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Dear fellows,

For your enjoyment, some snapshots of current work on two swords made for the Solingen Knife Maker´s Show in Solingen. (It is that the of year again :-) )
One of the swords is a broad type XIV that is slightly reworked from an earlier version that was prepared for the last year´s Solingen show (but did not make it). I have added some file work on the guard, made a new pommel and changed the grip. The other sword is one that was prepared as a demo piece for the sword class that Zack Jonas hosted in his smithy Tannery Pond Forge this January. It is based on an original that is privately owned but on loan and display in the Met. It is one of the most beautiful type XV swords I have ever seen and it was a true joy to make a replica of it, even if I could not get first hand dimensions of it. However, it was possible to make an estimation based on some published dimensions and photos and from this make a projection of its proportions.

Below some images of the original plans and reference material I started out with:

This is the design for the type XIV sword, its proportions defined by a geometric plan. In the case of this sword there was already an old blade that had been sitting around for quite a while but for some reason not been completed. The blade is 76 cm long and you can then conclude from the proportions of the geometry that its width is 7,6 cm, since blade width is 1/10 of blade length. The finished sword weighs 1308 gram. IT is a fairly large sword that has an imposing presence because of its width. The blade is thin, however (around 5 mm at the base) and its balance makes it feel smooth and determined in your hand.
Solingen2016typeXIV.png

 

A drawing that compares some swords of a few swords of largely similar type as the beautiful type XV in the Met. Based on data collected from these swords (concerning dynamic properties, distal taper, edge geometry and so on) I could make an educated guess about the properties of the Met sword. I could project its total length to within a cm, based on known dimensions of another sword displayed alongside.

XV-Compare.png

This is the final analysis of proportions and distal taper (as presented in a drawing that was included in the material sent out to the attendees of the sword class):

Photo+Outline.png

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A few WIP photos of the XIV sword:

Pommel receiving some attention by filing. It has been forged and rough ground and fitted to the tang. This is just final touch ups before hand sanding.DSC01445.JPG

Tang has been peened over a rivet block. In this case I added a washer of bronze sheet for some contrast to satisfy the searching eye.DSC01479.JPG

The sword will get a scabbard and the first step is to make the core. In this case I am making it from layers of thin model airplane plywood. This is a great material for scabbards as it is thin and flexible but very strong. The cross grain of the layers of rich also helps minimise distortion. It is the best scabbard core material I have come across so far. I use the blade as a template and cut outside its profile to allow for a spacer and a zone for gluing the two halves together. The guard is also used as a template for the cut out at the top, so the sword will fit snugly when sheathed.
DSC01448.JPG

I cut three layers of plywood for each side of the core. After gluing the layers add up to a total thickness of about 2 mm on each side. DSC01453.JPG

I use contact cement to glue felt to the inside of the innermost layer of plywood. Tape strip is used to isolate the area that is glued, while the felt is given a full coating. DSC01456.JPG

The blade is then again used as a template to cut the felt to shape once it has been glued to the plywood.DSC01458.JPG

Narrow strips of plywood is used as spacers so that the scabbard is not too tight fitting. The fit should be so tight that you can turn the sword upside down without it falling out, but it must slide in and out without too much force being used. The felt helps both in avoiding scratching and to make the fit tight and smooth.DSC01461.JPG

The three layers are first glued together so that they are formed into two well fitting slats that are lined with felt on the inside, with glue clamps pressing the plywood around the blade as a former inside. Since there are three layers that are glued together they stay true to the form of the cross section of the blade after the glue has set. Step two is to glue the two sides together along the thin outer margins where I added a strip of plywood alongside the edge on each side. Care has to be taken so that no glue is pressed into the cavity of the scabbard, stainging the blade or making it stick to the inside. After the two scabbard slats have been glued together, the outside of can be further refined by rasp and file into a tight and lean oval shape that hugs closely to the form of the blade. The fit to the guard is also further adjusted. In the pic below you can see the sword inserted with the leather of the grip already in place (I am sorry, but I did miss a few steps in the making here...) Note that the thickness of the core allows for leather to be added and still is below the thickness of the guard. Original scabbards are often this surprisingly thin.DSC01482.JPG

The hilt with leather wrapped grip in placeDSC01476.JPG

Detail of the pommel and upper part of the grip with the binding cord still in place. 

DSC01483 2.JPG

The scabbard is covered with leather that is glued and sewn in place. A simple running stitch is used for the seam after example from surviving period scabbards.DSC01493.JPG

The mouth of the scabbard is folded to fit and cover the guard. This is a style that survives into the 14th century.DSC01494.JPG

The inside of the mouth of the scabbard is covered with a thinner leather that is glued to the top end of the core and the inside of the flaps. The edge is sewn with reinforcing stitches. The hide glue used helps stiffen this extension, making for a tight and rigid fit over the guard as the sword is sheathed.DSC01500.JPG

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And over to the type XV with some pics of the making of its hilt:

The guard came out too clunky, so I refined its shape with files, making it thinner and more slender.
DSC01347.JPG

Extra care is taken to shape the curving bevels towards the ends of the guard.DSC01350.JPG

That´s better....

DSC01351.JPG

And a closeup. Note that the blade is not yet in final polish.That is the next step, but I have no pics of that, sorry.

DSC01355.JPG

Some sanding of the pommel.

DSC01358.JPG

Testing the fit of the pommel and estimating the final height of the rivet block. One of the things that I found especially elegant with the original sword was how thin the edges of the pommel was, contrasting to the proud mid hubs.

DSC01362.JPG

In this pic the scabbard core has been glued, shaped and fitted and covered with a layer of linen for extra strength. The blade is in final polish and the hilt has been mounted and gripped. The grip core of wood is bound with a fine cord and awaits its leather cover.

DSC01486.JPG

Leather has been wrapped while wet and glued with hide glue. It is bound with cord as it dries, which will create a nice cord impression in the leather. I shall dye the leather afterwards.

DSC01489.JPG

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I'm in awe, as always, at how easy you make this look Peter :) 

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24 minutes ago, Brian Dougherty said:

I'm in awe, as always, at how easy you make this look Peter :) 

Ahhh, but then I have failed!
;-)

 

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24 minutes ago, peter johnsson said:

Ahhh, but then I have failed!
;-)

 

Ha, always the master to the pupil :)

I have studied your research into the geometric design concepts quite a bit, but not enough yet to speak intelligently about it in depth.  As a design engineer, however, I am very attracted to the concept, and I enjoy studying what you have written on your hypothesis.  It seems quite simple on the surface,but it really is a pretty deep knowledge set when your start to try to apply it.

Making swords is still a bit outside of my reach, but one of my goals is to use your work to design a sword from the ground up.

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Fantastic work as usual, I am looking forward to seeing these swords in Solingen.

I am continually amazed how refined and elegant these high medieval pommels are, they are works of art all by themselves.

 

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I am happy to see you making a reproduction of the Met sword! This is on my list of things to do someday soon when time allows! 

Gorgeous work as always Peter! I especially love seeing your file work on pommel and guard 

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Always a pleasure and humbling experience to see your work, Peter!

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Thank you guys! Much appreciated.

In the coming week(-s) there will be more progress with embossing and scabbard fittings.
Stay tuned!
:-)

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Peter - great stuff. I have to try and make a sheath like that some time. It just seems like an appealing process to try. Composite materials at their best. The pommel on that first sword was really sweet, with the double-vesical form (don't know if there is another name for this shape in 3D. Very fine work. I think that the file refinement of the guard was my favorite, though. This is because those sorts of tasks, sculpting with files, are my favorite. Files lead to  contemplation and joy at the creation of the work. Belt grinders just lead to a cough and a headache.

 

Thanks for sharing.

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Peter! Great to see you sharing your work here again!

Inspiring and humbling as always, my friend. Your precision with a file is a constant source of amazement. 

I know it is a small detail, but my favorite part is the copper washer on the pommel. Just the right touch.

Looking forward to seeing more.  Thanks for sharing this!

Dave

 

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That is some beautiful work! Thank you for sharing it!

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I am so looking forward to seeing more of this.  All of it was very educational, and I am sure will become an excellent reference for me at some point in the future.  Sincerely thank you for sharing it.  It is wonderful work!

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Your attention to the detail in the construction process is amazing.

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I have noted that most Medieval swords tend to be far thinner at the base than most military swords from the 1700's on. I am wondering if this was a need to compensate for the lack of a pommel in many designs, by putting the mass of the blade closer to hand.

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Peter as always you sharing your knowledge is so inspirational! I have a question about using contact cement for your felt liner, in the past I've put felt in using wood glue but it seems to take a really long time to fully cure and dry out once the scabbards put together leading to blades rusting! :wacko:    Even started placing them in the kiln at 50C for a couple hours... I was wondering if contact cement had this issue as well? I'm sure I'll be trying it now so thank you again!

Edited by MLenaghan

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16 hours ago, peter johnsson said:

Tang has been peened over a rivet block. In this case I added a washer of bronze sheet for some contrast to satisfy the searching eye.DSC01479.JPG

I think it is a combination of lighting and amazing work, but for as simple as this piece looks, i am blown away. The contrast and skilled craft-person-ship in this is blowing me away. I have looked at this photo for so long. Had to same something. 

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6 hours ago, MLenaghan said:

Peter as always you sharing your knowledge is so inspirational! I have a question about using contact cement for your felt liner, in the past I've put felt in using wood glue but it seems to take a really long time to fully cure and dry out once the scabbards put together leading to blades rusting! :wacko:    Even started placing them in the kiln at 50C for a couple hours... I was wondering if contact cement had this issue as well? I'm sure I'll be trying it now so thank you again!

I have never had any issues with contact cement. The kind I use form a rubbery non-sticky layer after about 10 min. After that the parts are pressed together and the glue grips instantly.
I have had some small stains from wood glue sometimes and that I why I do not use it for the inside of scabbards.
Wood glue does seem to cause corrosion. It can form small lines and blotches along the edges of blades if there was an excess of glue in construction. I use as small amounts of carpenters glue as possible in exposed places. Otherwise hide glue is a good alternative. It takes longer to dry and is a little bit less strong, but for for scabbards it works well enough. You add a cover keeping the scabbard together anyway.

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6 hours ago, Al Massey said:

I have noted that most Medieval swords tend to be far thinner at the base than most military swords from the 1700's on. I am wondering if this was a need to compensate for the lack of a pommel in many designs, by putting the mass of the blade closer to hand.

Interesting thought.

It might be.
It might also be that later era swords tend to be narrower in profile and that the extra material in the base of blades then become more obvious. In a thinner blade this extra material is a more subtle effect and it would be too extreme to make the build up to the same thickness as you can find on narrower blades.

This has to do with the use of complex distal tapers that we discussed recently in another thread.
When I examine a sword I try to form in my mind an image of the blade as what it would look like if it was formed into a rectangular bar. That is a kind of pre-shape it would have before being forged to final shape. By re-shaping the blade you have in front of you with your mind´s eye, you can start to get a notion of how the mass is distributed. 
This is naturally far from any scientific examination, but it is useful non-the less and you can practice this and create more detailed ideas the more you do it. You can then confirm the impression as you get back to the smithy forging the same blade. The way it forges out will tell you wether the impression was on target or not.

I have found that many swords share similar distribution of mass and similarities in their "pre-shape". You will often find an increase in mass at the base. How this is expressed in the final sword will depend on its profile and thickness. It will be less obvious in wider and thinner blades.

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9 hours ago, Kevin (The Professor) said:

Peter - great stuff. I have to try and make a sheath like that some time. It just seems like an appealing process to try. Composite materials at their best. The pommel on that first sword was really sweet, with the double-vesical form (don't know if there is another name for this shape in 3D. Very fine work. I think that the file refinement of the guard was my favorite, though. This is because those sorts of tasks, sculpting with files, are my favorite. Files lead to  contemplation and joy at the creation of the work. Belt grinders just lead to a cough and a headache.

 

Thanks for sharing.

Thank you kevin!

Yes, file work is very enjoyable. I find that the time spent is well invested, both for the sword and for myself.
:-)

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5 hours ago, Chris C-S said:

I think it is a combination of lighting and amazing work, but for as simple as this piece looks, i am blown away. The contrast and skilled craft-person-ship in this is blowing me away. I have looked at this photo for so long. Had to same something. 

Thank you Chris! I am very happy that you find it inspiring.

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5 hours ago, Phil Ullrich said:

Really appreciate your detailed description of scabbard build

Thanks. It has been many years of experimentation and frustrations to come up with my present method. It is still not devoid of challenges and frustrations, bt it is at least a bit more manageable. Scabbards can be quite a thing that really adds to the whole if made right. Scabbards can also be complete let downs that drag a piece down if mismanaged. The making of a scabbard is to me the perfect meeting of technical challenge, judging material characteristics, aesthetic expression and functional demands. A whole different thing than the making of a sword, but still a critical part of the final assembly. 
The power of the scabbard is greater than the power of the sword. That is what Merlin teaches us.

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