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Doug Lester

Wrought iron tangs.

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Just watched two videos on YouTube from Mat Easton, "Why Some Modern Sword Makers Get Tangs Wrong", parts one and two.  It has to do with the advantages of scarf or cleft welding a wrought iron of low carbon iron to a high carbon blade which was done by some prominent sword and knife makers on SOME of their blades.  The theory is that if the weapon has wrought or soft iron from the ricasso on down to the pommel it would be less likely to break in combat than a sword make of the same steel in both the blade and the tang.

Another option would be to make sure you did not quench the blade past the ricasso or you could quench the blade and tang of a mono steel sword, temper it, then draw the temper back past blue in the tang and ricasso.

Sorry that I don't know how to post links but it should be easy to find the episodes by going to YouTube and looking up scholigladitoria or Mat Easton.  Mat also went over a response to the first part from Peter Johnson.

I'd be interested in reading comments.

Doug

Edited by Doug Lester

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Historically  it could simply be an issue of material.  Remembering that before the industrial age, steel, good steel is highly valuable, not to mention depending on region of the world not easy to make. Therefore steel was only used for the cutting edges of a blade. Possibly even an idea similar to carbide teeth on saw blades.  The entire blade is not made of carbide, only the part intended to do the job.

In sword blades, for a soft tang would have a few advantages.  It leaves the weakest point of a blade (depending on how its made) ductile.  It's a part of a sword that has really very little reason to be hardened which could introduce stresses that would not be there if a blade was just normalized, or just ductile iron. 

Ricasso's again, its just a part of the blade that doesn't really have a fucntion in cutting so why harden it?  it's again the same idea in my opinion.  normalized or ductile iron may bend more than break, and a bent blade is better than a broken one.  You may also grow to the opinion that a ricasso has some role in binding or parrying blades, that's not really true unless you are looking at two handed swords with lugs. 

 

 

I did not see any of these video's so maybe I'm stating things already covered. I'm speaking from a historical perspective and basing it one 3 two handed swords I was able to pull information on.  Each sword from 1530-1580 was made with 'steel' edges welded onto iron cores.

Edited by Daniel W

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Iron tangs on swords was a pretty standard way of doing things right through the Napoleonic era and to the late 19th century, iirc. You can see the exact method in this article, near the bottom;

https://oldswords.com/articles/French Cuirassier swords AN IX - AN XI.pdf

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Yep.  Standard practice from the start of the iron age until the Open Hearth process (Bessemer steel is not high carbon, too hard to control the reaction).  I was happy to see at least a few comments that showed experience, but of course there were the zillion or so idiots yammering on about stuff they have no business speaking of.   :rolleyes:  Man, I hate reading YouTube comments...

Peter's comment was great and true, which is because he's Peter, but I suspect he was aiming at the rather confrontational title of the video instead of what was being presented.  Being a modern swordsmith and all.  ;)

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I have always relied on the "common knowledge" that 1095 was too brittle for making sword blades from and then Mat showed a Wilkinson sword from circa 1890 that was essentially 1095.  Evidently, or maybe educated guess, the wrought iron tang kept the sword from breaking at or just below the ricasso when delivering a hard blow.

Doug

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One can also temper 1095 back to spring temper.  Randal Graham used to make swords from W2 all the time.  Then there's wootz at 1.5%+ carbon.  Whose common knowledge? I admit I wouldn't advise a new maker to use 1095 for a sword, but that's only because of the annoyingly short quenching window available.  

Remember, all the historical steels were very shallow-hardening, thus tougher than one might think.  That pattern 1896 sword would not have been fully hard at the spine.  Tempered back appropriately, it could do the job quite well.  By that time, I suspect the iron tang was just traditional.  

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I've got nothing in the sword making arena, but like to point out, when ordering 1095 from Mcmaster-Carr, it's only sold as Spring Steel. 

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I almost always weld a high carbon tang to my multibar pieces, because 1. I have a bucket of vaguely tang shaped high carbon offcuts from when I do stock removal, 2. High carbon welds much more easily to the low carbon core that I've forged into a stub tang than low carbon or iron would. 3. It's generally one of the last forging operations I do, so after the weld is set and dressed, I can normalise the crap out of it before flipping it round and doing the final straightening passes on the blade. 4. A dead soft tang junction is a terrible idea - a blade that will take a 45 degree set from the hilt with a bad cut is a bad blade. The guy in the video mentions Japanese swords, but they are always hardened past the machi and habaki-dai into the nakago proper to prevent this. On the cavalry sword he shows, he concentrates solely on the iron portion of the weld, ignoring the fact that the other side of that weld is high carbon which I'd guess extends well past the tang junction.

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This video by Matt Easton made its way through the FB discussion groups and I watched it. I did not respond on the YT site, but I offered my response to the process on FB. I think Matt Parkinson's comment "Modern steels require modern methods" pretty well summed up why modern smiths do what they do rather than rely on centuries old tech and methods.

Anyway, I never liked the idea of inserting a serious phase change at the tang/blade junction by not hardening the tang. I say through harden everything and draw back the tang. 

Hand sanded & tang temper (2) V2.jpg

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1 hour ago, Joshua States said:

Modern steels require modern methods

I thought that also, if memory serves, Peter Ross has said something along those lines in regard to trying to use old methods with modern mild steel.

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Indeed.  Wrought iron and wrought iron-derived steel (be that shear steel or hearth steel, or even crucible steels) do not behave remotely the same as modern homogenous electric arc furnace continuous cast steel.  

I am reminded of the time on another forum several years ago when some idiot was trying to commission a katana with hamon made from the then-newest supersteel S30V.  Tamahagane vs. S30V is not apples to oranges, it's apples to possums...:rolleyes:

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Humm...S30V with a hamon?  What a concept.:wacko:

Doug

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On 9/15/2019 at 8:25 AM, Joshua States said:

Anyway, I never liked the idea of inserting a serious phase change at the tang/blade junction by not hardening the tang. I say through harden everything and draw back the tang. 

This is actually possibly more problematic as you run the risk of temper embrittlement at the worst spot possible.  Differential hardening is less likely to cause undue stresses, I would think.  

Every time Matt talks about metallurgy I cringe.  But generally I like his videos, and I think I have seen them all.  In this case he did bring up either not hardening or tempering back a mono-steel tang, so he did at least save himself a little there.  He is apparently under the impression that weld failures don't happen and welding is easier than proper heat treat.  :huh:

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3 hours ago, Jerrod Miller said:

He is apparently under the impression that weld failures don't happen and welding is easier than proper heat treat.

I think it's more that he is dependent upon creating videos to make $, and any video, regardless of how banal it may be, is better than not posting a video.

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Hes mighty proud of that seax too. Here's another vid. 

The problem I have is he doesnt really know what he's talking about. 

I certainly would stab with my seax! 

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Bit of a bold statement there, Zeb.  No where did Matt say in that video that seax were not used for stabbing.  He said that there were examples in art contemporary with the age of time seax were in use that showed them being used to stab.  He pointed out the problem that stabbing with one raises the problem of the hand sliding up onto the blade being they were absent a guard.  That might be part of the reason for having a 6"-8" handle on a 12" blade.  It gives more room for the hand to slip before sliding up over the edge.

Just like he didn't say that welding a wrought iron tang to a blade was superior to a mono blade and tang.  Just like forge welding had to be done right, and I imagine that there were more smiths familiar with forge welding than now.  Just like now a welder has to produce his/her tickets to show that they can produce a proper weld, I imagine that back then an apprentice smith would have to show proper scarf and cleft welds to advance to Journeyman.

He also didn't say that there were no mono steel blades back in the late Victorian age.  He, like Jerrod, said that they had to be done right to keep the user from suddenly finding himself from holding just the handle and guard in the middle of combat.

Doug

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"Pretty bold talk for a one eyed fat man" :lol:

Thanks for reeling me in Doug! I meant it in more of a joking way. Everything I have is speculation at best. 

However, when reaching out to the masses, and trying to educate on the functions of a weapon; going against what literature and art have to say while our only example is one type of one type of seax.... doesn't make much sense to me. 

Edit: his one type of one type doesn't have a handle either! 

Sorry if I came across rude. That was a little uncalled for on my part. 

Edited by Zeb Camper

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Seppuku might be hard to perform by slashing alone!!! 

I shouldn't have been so rude. It's really a cool thing he's doing and he makes good informative videos. I really dont know what's wrong with me.

As far as the wrought tangs on seax (seaxs?) goes, where did the wrought stop? From what I have read, most seaxs weren't patterned anyway alot of times were comprised mostly of wrought. Those examples with patternwelding I think usually had a continuation of the pattern into the tang suggesting it was made of the same pattern as the blade. Why weld wrought on right below the blade shoulders? I'd think unhardened medium carbon steel would be stronger and less prone to bend than dead soft wrought. 

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Going back to the seax welding a wrought iron tang on might have been to conserve hardenable steel (if they could tell the difference).  From what I have read some of the blades were basically iron and some had enough carbon in it to be considered steel.  Depending on the sources.

Watch that video where he compares the seax with the bowie knife.  He explained that the broken back seax come from the British Isles and blades with more of a rounded or spear point come from Frankish or Nordic regions.  That seax that he had he ordered without a handle with the intent of applying one himself.

Doug

Edited by Doug Lester

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Preface: I have not watched the video Zeb posted. Mostly because YouTube experts irritate me and I'm trying to relax before going to bed.

23 hours ago, Doug Lester said:

He pointed out the problem that stabbing with one raises the problem of the hand sliding up onto the blade being they were absent a guard. 

I have a problem with this train of thought, in my barely educated, not so well informed mind. From what research I have managed to accomplish on the subject of the Seax, we really do not have a wealth of knowledge of the handle form. Were they straight? Hourglass shaped? Did they incorporate finger notches, ridges, or some other detail that allowed the user to keep the hand firmly on the grip? We really don't know. We have some relics with partial or mostly intact handles, but really, it's a very small percentage of the Seaxes we have found. So not a really clear representation of the  handle form. It would also be easy to assume that the opposite is also true. That  a wide swinging arc of a Langsax is also risky because there's no pommel or bird's head to keep it from flying out of your hand.

Now, I find it difficult at best to accept that a weapon that dominated continental Europe for roughly 500 years would do so with a handle design that made stabbing your opponent so risky, without someone coming up with a way to fix it. Humans just don't live with a design flaw in an important tool for 5 centuries and just say "well, that's just how it is". They redesign and fix the error. Usually, after the second or third time it causes a problem.

So I conclude that the handle was designed and shaped to prohibit the hand sliding up onto the blade in a stabbing motion or flying out of your hand in a swinging arc. This is really easy to accomplish with a little tapering. Only a modern person, who is so accustomed to the presence of a dangling guard, would assume that the lack of one would automatically cause a critical error in usage.

Rant complete.

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Yeah, I just dont agree that the broken back was mainly a slashing weapon...

What about the other types of broken backs? The extreamely acutely pointed ones? These two blade types are so varied in size and shapes that it would be hard for me to say exactly how they used them primarily... I could make speculations. I could say that very pointy tip would be great for getting through mail or other light armor garb (though I've not tested it). I could say the reverse distal was made to give forward weight to chop (probably was right?). But, I really just dont know. I could say that since art and literature point towards stabbing, and since it's probably of the fastest ways into an artery, or organs, through armor etc. That I have reasons to believe it was designed with stabbing in mind. A long handle is good for keeping your hand on it too. Ever used a digging bar? Last I did I didnt slide to the ground uncontrollably. Same way a hammer doesn't fly from your hand. And it's not like stabbing a rock or barn wall. A shield will have some give. Human tissue is pretty soft stuff. 

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I started welding wrought iron tangs onto my swords and seaxes for the reason that when I'm pattern welding it is easy to distort the pattern when forging the tang in and peening modern or even mild steel just sucks. In order to combat that I would forge a stub tang, weld a wrought iron one on for ease of peening, and then grind the shoulders up about 1/8-1/4 inch to deal with the distorted material. The softer material helps a lot with the peening, particularly on smaller blades. 

I'm gonna be doing a forge welding demo at Ashokan this weekend starting with a bar of wrought iron and a piece of pattern welded steel, and show a method for forge welding without wire or tack welds, then forge weld a wrought iron tang onto the blade, preserving the steel where it's needed. I'll also forge two blades from this material, hot cutting in the 45 degree angle to create the tip of the blades. My intent is to show an old school approach to forge welding and the additive nature of this technique which allowed historical smiths to create larger objects from bloom iron. I think the key feature here is the fact that all work back then was additive. It's hard to get in that mindset as a modern smith especially with how ease stock removal is for us. When you have a couple small bars of bloom and need to make a large sword, you get really good at thinking in puzzles and solving the problem of how to create a workable and useful bar of material, you need to maximize the steel in the edge and maximize the iron for the rest, including the tang. Having steel in your tang doesn't really net you anything besides maybe resistance to bending as far as I'm concerned. Seeing as so many war time Japanese swords also had iron tangs welded on, and not a lot of them have broken at the tang, I would posit that this is a really durable method, and isn't likely to fail. I have clients that abuse the work I do in the field, and none have ended up with a shorn tang.  

I think the video was well intentioned but he made a lot of claims that don't make sense. It's true, that was and still is an important way of making use of the various properties, but most people nowadays don't do this technique for the same reasons as it must have originality been done. I've held and documented several larger seax blades, all of which had the tell tale signs of a forge welded tang and sandwiched contribution. In making bloomery steel swords I have also welded a tang on, for ease of peening but because when you have a ~15 bar sword made from dirt you don't want to lose any more material than you have to. 

 

I don't know if that helps anyone, but I see this method as an extremely practical one. I have a hard time believing it was done originally for any other reason 

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10 hours ago, Zeb Camper said:

Seppuku might be hard to perform by slashing alone!!! 

I was actually thinking of a Bujutsu art that was grappling in armor with a tanto.   Just pointing out that here's a fighting blade without a guard of any kind that was used for stabbing

Edited by Gerald Boggs
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11 hours ago, Zeb Camper said:

I shouldn't have been so rude. It's really a cool thing he's doing and he makes good informative videos. I really dont know what's wrong with me.

It's the internet way.  It tends to bring out the worst in all of us.  You are far better behaved than most.

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