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Jorn Thomas Holth

Joined: 19 Jul 2013

Posts: 1

PostPosted: Fri 19 Jul, 2013 12:41 pm    Post subject: How shiny were the viking swords?         Reply with quote

I am forging a viking sword, and have now begun to polish the sword.

As I was doing this, I asked myself how shiny these swords really were.
I can't imagine that they where polished to mirror finish...

Any reflections on this would be appreciated.

JT Holth
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Greg Ballantyne

Location: Maryland USA
Joined: 14 Feb 2011
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Posts: 235

PostPosted: Fri 19 Jul, 2013 2:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Polish level may be the least surviving attribute of any historical sword, either as a find or as a preserved artifact. We can say however that swords made in that time had hilts that were quite ornately treated, as compared perhaps with other periods. However, while the maker of the furniture was most likely not the forger of the blade, he might well have been the polisher of the blade. Its all speculative, but in my mind that could indicate that the Viking era swords may have also been quite shiny.
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David Lewis Smith

Location: NC
Joined: 26 Aug 2003
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PostPosted: Fri 19 Jul, 2013 5:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have a book on the shelf some where that describes the blades from a norse epic of being able to see one self in the blade.

I think that is believable because constant cleaning in that environment would polish out a blade and a polished blade is less likely to rust

David L Smith
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Johan Gemvik

Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Joined: 10 Nov 2009

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PostPosted: Sat 20 Jul, 2013 4:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It all depends on what type of sword you're making. Some would have been more or less simple functional tools and others were made pretty, some excessively so.

A sword that was pattern welded would likely have been at least fairly well polished and then etched to show it as it had a mystic or even religious appeal to a prospective Scandinavian customer.

A sword that was just a hammered lump of iron would likely not have or need much finish. Iron swords like that are mentioned in the Kormac Saga. It's just a budget sword with no frills and it'll probably bend and may dull quickly in combat.
A step up from that would be a seax with a shorter and thicker blade to make it less deformation friendly and a welded-in high carbon steel edge able to take a temper and keep a keen edge. Most of these would have been functionality oriented rather than made pretty, but we can see finds of some exceptions and some of these are quite the works of art.

A differentially heat treated monosteel Frankish blade of superior quality would likely have the work put into it to show off the fine grain homogenous steel that made them the best blades of the time. A sword like this would have had the most likelyhood of being a mirror finish sword or close to it IMO.

I think we have room for all types in collectors hearts nowdays. There is a certain appeal to a purely functional blade, even those left rough from the forge and most sword enthusiats also want at least one with some bling. Wink

In modern day target cutting I notice a cleaner, less resistive cut though tatami mats with a well polished blade than a coarse one. The difference is certainly lesser than that of a well honed razor sharp edge vs just a decent one though, but I still notice it. However, it may only apply to fibre mat cutting and not flesh and bone and I don't notice it any when cutting plastic bottles.

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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