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Darrell @ warehamforge.ca

'Quenched in a Living Body' ????

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Friends:

 

I thought this might be of some interest to the regular readers (excerpt from a posting to my own blog) :

 

The background here is a commentary I posted back in May of 2009:

'Quenched in the body of a Slave...'

 

I had a couple of personal e-mails sent to me by Professor Helmut Föll, from the University of Keil (Germany) :

 

You don't know how right you were in your analysis that quenching a sword in the body of a slave is pure BS!

I found the source of that nonsense, here it is:

 

....

Let me emphasize that there are no early Arabic texts. The whole thing was a kind of April 1st joke in that Berlin Newspaper in 1894.

 

 

In his blog post, Prof. Föl discusses a number of historic receipts for quenching solutions. He provides the original texts, translations, plus interpretations of the (often hidden) meanings for the individual components.

Not too curiously, carefully manipulated urine figures prominently in many of the historic 'secrets'.

 

 

In my own return communication to him, I had mentioned my belief that the original source for the 'quenched in a living slave' concept was from an Early Medieval Arabic text. His research into historic sources has pointed to this idea itself being nothing more than another piece of the 'fake-lore'!

 

Fortunately, I see my original post on 'Quenched in the Living Body' does not give this specific (incorrect) source. I had just referred to the very real practical problems that makes the whole idea plain stupid.

 

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It is remarkable how persistent this myth is.

 

I once had someone sitting in my office (for a job interview) point at a PW sword hanging on my wall and enthusiastically tell me that the pattern in the blade could only be made by plunging it red hot into a slave. He was so enthusiastic in his explanation I couldn't get a word in edgewise. Finally I just shrugged and said: "Wow. No kidding. You learn something new every day."

 

Sometimes the stupid is too strong to fight.

 

Dave

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What Dave said!

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I guess he didn't wanted the job after he learned that he sits in front of a sword smith :P

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We didn't offer him the job. He was applying for a position in HR and he wouldn't shut up long enough to let anyone else speak. We surmised he would not be a good listener (kinda required for that job).

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Don't feel bad, last craft fait I was told that my blades would warp if I didn't quench facing true North..

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Don't feel bad, last craft fait I was told that my blades would warp if I didn't quench facing true North..

 

Really?! Holy crap. That's a new one for me. LOL.

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Don't feel bad, last craft fait I was told that my blades would warp if I didn't quench facing true North..

Hmmm, you would think it should be exactly 0 degrees vertical to avoid gravitational pull

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Sometimes the stupid is too strong to fight.

 

Words to live by, Dave, so true. Sometimes I think the whole 'quenched in bodies' thing came about from some sensationalist newspaper writer hearing what he wanted to hear when hearing about the history of japanese blades that were tested on prisoners. and then like most mystical bullshit involving japanese swords, it grew out of proportion and turned into quenching in human bodies or some crap.

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Really?! Holy crap. That's a new one for me. LOL.

Yea for real..I wasn't sure exactly how to respond. Id heard that before in passing jokes but I never thought anyone actually believed it..

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Actually, that align with magnetic north can be found on a knife making video (I decline to name the maker who does this but he's well known in some circles).

 

Doug

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Actually, that align with magnetic north can be found on a knife making video (I decline to name the maker who does this but he's well known in some circles).

 

Doug

really? wow, though I may have an idea. I wont mention it either. Seriously though, this maker that told me believes it..

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Hello:

 

Oh geeze I see this is still floating around..what's next a "Sam Mary sword" that cuts through engine blocks? Anyway..

 

Back in the mid 1980's a few of us Hammer Heads in Southern California got together and tried out some of the "old wive's tales" as far as this stuff goes..

 

Blood worked OK (not great and the tendency for it to coagulate was a factor).. Wine worked well..but still not better than water or brine...However urine worked very well..better than the other two but the aroma was remarkable indeed. We tried various types from horse to goat to human and well..urine worked..However it was more important that one understands the techniques required and the limitations there of when using a water based quench. This is tantamount..just stumbling about and you will more likely than not have a catastrophic failure in quenching. Even when you do understand there is always the chance that the dreaded "Tink of Death" will rear its ugly head...

 

As far as the body of a slave goes..nonsense..never happened..will not work anyways as a human body is not a uniform quenching medium. How these things get started is beyond me...

 

True North?? Old Fluffy is around again??

 

JPH

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I used to quench in dirty old motor oil but I didn't have enough so I poured in some water, of course the water and oil didn't mix, what do you think a blade would be like with a half water half oil quench?

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I wasn't thinking about Fluffy but I remember him claiming it too.

 

Doug

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Urine is very useful stuff, it's used in tanning (apparently the origin of the the phrase "Piss Poor" and "Not even a pot to piss in"), for making gunpowder (red wine urine is supposed to be best) and dyeing, particularly for Indigo blue. When the Lady Wife and I moved to the current location she decided to dump her Indigo jar and start over. The smell was.........eye watering. At Rendezvous they will actually set up a collection jar, the myth is that the urine of pre-pubescent red haired boys is the best.

 

The things you pick up hanging around campfires!

 

Geoff

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I like the image of a bunch of drunken smiths sticking red hot swords in various liquids while a group of scared Boy Scouts in the woods try to figure out what happens there

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Boy - did this get warped fast!

 

My original commentary on the 'living body' thing was an attempt to ** dismiss ** the concept, with the purely practical reasons why.

As 'fake-lore' goes, it has amazing staying power. (The topic had come up in another, quite unrelated, newsgroup I participate.)

 

I will point out however, the technical truth that a 5% salt solution might be effective (sometimes).

And pose a question, as this thread is concerned with history:

 

How do you produce a consistent salt solution - in ancient times?

 

1) Not every location has access to mineral salt.

(consider the cost / significance of salt in history)

2) Urine is far from consistent!

(consider the difference between production after a hot forge day - against production after that mentioned '9 Guinness')

3) Sea water is far from consistent.

(consider the effects of wind, currents, recent weather, local fresh water sources)

 

Blood, on the other hand, *is* extremely consistent, at least in terms of salt content. The donor requires a fairly small variation to maintain life at all.

 

I will leave it to the more experienced blade makers here to discuss the actual effective application of 5% salt solution as a possible quenching medium. I fully expect the response will be 'Depends what you are making - and what metal alloy you use.'

 

 

The 'point to North' thing is given in Alex Bealers' book on Blacksmithing. As it was available as a cheap re-print for a long while (at least here in Canada) I suspect many reading may have a copy. (it was a common gift item for decades).

For the younger readers, you should remember that for a good long while there was very little available as a resource for starting blacksmiths. As poor (and often inaccurate) as Bealer's book is - before Jack Andrews published 'Edge of the Anvil' in the late 1970's, there was almost nothing at all.

I honestly have not made any effort to trace that specific bit of fantasy back any further.

 

 

I would * highly * recommend Prof. Foil's extensive web publication 'Iron, Steel, and Swords'

http://www.tf.uni-kiel.de/matwis/amat/iss/index.html

Helmut Foil is a material scientist, he covers the basics of the science in some detail - but goes on to cover a huge amount of technical, historical (and just plain interesting) material - over some 1000 pages of linked text and illustrations.

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Couldn't one get a consistent salt content by evaporating sea water, collecting the salt, then adding it in know proportions to fresh water?

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When I was in school I got into an argument with one of my metallurgical lab teaching assistants about this very thing. He insisted that not only were blades occasionally quenched in people, but that blood was not just an OK quenchant, but a superb one. When I made a move to explain why blood was way less than ideal, it sparked an argument in front of the class I didn't want to really be part of. Later, we had to write up a short essay for homework about what we had learned and I had to listen to 90% of the class recite the body/blood-quenching argument.

As Dave said, sometimes the stupid is too strong to fight.

JPH, you ever figure out exactly why urine worked so well? Not that I plan on repeating your experiment, just curious...

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I have also read about quenching in a human body. But where I read it was in a fantasy novel, the exact one escapes me at the moment but I do remember it was fairly common theme. You would be suprosed how much fantasy/comic lore shows up as fact. Two big ones come to mind. Quenching in a body. Swords are very heavy so only well muscled barbarians can lift them.

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the thing that is completely wrong with this pody quenching myth is the ''slave'' part.in the bodies of politicians the results would be fantastic......at least for the world :D

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