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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Wed 04 Mar, 2009 8:04 am    Post subject: Bronze viking hilts. Why, or why not?         Reply with quote

I was thinking about this as I contemplated about the custom hilt I'm having made for bare DT2070 blade I ordered few weeks ago. I understand that there are very few viking age hilts made of bronze or brass, out of 213 type H sword specimens found in Norway only two had hilt parts made entirely of bronze (quote: In two cases the guard and the pommel are entirely of bronze[5] (fig. 80). Likewise, the upper hilt is of bronze on sword T 1441 from Krokstad, Melhus, S.T. (fig.81), [~92] and its guard moreover has quite the same shape as the two others: tall, wide and ridged.) Most had strips of bronze, copper or silver in grooves all over the surface of hilt. Why? It is so much more work... Was bronze or copper so much more expensive than iron that all that work is more profitable than spending more material in a much simpler process?
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Zach Gordon




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PostPosted: Wed 04 Mar, 2009 8:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi,
Frankly I don't think bronze/brass was that expensive, silver was the expensive metal. Wire inlay frankly looks better/cooler.
Now were bronze/brass much more expensive people would go with a much more difficult way that used less material, labor was incredibly cheep, raw materials were expensive.
Lastly cost would not be that big of an issue, swords were expensive and the people who used them liked to show how rich they were. It wasn't until the very end of the Viking era that swords started becoming cheaper and more common.
Z
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Wed 04 Mar, 2009 9:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ian Pierce wrote in the Swords of the viking age, I think maybe even Petersen said the same, that when new these inlays looked like a more or less smooth surface so I thought there must be a price reason not to use entirely bronze hilt.
Btw, here are the two swords with entirely bronze hilts. Unfortunately the second has only the upper guard survived and the pictures are black and white.



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Douglas S





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PostPosted: Wed 04 Mar, 2009 10:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The question may be: why bronze? The smith already has the forge going, a pile of iron ready to go, and a hammer in his hand. Why should he build a bronze foundry?
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Michael Pikula
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PostPosted: Wed 04 Mar, 2009 11:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Keep in mind that bronze can be hot forged as well. My amature opinion is that steel/iron probably help up better to use then bronze would unless it was work hardened around the area where it was fitted to the blade.

Just my opinion.
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Peter Johnsson
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PostPosted: Wed 04 Mar, 2009 12:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It might have been the case that those who did the inlay were not the same craftsmen who forged the hilt components. Blades could well have been made by yet other craftsmen, or more or less commonly imported.

What seems practical and straight forward to us, might have been less so because of the way work was organized at the time.
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Wed 04 Mar, 2009 2:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Pikula wrote:
Keep in mind that bronze can be hot forged as well.
Actually, it can't. Bronze is red short, and crumbles if struck when hot. Brass on the other hand can be forged.

Quote:
My amature opinion is that steel/iron probably help up better to use then bronze would unless it was work hardened around the area where it was fitted to the blade.
Bronze, brass or iron are all more then strong enough to be used as pommels and guards. My guess it was just a matter of availability of materials. Iron was just much more common, and whatever bronze or brass was around was used in fibulae etc. On the availability of bronze, I seem to recall a mention that in Dorestad, Netherlands, Roman bronze from finds out of the ground was one of the major sources for bronze in the early medieval/Viking period.
Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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Michael Pikula
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PostPosted: Thu 05 Mar, 2009 9:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeroen Zuiderwijk wrote:
Michael Pikula wrote:
Keep in mind that bronze can be hot forged as well.
Actually, it can't. Bronze is red short, and crumbles if struck when hot. Brass on the other hand can be forged.


If heated to a dull red, then removed from the forge the bronze forges very well. Soft hits at first, then slightly harder hits can be used. Once the bronze work hardens reheat to a dull red and you can continue to forge it. I have worked small and large pieces of bronze this way and have only had it crumble under the hammer if the temperature is too hot.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Thu 05 Mar, 2009 2:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are specific grades of bronze / brass that are best suited for forging compared to other grades. What is today called "forging bronze" usually has aluminum or silicone, and no tin. A technical purist might argue that it is "unhistorical as bronze" since tin was a major historical part of the recipe for "bronze." Have you had much success forging known copper/ tin alloy bronze?

My guess as to "why use brass/ bronze was used when it was" would be in the artistic advantages of obtaining details through casting. Hot forging ornate curves and shapes into steel can be done. But, I would guess it to be easier to carve an investment from wax (or now a days even a perishable plastic.) Discarded mistakes are cheaper if one starts to account for fuels, specialized tools (drifts, swages, any others?) that other materials that would facilitate forging ornate steel pommels.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Thu 05 Mar, 2009 2:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Pikula wrote:
Jeroen Zuiderwijk wrote:
Michael Pikula wrote:
Keep in mind that bronze can be hot forged as well.
Actually, it can't. Bronze is red short, and crumbles if struck when hot. Brass on the other hand can be forged.


If heated to a dull red, then removed from the forge the bronze forges very well. Soft hits at first, then slightly harder hits can be used. Once the bronze work hardens reheat to a dull red and you can continue to forge it. I have worked small and large pieces of bronze this way and have only had it crumble under the hammer if the temperature is too hot.
Are you talking actual tin bronzes? And if so, what percentages? Tin-bronze can't be hot forged with between 7 and about 17% tin. I break miscasts by heating them to red and then hitting them. Modern sheet bronze sheet is around 6-7% tin bronze for that very reason. It may be worked at below critical temperatures, but that's not actual forging, but "cold working" at elevated temperatures.
Jeroen Zuiderwijk
- Bronze age living history in the Netherlands
- Barbarian metalworking
- Museum photos
- Zip-file with information about saxes
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Robin Palmer




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PostPosted: Fri 06 Mar, 2009 8:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi all
One point against bronze for fittings on viking weapons is while copper is available in Norway as far as I am aware tin isn't which makes it far more expensive than iron which is in plentiful supply in Norway. It's use in inlay uses very little but pommels and fittings cost. I may be wrong but it could be a telling point.
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G Ezell
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Mar, 2009 1:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Let us not forget this example....

" I have found that it is very often the case that if you state some absolute rule of history, there will be an example, however extremely unusual, to break it."
Gabriel Lebec

https://www.facebook.com/relicforge
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Michael Pikula
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Mar, 2009 2:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't know the composition of the bronze that I have forged.... I know that the Bronze I forged in the US was some sort of silicon bronze, looking back in my notes I think it was 655 but I am not sure. I don't know what the bronze comp was in Germany, I know it was a huge chunk of about 2 inch square that I forged into a bird.

When I was working on a sculpture in Finland I was mainly forging steel but two of the guys were make a bronze element for the sculpture and they decided to cast the pieces from bronze. I saw the guy in charge adding a metal to the crucible as it was in the later stages of melting and I after some language barriers were crossed it was decided that the english term was tin. I asked if it could be forged and he said no but I wasn't able to find out why, I ass-u-med it was because it was cast.
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Mar, 2009 3:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Pikula wrote:
I don't know the composition of the bronze that I have forged.... I know that the Bronze I forged in the US was some sort of silicon bronze, looking back in my notes I think it was 655 but I am not sure. I don't know what the bronze comp was in Germany, I know it was a huge chunk of about 2 inch square that I forged into a bird.
Ah, but silicon bronze is a completely different material from tin bronze. Every alloying element added to copper (as well as the quantity of it) has a totally different effect on how the material behaves, as well as the quantity of it. Brass, essentially being just a zinc bronze can easily be forged for example (at least with the zinc quantities I've worked with).

Quote:
When I was working on a sculpture in Finland I was mainly forging steel but two of the guys were make a bronze element for the sculpture and they decided to cast the pieces from bronze. I saw the guy in charge adding a metal to the crucible as it was in the later stages of melting and I after some language barriers were crossed it was decided that the english term was tin. I asked if it could be forged and he said no but I wasn't able to find out why, I ass-u-med it was because it was cast.
Being cast or not doesn't matter. Casting it doesn't change the material, aside from it's shape that is Happy
Jeroen Zuiderwijk
- Bronze age living history in the Netherlands
- Barbarian metalworking
- Museum photos
- Zip-file with information about saxes
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Robin Palmer




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PostPosted: Sat 07 Mar, 2009 4:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi G
Point well made but one swallow does not a spring make and I believe my point is still valid the lack of bronze fitting on viking swords indicates that there was a preference for iron. Either cost availability or some cultural reason lost to us down history.
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