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Jonathan Hopkins




PostPosted: Sat 27 Dec, 2008 8:58 am    Post subject: "1,000 years on, perils of fake Viking swords are revea         Reply with quote

I thought this article from The Guardian.co.uk might lead to an enlightening discussion. I know nothing of substance about Viking era swords, so I look forward to reading your reactions and thoughts on the article!

1,000 years on, perils of fake Viking swords are revealed

All the best,
Jonathan
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Sat 27 Dec, 2008 9:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ulfberht swords were not made in Scandinavia with imported crucible steel, they were made in Frankish Empire and were the first good quality mono steel blades due to the invention of the blast furnaces. And quenching in water or other liquids is not a problem, it has to be done, but after that the sword has to be annealed, softened to a degree when it is both hard enough to hold an edge and "elastic" enough to be durable. Fake Ulfberhts were made by local smiths and they were bad in most cases, but it isn't because of quenching or lack of crucible steel.
If a wrote something wrong, let more experienced members correct me. Wink
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Sat 27 Dec, 2008 9:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting piece. Two things come to mind:

First, all the mis-spellings of Ulfberht on various viking era blades. Assuming the investigators referenced in the article really can separate the real ones from the fakes, I wonder if they have thought to correlate this with the spelling.

Second, all the references in Sagas (and I think Beowulf, if memory serves) to the use of 'tried' or 'proven' weapons. It certainly would be scary to head off to battle with a new weapon, not knowing if it would shatter or not.

It would be useful to look up the original academic work. Even when this stuff is reported in reliable news media, one has to take it with a grain of salt. Usually the original material gets transformed a couple of times, first by some university media office producing the press release, and then in the way that the media writes it up. A lot can get lost and/or distorted in translation.
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Bill Tsafa




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PostPosted: Sat 27 Dec, 2008 9:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This writing really does not surprise me. It says that people really have not changed in 1,000 years and neither has quality control. You never know what you have until you test it. Testing it means putting nicks and scratches on your sword. All my good swords are beat up. I believe it gives them character. The bad ones are broken.

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Bruno Giordan





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PostPosted: Sat 27 Dec, 2008 11:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hm, I guess the reporter hasn't understood well what was said.

"The tests at Teddington proved the genuine Ulfberht swords had a phenomenally high carbon content, three times that of the fakes, and half again that of modern carbon steel.

Modern carbon steel can vary from 0.45 to 0.90 in repro blades, so what is the average of true Ulfberths? I have found elsewhere a measure of 0.70, which is good, but the article could suggest just a meager 0.45, 050 in original Ulfberth.

"The contemporary fake Ulfberhts used the best northern metal working techniques, which hardened the metal by quenching - plunging the red-hot blade into cold water. It enabled them to give the blade a keen edge, but made it fatally brittle."

If faked Ulfberths were around 0.2 to 0.45 in carbon, let's say around 0.30 they would not be so much hardenable as to become brittle for quenching, isn't it?

I wish we could have access to the original sources, sorry.

oh, and lastly

"The Wallace's is the real McCoy, but the one brought in by the private collector which started the hunt turned out to be fake."

Fake? A sword from the early middle age might have been a fake then, but today is still valuable historical artifact and a rare collectable.
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David Huggins




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PostPosted: Sun 04 Jan, 2009 11:58 am    Post subject: viking sword         Reply with quote

Hi guys, the topic of this thread also appeared on a Regia Anglorum members egroup, and i thought that comments by my friend Kim Siddorn (Eolder of Regia Anglorum) on the subject may be of interest to forum members, Kim duly acknowledges that his research includes orignal work by Bruce Blackistone;

Quote'The whole article is at once damned by the author's confusion (AGAIN!!)
between layered crucible steel and pattern welded steel where the
components are twisted together, not just shoved in a ceramic box in the
bottom of the fire with alternate layers of iron and charcoal & left to get
on with it. I have various examples & will bring some to Islip for anyone to
look at. I also have some pattern welding & I'll bring that along too -
anything to try to stop this coming up time after time! ;o))




Crucible steel is available form India & it might well be the case that it
has been thus available since not long after the advent of Iron in the
Fertile Crescent! This is not to the point however. Simple iron swords vary
from batch to batch & their strength, malleability and resistance to
snapping depend to a large extent on their natural impurities. It was well
known in Viking Age Europe that iron from different sources had different
properties. I have seen various works that indicate up to seven different
types of ferrous metal in use for weapon manufacture in the late dark ages
and early medieval period. I am prepared to agree that such materials might
have been available, but I am far from certain that they were knowingly
assembled and used with an expectation of a particular outcome. I am
inclined to the opinion that virtually all swords were made from either
wrought iron or wrought iron modified by working into a higher grade of
steel resulting in simple or complex laminated welding.
.



Steel covers the range from around 4 pts to 225 pts (2.25%) of included
carbon, although most modern steel vary between 20 point "mild steel" to 150
point "tool steel". Mild steel is about .01-.4% carbon, medium carbon steel
is about .4 -.7% carbon, high carbon steel is .7 -1.1% carbon and tool steel
as high as 1.7%. There are other components in modern steels such as
chromium, nickel, manganese, tungsten etc but when they occurred naturally
in local iron ores that was only an advantage or problem depending on what
the smith was trying to achieve. More susceptible to corrosion, steel is
also harder, less malleable, more difficult to weld and more easily burnt in
forging. As its carbon content increases, so the materiel tends more towards
springiness. This characteristic means that it will also shatter when
over-hardened and crack when over worked or wrought at the wrong
temperature - all in proportion to its carbon content. Steel has a low
inclusion of silica and contains - either by ancient accident or modern
design - various trace metals that modify the behaviour of the steel in use
.



The raw material available to the smith may have * included * Wootz or
crucible steel, and iron ores of various grades. In Ireland, swords from
local manufacturers were avoided where possible as they were often made from
Limonite or Bog Iron. This strange substance is precipitated out of
iron-rich water by bacteriological action in the depths of peat bogs and is
pure, clean iron. Once reduced to small, thin plaques, it is possible to
hammer weld it into usable blades without further ado, but the supply was
never large enough to keep up with demand. Undisturbed, the bog will rebuild
its supply within about twenty years. Conversely, it was known that the iron
ingots that came from Damascus were very good for weapon manufacture.
Therefore, the confusion between these plain iron ingots and crucible steel
was bound to happen soon or late. But just because - and here's the real
point - an iron ingot came from Damascus, it does not mean that it came from
an iron mine in the outskirts of the city! Damascus - then as now - was a
great trading centre & goods were brought from far and wide in order to be
sold on. Later, the finest pattern welding began to come from Damascus and
this muddied the waters further. I have handled a beautiful musket where the
name of the Prophet was repeated in the pattern welding! A sobering sight
indeed for any aspiring smith! '
End quote

best
Dave

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 04 Jan, 2009 2:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The article has probably been mentioned on all of the relevant forums by now.

As I said on SFI http://forums.swordforum.com/showthread.php?t=93489
"The article tells us that Dr Williams has been testing ulfbert swords and that the quality of them varies greatly. All the rest of the article tells us is that the author has little idea what he is talking about. It would be wise to reserve comment until a paper that was actually written by Dr Williams is reviewed."
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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Thu 08 Jan, 2009 7:00 am    Post subject: Article Site         Reply with quote

Hello All

I have had a chance to read the article published that generated the news story.

"Crucible steel in medieval swords" by Dr. Alan Williams, Metals and Mines
Studies in Archaeometallurgy, Selected papers from the conference Metallurgy: A Touchstone for Cross-cultural Interaction
held at the British Museum 28Ė30 April 2005 to celebrate the career of Paul Craddock during his 40 years at the British Museum
Edited by Susan La Niece, Duncan Hook and Paul Craddock

I very nice read and some of the other articles look like interesting reading as well. "Note to self, adjust time space continuim to allow more time per day" Happy

As per, and sadly constantly, usual the reporter has probably taken some comment in an interview and use said "faker" concept to give his article a catchy grab. In fact the use of different raw materials for construction of the "Ulfberht" blades is identified but there is of course no clear cut concept that a "faker" was at work. One needs to place this idea to the side and look at the craft world of this three hundred year period and view these items as produced in that context. Not our fevered modern minds looking for a scandal. Happy

The info is first rate and details several "Ulfberht" swords as having hypereutectoid steel as there material. These are probably crucible steel in origin and may well have been imported from Asia or India. The carbon content of these pieces is high, above 1% (thus hypereutectoid) and in most cases seem to have not been heat treated. The material giving an excellent sword if worked correctly and not heat treated. It doe detail a few swords that may well have been crucible steel that where over worked and thus lost some of this property.

Williams also details some period quotes that indicate a knowledge of "India" Steel being better for certain things and highly sought after as a sword material and the fact that it liquified easier than the local iron/steel. These comments while not seen in great numbers do show up from Frankish times to the 14th C. with specifics listed for the 11th, 12th and 14th Centuries, as well as a several comments on liquifying steel in this period being difficult but that the "India" steel can do this.

All in all the article adds a great deal to the context of these swords and opens several interesting questions that need further research. The news item was sadly lacking in any of the interesting topics that could have been used to introduce the subject and probably contributed to another mythconception which we will spend great effort trying to convince others of its fallacies in the future Eek!

Thanks Don for your thoughtful wisdom on trying not to discuss some reporters misconceptions until we could get to the meat of the issue.

Luka, I do not think we have a good idea of where they were made, if in fact there was one place. I think the idea that we are looking at one source and its imitators maybe to miss the point of what the evidence suggests. I am looking into this some more but as of now. I would say that the evidence points to sources of crucible steel being traded from its source in India and Asia via trade routes to viking traders and destinations in the Med and that Frankish and Norse smiths worked the material to varying degrees of success and use. At the moment I think that is as definitive as we can be. As I pointed out above as well, the "crucible steel" swords where probably not heat treated.

Best my friends
Craig
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David Huggins




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Jan, 2009 10:22 am    Post subject: Viking swords         Reply with quote

Thanks Craig for your last post and sharing your thoughts also.
best
Dave

ps would you mind if I posted your source and comments elswhere, obviously credited to yourself?

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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Thu 08 Jan, 2009 10:35 am    Post subject: Have at her!         Reply with quote

That is fine by me Dave.

maybe remove the personal responce parts or adjust to fill in the blanks as they would not have the context. As we know context is everything Happy

have a good one.

best
Craig
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Lawrence Parramore





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PostPosted: Thu 15 Jan, 2009 10:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just putting my uneducated 2 pennies in, but from what I have read there are 2 types of 'woots' a northern and a southern. One would be what I would think of as Bulat and that from India would be wootz, the processes being different in some way from what I remember.

I can see that it would not be difficult for either of these to be traded to Europe and used.

I put something on a few months ago about a report I read in Williams book about a process used in Brescia I believe that could have created a kind of Bulat and do not see why this could not also have been done elsewhere in Europe?

As I remember it Bulat is wrought iron soaked in cast iron and wootz is closer to modern crucible steel.

What would have stopped the process entering Europe? It was practised all the way from China to the Caucasus?

That it was not a common process is seemingly obvious, but workshops were secretive and would not let outsiders learn their techniques.
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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Thu 15 Jan, 2009 12:40 pm    Post subject: Wootz         Reply with quote

Lawrence Parramore wrote:
Just putting my uneducated 2 pennies in, but from what I have read there are 2 types of 'woots' a northern and a southern. One would be what I would think of as Bulat and that from India would be wootz, the processes being different in some way from what I remember.

I can see that it would not be difficult for either of these to be traded to Europe and used.

I put something on a few months ago about a report I read in Williams book about a process used in Brescia I believe that could have created a kind of Bulat and do not see why this could not also have been done elsewhere in Europe?

As I remember it Bulat is wrought iron soaked in cast iron and wootz is closer to modern crucible steel.

What would have stopped the process entering Europe? It was practised all the way from China to the Caucasus?

That it was not a common process is seemingly obvious, but workshops were secretive and would not let outsiders learn their techniques.


Lawrence

The origin and development of crucible steel is a moving target. There has been some great research done in the last 20 years and there has been much further development of what was written even in that period. The need for more archeology on the subject is strong and there are new developments on the study of the material all the time.

In short I would say any regional differences are more in terminology than in major differences in the material. The period use of "Bulat" for the material is just a rus reference to its Persian origin as the supplier. Possibly not the maker. And of course it is important to understand the different geographical alignments of these cultures in the period as opposed to todays borders.

Crucible steel blades that show a pattern are wootz ( often referred to in the west as Damascus) but all wootz does not show a surface pattern. All wootz is steel but not all steel is wootz. There are a couple of methodologies to create steel from iron and carbon, what method and how much they produced in any historical period is one of the giant questions that need to have better answers. There is a great deal of research going on in these areas but sadly it is not supported as well as it could be.

As to technological transference across regions I would agree that there are fewer barriers to this than we sometime think and any place doing large scale production would not be able to completely control the out flow of information. But just knowing how to do something and setting up and staring full scale production are big leaps. The fact that we see evidence that indicates the inability to process wootz in some areas of Europe are good indicators that the material was accessible but not always understood.

Best
Craig

PS While I do know a bit about this stuff I was discussing with the very knowledgeable Ric Furrer some of these very points this morning so I can not take full credit for as fully informed a response as it sounds above Happy
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Jan, 2009 1:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lawrence Parramore wrote:
Just putting my uneducated 2 pennies in, but from what I have read there are 2 types of 'woots' a northern and a southern. One would be what I would think of as Bulat and that from India would be wootz, the processes being different in some way from what I remember.

I can see that it would not be difficult for either of these to be traded to Europe and used.

I put something on a few months ago about a report I read in Williams book about a process used in Brescia I believe that could have created a kind of Bulat and do not see why this could not also have been done elsewhere in Europe?

As I remember it Bulat is wrought iron soaked in cast iron and wootz is closer to modern crucible steel.

What would have stopped the process entering Europe? It was practised all the way from China to the Caucasus?

That it was not a common process is seemingly obvious, but workshops were secretive and would not let outsiders learn their techniques.
But if they did do it here, why did they stop and return to a much more laborous method of making blister steel and welding it into a much dirtier shear steel? Up to the 18th century, all steel was made that way. They knew about Indian crucible steel in the 17th century, but couldn't reproduce it at that time. If they couldn't figure it out in the 17th century, I'm not surprized if they couldn't figure it out in the Viking period.
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Lawrence Parramore





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PostPosted: Fri 16 Jan, 2009 4:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well the Brescia method I mentioned was in the medieval period in Italy.

I guess like most things it came down to cost, I remember reading a report about swords in the Nineteenth century in the UK and Officers complaining that when fighting the Fuzzy Wuzzies in Africa their swords were breaking or bending and cost about £2 and yet the Fuzzies swords some of which were made in the UK were at least £30, the story went something like that.

If you want wrought iron or Charcoal Iron now, there is only one place in Europe that produces it and most people do not know of it even though we have the internet, so I guess it might come down to the microeconomics of the time, quality armour plate was ditched for poor quality thick iron that was cheap?

Huntsman who 'invented' crucible steel came from my Town and later moved to Sheffield after his 'discovery', but maybe he had been to India and had seen the process, really if westerners had seen the process in India and knew it to be superior why didn't they do it over here?

I think as Williams does his studies it may be found that other swords from other parts of Europe have such curiosities too.
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Taylor Ellis




PostPosted: Fri 16 Jan, 2009 4:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lawrence Parramore wrote:
Huntsman who 'invented' crucible steel came from my Town and later moved to Sheffield after his 'discovery', but maybe he had been to India and had seen the process, really if westerners had seen the process in India and knew it to be superior why didn't they do it over here?

Is/was wootz superior?
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Jeff Pringle
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Jan, 2009 6:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In the early 1800s, they thought it superior, tried and failed to figure it out in England, France and Russia - although the Russians were and are sure they were successful. But then the Bessemer system came along and changed the paradigm, so it became moot. The English efforts of Stodart and Faraday can be dug up on Google books.
Speaking of mythconceptions, somebody better tell Kim that bog iron is iron oxide, as he said limonite, and not pure, clean iron! It must go through a smelting operation like all iron ores. I hope he didnít pick up that misinformation from Atli.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limonite
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bog_iron


On the Alloys of Steel By J Stodart Esq FRS and Mr M Faraday Chemical Assistant in the Royal Institution Communicated by J Stodart Esq FRS March 21 1822 [Phil.Trans. 1822, p.253] The metals which form the most valuable alloys with steel for the purpose of manufacture into cutting instruments are silver platinum rhodium indium osmium and palladium Eight pounds of Indian steel alloyed with 1/200th of pure silver formed a very hard and tenacious compound well adapted to the manufacture of cutlery and several edge tools Ten pounds of the same steel with1/100th of pure platinum produced an alloy less hard but more tough than the former With rhodium iridium and osmium the alloys were also excellent but the scarcity of those metals prevents their general introduction into the manufactory The authors then state the processes of analysis which they adopted to assure themselves of the composition and perfection of the respective alloys.
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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Jan, 2009 6:29 am    Post subject: More Info         Reply with quote

Hi Taylor

Here I will quote Ric Furrer Directly

" Special properties of wootz:
It had carbide clusters aligned in rows with softer pearlite material around...I often relate this to "Diamonds in Pudding" where the pearlite matrix supports the harder carbides which are very abrasion resistant. The wootz saw-tooths through materials.
The carbides are hard and brittle and the pearlite matrix is soft and supports the carbides. What it generally lacks is slag and impurities which can be areas of weakness so in a sense it is more useful then bloomery iron which is not consistent at all and requires many refining steps to make blades....crucible steel can simply be forged to shape and used. The blades hardness tested while I was in India were of a range of hardness and in general the wootz blades were 100 vickers harder then the bloomery blades so they would cut better for the most part.
Wootz was NOT more flexible then bloomery steel nor was it all that much superior in many ways...what it did do was make a consistently useful blade whereas bloomery steel was more difficult to get batch consistency from."

I would expect it is consistency that is the issue more than one material being vastly superior to another. It is a legendary material and that is something one must always take into account. It would be impossible to imbue a modern made material with all the attributes associated with wootz over the years. Here is another quote by Ric.

"It is IMPOSSIBLE to recreate a myth so the mythological wootz/crucible steel can NEVER be made. This is because the myth is not a real presentation of the steel. I held a blade in India that was owned by a Prince of the region and was said to have cut through a rider, his armor and the horse he sat upon. Now...I held the ACTUAL blade in my hand and it was real, but the cut it was said to have done could never have been real. It was a perfectly good blade, but nothing could do that cut. most likely the Prince cut the man and some of his armor failed or was cut around and he fell off hiis horse and the horse may have died due to whatever injuries...but the reason folk wear armor is that it stops swords from cutting them (as well as generalized battle damages). Keep in mind also that much of the armor for princes was also wootz so...

Can we reproduce chemically and functionally the wootz of old?..yes plain and simple. However, there is still a great deal to learn and each new melt teaches more.
I can make wootz and have for some 15 years now. There are maybe 10 folk who make wootz around the world, but none that I know whom sell it commercially. A few have tried.
In general if a blacksmith wants to make a wootz blade he has to melt it himself or ask for it from one of the few who do it."

As with so much of our exploration of the sword in history we are dealing with the perceived accomplishments of the smith and warrior as opposed to the science of these accomplishments. This is not a bad thing, it is what gives much of the romance and attraction to these historical happenings to us today. But we also have to understand that we cannot work out side the bounds of physical science and declare they did something that is beyond or limited under the capabilities of a known material. This is the only way for us to understand fully the incredible talents and understanding they had of their world. I do not want to suggest that this is what you are doing at all, but rather point out to all, that this approach will enlighten and debunk myths and conjecture not only in the research of the arms and armor of the period but also the culture and understanding they practiced whether it be steel or martial arts.

Lawrence your supposition is something I think Dr Williams would agree with that we do not fully understand the complete range and size of steel production in the European context as fully as we need to. The Brescian method may well be a great example of this variety of material production that may have existed through out the period but has not been researched as much. When we get to the 19th C. I think the examples are going to be driven more by contract work and the economics of industrialization as opposed to local abilities and resources. The production may well have survived on the local level but the ability to produce hundreds or thousands of a product in shoe=rt order cheaply begins to override other issues.

Best
Craig
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Lawrence Parramore





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PostPosted: Fri 16 Jan, 2009 9:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well Huntsman was in production in Sheffield by 1740 I believe; http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/277...n-Huntsman but the story all gets mixed up because Sheffield like to claim him, so they have to make facts fit around him being in Sheffield! As far as I am aware he invented his process whilst in Doncaster, realising it's importance and went to the most sensible place to start production.
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