Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Spears for Vinland

One of my current (paid!) jobs is to make a number of pieces for the Encampment program at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC. This year's additions are a set of spears and shields - five of each. There are also a group of arrows being made up by Mike Kleinknecht . (Forging the arrow heads was detailed on an earlier posts : ONE / TWO / THREE.)

The spears are made in two basic patterns, forged from mild steel. There are two of a shorter javelin head, about 6 inches in blade length. The other pair are longer, slashing heads, these closer to 9 inches in blade. All are full socket type. The last of the set (seen at extreme right) is a more leaf shaped blade. This I forged from antique wrought iron - the material that is more likely to have been used for the originals. From a distance there is no difference, but close examination shows the distinctive linear grain in the actual iron.
On all the spears, the sockets were forged separately from standard schedule 40 mild steel pipe. The heads were forged down to a short stubb tang. That tang was forced into the hot cone of the socket, which when cool was MIG welded and ground smooth. That last is 'cheating' in terms of historic method, but in practical terms, you can't tell the difference in appearance between the MIG and a proper forge weld. (And yes - I have made these up with forge welds in the past.)
I deliberately chose NOT to polish the blade surfaces down to remove all the forge pitting. This shows primarily along the spines of each blade. The logic here was to preserve as much as the original thickness of the material as possible. Each of the blades was forged from 1/4 x 2 inch flat stock.
The shafts were purchased from a London Ontario supplier, Relics. They sell a very nice quality, straight grained ash spear shaft, for about $45 CDN. (Watch out on the shipping cost - I had the order picked up)

(Additional comment)
Jason asked:
... How are the heads fastened to the shafts? Just shaped and forced on hot? Riveted?
The heads are basically friction fit. The end of each shaft was tapered with a draw knife to the basic shape. I then fit the sockets down, rotating them as I did so. This would scrape some of the internal fire scale on to the wood, marking the high spots. These were then reduced with a course file. Repeat until pretty much the whole taper is being marked (indicating a tight fit). Normally fitting the socket back on to the shaft, then tapping the base of the shaft is enough to firmly mount the spear head.
As these are going into a living history situation (where I know from past experience a certain amount of abuse is almost certain) I did cheat at this point. Each socket got a liberal coating of epoxy before I did the final setting of the head. After this was hard, any excess was trimmed with a knife. The epoxy is this invisible, but ensures the heads will not work loose.

(Additional comment 2)

polymarkos asked

...how did you make nice conic shapes out of the black pipe for the sockets?

The trick to getting long tapered shapes out of pipe is to hammer quickly and using gentle strokes - with a lighter hammer. I use a 800 gm / 1.5 lb weight as my primary forging hammer. Working down into a conical bottom hardie tool also helps speed the work. There is a short photo description of forging long tapers to points out of pipe on an earlier blog entry : Forging Rush Tips - which also includes a video clip of the process.


Jason Couch said...

Looks great! How are the heads fastened to the shafts? Just shaped and forced on hot? Riveted? Thanks.

polymarkos said...

Mr. Markewitz,

First off, I love your website. I appreciate the work you do and I am grateful to you for expanding our knowledge with the meticulous and laborious researches into ironwork.

I have a question about your spearheads: how did you make nice conic shapes out of the black pipe for the sockets?


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

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