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Luke Zechman




Location: Lock Haven Pennsylvania
Joined: 18 Jan 2009

Posts: 278

PostPosted: Wed 16 Dec, 2009 2:12 pm    Post subject: Falcata Project         Reply with quote

I have wanted to do this for some time now and have some particular motivation. I have resisted the urge to buy any cheap swords now for a couple of months, but the itch is real bad. Any cheap sword that I would buy would be simply to use and beat. Instead I have decided to save my money and buy some better quality stuff from custom people, and in that process, make as much of the finished product as I can. This is more so for the experience I will gain from the doing, and secondly about saving money by doing it myself. it was over four years ago when I really began to enjoy crafting things, and that has grown and become more fervent then ever. I partially choose the route of schooling that I have based around my desire to eventually have my own shop, forge, and equipment. I have really enjoyed working on some projects here and there, modifying production stuff, and I am ready to take this as far as I can.

I really really would like to get my hands on a good quality Falcata. I want to be involved in the making of such sword via the actual design (drawing included), and make everything for the sword except for the blade. Eventually I want to make my own blades but that won't happen until I graduate college and get my feet on the ground. So in the mean time this is what I have got.

I want to begin working on the hilt of this falcata, which I want to be of both metal and organic materials (bone). I have read a little bit on the subject of casting metals, but I was looking for some information from this versed community. What would you need to cast bronze or brass on a minimalist level? I am interested in the lost wax casting method. At the very least I would like to get my hands on some wax and make some shapes to be cast eventually. I have access to a kiln at my university for melting the wax out of the mold. I know where to get wax and had an idea of the basic tools I would need to shape it. What are some online vendors that would sell casting supplies at a reasonable price? What are the basics that I need to know about working with bronze / brass (links to other places this is discussed are welcome, for time sake.)

Is it common for modern smiths to make bare blades for customers, and when they do is it any cheaper then finished swords?

I have been studying Kirk Spencer's thread on falcata/kopis and have begun drawing some designs, which I will be posting sometime over break. I have an art degree in drawing, so hopefully these drawings will be up to snuff and supply some enjoyment here at myArmoury.

Any reply is very much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Luke
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Thu 17 Dec, 2009 12:51 am    Post subject: Re: Falcata Project         Reply with quote

Hello Luke,

Is your intention for it to be a historically accurate example? In that case there is no bronze in the hilt. If you want to do bronze casting for another project, I can tell you how to do it starting with a budget of just a few euros/dollars. With bone, mind that you won't be able to make anything flat that's wider then 4cm, unless you have access to f.e. whale bone.

Jeroen Zuiderwijk
- Bronze age living history in the Netherlands
- Barbarian metalworking
- Museum photos
- Zip-file with information about saxes
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Luke Zechman




Location: Lock Haven Pennsylvania
Joined: 18 Jan 2009

Posts: 278

PostPosted: Thu 17 Dec, 2009 5:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeroen,
Thank you for that information. Can you tell me anything about how these hilts where constructed? I have looked at many pictures of historical examples, but with out first hand evaluation can not make out their general construction. I know that there are many types of Kopis / Falcata from various regions, and i do not as of yet have my specific interest narrowed to any particular type. I was thinking of something an Iberian would have used, or a Greek Hoplite.

It is good to know that these hilts did not contain bronze, but I still would not mind learning how to cast it. I understand the basic process, but do not know any of the specifics.

Thanks for the info!

Also those are some great link you have there. I would love to do the hilt, and maybe even the casting of a bronze age sword. When I get the casting up and running it will be at the top of my list of things to do.
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Josh MacNeil




Location: Massachusetts, USA
Joined: 23 Jul 2008

Posts: 197

PostPosted: Thu 17 Dec, 2009 11:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Luke. I've experimented with casting aluminum in my backyard. Then I tried making my own brass by mixing some copper sheeting and pennies for the zinc. It was kind of disastrous, but still a fun experience. It takes some time and a whole lot of patience, but it's definitely doable.

My dad and I built a make shift blast furnace to melt down the metal. It was made from a galvanized steel bucket with mortar mix for insulation and fueled by charcoal and ShopVac for air flow. It worked extremely well. I'll see if I can dig up some pictures and maybe find the instructions we followed if you're interested.

This setup can be used very effectively for aluminum casting; which I would recommend trying before you get into copper alloys because of the lower melting point. The setup can be used for copper alloys as well (I've even got steel up to its melting point) but uses a lot of fuel in the process. So if you want to skip the aluminum experience altogether, then I'd go with a propane fueled furnace; much more fuel efficient. The cool thing about this design though, is that you end up with a forge you can use for smithing as well. Happy
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Luke Zechman




Location: Lock Haven Pennsylvania
Joined: 18 Jan 2009

Posts: 278

PostPosted: Thu 17 Dec, 2009 12:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for sharing your experience Josh. I actually had built a hefty brake drum forge about a year ago. The break drum is not an ideal shape for forging but now that I think about it... it should work well for this type of thing. I think at this point I am just going to read some more info in the smithing books i have, as they include smaller sections on casting. Also i will look for a good book on basic metallurgy, and a place (online or local vendor) to get some quality materials from.
I think I am pretty good on getting the metal molten. It was some of the finer points I was interested in. Like specific composition of alloys, metal alloys used for period stuff, any specific order in which you need to add then to the crucible etc etc Tricks of the trade so to speak.


Any suggestion on a good book or web resource for metal casting or alloys in general?
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Luke Zechman




Location: Lock Haven Pennsylvania
Joined: 18 Jan 2009

Posts: 278

PostPosted: Wed 23 Dec, 2009 4:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is a design that I have drawn to scale. I am pretty set on the configuration of the blade. The hilt is another story. I want something that could be considered historically plausible, without being too fancy.

I am in the midst of talking to a smith (won't say who until anything is final) to make the blade. I am even considering doing the fuller work myself, as well as shaping the handle portion, as the design may change a little as I learn more about these weapons historically. I tried to keep the fuller system a little simple as these swords go, and it is still fairly complex. Also the cross sections are not exactly how the actual would be, I just put them in to show the ups and downs.

I made a mock handle out of about 6 sandwiched pieces of corrugated cardboard. It fit into the hand like a dream.

Overall length will be around 23in or 58.5cm
Blade length 17in or 43cm

Pictured next to the gladius that was in the "Pompei Gladius Modifications"



 Attachment: 27.11 KB
Falcata design.jpg

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Jerry Knox




Location: Palm Bay, Florida, USA
Joined: 12 Jun 2007

Posts: 53

PostPosted: Wed 23 Dec, 2009 9:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luke, if you're as into DIY as you sound, keep in mind that falcata blades were probably not made of modern high carbon steel. You could make a pretty historically accurate blade yourself with mild steel from the hardware store, either ground out or forged. And if you want to harden it some, you could cold work the edge, or experiment with something like superquench...

-----------edit-----------

P.S. love the look of your concept drawing. Have you considered the larger kukries from windlass as starting material? My brother has the "giant/ceremonial" kukri, and I have been thinking about getting one as raw material for a modding project to create a falcata/kopis sort of sword (I am not extremely picky about historicity, though)
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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Location: Netherlands
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PostPosted: Thu 24 Dec, 2009 12:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jerry Knox wrote:
Luke, if you're as into DIY as you sound, keep in mind that falcata blades were probably not made of modern high carbon steel. You could make a pretty historically accurate blade yourself with mild steel from the hardware store, either ground out or forged. And if you want to harden it some, you could cold work the edge, or experiment with something like superquench...

I'm not so sure they were just iron. At least one I know is described as being a sandwich of steel and iron, and I've read some rumors that falcatas were known for having exceptional quality steel (though haven't been able to verify this). I wouldn't be surprized if they (or at least the edges) were quench hardened.

Quote:
P.S. love the look of your concept drawing. Have you considered the larger kukries from windlass as starting material? My brother has the "giant/ceremonial" kukri, and I have been thinking about getting one as raw material for a modding project to create a falcata/kopis sort of sword (I am not extremely picky about historicity, though)

You won't get the handle out of a kurkri. Mind that they have a full tang, and a wide guard, with the largest cross-section being at the guard (highest thickness and usually largest width). So you need to start out with something that has the biggest cross-section there if you want to get a falcata out of it.

Luke, if you really want to make a historically plausible falcata, it would be best to pick one single example that you like and take all measurements from that one. If you try to combine different examples, you may end up with something that's the equivalent of a 20th century car reproduction existing of Ferrari, T-Ford and Citroen parts. Until you know the origin of most falcatas, the exact dating and then have a good overview of the chronological developement per region, understand the functional aspects in individual examples, you'll combine features that historically and functionally don't make sense. Just like with a lot of other historical blades (like saxes f.e.), there is a lot of variation, but a large portion of the variation is not random but very specific in time and place and applicable to the specific blade design. Because I make reproductions myself, frequently by partial or completely historical methods, I know now what features are the result of functional differences, period and place, stylistic reasons, fabrication techniques, level of skill in fabrication and random variation due to being handmade. Of course you don't have to go into it that deep, and you may be perfectly happy if it's at least better then the commercially available reproductions. But it's good to keep the above in mind if you're looking for the best possible historical falcata.

Jeroen Zuiderwijk
- Bronze age living history in the Netherlands
- Barbarian metalworking
- Museum photos
- Zip-file with information about saxes
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Luke Zechman




Location: Lock Haven Pennsylvania
Joined: 18 Jan 2009

Posts: 278

PostPosted: Thu 24 Dec, 2009 7:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Perhaps I should just stick to an interpretation then. I wouldn't know how to get the blade geometry right without having an original in my hands. I have time to think this over, and change things. If anything the design will give a smith an idea of what they are up against. I would just pick one of the handle designs that you had posted in the Falcata/ kopis furniture thread Jeroen, but they are not shown with the blade. All aside does the design that i have come up with look like a decent interpretation?
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Thu 24 Dec, 2009 7:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luke Zechman wrote:
Perhaps I should just stick to an interpretation then. I wouldn't know how to get the blade geometry right without having an original in my hands.

I have photo's, drawings etc. of probably roughly 60 examples or more, so if you're looking for a specific model, I can gather a bunch of data. The one I've got most data on is one I'm making myself though, so I might not give everything away on that one just yet Happy

Quote:
I have time to think this over, and change things. If anything the design will give a smith an idea of what they are up against. I would just pick one of the handle designs that you had posted in the Falcata/ kopis furniture thread Jeroen, but they are not shown with the blade. All aside does the design that i have come up with look like a decent interpretation?

First thing that I notice is that you don't have the false edge. A lot of falcata's, particularly with the kind of bladeshape as you've drawn have a sharpened edge along the spine staring directly from the bend (which is why the top fuller/groove ends there). Overal, the blade appears rather short and wide to me, and the fuller looks rather wide. The fuller doesn't come below the centerline of the blade, except at the start of the blade and is usually no more then roughly 1/3rd the blade width.

Jeroen Zuiderwijk
- Bronze age living history in the Netherlands
- Barbarian metalworking
- Museum photos
- Zip-file with information about saxes
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Luke Zechman




Location: Lock Haven Pennsylvania
Joined: 18 Jan 2009

Posts: 278

PostPosted: Thu 24 Dec, 2009 10:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is great stuff! I guess overall I was looking for an example that does not have a lot of bells and whistles. I will go back to the drawing board and fix the things you mentioned. If you have any photos on ones that approximate what i have now, maybe you could post them, and I could go from there. I seem to favor this type of blade shape, and the horse head type seems to appeal more to me the the bird type (if that makes any sense) I personally like the way the one I drew looks, but I really would like a larger degree of historic accuracy.
Are you doing as Jerry has mentioned earlier, and not using high carbon steel. Work hardening, or quench hardening? Are you forging in the fullers, are cutting them in?
Thanks for the information. I have exhausted the internet searches for photos, and do not have access to originals.
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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Location: Netherlands
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PostPosted: Fri 25 Dec, 2009 9:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I''ll look for one that's similar. It's like the one I'm working on, so I'll see if there's one close but slightly different Happy I'm not behind my own pc at the moment, so I don't have access to the images. But if I don't reply in a few days, remind me.
Jeroen Zuiderwijk
- Bronze age living history in the Netherlands
- Barbarian metalworking
- Museum photos
- Zip-file with information about saxes
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Luke Zechman




Location: Lock Haven Pennsylvania
Joined: 18 Jan 2009

Posts: 278

PostPosted: Fri 25 Dec, 2009 12:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeroen,
My main goal should be to make an accurate falcata. If you have information on one that that gives dimensions, shows the whole sword in one shot, and has some information on hilt construction, that would be excellent. I don't need to do one that looks exactly like my design. I think they are all pretty interesting, so I can't be picky about which one I try and copy. I appreciate your help on this!!
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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Location: Netherlands
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PostPosted: Sat 26 Dec, 2009 4:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This one is described by Peter Johnsson in great detail, which is a good place to start:

http://forums.dfoggknives.com/index.php?showt...&st=25

This falcata is part of the collection in the Klingesmuseum, Solingen, Germany.

I've taken a few photos of the same falcata (the only one I've seen in the flesh so far) myself as well:







Here's two images of another example. No. 2 in the first image is the same as the bottom one in the close-up in the picture below. You can use the scales to take the measurements (length 57cm, max. thickness at the first cross-section is 9mm and 4mm at the second cross-section).





This falcata is not well preserved, but shows clearly how the bolsters are attached, due to the rivets being missing:





N.b. here are some photos of very well preserved falcatas:



And another close up here:

http://armasmagnetita.files.wordpress.com/200...o-0301.jpg

The last two photos are from these articles:
http://armasmagnetita.wordpress.com/2008/06/2...erromanas/
http://armasconmagnetita.blogspot.com/

It describes an artificial magnetite coating that was apparently applied in ancient times on these falcatas, as well as many other iron artifacts from the region. So these falcatas would have been black in color, rather then grey.

Jeroen Zuiderwijk
- Bronze age living history in the Netherlands
- Barbarian metalworking
- Museum photos
- Zip-file with information about saxes
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Luke Zechman




Location: Lock Haven Pennsylvania
Joined: 18 Jan 2009

Posts: 278

PostPosted: Sun 31 Jul, 2011 5:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Fellow Forumites...

I am bumping this thread because the time has come for me to commission a custom falcata. I would really like to see more of these blades being reproduced, and have decided to take the plunge and fund one myself. I have some criteria for what I would like to accomplish with this commission, and they will be listed . If you would eventually like to see a custom falcata being reproduced, please help me in my quest for information concerning.

Criteria...

Historically Plausible leaning more toward historically accurate.

Blade Criteria
-Blade Geometry, distal taper, not over built
- Forged
- Realistic fuller pattern ( were they forged in or incised?)
- Period material, or the next best thing, although I would settle for modern steel
- Possibility of having the finished blade blackened as some evidence of originals may suggest... Thoughts on that?
Hilt Criteria
- Materials Plausible
- Decor either copy from original or highly influenced by originals
- Containing both metallic and organic components.


Please join me in my quest to fund the creation of a beautiful falcata reproduction. Dig through your library for pictures. Include anything you might feel helpful in understanding how to do this right.

At this time I will not reveal who I have contacted to make this blade, but if things go well then I know the end result will be appreciated by many members of this sight. Thank you!

P.S. I am currently working 14 hour days, 7 days a week which is both hindering this project and funding it. I do not have a lot of time each day to do much research. any help will be appreciated.
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Mon 01 Aug, 2011 4:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The grooves and fullers I strongly suspect were applied using scrapers. As for the composition, I have no hard data on that. I've heard of steel sandwiched between iron, but I can't verify that. For the metal hilt components: iron only. Good luck with the reproduction!Happy
Jeroen Zuiderwijk
- Bronze age living history in the Netherlands
- Barbarian metalworking
- Museum photos
- Zip-file with information about saxes
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Luke Zechman




Location: Lock Haven Pennsylvania
Joined: 18 Jan 2009

Posts: 278

PostPosted: Tue 16 Aug, 2011 7:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Fellow Forumites,
Oh whoa is me. I have been moved to third shift, and feel like a zombie. I am still going to be going ahead with this custom falcata. Here is the good news. Patrick Barta has expressed interest in crafting this sword for me. I think we will all agree that his work is beautiful, and that it would interesting to see him do this style of weapon. Nothing is official yet. We have communicated via email, but no deal has been struck. I need to provide him with a design/criteria for the piece first Still have to decide on a piece to base it on, and internet searches are turning up poorly. I would love to somehow flood this thread with many many pictures of museum pieces, but cannot contribute any of my own.
A few things I would like to look into further. I was wondering if anyone knew the process used to blacken these blade, and also was attempting to find out were the evidence for this may be found. I am set on having metal hilt components crafted from iron, at the heeding of Jeroen's advice. Is there any evidence for organic hilt material, and if so what kind?
Ok well any more help is appreciated. Thanks again!
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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
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PostPosted: Thu 18 Aug, 2011 11:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

is 17 inches the typical blade lengths for falcata/ kopis? (if there is any difference in design)
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David Wilson




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PostPosted: Sat 20 Aug, 2011 2:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William P wrote:
is 17 inches the typical blade lengths for falcata/ kopis? (if there is any difference in design)


17 inches is a good blade length for a Spanish falcata. These tend to be fairly short and stout, with blades from as short as 12 inches or so (IIRC) to 21-22 inches or thereabouts. The earlier Greek kopis could be much longer, with blades upwards of 24 or 25 inches or so.

David K. Wilson, Jr.
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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
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PostPosted: Sun 21 Aug, 2011 1:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David Wilson wrote:
William P wrote:
is 17 inches the typical blade lengths for falcata/ kopis? (if there is any difference in design)


17 inches is a good blade length for a Spanish falcata. These tend to be fairly short and stout, with blades from as short as 12 inches or so (IIRC) to 21-22 inches or thereabouts. The earlier Greek kopis could be much longer, with blades upwards of 24 or 25 inches or so.


oh, awsome.. wow. i.. i mean if the kukri is as lethal as it is,.. i quite frankly SHUDDER to see how powerful that sword would be. lemme show you what american company cold steel did to targets with their interperetation ofthe kukri.. ithas a 12 inch blade and weighs 22 ounces overall

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7dS8YWqymo

the idea of what is essentially a 24 inch kukri.. makes me very VERY scared.
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