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Bronze age Wohlde type sword


Jeroen Zuiderwijk

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Yay, I have something to post again! :) I cast this blade over 15 years ago, when I was still doing living history in Archeon. The blade is based on a find from Monnikenbraak, Netherlands, dating to 1800-1500BC (probably the latter part of that). It's a so-called Wohlde type sword  (analog to bronze age rapiers from the UK). 327445635_708729144036909_1998073988054735819_n.jpg

The blade was cast in a clay mould. The mould halves were made from a 50/50 mix of clay sand, that was first dried to leather hard and then had the blade carved out. I don't know if this method was used in the bronze age (rather then using wooden models), but it was something I wanted to try out. Both halves were then assembled, and then wrapped with a layer of clay/sand/horse dung mix. The mould was further dried and fired. 

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The casting was done 15 years ago in Archeon, using a bronze age style pit furnace. This is the only sword blade that I cast that way that was sort of decent. Here you can see the cast straight from the mould, with flashing and sprue (at the tip) still attached.

 

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I had started finishing it authentically, but I found that the cast was still not good enough to complete it that way. So it ended up in my pile of unfinished casts, where it stayed for 14 years. Last year I decided to start and finish this one, starting out with making the hilt. The slot for the tang was burned into the wood. This took a few attempts until I had a hilt I was happy with. Mostly because the first piece of wood appeared to have a drying crack in it, which I found when I started carving the hilt from it. 

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This was actually great though, since I could split open the failed hilt and see the result of the burning process from the inside. I was quite surprised at how clean the burn was, since there was only a very thin layer of blackened wood on the inside, only a few tenths of a mm deep into the wood. The burning was done with the hilt plate being still below red hot, and the wood quenched in a bucket of water after each burn. The final hilt was made from a piece of hazelwood. The real challenge was lining up the holes in the tang with the hilt and the slot, which I fortunately got right. Having a drill press being able to drill straight and precise holes helps a lot. No idea how they managed that in the bronze age.  Well, I have some ideas, but never put it into practice to see if they work. 

 

The hilt is fastened not just with the rivets and washers, but also with a resin/charcoal dust/fat mixture. I've found in the past that just rivets aren't enough in this construction, as the slightest play between the rivet and the holes would result in quite significant movement of the blade inside the hilt. And if you look at the originals, the rivets are anything but a tight fit inside the holes. 

 

The finished result:

 

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Jeroen Zuiderwijk

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/barbarianmetalworking

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This is super nice!, I never knew these swords were cast from the tip.

Bronze swords are almost magic to me, last month I was looking at some in a museum (Limburgs museum in Venlo) that looked like they could have been made yesterday.

 

 

 

 

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What a fine job you've done with that. I saw this in the FB group for bronze casting earlier and the additional photos here are a pleasant bonus.

How do we know what the handle shape was from such an old find?

 

“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.”

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2 hours ago, Joshua States said:

What a fine job you've done with that. I saw this in the FB group for bronze casting earlier and the additional photos here are a pleasant bonus.

How do we know what the handle shape was from such an old find?

 

From the blade itself, the outline of the hilt edge on the blade and the rivet size. I took further information from contemporary bronze hilted swords, such as these from the Dystrup sword hoard:

Dystrup_swords.jpg

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Jeroen Zuiderwijk

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/barbarianmetalworking

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  • 9 months later...

I just started making a scabbard for the Monnikenbraak sword. The inside is carved out. I'm still contemplating between a wooden scabbard and leather wrapped scabbard, as shown in examples. I'm leaning towards leather wrapped. It will not be lined with fur like original finds, simply as I don't want to spend 500 euro for a Scottish highlander hide for it. I may some time get an alternative, like a sheep hide which are much cheaper, but not for now.

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Jeroen Zuiderwijk

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  • 3 weeks later...

Preview of the scabbard & suspension. The scabbard, belt and buttons are all based on finds from Denmark, that are more or less contemporary with the sword blade. I see it as one potential option, considering that there were no metal fittings found with this blade. But of course it comes with a lot of uncertainty.

 

 

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Jeroen Zuiderwijk

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/barbarianmetalworking

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When you said Bronze Age zip lock bag I wondered how you came up with that.  I never would have imagined something like that.  Looks cool.B)

 

Doug

HELP...I'm a twenty year old trapped in the body of an old man!!!

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  • 2 months later...
4 hours ago, Kathy Hall said:

Really amazing work. Can I ask about the rivets? Did you make them with the washers because they were made that way on the Monnikenbraak sword? Is it the easiest way to fit these large headed rivets?

Yeah, they were like that on the original, including most swords from that period. My guess is that it has to do with how difficult it is to get the rivet holes in the hilt to line up with the holes in the blade, which also has to line up with the slot in the hilt. It was quite a hassle doing that with a drill press. If there's any misalignment (and having to increase the holes to compensate so that the rivets will pass through) that gets covered up by the washers. They did figure this out though with the tools they had, as later swords did not have these washers, while still having single piece hilts. With even later full tang swords, this gets much easier, as you simply use the sword to drill to one hilt plate, and then use that hilt plate with tang to drill through the next hilt plate. Although I wonder if they actually drilled such holes, or simply burned them in, either through friction or by heating the rivet rod and pressing it through the wood or horn.

Jeroen Zuiderwijk

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/barbarianmetalworking

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They did have drills back then, usually copper drill bits/abrasives/lubricant with a bow drill. They used to also do a lot of lapidary work, so they certainly had the technology. Usually the stone pommels had circular holes drilled in the side to secure them to the hilt. I thought that most Minoan swords had a two piece hilt, which makes locating the holes easier. They also never used rivets with washers, as I recall.

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7 hours ago, Jeroen Zuiderwijk said:

Yeah, they were like that on the original, including most swords from that period. My guess is that it has to do with how difficult it is to get the rivet holes in the hilt to line up with the holes in the blade, which also has to line up with the slot in the hilt. It was quite a hassle doing that with a drill press. If there's any misalignment (and having to increase the holes to compensate so that the rivets will pass through) that gets covered up by the washers. They did figure this out though with the tools they had, as later swords did not have these washers, while still having single piece hilts. With even later full tang swords, this gets much easier, as you simply use the sword to drill to one hilt plate, and then use that hilt plate with tang to drill through the next hilt plate. Although I wonder if they actually drilled such holes, or simply burned them in, either through friction or by heating the rivet rod and pressing it through the wood or horn.

 

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I have another question. Could you have made the handle in two parts (i.e. sliced down the middle with the blade in between) and then glued it together when fitting? As if it was two hilt plates glued together?

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9 hours ago, Kathy Hall said:

I have another question. Could you have made the handle in two parts (i.e. sliced down the middle with the blade in between) and then glued it together when fitting? As if it was two hilt plates glued together?

Technically yes, but several found examples I've seen have single piece hilts. There are early british daggers which have hilts of multiple components, including hilt plates and a pommel (latter bone, ivory etc) which held the back of the hilt together. But also once they move to rapier type swords, hilts become simple one piece and such separate pommels (which are usually preserved when wood isn't) disappear.  Though of the swords with such washers used, I don't know any example with a preserved organic hilt. The Nebra swords are an interesting example though, as they have one side bronze, and the other organic and multi part pommels. So they did have a separate front and back hilt plate.

 Nebra-teikning.jpg

So the possibility of multipart hilts exists. It could even have been done in different organic materials, like one side wood, the other horn. 

Jeroen Zuiderwijk

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/barbarianmetalworking

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