This was a commission for a friend and local bagpiper. The 14.5″ (36,8 cm) blade is 15N20/1080 random pattern. Brass fittings with a wood grip made of 5000 year old bog oak from the UK. The sheath is a wood core with calf skin cover and brass fittings.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I 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.
I asked Lee if he would provide some information on how he acquired the axe. Here is the story:
This 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.
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.
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…
This 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.
While 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.
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.
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
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.
A rondel long dagger in the style of 15th century military daggers. The blade is hollow-ground and made from hand forged 1080 high carbon steel. The mild steel fittings are based on a number of examples in the Royal Armoury at Leeds. The grip is hand polished ebony.
This dagger features a number of period specific details:
A dagger in the style of late 14th or early 15th century long daggers. The blade is 350 layers of torsion (twist) style pattern weld composed of L6 and 1095 steel. The hilt fittings are inspired by a number of common european quillon daggers.
Some examples in museums have quillons that are more lobe shaped, but others feature faceted surfaces with filework accents. My approach was to combine elements of different examples to create a harmonious and elegant guard. The result is a guard with octogonal quillons, well defined facets, pleasing arc shape, and crisp filework accents.
The tang slot was drifted then filed to a precise shape to create an interference fit between the guard and the blade shoulders. In addition, an inset for the blade shoulders was hand forged into the center of the guard with a drift that was the same dimension as the blade. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The pommel is based on the familiar “wheel style” and has a slightly oval profile. It is topped with a small frustum shaped rivet block that is accented with additional filework. The guard and pommel are both made from 1018 low-carbon steel, and polished to a high luster and then drawn back to a consistent satin finish. _
To facilitate the fitting of the pommel to the tang, a hole was drilled through the exact center of the pommel. A tang shaped drift was used to form the centered hole to the shape of the tang. This slot was then cleaned up with a file in order to make a precise interference fit between the pommel and tang.
The grip is composed of a hardwood core with a linen and leather cover, and features three half-round risers to help fill out the volume of the grip without making it appear bulky and unattractive.
The hardwood core was formed in two pieces which were chiseled and carved to the tang dimensions. The core was then glued in place. Linen string was used to establish the foundation of the three risers. The core and risers were then covered in leather which was secured in place with hide glue. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The blade is composed of 350 layers of L6 and 1095. The pattern weld billet was given a rather tight twist, and then forged flat. The result is a striking pattern that displays some star-like effects as well areas that are like wood grain. Although it is a stout blade, it had a fair amount of distal taper that comes to an efficient awl like point.
The sheath that comes with the dagger is constructed with a thin wood core that is covered in high quality leather. The seam of the leather cover is sewn shut with linen thread in a “Z” pattern which is quite common on surviving examples from the period.
Decorative lines were inscribed on the front of the scabbard with a polished bone knife. Drawing inspiration from period examples, this type of leather work does not utilize leather working tools that are often seen on high-quality leather work. It is rather a clever answer to the desire to have a decorative flare on knife and dagger sheaths (or sword scabbards) without the need for the tools and experience to do more complex leather work.
The artisan would simply use a bone-knife, hardwood stylus, or burnishing needle and combine it with a straight edge or other guide to incise various shapes, lines, and figures into the surface of the damp leather. Some period examples show a great deal of freehand work with the stylus. The result is a sheath that is both pleasing to the eye, yet frugally produced. For this period inspired sheath, straight evenly spaced incised lines were made with the thin tip of a bone knife to create a somewhat abstract “feather” effect on the front of the sheath.
A belt or suspension loop was purposely left off of the sheath so that the new owner can decide what type of suspension he or she would like to have.
The iron chape at the end of the sheath was hand forged over a mandrel that was identical to the dimensions of the the sheath end. The result is a chape that fits perfectly over the end of the sheath. There is a small amount of decorative filework at the top of the chape. Finally a small orb-like finial was added to the tip of the chape.
REVIEW BY PETER JOHNSSON:
I had an opportunity to show this piece to renowned swordsmith, Peter Johnsson, and I asked him to write a short review:
A Long Dagger in the Medieval Tradition
This beautiful dagger has a strong understated elegance about it. It´s form is clearly rooted in the medieval european tradition, inspired by surviving examples of these long slim weapons that straddle the distinction of dagger and short sword. The unusual proportion between hilt and blade sometimes cause these weapons to misleadingly be labelled “Sword for a child” despite the fact their blades are not scaled down sword blades. They have a robust awl like point and a cross section that is much stouter than what you would expect in a sword. They are simply unusually large daggers with a very purposeful design.
It is evident that Eric has based the design of this dagger on detailed observation of originals from the 14th and 15th century. The aesthetics of the period is present in the shaping of the hilt components but not limiting in his choice of material. The blade shares the functional properties of the originals but with added joy for the eye in its bright and crisp pattern welded construction.
As a fellow maker I find work of this level inspiring. I see how Eric has studied and internalised the finer details of function, aesthetics and methods of craft and design and internalised these ideas in a way that allows him to freely express himself in a seemingly effortless manner. The result is a unique dagger that express the joy of the craft and its roots to an ancient tradition.
– Peter Johnsson, Swordsmith
Overall length: 21.375″ (54,3 cm) Blade length: 16″ (40,6 cm) Blade width: 1″ (2,54 cm) Point of Balance: 1.125″ (2,86 cm) from bottom of guard Weight including sheath: 1.1 lbs (500 grams) Weight of dagger: 0.91 lbs (413 grams) Blade Material: Pattern welded steel, L6 and 1095, 350 layers, twist pattern Hilt Material: Mild steel guard and pommel. Wood core with leather cover
Recently, Eric, after a discussion with his good friend Peter Johnsson, contacted me to see if I would be interested in this dagger. Initially, I declined the offer because I already had a number of commissions for the upcoming year, but after a few hours of reflection and closely studying the photos, I hurried to contact Eric again to buy this dagger. I am glad I did because this dagger exceeds all my expectations. The degree of finish is incredible (as an owner of a sword from Peter Johnsson, I have good references) as is the sharpness of the damask, the details of the pommel, guard and chape of the scabbard. The balance of the weapon and its sharpness are such that if you take it in hand, you feel that you want to fight hand-to-hand with a knight in armor and to introduce your point between the plates of steel and hear the knight scream « Miséricorde »… and get back a ransom from his family (and pay Fedex – private a private joke with Eric). “Miséricorde (Mercy) or Daguasse” is the name in French of this type of “long” dagger which was not a weapon of left hand but used with right hand. By-the-way this is my second purchase with Eric. The first one was a small Danish axe (with two steels) which is in reality the most murderous weapon in my collection. An example of this is the exercises of cutting an old armchair covered with thick leather (you can think about a fat warrior with leather armor) which is very different and really more difficult to cut than plastic bottles filled with water as often seen on Internet (in my experience, most swords fail to really cut, it is an interesting experience). My conclusion is that Eric is really one of the best blacksmith. This is evident by his knowledge of the steel but also by his degree of knowledge of the history and by the finish of his work. Furthermore, he is a really nice person – as is his friend, Peter!