Friday, April 20, 2007

Norse Womans' Knife

If you have been following this series, you will see that there are three primary topic areas: Viking Age KNIVES / Early IRON SMELTING / Viking Age METALWORK.

KNIVES, and topics related to it, have consumed a lot of effort over the last while. this is primarily because I have gotten a number of commissions for pattern welded blades over the winter. I took the opportunity to start work on a new DVD production - INTRODUCTION TO LAYERED STEELS. Unfortunately, this entire project is now on hold because of massive equipment problems.

One of the simpler projects I'm working on is a Norse 'woman's knife' for a serious re-enactor (from DARC). I decided to create this blade with a considerable eye to detail:

This is the blade at the end of the first polishing step - before heat treating,

Lenght : just over 5" /12 cm
Width (at hilt) : 1' / 2.5 cm
Thickness (at hilt) : 1/4" / 6 cm

These proportions and the overall shape is very close to the 'small tool' samples found at Coppergate in York. The blade also tapers in thickness from the hilt down to the point. The profile also is a V grind. (Most modern blades have a sabre grind - a rectangle at the back with a V below to the edge). Use of these two features radically changes the physical handling of the blade. The weight is moved back towards the hand, resulting in a tip that moves quickly and is easier to control. Ideal for general food preparation or textile related tasks. Another reason you see this profile and cross section used historically is that there is significantly less metal required to forge a given blade length. The long rat tail tang is another example of this conservation. (My work with iron smelting is giving me an ever greater appreciation for the cost and conservation of raw materials in pre-Industrial metalwork.)

For the images, the blade was placed in ferric chloride for a couple of minutes. You can see a dark band along the cutting edge and also along the back. This blade has been forged using another feature seen in a number of Viking Age artifacts. It has a harder carbon steel core, layered between two plates of softer metal (modern mild steel in this case). There are two reasons for this historically. First, that conservation factor, especially for that harder to produce higher carbon metal. Second, and more importantly, there is a significant functional aspect to hard layered inside soft. The core can be made extremely hard, but the softer slabs protect and cushion this also brittle material. As the blade is ground to sharp, the hard layer is exposed along the cutting edge.

The end result of all this shaping and layering is a knife with excellent properties for the end user.

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February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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