quinta-feira, 17 de agosto de 2017

UlfsmóðR - The Wrath of the Wolf

The smithy was noisy those days. Each blow from the hammer filled the air of the village and there was quite a lot of hammering for weeks.

As a child I was able to watch the men in the workshop with no question, althoug sometime I was treated like a dog who sleeps in the middle of the way. They just yelled at me so they could move around with the tools and the glowing hot metal. So everytime it wasn't too cold outside I watched from some distance.

The local chieftain had just arrived from a travel and commissioned a sword from the headman of the workshop. The crew was there for about five years at that occasion. The chieftain held him in high regard and defended the village with all his forces to maintain the workshop at his control. None would let the power to forge good swords slip through their fingers easily into the hands of an enemy.

The head blacksmith didn't care, actually. He was so passionate about his trade and accepted the sword commission without questioning the provenance of that steel only to seize the chance to work with it. He used to forge by day and by night chanting like a dvergr to his new beloved one. Everytime he made a sword he called it this way.

The truth is the man was a bit maddened. Some said it was due the time he worked with the franks in the south. Some said it was due to a curse called uppon him by the dvergar themselves. I never knew. But he knew how to evoke some magic from the forge.

“Air to boost the fire. Earth becomes iron. And the water hardens the steel”. He used to recite this every mornig before he lit the charcoal. And anytime he would quench the blades, would it be a knife or a sword, he also repeated for it to never break, never chip away and never bent in a way it couldn't return to it's original form. If it isn't magic, I don't know what eles could be.

After two weeks refining and forging the steel he had a vaguely sword-like bar. And then he got some lesser quality iron and forged letters from it. He said to the others that he would trap his name forever on the steel and also the name of the blade he was producing in the way the southerner smiths were doing for the emperor. So the generations could come and go, but his legacy would endure. But he said to the chieftain with as much proud as he could have that he wouldn't waste a good blade using the letters or the language of the romans or franks, but he would make it with the language of his people, using the runes that his own gods discovered and shared with the mankind.

Day after day he laboured on the steel and iron and once the blade was hard and well he let his apprentices to polish and etch the blade and also to prepare the wood and a fine piece of linen for the scabbard as he worked on the hilt. The silver coloured cooper he had was turned into a fine wire that he carefully trapped on the iron with punch-like tools.

On the pommel, as some of the pagan warriors still do to this day, he wrote twice the name of the god Týr and on the inside of the handguard he inlaid another rune of unknown meaning for me, but I could recognize a giant, a god and a man.

He, then, let again his apprentices make the final adjustments and finish the scabbard. And only when it was all assembled together he went to the whetstones to make it sharp. I was a child then, but one of the men working for him let me wield that sword for a moment. And even then I knew it was a light and well ballanced tool of killing.

I didn't knew how to read the pagan letters, but they said the name of it was Wrath of the Wolf. After that I saw the chieftain going to war with the blade and there was a local song about how many saxons it had killed before it was lost forever on the distant land. How the Wrath of the Wolf could split shields in half and pierce through mail and flesh alike.

Some songs last forever. Some songs are forgotten after a decade or less. But the name of the smith and of the sword will both lay for eternity on the surface of the steel, even if none but me can sing them aloud now.


This was a very pleasant commission to work on for me. I could practice a little more of inlaying and the results got better than i could anticipate, even if I have much to evolve in this art.

The blade was mostly done by stock removal, but the tip and the tang were forged prior to the grinding. It was made using 1070 steel.

The hilt is of a variation of Petersen's type L and it's components are made in mild steel and the inlays are nickel silver. The twisted wires are also nickel silver. It was then oil coated and lightly heated to make it look darker, so the contrast with the cooper-alloy would be even more visible. It is also a good way to prevent rust.

My signature this time went on the inside of the lower guard, as the blade carries my maker's name. And on the pommel is asymmetrical in decoration: one side carries a similar decoration to the guards and the other a "double Týr" bind rune.

The idea of peening it on the pommel cap is also a historical method, but I made it mainly because it would be more secure than peening the upper guard and attaching the pommel cap to it.

The handle is pine wood wrapped in cord and then covered with pig skin.

The scabbard is also pinewood, as well as it's belt-bridge. It is lined inside with natural wool and covered with linen cloth. The chape is also mild steel and the bridge is held by leather strips.

All the decorations were made to fit a late ninth century fashion, although it is a simplification of the Borre style rather than a more elaborate version.

The runes on the blade are inspired mainly on inscriptions of later, 10th and 11th century blades commonly made in Latin language such as Ingelri or Gecelin, but also inspired on the famous Tizona of El Cid and the Cortana from the legend of Holger Danske when it comes in the naming process of it. The use of the runes or local language was a choice of the owner, although I'm aware of only a single sword with runic inscriptions from the period (according to Petersen, B1622), but I have no access to what is written on this exemplar.

They read:

ik er ulfsmoþRin
(Ek er UlfsmóðrRinn - I am the Wrath of the Wolf)

hioruarþR kirosi mik
(Hjörvarðr gerosi mek - Hjörvarðr made me)

They are all written in old norse and I used the danish long-twig young futhork to write them.

The sword was exposed at one of the biggest blade shows here in Brazil, where it was awarded the prize of Best Sword of the show and is indeed a proud weapon to display, as well as is swift and powerful to wield.

Overall length: 94,0cm
Blade length: 79,7cm
Blade width: 5,4cm
Blade thickness at the guard: 0,5cm
PoB: 17,2cm
Length of the grip: 10,3cm
Weight: 1,150kg

quinta-feira, 8 de junho de 2017

Making a Visby armour #24

 This is obviously not a blade, as you can tell by looking at it, but I like to make some pieces of armor sometimes and this is a piece I made for myself.

So, to begin with, you can take a look on the central one at the picture below to have an idea of how the original came to us. The mass graves from the Battle of Visby present us with a really huge number of coats of plates from the mid 14th century and is a main source of inspiration for armourers and enthusiasts and I always wanted to make the armor number 24, which is by far the most complicated of the graveyard.

All the pieces from the mass graves were studied by Bengt Thordeman and you can find them on the book Armor from the Battle of Visby. The book has two parts, one of them with good contextualization of the finds, comparisons with analogous from other places of Europe and so on. The second part comprises photos and diagrams of the coats of plates and the lamelar armor found in the graves. The best thing: it is all in English.

Using the book as a starting point, I scaled the diagram of the armor #24 to fit me. You can take a look on the tracings below:

If you pay close attention to the tracings above you can notice that it is not perfectly symmetrical and so I just removed about 6-8 plates from the original.

So, with the measures done I only had to begin the armor. The first step was to draw the rectangular plates on a sheet of steel. In this case, mild steel was used.

The metal is only 0,5mm thick, but as it has a lot of overlapping, the average thickness of each row of plates is about 0,9mm. But there is also overlapping from each row, as well as the washers (0,5mm thick steel) and the leather itself. So it is surprisingly resistant.

The good thing with thin plates is that it is easier to cut them with a good pair of scissors.

As you can see, after cutting, the next step is drilling the holes for the rivets. Here I used a 3mm drill, or 1/8".

So here is where the most labor intensive thing of the process begins. Although it is mild steel it is still hardenable depending on the results you want. So I heat treated each of the 544 plates of the coat. Only the 24 from the shoulders were left unquenched, as they were made from 1,5mm thick sheet mildsteel.

Of course the pieces didn't get all the hardness a higher carbon steel would get and they still bend, but they are much harder even so. the trick here is to heat them above the hardening temperature of "better" steels and quench them in brine. The brine cools the metal much quicker than oil or normal water. I was taught that alcohol could be even better, but for obvious reasons I didn't even try that.

The problem on quenching such a thin plate is that it usually warps. So I had to planish each of the plates with a hammer on the anvil.

After that I went to my belt grinder to remove any sharp edges and also to round down the corners. It is labor intensive, but is essential to avoid getting yourself injured when dressing or undressing the armor. Sharp corners can also damage any padding you wear under the armor.

The next step, if you want to, is to apply any kind of rust preventive on the plates. But it is you should be sure the plates are clean, because the salt in the brine can get you into some trouble with chemical products.

The you come to the riveting phase. And it is really good if you like rivets, because otherwise it will get your mind intro trouble. As you can see by the photos I started with longer rivets than I would need. It would be hard to find rivets as short as I needed, so there was no problem as I have tons of these in my workshop. It is also important to use washers. The problem in not using them is that it is much easier to damage the leather and get some plates loose with time. So they add some weight to the whole, but prevents unnecessary maintenance.

I used iron rivets on this armor, but I was advised to use aluminium instead. It would save about 400g on the total and would be easier to cut down. Also, they are not so weak as some are lead to think, but I like how the iron looks and reacts when you rivet them and I'm a damn purist sometimes. If it was a piece made for sale, I would certainly offer this possibility to the costumer, but this time I decided to use the old and good iron.

So this is how it looked like when I was riveting the first rows.

And this is how it looked after all the plates were in place.

Sadly I didn't take any photos of the plates for the shoulders, but they are blackened by heating the piece to around 300-350ºC and then applying linseed oil on them. they were made from 1,5mm mildsteel, are not hardened and are slightly bent to make the curve of the armhole.

It holds heavy blows really well and as anything in existence, has some good pros and cons: it is amazingly mobile and the weight is distributed nicely on the body, but it doesn't spread the impact of the blows on larger areas, so it is better with a thicker underpadding. It also covers more area, but you dont have a good coverage between the shoulders and the rerebraces, and it makes it hard to use pauldrons.

But, overall, is an amazing piece of armor and much more comfortable than most I've tried before. So I think it will be used for a long time.

The finished coat of plates weights 7,250kg, has 568 plates, 1200 rivets an 11 buckles.

sexta-feira, 21 de abril de 2017

Type S Viking Sword

Once I saw a king on his own funeral. His people were not sad, they weren't grieving for his death. I didn't understand at the time, as I still don't do nowadays, why the northern folk praised their dead with such a spectacular display of resources and such wastefulness, but for a moment I enjoyed the ceremony and all the respect for that old dead man. He was beloved by his followers and this is not an easy task to achieve.

People kept going and coming back from the long ship and my compatriots were getting anxious about all that heathenry thing. The head of my caravan was cursing them in our language because the son of that dead king didn't accept our prices while at the same time was sending a full load of pelts to a ship doomed to be burnt with a deceased man who was sitting on a crate for a week. I was intrigued, trying to see a purpose on all that.

At the ninth day the son of that king entered the long ship and laid his father's body on a bed and the men, obviously warriors, started to bring in more gifts. At the shore of the North Sea were bold women and men watching a dead body sleeping proudly forever on a ship and with him a young lady, a horse, a dog and a spear.

At last, the son entered his tent and when he went out, he carried a sword. I wasn't an admirer of those broad blades of that folk, but when I saw the sword I felt like the stories those men used to sing at the fire camp were somewhat real. I ask for Alah and the prophet to have mercy on my thoughts, but that piece of steel was more than a simple tool of war, as if by some means of magic the blacksmith who forged it had the power to bring iron into life.

The dark brown linen covering the scabbard was almost black and strips of very light coloured leather wrapped a belt bridge made from a imported wood I couldn't recognize. At the very tip of it there was a piece of shining iron.

But what really caught my eyes was the hilt.I can remember the patterns on the wood, a bright, almost orange woodwith black lines, probably from the root of a tree, but looking like a spit of fire from the mouth of an efreet. And on the guards and pommel there were those golden lines... so polished that they stole all the light of the sun just to deliver it into my very eyes. Curved entangled lines, like trees, or snakes or even words.

I couldn't see the blade of that sword, as it was never unsheathed, but such a wealthy hilt would probably have a blade made from the best steel these men could afford.

After he came with the sword he profered some words in their own language and our translator didn't understand them very well, but apparently the sword belonged to the father of the old king and was passed down to him and would be given to his son, but the young man decided it would be better with his father in their heaven.

The son laid the sword with the body, then he and other men killed the horse, the dog and the girl and then they poured oil on the ship deck and all of them came out. They pulled the ship from the shore and after a while, with a flaming arrow, the man put his father on fire. And then no one spoke a single word till everything sunk into the North Sea.


This sword was the most challenging piece I made so far and it really let me with a wish to achieve some more on my next swords.

The blade was mainly made by stock removal, except for the tip and about 10cm of the cutting edge, as the owner wanted it to have some forging on it. It is 1070.

Guards and pommel are made from a piece of British wrought iron from the Victorian Age and the inlays are brass. They are heavily inspired on the designs from a type S sword from Gjermundbu, Norway, but it is not made to look like the original. As some of you may notice it also resembles some interpretations of the Gjermundbu sword made by Patrick Barta, although I'm really far from his skills with inlays. At least I have the chance to practice more of this amazing technique on an actual piece, rather than on scraps and left overs.

The handle is karelian birch burl from Russia, with one of the most outstanding patterns I've ever seen. The wood was ground to shape and then spent a whole week submersed in linseed oil for stabilization and it got this darker orange-ish color.

On the scabbard I used pinewood and it is lined inside with natural wool. Outside I covered it with linen and then painted with very dark brown. The chape is mild steel and the belt bridge is maple wood and although it is glued with modern methods to the linen cloth for safety, the leather strips would do the job alone fairly well.

I loved the final result and it really made me feel like a talented crafter, even with all the flaws it have. This excitement is the best part of being a blacksmith/bladesmith.

Overall length: 94,5cm
Blade length: 78,5cm
Blade width: 5,3cm
Blade thickness at the guard: 0,5cm
PoB: 18,0cm
Length of the grip: 10,0cm
Weight: 1,240kg

segunda-feira, 9 de janeiro de 2017

Forn Hrafn - Single-edged Viking Sword

I remember that day as if it was this very morning. The fog was already vanishing away as the light of the summer could be seen rising red like embers from the Swan Road. But sadly that wouldn't be the only red vision of that day.

From the shore I was I saw a tiny black dot on the horizon. And shortly after I could identify a ship coming from the east. I blew the horn to warn my kinsmen, but at the time all the men of the village were ready for battle, with bows, axes and spears, staring at the long distant waters from ashore, there was not a single ship between us and the sun, but a whole fleet.

We had heard the stories of the Norsemen who raided Northumberland some years ago, but nobody would ever consider them to come so far South on the island. We were terribly mistaken.

Most of us had only the time to gather or bury what they had of precious and run, but the fame of those long ships being faster than our fishing boats proved to be true and before everybody was safe heading to Cantwarebuhr, the first of them was already landing on the sand and fierce men-like demons were spreading from the wood faced dragon while it's wings made of oars shrunk to it's body.

I ran, as the only decision I could make on that day, but with fear people cry, people scream and these sounds only made our persecutors more willing to find and reach us.

At some point I felt to the ground and when I looked back I saw a pregnant woman struggling to reach a wagon that was departing on the ill made road ahead. Upon a maple tree there was a raven waiting for it's breakfast, eager to prey upon my people as those men from foreign lands. And leading that wave of invaders I saw it. I saw him.

A great knife-like sword, made of black iron, with an unadorned hilt. Sturdy lines that only made it more grim than it should be. The man who wielded it obviously spent a lot of time in the seas, doing nothing more than checking the oars or the sails from time to time, but even so the blade wasn't polished. It had a wide fuller and was thick on it's back. It had a slight curve forward, and a very sharp point. It was clearly heavy and probably would break my shield in the first blow made with full strength of that strong arm. But what caught my eyes was the black oak belt bridge on the scabbard: a raven, as the one who was crying from upon that maple tree. Black, sitting, waiting for it's meal.

I ran again. The only reasonable decision I could make once again. I forgot about the pregnant woman and dropped my shield and my spear on the ground once I reached the wagon. I couldn't look back, but I could listen the cries, the fight and that pregnant woman screaming for help. I can hear them even now, many years after that red morning.

But there is something that stays on my mind more clear than anything else: the two ravens I saw that day. The flesh and feather one and the iron's.


This is a very special sword for me, as it both ends and starts the year. This was the last blade I quenched at 2016 and the first piece I finished in 2017. So it is kinda different.

Forn Hrafn, or Old Raven is made to resemble a humble sword from the beginning of the ninth century Norway.

This sword was made by stock removal (not forging, guys) from a piece of 1070 steel. It is heavily inspired on C10560 from Kulturhistorisk Museum from Norway. As I didn't have access to more material about this find, I used some of it's measures and invented others.

As you can see on the pictures, it is not completely straight. The tang of some original single-edged viking swords have a slightly curve in relation to the blade and after looking at several examples, I think it was made on purpose, so the tip of the blade could be aligned with the tang. This would make them more useful for trusts. Also, the blade itself bent a little bit towards it's edge after the quench. Had it happen with a double-edged blade it would be discarded, but as some originals have this very same curve, I decided to keep on the project.

The blade tapers both in profile and distal to about 75-80% of the original width and thickness at 15cm from the tip.

The hilt was fire etched to look like forged and the blade was aged using salt water, vinegar and ferric chloride.

The scabbard is made of pine wood, covered outside and lined inside with natural wool cloth. The belt bridge is a piece of ancient bog oak, around 6000 years old, from Ukraine and is held in place by some glue and leather cord. The raven decoration is not made in any particular norse artistic style, but rather made to look like some naive work. This fits the whole piece as being product of unskilled or cheap work, as presumably were these type F viking swords.

The handle is also pinewood, wrapped with veg-tanned bovine leather.

Overall length: 93,0cm
Blade length: 78,5cm
Blade width: 5,5cm
Blade thickness at the guard: 0,5cm
PoB: 17,5cm
Lower guard width: 10,0cm
Length of the grip: 9,8cm
Weight: 1,390kg