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Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Modern blades, damast, mono-steel... Reply to topic
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Chris Post




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Feb, 2005 9:26 am    Post subject: Same topic... Redux!         Reply with quote

Hello all,

okay, after lurking for a while, I finally find the time to make a first post in this forum. So why not start here?

I understand this topic has rested for over 2 weeks, but then, I have to say that it started out wrong to begin with. Unfortunately, there are a lot of translation mistakes in Markus initial posting. Some of the translated statements are actually the opposite of the original statement.

First off, I am the guy who runs the Nordavind forum where the debated post was made. I also know the guy who wrote the essay in question personally. He has worked in the archeological field for a long time and traded original antique weapons for about ten years. He does not claim that he is very proficient in metallurgy, but he knows really a lot about swords of the pre-1000 era.

So, here comes the "redux", i.e. my own translation of the text in question.
----------------
The aforementioned swords of Albion fulfill criteria such as: historically correct appearance, weight and balance. But they are all ground, consist of monosteel and are not differentially hardened. Actually, the swords of both Early and High Middle Ages were differentially hardened. Archeometric examinations have revealed this without any doubt. The hardness difference on these blades is also considerably larger than the 2 or 3 Rockwell that are created by regular [spring] tempering. However, it cannot be said anymore how much the hardness zones of antique blades differed exactly. According to recent studies, blades lose their hardness over the course of the centuries. It is (yet) unknown, if the particular hardness zones fluctuate in a parallel manner or not.

Japan and Europe both have spent many centuries optimizing their swords. Here they went different but similar ways to tackle the biggest of all challenges, i.e. maximum edge retention and hardness combined with maximum flexibility. Differential hardening is the logical consequence, alongside a highly complex forging process - both in Europe and in Japan.

The exemplary swords of Barta are custom weapons. There are a few smiths worldwide, like Markus Balbach or Rick Barrett, who produce such swords as custom orders for many thousand Euros. The first sword we see is a Sutton Hoo reconstruction, the third one also seems authentic, the rest is fantasy. The most prominent drawback of these damast swords is the fact that no period steel- and iron types were used for this damast. The pattern on the blade alon resembles the original. The qualities of the blade however are, so to say, "surprise". Furthermore, the expensive custom jobs suffer one well-known evil: they are way too heavy.

Actually, none of the aforementioned swords fulfills the criteria that, relatively speaking, a LL or PC katana offers as compared to the original. [note: he is also talking about the price range]

The statement, European blades were pattern-welded mainly for optical reasons sounds roughly as if the same was claimed for japanese blades concerning folds and the resulting Hada. At a time in which survival depended on the quality of the swords, the optical impression was supposed to be valued higher than functionality? How realistic. Besides, the damast pattern was hardly visible on blades of the time. Only if the lighting and angle was right, the structure could be made out. Period authors describe this precisely. Modern show-off reproductions alone are being etched to make [the pattern-welding] visible to anyone. Medieval blades were either polished to a mirror finished or blackened, to protect them from corrosion.

Monosteel suitable for blades has only been produced in modern times. The only medieval alternative to damast was crucible steel. This largely corresponds to what the Japanese call Tamahagane. This does not have anything to do with monosteel and is very complicated to produce. The decline of damast swords in the high middle ages is accompanied by the loss of many demanding craft skills of that time, and has reasons completely different from the alleged superiority of monosteel, which after all did not exist at that time.

Finally: shock resistance. The samurai highly valued what we call today shock resistance. The basically "ordered" swords with high shock resistance from their smiths. The smiths then came up with various "tricks" to increase it. I think I am not going too far, if I hazard that things that were important to japanese warriors and smiths, also occupied the Europeans. Whatever - the samurai were of the opinion, that shock resistance was an important aspect of quality in a sword. And you know what? I believe those guys.
------------------------

So much for that.

Before I met this guy, I also believed that European smiths abandoned the "old techniques" because there was no need for them anymore. So I was truly amazed about the things he showed me.

BTW, in a follow-up post on our forum, he states that he does not claim that either forged or ground blades were superior to the respective other. He is just saying that pure grinding is not authentic, and I think that can be safely said. Wink

Actually we are pursuing that matter because we are evaluating the possibility of creating damast, pattern-welded or even laminated blades on a production scale (and thus affordable), in about the quality that for example a Last Legend katana blade offers, and in a comparable price range.

Greetings,
Chris
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Alexi Goranov
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Feb, 2005 10:17 am    Post subject: Re: Same topic... Redux!         Reply with quote

Hi Chris,

It is very hard to respond to a post like this without the original author present, or without knowing the exact context within which the post originated.
What is the point of that author? Is he arguing that Albion blades are not good enough for their price? Are we all supposed to start buying PPK? What is exactly the argument? that aside....

These are several statement that that disagree IMO with the common wisdom. I'd like to hear supporting evidence, because as it stands the statements are not easily credible. We have no authors name/credentials , nor do we have references to scientific evidence, just the statement that such exists.

Quote:
Furthermore, the expensive custom jobs suffer one well-known evil: they are way too heavy.


Examples. Which such blades are heavy? Most swords when new were much heavier than their excavated remnants, so saying that a replica of a half rotten-sword is few oz. heavier is not surprizing. Or does he mean that even accounting for the lost material, the replica is still too heavy. Again I'd love to hear the specific examples and arguments as to why he thinks so.

Quote:
Modern show-off reproductions alone are being etched to make [the pattern-welding] visible to anyone. Medieval blades were either polished to a mirror finished or blackened, to protect them from corrosion.


There are plenty of examples in medieval literature to argue against that. The pattern-welding of viking/migration period swords seem to have been easily visible. There are records in the norse/anglo-saxon literature as swell as accounts of romans and arab/persian chronologists noting the beauty of the pattern-welded blades. This is not to argue that the pattern-welding was done for purely visual purposes, but that it was easily visible. I also wonder, how can one know that the blades were of mirror-polish?

Quote:
Monosteel suitable for blades has only been produced in modern times.


Unless modern times start around 9-10c I think we have an issue here that many will disagree with. Or is he arguing that mono steel still needed to be "differentially" treated until "modern times" ?

Quote:
The decline of damast swords in the high middle ages is accompanied by the loss of many demanding craft skills of that time, has reasons completely different from the alleged superiority of monosteel, which after all did not exist at that time.


I'd like to hear the reasons, and this argument as a whole.

Quote:
The aforementioned swords of Albion fulfill criteria such as: historically correct appearance, weight and balance. But they are all ground, consist of monosteel and are not differentially hardened. Actually, the swords of both Early and High Middle Ages were differentially hardened. Archeometric examinations have revealed this without any doubt.


Reference please! I'd love to get my hands on this material and interpret it for my self and discuss it with people "in the know"

Cheers,

Alexi
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Patrick Kelly




PostPosted: Sun 06 Feb, 2005 10:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you for responding Chris.

I do agree with Alexi. There are simply to many ambiguities in this situation to have a productive discussion. As it stands now there are more avenues present for misunderstanding and misinterpretation than there are for education. Some of these points really need to be elaborated upon and substantiated before a discussion can really take place.

It does have the potential for an interesting learning experience though.

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Paul Mortimer




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Feb, 2005 11:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As Alexei says Anglo-Saxons went to the trouble, in literature, to describe the patterns in the blade, so for some sword owners, at least, visible patterns were important. It is true, too, that in some later Norse literature there are hints that the patterns, then, were very faint.

As for the swords being too heavy, as the owner of the Patrick Barta Sutton Hoo sword, I would like to know how he can say that. It is true that Patrick did not use early medieval steel in his sword but he got as close as he could as he smelted his own from ore.

It maybe that something is still being lost in translation, I suppose, but if not I am surprised that the author of the article sees fit to make such sweeping statements, not just about the Barta sword, which he could not possibly have handled but also about the others.


Paul
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Chris Post




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Feb, 2005 11:41 am    Post subject: Re: Same topic... Redux!         Reply with quote

Hello Alexi,

Alexi Goranov wrote:

It is very hard to respond to a post like this without the original author present, or without knowing the exact context within which the post originated.
What is the point of that author? Is he arguing that Albion blades are not good enough for their price? Are we all supposed to start buying PPK? What is exactly the argument?


Of course that's the main problem -- the author says he does not speak English well enough to participate in an English forum. And I am far less proficient with the matter than he is, so I won't be able to respond to everything.

However, as I mentioned, this was in a discussion about "High End Euroblades" (the title of that thread). He is trying to make two points:
1.) the pattern welded blades of old must have provided a performance advantage compared to other blades, or they would not have been made that way.
2.) contemporary replicas of Euro blades are typically not authentic in every aspect -- either look & feel are right but the blade is not forged, or the blade is forged and looks great but the result is too heavy, and so forth. In the current sword market, one seems to exclude the other.

Quote:
These are several statement that that disagree IMO with the common wisdom.


Some of the aspects he presents are relatively new, and yet have to make their way through the scholarly mills. As source he cites the essays and work of Stefan Mäderof Freiburg. What we must not forget is whatgood old Oakeshott teaches us: just because we haven't seen it before, we cannot say it did not exist.
For example, when I last visited this guy he showed me a 2.300 year old Celtic spear with visible "hada". Though most if not all Celtic spears were folded, all known pieces except this are polished so that the folds are not visible.
Pictures (and discussion in German) can be found here:
http://www.nordavind.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=939

Quote:
I'd like to hear supporting evidence, because as it stands the statements are not easily credible. We have no authors name/credentials , nor do we have references to scientific evidence, just the statement that such exists.


This is fully understandable, and in our forum he apologizes for failing to cite specific sources. He has a big library of archaeological books, and many books only feature two or three pages about weapons. So he can't tell which element he took out of which book. It would probably be worthy of putting together a new book using these small findings.

Quote:
Examples. Which such blades are heavy?


He is talking about the swords on the pictures presented by Decius (Markus) in the lower part of the page:
http://www.nordavind.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=845&start=45

Quote:
There are records in the norse/anglo-saxon literature as swell as accounts of romans and arab/persian chronologists noting the beauty of the pattern-welded blades. This is not to argue that the pattern-welding was done for purely visual purposes, but that it was easily visible. I also wonder, how can one know that the blades were of mirror-polish?


I don't know about the latter (as I am no archaeologist) but concerning the former, it all depends on what you are used to I guess. There is a letter of an Ostrogoth king describing the beauty of some swords that he received as a gift. In that letter he describes that the pattern welding is only visible in the proper lighting and angle. He also describes the sword as being a tremendous cutter, slicing even through metal armour like nothing. All if I remember correctly. Wink

Quote:
Unless modern times start around 9-10c I think we have an issue here that many will disagree with. Or is he arguing that mono steel still needed to be "differentially" treated until "modern times" ?


I think with "monosteel" he is talking about steel that comes out of the furnace with a 99% homogenous carbon distribution.
As for the other points, I snipped all that I could not give a halfway qualified answer to.

Quote:
Quote:
The decline of damast swords in the high middle ages is accompanied by the loss of many demanding craft skills of that time, has reasons completely different from the alleged superiority of monosteel, which after all did not exist at that time.


I'd like to hear the reasons, and this argument as a whole.


There were several factors, but one important one was the spreading of christianity. Under christian rule, a lot of "heathen" knowledge was demonized and thus effectively abolished. This does not only affect forging; they were also unable to produce glass for over 200 years.

Quote:
Quote:
swords of both Early and High Middle Ages were differentially hardened. Archeometric examinations have revealed this without any doubt.


Reference please! I'd love to get my hands on this material and interpret it for my self and discuss it with people "in the know"


I think he is again referring to Stefan Mäder. I'll ask him about that soon.

@Paul:
Personally I have never seen a Barta sword IRL and don't even know if that guy has a website, so I am totally clueless.
How long and how heavy is your Sutton Hoo sword?
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Feb, 2005 11:59 am    Post subject: Re: Same topic... Redux!         Reply with quote

Chris Post wrote:
Personally I have never seen a Barta sword IRL and don't even know if that guy has a website, so I am totally clueless. How long and how heavy is your Sutton Hoo sword?


Patrick Bárta's site is: TEMPL Historic Arms. It's also in our list of links.

The Sutton Hoo sword he made:

Weight: 2 pounds, 2 ounces
Overall length: 35 inches
Blade length: 29 3/4 inches
Blade width: 2 3/8 inches at base, tapering to 1 3/8 inches

The three Bárta swords I've handled, and the one I own are not heavy. They are, in fact, well within historical weights. I've seen stats on other swords he's made and would say the same about them. He has periodically chosen swords to replicate that are on the heavy side of historical samples, but even in these cases his replica is consistent with the authentic version he chose to replicate. One example of this is a Viking-era sword weighing in at nearly 4 pounds. It's a brute, no doubt, but even this extreme example is well within reason given the weight of the antique original that inspired it.

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Angus Trim




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Feb, 2005 12:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There's a related topic on SFI that might be of interest here. Particularly after you wade thru it to the comments and posts by Craig Johnson.

http://forums.swordforum.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=46189

The swords discussed there are a little later, but some might find it of interest......

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Angus Trim




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Feb, 2005 1:08 pm    Post subject: Re: Same topic... Redux!         Reply with quote

Chris Post wrote:
Hello all,


----------------

Japan and Europe both have spent many centuries optimizing their swords. Here they went different but similar ways to tackle the biggest of all challenges, i.e. maximum edge retention and hardness combined with maximum flexibility. Differential hardening is the logical consequence, alongside a highly complex forging process - both in Europe and in Japan.

Medieval blades were either polished to a mirror finished or blackened, to protect them from corrosion.



Finally: shock resistance. The samurai highly valued what we call today shock resistance. The basically "ordered" swords with high shock resistance from their smiths. The smiths then came up with various "tricks" to increase it. I think I am not going too far, if I hazard that things that were important to japanese warriors and smiths, also occupied the Europeans. Whatever - the samurai were of the opinion, that shock resistance was an important aspect of quality in a sword. And you know what? I believe those guys.
------------------------


Greetings,
Chris


Hi Chris

I want to echo Pat Kelly's thoughts, and thank you for posting.......The longer I'm in this game, the less solid my opinions of some of this are.....

However, you bring up some questions.....I have a question to ask, and then separately, shoot some holes in what you've stated.

The first is medieval sword blade blackening. Is this documented, or do you have any evidence? I find this very interesting.....

Then, I have to tell you that Japanese swords are not known for their flexibility or shock resistance. Quite the contrary. Of late, since beginning to copy antique Japanese blades, I've had quite the education in these fascinating blades and swords. The hard edge, soft back works well, when combined with the kat's unique blade geometry, ie the shinogi {ridgeline} which is ussually very thick by European sword standards {not that there's any real standard} This makes for a very rigid sword, that cuts well. However, once you bend it offline, it will take a set much quicker than most quality euro swords.

Its the blade's geometry that works against it this way, and the pearlite formations in the back of the blade.This soft formation doesn't spring, its tough, but will bend rather than break. Thus, a sword that's damaged this way, can be straightened later.

Since we have documentary evidence that early euro swords were flexible, it seems to me that we have a different process. Tempered martensite is quite flexible, thus the thought that we could be looking at "differential tempering" instead of "differential hardening".

Its also possible that another process altogether is responsible. A Norwegian who took the class, and spends a lot of time on SFI, mentioned that his professor claims that some early Norse swords weren't really heat treated, but were cold worked to get the flexibility. He's actually made some blades to verify this..... sorry I don't have any better resource at the moment....

My point is, that I don't believe that there is any solid evidence one way or another for exactly what the early smiths were doing. In my opinion, they definitely were doing something different than the Japanese smiths, as the thin crossection blades of the time {type X and earlier blades} were known for their flexibility.

The later blades, the XV's, XVa's, XVII's, etc, the thick armor popping blades, these could have soft bodys. The thickness of them would help keep them from being bent offline. Thinner crossection blades, like the earlier X's would bend easily though if the body's crystalline structure was pearlite. Something else had to have been done here.....

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Chris Post




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Feb, 2005 2:20 pm    Post subject: Re: Same topic... Redux!         Reply with quote

Hello Gus,

Quote:
The first is medieval sword blade blackening. Is this documented, or do you have any evidence? I find this very interesting.....


I'll ask him about that, too. Personally I don't know. I have to stress that I just translated what someone else says, and I did so because I find some of his thoughts very intriguing.

Quote:
Then, I have to tell you that Japanese swords are not known for their flexibility or shock resistance.


Tell me something new. Wink I know differentially-hardened katanas plain suck in the flexibility department.
Let me sum it up this way - I think that matches also with with you are saying: Concerning shock resistance we have to distinguish between lateral shock and vertical shock. Even the most expensive custom piece will not take lateral shock very well - those are the infamous incidences of a sword wrapping around the target. Wink
However, kats are very good in the vertical shock department -- which is what occurs when executing the cut properly. That's what the soft spine is there for after all. Sort of a trauma damper. Unfortunately it only works when the blow comes real straight, so these blades are very unforgiving when you make a mistake.

Concerning the question of "authenticism" in replicas of ancient swords, like the Sutton Hoo: with our knowledge that we have today, we cannot replicate a sword exactly like an original of, say, the 7th century.
From what you (e.g. Nathan) say about Barta swords, they seem to be pretty good - they look very nice, and if you say the weight and handling are fine, then I trust this is the case. But there is simply so much that we don't know today - for example how hard the blades originally were, how the zones were distributed, and so forth.
Even if an owner of an original permitted the examination with the best methods available (which still damage the object), the results would only establish a "lower limit", because you can't say how much of its original hardness the blade has lost over the centuries. We can only figure that these old blades were likely to have an edge hardness >60 HRC, because there are relatively many broken blades and few bent ones of that era.
So we are more or less relegated to experimental archaeology -- i.e. smiths that make swords in that manner as well as they can and see how they perform.
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Paul Mortimer




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Feb, 2005 2:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chris,
Nathan has already given the basic statistics of Patrick Barta's Sutton Hoo. So I shall just address what you say:

"So we are more or less relegated to experimental archaeology -- i.e. smiths that make swords in that manner as well as they can and see how they perform."

Indeed we are and smiths like Patrick, Marcus Balbuch, Angus Trim, Vince Evans do just that and with great integrity. We can never know exactly what a 7th century sword was like because none now exist in their pristine state and even much later medieval swords have suffered the ravages of time. However, I suspect that swords made by such people are pretty close in their capabilities to the originals.


Paul
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Angus Trim




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Feb, 2005 3:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Paul Mortimer wrote:
Chris,
Nathan has already given the basic statistics of Patrick Barta's Sutton Hoo. So I shall just address what you say:

"So we are more or less relegated to experimental archaeology -- i.e. smiths that make swords in that manner as well as they can and see how they perform."

Indeed we are and smiths like Patrick, Marcus Balbuch, Angus Trim, Vince Evans do just that and with great integrity. We can never know exactly what a 7th century sword was like because none now exist in their pristine state and even much later medieval swords have suffered the ravages of time. However, I suspect that swords made by such people are pretty close in their capabilities to the originals.


Paul


Hi Paul

I think one of the points that Chris was trying to make was those of us involved in sword manufacture today don't for the most part use authentic materials. We don't.

Two smiths who do the best jobs pattern welding, *and* getting the authentic shapes, balance, handling and edge geometry, Kevin Cashen and Vince Evans, still use modern steels to get the pattern.

And I'd like to think that the cutting swords that I make today, would handle and cut as well as the best of those 1000 years ago, but I won't tell you they do. As arrogant as I am, I'm not that arrogant..... there's just too much we don't know, too small a sample of the swords made then. And the best of us today have only been at this a few years, not had the long traditions of making blades and swords they had in period. And we're all studying, learning, and copying the principles used in period. We're still talking things like harmonic balance, dynamic balance, points of rotation etc, still trying to convince one another........ things that likely were taken for granted in period......

Another thing is crucible steel. This is not the first time I've seen this, or been involved in a conversation where this has been brought up. I don't have the source, but there's archeological evidence that the folks in what we call India today had the capability to make crucible steel at that time period........

Since we don't really make swords out of authentic materials, we can't for sure know what performance parameters the sword would have. We can guess that modern steels and heat treating would give us a superior product, material wise, but we can't really know. And even then, I'm of the view, its the total blade geometry, the total balance, that would tell the real story.......

Auld Dawg

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Alexi Goranov
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Feb, 2005 4:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Chris,

Thank you for taking the time to address some of our concerns. Can we get a list of Stefan Mader's publications. I'd guess there is not much form him in english, but at lest the German speakers can benefit from the information, and hopefully share it with us.

Regarding observations from period chronologists, H. R. Ellis Daveson's book " the sword in Anglo-Saxon England" is a good resource . It also deals with sword metallurgy and construction. It contains an account about the first (one of the first) successful modern reproductions of a pattern-welded sword by J.W. Anstee in 1955. It is a great read and it is illustrated by E. Oakeshott. The book contains references and patrial texts from both roman and Arab accounts of the migration/Viking swords , as well as a discussion of the period literature and references there in of the sword. I found the sword riddles to be particularly amusing.


Gus,

Thanks for the link to the SFI thread. I am trying to track down some of the articles Craig refers to.

Alexi
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Alexi Goranov
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Feb, 2005 4:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Angus Trim wrote:


Another thing is crucible steel. This is not the first time I've seen this, or been involved in a conversation where this has been brought up. I don't have the source, but there's archeological evidence that the folks in what we call India today had the capability to make crucible steel at that time period........


Auld Dawg


I assume you are referring to "wootz" when you say crucible steel. At least my understanding is that that is the same thing. The earliest known examples of wootz are form 6 century B.C. and it was made in the Hyderabad region in India . the romans called it a Seric Iron. Persians made Parthian steel by a similar method. the Indian method was to " heat black magnetite ore in the presence of carbon in a sealed clay crucible inside charcoal furnace." This yields iron with very high carbon content 2-6%. After much heating and forging most of the carbon is lost but enough is retained to give you a good blade (~0.7%).

The citation comes form E. Davidson's book "the sword in Anglo saxon England", p20 . She refers to an account by W. H. Schoff "Eastern Iron Trade of the Roman Empire" Journal American Oriental Soc. XXXV 1915 page 233, and to H. C. Richardson "Iron prehistoric and ancient" American Journal of Archeology XXXVIII 1934, p580.

Alexi
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Angus Trim




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Feb, 2005 4:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alexi Goranov wrote:
Hi Chris,

Gus,

Thanks for the link to the SFI thread. I am trying to track down some of the articles Craig refers to.

Alexi


Hi Alexi

Craig Johnson is an underrated researcher. He's not prone to blowing his own horn, so a lot of folks don't realize what stature that Craig really has with the folks "in the know". You've seen him interact here with Peter Johnsson, is experience is a bit different, but on a par with Peter's.

A very knowledgeable guy, but a very humble guy. Pay attention to him when he speaks authortively on anything sword related, its the real deal.....Like PJ, it would be nice if he'd eventually write a book or three........

Auld Dawg

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Angus Trim




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Feb, 2005 4:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alexi Goranov wrote:
Angus Trim wrote:


Another thing is crucible steel. This is not the first time I've seen this, or been involved in a conversation where this has been brought up. I don't have the source, but there's archeological evidence that the folks in what we call India today had the capability to make crucible steel at that time period........


Auld Dawg


I assume you are referring to "wootz" when you say crucible steel. At least my understanding is that that is the same thing. The earliest known examples of wootz are form 6 century B.C. and it was made in the Hyderabad region in India . the romans called it a Seric Iron. Persians made Parthian steel by a similar method. the Indian method was to " heat black magnetite ore in the presence of carbon in a sealed clay crucible inside charcoal furnace." This yields iron with very high carbon content 2-6%. After much heating and forging most of the carbon is lost but enough is retained to give you a good blade (~0.7%).

The citation comes form E. Davidson's book "the sword in Anglo saxon England", p20 . She refers to an account by W. H. Schoff "Eastern Iron Trade of the Roman Empire" Journal American Oriental Soc. XXXV 1915 page 233, and to H. C. Richardson "Iron prehistoric and ancient" American Journal of Archeology XXXVIII 1934, p580.

Alexi


Hi Alexi

Could be. Actually likely is. The difference in the finished products could be in the way they were forged from the cakes......But that's just supposition. I certainly wouldn't want to stake anything on it one way or the other.

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Chris Post




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Feb, 2005 4:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here's something nice:
http://www.archaeologie-online.de/magazin/thema/2001/01/d1.php3

In short: a period Sax and Spatha excavated in Germany were given to a Japanes Togishi for polishing in 1999.

His dissertation (2001) revolves around the usage of different steel types in the middle ages, but I can't find that one online. However, he cooperated with a couple of German swordsmiths, and now his work is used by several other smiths as well, as it looks like.
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Craig Johnson




PostPosted: Mon 07 Feb, 2005 9:02 pm    Post subject: Swords         Reply with quote

Hello All

Interesting discussion. Some very good things here to sink ones teeth into. Just have a few moments here so I want to add a few comments and will hopefully be able to contribute more later.

Stefan Mäderof Freiburg has done some interesting work with applying a japanese polish to historical European items and comparing the results to research on the construction of Japanese blades that has had a great deal more study done then there European counterparts. The items he has studied range over a great period of time in the european context and this research is still ongoing, I believe. He, hopefully, has been working on a brief overview for a future issue of The Oakeshott Institute Journal.

The matter of steel losing its hardness over time is an interesting theory. The work done on the El Cid sword is what he is probably referring to. The issue that many metallurgist have brought up, that I have discussed this with, is that the time frame seems to short,1000 years minimum to find measurable results is what the going thoughts are as far as I am aware. The research that was done on the spanish swords was only done on one or two examples that were picked to see if the sword was old enough to be El Cid's sword blade and the results confirmed this time frame. I have an article about it somewhere and I will try to find the site as quickly as possible. The researchers did not continue the research beyond this study though there maybe some future use of it as I understand the situation, but I could not tell you if they have expanded the data base or refined the system.

One factor that must be included in any discussion of the blade quality of period swords is the material composition. If you look at the analysis of period ferrite objects, especially blades, over a wide spectrum you begin to see that other elements are constantly influencing the quality of the steel/iron mix achievable and even in the same piece one can find wide variations. This is often enough to effect hardness levels dramatically.


Best
Craig
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Jack McGregor Lynn




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PostPosted: Tue 08 Feb, 2005 6:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think what we're seeing in the original German post's misconceptions about sword weight is a backlash to the WMA and western sword communities have been trying to tell the public. They have been saying for many years that European swords weren't heavy, trying to combat the awful misconceptions rampant in popular culture, and even in scholarly writing. What's happening now is that public opinion is moving to the other end of the spectrum. For years there has been an interesting but altogether inaccurate mystique surrounding Japanese swords like the katana. People have been imparting qualities and virtues upon them and their users that are not and never were firmly grounded in reality but instead are basically the stories of magic that people have always told. Now, and I think that this is an encouraging trend, we are seeing this happen with European blades. The western blade community has been yelling "European blades weren't heavy!!" mainly because they felt they weren't being heard. Their intensity has been mistranslated into an false conception of how not heavy the blades actually were. This fiction is, in and of itself, a bad thing, but it does mean we are being heard.
People seem to feel the need to mystify swords. To surround them with a cloud of legend and tradition, until recently, in the case of European swords, this was embodied by chivalric literature* and the concept of the noble knight. Now it is being refocused on the swords themselves.

*by this I mean to encompass all literature that offers a romantisized concept of knights and swordsmen. I am not refering solely to the work of court chaplains durring the middle ages or that of later romantic authors like Sir Walter Scott. I am also including modern fiction, like the Dragon Lance series and Lord of the Rings.
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Chris Post




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PostPosted: Tue 08 Feb, 2005 7:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Unfortunately, the weight of swords is a neglected subject in scholarly literature. I know of only one book that states this data; I forgot the title but it was a German book - and the author of the initial "rant" does possess it. Also, as I said, he has handled probably more antique originals than I handled any type of replica, so I do think that he has quite a good idea about this subject.

Luckily, I will soon get the chance to examine a large private collection of original blades, and some of these are supposed to be in near pristine condition (we'll see about that, I know what some collectors consider as "good condition"). So that will at least help me getting a better idea of how light or how heavy swords of old could be. Big Grin

Finally, our friend has given me two more sources, however both in German. I'm pasting/translating:

"Kunst und Handwerk im Frühen Mittelalter" by Helmut Roth, Theiss-Verlag, ISBN 3-8062-0447-0.
["Art and Craft in the Early Middle Ages"] Pages 118, 120 und 122.
This treats not only the polish of blades in the Early Middle Ages, but also the polishing agents.

"Die Kriegswaffen" von August Demmin, Leipzig (no publisher, no ISBN number -- appears to be self-published).
["Weapons of War"]
On page 993 there is a detailed description of how sword blades were blued respectively blackened on purpose.

Concerning mirror polish vs. etched surface, he says that on the contrary there is not a single instance of a medieval sword that was found with an etched blade. He says that nothing even hints at the possibility that any blade was etched, other than the imagination of archaeologists. Wink

Dang, these conversations are really interesting, but I have to get some real work done... so catch you later
Chris

Skeppsmannens härsmakt räddes ej väta:
blodulvar vadade väst över Panta:
fram över flodens glimmande vatten
buro de lindesköldar i land.
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Craig Johnson




PostPosted: Tue 08 Feb, 2005 7:30 pm    Post subject: Articles         Reply with quote

Here are some references concerning the alteration of molecular structure in steel/iron over time. They are the references I have seen on the subject and I am not sure if any further work has been done and published on the subject,

"MIcrostructures in Historical and Archaeological Steel Objects Resulting From Aging Process" by Antonio José Criado, Juan Antonio Martinez, Rafael Calabrés, Luisa Maria Rodriguez, José Manuel Jiménez, Mattias Karlsson

text in German and English and published in 2000 in "Prakt. Metallogr. 37" sorry I do not have the full name of the journal.
This covers the science of the aging process that they have laid out to describe the ability to age an object via its transformation on a molecular level over great periods of time. One area that they refer to but do not elaborate on is that it is based on comparisons to modern steels treated to similar processes as the original samples used. I would be very interested in what this original modern material was composed of and how did they form and heat treat the object to replicate the originals they were comparing to.

"Metallographic study of natural aging in the steel of the sword Tizona" by Antonio José Criado, Juan Antonio Martinez, Rafael Calabrés, José Manuel Jiménez, J.I. Garcia, M. Sousa

Text in English discussing using the methodology laid out in the first article to ascertain the age of the blade of "Tizona" sword attributed to "El Cid". They also make some observations on the type of heat treating and manufacture of the blade. These conclusions while possible are also stated as correct with little corroborating evidence given. The blade does have an acid etched latin inscription but this is stated as post XI C. by the authors.

Hope this is informative.

I also wanted to comment on the polishing of the blades as discussed above. While the literature obviously describes blades that are polished but not etched. The ability to etch the blades almost certainly existed and if maintenance slacked on a blade or offerings or grave finds or lost weapons recovered were at any time examined they would almost certainly show signs of the patterns. Thus if the desire for the pattern to show was there they would have had the means and knowledge to do so. Did they? It can not be proven at this point as the exisiting evidence points the other direction but it is certainly in the realm of possibility and energies should be put towards finding other literary descriptions to support either outcome.

Best
Craig
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