Jump to content

Pattern-welded early medieval seax from bloomery steel


Recommended Posts

Some WIP photos of my latest, a short-narrow seax based on archaeological finds from early medieval England.

 

First, I smelted some steel. I used 55lb (25kg) of "Spanish Red" iron oxide (powdered hematite), and got a very dense 15lb (6.8kg) bloom. It was mostly steel (medium-high carbon, enough to harden), and very easy to forge. After 3 folds, it was a solid bar.

 

IMG_5662.PNG

 

IMG_5663.PNG

 

I stacked the bloomery steel with some medium-phosphorus wrought iron from an old fence  (for color contrast), forged it into two 1/4" (6mm) bars, and twisted them opposite directions.

 

IMG_5669.PNG

 

IMG_5670.PNG

 

IMG_5671.PNG

 

Next I melted some scraps from an earlier smelt into a charcoal hearth to make some hypereutectic steel for the cutting edge.

 

IMG_5668.PNG

 

Success!

 

IMG_5665.PNG

 

The hearth steel puck forged very easily.

 

IMG_5666.PNG

 

This photo is from before I folded it, and already there were no major cracks. I folded it three times for good measure, then drew it out for the blade's edge.

 

IMG_5667.PNG

 

So I welded up the bars. Bloomery steel is super easy to weld, and the 1/4" bars snapped together easily. (Sorry, no pictures! I was too in the zone.)

 

Forging the blade profile...

 

IMG_5672.PNG

 

...and quench! It warped badly (as bloom can do), but I was able to twist it back straight with my gloved hands before it cooled. Phew.

 

IMG_5673.PNG

 

And: finished!

 

IMG_5674.PNG

 

The handle is cattle horn. Archaeological conservators who have analyzed hundreds of originals tell me the handles were almost always horn on these English blades. I can see why---it's a beautiful material.

 

The phosphoric wrought iron was just right to give a contrast with the bloomery steel.

 

IMG_5675.PNG

 

I also got a subtle hamon along the edge, thanks to bloom steel's shallow hardening metallurgy.

 

IMG_5676.PNG

 

While I enjoy pattern welding, I love the natural patterns in the bloomery steel even more. I got into bladesmithing because I love the wild irregularities of preindustrial iron and steel; it never gets old.

 

IMG_5677.PNG

Edited by Andrew W
  • Like 6
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm working up the courage to start hammering on 1095 bar stock, and then I see this...  It's going to inspire me or drive me to madness lol.  Really amazing job, probably should be pinned and somehow classified as a WIP.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/28/2021 at 1:05 PM, Alan Longmire said:

Bravo indeed!  Water quench?

Water quench, yup! Nerve-racking.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/1/2021 at 4:55 PM, Jaro Petrina said:

Andrew, smashing work. Do you have sources on the horn handles?  

They're extremely common, but not much talked about outside technical archaeological reports. Browse through the organics analysis chapter in site reports from early Anglo-Saxon period cemeteries, and you'll find that almost every knives and seaxes in England from the 6-7th centuries had a horn handle. Sometimes they can even tell what species the horn came from--both cattle and sheep/goat, it appears (see the report from Finglesham, Kent for both species of horn).

Interestingly, you see more wooden handles and very little horn in France during the same period.

Edited by Andrew W
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/1/2021 at 10:23 PM, Larry Okinaka said:

I'm working up the courage to start hammering on 1095 bar stock, and then I see this...  It's going to inspire me or drive me to madness lol.  Really amazing job, probably should be pinned and somehow classified as a WIP.

 

My first seax was from 1095, and I finished it about 3 years ago. You're well on your way!

Link to post
Share on other sites
57 minutes ago, Andrew W said:

They're extremely common, but not much talked about outside technical archaeological reports. Browse through the organics analysis chapter in site reports from early Anglo-Saxon period cemeteries, and you'll find that almost every knives and seaxes in England from the 6-7th centuries had a horn handle. Sometimes they can even tell what species the horn came from--both cattle and sheep/goat, it appears (see the report from Finglesham, Kent for both species of horn).

Interestingly, you see more wooden handles and very little horn in France during the same period.

 

Many thanks, I shall look into it.  "very little horn in France during the same period."  The implication would be whatever the saxons were more oriented to cattle breeding, than their continental counterparts.

Link to post
Share on other sites

That came out absolutely stunning! After making that seax, was there anything left over from the 15 pound bloom?

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...