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I have been semi-studying the old Norse culture and the blade forms from the Viking age and Germanic/Celtic iron age. I was introduced to this subject by a group of smiths who are extremely knowledgeable about the history and methods of construction and are right here on this forum. Check out the History sub-forum and the Seax and Langsax topics (they are pinned for a reason) I really became fascinated when I attended the 2016 ABANA conference in Salt lake City. There was a replica of the Mastermyr tool chest and all of the 200 some tools that were inside it. The replicas were made from modern steel, but the originals were either made from heath steel or hearth iron. The "anvils" that were inside it were about the size of a Dixie cup. That's when I realized that we take that 150-400 pound hunk of iron & steel in our shop for granted. (never mind the power hammer and presses) These guys were using tiny stump anvils and making swords on them. Then I thought about the fact that they used softwood charcoal in their forges...... OK. Enough brain twisting.

One of these smiths is our very own Matt Parkinson, and I had the opportunity to take a class with him here in Arizona where he made a multi-bar knife in this style during the workshop. (I think I had posted pics of that demo here somewhere) Needless to say, at this point I was hooked. I had to try this style. Here is my first foray into the Seax.

The more I read about this the more I realized that there was going to be a considerable learning curve. There were geometries I was not used to creating and embellishment techniques I knew nothing about. So, I took a piece of advice from some old friends of mine back in the New England rock-climbing community. They had a club called the Fat Boys Mountaineering Club (FBMC for short). Their motto is "Aim Low and Overachieve". I took the mental approach of doing this simply for the sake of doing it. I put neither expectations of quality nor time constraints on the project. This was going to get done eventually, and how well it turned out, it turned out. This project is almost done. I worked on it sporadically over the last year, sometimes only getting an hour of shop time a day, sometimes none at all, sometimes a couple of hours at a clip. Releasing myself from all those expectations and standards let me just enjoy the journey, so I'm going to share it with you here. I have been going through the photos of this project and sorting them out. This is going to last a while.

First a bit of research. I decided to go way back in time to the 7th or 8th century and try one of the forms found there. You may think that it's not too different from a modern drop point knife (and you would be fairly correct). I decided against the later "broken back" sax with the clipped point we now think of as "Bowie style", because, well, just because. I was venturing into unfamiliar territory and I wanted to go deep. Here are a few images of the types of knives I'm thinking of.

seax_evolution.jpg

Blade #1.jpg

I didn't get to do the grooves/fullers or engraving in the blade, because it had other attributes I didn't want to mess with.

MAKING THE BLADE

This blade was made from this Hunk o' Steel I forged out two blades. One for the knife and one for destructive testing to make sure I got the HT correct.

As-forged.JPG

The small test blade after HT and some grinding.

Test blade (3).JPG

The break testing

break test (2).JPG

break test (3).JPG

break test (4).JPG

Satisfied that the HT sequence I used was good, I proceeded to grind, HT and finish the knife blade. More later.

 

 

 

Edited by Joshua States
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I kinda suspected you were up to something like this.  B)  I look  forward to the progression!

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Fun!  I have been dreaming about following a similar path some day.  I'll be watching your progress with interest :) 

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Cool. I'm assuming you are aware that these blades are quite a lot bigger then the test blades you've forged (and a lot bigger then bowies as well). If you need any data, dimensions, blade decorations etc. feel free to ask.

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13 hours ago, Alan Longmire said:

I kinda suspected you were up to something like this.  B)  I look  forward to the progression!

You are anticipating the other project I'm working on......(sneak peek) which will appear in another WIP thread someday......

fuller start (1).JPG

fuller start (3).JPG

The one in this thread is considerably smaller.

6 hours ago, Jeroen Zuiderwijk said:

Cool. I'm assuming you are aware that these blades are quite a lot bigger then the test blades you've forged (and a lot bigger then bowies as well). If you need any data, dimensions, blade decorations etc. feel free to ask.

The test blade was small on purpose. I don't needlessly waste good steel B) I didn't think the ones in the historical photos above were that much larger than an average Bowie though. The blade I forged for this knife is about 17,2 cm and the whole knife is about 32,5 cm from tip to back of butt plate. This was meant to be a more typical daily user or Kamp knife, rather than a war knife. Maybe I missed the mark completely. 

Thanks for the offer of assistance Jeroen, you (and Alan et. al) have already provided copious quantities of research materials, links to more info, inspirational projects, and too much valuable help already. I find myself constantly going back over the material. 

 

Edited by Joshua States

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The next phase was the grinding and polishing of the blade. This was different from what I'm used to doing. I typically do all my grinding on a work rest with a push stick. It's a system I learned from Tim Hancock and it works well for the standard Sheffield type, ricasso with plunge lines blade style. The geometry here is more triangular in cross section all the way through the blade and is done freehand. I didn't get any photos of me grinding this blade, but I just uploaded a couple into the demo thread that Matt P. did so you can see the technique.

After grinding and copious hours of hand sanding to 600 grit and etching, then polishing to 9 micron and adding tons of elbow grease this is what I ended up with.

600 grit.JPG

9 micron.JPG

Next is the guard making and setting.

 

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Go man go!!!

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Stunning so far... Keep it up Joshua. 

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I am hooked now. Hurry up! ;)

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I planned to make a butt plate and flat bolster plate from Shibuichi. I know the Vikings didn't use Shibu, but they would have, had they ever made it to Japan! What was it Jul said in Artic Fire 2013? Something like "We don't make things that could have been, we make things that should have been"

Anyway, I need to make some flat plates of shibu for these pieces. I got these casting forms a while back from a friend that decided casting was not in his future. Set it up, heat it till molten, and fill the mold. Presto! A nice, flat, 1/8" thick, shibuichi plate.

forms (2).JPG

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These I superglue to a steel plate and stick them on my surface grinder to get flat and parallel faces. Then I drill a hole, saw the cutout, file to fit and set the guard/bolster plate. Checking with a mirror tells you whether you have the guard perpendicular to the center line and spine. For those of you who are paying close attention, this was done before etching and final polish.

Mirror & guard (1).JPG

Mirror & guard (2).JPG

 

Edited by Joshua States
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On 27-1-2018 at 4:58 AM, Joshua States said:

The test blade was small on purpose. I don't needlessly waste good steel B) I didn't think the ones in the historical photos above were that much larger than an average Bowie though. The blade I forged for this knife is about 17,2 cm and the whole knife is about 32,5 cm from tip to back of butt plate. This was meant to be a more typical daily user or Kamp knife, rather than a war knife. Maybe I missed the mark completely. 

The earliest short saxes were in that range. By the time they have developed into broad saxes, particularly the heavy broad saxes, a blade length of 40cm and width of 50mm is quite typical, with a hilt of around 22-23cm (up to 30cm). Long saxes get a bit more stretched, with a blade width of around 45mm, and blade length of around 50cm or over, with a total length including hilt at around 70 to 90 cm.  The picture below gives a good size impression, with heavy broadsaxes next to swords and a longsax:

HPIM2183.JPG

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2 hours ago, Jeroen Zuiderwijk said:

The earliest short saxes were in that range. By the time they have developed into broad saxes, particularly the heavy broad saxes, a blade length of 40cm and width of 50mm is quite typical, with a hilt of around 22-23cm (up to 30cm). Long saxes get a bit more stretched, with a blade width of around 45mm, and blade length of around 50cm or over, with a total length including hilt at around 70 to 90 cm.  The picture below gives a good size impression, with heavy broadsaxes next to swords and a longsax:

HPIM2183.JPG

I had no clue they were so big. The middle one is so broad, and the handle is so long. How was it used in combat? Why is the handle so long? 

Nice first seax Joshua! I like the Japanese elements. Will you do any cool rokusho with that shibuichi?

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Great looking project! keep  us in the loop!

 

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OOOH..Jeroen, I didn't have that photo in my collection yet. Thanks for that one. It will come in handy on the next project. Are those helmets or shield bosses? What are those things in the lower right corner that look like spurs?

Edited by Joshua States

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Will be keeping an eye open for more. Keep it up.

And yes your thoughts on the photo are right, they are shield bosses and spurs.

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The original design was to use a piece of antler as a spacer and maple for the handle body. So I took a chunk of elk antler, sanded one side flat, cleaned out the pith and surfaced the other face parallel to the first one in the mill with a dovetail mill.

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Then I put the guard on the blade, wrapped the tang in Teflon tape greased the tape and the backside of the guard with Vaseline, added the antler spacer and packed the void with JB Weld Kwikwood putty.

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I split the maple and carved out a mortise for a through tang.

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Casting a round rod from the shibu and slotting the tang for the tang extension. Braze the extension to the tang.

After ensuring a snug fit in the mortise, glue the handle back together

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The black vulcanized paper are index cards for the blind alignment pins. One is fit tight against the tang between the spacer and the maple another is fit between the butt cap and the maple (not shown) Drill the alignment pin holes through the paper into the spacer. add pins that are slightly longer than needed. Assemble the spacer and paper, spray a little 3M 45 glue on the handle end of the paper and fit everything onto the blade. tap/press the handle together and seat the paper to the maple. remove the spacer and drill the holes in the maple using the paper as a guide. Repeat this process for the butt cap and assemble. The whole thing should hold together with just the pins for support.

DSCN3511.JPG

 

 

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31 minutes ago, Philip Patton said:

Will be keeping an eye open for more. Keep it up.

And yes your thoughts on the photo are right, they are shield bosses and spurs.

Thanks for the answer and the support. Hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

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I have a method for obtaining symmetry on my handles. I take a piece of that stiff paper and fit it onto the tang where the guard would be and glue it to the spacer. Then I put the handle on and chuck it in a vice blade up. I take varying thicknesses of shim stock, lay them against the blade and scribe a line on the paper on both sides of the blade. then I can hold the assembly together with either a long drywall screw or a threaded rod with washers and nuts to rough grind the shape. The lines provide a reference for getting both sides equally curved.

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Grinding is done on the 9 inch disc. Be careful not to grind through the antler and expose the putty, because then you have to make another spacer and start over again.

Oops!.JPG

This is the blackwood replacement spacer. Good thing I kept those index cards!

Blackwood replacement.JPG

Once you have the shape fairly close, reassemble everything on the knife and scribe the guard plate and butt cap. Remove the excess on the band saw and reassemble with a threaded rod. Superglue some white paper to the faces of the guard and butt cap. Redraw your reference lines and remove the handle assembly. Grind the entire handle package off of the knife on the disc and put the waist in with the slack belt. This keeps the transitions between the elements flush. Put it onto the knife periodically to check the fit and symmetry and redraw the lines if the have faded.

Symetry method (2).JPG

Symetry method (5).JPG

I got to my finished dimensions and was ready to start carving.

Edited by Joshua States
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18 hours ago, Zeb Camper said:

I had no clue they were so big. The middle one is so broad, and the handle is so long. How was it used in combat? Why is the handle so long? 

No guards, so you need the length to keep your hand on the handle. It works a lot like a hammer haft. 

As to how it was used, this shows it :)

Paris,_Bibliothèque_Nationale,_MS_lat_8824_-_seax.jpg

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19 hours ago, Zeb Camper said:

rokusho

I don't know what that is and Google showed me some stuff about Medabots in video games.

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42 minutes ago, Jeroen Zuiderwijk said:

No guards, so you need the length to keep your hand on the handle. It works a lot like a hammer haft. 

As to how it was used, this shows it :)

Paris,_Bibliothèque_Nationale,_MS_lat_8824_-_seax.jpg

Ned Stark: Do you even know the first thing about sword fighting?

Arya Stark: Stick 'em with the pointy end!

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3 hours ago, Joshua States said:

Ned Stark: Do you even know the first thing about sword fighting?

Arya Stark: Stick 'em with the pointy end!

It all makes sense to me now! 

 

3 hours ago, Joshua States said:

I don't know what that is and Google showed me some stuff about Medabots in video games.

I just googled it too :lol: try searching "rokusho patina" instead. Rokusho and shibuichi go hand and hand. 

 

4 hours ago, Jeroen Zuiderwijk said:

No guards, so you need the length to keep your hand on the handle. It works a lot like a hammer haft. 

As to how it was used, this shows it :)

Paris,_Bibliothèque_Nationale,_MS_lat_8824_-_seax.jpg

I was wondering if it may have been a primary weapon, or a backup at that size. I was also wondering if the handle was over 1", could it have been used better in a sheild formation, or something like that; I've never seen anything like that, so I just did'nt get it. But that picture helps a lot! 

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Inspired by the work of several smiths on this forum (most of whom are named either Jake or some form of Peter) I set out to carve the handle pieces. In the first photo, you will see my drawing of what I envision the finished knife to look like. This is a full scale drawing.
The ebony spacer proved to be difficult. The wood is very "chippy" and my carving skills are minimal at best.
I laid out what I wanted to look like braided cord.

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I decided to add handle carving in more of a free-form Celtic knot work design. I photo copied my original drawing and used the spray adhesive to stick it to the wood.
Then I carved the outline. Looking back at both of these pieces, I should have made the braid much bigger and the knot work lines much wider. Lesson learned.

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Then I did the other side using another photocopy. I left off the loops that cross over and freehand drew them to intersect.

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Once the carved forms are complete, there is sanding with little pieces of paper and sticks. Then I add a little stain to bring out the grain.

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Edited by Joshua States
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