick, forging it down to its current state took around 5 hours with my little forge and 2kg hammer. To get the most out of the material, I started forging the bevels in. Although there is still a significant amount of forging that needs to be done to it, the blade is starting to look like a blade. Tomorrow, I'll move on to fixing the edge unevenness, straightening, planishing, and refining the bevels/making sure they are centred. If there is enough left over, I'll draw more out into the tang.

 

Cheers!

 

John

2- Tip Progression.jpg

3- Rough Blade.jpg

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Thought I'd post some progress on this. My 2 burner forge is having backpressure issues, so until that is resolved with some better burners (the current ones were salvaged from a different build a while back and are a little wore for wear), the going is slow. I have most of the profile taper forged in, although the tip still swings a little to the side and the tang is slightly off centre (going to grind that out rather than try and correct it with the hammer, as previous efforts yielded little). Other than that, distal taper is next on the list, and then it'll be on to the grinder. Right now, the blade is around 72.5cm (28.5") long, and I think I have enough tang to be alright.

 

 

4- Profile taper.jpg

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John,

 

This is a most ambitious project that is sure to result in a great harvest of learning for you.

 

My advice is: Go slow. Take a few years to accomplish this, not a few months. You'll enjoy it more, and the swords will be better.

 

Luck in the quest!

 

Dave

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Thanks Dave! I have only in starting this truly begun to appreciate how long this will take. On the order of years, certainly! But I welcome the journey of will take me down.

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I would treat any dimensions in Oakeshott with a pinch of salt.

I would also advise if it is at all possible to try and document original individual swords and take your workings from them. I have made swords from the combination of working from Oakeshott and using my best guess. I thought they were fine until I had an opportunity to measure one of the swords in "records" and found I was so way out from the original piece to be basically a completely different sword all together. In this case the origional blade had a section closer to a crowbar and I had guessed at a pretty standard distal taper (what ever that means).

As a typology Oakeshott is fine . but the typologies completely miss some of the elements that really define the nature of a particular sword.

I would be very hesitant in assuming that the swords that are held within any one typology are in fact going to be all that similar to one another apart from sharing the elements of a somewhat arbitrary grouping.

 

It does sound like a good mission though good luck with it.

I have a similar relationship with some of the swords I have had the chance to document that are in "records" or "swords of the viking age" it can be like meeting old friends for the first time.

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Thanks for the advice, Owen. That's part of the reason why I want to see some of the originals. A few years back I was able to see the collection at Peles Castle in Romania, and, while the swords there were numerous, it was similar to what I am able to see in literature. Meaning only one plane.

 

From the majority of what I have been able to find in Oakeshott's work does a great job with shape, but almost nothing with cross section. Coming from someone such as yourself, I will be greatly heeding your warning about the differences within the groupings. Fortunately this is such a large project that there will be ample time to explore the historical examples, hopefully in person, so I can learn more the true nature of the sword.

 

Cheers!

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John, good luck with the 22 swords . It sounds like a long and very interesting journey.

 

Here are a few photos of when Owen and I had the chance to look at the Oakeshott Collection.

 

This sword is on pg 123 of The Records

 

oakeshott-14b_zpsbzrw2cvf.jpg

 

Owen with the sword on pg 196,

 

oake-2_zpsrfsxae2i.jpg

 

and another sword from the collection,

 

oakeshott-1_zpsndrikafq.jpg

 

 

 

Mick.

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Thanks for the photos, Mick! Seeing even the little bit of 3-dimensionality of them really speaks how misleading the ones in the book can be. If anyone else out there fortunate enough to see some historic examples, I'd love to see more pictures!

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Most books only show face on views of swords, and until you see and handle one in person, it's hard to appreciate how THIN they actually are, specifically the pommels and cross guards. For example, when you see a viking sword face on, say with a 5 lobbed pommel, the sense is that the pommel is something substantial, but then you see one in a museum and realize it's only a hair over half an inch thick.

 

I've spotted a few fakes this way, because the guards and pommels are WAY too wide, because the person making it has only seen front on views.

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R and S hilts can be quite wide

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Interesting, hadn't thought much in the way of pommels yet. From Mick's photos, even the Type K seems to be only around 7/16" thick or so without the raised centre. It's a shame that all the guidance the Oakeshott Institute gives for taking measurements is not shown in the published literature. There are so many more numbers they could give that can dramatically change the interpretation!!

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Figured I'd report back after a little hiatus from this. I lost power to the shop mid last week and haven't been able to get it back. Electrician should be coming by before the weekend (hopefully!), but in the mean time, I have a question regarding the fuller radius. I plan on forging in a rough fuller simply because I need the material, but for the grinding, what radius of a wheel should I be looking at? It seems they become exponentially more expensive the larger they get, so I don't want to go larger than I need to ;) Would a 6" suffice, or something in the range of 8" or 10"? Please don't say 12 or 14 :o Looking at a 6" circle, I think it may be too tight a curve for this type of fuller, but then, I haven't seen any historic pieces in person...

 

Thanks!

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Perfect! Thanks for the link, I need to get better at index searching for the site :)

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Finally have the power situation squared away, and got some decent work done. To work in the fullers, I whipped up this hideous fullering jig. Not the prettiest thing in the shop, but it served its purpose.

 

5- Fullering.jpg

 

The forged fuller is rather narrow, but it's going to serve more as a guide for the contact wheel than anything, and even that little bit gave me the width I needed.

 

6- Centreline.jpg

 

Rough marking the centreline. Because there is a little bit of wobble in the jig, I continuously flipped the blade over to keep things mirrored. All in all, it worked about as expected, although in future I think I'll be using something thicker for the 'spring' or maybe just make a pair of dies for my guillotine tool. Not sure...

 

Finally, the fullers forged into the blade. A little hard to see, but as centred as I could make them. The rest of the day went to fixing the ripples created during the process, and straightening out the profile for grinding.

 

7- Fuller forged.jpg

 

Slowly but surely getting there...

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