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Hearth Steel Seaxes WIP


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It's been almost five years since I made a seax, and with all the hearth steel slowly making its way through consolidation I figured now would be a good time to start a few.

 

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The first is a narrow sax, with the general dimensions inspired by the Nijmegen sax. The raw materials are hearth steel and anchor chain. The first step was to make the san-mai edge bar. The wrought is smaller in both length and width to keep it from creeping over the edge.

 

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Next I welded the laminated bar onto a second piece of anchor chain. I can tell my hearth steel has some fight in it after 8 folds because it moved more slowly than the wrought and caused the billet to curve constantly :P.

 

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I cut in a reverse tip to make the grain flow with the contours of the blade and make sure the tip has good steel. I haven't beveled a blade this big in a while, it was pretty fun with all the wrought iron in this construction! The wrought did flow out over the edge a bit, bit I made sure to forge in the extra width to compensate for that.

 

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This thing is a beast, and is the longest blade I've forged by a good bit, almost 1.5x as long as the next longest. The blade is ~42 cm, tang is ~16 cm. Am I about on track for this style?

 

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Some more material for another seax, this is a 7 layer bar of anchor chain and hearth steel, drawn out to 3/8" square and 24" long. I want to stack this up in a 2x2 to make a herringbone bar for a broken back seax. If I want to make a 10-12" blade, will I be ok to draw the bar down to 1/4" before twisting it? It seems like that would give me a bar a bit under 1/2" which would be enough thickness, but from cross sections of originals it seems like the square stack of bars gets squished a far bit to spread the bars to a greater width, and I don't know 1/4" bars would let me do that.

 

This may end up being a pretty long project, but I'm excited to see this steel start to come to life in some larger blades. Thanks for looking and any suggestions are certainly welcome!

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This is going to be fantastic. I'm not the Seax expert guy. but in general, I like to twist bars that are more around 3/8" to 1/2 inch. You will lose some cross section when you square up the twisted bar, and then there's the forging loss and grinding loss to acount for.

 

As far as the dimensions go, I would refer you to one of the more definitive experts on this style, time period, and details. Luckily for you, it's also a current thred on this forum. Nijmegen narrow seax - Show and Tell - Bladesmith's Forum Board (bladesmithsforum.com)

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

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10 hours ago, Aiden CC said:

This thing is a beast, and is the longest blade I've forged by a good bit, almost 1.5x as long as the next longest. The blade is ~42 cm, tang is ~16 cm. Am I about on track for this style?

That's quite a bit larger. The Nijmegen seax is about 45cm long in total. Narrow seaxes have blade lengths of around 30cm typically. 

Jeroen Zuiderwijk

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9 hours ago, Joshua States said:

This is going to be fantastic. I'm not the Seax expert guy. but in general, I like to twist bars that are more around 3/8" to 1/2 inch. You will lose some cross section when you square up the twisted bar, and then there's the forging loss and grinding loss to acount for.

I normally do that too, but was wanting to try out two layers of bar like some old swords and seaxes seemed to have (in my case, four bars total with two showing per side) and was worrying that if I used a 3/8” bar that the elongation from squishing a 3/4” stack would stretch out the twists too much, though with the loss of cross section from twisting and cleanup I think 1/4” would be too skinny. 
 

3 hours ago, Jeroen Zuiderwijk said:

That's quite a bit larger. The Nijmegen seax is about 45cm long in total. Narrow seaxes have blade lengths of around 30cm typically. 

That makes a lot of sense. I had a hard time finding a scaled image of this find, and from what I found I interpreted it as having a 45 cm blade, rather than overall length, which seemed pretty long. I will probably take a few cm off the tang side of the blade and make something with around a ~39 cm blade length, which seems close to the top end for a narrow seax (though maybe a bit longer). 

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Sounds to me like you are into the narrow langsax territory!

 

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

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https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

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Well, things have taken an interesting turn with this project…

 

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Rough grinding seemed to go well, it maybe got a bit thin at the edge, but still 8mm at the spine. 
 

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Things for a little goofy in the quench though! That’s positive curvature from the brine, and more than I’ve gotten on any tanto. I could probably shorten the blade to fix the profile. It might also be possible to forge some negative curvature in and quench again? The edge is a bit thin though. 
 I might just roll with it, and do a bit of a “fusion” blade, I have some ideas for that too. 
 

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Also, the edge bar looks nice like this on one side, but in the pictures above you can see that on the other the core steel is exposed all the way back to the bar on the spine. It might look alright if I can make it symmetrical though, but I do love how it came out on the “good side”. I made the wrought iron only slightly thicker than the hearth steel in the initial edge billet, I realize now that it should maybe be about twice as thick. 
 

I’ll probably put the narrow seax on the back burner for now and go forward with the pattern welding and whip up some better edge material with thicker edge material. I printed out some properly scaled images for some more blades to start 

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Go for fusion!  Too cool of a blade to stop now.

You could make an argument that this likely happened to smiths back in the day as well.  :D

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-Brian

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A quick update on the first blade:

 

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You can see the different amount of steel exposed on the two sides, I think I can even this up a bit (though I wish I could make both sides look like the first photo). It also looks like there is a hamon, visible in the places where lots of steel is exposed. Hopefully some more to come on these in a few days!

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Personally I prefer the look of a wider band of exposed steel. The Nijmegen Sax is one of my favourite knives, and it looks like you still have plenty of width, so if it were me, I'd cut of the first 4" or so of the tip, and reshape the blade, and forge the tip into a companion knife...

 

This was my take on it:

 

nijmegen 8.jpg

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Jake Cleland - Skye Knives

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"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe."

 

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That is a gorgeous knife, Jake. The thing I'm worried about with my first attempt visually has to do with the blade construction. I welded a sanmai bar onto a wrought iron bar, so the core steel stops approximately 2/3 through the thickness of the blade. On originals, the core steel for this construction appears to be about 1/3-1/2 the thickness of each piece of outer iron, but I made mine too thick, essentially the same thickness as the cladding. In chasing out a part of the weld line I'm worried I got it thinned down to the point that when the grind and polish is done, there will be a few places where the core steel is exposed all the way to the bar on the spine. There are a few places where it looks like you can see the hearth steel "through" the wrought iron, maybe due to carbon diffusion.

 

I'll draw out what it would look like to cut the blade up at some point, I may go down that route. I have a bar of refined hearth steel that should draw out to ~36" at 3/8" square. I plan to use some of that as square edge bar, but I will also likely forge some into a wedge section to insert into a wrought bar warikomi style, which seems like it was how some original seax blades were constructed. If that process goes to plan I may just make another blade inspired by the Nijmegen Sax that has the right proportions from the start and no curve. 

 

For the curved blade, I was thinking I might do the typical narrow sax fittings plus maybe a habaki (depending on what I want to do with the scabbard/sheath) and use ray-skin for the handle wrap instead of leather, kind of a wakizashi/sax hybrid.

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I managed to get another two blades started today as well as doing some more work on a pattern welded bar I made a while ago.

 

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The sanmai let me down a bit last time, with the cladding not being thick enough and the whole width of the steel exposed. I decided to try chiseling a slot and using a hearth steel wedge instead of flat bar, warikomi I believe.

 

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I opted to start with a short, thick billet and draw it out rather than welding close to size. The bar was exactly big enough for a second narrow sax and a small broken back seax.

 

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Preforms, trying to set up an aesthetically pleasing flow of the wrought iron grain.

 

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All the forging done, hopefully a bit more historically accurate. The narrow sax comes in at a bit of 30 cm blade and ~3.4 cm wide. The broken back is based off of the a small seax (or maybe big knife?) from Coppergate, with about a 17 x 4 cm blade. My break happens a bit closer to the handle than the original, but I still think it looks decent.

 

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Also, a bit of pattern welding getting started, the bars forged down from that 7 layer billet I showed in my first post. Itty-bitty 1/4" rods, I just used tongs to twist them. A few issues, but luckily They are in the center of the bars which will be at the end of the 2x2 stack I weld up for this.

 

That's what I have for now, thanks for looking!

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This one seems to have survived the quench, you can sort of see the weld line, I'll give it a test etch at some point. I definitely need to take more off the other side, as the edge steel is only exposed on this side so far. The sound that brine quenches make still spooks me a bit.

 

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My first real pattern welding with homemade steel, I decided to keep it simple; just a single twisted bar with hearth steel for the edge and some of the nicer old wrought iron I have for the spine (somewhat better than the anchor chain I've found).

 

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A few directions I might take this, certainly a smaller sax, with a ~23 cm blade. Maybe something Nordic, like one of the Jørgensen "Sax 1" blades, though the tip is a bit wide for that.

 

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These blades are burning through my refined hearth steel (especially the one that I made both too large and with too much steel in the edge <_<), so I made five more pucks today using various odds and ends from lower quality wrought iron I had laying around. I know using random material for this isn't the best, but if some of it turns out to have tons of phosphorus, I'll just use it for contrast! This may be the case for the puck on the left, it was from some of my gnarliest iron and didn't behave very well. I didn't measure the pucks, but they came from 5.1 kg of feedstock. I got one of them finished out to ~600 g of fully refined (at least for this type of blade) steel, it feels like my best billet yet and was melted from failed blister steel bars that started as wagon tire. Also, yes, I do need to sweep. This stuff makes a real mess! Tons of slag, ash, and scale get brushed off in the first ~2 folds.

Edited by Aiden CC
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looks like a good match for the Laverstock seax: 

 

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Jake Cleland - Skye Knives

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"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe."

 

Albert Einstein

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This project just keeps improving every step of the way.

5 hours ago, jake cleland said:

the Laverstock seax

I haven't seen this one before. I've been exercising my Google-Fu and came up empty. Any stats on this anywere?

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

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50 minutes ago, Joshua States said:

 

I haven't seen this one before. I've been exercising my Google-Fu and came up empty. Any stats on this anywere?

'fraid not. It's sometimes known as the Salisbury seax - if you can find a pic of the whole display, you can scale it off the skeleton's forearm, and as far as I remember, 23cm seems about right. From other finds we can guess it's fairly thin -4.5mm ish. everything else I've just inferred from the picture. Silver (or silver over iron) mounts, Probably wooden handle - I like yew as it matches the remaining colour. I interpret the horizontal lines on the blade as pattern welding, but could just as easily be fullers. Jeroen probably knows more...

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Jake Cleland - Skye Knives

www.knifemaker.co.uk

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe."

 

Albert Einstein

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Am I seeing things, or does it look almost a short Kclip point on that seax (or maybe just corrosion damage)?

 

Lots of grinding, this time I overcompensated and made the cladding too thick, but I would say I prefer that since you can’t grind the metal back on. 
 

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A sneak peak at the pattern in this one. I’m pretty pleased with the contrast, the hearth steel component was made from globe elevator nails, which IIRC some have found to be high in P. The splotchiness by the edge is because the blade is wet, though I’m sure it has an auto hamon. I’ll grind it a bit thinner, it’s about 5.5 mm, but if some of the weld lines don’t come out when I get down to 4.5, it may be asking for some “decorative” grooves bordering the pattern welding…

 

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The little guy is coming along, though it needs Some more grinding to even up the core. This is the good side, where I chased out some inclusions in the cladding and exposed a good amount of core steel. The other side needs some more work. The second shot at a narrow sax has a similar issue, needing a good bit more grinding to expose the core. It’s at 9 mm with a target of 7 mm, so I have some room to go. 

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A bit more progress on two of the blades, I will be away from my shop for a few weeks but we’ll see where I get by Friday! 
 

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The little broken back needed some re-profiling to expose steel everywhere, I think it still looks fairly “seaxy” though I will probably take another crack at the Coppergate knife.  I picked up some barrel staves a while ago (I swear at this point it’s like scraps of wood are searching for me), seemed like decent quality oak and my workshop smelled like bourbon when I burned in the tang :D
 

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This is the other sax out of the etch. The wrought iron on the spine turned dark black, could that mean it has a high phosphorus content? I’ve heard mixed things about that. If so, I would love that since I’ve had trouble finding high-P iron and it would be nice to have that contrast. 
 

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It’s subtle but the pattern is there! With a different polish, I think this would have an interesting hamon. I may hit it with some red iron oxide to dull down the bright spots a bit. I had to cut the length down a bit, I think I will shoot for a “kurzsaxe” of sorts, maybe with wrought iron narrow sax fittings and a leather wrap. 

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On 8/10/2022 at 11:31 AM, Alan Longmire said:

Cool! I'm diggin' the patterns. B)

 

In my experience high-P iron does etch dark, but Mn will do that as well.  

Thank you! Definitely subtle compared to what I’m used to with modern steel. Interestingly, after polishing, it doesn’t really have that much contrast with the neighboring material. Was Mn added intentionally to wrought, or is it something that comes in with the ore?

 

I may start on a sheath tomorrow, but I’m pretty much out of time until September. That being said, I did wrap up the little guy:

 

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The barrel stave feels very solid, definitely different than the oak you  get at a hardware store. The weight balances the forward-heavy blade in a pleasing way. Appearance wise, I’m not a huge oak fan, but I’m pretty pleased with this stuff. 
 

I’ve been reading Knives and Scabbards, interestingly it seems like boxwood was a favorite for small knives and the authors claimed that oak was rarely chosen for mechanical reasons (propensity for splitting), however in the literature on seax handles, which arguably require sturdier wood due to the wide tangs making for thin walls and the possibly heavy impacts to the blade, oak seems to show up a fair bit. I may pick up some boxwood to try out, though it is quite expensive for a non-figured wood! 

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11 hours ago, Aiden CC said:

Was Mn added intentionally to wrought, or is it something that comes in with the ore?

 

It frequently occurs in the same ore body with brown ores like goethite/limonite. It usually forms the base of the deposit, where it appears as a dark purple crust on the iron.

 

4 hours ago, Gerhard Gerber said:

Man Aiden, that knife looks right in so many ways, stunning simplicity, eye and hand perfectly B)

 

And this.  You nailed it.

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