Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Norse Trefoil Arrowheads

My friend Neil Peterson has been after me for some (too long) a time to forge some replica Viking Age arrowheads.

I have begged off this - primarily because this is largely specialist work. There are a few others out there who have concentrated (solely, from the look of it) on the skills and tooling required to be effective at this type of work. Hector Cole of the UK being the 'state of the art' in my opinion.

Neil has been most interested in two specific points, illustrated in the (almost impossible to find) 'Viking Artifacts' by James Graham-Campbell :

Image adjusted to life size
These are described as his number 12 (part of a group) and 267 (two shown) , " ... from the large find discovered in Estuna churchyard in 1964. ... objects of 7th to 11th century date are 245 arrowheads ... the greater part dating to the Viking Period." (pg 12)
From : Estuna, Uppland, Sweden, listed as Statens Historiska Museum 27761 (both images).
Further details are given on the second entry #267:
"Two tanged iron arrow-heads, with trefoil-sectioned blades of pointed oval form : between the blade and the tang is a rounded shaft, the larger having two ornamental mouldings. L 15.7 and 11.3 cm." (pg 74)

Forging a trefoil head represents a bit of a forging problem. Being able to see the original, or have some better idea of the detailed cross section, would most likely suggest the method used.
After a couple of forging tests, using differing starting shapes and sizes, differing forging steps, this is what I eventually came up with:
Life size - 1/4 inch grid
These are *rough forged* - and would need to be trimmed / sharpened on the cutting edges to finish. The longer of the two (#12) would then have the circular notch cut in, most likely with the edge of a file (like the square profile one found in the Mastermyr Tool Chest).

I ended up using a bottom profile tool to create a sharp line for the trefoil cross section:

This is the selection of tools I used for the work, with the addition of a cut off (or a straight chisel)
- The tongs are a special fine pair of goose neck, designed with a 'half square' notch on each jaw. The basic goose neck shape is seen in many VA tongs - although not so extreme. I am not aware of any artifact tongs with notched or profiled jaws (all I have seen are flat jaw).
- The shouldering tool here is intended for mounting in the hardie hole of a modern anvil, a feature no artifact anvil has. It is also quite possible to make this tool as a simple U shape, to be held by an assistant. There is no artifact version of this tool (again that I am aware of). Mind you, the simple construction would easily lend the metal to be quickly re-cycled as needed. Norse objects do show the shouldering form - 'loop and tab' hinges being a clear example.
- The bottom tool is *not* found in the artifact record.
I found the best way to create a robust central rib in the trefoil cross section was to lay a square taper 'edge down' into the groove, then pound flat from above. There may be a modern conception of 'mass production' at play here however. Using the bottom tool certainly was much faster and created a thicker cross section than hammering two diagonal bevels on one side. The results were also more consistent (but I can see repetitive skill coming to play there).

If there are any readers who have examined these, or other Viking Age trefoil arrow heads, please take the time to add a comment!

Neil has now added the full 'mini paper' up on the DARC web site: 

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

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