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peter johnsson

Ballock Dagger WIP

65 posts in this topic

Greetings all brothers and sisters of spark and flame :-)

I have had this dagger blade lying around for years and was inspired to finish it after spending a week at the medieval festival in Visby on Gotland.
The blade is based on a type of dagger that I have seen some examples of in various collections.
A feature of these is the asymmetrical cross section.
It is basically triangular, but the ridge is off centre to the side on the front of the blade. The back is without a ridge. All surfaces are hollow ground. There is a ricasso of sorts at the base, where the back bevel stops short. Sometimes the point is reinforced. The cross section geometry of these daggers combines a thick spine (around 9 mm in this case) with a thin and very sharp cutting edge, while to point is strong with the cutting acton of a sharpened leather awl. The size of these daggers vary from short and handy to almost short sword size.
The one I am currently working on is on the larger end of the spectrum. It is like a roman gladius in size.

I have no pictures of the making of the blade, but I will post a WIP of the making of the hilt, scabbard and possibly by-knife.
-Hope you will enjoy it.

 

Shaping the boxwood grip with saw and cabinet maker´s rasp. I use japanese style saws for initial cutting out (I have no band saw in my home workshop) and a hand cut cabinet maker´s rasp for rough shaping and sculpting.
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The guard is affixed to the grip with two nails, or rivets. The holes for these are drilled a slightly oversized drill bit for most of the depth. This is to allow for easier fitting: all components are craved free and and there are very few right angles or even radiuses. This menas there is quite a bit of fiddling to get a nice fit between the grip, guard and tang. The leather spacers are to stop the drill going too far.

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-Perhaps spiral fluting would be nice?

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The balls are being roughed out.

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The guard is filed to shape. The mid part will be filed out to meet the diameter of the grip.

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Testing for fit and looks.

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Some further work done on the shaping of the balls. The form of these is not spheres, but rather kidney shaped with small bevels cut out to meet the form of the guard.

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Laying out the flutes. First the fist and spacing i sketched with pencil. The lines are then cut with a small round needle rasp. The rounding or swelling of the flutes are then shaped with a small flat rasp.

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Trying out the fit and look of the partly completed grip.
The narrow bronze rivets are seen protruding the balls. They will be peened down owed the flower shaped washers. The top end of these rivest are countersunk in the slot for that takes the shoulders of the blade in the guard.

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Overall look and proportion of the dagger.

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That is a very well executed piece of work, lovely clean lines, and elegantly design.

Great work.

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Thanks guys!

I might bring this to Ashokan, since I do not think I´ll be able to bring a full sword.
It is at least something that I can fit in my check in luggage.
Barely.

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Wow watching that one come to life is amazing! Thumbs up!!!

 

What can you tell me about Boxwood, hardwood, easy to work with??? I have never used any Boxwood but I really like how that is coming along!! How will you finish that handle out??

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Wow watching that one come to life is amazing! Thumbs up!!!

 

What can you tell me about Boxwood, hardwood, easy to work with??? I have never used any Boxwood but I really like how that is coming along!! How will you finish that handle out??

Thanks!

:-)

 

I love working with boxwood.

It is hard and the grain is discreet, making it well suited for carving. There is very little of the fibres lifting and the structure is dense.

Because of the very closed grain, it is not easy to stain. I have heard of ebonizing it, but I have not tried that myself yet.

Perhaps I will do that with this one, if the test pieces turn out OK.

 

If you oil it (chinese tree oil, for example) the color deepens a bit, turning it more into a honey color.

Old boxwood takes on a deeper tan color that is delicious. I do not know how to artificially age boxwood to attain that color, if it is even possible.

 

Oil followed by wax is a common finish. Or just wax.

 

It polishes really well. I go to 800 grit and then 0000 steel wool. After oiling I repeat the steel wool rubbing.

 

Traditionally, box wood was a favoured wood for sculpting and carving. There are many incredible examples of this from the medieval and renaissance periods. It might be described as an ivory of the plant kingdom.

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Thank Peter, I think I will have to try some boxwood. Will stay tuned for the completion of this piece!!

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Great work, Peter! I've been stalking this one on your facebook.

 

Thank Peter, I think I will have to try some boxwood. Will stay tuned for the completion of this piece!!

Good luck finding some, especially of that size. True Boxwood is pretty rare these days.

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Looking good Peter! I look forward to seeing this if you bring it to Ashokan! :) I am a big fan of that asymmetric spine

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Beautiful work! I love that steel collar that you are shaping for it.

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Below a few images of ballock daggers of similar size as the one I am working on (46 cm/ 18" blade length, 59 cm / 23" total length).

One exampe from Peter Finer dated to 1480´s.

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A cruel soldier about to crucify a popular rebel is armed with a long ballock dagger.

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An unusual ballock dagger with crescent shaped pommel:

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Here are some detail pics of the bronze pins that hold the guard to the grip and the rivet washers for these pins and for the tang.

 

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Love this! I can't wait to see this in person.

 

Peter... I have no idea if this will work, and it's a bit caustic, but I have use lye and water to give an aged appearance. Only caveat is that I did it on table tops. What I did was put dry lye on top... just enough to cover the surface, and then spirits water and leave it till I didn't see any steam rising.

I have no idea if this would work for boxwood. Hells... I have no idea how to do it for a handle, but I am sure if anyone could figure something out it would be you.

 

-Gabriel

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Gabriel, thanks for the tip!
I will try lye on a test piece and show the result.

I am also contemplating soaking the grip in hot oil.

Another way might be to stain the wood with diluted alcohol dye for leather and rub it down with alcohol to get lighter color on the high spots.

I am not sure how it will look as this will be the first time I try this.

I might also give the steel of the blade a slightly aged look if I go with patinated wood.

So a bit of experimentation ahead....

I will show the results and outline the process used.

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Fantastic work Peter. Thanks for posting this, and damn you for making my bucket list one item longer!

I love the fluting and the way you aligned the copper rosette on the pommel. Really pretty.

That 1480's dagger is very impressive. It almost looks like it has a ricasso of sorts with a fuller, and square edges?

Forgive my apparent ignorance, but that triangular cross section is rather Dirk-like no?

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Very nice Peter! Your step by step and detail pictures are always so informative, you know just the angle of what other craftsmen want to see. I rather like the pale color of the boxwood, I imagine a deeper honey tone is quite attractive. I look forward to meeting you and seeing it in person at Ashokan!

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Thanks Guy and Joshua :-)

Guy: it will really be great to meet old and new friends in Ashokan. And it is soon!

Joshua: the 1480´s dagger has a ricasso that is hexagonal with shallow hollow grinds on all bevels. This is a design that you find on a number of daggers of this period.
As to the triangular, asymmetrical, hollow ground cross section: I have never seen a dirk (as in Scottish or naval) with this type of section. But I have never studied the scottish dirk in great detail. To me they seem to be simple symmetrical, single edged designs, with or without groves and sometimes with a false edge at the point. Those are different to this asymmetrical design.

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Some work on the scabbard. It will be a two layer leather scabbard. Simple one needle running stitch on the backside, going from under, across to over and through: criss cross between the edges.

I plan to make a by-knife in an integral scabbard on the front. This will be incorporated in the second layer of leather, that will also be embossed with gothic foliage decoration.

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Another example of a ballock dagger with the same (or very similar) type of blade/ricasso as the one from Peter Finer, above.
It is on display in the army museum of Paris.

 

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Next step is to stiffen the thin inner leather core of leather with wood veneers. This is thin larch wood veneer (1 mm / 0.04") that is glued on with wood glue. The front gets only one layer of veneer, since it will also carry the scabbard of the by-knife. This will further reinforce the front o the scabbard. I also want to keep the scabbard as slim and neat as possible. With this in hind sight and judging from the stiffness and strength achieved by a single layer of veneer, I could have used a thinner leather for the inner core. As long as it conforms to the blade, it does not have to be very thick at all. The leather I used was 1,5 mm / 0.06" thick. It would have been enough with half of this thickness for the inner core in this kind of construction.
Different constructions of the inner core are also possible, for example wool cloth glued onto a supporting veneer in slats that are kept in place with textile and glue (with the wool facing inwards to the blade, to give it a nice and scratch free home). Wood glue and linen becomes very hard after curing for a week. The effect is a kind of pre industrial micarta. Cheese glue was the precursor of wood glue in the medieval period. Modern wood glue is a modernised version of the traditional stuff. Mostly the same active ingredients, just minus the actual cheese. Back in the day it was used for the construction of shields where the boards and their textile covering was glued with cheese glue.

The thickness of a scabbard relates to the dimensions of the guard of the weapon. This is true both for swords and for daggers. The scabbard is often of a thickness that is just shy of the thickness of the guard or in level with the guard. For a scabbard with a by knife one has to take into consideration how the knife is to be extracted. -Do you want the hilt of the dagger to "lock in place" the knife, or do you want to be able to extract the knife without unsheathing the dagger?
Some rondell daggers with by-knives have the by-knife mounted with the grip towards the point of the dagger, so that they can be extracted without interfering with the wide disc guard of the rondell dagger. Other rondell daggers use the rondell as a kind of cap to keep the by-knife safely in place.

In the case of this ballock dagger, I want the by-knife to be nestled neatly in height with the front end of the grip. I want to be able to extract the by-knife without having to pull the dagger out of its scabbard. I do not want the scabbard to build too much thickness, nor for it to be too thin: the inside of the grip of the by-nice should be in level with the front side of the grip of the dagger.
This construction has to be taken into account when shaping the guard, so that it allows for a certain thickness of the scabbard without it becoming either too bulky or too thin.
The construction of the scabbard must also be adjusted so that it allows for enough stiffness without growing too thick.

-Did I say that I find scabbard making a bit challenging?

 

EDIT:
Why larch wood?
Because original medieval scabbard that I have looked at seems to have been constructed from veneers of larch wood. Or solid wood.
I may be mistaken. Larch wood is fiddly to work with in veneer form. It wants to split and crack. I don´t know why I persist using it.

EDIT 2:
You will notice that the scabbard core did shrink as it dried. The point of the blade peeks out.
This is no problem since there will be an additional layer of leather and more importantly, a metal chape protecting the point.
The most important thing is that the leather does not shrink in a way to make the *top* of the scabbard too small or too short.
Ah, well. That can also be adjusted if needs be...

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Peter - love it! Please do bring it to Ashokan. You won't remember this, but I asked you about something else that had hollow grinds and a similar point (though I don't think it was asymmetrical). I asked, "What was the purpose of the hollow grinds on the blade?"

You replied: "To sever human flesh."

 

I loved that answer. I mean, I had a little more in mind, but that was straight to the point (sorry for the extra pun).

 

thanks for the WIP. I appreciate this sort of thread a great deal.

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Peter, if I may, how do you make the slot in the guard that accepts the shoulders of the blade? It doesn't look machined. Did you forge it with a specially-shaped punch?

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Peter, if I may, how do you make the slot in the guard that accepts the shoulders of the blade? It doesn't look machined. Did you forge it with a specially-shaped punch?

 

Adam, it was made with a combination of punching hot with a specially made tool and cleaning up and adjusting with a small burr on a dremel-like tool.

I normally do the countersinking in a guard for the blade´s shoulders with specially made punches or chisels that have the the form of the cross section of the blade at its base, or shoulders. With curved guards you may make a special tool has the correct curvature, or you can drift the guard flat and curve it afterwards.If you do the latter you have to take into consideration that there is some shortening of the slot you made when you curve the guard.

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