Jump to content

Han dynasty bronze ring hilted dao


Jeroen Zuiderwijk

Recommended Posts

I've just restarted on another project that I started 15 years ago, the reproduction of a Han Dynasty ring hilted bronze dao. This is a type of sword that oddly enough gets very little attention, while being historically very significant. These are the earliest single edged long swords in East Asia, making them the ancestors of the later dao and quite likely also the katana. But at the same time, these were also the world's last bronze swords. Nevertheless, information about these swords online remain very sparse, though that may be my language barrier. At least I see very little new info on these swords since researched them 15 years ago.

 

There are two basic types: the thick and heavy variant with multiple fullers, and they very thin, single fullered variant. I am making a reproduction of the heavy variant. The example I'm reproducing can be seen on this page: http://chineseswords2.freewebspace.com/photo6.html Other examples can be found here: http://thomaschen.freewebspace.com/photo.html and https://new.qq.com/rain/a/20221114A05XEC00 and https://www.sothebys.com/en/buy/auction/2021/important-chinese-art-5/an-archaic-gold-inlaid-bronze-sword-dao-han

 

Since the information is very sparse, I have to do quite a bit of estimation/guesswork. I know that one example of such a sword is 93cm in length, so that's what I used. I have no data on thickness, weight etc. From the photo's on the site above, I estimate that the thickness is around 8-9mm. Contemporary steel daos have spines 10mm thick. Since bronze is a bit more dense, that brings it approximately to the same weight, though the fullers reduce the weight of the bronze sword a bit further. Also interesting is that the heavy bronze dao is the first sword to include a habaki (not sure how this is called on Chinese daos). 

 

Photos will follow

  • Like 3

Jeroen Zuiderwijk

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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Almost 15 years ago I cast the blade. This was the first time I started casting using more modern techniques, with the intend to reproduce swords and other artifacts that I couldn't do using bronze age technology only. That way I could increase my own collection of reproductions, as well as sell some (which I don't do now, until I have a lot more time available again).

 

There is a funny story about when I started to try and cast it. In the living history center, there was the running joke amongst casters that a failure was "casting a dog". A previous bronze caster wasn't getting very good results, but a blob of bronze that landed on the ground was dog shaped, so he jokingly said to the public: "Look I've cast a dog!". The first attempt of the blade I cast during one of the beer & bronze evenings we had after closing hours in Archeon. Somehow I miscalculated the amount of tin, and the bronze was so thin that ran straight out of the mould. When I opened the mould, me and another caster looked inside, saw a piece of flashing and we both said at the same time: "it's a dragon!". It was a wiggly piece of bronze with a head shaped end that just had an uncanny resemblance to a Chinese dragon. We considered this the Chinese version of casting a dog. And since Chinese dragons are associated with luck, we saw that as being given a blessing :)

 

The second attempt was more straight forward, and resulted in a fine blade:

2373994402_6951e0dce9_b.jpg2374001446_690e258d3d_b.jpg2373171007_af4f7c662d_b.jpg

The only thing was that the blade had bend as I took it out of the mould when it was still fairly hot. The blade is cast in 20% tin bronze, which apparently is quite bendy when hot. But I've managed to straighten it out after heating it up again.

 

 

  • Like 2

Jeroen Zuiderwijk

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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the following years, I cast the other bits for it, the tunkou (blade collar), hushou (guard) and bingtou (pommel), if I get the Chinese terminology right. I've started working on these parts, but still quite a bit of work left to do:

 

P1310584.JPGP1310585.JPGP1310586.JPGP1310587.JPG

The grip is where I'm going to do the most guesswork. I saw that on one example, there is an imprint of a textile band having been wrapped diagonally over the tang. I will do that to bulk up the grip, and finish with a leather cord as final wrapping. Such leather cord wrappings I've seen on earlier Warring State swords as one of the options. Anyway, still a long way to go to finish it. Hopefully not another 15 years. 

  • Like 4

Jeroen Zuiderwijk

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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Following. Your work in the art of bronze casting always fascinates me.

 

“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

J.States Bladesmith | Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/dos.gatos.71

https://www.etsy.com/shop/JStatesBladesmith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I like that idea for using a file ……Thanks Jeroen…..i don’t see heat colors …so you are clamping the file in a vise and bending the tangs cold? 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 2/15/2023 at 3:00 PM, Dick Sexstone said:

I like that idea for using a file ……Thanks Jeroen…..i don’t see heat colors …so you are clamping the file in a vise and bending the tangs cold? 

 

Yeah, it's a cheap one, so case hardened. So I can bend them cold any way I want. 

  • Like 2

Jeroen Zuiderwijk

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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So, I saw that my sword was noticed on facebook, but that someone commented that the "habaki" wasn't a habaki at all. Could it be a scabbard mouthpiece instead then? 

 

If I look at this example, it does appear there is an imprint of wood fibers just below the pommel on the right: 

image.png

 

The other information I had available was quite sparce:

uq1 (1).jpg

ridgefinal3.jpg

What do you guys think? I can still change it at this point. But I need to make a decision before I fix things permanently. 

Jeroen Zuiderwijk

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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jeroen, there is a guy named Charles Wu on this forum….He posted some of his stuff years ago…. He does work on this level that you are looking at…. He posted a greeting around Christmas under the thread Christmas Blessing to you all….in the WAY section….

he left a web site address …..http:/9dragonmetalworks.com…….he may be able to help you with translating some of your questions…

His English was basic back then maybe he has improved… 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

18 hours ago, Dick Sexstone said:

Jeroen, there is a guy named Charles Wu on this forum….He posted some of his stuff years ago…. He does work on this level that you are looking at…. He posted a greeting around Christmas under the thread Christmas Blessing to you all….in the WAY section….

he left a web site address …..http:/9dragonmetalworks.com…….he may be able to help you with translating some of your questions…

His English was basic back then maybe he has improved… 

Thanks! I'll contact him!

Jeroen Zuiderwijk

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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

Yesterday the weather was so nice outside that I brought out the casting table. I've been working on a model for an improved guard for the han dao. I cast two of them, and both came out really nice! I used soapstone cores again, which worked quite well. On of them was broken during carving, but I superglued it back together. Seemed to have worked. The cores were covered in soot before placing them in the petrobond sand moulds. I'm quite chuffed at how crisp the lines and how smooth the surfaces are of the casts. I've not done this often recently, so it's easy to forget just how fine the casts are in this mould material. 

 

 

342893922_1181501905898219_7491578915271177287_n.jpg

342397239_621932719542025_5327548751405212315_n.jpg

342461311_229742199706456_2142635474424687682_n.jpg

  • Like 5

Jeroen Zuiderwijk

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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 5/1/2023 at 12:21 AM, Jeroen Zuiderwijk said:

I used soapstone cores again,

So let me get this straight. The piece that mimics the tang is carved from soapstone?

Edited by Joshua States

“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

J.States Bladesmith | Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/dos.gatos.71

https://www.etsy.com/shop/JStatesBladesmith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Jeroen Zuiderwijk said:

quick and easy to carve. 

 

And the bronze (or anything else) won't stick to it!  I would have worried the shrinkage would crush it, but I see I would be wrong about that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Alan Longmire said:

 

And the bronze (or anything else) won't stick to it!  I would have worried the shrinkage would crush it, but I see I would be wrong about that.

Wouldn't be a problem if it did. The core is single use only. So if it got crushed after the bronze solidified, it's just even easier to take out.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Jeroen Zuiderwijk

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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Drat! They started through hardening those cheap files. Just broke a new one that I wanted to bend, as the previous one is worn out. If I spend very little on files I want crappy files that bend!:blink: 

  • Haha 5

Jeroen Zuiderwijk

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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

awesome. seeing this again. I am glad that you have made some more progress. I love these. This is a great project.

 

  • Like 1

please visit my website http://www.professorsforge.com/

 

“Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the earth. I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” E. V. Debs

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So while working on the dao, I'm pondering over the hilt and scabbard. On the tang of several bronze daos, I can see some diagonal lines, like shown here:

20071114_0e598eeea259637645f041wlpUNkcmPm.jpg

It looks like the tang was wrapped in a band of textile or leather of some kind. I've seen an iron dao, which may have had a similar hilt construction:

Screenshot 2023-05-04 232125 www.bilibili.com video BV1D841187fS.jpg

 

I'm a bit puzzled at the construction. It seems to be something is wrapped around the tang, then wood over it, and possibly another layer of textile/leather or something. It's a bit puzzling why the first layer around the tang, and not just the wood directly onto the tang.

 

Many examples of daos and jians have a cord wrapping around the grip, probably of silk. Two nice examples (Han Dynasty iron daos):

Han_iron_dao.jpg95290851_3479470655414154_6973566324945453056_n.jpg

Of the latter (Western Han, Zhongshan King Liu Sheng dao) I've got fairly good descriptions. The scabbard is made of two pieces of wood, covered with hemp and then silk, and painted with vermillion. The grip is covered with brown dyed hemp cord, and then silk cord.

 

This is another interesting example (from the video https://www.bilibili.com/video/BV1D841187fS/). Screenshot 2023-05-04 232835.jpg

I don't know if it is a bronze or iron dao. But it looks like a wooden grip, and black lacquered scabbard, similar to those on jians.

 

As I understand it, lacquering the scabbard and particularly the preparation of it is quite a craft in itself. I do wish to make a scabbard for it, but I don't want to spend the time to make it as good in finish as the originals would have been. So I have to see how I can do it poorly, but to a level that I'm still happy with, so I have a scabbard to keep it in and present with it. I do want to avoid using modern paint though. Natural materials only.

Jeroen Zuiderwijk

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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And I haven't even delved into wood species. I'm certainly not going to import wood from China, not even knowing which species was used. I'll probably just use local wood species instead. For the scabbard I'll certainly use lime, as I have that in suitable sizes available.

Jeroen Zuiderwijk

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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have made so many handles and scabbards out of rosewood, I am allergic to it now. I only use it for my good friends. Everyone else gets maple that gets died!

I have no idea about wood on the really old ones, but I think wrapped handles were standard. Textile/cord wraps, not wood at all, was common in the earliest iron swords. I presume it would have been in the bronze. You probably already knew that, though :).

kc

please visit my website http://www.professorsforge.com/

 

“Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the earth. I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” E. V. Debs

Link to comment
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...