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Thread: Restoration of a ......I'm not quite sure

  1. #1

    Restoration of a ......I'm not quite sure

    Hiya Folks
    I'm currently preserving/restoring a couple of swords for somebody, one of them is a British 1796 HCS (thats got a thread of its own) and the other is what I've (probably in ignorance) been calling a tulwar.

    I know that it predates 1933 because the owner has a photo of her grandfather holding it and thats when he died.

    So, pictures of it before I did anything.
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    As you can see, some bright spark thought it was a great idea to paint the hilt and part of the blade with black modeller's enamel!!

    The blade is broken at the tang interface and I'm going to have to do something radical to it..... I'd much rather not but as it stands its not a sword.

    Theres also a warp to the blade and a crack in the back edge that looks like a forging fault (I'm a blacksmith ), those I'll leave pretty much as is.

    So, what have I got here ?
    Last edited by Harry C.; 11-12-2019 at 12:51 PM.

  2. #2
    Hi Harry,

    It's a nice Indian sword.
    Generically a 'Tulwar'.

    The 'crack' down the spine of the blade, isn't a fault or a problem, it's just part of the forging process.
    Don't be tempted to use anything more than oil and wire wool to clean it.
    Far too many asian swords are being scrubbed back to bare metal and repolished at the moment.

    On these, the tang would often be relatively short, set into a dark pitch like resin inside the hollow handle.

    Take care removing the paint, the hilt might be decorated underneath (I dont think it is, but it's possible).

    Lastly, don't use too much heat on the blade as it might well be wootz and too much heat will rearrange the structure.

    Is the tang actually snapped off?
    Last edited by Gene Wilkinson; 11-16-2019 at 02:45 AM.

  3. #3
    The tang was snapped off completely and it was only held together by some old glue that had failed and was only gripping via friction. I had to weld a replacement stub tang on (I held the blade low in a large vice and used that as a heat-sink to prevent too much damage to the temper). I think there have been at least two previous repairs, one using the old brown glue and one before that using glazing putty.
    I had to pick the old putty out and extract the remains of the tang, I did try to leave as much of the original Indian filler (its a gritty 'milky tea' brown colour rather then the grey white glazer's putty or the slightly crunchy rust brown glue) as possible.... While I have epoxy putty, could anyone suggest a better material ?
    Also, should I date the repair ??

    I understand that the 'crack' is a side effect of the forging process, I had to make some dusaks once and one of those had a similar mark in the same place.

    I've not used any heat other then caused by the welding and avoided any harsh cleaning methods (except Nitromors to shift the paint) as I didn't want to polish all the age off.

    Here are some pictures as it now stands.

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    As you can see its a lot fancier then I first thought, I just can't understand the crappy paint job

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Do you have restoration and welding experience? This is something that is learned over time. That stub's welding looks odd and could be dangerous. Properly reseating the stub/blade in the hilt is not as easy as some here make it sound--a properly joined tulwar's hilt and blade is tight and looks beautiful. Just some thoughts, not saying you did anything wrong.
    Tom Donoho

  5. #5
    I've worked as a welder/fabricator and as a blacksmith/agricultural engineer, so I'm confidant in the weld.
    It may look a little odd due to the grinding, I textured the tang to get a better adhesive grip.

    I've little experience with swords this age, but I have made and repaired re-enactment swords as well as restoring old cutting tools (knives, axes, chisels and a few saws). I know next to nothing of non-european swords and their construction.

    So, what would be the best material to reseat the blade ?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Thanks for replying, Harry. I know there has been talk at some threads on tulwars here about melting away the original adhesive on old pieces and reusing it to reseat the blade--I am not sure that is a good idea--does it alter the integrity of the old adhesive? Perhaps, some research would tell what modern Indian tulwar makers are using as an adhesive. The good thing about using an adhesive (most modern ones) on an old sword is that it can be removed if desired without damaging it. I have repacked small-sword grips and repaired cracks in them and repaired scabbards, too. This is all something that gets better with practice. When starting out, it's good to ask oneself can it be easily undone if something else needs to be tried.

    Of course, a sword can be restored for display purposes only where integrity as a weapon is not necessarily a concern. But with old swords, I think we owe it to them to do as complete and proper a restoration that we can do. Blades secured to hilts by adhesives alone need special attention I think. There are some tulwars that make use of a transverse pin through the langets and blade that act as an additional securing method, so perhaps the quality of the adhesive used in the old days was not always as good as it could be--just a thought.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by T. Donoho; 11-19-2019 at 03:51 PM.
    Tom Donoho

  7. #7
    Hi Harry,

    The new pictures of the sword are a nice suprise.
    The hilt is very nice and retains about 75% of the koftgari decoration.
    The surface looks dry and oxidised and this won't have been helped by the (completely necessary) use of caustic soda to remove the enamel.
    I would use oil to stabilise the surface oxidisation and 00 wire wool to lightly and gently 'buff' it.

    As to the blade and the broken tang, you had two real choices. Either you add a tang/re-attach the original. Or you shorten the blade by 2" by grinding in a new one/ reforging a tang from the existing metal.

    I would say that in my opinion, the likelyhood is that the blade is wootz.
    So if you remove the rust with wire wool and lightly etch the surface, this will probobly show a crystaline structure.

    As for a replacement for the hilt resin. Do not be tempted to use modern epoxy or any other modern resins.
    Something using organic constituents will be the best option.
    Last edited by Gene Wilkinson; 11-20-2019 at 04:41 AM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    The hilt and ricasso of the blade might have been "Japanned" in its working life--not uncommon. As the silver decoration is now exposed/revealed I would not rub on it with steel wool no matter how fine. A final wash in warm water and thorough drying off would be a good idea and then, perhaps, a very light coat of boiled linseed oil applied which would protect the hilt for years and years--the linseed oil can always be removed later on if desired. I would not grind down any part of the blade to create a tang--if your weld is proper the repair should be good and strong. Of course, it is your sword and you should do as you like. Enjoy!
    Tom Donoho

  9. #9
    The iron/steel hilt originally would have been darkenened with silver koftgari overlay. Not painted over the koftgari.
    Even if the enamel paint was applied for long term storage, or to dull the reflective nature of the koftgari in the field (which I doubt), it needed to be removed as the hilt has oxidised underneath it.
    I would not use any water on it, if it were mine.
    These are usually made of several pieces, often brazed together. Water will find a way inside if it can.

    Very fine wire wool (00) used with oil can be used to clean rust off of blued steel without scratching the bluing.
    Obviously extreme care is required, but I've used it on very fine koftgari which was heavily oxidised and the results were that the only losses to the koftgari were where it was already coming off.
    There is a need to stabilise the piece and the choice of solution is entirely yours.
    I have a lot of koftgari and most was acquired in a poor state.
    Attached a box that was certainly as oxidised as your hilt. I've owned it for years now and it's totally stable after being cleaned with wire wool and oil.
    When I say wire wool, remember I am talking about the really fine grade that looks like grey cotton wool.
    Not a brillo pad 😉

    As for replacement hilt resins. If you do some searching, it's a subject of some discussion over the years.
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    Last edited by Gene Wilkinson; 11-20-2019 at 04:44 AM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Wokingham, UK
    Great job so far, Harry. Nice to see the silver diapering appear like magic - that's one of my favourite forms of decoration on tulwars. I dare say that this blade-form might just about fit the 'sirohi' term.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Kingston area, Ontario Canada
    Pitch or rosin is used for Victorian cutlery to retain the blade in the silver handle. I've read that dental plaster works well and is very strong. Durham's water Putty may also work.
    These materials could bond the blade into the hilt.

  12. #12
    Update. I've gently cleaned the hilt with light mineral oil and the finest wire wool I have (000 I think, anyway it looks like grey sheep's fleece).
    I bought some pine resin and made my own cutler's pitch from a recipe found online, the blade is now firmly seated.
    Both swords have now been wiped down with alcohol to remove any traces finger prints etc and Ren waxed.

    I'm very pleased with the results, what a pity I have to give them back

    Thank you for all your help and advice folks

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Wokingham, UK
    Can you share the recipe for the pitch at all? And is it something that can be undone at all?

  14. #14
    The simplest How-To I found was Paleoplanet, How-to-make-cutler's-resin

    I followed the instructions apart from using a pie dish rather then a jar, I bought a kilo of Pine resin (Colophony) from Evilbay.
    I used three large hen's egg sized pieces (and so have quite a lot left) along with three similar sized lumps of hardwood charcoal and a
    chuck of beeswax larger then a matchbox, I had to add extra wax because the resin is the 'cooked' (brittle) version of pine sap (it also lacks the volatile parts and is less likely to catch fire).
    A big rasp is ideal for powdering the charcoal and a gas camping stove works for melting.

    It is reversible. In fact, the first time I put it together I wasn't happy with it and so took it apart to reseat the blade (I carefully heated the resin with a blowtorch while holding the hilt in my hand to ensure the metal didn't get hot.... Try not to let the pitch drip on your skin, its hot and it sticks)
    Last edited by Harry C.; 12-11-2019 at 11:18 AM.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Wokingham, UK
    I've made a note, thank you very much for writing all that out for me.


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