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Christopher Price

Knifemaker Interview Series, a biography workshop

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1 hour ago, Jerrod Miller said:

Jeroen, 

I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking a thread in either the History or Non-Ferrous subforum detailing the whole process of historical bronze/copper casting would be found incredibly interesting.  While you have shared much here, I'm sure you have way more knowledge and pictures you can share.  It is a big thing to do, but if you felt so inclined to share a ton of info, I for one would be thrilled to read it!  

It also might give you a way to draft that book you ought to write.....:ph34r:

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Well I'll end it with a last piece. Pretty much all I do is reproductions of ancient artifacts. I've been toying with personal designs, of which one I materialized, sort of. I had more plans with enlaying the hilt with scrimshaw decorated bone and metal wire, inspired by 18th century gun grips, but that I had to skip to finish it at some point. But it made me realize I'm not really in my element designing blades myself. I'm so used to not using personal inspiration, but instead sticking to archaeological evidence that I find it very hard to just let my fantasy run wild. I'm much happier just stealing the work of smiths from millenia ago ;) This did make me appreciate those bladesmiths who can design blades from scratch, and even invent whole new styles. 

 

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19 hours ago, Joshua States said:

It also might give you a way to draft that book you ought to write.....:ph34r:

Pretty sure I'm not going to write a book ;) When I happen to have free time, I will much rather spend it on metalworking then writing a book. Right now free time is a very precious luxury that doesn't come around very often. 

P.s. for historical bronze casting, this is also a good place to have a look: 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/experimentalhistoricalbronzecasting

Also check the files and photos, where I've uploaded all sorts of info.

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Hi Jeroen,

Do your work colleagues know and appreciate your old-tech hobby?  I seem to recall your day job is cutting-edge aerospace tech. 

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14 hours ago, Alan Longmire said:

Hi Jeroen,

Do your work colleagues know and appreciate your old-tech hobby?  I seem to recall your day job is cutting-edge aerospace tech. 

Yeah, I had even one involved in a little experiment, using his 3D printer to print out a 3D model of an artifact found online, which I then cast in bronze. The conclusion was that the models and printer did not give the quality in detail required. It would have been a lot easier and more precise to make the model from scratch. 

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It is clear that many ancient smiths have inspired you to recreate artifacts, but what about modern smiths? Do you have anyone that you collaborate with, or a mentor that you worked under? How about other smiths that are experimenting with recreation casting? Is there anyone out there whose work you admire or would like to work with?

Edited by Joshua States

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On 2/22/2019 at 4:11 AM, Joshua States said:

It is clear that many ancient smiths have inspired you to recreate artifacts, but what about modern smiths? Do you have anyone that you collaborate with, or a mentor that you worked under? How about other smiths that are experimenting with recreation casting? Is there anyone out there whose work you admire or would like to work with?

In the early phase I had a lot of help from verious other casters. Before I did any casting, I did a bronze sword casting course with Neil Burridge (http://www.bronze-age-swords.com/). Not only was it was my first experience casting bronze, the site in Cornwall was absolutely magical. Traveling on a road through an ancient forrest, we arrived at an ancient site that looked like a place from Lord of the Rings, with visible remains of the bronze age and reconstructed roundhouses:
 
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He's since become a good friend, and we exchange a lot of thoughts. This was before he had started selling swords, but he had some years of experience casting reproductions and doing courses. I learned a lot from him and getting some first hand experience casting helped me on my way. He's definitely also set the bar for high quality cast bronze swords, not just in accuracy and quality visually, but also mechanically. I've not been able to reach his level mechanically due to limitations I have, but I always try to push it as close as I can. 
 
In recreating the bronze age casting process, a dutch caster Erik Schouten was a great help. Being able to see him do it and the equipment he used meant that I didn't have to reinvent everything myself. He left Archeon (the living history center where I did my casting for years), just before I started casting, so after that I had to figure things out on my own. Erik at work (in a different living history center):
 
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During that time I ran into the problem what many people trying to do authentic castings: bad quality castings, bubbles and what not. I got the golden tip from Anders Söderberg (it's caused by lime, either find a lime free clay, or fire for at least 4 hours at over 800C), a Swedish bronze caster with a lot of experience in Viking age casting. His site: http://www.vikingbronze.com
 
Later I met him when taking part in the Irish bronze casting group Umha Aois. Umha Aois has been a very inspirational yearly event for me as well, a gathering of archaeologists and artists, gathering together at least once a year for one or two weeks.
 
With regards to forging, I spend a lot of time looking at the medieval smiths working in Archeon and bugging them with questions. That helped me get started. Furthermore I've been wanting to start in patternwelding. While I already had a bit of experience in forge welding, I thought it would be a good idea to do a course from Owen Bush. That did help me move forwards in practical knowledge with regards to patternwelding. I still need to find the time to go further with it myself.
 
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At the moment I don't prefer to focus on personal projects, rather then joined projects, so I can work through them at my own pace. However, I do much enjoy events with lots of metalworkers present. At the time being I don't have the time for it, but events like Umha Aois, the bronze sword gatherings in the UK, Owen's forge-ins etc. When I have the chance, I'll definately like to do more of that again. It's highly inspiring and a lot of fun to be working along with similar minded creative people.
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Posted (edited)

Wow, great links there. Plenty of info there for reading and browsing. 

This has been a wealth of information, a pleasure, and an honor. I want to express my heartfelt thanks for agreeing to being a part of the interview series. I think I'll wrap it up with a final question before you go out and find our next victim. (unless there are other things you want to add, of course)

What lies ahead? What do you have on the list of adventures to take?

Edited by Joshua States

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, Joshua States said:

Wow, great links there. Plenty of info there for reading and browsing. 

This has been a wealth of information, a pleasure, and an honor. I want to express my heartfelt thanks for agreeing to being a part of the interview series. I think I'll wrap it up with a final question before you go out and find our next victim. (unless there are other things you want to add, of course)

What lies ahead? What do you have on the list of adventures to take?

Quite a few things. First thing that I've been wanting to do for quite some time is patternwelding on my own. I did a first attempt:

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My welds were succesful, but a flaw in the wrought made this blade a failure sadly. However, considering the circumstances where I made it, I was pretty pleased that it worked:

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It was during a Viking event. And I was limited to what I could bring on my bicycle, including clothing, sleeping gear, forge, bellows, charcoal etc. So with just a 2kg anvil, few bags of charcoal I did get quite far. Which makes me hopeful that I will manage when I'll try at home with fewer limitations. 

I'd really like to work more with wrought iron, shear steel to make a series of seaxes, patternwelded or otherwise. Once I finish the Nijmegen reproduction, I need to start a second one, to include everything I've learned about the original since I started my first reconstruction:

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I'd also like to have a go at non-ferrous wire inlay on seaxes. I was well on my way learning to make seaxes, but right when I got to a level I was happy with, I lost the opportunity (time mostly) to go further with it.

There are also various swords still on my wish list. The early iron age sword of Oss for example:

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Reconstructions have been made before, but there is new information found, which has not yet been included. 

Further more, a Frankish patternwelded sword is also on my wish list, this particular one:

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I've known that sword from the other side of the glass for about 25 years now, and I will try to make it some day, even if it takes me another 25 years or more (which is not unlikely considering the length of some projects I've already started ;) )

In bronze, I'd still like to make a bronze hilted central European style sword, and if possible from ore to sword, similar to these:

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I'm already part way there, I've smelted a sufficient amount of copper, and some of the tin I need. I still need to make more tin, and I have the metals. I do have enough tin ore, but it's of such a difficult to process quality that it will take me a few hundred hours of pounding it to dust and panning to separate the ore from the matrix. So I'm looking for a higher grade ore. Ideally I'd cast it in bronze age moulds, but if it must happen in a modern mould, I'd still be quite pleased.

But first challenge is to go and forge again in the near future. First plan is to just make a small knife. Once available forging time increases again, which may take some years, I will pick up more challenging projects. At least my hands are itching to start playing with fire and hot metal, and I've been working my way up to the point of being able to spare a few hours here and there again!

Edited by Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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This has been one of my favorite interviews thus far.  I am glad that people like you are so interested in Historic metalworking.  It sometimes hard to get a handle on just how amazing and innovative our ancestors were and seeing your work Jeroen, puts it in stark relief.  Thank you for that.

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@Jeroen Zuiderwijk That is some very cool and interesting knowledge you have shared with us here. Thanks for taking the time to do it

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