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illerup swords or more specifically the diamond/chevron pattern


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These sword captured my interest the second I first saw them. And I have been grinding my head trying to figure out how the were actually made. And I just saw something that all of them have in common that changed the little understanding I had of them.

illerup_amy.pngillerup_savk.pngillerup_bil.pngillerup_safb.png

So what do all of them have in common except the diamond pattern? The pattern elongates towards the tip. Which to me would mean that the blades were forged more after the pattern had been put on. Because I first thought these were made by first forging the blades to near completion, and then adding the pattern by chiselling in the pattern and then adding the extra steel kinda like how the text on the Ulfberht swords were put in. Or am I way off anyone else that have a clue or might even have tried making one?

 

 

Oh and it seems to be the same on many of the other Illerup swords with different patterns 

 

illerup_avk.png illerup_saex.pngillerup_safg.pngillerup_sapc.png


Edit: I just remembered I had these pictures to I think they should support my theory that the blades were forged more after the pattern were added. Because everything looks a bit wavy I don’t think it would look like that if the pattern was added as one of the last forging elements.

61B902ED-F61E-41A1-9CBB-C5FE559AB7A1.jpegF59D5076-9478-476B-97B8-C974E85471F9.jpeg02F64085-3D42-40CE-8B39-6796DBB858BF.png

Edited by EricAndersson
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I think you're on the right track.  Those are the most complicated swords I know of, and I've never figured them out either. B)

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8 hours ago, Alan Longmire said:

I think you're on the right track.  Those are the most complicated swords I know of, and I've never figured them out either. B)

I think a good smith would need to have a look at the swords in person to have a chance to really figure it out, I really wonder if the pattern matches on the other side or not because if it does I might have a clue but if they don´t I got no idea, I think I read some wear that most patternwelded swords of this period had a sheet of iron between the two different sides. If I have time this or the next month I´ll try to do some small test pieces, because the only way that makes sense to me would be if they did some kind of canister mosaic Damascus but without the canister.... 

 

Just had another thought if it´s done like I said they couldn't have started the pattern with diamond shapes because that would distort the pattern to much, they started with squares that when they actually forge welded it turned into the diamond.... maybe  

so somewhat like this but without the edge added yet

illerup_samk.pngkok.png

Edited by EricAndersson
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I'm 95% sure that must be welded inlay - if you look at the last pic, there's no repeating pattern to the over/under of the laminated strips . While the ulfbhert inlays were done at the very end of forging to minimise distortion, it  would be far easier to do this kind of inlay immediately after welding on the edge, when the billet was flat and at full thickness.

 

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21 minutes ago, jake cleland said:

I'm 95% sure that must be welded inlay - if you look at the last pic, there's no repeating pattern to the over/under of the laminated strips . While the ulfbhert inlays were done at the very end of forging to minimise distortion, it  would be far easier to do this kind of inlay immediately after welding on the edge, when the billet was flat and at full thickness.

 

When I looked at those last pics it reminded me of a braided pattern with more than 3 plaits.  Sort of like how you braid rope, over one skip two sort of thing.  Would it be plausible that the smiths braided the patterned rods over a central rod then flattened it out to create a core bar?  I'm not sure why you would choose to do it that way.

 

However they did it, I suspect the process is simpler than we are making look in our heads.  It seems like every time I find out how some old craft was done the masters at the time had worked out some sort of brilliantly simple approach to getting it done.

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17 hours ago, EricAndersson said:

I think a good smith would need to have a look at the swords in person to have a chance to really figure it out, I really wonder if the pattern matches on the other side or not because if it does I might have a clue but if they don´t I got no idea, I think I read some wear that most patternwelded swords of this period had a sheet of iron between the two different sides.

 

Yes, I believe one of the written works that mentions this is the sword in Anglo Saxon England, that's at least where I had read it first.  I think it's pretty common that although as pattern welds are made today its mostly one large billet in the middle that makes up the pattern.  However holistically they tend to be just veneers welded onto a central iron core that's built up of many rods.  Why it was done that way beats me, possibility of the iron core was needed structurally, and the two most expensive parts of the sword to produce were limited as much as possible (the pattern and the cutting edge). 

 

There was another theory that I watched some time ago of a researcher who believed that the patterns may have been a way to embellish a blade but to also add strength to it like weaving a rope.  In a way I can see that as a very minor possibility, that patterns are stitching the core of iron bars together in a way.

 

I'm by far no expert on pattern welding, but a place to also research and look for answers actually might be over on the Myarmoury forum. That's where I first saw these swords made by Patric Barta who seems to reproduce some of these.  I did not understand what I was looking at at the time, to me I thought they were just pattern welds. 

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34 minutes ago, Daniel W said:

 

Yes, I believe one of the written works that mentions this is the sword in Anglo Saxon England, that's at least where I had read it first.  I think it's pretty common that although as pattern welds are made today its mostly one large billet in the middle that makes up the pattern.  However holistically they tend to be just veneers welded onto a central iron core that's built up of many rods.  Why it was done that way beats me, possibility of the iron core was needed structurally, and the two most expensive parts of the sword to produce were limited as much as possible (the pattern and the cutting edge). 

 

There was another theory that I watched some time ago of a researcher who believed that the patterns may have been a way to embellish a blade but to also add strength to it like weaving a rope.  In a way I can see that as a very minor possibility, that patterns are stitching the core of iron bars together in a way.

 

I'm by far no expert on pattern welding, but a place to also research and look for answers actually might be over on the Myarmoury forum. That's where I first saw these swords made by Patric Barta who seems to reproduce some of these.  I did not understand what I was looking at at the time, to me I thought they were just pattern welds. 

I did take a look on Myarmoury but it’s just the diamond pattern that really interest me, and I can’t find any modern reproduction of that one

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After taking a close look, I bet the diamonds are just overlay, like the last third of the Vehmaa sword.  I also bet they are very thin.  The patterns you see in the middle are just wrought iron grain, and as Daniel said, the core of most swords of the period is built up of small pieces, so if you overlaid the diamonds onto that heterogenous bar you'd get an assortment of different patterns within the cells that does indeed look a bit like modern mosaic techniques.  

 

Can you get hold of a copy of Tylecote and Gilmour 1986, The Metallography of Early Ferrous Edge Tools and Edged Weapons?  They did some cross-sections of slightly later Anglo-Saxon swords and knives that are truly staggering in the amount of odd crap the smiths welded up into blade form.   What looks on the outside like a solid opposed twist is revealed as a thin strip of twist welded onto a pile of assorted scrap, sometimes with no regard as to whether the harder stuff ended up on or near the edges.  But when they were new they sure were pretty!  

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It's mind blowing what "ancient" craftspeople were able to accomplish within all crafts.  I've only made 2 pattern welded billets and I never understood the gravity of how much time and effort goes into them in just the modern sense.  Take it back a thousand years where your materials are of much lesser quality, and it would seem to be much more difficult.  On top of the difficulty to just build up the core of a blade, then you add the frustration of twisting materials and getting rid of 90% of it just to accomplish that pattern. 

 

And a link to mr Barta's site where he's done some reactions of these migration swords is here below.  I have not looked at his site for quite a few years and do not see that diamond pattern anywhere.  Maybe he hasn't figured it out yet either.  Between him and Peter Johnson, I would probably melt if I would ever have the opportunity to hold one of their completed swords.  

 

https://www.templ.net/english/weapons-antiquity_and_early_middle_age.php#132-roman_sword

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