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First Sword, cast steel, cast iron. WIP


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Hello fellows,

Here I will record my efforts to create my first sword. This project started about two years ago when I managed to get a hold of a rather big piece of wootz made by Peter Swarz-Burt of Dragon's Breath Forge in Connecticut.

Fun story, as I was in talks with Peter over email to buy some wootz he suddenly dissapeared to Hawaii, so I had to wait for the wootz a bit longer. A few months later I was watching the first season of Forged in Fire and I though "Hey that name looks familiar...". It was Peter!! [spolier] He won, and happily proclaimed that he was gonna take his wife to Hawaii for the price money! Really cool to see these amazing smiths compete in their craft. 

Don't worry about the extra wait Peter, it only took me two years to gather the courage to forge the wootz! No stress! :D

 

I'm a very mediocre smith, kind of a newbie accually. So I wanted a simple shape. First I wanted to do a single edged viking, Norwegian style, but changed it to a proper double edged sword with almost parallell edges and a rounded tip. Slap on a very Norwegian type H hilt and call it a day.

 

 

Part I: Making guard and pommel

I made these parts almost two years ago and only recorded the progress using a crappy old iPhone 3 camera, so please excuse this poor attempt at photography.

 

The guard and pommel is made from a big chunk of cast grey iron. I shaped it with simple tools; hacksaw and files. I did the rough cut with a bandsaw at my work.

Pommel 1.jpg

 

Slowly the shape gets closer and closer. This material is quite easy to file and saw because the graphite in it lubricates, so that helps, but the massive size is something new to me.

Pommel 2.jpg

Pommel 3.jpg

 

Pommel and guard are shaped and boiled in concentrated lemon juice for 20 min to reveal the fantastic texture of grey iron. Grey iron is cast iron with enough carbon to have graphite crystals in the structure (3-4% carbon).

Pommel lemon finish.jpg

 

But the pommel needs some bling bling and brass is flash! I did copper inlays by filing with a needle file with lenticular cross section and then cutting in overhangs with knife and hammer.

copper inlay 1.jpg

 

Hammer in copper like so. Sorry about the photo.

copper inlay 3.jpg

 

 

Finished pommel. But i dipped it in ferric chloride and I don't like the surface. I'm gonna re-polish the surface and do a new finish by boiling in lemon juice, like the picture above.

Pommel 4.jpg

 

Next up will be forging the blade of wootz and rough shaping with angle grinder. I need to edit and select some photos first.

 

Cheers!

Edited by Viktor Johansson
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Thank you Jan and Alan! :rolleyes:

I'm also in love with cast iron! Fantastic stuff but dirty to work with. Lots of grind powder, not at all like steel.

 

Part II: Forging, grinding and test etch of the wootz

 

The wootz: Made by Peter Swarz-Burt. Composition roughly 1,5% carbon, 0,5% chromium and 1,3% manganese. Using chromium and manganese as carbide seeds are a little uncommon. Most wootz seem to rely on vanadium for this thing but I think the manganese gives it good hardenability.

 

My strategy for forging was to first make a preform with set distal taper (like I've seen Walter Sorells do on Youtube for a katana). I really needed a clean pre form to not f**k things up later. 

The first thing that happened was making tang with power hammer. My friend made this first step because I've never used a power hammer before and didn't wanna start, first try, here with a wootz sword. Probably the only wootz I'm gonna find for a long while unless I somehow learn to make it myself.

The thing is, wootz is a tricky material. Push it too hard or too hot and things go bad. Very bad.

 

Things went bad...

 

The tang delaminated, base was fine, the last half not so much. Later this was repaired with brass/bronze soldering. But now we are getting ahead of events.

Ignoring the tang debacle, I decided to give the power hammer a try to draw out the preform. It went slow but mostly fine, no cracks on the blade. From there on it was slow, hard manual hammer work, bevels, tip etc. Constant stuggle to keep things straight and flat (mostly flat anyway...). Taking care with heat, only light orange/cherry red color. Strike five times, nothing happens. Back in forge for another heat. I think I did hundreds of heats... Took me almost two days to forge.

 

Here is the shape after forging. I could have forged it more close to shape in order to get a bigger sword but I dared not go any further because I don't trust my arm that much.

Forged shape.jpg

Tang got worse and worse during foring of the blade and in the end closed it with hard solder and added a piece of soft iron to peen the pommel in the same go. The repair looks solid and I have no doubs about it. My only fear is that the solder melts during heat treat but it can Always be redone.

 

Next up, cleaning slag and setting the start of the fuller with angle grinder. First time angle grinding. Fun tool! 

angle grinder 3.jpgAfter anglegrinder.jpg

 

 

Here is my setup, a file, fuller making device (red water bottle with abrasives taped on), red marker and coffe! I always work outdoors if possible sitting on the ground like a tailor.

work setup.jpgBefore etch.jpg

 

The last feet or so near the tip was impossible to file. Too many carbides, file skates! How am I supposed to set nice bevels without a file??!! In the end I used a medium rough grindstone wheel (Kiruna Slip), it was torture, sooo sloooow. Tip is still too thick, have to fix it somehow.

 

Did a quick polish and test etch. Enjoy!

Wootz 1.jpg

 

Tip is so bad! I have to fix it!

Wootz 2.jpgWootz 3.jpg

 

A vision of things to come. At this point the blade (not including tang) is 72 cm long and weight 700 grams. Base is 4,5 mm tapering down to 3-3,5 mm near tip.

I didn't add enought distal taper to the preform so the very light blade feels heavy in motion. I hope adding the big pommel will help and I will try to adress the tip region later.

Wootz 4.jpg

 

 

Next up in part III is heat treatment. This will be done in September at the forge of someone who is very well known on this forum and in the global blade smithing community... Who can it be??

 

For now the project needs a rest untill next month!

 

Best regards, 

Viktor

Edited by Viktor Johansson
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That looks good! I love the lack of safety glasses, anything cotton, leather, or denim below the waist in that pic lol! I have melted that sporty type material onto my skin before like that, it sucks! But I have also full fledged caught myself on fire wearing a hoody that wasn't cotton :wacko:! And then there are the two times I had to have a good sized peice of steel  surgically removed from my eye (when I was wearing glasses). But the difference I guess is you had the skill to pull it off B)! Carry on man, it's looking good! 

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Hey Zebulon! Don't worry, the sparks flew in the other direction! :D

You're right about the safety glasses though, I'm not used with power tools, always hand tools so I almost never wear glasses. Bad habit.

Edited by Viktor Johansson
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That's some great work Victor. I'm looking forward to seeing more.

The old adage to remember is "Tools injure, power tools maim". There is quite a bit in the shop safety to keep you on your toes. I have permanently changed some of the things I do after reading entries in that section. 

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I shall remeber that adage Charles!

Band-saws has scarred me in the past and I'm therefore afraid of band-saws. Otherwise I lack experience and therefore respect. I need to learn respect without paying the price in blood.

Gonna take a look in the shop safety section now.

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It was the angle-grinding in Crocs that got my attention.  Try not to wear melty stuff around sparks.

Other than that, good job on forging the wootz!  

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20 hours ago, Viktor Johansson said:

I shall remeber that adage Charles!

Band-saws has scarred me in the past and I'm therefore afraid of band-saws. Otherwise I lack experience and therefore respect. I need to learn respect without paying the price in blood.

Gonna take a look in the shop safety section now.

That's a brilliant idea! Sorry if I came across a little satirical (I think thats the adjective I'm after) in my first reply. It's just that I used to not take my safety seriously either and as a result I deteriorated at a rapid rate once I started learing the hard way (Age 12-19). I have done everything dangerouse you could imagine and frankly I'm suprized I'm still here! I broke my back at 17, ran a pocket knife through my hand at 14, flipped a car 4x at 18 trying to drift at 60 mph around a kiss your a$$ turn. No seat belt! (when you make it through something like that, you understand the value of, well...You:D!). Been lit on fire, (2x actually, one was grinding, another was chemicals) gotten steel and glass in my eye (only the right one somehow) lopped off 2 chunks of meat out of my arm and finger in a drill press accident, caught an angle grinder to the face (luckally it was a cloth backed disc) and if  I continued I would be pressed for time, cuz I gotta be at work in the morning! Anyways, I am almost 21, and now I move as If I were 70, and I wear gloves, jeans, cotton shirt, respirator, glasses, ear protection, and boots. I just hate seeing people "learning" the way I did. 

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Did you think about forge-welding the tang repair? It's not actually that hard.

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1 hour ago, Al Massey said:

Did you think about forge-welding the tang repair? It's not actually that hard.

I don't know, I think bringing this wootz to forge welding temperatures would dissolve too much carbides and make it break up even more.

I don't remember what the solder was called but it is used for soldering hard saw teeth to a more tough steel body.

2obsk1tma2ra566b.jpg 

 

Here is the tang damage and repair:

Tånge1.jpg

Tånge2.jpgTånge3.jpg

 

The 4th side not shown has barely any damage and thats why I kept it so bulky, for support.

 

Edited by Viktor Johansson
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  • 2 months later...

It's still not heat treated! I might be able to do it before before the end of the year, but I don't have a solid location yet. I'm a little worried the edge is on the thin side for the quench but I have to try it anyways. I want a hard edge! :D

I'll update once the project has moved forward with new photos. Might take some time but I will finish the wootz sword! 

 

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