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Workbench Update…

Posted 2008.11.02 0.00 in Swords by Stephanie

My custom falchion project, part two…

So after the tang and pommel cooled from the hot peening, it was about 2 minutes on the grinder to smooth down the peen, then about 10 minutes with a small file to give it a bit of shape and blend it to the pommel, then about 30 or 40 minutes of sanding to polish it and all. Next step: the grip core.

Now, I’ve made quite a few sword grips, and knife grips. None though have been quite like this. In past grip projects, either I’ve made the grip separately to be slid onto the tang when finished, or I’ve made the grip, guard and pommel all out of wood, or it’s been made to be rivetted in place… in each case though, it was relatively easy to work on the wood then attach it to the tang later. In this case though, because the tang is permanently in place, as is the guard, the only way the grip can go on is the ‘sandwich method’. And — because I mean to do a wrap on the grip, I have to keep the core very thin. So thin that it was starting to crack when I was trying to work it in a vice.

So I have had to mount it to the tang, and will have to finish the shaping once the glue has cured. Except I seriously do not want to get files or sandpaper anywhere near the pommel or guard, now that they are all polished and finished.

Anyhow, it’ll be a day before I can get back to work on it and hope I don’t mess anything up.

Half finished grip core, clamped in place.

On My Workbench…

Posted 2008.11.01 0.00 in Swords by Stephanie

So I got this great falchion recently. It’s by Angus Trim, and I think it’s just a great blade design. A lot of falchions, IMHO, are too blade-heavy. Like somewhere along the line people decided they should be like machetes with a sword hilt. Anyhow, this ATrim Makers Mark falchion looked great to me, and the stats backed up the appearance.

The only thing I was uncertain about, was the guard. I have a thing for small guards, I don’t like the great big ones. When I received the sword, I started moving it around in my hands, trying some manoevers with it, and sure enough I was right – the long guard was getting in the way.

Now, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have any access to metal-working tools, i.e. a machine shop. Nonetheless, I decided that this time, I was going to try to make a new guard (and pommel too, for that matter). Albion had a small guard blank and a cocked-hat pommel blank in their Moat sale page, so I ordered them up. They were both made of mild steel, the guard had a slot milled in it for the tang, and the pommel was drilled through and intended to be tapped for a screw-down tang.

With only hand-tools (hack saw, files, sandpaper) I got to work. It’s funny, at how things go. 30 – 45 minutes with the hacksaw to get the blank into a rough shape. Then 90 – 120 minutes with a file, to get rid of the hacksaw marks and finish establishing the final shape. Then another 90 – 120 minutes with (150 grit) sandpaper, to get rid of the file marks. Then a final 30 – 40 minutes with increasingly fine paper, to get a satin polish on it.

And that’s just for the guard. Do it all over again, for the pommel!

Speaking of which… holy moly. The cocked-hat pommel looks interesting but it is bloody hard to shape. There is not a single flat surface on it. Nowhere to grab or get a good grip, it keeps slipping or jumping of your hand. The vice doesn’t even want to hold it. And trying to file and sand on those whacky curves… I have yet another whole new respect for the craftsmen of old who did this day in, day out to make a living.

So, guard and pommel done, time to mount. The picture below shows them both mounted now on the bare tang. ATrim swords are designed with a clever pommel-nut construction, which allows one to take them down using just an allen key. My original intention was to make my cocked-hat pommel to accept the pommel nut, then I could swap back and forth between my hilt and the stock hilt. As I was working the pommel though, that plan started to lose its appeal for me. The only way it would work, would leave about 1/4 ” of the pommel nut exposed out the top of the pommel, which would spoil the fluid curves and angles of the pommel.

So in the end, I decided to peen the tang. In fact, I decided to hot-peen the tang, like they do at Albion.

Dang. If I had a friend to take pics, I’d love to have had a picture of that. Holding the propane torch in one hand, the ballpeen hammer in the other hand, trying to peen the tang down with sparks coming off and crap falling off my desk all over the place from the bang bang bang…

It was interesting, anyhow.

So now, I’m waiting for the thing to cool down. The peen is rough, it will need a touch of grinding or filing to smooth it down, and then I will have to polish parts of the pommel again. And yeah, after 2 or 3 hours of working to get the file marks out and a nice polish on it, nothing sucks more than having to touch it with a grinder or another file, because then those tool marks have to be sanded out, then it can be polished again. Grumble grumble grumble.

Anyhow, when this is done, it’s all woodwork and easy stuff again. Cheers.

Custom Archangel Falchion
My custom falchion, work in progress.

More Pointy Things, Redux

Posted 2008.09.27 0.00 in Swords by Stephanie

Well I finished the scabards/sheaths for my two little knives, and I’m fairly happy with them.

The scabards start with a wood core that is hand carved to fit the blade exactly. Then leather is wrapped over the core and the knife handle, to achieve the overall shape that is desired. I use 3-4oz vegetable tanned leather. I cut it roughly to size and shape (a bit oversized) then soak it for a few minutes in hot water, pat it dry, then stretch it over the core and knife. I then do the final trimming to size, as I hand-stitch the leather closed. It’s very tight over the core, so there’s no chance of the core coming out. Then at the knife handle it’s a little less tight. The scabard is suspended by a simple leather lace / thong, that can be looped over or through a belt.

Once this is done and the leather has fully dried, I then did some carving. Admittedly it’s a bit crude and rough but this is my very first time doing leather carving. Have a look:

two knives in sheaths
The one on top has a simple knot/loop pattern that I’ve done twice. The lower one has a ‘Celtic’ knotwork pattern for the lower 3/4 of the scabard, then my “Mon” at the top.

The backs of the scabards have some Ogham runes. The one on the left reads “Blessed Be” and the one on the right reads “Stephanie Made Me”. At least, I think that’s what they say!
two knives in sheaths

Finally, here’s a pic of the two knives next to their respective sheaths. One curious thing – I made both of these scabards at the same time, and they were supposed to be ‘identical’ in overall design. Yet, one of them came out ‘backwards’… Somehow, every step of the way, was mirrored. The stitching, attaching the belt suspension… it all ended up the wrong way round. Ah well – it’s interesting! 🙂

Two knives and their scabards

More Pointy Things

Posted 2008.09.25 0.00 in Swords by Stephanie

After the dissapointment with the sword project, I decided to return to stuff I knew and make some knives. I had a few unfinished blades laying around the house (well, after all, who doesn’t?) so I picked a couple of the smaller ones.

The swordy knowledge has also included a lot of related information, including knives and daggers. I don’t have any daggers in my collection (yet) but had been learning about the kinds of knives might be appropriate for different classes in various times in history.

I decided I wanted to make some ‘general purpose’ knives that might be appropriate for lower classes, in the early middle ages. Please note, that although I might sound like I know what I’m doing and talking about, this is not necessarily the case.

Anyhow, so most peasants would have one knife that would serve them for everything. A general purpose knife, that was for eating, working, utility stuff, whatever. It would not be fancy, and would not be made of expensive materials.

My two small knife blades were each about 3 inches long, with long tangs. One was definately carbon steel, the other seems too shiney, but I don’t know what kind it is. Both are razor sharp, flat-ground. The carbon steel one was labeled as being hardened to 52 on the Rockwell C scale.

It took only one evening to rough out the two handles, a second evening to finish shaping both handles, and a third evening to finish and stain both handles. Finishing included a brass ‘pommel plate’ on each one. The carbon steel blade had a tang that was too hard to peen, so I cut it off about 1/4″ shy of the end of the handle. It is held in the handle by friction and a few drops of glue. The ‘pommel plate’ is held in place by a drop of glue, and two small brass nails.

The second blade had both a rivet hole and a peenable tang, so I did both — installed a brass rivet, then peened the tang over the brass ‘pommel plate’.

Tonight, I am working on scabards for the two of them. I’ve already made wood cores for the scabards; that took only one evening to carve, glue, and finish the two cores. Tonight I’m stitching veg-tanned leather over the cores, and adding leather thongs. I might try some simple scabard decorations, as such would not be inappropriate for what I am trying to reproduce. When the scabards are finished, I’ll post more pics.

2 knives
In the above picture, the top knife is the one with the carbon steel blade, the lower knife is the one with the shiny blade. As you can see, both blades are about 3 inches long, both handles roughly 3 1/2″ long. The carbon steel bade is a bit wider, the shiny blade is a bit skinnier. Both handles are made of a dark wood, I don’tk now what it is — just something I had laying around the house. The handles are sealed with Tung Oil, my favorite wood finishing product.

2 knives
Another view of the knives, closeup of the two blades. You can see I have not included bolsters in the construction, nor are there guards of any kind. These knives are designed for doing cutting, and that’s it. Not fighting or stabbing.

Finally, a closeup view of the ‘pommel plates’ of the two knives. You can see the two nails on the first knife and the peened tang of the second.

Home made knives

Pointy Things

Posted 2008.09.24 0.00 in Swords by Stephanie

A few days ago, I posted about that sword I was working on, that I’d finished but wasn’t too happy with.

I didn’t have any pictures at the time, and I was babbling, so, bunny and pancakes.

Well, now I have a pic. I’m not really any more happy with it, but now it’s immortalized with a picture.

Sword made from Del Tin Orcrist blade

No, I Have Not

Posted 2008.09.16 0.00 in Swords by Stephanie

been sewing all this time. Actually I put the sewing machinery away for a bit because it was getting confusing and frustrating. Since then, I’ve been playing with swords a bit more. I’ve been working at making a sword, based on a sword blade I bought not long ago.

The blade was made by Del Tin of Italy, but I bought it from Albion Armourers of the USA. It’s from some old stock they have laying around. Anyhow, it was an unsharpened, unfinished bare blade. About 32 inches long, with a fancy fantasy ricasso and a short tang. I like shorter blades and longer handles, so I cut off the fancy ricasso and shortened the blade by about 4 inches, adding four inches to the tang.

It’s been slow work, trying different sketches and designs, trying to come up with something I liked. I don’t have any capabilities for working with metal, so I’m unable to craft metal guards and pommels. Consequently I do a lot of work with wood. My metalwork is limited to brass accents, using hobby brass stock.

So, looking at historic examples of swords with organic (wood or bone) hilts, revealed several Celtic styles, and a few Roman ones. Initially I was working to a Celtic style, but it wasn’t working out and I got frustrated. I then started making changes, and ended up throwing out the upper and lower guards I had already made, and doing a new lower guard. It started looking good, and I realized it was taking the shape of a Roman pattern, like a Spatha.

So I looked at a few spatha designs, and then went to make a matching pommel. That’s when I found out that my supplier of exotic hobby woods, was out of the wood I was using. And they didn’t expect to get more. So I had a handle of oak, a guard of purpleheart, and no way to get more purpleheart to make the pommel. Dangit. I then looked to get walnut, since at least it would be dark and contrasty to the oak. No walnut either. Blast it. I ended up making the pommel out of oak, which I then stained with a walnut stain.

By this point though, I’d lost my enthusiasm for the whole thing. So I got sloppy and didn’t do a good job on the pommel. I finished it anyways, and from a distance, if you squint and blur your vision a bit (or take of your glasses if you wear them) then I suppose it looks adequate. I don’t like it.

The handle / grip is ok. The upper guard is not bad… but not great. And the pommel sucks. It’s all weighted wrong, the blade is too heavy for the design I think, and the parts look wrong. I think it’s going into a closet for storage. If I ever get the capacity for working with metal, I’ll throw out the pommel and guard, and make a nice metal guard and pommel, and then it will be good. The handle, I’ll keep. It’s pretty good. I haven’t sharpened it yet, it’ll be a lot of work to sharpen and I don’t have that enthusiasm any more.

Also, this is what happens when you reach a certain point. First, you’re just interested and enthusiastic, but don’t know much. At that stage, you make things just for the fun of it, and you can be proud of whatever crap you make because you made it. Then you continue with the enthusiasm, learning more, and you learn enough to know what’s good and what isn’t, you learn the details of ‘real’ stuff, and what makes the ‘real’ stuff as good as it is. Then you try and make some homemade stuff again, armed with the knowledge you’ve gained, and then you realize that your homemade stuff really is just junk and you’re no longer impressed by it.

I went through this with wine. I got into wine, I made wine, enjoyed it (and really, a few batches weren’t bad) but as I learned more and more about wine and I tasted more wine and my palate got more refined, I realized that 99% of my homemade wine was crap and I could no longer entirely enjoy it.

And so it seems to be, with swords. I’ve enjoyed swords for as long as I can remember. But I’ve never really learned about them, outside of some very basic generic stuff. I’ve even collected a handful of historic antique swords (although from a very narrow point in history and geography), without really learning more of the details. Over the last few months though, I’ve learned a lot more, and acquired a few very, very nice pieces. And now I realize that my knowledge and appreciation, have outgrown my abilities. Dangit.

A work of art from Albion

Brilliant Idea for a new Buddy-Road Trip Period Movie

Posted 2008.07.30 0.00 in Swords by Stephanie

I got this idea from a post in a thread on a forum about swords and armour. I sorely wanted to post it as a reply there, but it would be so far off topic… Here’s the gist of the post:

for example, in the icelandic saga of gunnlaug, we have Hrafn and Gunnlaug intent on dueling each other to the death. They try to fight in Iceland, only to have the ruling council there tell them no – no dueling here. illegal upon pain of death to duel here. so they agree to sail to norway to settle their differences but again, the earl there tells them no – no dueling here. so they wind up walking into sweden just so that they could come to blows. that is a heck of a long way to travel just to find a jurisdiction where they would be free to fight.

So here’s the angle – the movie version of Hrafn and Gunnlaug’s Saga: You’ve got two guys, strong, athletic, but also kind of cute and loveable in their fighting-and-pillaging kind of way. They get in a squabble about some perceived injustice, something kind of small and ridiculous, but it gets out of hand. Hrafn steps on Gunnlaug’s foot, or Gunnlaug crashes his cart through Hrafn’s fence or something. So, there are some insults, some bravado, one thing leads to another and swords are drawn. They’re gonna duel it out. But wait! No, not here. The ruling council forbids it. Well, these two get drinking and talking and finally they both put their foots down – their gonna do it. The fourth cousin of a friend of a guy Hrafn once drank with heard that there was dueling in Norway. So they’re gonna go to Norway and fight it out. To save cost and make sure neither back out, they’re gonna go together – on the same boat! Now you’ve got Hrafn and Gunnlaug, road tripping, getting into some wacky adventures – they end up having to save each other from the occasional predicament, because neither wants the other one to get dead before he can get a chance to have the darn duel! Finally, they reach Norway. Ready to Get It On! But no. The Earl forbids it. So they’re having a drink, telling the story to the innkeeper, and he says Oh – My wife’s no-good cousin had a friend who got killed in a duel in Sweden – you can duel there. So off they go, Hrafn and Gunnlaug, walking to Sweden. More whacky adventures ensue.

In the movie version, neither Hrafn or Gunnlaug actually die. They do get to have their duel, but it ends up in a draw – they battle it out for a full 5 or 10 minutes, first one then the other losing or breaking his sword, they resort to fists, and so forth. Finally, exhausted, the two are laying muddy and bruised in a ditch, panting.

Hrafn (panting): “Gunnlaug… I think I won..you yield?”
Gunnlaug (panting): “Yield…not a chance…I won’t forgive… uh..”
Hrafn : “No…it is I who cannot forgive…ah…”
Gunnlaug (hesitant>: “Hrafn…I no longer remember, what we were fighting about.”
Hrafn : “Nor I. Let’s go home.”

In the director’s cut — or after the credits roll — the final scene will be Hrafn and Gunnlaug, back in their home village, where Gunnlaug buys drinks, but accidentally knocks one of the mugs over, pouring meade all over Hrafn. Hrafn jumps up in anger, going for his sword, saying something untoward about Gunnlaug’s mother. Gunnlaug goes for his sword too, demanding justice.
The end…