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Thread: Authentic Recreation of a 12th Century Sword

  1. #1

    Post Authentic Recreation of a 12th Century Sword

    Hello everyone!

    The matter of authenticity of swords is an old and controverial one. There are plenty of swordsmiths and artisans who recreate real antique swords. Some issues are however pretty nebulous when it comes to such things as authentic blade geometry, heat treatment and hardness. I am not an artisan or blacksmith but I've planned a sword to be forged for me in recent future, and did some research to find historically accurate data. It will be a typical "norman sword" from the first half of 12th century, with a "brazil nut pommel" - as close to the following data as possible.

    Here is my data.

    a). This one is the antique sword which I want to be recreated for me:
    For those who do not understand German.
    Length: 1000mm
    Blade width: 52mm (45mm at 1/3; 38mm at 2/3; 20mm from tip: 16mm)
    Blade thickness: 4,7mm at base; 3,7mm at 1/3; 2,7mm at 2/3; 2mm at 20mm from tip
    Weight: 980 grams (2,1 pounds)
    Blade geometry: lenticular, fullers on both sides
    Blade length: 865mm
    PoG: 175mm from hilt (without wood & wire & leather on the grip, due to my own experiments the PoG will be appr. an inch closer to hilt with all the hilt elements)
    Fuller length: 710mm
    Fuller width: 17 mm at base; 16mm at 1/3; 16 mm at 2/3
    Fuller depth: 1,5mm
    Crossguard: length 178; thickness 6,5; width 19,5mm (at middle) 10mm at both ends
    Grip length: 91mm (tang without wooden grip: 21mm width at hilt, 15mm at pommel, thickness 5mm)
    Pommel: "brazil nut" style; length 32mm; width 75mm; thickness at tang 23,5mm tapering to 10mm

    b). Blade geometry
    Here is a very enlightening research paper which deals with a 12th cent. sword:
    The image of the sample talken out of the sword. The blade geometry is clearly visible as well as the laminated structure:
    As we see it's a pretty flat edge and steep bevel angle, around 28-30°.

    c). Blade construction. (see sword N2)
    Those links show a common construction method used for medieval swords; a soft core with medium carbon steel laminated/wrapped around. Although there are other construction methods, this one is apparently more appropriate for this kind of swords.

    d). Hardness.
    I also found some papers which shed some light on medieval sword hardness:
    It seems that selective heat treatment was used to manufacture those blades. The core is usually between 200-300HV, edge bodies are around 350-450HV and the sharp part of the cutting edge might be well above 520HV.

    All this information can be used to make a very accurate replica.

    The most intriguing question is - did anyone ever managed to reproduce the ancient heat treatment as seen at antiques? Soft core, varying hardness at edges and blade body, etc. Modern steels properly heat treated were put to destructive tests extensively, but now I wonder how an antique blade recreation done with 100% metallurgical authenticity would perform?

    An another issue is the blade geometry. Unlike the most modern replicas the edge sample linked above seems to be pretty flat and (apparently) pretty sharp. Modern mass replicas (Hanwei, Windlass) mostly feature a axe or chisel bevel, which is pretty different to this one and natively not very effective in slicing.

    Authentic metals (refined steel made of bloom iron or modern iron being carburized) are also not very common today, so nothing can be said about their performance in a destructive test. Or am I wrong, and some guys did actually some experiments this way?

    If I ever get my sword (and gave my last penny for it), I'll do some cutting and destructive tests in order to know what an really authentic blade can do. I'm even willing to damage it, because of my deep belief a real sword should have been "in battle" at least one time. Since we do not kill people with swords today, it will be a battle against tatami, pork and steel drums. For science' sake.

    Best wishes


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
    I am sure such a blade can be made. Most do not wish to pay for the work required to do so.

    Richard Furrer
    Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    central New Mexico
    modern iron being carburized is *NOT* an authentic material. Steel made of bloom iron is.

    Iron/steelmaking had several sea changes over the centuries with going from the direct method of wrought iron production to the indirect method being one and then a much greater change with the advent of the Kelly/Bessemer process. (crucible steel is another but was not as widespread in use) Carburizing a material made after the 1850's does not transform it into a direct method process bloomery steel.

    As Ric mentions: many folks say they want "authentic" until they see the price/time tag for it.

    OTOH there is an ever growing number of small bloomeries being set up and run; some even in historical ways! The cost of the starter materials will probably go down.
    Thomas Powers
    CoFounder of the Intergalactic Union of Bladesmiths
    "when you forge upon a star"---you better have your union card handy!


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