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Jared Smith




PostPosted: Thu 10 Feb, 2005 10:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The "secret" of making good pattern welded Damascus was actually never lost. Several families (I believe 3 in France, and may be able to track one down for you if you have $50K for the purchase of a sword) claim to have maintained and continued the skill as a family tradition for over 1000 years. As late as the turn of the century, manual pattern welded damascus (with attractive patterns) was still being used to provide material to some high end shotgun barrel manufacturers. Both the pattern welding techniques and lamination of Japanese steel primarily served to deal with impurities in the ores used. As soon as homogenous steel, low carbon loss charcoal forge, and blast furnace techniques were perfected, those who valued measurable mechanical performance more than cool looks ditched the more complex lamination and damascus steels.

A homoegenous material 2% high carbon tool punch was found to have been produced in Brittain at approximately 200 A.D. We are talking about 130,000 psi + rated steel here. No existing artifact of wootz or pattern welded alloy has ever been tested to have strength equivalent to a homegenous material with utilimate strength over the 50,000 to 55,000 psi range. The reality is that differential hardening and heat treatment is required with these inferior materials to make them compeitive with a good homogenous piece of 1095 alloy. Similarly, laminated samuri swords offer no advantage in overall strength (modulous as a cross section), and ductility to good modern alloys. Modern high alloys are competitive with the best of historical swords, with comparatively simple type heat treatments. Now if you did use a differential heat treatment, and an directionally engineered pattern metal matrix alloy, the modern alloy sword could be several times superior (high strength, strength to weight, whatever turns you on) to swords produced just a few hundred years ago.

One thing that is truly superior in Damasucus and Wootz is the micro serration cutting edge qualities caused by the breaks between high and low carbon content microstructures. You can cut pretty thick leather using one of those weapons as easily as a razor cuts paper! But as far as steel on steel, or steel on armor, get yourself some good homogenous modern alloy if you want the best you can get.
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Craig Johnson




PostPosted: Thu 10 Feb, 2005 10:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello Jared

I would agree that the ability to manufacture composite blades was never lost. In fact I am not sure anyone in this thread was really suggesting that. I would be interested in any actual factual information you may have on a consistent family tradition lasting that long in Europe. This type of statement has been made several times over the years by different individuals but, sadly none have ever been confirmed with any type of actual documentation or even contact information as far as I am aware.

Do you have a reference for the punch find?

" the breaks between high and low carbon content microstructures" Would not the difference in the hardness between the dendrites and the rest of the material be the issue here as apposed to " breaks " ?

Best Craig
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Jared Smith




PostPosted: Fri 11 Feb, 2005 7:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I decided to put my 2 cents worth in on this topic just yesterday. There were several references to high carbon tool steel ancient metallurgy in Europe. Here is just one I found just now after typing in a new search in response to your request...http://www.mistabig.com/?p=bradforduni-irontool . The reference to continued family tradition and approximate numbers (I believe 3 in France, plus a couple more scattered in Western Europe) is based on word of mouth from my local knife maker and gunsmith who has also researched this issue quite a bit (over about 20 years time.) I will ask him (former pattern welder who decided that he enjoys the grinding, tempering, and assembly of a finished product more than welding) for his sources. And try to post the result back to you.

Prior to ordering my Albion sword, the first collectable I bought was a 3" long folding damascus blade (close to $300 for the bar material used for the blade blank, + labor for shaping and assembly) pocket knife. That is really all I can afford from a reputable maker who has proven their work with metallurgical and destructive tests, and a consistent track record of successful bar stock production. I consider myself a "Holy Grail" seeker looking for proof of that ultimate Damascus artifact (not that I could ever hope to purchase it.) I researched this heavily for a couple of months about a year ago when I was considering giving pattern welding a try myself. After seeing how well modern craftsmen are doing it, and what a specialty it really is, I decided that I did not want to spend all day every day welding bands of steel! Many good pattern welders are giving away their work at costs equal to materials consummed plus tool wear. They are nearly donating their labor free when they sell high quality 100+ layer pattern welded material at about $100 per linear inch for 1/8" thick by 1" wide stock. Go up to 1/4" thick by 1.5" plus wide (enough for a large sword) and their actual costs and time goes up quite a bit. They can take shortcuts and skip the successive heat cycles plus folding/ twisting, but then the risk of a serious weld defect (may not happen to be at a critical point in the blades structure, but there is really no way to know without conducting destructive testing) becomes an almost certain reality. Some of the swords shown in eariler in this post are really "gifts to the customer" from craftsmen who merely made them for love of the art and tradition. If they really charged you something like $40+ per hour, most of us could never have afforded them.

The reality of all specimens modern and ancient is that composite forged blades never really obtain all three properties of mythical claims; flexibility/impact resistance, strength, and superior cutting edge. You can chose any two of those, and come within about 60% to 70% of premium modern alloys that are suited for blade production. My local blade maker (Bob Levine Knife Maker here in Tullahoma Tennessee) is quite skilled in metallurgy, heat treating (differential tempering included), and shaping / production of knives. I have sat in his shop and watched the complete process (over several days time) from beginning to end. He did practice pattern welding, but has now abandoned the damascus production because it was the only thing he could do (and it is very difficult to set it aside without risk of failure) if he was going to do it right. He now simply buys it from full-time, high-quality producers, and has researched their quality and credentials. Be very wary of large damascus swords being sold for just $2K. It can be done with powder metallurgy, but then it is really more of a Wootz blade than a true pattern weld composite.
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Alexi Goranov
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PostPosted: Fri 11 Feb, 2005 8:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Whoever is interested in pattern-welding techniques should read this article .

Thanks to Craig Johnson for pointing it out.

Interestingly enough, the article points out to some evidence suggesting that pattern welding was used for aesthetic purposes. That was a later trend though.

Enjoy.

Alexi

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Chris Post




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PostPosted: Thu 17 Feb, 2005 3:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have a question regarding the English terminology. How to begin?

In German, we have the following terms:

"Raffinierstahl" - I think this is crucible steel? It describes steel from a single smelting, folded several times to remove impurities and evenly distribute the carbon.

"Damast" - this describes usually two materials (e.g. hard steel and wrought iron) worked together, for example folded or torqued (Torsionsdamast).



"Wurmbunt" - this term, referring to a sword description by Theoderich King, describes the intricate pattern-welding seen in the Sutton Hoo sword.



What terms are there to tell the latter two types apart?

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Craig Johnson




PostPosted: Thu 17 Feb, 2005 9:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Chris

I would describe them as such

Crucible Steel, of which Wootz is a form

Layered or Pattern Welded Steel either of which could be used to describe your two swords pictured.

Damascus is a term that was been used less and less in the last few years as it has acquired so many different connotations and has been abused by many as a marketing gimmick.

Craig
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Chris Post




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PostPosted: Fri 18 Feb, 2005 4:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Okay, so there is no special word for "wurmbunt". That's what I wanted to know.
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Craig Johnson




PostPosted: Fri 18 Feb, 2005 5:57 am    Post subject: Hello Chris         Reply with quote

Chris Post wrote:
Okay, so there is no special word for "wurmbunt". That's what I wanted to know.


Not in the context of a sepcific type of layered construction like that. The term does arise as a descriptive adjective but usually used by someone trying to impress and or sell you something and they rarely would use it in the correct context.

Do you use it to identify composite construction of the alternating cable twist variety in general or just that particular pattern. There are of course many nicknames for that type of pattern from period and today. If you have not read Lee Jones's article that Alexi referenced above, that is a good place to start and if one is interested in the different varieties of this type of work in periodI would recommend Tylecote's work and some of the Russian texts on the subject have some good info as well. Also commercial blade makers in the early industrial period, especially in Germany, did a whole variety of styles for the military swords of the day. Sometimes you can find the old display samples they had or at least pictures of them are in some books.

Best
Craig
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Chris Post




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PostPosted: Fri 18 Feb, 2005 6:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"Wurmbunt" does not describe only this particular pattern, but basically patterns in this fashion. So tendentially rather the other alternative you offered,
Quote:
composite construction of the alternating cable twist variety in general

but it may well be that this construction method can also yield a result that cannot be defined as "wurmbunt".

The term goes back to a letter written by the ostrogoth king Theoderich (~500 AD). Actually before I was talking about 7th c., so this is considerably earlier even. The text in German:

Quote:
"Eure Brüderschaft hat uns Schwerter dargebracht, die fähig sind, selbst die Rüstungen zu durchschneiden, sie sind nicht nur kostbar durch das Eisen (aus dem sie gemacht sind), sondern auch durch den Wert des Goldes (der sie bereichert hat); durch ihren Glanz und ihre vollkommene Politur leuchten sie so, daß sie mit absoluter Reinheit das Gesicht dessen zurückstrahlen, der sie betrachtet. Ihre auf vollkommene Weise angebrachten Schneiden ziehen sich der Länge nach mit einer solchen Regelmäßigkeit hin, daß man glauben könnte, sie seien eher im Schmiedefeuer geschmolzen, als mit der Feile bearbeitet. Die beste eurer Klingen, die bemerkenswert vertieft ist, erscheint geädert und mit wurmartigen Linien verziert. Da führen so verschiedene Schatten ihr Spiel, daß man meinen könnte, das Metall sei aus Elementen verschiedener Farben verschmolzen".


In English, as well as I can do. Again, this was written no later than 526 AD (when Theoderich died):

"Your brotherhood has presented us with swords that are able even to cut through armour, they are not only precious because of the iron (of which they are made) but also because of the gold (which enriches them); by their finish and perfect polish they shine in a fashion that they reflect the beholder's face with absolute purity. Their perfectly applied edges run down the length with such regularity that you could think they were smelted in the forge rather then worked with the file. The best one of your blades, which is notably deepened, appears to be veined and ornamented with worm-like lines. Here shades of such different fashion work their play that you could think the metal was smelted from elements of different colours."

So from this we can deduce that, 1500 years ago,
- good swords were so well made that they could cut through armour (maybe successors of the Roman lamellar?)
- pattern welded blades were polished to a mirror finish (as this was questioned before)
- all swords seem to have been pattern welded, but the very finest ones were "wurmbunt". The sword mentioned here seems to have been the first of its kind known to Theoderich.

"Wurmbunt" is not a word of its own, but a compound of the words for "worm" and "coloured". If the source did not specifically talk about colours of elements, I would have thought this was synonymous for "patterned".

Also, "notably deepened" sounds like "fullered" to me, but I can't say whether this was the only blade in that shipment with a fuller, or if it just had the most prominent (wides / deepest) fuller.

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Patrik Erik Lars Lindblom




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PostPosted: Sat 19 Feb, 2005 1:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bunt in swedish are many things together like a package. Happy
Frid o Fröjd!
Patrik
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Johan S. Moen




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PostPosted: Sat 19 Feb, 2005 3:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Patrik Erik Lars Lindblom wrote:
Bunt in swedish are many things together like a package. Happy


In Norwegian too. Thus we have "wurm"=worm and "bunt"=bundle. A bundle of worms.

Johan Schubert Moen
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Chris Post




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PostPosted: Sat 19 Feb, 2005 5:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In German that would be "Bund", with a "d" (or "Bündel").

It sounds reasonable, but since we have the transcript of Theoderich's letter, we know that there is no mention of a "bundle".
The Swedish words that come closest would be, I think, either "brokig" or maybe "blandad".

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Patrik Erik Lars Lindblom




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PostPosted: Sat 19 Feb, 2005 5:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

When i thinking about it, so have we a old word that have name vurma, it is "hångla" today,
when two teenagers twisted together in kissing and hugging like snake's, when they make it Happy

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Patrik
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Craig Johnson




PostPosted: Sat 19 Feb, 2005 5:40 pm    Post subject: Translation         Reply with quote

interesting quote Chris

I admit my German is not as good as it used to be and with the compound words it can be difficult to achieve a literal translation of a historical source such as this into a modern version of a different language.

I was wondering how universal is this term "wurmbunt" used to describe the material today? As it is not actually used in the quote you site and I would have a tendency to lean a different way in the interpretation.

The last two line of his quote for instance could, IMHO, very well be translated to something along the lines of


"The best of your blades which displays noteworthy deep veined lines as good as if a worm had decorated the blade. There are so many different shades of color playing across the steel one could think, the metal was smelted from elements of different colors."

note:(this last bit describes very well the sheen that hand made steel or any steel for that matter can acquire in certain lights with polish or oil. The oil on water affect as it where.)

This of course changes the meaning of the quote you translated and I again want to comment that my German is not the greatest but it seems to me this is a closer interpretation of what the King is describing from his words.


The term he uses is "wurmartigen" and this I see as coming through as "well laid worm trails" or "worm patterns"

Best
Craig
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Chris Post




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PostPosted: Sat 19 Feb, 2005 7:26 pm    Post subject: Re: Translation         Reply with quote

Craig Johnson wrote:
interesting quote Chris
I admit my German is not as good as it used to be and with the compound words it can be difficult to achieve a literal translation of a historical source such as this into a modern version of a different language.


Yes, this is of course a problem: I'm working from a translation as well. I don't even know what the original language was, but the letter was addressed to a certain Thrasamund; King of the Vandals I believe. If I had the text in its original language, I might be able to make more of it.

Another German transcript I have found reads:
Quote:
"Ihre hellpolierte Fläche glänzt in dem Maße, daß sie das Antlitz des Beschauers klar widerspiegelt, und ihre Schneiden gehen so gleichmäßig scharf zu, daß man meinen könnte, sie seien dem Gußofen entstammt, und nicht aus einzelnen Stäben zusammengesetzt (*1). In ihrer mit schönen Rinnen versehenen Mitte(*2) glaubt man kleine Würmer sich kräuseln zu sehen (*3), und so mannigfaltig ist die Schattierung, daß es scheint, als ob das leuchtende Metall von verschiedenen Farben durchwoben sei(*4). Euer Schleifstein hat dasselbe so sorgfältig gereinigt, daß er das glänzende Eisen gewissermaßen zu einem Spiegel für Männer gemacht hat.(*5)"


Differences to the first transcript:
*1) "rather than composed of singular rods"
*2) "in its center with nicely applied grooves"
*3) "one believes to see little worms curling"
*4) "interwoven with different colours"
*5) "Your stone has cleaned [the metal] so thoroughly, that it has made the shining iron into a mirror for men" (this sentence is missing in the first transcript)

The transcript that I posted first comes from a more reliable source than this one, though.

Quote:
I was wondering how universal is this term "wurmbunt" used to describe the material today? As it is not actually used in the quote you site and I would have a tendency to lean a different way in the interpretation.


I just read somewhere else that "wurmbunt" was derived from a Viking term, "wyrmfah". I don't know if that's correct. Couple of weeks ago I was told that the term is indirectly derived from the ostrogoth letter.

Today we use the term "wurmbunt" exclusively for laminated pattern-welded blades with a central section of torqued damast. So for example, all the "damascus" blades by CAS Iberia does not qualify as "wurmbunt".
Here are some illustrations:
http://www.nordavind.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=942

Regular pattern-welded blades are called "Damast" or simply "gefaltet" (folded). The true translation for pattern-welded steel would be "Schweißverbundwerkstoff" which not only looks terrible, it's a very technical term that only smiths or other professionals would use.

Quote:
The term he uses is "wurmartigen" and this I see as coming through as "well laid worm trails" or "worm patterns"


As we see in the second example, we'd have to know the most literal translation of the original text.

Greetings
Chris

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Peter Johnsson




PostPosted: Sun 20 Feb, 2005 2:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The terms for describing/naming various laminate or composite blade constructions are muh confused by cultural traditions/differences and modern interpretations/misconceptions of these.

Today, laminated/composite material that shows a visible pattern is commonly known as "Damast", "Damascus steel" or similar. That is a pity sance it confuses matters.
To use the place Damascus in this contexts is very misleading as it seems to imply that "Damast" steel is the same as the steel that was used historically in the Islamic world.
That steel (a crucible, homogenous material that exhibits dendritic carbide pattern generated during solidifying and further manipualted during forging) is today also known by a number of different names, depending on language or place of origin. It can be called Bulat or Wootz for example. There is also a great variation in the material, so not all "wootz" is the same. But let´s leave that topic for the time being.

European patterned steel was made by forge welding materials of different alloying content together. This was a technique that started to develop already during the celtic iron age (3rd century BC).
We do nt know what the celts called their patterned blade material. They certainly did not call it damast or damascus steel.

Wurmbunt is a historical germanic name.
It signifies a steel blade that has a patterend core. The edges of such a sword is made up of non-patterned carbon steel that shows some discreet "watering" or streaky effect from being folded into itself many times.
(That was the natural way to produce carbon steel at the time: the staring material needed to be folded into itself and reforged many times to become homogenous enough to exhibit the qualities necessary for a quench hardened edge. This is also mostly the same technique usaed by japanese smiths when they refine their famous Tamahagane steel.)
So, wurmbunt could be a name for any blade that is constructed according to traditional priciples: a patterned core (with or without a soft iron core inside between the patterened panels) and welded on steel edges.

Today the steels used in patternwelding will typically respond well to heat treating. There is therefore no need to isolate the pattern in the core: the pattern can reach all the way to the edge without no detrimental effects. In historical blades the patterend core was composed by iron and low carbon steel that would not react to heat treat enough to be able to carry a sharp edge for long. Therefore steel edges were welded on.

Folded steel, is juts that: one or two (or more) steels that are fwelded together, folded an reforged several times to produce a fine layered structure. Typically any attempts to produce a pattern is either "random" or some technique to manipulate all layers together, usually by grinding away material in certain patterns (this results in ladder patterns and similar). This is in principle different from historical patternwelding. The patterned cores of historical blades were constructed by strips of low carbon steel, wrought iron and phosphorous iron. These could be welded together in rods that were twisted or in other ways manipualted, or forged into bundles that were left more or es straight along the whole length of the core (this is a common thing on celtic and roman blades, and I do not think those can be called "wurmbunt" as they only show slightly undulating lines running the whole lenght of the blade).

On the market today it is not uncommon to see blades of laminated patterned steel. Many of these are made through powder metallurgy techniques. Others are made through folding a great big billet into many layers that sometimes is manipulated to show patterns of some sort. As a rule the patterned material reaches all the way to the edge in these blades, even if the edges are sometimes not etched to reveal the pattern. These blades are marketed as being of "folded steel" or "damast" or "damascus steel".
The first name is the most correct, but many times the steel is made py powder methods (the popular Swedish Damasteel is one example).

To find a modern equivalent for "wurmbunt" is futile, I think. Why just not use the historical term to define what it was intended to describe in the first place?
Pattern welded steel is the modern term, but we should realise that wurmbunt was describing blades produced with a specific application of patternwelding: rods of different alloys welded together to create a patterned effect in the core of a steel edged weapon.The patterns are normally results of clever application of torsion, but there are exceptions. They *always* limited the use of patterned material to the core or the back of the blades, though. The edge was *always* of "homogenous" discreetly streaky carbon steel. (Look at the beautifull Barta blade in this weeks review article for a good contemporary example).

Any other method of applying patternwelding, be it torsion, layer manipulation, folding or "random" is simply more or less contemporary applications of ancient techniques. ...And yes; the Japanese have a very long tradition of using multy layer billets with sublte "random" patterns. Those japanese smiths did still produce billets that are structurally fdifferent from the majority of "folded steels" available on the market today.

The reasons for these techniques to develop in ancient times are results from limitations and specific qualities in the available materials at the time. When later on steel was produced in greater quanitites and with higher quality, pattern welding as a production method was mostly abandoned since it had lost its reason of being. We see unpatterned blades becoming the norm from the 9th C and onwards. This is not because of some secret being lost, but simply because patternwelding was not longer the most efficient way to forge blades any more. Economy has always been a great driving and defining force in the development of weappons and technology.
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Paul Mortimer




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PostPosted: Sun 20 Feb, 2005 4:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"When later on steel was produced in greater quanitites and with higher quality, pattern welding as a production method was mostly abandoned since it had lost its reason of being. We see unpatterned blades becoming the norm from the 9th C and onwards. This is not because of some secret being lost, but simply because patternwelding was not longer the most efficient way to forge blades any more. Economy has always been a great driving and defining force in the development of weappons and technology."


Peter,
I appreciate your account, and those of others, of the differences between the various trechniques. I also take note of your final paragraph. However, is there any record of the techniques continuing to be use down to modern times? I have seen military dress blades made by German smiths during the Nazi period that are called 'damast' . Are they using similar techniques that they re-discovered or is there evidence of continuous use?


Paul
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Craig Johnson




PostPosted: Sun 20 Feb, 2005 10:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chris

I forgot one term I should have included "piled construction", this is probably more used in the writing on these swords than others in english.

Paul

I think that there definitely is a decent amount of objects that demonstrate this form of work was not lost but transitioned from a manufacturing methodology to use as a decorative technique. Thus a process used on higher status items and something that most metal workers would have a bit of knowledge of especially in the high end shops.

One element that can run rough shod over these issues is the fact that academics, especially in the early years of the industrial revolution had a tendency to think if they were not aware of something it was "lost" while the blacksmith down the road may have had an excellent working knowledge of the issue. But no one asked him. Happy

Best
Craig
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Paul Mortimer




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PostPosted: Sun 20 Feb, 2005 11:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Craig,
I think that you may well be right. I have been very interested in early Anglo-Saxon swords, particularly, and all the books that I have read by eminent archaeologists, some of which I have the greatest of respect for, say the art was lost. H. R. Ellis Davidson, in her book, "The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England", describes experiments in the 50s where they try to re-discover this art. Yet, it seems, that it was still in use in some parts of Europe. I have, so far, been unable to find any reference to use before the early 2oth century.

Paul
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Craig Johnson




PostPosted: Sun 20 Feb, 2005 1:10 pm    Post subject: more clarification.         Reply with quote

Hello Paul

Yes I agree that it was definitely not lost as one can find excellent examples of piled construction gun barrels and fittings from the 19th C and I believe the German Blade companies were also producing patterned steel blades back into the mid 1850's at least. (need to find that reference somewhere)

I did not see Peters response when I posted above for some reason it did not show in the thread, but I agree with his comments through out and would expect that the production of different traditional materials continued regionally through the time frames we are discussing barring major events.

Chris
I should have looked at the quote you posted more closely as I was assuming (very bad to do) that it was a modernized version of the original language. If it is in fact a translation from, possibly, latin at that stage then any discussion of its literal meaning after another round of us pecking at it is pretty conjectural at best and down right foolish in trying to extrapolate beyond the instance. This is something that has hampered other discussions and areas of study to a point that it can waste huge amounts of time and energy. It would probably be best to track down the original and start over.

I would also agree with Peter that the use of "wurnblund", a term I had only seen in passing, in its traditional context is best and quite right. I was unsure if the way it was used describe something specific or it was as "damascus" has been used in the English which I feel has been abused and misused.

Best

Craig
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