I had the pleasure of attending Fire and Brimstone 2017 hosted by the Baltimore Knife and Sword Co. The event was held at BKS’s facility in Marriottsville, Maryland (just outside Baltimore) and featured demonstrations from a number of expert bladesmiths.
The weekend started with me visiting with one of my closest friends and former Albion cutler-extraordinare: Joel Dohahue. Joel and I first met at Albion in the early 2000’s. I trained him to cutler swords, and he turned into one of the best sword cutlers Albion had. He is now an attorney who works for the Social Security Administration. Joel and his girlfriend, Susan, took me to some great places for food and drink.
I was also able to meet up with bladesmiths JJ Simon, Matt Venier, Emiliano Carrillo and Justin Mercier at the Walters Art Museum. The museum has a small collection of arms and armour, but many of the pieces were quite interesting.
Over the weekend, Mark Green, Daniel Cauble and Jesus Hernandez built and fired a Catalan smelter which yielded a good sized bloom made from Magnetite ore.
Mark Green charging the smelter as Jesus offers advice
Mark and Daniel consolidating the bloom
Another highlight of the weekend was Jeff Pringle and his atomic marshmallow crucible furnace. Jeff, an expert on crucible steel, managed to set a new F&B record with 7 pucks in one weekend. Most of them showed a great deal of promise.
Jeff Pringle lighting the Atomic Marshmallow
Jeff explaining some aspect of crucible steel. The legendary Wally Yater is sitting to his left.
Transformation is taking place!
Almost ready to be born
Jeff sharing with Wally Yater
Another highlight was the refining hearth that Emiliano Carrillo and Daniel Waddell constructed and fired.
Hearth being constructed
Adjusting the tuyere
Slag running out the hearth
Half of the refined bloomery steel from the smelter
It was an excellent weekend. I learned a great deal, and made a lot of new friends. I have plans in the near future to make my own crucible steel and build and fire my own hearth.
This 10th Century Broad Axe draws its inspiration from a fine example in the Swedish History Museum. It features a hand forged eye socket and axe body made from low carbon steel. The high carbon 1080 bit is forge welded to the body. Careful attention was given during the forging of this axe to create graceful, flowing lines and smooth transitions. The result is a lively axe with a razor sharp edge.
The top of the ash wood haft is meticulously hewn to fit the eye socket in a precise manner. This detail ensures the axe head will stay secure during use. The rest of the haft is shaped and sanded to a smooth, comfortable finish. The entire haft is treated with linseed oil to preserve and harden the finish.
Body and Eye: 1018 low carbon steel
Edge Bit: 1080 high carbon steel
Haft wood: Ash
Blade Length (toe to heel of bit): 5.25″ (13,33 cm)
Axe Head Length (edge bit to poll): 6.25″ (15,88 cm)
I have been wanting an axe for a while now but hadn’t seen one that thrilled me until I saw this one by Eric McHugh. I’ve bought pieces from him previously so I knew the quality would be outstanding. It is! The shape of the components work perfectly together, it’s just great visually. The quality of the craftsmanship is absolutely top tier. Everything is just done beautifully. The edge is razor sharp. It feels great in hand too. One handed use is possible because of its excellent balance, but using it two handed really brings it to life. I couldn’t be more pleased with this axe and with everything about dealing with Eric. I liked the axe so much that I’m in talks with him about commissioning another piece. Nothing says you like what someone does better than return business, and Eric will have mine.
I’ve nearly finished a recreation of a boy’s burial axe that was found in a grave in Norway. I completed the final shaping of the profile. In addition, I polished the edge to a sharpness, and polished the axe to 800 grit. The next steps will be to etch it to bring out the random pattern in the iron, and then haft it.
The rusted original weights 314 grams, and my recreation come in at 344 grams. I’m quite happy with this weight considering the corroded condition of the original. I believe Dr. Lee Jones will be quite pleased with the completed piece.
Click images to enlarge:
I forged the axe slightly large so that it could be adjusted to the dimension on my drawing.
The last three months have been a whirlwind of activity. First, I had an epic trip to New York with renown swordmakers: Peter Johnsson and Kevin Cashen. We documented 9 swords in the MET as well as a number of swords in the private collection of Dr. Lee Jones. You will see a few pieces influenced by these swords in the future. The trip culminated with our attendance at the Ashokan Sword Seminar. I will write an article highlighting this trip with a copious amount of pictures.
As soon as I returned, I started work on building new heat-treat equipment for Albion Swords in Wisconsin. Albion has been growing, and there is a need to expand production. Many patient customers will testify to the waiting period for their new swords. I have been diligently working to increase the heat-treating capabilities of Albion. All of this work will translate into more production. My work focused on another larger high temperature rig and a new larger tempering bath which will feature one of Omega Controls new digital controllers. Finally, we are setting up a new larger heat-treat area that will help to increase the number of swords that can go through heat-treat at one time.
Here is a picture of the new high-temp rig when it was being charged and commissioned. Once everything is installed, the new rig
will be fully insulated and covered in lagging.
In addition to the fabrication work I am doing, I will be starting a new role at Albion Swords: VP of Research and Development. I will be working with Peter Johnsson to develop new designs and refine and standardize production procedures. Albion will have 7 new sword designs that will coming out in addition to the other proposed swords. 2017 will be a big year for Albion which will include a few “surprises” that I’m sure collectors will love!
My role at Albion will be a part-time, so you can still look forward to a number of custom pieces coming out soon and throughout 2017. I also have quite a few commissions to complete but there is still room for a few more. If you are interested in commission a pieces, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Because of the shipping cost to Sweden, I had to ship this large Danish axe in two separate packages. I finished the haft all the way to the point where the wedge had to be inserted and made some detailed instructions for the final assembly.
It turned out great, and he graciously sent me some stellar pictures of the completed axe. Special thanks to Joakim Lundqvist for the commission and the pictures.
The first is a huge Danish Axe that is inspired from an axe in the Historical Museum in Stockholm.
The blade is 10.5″ (26,7 cm) from the toe to the heel of the blade. In spite of it’s aggressive distal taper, it weighs a bone crushing 1260 grams (2.8 pounds).
It features my usual construction: mild steel eye socket and body with 1080 high carbon steel edge. I had to ship this axe to Sweden, so the haft (made of ash) was not fitted to the head to save on shipping cost.
Small Type M
I received a request to make another small Danish axe like the one I made in March 2016. I won’t go into much detail because other than a few minor differences that resulted from hand forging, it is basically the same as the previous Small Type M. This seems to be a popular axe. I am considering doing a semi-custom version of it.
Large Bearded Axe
I had a request to do a larger version of the Bearded Axe from Uppsala I completed in February 2016. This axe features a blade that is 5.5″ from heel to toe. Like the smaller version, it has a wedged shaped distal taper which makes it into a wicked cutter. Like the small type M, this axe seems to be quite popular. I will look into doing a semi-custom version of this axe too.
Here is a picture of the three axes when I was test fitting the hafts. It provides a good side-by-side comparison:
If you are interested in more information about any of these axes, please contact me at email@example.com.
I haven’t updated my blog in months. During the winter and spring, it seemed like I would take time to update my blog at least once a week; but this summer has been a whirlwind of activity. Here is a sample:
Consulting at Albion Sword in New Glarus, WI
I’ve made numerous trips to Albion Swords in New Glarus, Wisconsin to help with training and fine tuning their heat-treat procedures and system. Albion’s head blade grinder, Craig Cheney, spent several days with me testing blades. The tests included but were not limited to bend tests, destructive tests, and edge impact testing. These test are a critical part of ensuring Albion’s quality.
Below is a video of Craig bend testing a blade. We bend the blade to 90 degrees in each direction to see if it will survive. We want it to bend without breaking. Following a good 90 degree bend test, we then bend the blade to 180 degrees. A passing blade will bend to past 90 degrees and achieve approximately 160 degrees of bend. As you will see, this blade definately passed the tests:
I should mention that the tests we are performing are considered abusive. Do not do this to your Albion swords.
Small Warehouse Completed
Completed the construction (with major help from my cousin Ron and my daughter Natalie) of a small warehouse to store my steel and wood. The warehouse will also hold some of my tools and wood working equipment. I am still moving steel and supplies into the warehouse. This process takes some time since I have to persuade my son to help me.
It will be apparent from the photo that I still have a lot of organizing to finish, but this small warehouse will create more floor space in my small shop:
KMG Grinder Modifications
Modified and improved my KMG grinder. Most of the modifications were found on The Bladeforums. First, I eliminated the pulley wheels and belt and used a new motor mount that I made and connected the motor directly to the drive shaft with Lovejoy couplers. This eliminated a lot of the vibration associated with the belt and pulley system. Second, I removed the spring on the tracking arm and replaced it with a gas strut. The 40 pound gas strut provides enough force to make the belt tight and track very precisely. I also modified the grinder so that it could be tilted from the verticle position to the horizontal. This feature allows for the precise grinding of parts that require a radii.
High Temperature Salt Bath
I created a new high temperature salt bath for heat-treating large axe heads. I call it the BAHT System: Big Axe Heat-Treat System. The oval stainless tube was fabricated by me in my shop. It allows for the heat-treating of axe blades up to 11.5″ wide!
Here is a video of the BAHT being charged the first time. Also in the video is my portable digital control system which include a LO/HI gas loop for almost “god-like” control of the salt bath temperature:
The portable digital control unit can be moved between various high-temperature salt baths. It plugs into a 110v outlet, and it has the LO/HI pressure loop located below the box. On the other side is a port where the type K thermocoupler enters the control box. It is very easy to use. I have one bath for daggers and short blades, and another bath for sword length blades. I simply plug the power cord into an outlet or extension cord, connect the gas line to the LO/HI loop via a union, slide the thermocoupler into a small stainless steel tube on the different baths then fire it up. When I’m finished heat-treating, I move it into the warehouse for storage.
Sword Platen Grinder
I scraped my old sword platen grinder and build a new one from the ground up. It is still a work in progress but it works quite well for truing up bevels and creating complex distal tapers in sword and knife blades. The platen is 2″ wide by 28″ long and is made of precision ground tool steel. I still need to put a cover on motor and drive box, and install a water spray system.
I finished a new spray system that will be used on the platen grinder and he KMG which I will feature in an update in the near future. This spray system allows me to heat-treat blades that I am going to hollow-grind without the hollows ground in them. Hollow-ground bevels can create issues during heat-treat. Heat-treating without the hollows reduces the potential for warping. I then use the spray system to wet grind the blade without ruining the heat-treat.
I still have more things to fabricate, but this has been a producive summer even though I have not made many new items. The stage is set for some exciting projects in the near future.
If you have any questions on any of the things I’ve fabricated, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just completed my interpretation of a late republic era Gladius Hispaniensis commission. This sword is based on the idea that the swords of the Celts served as possible inspiration for the shape and length of some Gladius Hispaniensis. The blade features a slight waisting and hollow-ground bevels.
The boxwood guard and pommel are made from the same block of wood. The beveled shape of the guard is based on a guard plate from one of the few surviving Gladius Hispaniensis blades. The blade is inset into a bronze guard plate that is countersunk into the bottom of the pommel. The overall shape of the guard is based on period art.
The pommel shape is based on period art and a survey of other late-republic era swords. The pommel is topped with a basic bronze rivet blockinto which the end of the tang is peened to secure the hilt furniture in place.
The grip is made from a block of holly and features a common, segmented shape.
Obviously, there are only hints as to what a Gladius Hispaniensis may have looked like intact. With this piece, I am not trying to say that this is the way that it would have looked. I am merely offering my interpretation of a possible configuration based on surviving blades, hilt pieces, and period art. I have to give credit to Peter Johnsson for many late night alcohol infused discussions about the Gladius Hispaniensis. I am not too proud to say that I borrowed liberally from the shape and features of a Gladius Hispaniensis that Peter made years ago. While it is true that many surviving blades feature a leaf shape, it is my opinion that this shape is over done in many modern reproductions. Peter’s design hints at a leaf shape without an exaggerated waisting of the blade. In addition, the blade is reminiscent of La Tené blades that feature a similar profile.
Blade Length: 24.75″ (62,9 cm)
Overall Length: 31.25″ (79,4 cm)
Blade Width: 1.875″ (4,8 cm) features hollow-ground bevels
POB from bottom of guard: 6″ (15,2 cm)
Weight: 1.37 pounds (622.3 grams)
Blade Steel: 1080
Hilt Furniture: Boxwood guard and pommel with bronze guard plate and bronze rivet block. Segmented grip made from a block of holly.
Price for similar piece:
Similar hilt with flat bevels, $1,800 USD (plus shipping)
Similar hilt with hollow-ground bevels, $2,300 USD (plus shipping)
I just received my copy of Studien zur römischen Schwertbewaffnung in der Kaiserzeit Vol. 1 and 2 (Studies on the Roman sword under the Empire Vol. 1 and 2). It is a vast pool of information and pictures of Roman swords and accoutrements from the Republic era to the late Empire. It includes some important information about the Gladius Hispaniensis. These books arrived just in time to help inform my current project. The only downside is I do not read German, so it is a lot of translating with Google Translate which creates some interesting sentences in English. 😉
As some of you may know, when I am not making things in my shop, I am a union boilermaker in NW Indiana. Recently, I took a job at a local steel mill, so that explains the lack of updates on my blog. I have, however, managed to get some time off to work in the shop, so I thought I’d give a short update on what is in the works.
Hand polishing is always fun…or not! I took a commission for a Gladius Hispaniensis with a hollow ground blade. The blade is about 26″ (66,0 cm) long, and features shallow, hollow ground bevels. I have a few more grits to go, but it is nearly finished, and then it will be time for the hilt furniture. More pictures to follow.