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This sword (an Oakeshott Type XII) is inspired by a splendid piece in the St. Annen Museum in Lübeck, Germany.  This sword is featured in the book, The Sword — Form and Thought published by the Deutsches Klingen Museum in Solingen, Germany.  It contains the research of Swedish swordmaker, Peter Johnsson, for the 2015-2016 exhibit of the same name.

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The original sword as show in the book The Sword – Form and Thought

The goal of this project was to further familiarize myself with Peter’s research into the geometry of sword design.  This sword was an ideal candidate for learning: it is highly corroded, but clearly, it once was a stunning piece. Because of the corrosion, the final dimensions are unclear, so this leaves room for multiple interpretations. I didn’t want to simply recreate Peter’s research on this sword. I wanted to utilize his geometric strategies to make another interpretation of what this sword may have looked like.

St. Annen XII
The geometric strategy I used for this sword

This is a sword for a mounted knight. It has a long blade for an extended reach. In addition, the bronze pommel is weighted to give the blade a lively feel in spite of the blade length. This sword would have made an impression on the battlefield.

Stats:

Overall Length: 107,0 cm (42.13″)
Blade Length: 90,0 cm (35.43″)
Blade Width (at guard): 5,5 cm (2.17″)
Center of Balance (from guard): 13,0 cm (5.12″)
Center of Percussion (from guard): 61,0 cm (23.62″)
Weight: 1488 grams (3.28 lbs.)
Blade Steel: 80CRV2

Hilt Material: Bronze pommel and iron guard. Grip is a wood core with a linen thread wrap and a leather cover. The grip color is “abbey black.”  Abbey black is a color that I prototyped with Emma Martinson at Albion Swords.  Because black dye was not always available, monk robes were often over dyed blue (woad) to make a midnight blue, then red (madder) was dyed over the top of it to kill the blue tint. The result is a black that has a slight red tint in bright sunlight, but looks black when in the shade. Due to the two step dye process, you get a black appearance and not dark purple. It is an interesting twist to the regular black dye.

Scabbard: Hand carved basswood core. Leather cover dyed “abbey black.” Red leather belt with forged iron buckle.  Forged iron chape with Fleur-de-lis file work.

I want to thank Peter for his help with the numerous questions that came up during the design process.

Photos:

 

wideI should have published this a year ago, but life has a way of burying you. This is a project that I completed last year for my friend and antique sword collector, Lee Jones.  Lee is a retired pathologist who has been collecting antique swords and weapons for a good portion of his adult life. Lee was friends with Ewart Oakeshott and many of the other major collectors of swords and weapons.  Lee’s private collection is arguably one of the finest ancient sword collections in the United States.

During the fall of 2016, I had the privilege of joining swordsmiths Peter Johnsson and Kevin Cashen at Lee’s house to document swords from his collection.  Lee was a gracious host.  We enjoyed several evenings listening to Lee tell the stories of how he collected many of the outstanding items in his collection.  Of course, he allowed us to handle and document a group of amazing swords in his collection. A wonderful Alexandria arsenal sword and an amazing Ulfbert were just two of the highlights.  Lee also showed us a number of axes and other weapons in his collection.

At one point, Lee brought out this tiny axe, and explained that it was in the tomb of a Viking boy. It was found with a small sword, shield boss, and spearhead.  The axe was very corroded, but there was something charming about.  It had an alluring presence about it.  Perhaps it was because it spoke volumes about the love of a father for a son who had departed too early.  Whatever the reason, I was drawn to it. I spent the good part of an hour documenting the small axe.  During the last day of our stay, Lee asked me if I would be interested in making a reproduction of the axe for his private collection. I was honored, and of course, I said “yes.”

This axe is mentioned in Ian Pierce’s book, Swords of the Viking Age, on page 86 in the caption of the picture of the boy’s sword. The axe, as well as the sword, spearhead, and shield boss, were found in Ringebu, Oppland, Norway.

Location of Ringebu
Location of the  Ringebu municipality in Oppland county, Norway.

 

I asked Lee if he would provide some information on how he acquired the axe. Here is the story:

small-axes-group-bThis diminutive Viking style axehead came most recently from the extensive antique European arms and armor collection of Howard M. Curtis, athlete and noted Hollywood stuntman. First coming to wide notice in the television series Ripcord, Mr. Curtis’ film career ran from 1957 until his untimely death in 1979 when during a benefit skydiving demonstration he attempted to save an amateur skydiver whose lines became entangled and who then panicked, leading to a free fall death for both men.

Mr. Curtis’ extensive collection and supporting specialized library came to a single-owner sale at Christie’s in London in the fall of 1984. This axehead was one in a lot of eight items (#144), incidental to a Merovingian francisca head. Shortly thereafter the specialist dealer who had managed my purchases at that auction was contacted by another of his clients about the small axehead. This collector had acquired the same axehead, along with a similarly small sword in the late 1960s and the sword, this axehead, a small spearhead, arrowheads, a shield boss and cloak pin – all of similarly reduced proportions – were reported to have been found in the late 19th century in a boy’s weapon burial at Ringebu, Norway.

Following Mr. Curtis’ death this collector, from whom the axe head and sword had previously passed to Mr. Curtis, had contacted the family about reacquiring the items. He was successful in reclaiming the sword, but the axe head could not be found within Mr. Curtis’ extensive collection at that time and it eventually ended up at Christie’s. The collector later rediscovered the spearhead and facilitated its reunification with the sword and axe head, but the fate and location of the other items in the group remains unknown.

Since the axe was heavily corroded, I had to make an educated guess as to the original shape.  I sketched the axe out then made a drawing in Illustrator that would serve as my guide for the reproduction. I forged the axe slightly large, so that I could grind and file it to the final dimensions on the drawing.  In the picture below (R), you can see a black line around the perimeter of the head that represents the axes final dimension after grinding and filing.

 

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The axehead in its final shape being fitted to the ebonized oak haft.

I utilized refined, 19th century wrought iron that was from links in an anchor chain. I wanted the body to have clear slag lines to give it the appearance of ancient iron. The iron had very nice slags lines that formed a pleasing random pattern on the axe body once it was etched.  The bit was forge welded into the body and is 1080 high carbon steel.

Around the same time I was making this axe, I was experimenting with ebonizing oak to give it a bog oak appearance. The haft on this axe is a piece of oak that I ebonized while I was experimenting with the process.  Here is a link to my blog explaining the process.

Overall, I am very pleased with the result. It is always a guessing game when you are reproducing an artifact that is corroded, but I feel that I was able to stay true to the original shape of the piece. The 19th century iron and ebonized haft combine to make a convincing reproduction. When I shipped the axe to Lee, I received this lovely email explaining his react to the axe.

Dear Eric,

The axe arrived in perfect order this afternoon, obviously very well packaged to prevent damage to either the delivery man or to the axe. I was immediately and unexpectedly struck by just how well it felt in the hand – what a terror a ten year old might become with this in one hand. In old India there were some axes with heads almost this small that were clearly formed for function as adult’s weapons. Anyway, I can surely see why you have gained such a reputation for making fine classical axes. The etched, patterned body is most impressive and is made even more so by the contrast to the brightly polished inserted edge. I especially like that. The shaping and finish of the haft are superb and I am really enjoying seeing and feeling how different the whole of the weapon is when compared with the rusted remains of the head alone.

The next time I have the right light and am set up for photography I will take some photographs of your recreation along with the original group of artifacts and send them along to you. It is nice to make the comparison with what the rusted axe might have looked like a thousand years ago, though I am confident that it was never quite as nice as the axe you have made. I thank you for your thoughtful kindness…

Many thanks and very best regards…   Lee

 

Gallery of Photos:

widebladeThis project is a custom recreation of an early medieval sword with basic specifications by the customer.  Similar swords saw use in the late 10th century to the mid 11th century. The blade is forged 80CRV2 high carbon steel. Fittings are forged mild steel. The scabbard and grip are dyed a pleasing burgundy red.  The blade can be classified as a Geibig 6, but there is always some ambiguity when typing these swords.  The scabbard is thin wood layers that were glued together to form a core. The core was then covered in leather and stitched on the back side. The laced scabbard belt is dyed black.  This type of belt was a common style used by the Normans (and others) during this period.

I have been trying to incorporate in my design work the principles of geometric design that I have been learning from noted swordsmith and researcher, Peter Johnsson. I do not claim to fully understand the use of all of these principles, but I am a firm believer in learning by doing and by making mistakes.  Below is a picture of the geometric strategy that I used for this project. It reflects an early attempt at utilizing these principles.

GeojpegWhile I firmly believe there is nothing magical or mystical in these principles, I believe that these geometric strategies help to create designs that are pleasing to the human eye.  There are shapes and proportions that strike a chord with us. Perhaps this is one reason these principles were used by master of various crafts throughout history.

Since this project, I have made several more designs in which I have used the lessons learned from this project.  My hope is to move step-by-step closer to a deeper understanding which in turn will help me to create more pleasing designs for future projects.

Pictures (click to enlarge):

 

 

 

Just finished peening the pommel onto the tang of the Geibig 6 11th century sword. In my opinion, setting and peening the pommel is the most stressful moment for me. If it goes badly, countless hours of work are ruined, and you now have an opportunity to redo the work again. When it goes well, you end up with an invisible (or nearly invisible) peen that when shaped, conforms to the geometry of the pommel.

I haven’t documented many pommels like this one, so I admit I combined details from a number of period pommels that were designed by Peter Johnsson for Albion Swords. Because of my work with Peter in bringing these swords to market, it is inevitable that my custom work will consciously or subconsciously be influenced by these design.  It used to bother me. I had this notion that I wanted my art to be grounded in originality, but the truth is that as artists, we are all influenced by something or someone. As the old saying goes, “There is nothing new under the sun.”  In the end, I count it a privilege to be influenced by Peter.

I spent a lot of time forging this pommel. It looks deceptively simple. I was surprised by how complicated it really was to forge.  It has subtle changes in geometry that can be lost with careless forging.  After the pommel is forged,  I do the initial grinding on the piece. I, then, like to spend time filing the piece to shape. Filing gives it a handmade, period look.  Filing also allows for me to leave a few small forge pits that add character and a period look to the piece. I finished the pommel by hand sanding to 600 grit, then followed with a scotch-brite pad to draw it back to a smooth satin finish.

The photos show how the peen can be blended to look invisible, and also a close-up that shows the boundary of the peen.

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This is a custom gladius hispaniensis that was ordered by a customer. The blade is based on a design from Peter Johnsson that draws heavily from LaTene blades as well as examples in Christian Miks 2 volume set on the Roman gladius. Specifically, a late 2nd century BCE find from Mouriès, France (Miks, A512).

The hand forged blade is made of 80CRV2 steel. The hilt components are black walnut with black walnut burl for the grip. Guard plate, rivet block and decorative wire are bronze.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Overall length: 31.5″ (80,01 cm)
Blade length: 24.25″ (61,6 cm)
Blade width: 2.125″ (53,9 cm)
Length of grip: 3.6″ (9.1 cm)
Weight:  1.9 pounds (860 grams)
Blade Material: 80CRV2
Hilt Material: black walnut and bronze
Grip Material: black walnut burl

Photos:

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Customer Review:

I commissioned a Roman Gladius Hispaniensis from Eric after seeing a previous Roman Gladius project he did. After brief conversations with Eric I could already see the passion and authenticity he made high for himself in his work. I had talked to many swordsmiths in the North American region everyone lacking one quality over the other. Eric did hours of research to forge the blade to its proper shape. Always communicating very daily on details of the blade as it was forged. Using high quality metal in this case 80CRV2 which is a very hard, durable steel.

I would highly recommend Eric’s work to anyone looking for serious craftsman work. There are no shortcuts or cheap standards in his work. By far one of the best communicators in the business as well and very easy to get along with. I will surely be going back for more of Eric’s craftsmanship as I assemble a Roman Legionary kit.

— Zach B.