- Meet Jim
- About Our Blades
- In Stock Pieces
- Knives, Daggers and Dirks
- Shortswords, Swords and Rapiers
- The Custom Shop
- Photo Album
- Articles by Jim
- Contact Us
Forging a Composite Shortsword
I have been getting more and more questions as to how to put together a European composite blade. The following is the way I do it. There are other ways but this is the way that works for me.
The project piece will be a Dark Age style shortsword with bronze and silver mounts, a three core blade and bone grip. The hilt style has yet to be decided.
The blade will consist of three (3) pattern welded cores in a set pattern (yet to be determined) with the steel edging welded onto the cores. This is a "classic" method of European construction. The first step will be to weld up the core materials.
The Core Materials:
Since the core is not the "working" part of the blade it doesn't have to be made from fully hardenable materials as the core's sole purpose is to "support" the edging and "hold together" in use.
The materials I will be using will be L-6, 200 series stainless and 1018. I am using the L-6 to maintain some degree of "spring" to the core to allow for flex and return. While flexibility isn't as vital in a short sword of this size as it would be in a full sized sword, it is still a desirable feature to have never the less.
The materials shown are (Left to right) 15 pieces of L-6, 6 pieces of 200 series stainless foil and 8 pieces of 1018. Pieces are 8" long and 1 1/4" wide. These will be stacked, alternating materials.
With the piece stacked they are wired together into the staring stack/bar. Some makers prefer to run a arc weld bead down the ends and down the sides. I do not feel that is a good idea as this introduced foreign material into the mix which can hinder welding as well as disturb the patterning. Besides the wire does allow for some expansion of the materials, which is need for without this allowance the layers will "spring apart" and open up during forging.
There are 29 pieces being welded in the first weld. The piece must be thoroughly soaked at welding temperature in order for all the pieces to be at the proper temperature to weld. By welding this many layers I only have to weld once to get the layer count I need for the centre cores.
The stack is slowly brought up to welding temperature, as it is heating it is fluxed using my "steel glue" flux formula at a full cherry red, and then returned to the forge until it is ready to weld.
Now some makers will claim that in order to forge weld stainless steel it has to be done in a oxygen free atmosphere in order to get a weld. While this is the case in most stainless alloys 200 series stainless does not require a O2 free environment. However it does require a very aggressive flux and this is why I developed my "steel glue" flux formula. By using this flux I can weld all sorts of high alloy tools steels with little difficulty.
Welding in sections using a 8 pound hand hammer the stack is now welded into one solid piece. The next step is drawing out into a bar prior to final drawing to size. This will be done using a combination of my 25 pound Little Giant power hammer, hand hammer and my hydraulic press.
With the piece welded solid, it is then drawn out to the "rough size" under my power hammer. The size now is approx 16 1/2" long, 1 1/2" wide, which is 1/4" wider than my finished dimension that I need to allow me to cut the 3 cores I need, and just under 1/2" thick. The finished thickness I and going for is approx 3/8"...Length is not as important as thickness and width. I already have enough width and thickness to get the cores I need but I am still on the thick side, and a bit over width but that is easily dealt with.
The next step is drawing to final size prior to splitting into three separate core pieces.
The bar is now drawn down in both thickness and width, and lengthened. This bar is now approx. 22" in length, 3/8" thick and 1 1/4" wide. The next step is to cut the bar into 3rds lengthwise to form the raw cores.
Time from the start, including cutting of the raw materials is approx 1 1/2 hours.
The cores are now split off lengthwise into even 1/3rds and the surfaces are ground to remove any heavy scale. The next step is to pattern the two outer cores. I have decided to do a twist-counter twist interrupt patterned core.
The two outer cores are "mirror twisted" in a twist/counter twist pattern. It is important to get the twists tight and properly spaced in order for this to work properly. Note: the same amount of twists must be in each bar and the location must match. Also care must be taken to keep the "edges" in the same plane or else you will not get the "stars and bars" pattern.
With the two outer cores patterned, the centre core will be done next.
The centre core is now twisted in the same twist/counter-twist pattern but the twists and non twist areas are "off set" from the outer cores. This way the "stars and bars" that will be seen will not align and "be lost" into each other. Here again the edges must be in the same plane on the bar in order for this pattern to work.
With the three cores twisted they are now wired together in their proper position. Note how the twisted and non-twisted areas alternate from bar to bar within the core assembly. The twisted areas will appear as "stars" and the straight areas will appear as "bars" or straight lines.
The cores are now ready to weld. Total time to this step is approx 2 1/2 hours. Welding will be done by hand hammer.
The cores are now welded into one solid piece. This is best done by hand as you will need to be able to control hammer force as well as precise blow placement. Care must be taken in order to maintain pattern alignment or else the core pattern may become askewed and that will result in a "off sided" pattern in the finished blade.
Once welded the edging material will be wrapped and welded into one solid piece with the core.
Time elapsed to this step: 3 1/4 hours.
The edging is then wired to the centre cores. In this case it is a piece of 1060, 1/4" thick and 3/8" wide. It is simply bent around the rounded off tip, hammered down "snug" around the point (this is done hot) and then wired on prior to welding onto the core.
Last Updated (Friday, 30 November 2012 19:44)