Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Replica of the Gilling West Sword

A long standing commission has been a Viking Age pattern welded sword for my friend Neil Peterson. The original commission was many years ago, when I attempted a 2/3 scale replica based on Sutton Hoo. To make a long story short, I failed part of the final welding and the blade shattered on quenching. A heartbreaking loss of over 6 weeks solid work.

Although it has become a standing joke, I am finally starting slow work on a replacement sword. Neil's ideas and needs have changed over the years, so now the historic prototype is the Gilling West sword. This was discovered in 1976 at Gilling West in north Yorkshire. The preliminary report by Gilmour and Watkin classes the blade as a late Anglo Saxon / early Viking Age type. The approximate date (based on other similar swords) is from the late 800's. The overall length of the sword is 85 cm, the blade is 70 cm long and 5 cm wide at the hilt.

Gilling West is constructed of a bundle of SIX core rods, laid up 3 on 3, with a mono block edge. As with other complex core constructions, the individual core rods are alternating twisted and straight sections, plus alternating left, right twists down each rod. The actual layer count of the core rods is not estimated in the report.

For the replica's core rods, I am using a blend of wrought iron / mild steel / L6 alloy, with 9 layers in the starting billet. The iron is from a bridge built in Ohio in the 1860's. I have a good amount of this material and it is excellent quality. The plates are forged down from 3/4'" square to roughly 1" x 1/4" thick, so the thickness varies slightly. Many feet of iron had to be prepared. The mild steel is commercial 1 x 3/16' flat stock. The L6 is taken from bandsaw blades, the material here is 1 x 1/32" thick. L6 is a medium carbon (about .5%) carbon with a small amount of nickel (about .5%). In this case this material simulates the use of nickel-iron meteor iron. The end result of this mix should give a fiberous texture from the iron, a medium grey from the mild steel and bright silver lines from the L6, when etched. The overall average carbon content of the mixture should work out close to that of a mild steel - about .2 %.
Starting plates: left to right - wrought iron / L6 / mild steel
Bellow are the longer handle lengths of mild steel.
A total of 8 billets are being prepared, two more than are required.
The individual plates are about 6" long - a bit longer than the length I would normally use
(for knives about 4" to start).

Showing one of the billet stacks being wired together.
Note the longer handle piece at the centre.
The order of plates is: M/L/I/L/M/L/I/L/M
I prefer to hold the plates together using fencing wire, three loops in this case.

The plan is to complete the sword by welding on two edge strips of a middle carbon spring steel. This is roughly the same mix as used on 'The Sword of Heroes' seen on the Wareham Forge web site. That earlier blade has only two core rods.

I will report on this project as it proceeds.

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

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