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Forging a Ladder Pattern Sword
I have been asked on many an occasion how do I get such an even pattern in my "Ladder Pattern" blades. This article is more or less a a"walk through" as far as the forging, fitting and finishing of a Ladder Pattern bladed sword.
The first step is material selection. Since this will be a sword..I will be using a mixture of 1070, L-6 , 1095(to be placed ext to the ss foil) and some stainless steel heat treating foil for a colour contrast. Now the SS foil is just at 0.003" thick..by the time I am done with the laminating the fact that the SS foil does NOT harden will be moot, especially when you take into consideration that it is clad on either side with 1095.
The pieces are cut to size and cleaned/ground "fresh" to enable the welds to take. I am dealing with "sheet metal;" as far as thicknesses go..This cuts down on not only forge time but also carbon loss as well during the weld/forge/weld processes. THis is very important as C loss can be very detrimental to the end use/performance of the sword.
Above are the raw material waiting to be stacked in their proper order. The surfaces are mechanically cleaned to ensure a proper welding surface and then they are stacked in order prior to welding.
Here the individual pieces are stacked and wired together prior to welding. Now some makers would arc weld a bead onto the sires to hold the pieces together. I do NOT believe in doing that due to the fume contamination that can deposit between the individual layers during the arc welding process... From here the faggot is placed into the forge and brought up to welding heat and welded the full length in 3 to 4 inch overlapping sections.
The piece is hammer welded one section at a time the full length..making sure that the weld heats overlap to ensure a solid, full length weld.
The faggot is now welded into one (1) solid piece for the full length. The next step is drawing it out to a length that allows iot to be cut into 3 or 4 pieces for the second weld.
This piece is then cut into 4 pieces of equal length, the weld surfaces are ground "clean" prior to welding.
These are again stacked together and welded.
This process is repeat two more time..each time the piece is cut into four (4) pieces and welded into one (1) solid piece.
After the last weld..the bar is drawn out an rough forged into a tapered piece. this will be the rough blank prior to patterning.
Once the blank is cooled..the "ladder rungs" for the patterning will be ground into the bar with an angle grinder.
The angle grinder is used to cut grooves that run across the blade blank. These grooves are 3/16" wide and are 1/3rd of the way deep into the blank. they are also alternated from side to side so that they are "off set" and NOT aligned withe each other as in doing so, this allows the pattern to form and follow the "grain" of the bar
As you can see. the "rungs" are ground in across the bar..and are spaces one "grinder wheel's" thickness apart.
Here you can see the depth of the cut as well as the off set rungs. The depth as well as the off set are very important..if either one is "off" then the pattern in the finished piece will be askew.
After the rungs are cut..the blank is flattened..causing the [pattern to "flow into the cuts".
Here is the blank..flattened, drawn out and rough forged prior to fullering . The rough forged blank is approx 34" in length..this will stretch about 2" more in the final forging...
Here is a "window" that was ground to show the basic pattern on the blade blank. As you can see the "layers" flow into a symmetrical pattern, following the "rungs" that were cut into the bar earlier. Blade fullering is the next step
Above you can see the rough forged blade prior to fullering and edge setting. above the blade blank are my 5/8" radius fullers for my Fly Press "Augustus Squeezer.." (My 64 ton Hydraulic press is called Julius Squeezer..BTW)
Here are the fullers in Augustus Squeezer.. Fly Presses have been pretty much "overlooked" as far as being used in forging operations, why this is..i can not say. all I know i=s that they allow for a greater amount of work to be dome when compared to a hand hammer and they actually allow for a finer degree of control over a hand hammer as you can actually "feel" the steel "move" under the dies..
Here the blade is fullered under the Fly Press. I start the fuller at just under the area where the guard will be..and run it down the length of the blade until I reach the fuller's terminus... this is done in sections, and by using the Fly Press...I am fullering each side to the same depth and shape at the same time...
The net steps are final forging to shape..profiling to final shape..rough grinding/clean up..Heat treating and final grinding.
The above photos show the blade after the rough grind/final profiling, heat treating and final grind..the bottom photo shows some of the patterning in the top 1/3 of the blade.. looking great so far.
Finishing and mounting is next...
Here a Ash wood grip core is "burned in" after it was rough opened (the rough opening is undersized) onto the tang. This is a very "traditional" way of doing the final fit between the sword tang and the grip core. The "AG" on the Ash is my client, who this sword is being made for..(This is a "custom" piece.)...
Next comes the hand guard/quillions.. This piece will be forged from 1018 mild steel...
The above 4 photos show the progression of the fabrication and fitting of the guard to the blade. The grip is next
Before the grip is fitted, sized ans shaped the pommel is turned from the same mild steel as the guard...After that...the grip core can be made for the "burned in" block (shown above).
The above photo shows the finished blade, after final grind, polish and etch (to reveal the pattern) with the pommel finished/fitted to the grip core and the grip wire wrapped.
The final "finishing touches are all that are left and this will be complete.
The above three photos show the sword parts with a rough shaped sheath formed from (oz leather..single back seam.this leather is SUPER stiff and a bit hard to shape...). The next photo shows a close up the the sword parts as done so far and the last one shows the sheath throat that was formed out of 18 Ga Sterling Silver sheet,
The grip ferules are fabricated, fitted, soldered and the grip is hand buffed to reveal the colour and depth of the wire wrapping. The grip is finished, and ready to assemble to the sword.
Now..while the rest of the finishing..the steel fittings are being blued in my own mix of hot bluing salts.. Hot Caustic Bluing is a nasty process that takes a great deal of attention and some serious safety measures (this will be covered in my 4th book) but it results in a very beautiful and very, very 'deep" finish that compliments a wire wrapped grip.
Now while the fittings are "cooking" in the blue tanks..I am fabricating the stone seat with a bezel formed from pure Cu with a 14K yellow gold roping around it. This is sized for a Star Sapphire that is a whopping 74.8 Ct in weight!
The above photos show the stone seat/bezel mounts (above) and the same piece..after it was cleaned, polished and buffed by hand with the 74.8 ct star sapphire set into the sheath mount. Now to me, personally..NOTHING shines like silver. It is a wonderful material to work with and well..I just LOVE using it!
A matching chape was made from the same Sterling Silver sheet, had polished, hand buffed to match the throat. Now this photo doesn't do justice to the Star Sapphire in the sheath throat.. It a a VERY NICE stone with a great 6 pint start visible in "normal" light.
Above shows the guard/quillions and pommel after the Hot Caustic Soda Blue, This process takes approx 3 to 5 hours to do properly and it results in a very deep "Midnight Blue/Black" colouration that is simply GORGEOUS. It is also one of the more durable finished used to colour/protect steel. It is the same "basic finish" used by Colt, Smith and Wesson and Ruger ( to name a few) to finish their firearms.. HOWEVER I do a much..much better finish than they do simply because I pay attention to the "details" much more than they are able to, since I am a "One Man Operation" and all...To be honest..this is the way it should be..the Craftsman, working in a totally different mind set..wanting to do the BEST that can be done..will on the whole, do a much better job and produce a superior product than a mass production factory doing the same basic thing.
Above is the finished sword..shown at first, without the sheath (top photo) and then in its sheath (bottom photo). These are a decent piece of work with considerable forge time,..but even then..UI feel that the results are worth 10 times the amount of work it takes to build one of these.
I hope that you found this article informative and entertaining, and if you have any questions, please by all means feel free to contact through this web site.
THANK YOU for the interest..
Copyright to Dr. James P Hrisoulas. July 7, 2014 Any reproduction of any part of this article without written consent of the author is prohibited and is subject to both criminal prosecution, as well as civil liabilities...
Last Updated (Monday, 07 July 2014 10:09)