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Thread: "Secrets of the Viking Sword" on PBS, 10 October 2012

  1. #1

    "Secrets of the Viking Sword" on PBS, 10 October 2012

    PBS: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient...ing-sword.html

    More info here at Richard Furrer's website: http://www.doorcountyforgeworks.com/NOVA.html

    The Vikings were among the fiercest warriors of all time. Yet only a select few carried the ultimate weapon of their era: the feared Ulfberht sword. Fashioned using a process that would remain unknown to the Vikings’ rivals for centuries, the Ulfberht was a revolutionary high-tech tool as well as a work of art. Considered one of the greatest swords ever made, it remains a fearsome weapon more than a millennium after it last saw battle. But how did Viking sword makers design and build the Ulfberht, and what was its role in history? Now, NOVA uses cutting edge science and old-fashioned detective work to reconstruct the Ulfberht and finally unravel the "Secrets of the Viking Sword."
    Last edited by J.G. Hopkins; 08-14-2012 at 10:49 AM.

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    The PBS page for the show


    More than a couple of decades ago, PBS did a most excellent show regarding Japanese swords and their making. This would have been the late 1980s or early 1990s and I am unable to find the details of it again. Then, fast forward to 2007 and a show Secrets Of The Samuari Sword. I found the production a bit lacking but still enjoyable. There was also Crafting a Samurai Sword History of the Samurai Way of the Samurai Warrior and Metal Fundamentals


    I do hope the Viking Swords receive as much attention, along with a similar series but early reports show it as perhaps a bit bleak in regard to the making of viking swords. An Early Announcement For The Show From Arma


    If the show is just one go and the bulk of time is spent in display of arms, rather than the history and manufacture, they may be falling short of the opportunities to really add meat to the subject of the swords themselves.The series decades ago is probably lost to past memories and the 2007 expansion on that credible but a one shot episode will probably leave me a bit cool towards it.


    Cheers


    Hotspur; I'll watch all I can get and probably more than one viewing
    Last edited by Glen C.; 08-14-2012 at 12:48 PM. Reason: typos and forum formatting issues

  3. #3
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    Let's see: "ultimate weapon," "feared," "revolutionary high-tech tool," "greatest," "fearsome" swords created by a "secret" process! Obviously no hype here. :sigh:

    Oh well, I'll watch it anyway; I'll probably still learn something.
    Retired civil servant, part time blacksmith, seasonal Viking ship captain.

  4. #4
    With Richard Furrer and Kevin Cashen involved, I think we have a lot to look forward to!

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    I do hope they make it clear that most of those blades were made in the Frankish empire, not by Vikings.

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    Yes, but Secrets of the Frankish Sword doesn't have the same cachet as "Viking." The Franks aren't as "fearsome" as the Norse. (I guess they assembled their large continental empire through "niceness."
    Retired civil servant, part time blacksmith, seasonal Viking ship captain.

  7. #7
    I understand your cynicism--myths, half truths, and sensationalism have plagued the sword in popular culture and the media. I think that with our esteemed forumites behind the hammers, and researchers like Dr. Alan Williams and Dr. Ann Feuerbach, something of quality could be produced that is both entertaining and educational (and factual). Ric Furrer has a short write-up on his site: http://www.doorcountyforgeworks.com/NOVA.html

    Jonathan

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    Hi Jonathan

    The truths of editing and production are likely to be less voluminous is scope than what Ric and Kevin (as well as Ann Feuerbach, Williams, et al) have already shared to small communities such as this. IIRC, Ric put up some video links for his work over at myArmoury and elsewhere but guaranteed, there will be a lot less available to share during a single NOVA episode. With ARMA vying for what looks like equal or more time, it will be interesting to see what is left from any interests. While shows such as all NOVA productions can be an avenue for further understanding, it is the compression of information in a given time that means less of the story being told.

    I think that Secrets of the Viking Sword has a public ring to it and that the promotional copy will catch an eye but at the same time, those of us looking at a lot of this in anticipation of "all being told" are greatly worried that shows such as this can be a step back. How many times have wootz discussions begun on boards to find many participating in discussion have no reading of Cashen, Furrer, Williams, Feuerbach; etc on and on. That will include a lot of migration history and that viking was more an action, not a people.

    There have been a few other "oh boy, here we go" worries about such compressed productions and some have turned out quite well. I will have a wait and see outlook about it while being fairly certain a single episode to cover it all will find a lot less shown than what looks like a lot of raw footage that must have been taken both in the making of and usage of camps. Add what interview snippets are then going to air.

    Cheers

    Hotspur; it is the type of limitations of conveying all of a single topic in one post on boards such as this

  9. #9
    I am an optimist.

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    Hello All,
    No one hour sow can capture everything we want to know about anything, but it is good that such things are being broadcast. Imagine that..a sword program on NOVA that has nothing to do with the Japanese.....hurray!
    No doubt there is much hype...such is the way of things on the TV. Those of you who are interested will watch anyway...the key is to get those who are NOT interested to watch...so they can be enveloped in good story-telling and brought into the fold.

    Japanese sword:
    I still remember the Gassan forging video of National Geographic when it broadcast way back in 1980 before one had a chance to see it again or buy it.
    http://www.amazon.com/National-Geogr.../dp/B000JRP1WQ

    A note on the filming
    They filmed at my place for two days (sunrise till 11PM or so) and a reshoot a few weeks later for a few hours. This is in addition to the several weeks of prep I did in the shop.
    A tour of a steel foundry in Chicago and lab testing
    sword cutting in US (one day?)
    A Viking re-enactment in (I forget if it was Poland or Germany or ?, but it was Europe)
    Interviews with the historical sword folk in Denmark ..location of the antique I patterned off of (two or three days I think.)
    Interview with Dr. Alan Williams (all day) about his pioneering metallographic work which spurred the whole project...all day shoot.

    I did a "talking" head for three hours as well as Kevin and I forging for the better part of eight hours.

    So..all that footage has to be cut into less than 60 minutes and since it is NOVA that will mean educational and entertaining. These programs are for the general population..those of us who are interested will seek out more detailed info as we wish and those who know little to nothing about the subject will get a good introduction.

    I can say that the blade made for the show was "real" and that the steps were documented..from making the raw steel to the quench...beyond that it is just a portion of the greater story.

    Ric
    Richard Furrer
    Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
    http://doorcountyforgeworks.com/

  11. #11
    Well said, Ric, and thank you for elaborating. I am very excited for you and Kevin, and to see the program when it airs!

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    Richard, may I ask if the sword that you replicated is presented as extraordinary or typical?

    Thanks!
    <><><> <><><> <><><>
    Do what thy manhood bids thee do,
    from none but self expect applause;
    He noblest lives and noblest dies
    who makes and keeps his self-made laws.

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    Douglas,
    I would say typical for the specific variety as it represents a grouping a of blades, but not the "norm" when Viking era swords are taken as a whole. The blade was a recreation of a specific genre of blades which new research has posed some interesting questions surrounding possible origins of their raw materials.
    Some will dismiss the findings and others will find them intriguing, but hopefully this will show that there is much to yet learn about these historical items.

    Ric
    Richard Furrer
    Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
    http://doorcountyforgeworks.com/

  14. #14
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    Thanks! Looking forward to seeing the show.
    <><><> <><><> <><><>
    Do what thy manhood bids thee do,
    from none but self expect applause;
    He noblest lives and noblest dies
    who makes and keeps his self-made laws.

    -Sir Richard Francis Burton

  15. #15
    A nice article on Ric and his involvement in "Secrets of the Viking Sword": http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/...h-featured-PBS

  16. #16
    This airs tonight on PBS!

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    Purrrfic. It runs here after Survivor and repeats several times in the next days on different PBS channels. I hope the time alloted gives good credit to the making of the sword.

  18. #18
    I thoroughly enjoyed the program. Congratulations to Ric (and Kevin!) for the great work. What a beautiful sword and excellent commentary--one could not ask for more!
    Last edited by J.G. Hopkins; 10-10-2012 at 07:58 PM.

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    Agreed! It was a real treat watching Ric at work! This is a must-have for the video library!
    mark@swordforum.com

    ~ Hostem Hastarum Cuspidibus Salutemus ~

    "Those who beat their swords into plowshares usually end up plowing for those who don't."
    Benjamin Franklin

  20. #20
    The big question remaining is this; where is the new +VLFBERH+T now?

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.G. Hopkins View Post
    The big question remaining is this; where is the new +VLFBERH+T now?

    Well, a few minutes ago my nine year old ran down the hallway with it...so...who knows.

    Ric
    Richard Furrer
    Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
    http://doorcountyforgeworks.com/

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Furrer View Post
    Well, a few minutes ago my nine year old ran down the hallway with it...so...who knows.

    Ric
    Awesome! Just what I would do, too. . I am sure my 9 year old would be jealous!

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    I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of information they got out of it and presented in the short hour.

    The mention of "it could take a whole village" takes me back to a previous PBS show when they visited an African village doing the furnace in a pit with maybe a dozen or more tuyres with small bellows. That burn took the night and yielded much less than Ric's furnace done in five hours. That was the amazing revelation to me. Imagine a small cave with many crucibles.

    Also noted the coaxing and cooler forging temps to gently massage the large lump.

    Kevin as well looking the best assistant one might find.

    Not to forget John Clements having at it with what looked like a Hanwei Raptor, then showing the velocity and capabiliy of a less than sharpy sharp medieval type sword.

    Great to see Alan Williams and even hear a quip or two from him. Actually, it seems all had a pretty good time with this one.

    Cheers

    Hotspur; not sure whay I woke up except that another viewing of it is coming up opposite A Knights Tale

  24. #24
    Viewer reactions to "Secrets of the Viking Sword"

    http://storify.com/novapbs/viewer-re...e=facebook.com

  25. #25
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    I thought it a great show with much information and very little hype. And they showed more of the forging process than I thought they would. Great job, Ric and Kevin, and a very beautiful sword!
    "Courage is fear holding on a minute longer."--Gen. George S. Patton

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