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I recently received a new sword to add to my collection! This one was a custom project that I designed – well I designed / specced the hilt arrangement, the guard and grip, and pommel decoration.
The piece was based around a medieval sword of the Oakeshott Type XIII design. (The true XIII, not a variant.) Of all the various sword makers that I know of, there’s only one who has any Type XIII blades in his catalogue and that is Angus Trim. His new Makers Mark line includes a pair of Type XIIIs, and while they both look great, the one with the tripple fullered blade was the one I liked best. I own a number of ATrim swords already and I’m very pleased with his work. Angus sells his swords through Christian Fletcher, and Christian not only handles the retail sales but also does a fine job of customization, fitting, custom scabards, belts, the works. He’s a true craftsman.
So once I had my design and a blade chosen, I contacted Christian Fletcher and commissioned him to to the job. The grip would be a custom piece based on other grips he’s done, the guard would be completely custom based on my own original design, and the pommel would be fairly standard but with my designs etched into it. There would be a fairly basic scabard and a baldric (sort of a belt, worn over one shoulder.)
I’ve all but finished the sword part of my custom falchion project. Though I have not yet started the scabbard at this point…
After the grip was finished up, I gave the blade a thorough polishing – with 1000 grit, then 2000 grit sandpaper, then finally the grey scotchbrite pad with a bit of oil.
This removed all the marks and smudges that I’d caused while working on the sword, and also finished it up nicely overall, giving it a satin sheen not unlike my Albion Thegn.
The four pictures below show the finished sword: First is an overall look at both sides, showing the complete falchion.
It is 33 inches long overall, weighting approx. 2.1 pounds. The blade is 27″ long and the grip is 4.5″. The centre of balance is at about 6″ and the centre of percussion is about 19″ – 20″. The CoB has moved due to my work (it was originally at 4.5″) but this has not made the sword overly blade-heavy in my opinion. There is a definate blade-presense but it feels good – choppy but not like an axe or machette.
The second picture shows a close-up of both sides of the hilt. On the right-hand side you can see a bit of the ragged-edge of the grip wrap. I may yet have a third try at the grip, but for now this does the job as-is.
The third picture is a close-up of the top of the pommel, showing the peen. You can see the peen does have a visible seam, and it has a slight crack where the steel split as I was hammering it. Nonetheless it is a very solid rivet. Also visible are some of the scratches I accidentally put in the cross, while working on the grip. I’ll have to fix those too at some point…
The final picture is a side-on look at the hilt. While the profile isn’t as fine as you would see on a professionally-made sword, I am still rather proud of it. These last two pics also give a better view of the cocked-hat pommel shape. It is still hard with 2d pictures to express the 3d curviness of this form.
Next updates should involve the scabbard. Although, I may make a scabbard for another sword before I tackle this one – the falchion has a somewhat funky detail in that the widest point of the blade is near the tip, not at the hilt. So the scabbard core has to accomodate the wide tip during the draw or sheathing, and yet hold the sword tightly when the blade is fully inserted. I’ve got my head around the concept, but it might be worthwhile to practice the skills on a simpler design, where the blade tapers to the tip instead of tapering to the hilt.
So last night I was looking at my falchion, moving it around, getting a feel for it. I realized how much I really, really like this sword. Then I decided to go ahead and redo the grip wrap. One of the things I didn’t like was it was too skinny. So I got out the knife and slit the grip, carefully peeled it off, then filed down some of the remnants on the core. Once I had the bare wood core, I started to wind cord over the core – this would have the effect of adding some thickness to the core.
The method I used for this was to wind the cord tightly and evenly (as evenly as I could get) without any glue. This way I could readjust as I was going, and it was not messy. Once done, I left the end of the cord weighted to keep tension on it.
Then I mixed some glue and water about 50/50 and used a brush to paint it on, making sure it was evenly applied and got to everywhere on the grip. The water helps the glue to soak into the cord and the wood too. The glue takes a bit longer to dry, but when dry it results in a very hard, very strong cord grip.
Once the cord was dry, I trimmed the ends and then applied my risers again. I used the same technique as before – saturating them in glue then winding them and holding them in place by hand for a few minutes till the glue set. Then once it was dry, I trimmed the ends.
Finally, once the risers were done, I trimmed a piece of leather to size (a bit over size) and painted some water-thinned glue on the back of it. I then wrapped it tightly around the grip, and then carefully wound a cord overwrap to hold the leather tight and to help add the cord impressions to it.
After about an hour, I removed the overwrap and trimmed the excess leather. This is where I messed up a bit and my seam is very ragged. It is an aesthetic issue but it annoys me. I guess it’s a matter of trial and error but someday I’d like to learn how the pros get such a perfectly straight seam on their grips.
Seam issues aside, once I was done with the trimming I put the overwrap back on for a while more to help secure the edges. Another hour later and I removed the overwrap, and then waited a while longer before applying some wax / sealant to the whole grip. I let that dry overnight, and this morning I buffed / polished the grip to bring up a little bit of a shine on it.
So, I like it better than the first try, but the ragged seam really bugs me. I still need to mend the slight damage I did to the pommel and guard, polish the blade, then do the scabard, but I’ll probably revisit the grip again some time.
So, I did the leather grip wrap. It didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped but it’s not bad for a first attempt, and good enough for now. Once the wrap was done, I treated it with a leather wax / sealant.
All in all, I’m not unhappy. As I said, for a first-attempt it’s pretty good I think. I’ll probably redo it eventually, but for now it’ll do. Next will be to give the blade a polish, and repair the minor damage to the guard and pommel. Then I’ll start working on a scabard for it.
So this morning I took the clamps off and finished shaping the grip core. Of course, the file slipped not once, not twice, but thrice! I managed to mar the finish of both the guard and the pommel! Damn and blast! Although I am quite certain that nobody is surprised in the slightest, it was pretty obvious it was bound to happen.
Moving on, I think I know how to avoid that in the future — you make the grip core on the bare tang without the other hilt furniture there to get in the way or get injured. You make the grip core a bit too long at the top and the bottom. Then after the hilt furniture is mounted and finished, you just do some measurements and trim the grip core accordingly.
In the picture below you can see the grip core is in its final shape. I have not sanded it to perfection, because it is going to be covered and the slightly rough surface will work better for the glue to bond to. There are three cord risers in place now, drying in this photo. Once they are dry I will trim the excess. Last night I experimented on some dowel, and found I got the best results by gooping up the cord with glue, then using my fingers to work the glue right into the cord, before finally wrapping it once around the wood then just holding it tight for 3 or 4 minutes for the glue to set. Once cured, the ends are trimmed at a slight angle and the riser looks quite good.
You’ll also note in the photo that the guard and pommel are black (and there are some streaks on the pommel…). Part of my design for this sword was to have blackened hilt furniture. It is in need of a final buffing, but I’ll save that till after I’ve polished out the new scratches (grumble grumble) as the blackening will require touching-up as well. In this case, the blackening is a chemical process; a (nasty toxic) liquid is applied which turns the steel black almost instantly. Then it’s buffed to a sheen and IMHO looks quite smart.
One last comment, it occurs to me as I write all this, who the hell cares? Well in fact this is as much for my own reference as anything else. This sword project has had a lot of “firsts” for me and I need to write down what I’ve learned so I can refer to it next time, as it’s quite possible I’ll forget. And I do forget… I think I’ve hit a point where the more stuff I learn, pushes other stuff out. Case in point – I was taking apart a cheap nasty wall-hanger sword that I re-hilted about 8 or 9 years ago. I was amazed how good a job I did. I have no idea how I did it.
Or, last night I was trying to find instructions for some epoxy. It said it ‘set’ in 60 minutes but I needed to know the curing time. The manufacturer’s website was useless. Google finally led me to a forum where someone had asked about epoxy for repairing a damaged computer part. The reply was very thorough and had all the information I needed. It was written in Dec. 2005. The author of the helpful post with all the information, was me! I have no memory of it…
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.