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Viking Woman's Knife WIP


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Hey everyone! 

 

I'm working on a kind of general Viking woman's knife. I drew inspiration from a bunch of different types of seaxes and knives, and distilled it into what you'll see here! It's maybe not quite a seax, but I don't think it's just a knife either. It's being made for a friend of mine in Iceland who gifted me some really amazing material when I was over there last year. She asked for 'a simple viking woman's knife' and I think I may have missed the mark on the 'simple' part, but it is what it is! I'll attach a bunch of photos like usual and maybe some reference I used for inspiration. 

 

The blade is a nice 6 bar pattern welded blade I made last year. It has iron on the spine, four twist bars, two on each side, and a folded steel edge with no clay hamon.

I took some of the bone for the bolster and marked out a rough shape of the hole I needed. 

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Next drill a slightly undersized hole, and jewelers saw to make the slot. Next some careful time with some files, and you're fit! 

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Bolster and handle material fit up. The bog oak is some wonderful material from Utö, Sweden given to me by a friend. It was salvaged from a pre Viking aged ship wreck. 

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The piece was just the right size, some very careful grinding resulted in a clean handle!

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I made a quick sketch of what I wanted the handle to be like after tracing the blade. I still need to add the ring dots and the silver ring and line decoration. Pictured is a beautiful silver working hammer I picked up from Jeff Helmes. I've used it for lots of silver and copper work now! 

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When doing tied rings I find it helpful to make a quick mockup in iron wire, as its easy to bend and you can see exactly how much material you need for the given size of ring you are making. The silver is forged to a taper on each side, so this helps you make sure you don't end up with six inches of wire when you only needed 4.5

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I used an inverted cone burr in a flex shaft to make the square hole in the back of the handle for the ring mount. After it was fit I carefully drilled the hole for the silver pin and assembled the whole thing. I used a checkering file to careful make the lines in the back of the handle. The ring dots were made with these beautiful tools from Evelyn Stier. 

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Next is the sheath work. I usually try and pick a piece of period art to use as inspiration for the design and take it from there. In this case I chose a piece of carved wood from the National Icelandic Museum. It had a beautiful kind of flow, so I modified the design a little and set to coming up with a design for the sheath. 

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These are two photos I got from this forum some time ago, and they are the kind of general Gotlandesque design I like for small knives like these. 

 

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I took the general shapes and ideas from these historical sheaths and once I had the form sorted out, it was time to figure out the actual embellishments. 

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Pretty much the way it'll end up! 

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I make a paper template around the knife once I've wrapped it. IMG_7720.JPG

 

Transferred to leather, then wet formed around the protected knife.

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Clean your hands carefully before you do this. If you're not going to dye your leather this is even more important because wet leather will take dirt very readily.

 

I carefully wet the leather in warm water. I don't want it soaked, but I wet the inside until bubbles start to come out. After that I place the knife inside and work from the bolster to the front and back. I find that this is just massaging the leather into a shape you want. This is why sopping wet leather is not good for this, you want it to take the shape but retain a little memory. After the initial forming is done I will remove the knife and let the leather dry for one of two days. This way I make sure the knife doesn't get rusted at all, and the leather is able to dry more quickly. 

 

In this case the tip of the sheath was not low enough. It was too straight for my liking, I wanted a more dropped appearance to it, but if I tried to do it at the time that I was doing the rest of the forming I would get the leather to bunch up and not sit flat. Instead I waited for the leather to dry, and then selectively wet just the tip area of the sheath so that I could form it more accurately to the blade and the rest would not deform.  

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Next step is to glue the sheath shut. I use titebond original glue. I've been using it for years and have never had any issues with rust, but it must be the original titebond wood glue. This shot shows the benefits of wet forming. You get a very clean and close fit to your blade and handle. I glue by putting the knife inside the sheath, and opening the sheath so I can see inside. I carefully place a bead of glue from the tip to the top of the sheath and use my finger to spread the glue to about 1/8 inch from the knife. It is important that this layer of glue is thin, as when you massage the sheath shut you do not want it to spread to the knife. Wash your hands very carefully after applying the glue, then massage the seam closed for a few minutes. I tend to do this for maybe 20 minutes until the glue does not separate when you let go. 

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Next is the trimming and tooling. I usually trim the excess with a bandsaw and belt grinder. I start by creating the frame for the design to sit.

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Next I use a very soft pencil to begin to draw in the rough design. 

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I use a metal burnishing tool to begin to press the lines into the leather. You can experiment with doing it dry or with little bits of water. I keep a shadow dish with water in it to gently wet the areas I'm working with my finger. I use a few drops and then wipe away any excess. You want damp, not soaking wet. That is the difference between the clean lines and the more 'jagged' ones you see in the right side of the photo below. 

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I often start stippling when I am working on the main lines in an area. Leather has a lot of give, so you often have to go back and forth between line work and stippling, wet and dry. 

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Partly done. I'll still go back over the lines to make the definition better later. 

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Stippling tool, made with a small round burr in a dremel on a piece of steel, then carefully ground the excess material away. 

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And bottom section done! Pictured are the tools I use for all of the leather work. 

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And I did the rest of the leather work, added some black dye! It may seem obvious, but let the dye dry for a few hours, and then clean the excess off the surface with a shop towel. Then you can use a soft cotton rag to buff the leather to a nice shine. 

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Cleaning and buffing also brings out the grain of the leather.

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Here it is next to the sketch I cut out. Next I will make the silver fittings. Another ring and some nice plate fittings.

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Anyway that's it for now! I'll be updating this as I get a chance to work on the silver in a few weeks hopefully. Hope you guys enjoy and some useful info is in here! 

Edited by Emiliano Carrillo
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Spectacular WIP thread. Thanks for sharing your process.

Quick question: Do you put something inside the sheath when tooling the leather?

Edited by Joshua States
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On 11/20/2020 at 5:28 PM, Joshua States said:

Spectacular WIP thread. Thanks for sharing your process.

Quick question: Do you put something inside the sheath when tooling the leather?

I actually leave the knife in there! It's the perfect form to hold everything in place! That's one of the benefits of wet forming and having it conform closely to the shape of your blade! 

 

 

Thanks everyone for your kinds words and thank you Alan for the pin! I'm glad you guys have enjoyed the WIP so far! Hopefully the rest of it will be equally interesting :) 

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Managed to finish this along with some other stuff this weekend! 

 

I start with paper templates to get the shape of the shape sorted out. When you bend the paper over, you can use your finger to crease the paper and cut it to shape. 

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The 'staples' are made from pattern wire sheet that I cut and trim, then bend over a form. These get some gentle hammering with a plastic jewelry hammer with some leather or shop towel in between the silver and the hammer. This cinches the staples firmly around the leather. I do them one at a time so I can drill and peen the rivet without having all of them move around on me. 

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I use a veeeeery accurate method of drawing a line, and putting some crosses with sharpie on it to mark the rivet locations.

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After some gentle hammering and some #0000 fine steel wool! Here you can see the first staple drilled and peened.

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I drew the pyramids on with some sharpie, and then used a jewelers saw to cut the basic shapes out. I then use some files to clean up the shapes by eye. I've found that a great trick is to get it looking close, and then flip the pyramids over so they're upside down. This tricks your eyes and allows you to see where there are inconsistencies. 

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And cleaned up! Same deal as before, some steel wool and some gentle hammering to fit the top of the sheath to the silver. 

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I drill a few holes, and mark the rest after I have installed the pins. These hold everything in place so I can drill the rest of the pins and have all of the holes line up. 

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In order to get the ring to sit reasonably well I have to inlay the silver ring holder into the leather. I mark it after drilling the two holes, one to mount the silver, and one for this holder. I put the holder on and trace it with a chisel. 

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I use a nicely stropped chisel to begin to remove the material. I fit the holder on every once in a while to make sure it is close. 

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And fit! 

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From the side, reasonably well fit. 

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Next is the silver suspension ring. I use some sterling silver square wire, forged into a gentle round, and then taper the ends. I have found 4.5 or 5 inches is ideal for a ring this size. Before bending I use steel wool to clean and remove the scale from the whole thing. I bend to this stage and then anneal the 'legs' of the ring before continuing the bend. 

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The tied rings are done in sections, so once you've bent the ring to this shape, you anneal and then use a pair of needle nose pliers that are round or smooth to help curl the ring around itself. 

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The fittings in order.

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The ring and holder are placed on the sheath.

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Then the silver strap is placed over top and the first rivet is applied. From this point on everything is done really, just a few rivets left to place! 

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And a few finished shots! Not great lighting, but I'll update this when I have a chance to take some decent photos 

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I do have a question of historical form. This one seems much pointier than the examples in the history books. I do like it actually, more than the ones in the books. Are there other examples of this blade shape from some particular date range that I am unfamiliar with? Is it just typically Gotland blades?

Edited by Joshua States
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Thank you all! I really appreciate it! Hopefully I didn't skip over too much important stuff! 

 

Joshua, this one is actually kind of my 'standard' seax shape. To be honest I haven't looked at any historical blade shapes and studied them in a long time, which I suppose I should change! At this point I'm just kind of making the shapes from memory. I just checked it against a seax I have that is supposed to be from ~7th cent France, and the shapes are fairly close, although the antique one has a bit of a sweep in the clip which I quite like. 

 

 

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Yeah. That drop/clip in the point (I think) is typical of finds from western Europe of that period and later. But I really like that even taper you get on the blade. It may be a "woman's knife", but it clearly says "Don't press your luck buddy. I may be cleaning fish right now, but I can clean you out just as easily."

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