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Joshua Koss




Location: Ottawa ON.
Joined: 30 Dec 2009

Posts: 10

PostPosted: Wed 10 Sep, 2014 7:15 pm    Post subject: Forging a spear head         Reply with quote

This is my 4th attempt at forging a spear head. Hopefully it will be my third successful one. Wink I'm not working from any specific historic reference for two reasons: First, I just decided to give this a go in class today, and I didn't have any reference material with me. Second, I haven't been able to find much reference material, especially in terms of dimensions and weight. If anyone wants to point me towards any info or photos of extend spear head from medieval europe, I would much appreciate it.

I started with a chunk of leaf spring cut out with a torch. Not the best starting shape, but it should work. I don't have a picture of my starting material, but here it is after a fair few heats. The general form starts to emerge.



Once I got the cone for the socket large enough for my intended shaft diameter, I started to curl it. I just made up a shaft diameter of 7/8".



At this point I had to run off to work. I should likely get the rough forging done tomorrow, no problem.

Any advice would be much appreciated. Blade making in general is fairly new territory for me.
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Tim Harris
Industry Professional



Location: Melbourne, Australia
Joined: 06 Sep 2006

Posts: 162

PostPosted: Wed 10 Sep, 2014 9:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Joshua,

It looks pretty good so far to me.
I'm of the belief that there is no one "right" way to do anything in smithing. There are plenty of approaches that will yield the same result, although with various degrees of efficiency.

My only advice on this would be to get the head closer to completely shaped before doing any more work on the socket, but then again, that's merely how I'd do it - to avoid messing up any work I'd done on the socket. Will you be welding the edges?
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,302

PostPosted: Thu 11 Sep, 2014 6:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey, that's what I want to do! But I won't stop in the middle and leave everyone hanging, hee hee...

My only thought is that the initial blank might not be waisted in the middle like that. David Sim did some Roman spearheads for his book "Iron for the Eagles", and found that just starting with an isosceles triangle resulted in the desired finished shape. Though obviously that may depend on the exact type. Unfortunately, line drawings and photos of artifacts never give *quite* enough information...

Very cool, we will be watching!

Matthew
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Joshua Koss




Location: Ottawa ON.
Joined: 30 Dec 2009

Posts: 10

PostPosted: Thu 11 Sep, 2014 5:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Got the forging done today. Sorry for the cellphone pictures. I've got to get batteries for my actual camera.



I normalized it and then "annealed" it (heated it up and stuck it in vermiculite for hours. Don't know if that quite counts as annealing). Next I'll grind out the shape then heat treat it. I'm thinking of an oil quench, but I'll have to see if I have enough oil. Otherwise I might try a water quench? Not sure. Seems risky.

Tim, in retrospect I could have worked the head a bit more before doing the socket, but in its finished state I think it would be a bit more of a pain to hold onto while doing the socket. I did end up finishing the socket first before doing the head, but it wasn't a problem. I just didn't let too much heat get into the neck/socket and worked the head carefully.

I'm not sure what you mean by weld the edges. You mean weld on the edges of the blade, or weld shut the socket? I hadn't planned to do any welding, really. The steel should have enough carbon to hold a decent edge, and I don't think historical spear heads had their sockets welded shut. At least not these few anglo-saxon spear heads I have some pictures of. Definitely something I would like to know more about though.

Interesting idea Matthew. I can't quite imagine how that would work though. Maybe the process of rolling the socket would impart the waist shape?
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,302

PostPosted: Thu 11 Sep, 2014 7:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh, sweet!! Excellent job. And don't worry, the cell phone photo gets the point across, yuk yuk!

I think this spearhead was done from an isosceles triangle:



It was made for a Roman auxiliary, so it wasn't cleaned up (though many probably were quite shiny and nice). I think yours came out MUCH better around the transition between socket and blade.

Some cultures did tend to close up the socket seam, either welding or just lapping, but some didn't. It's honestly been way too long since I looked at Roman spears to be sure, but they certainly left some open though they might have closed some. I think the Greeks went either way, too (no pun intended...). But of course the line drawings in the books usually only show one side, so if no seam is shown that doesn't mean it ain't there. Pretty sure the Vikings tended to close theirs up--I know they were different from the Saxons. (At least that's what I remember learning.)

Gonna make more? How big? How many? How much$?

Yea, spears!

Matthew
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Joshua Koss




Location: Ottawa ON.
Joined: 30 Dec 2009

Posts: 10

PostPosted: Thu 11 Sep, 2014 7:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh yeah, I see what you mean. Looks like a bit more of a quick and dirty method than my approach.

I think without closing the seam, I could at least smooth out the line a bit if I had a bickiron stake or some such thing that would fit neatly into the finished socket so that I could kind of plannish the seam. Once I shine it up, the seam will probably look a bit nasty. We'll see. I feel like some 15th century spear heads are forge welded smooth, but I don't actually know why I think that.

Did the greeks also do cast bronze spear heads? If so I assume there would be no seam in those sockets. Also, the next semester of this program is all bronze casting...

I've been playing with the idea of doing a bit of a production run of spear heads, but for now I'm still practicing and not yet a "maker/manufacturer". Not sure how much about that I'm allowed to say in this forum.
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Daniel Wallace




Location: Pennsylvania USA
Joined: 07 Aug 2011

Posts: 580

PostPosted: Fri 12 Sep, 2014 4:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Very cool, I have to admit, I don't want to make knives as much as would like to make spears and axes. the forging process is pretty involved. your not just making flat stock to distal and profile taper, well your doing that in addition to forge welding or drifting. lots of other techniques that you don't have to do in knife making.

Quench in oil for your best results Peanut oil works best from what I learned because it has a high flash point, if you use motor oil your should mix a bit of diesel with it from what I learned using something like motor oil will flash so make sure you do this in a safe place. I forged a few tools from springs this year I used water once and the end result was a crack in a slitting chisel I made because I couldn't find the oil in class and was too impatient. I also annealed in vermiculite, one heat to critical and plunge - allow to cool for 8 hours and HT worked out great.

I did an axe head that was annealed, but on further inspection I had a weld that I wasn't sure took, gave it another heat to seal it up, with care not to heat the blade, then HT still yielded positive results.
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,302

PostPosted: Fri 12 Sep, 2014 6:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joshua Koss wrote:
Oh yeah, I see what you mean. Looks like a bit more of a quick and dirty method than my approach.


Yeah, "quick and dirty" is Rome's middle name! Government contractors don't actually have to impress customers to stay in business, after all...

Quote:
Did the greeks also do cast bronze spear heads? If so I assume there would be no seam in those sockets.


Well, obviously their weapons were all bronze in the *Bronze Age*, though a few still turn up during the Iron Age. But a LARGE number of Bronze Age Greek/Mycenaean spearheads actually have split sockets! This bugged the heck out of me, until someone pointed out that this meant they were using a much simpler 2-piece mold. They apparently made the mold so the socket had a sort of U-shaped cross-section, then just closed that up after casting. You can even cast in fluting and other decoration, and not mess them up if you use a mallet instead of a metal hammer.

Quote:
Also, the next semester of this program is all bronze casting...


BOING. Can I come live with you?

Quote:
I've been playing with the idea of doing a bit of a production run of spear heads, but for now I'm still practicing and not yet a "maker/manufacturer". Not sure how much about that I'm allowed to say in this forum.


Ha! Roger that. No pressure, or anything! Not like I can promise you a lot of business, in any case. Though I'd *like* to!

Matthew
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Joshua Koss




Location: Ottawa ON.
Joined: 30 Dec 2009

Posts: 10

PostPosted: Fri 12 Sep, 2014 8:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan, spears are definitely more interesting to forge than knives. I prefer doing handle work on knives really. That's my main motivation for forging knives.

I did go with an oil quench. Turns out there's a big ol' bucket of veggy oil at school. Makes sense. Made the shop smell like french fries, which was a nice change from burning rubber. I've got the spear in my oven now, tempering. Probably tomorrow I'll take it back to the shop and temper the socket and neck down to a purple, then final finish.

I snapped a photo after the quench today. Didn't get a shot of it after the rough grind.



Matt, do you think they were sand casting the spear heads? I would definitely like to take a crack at casting spear heads, but i think we're doing mainly lost wax.
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,302

PostPosted: Sat 13 Sep, 2014 6:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That looks great! The perfect "everything" spear.

Joshua Koss wrote:
Matt, do you think they were sand casting the spear heads? I would definitely like to take a crack at casting spear heads, but i think we're doing mainly lost wax.


Stone and clay molds would be my guess, there have been plenty of fragments found for statuary and other items. I don't know if sand casting was done much at all, though I don't know what the expert opinion is on that. Lost wax was certainly used for some items like jewelry, but it's a perfectly good option for modern applications even if we can't show the ancients ever used it for things like spears. Hmm, though it occurs to me that they may have used it for sculpture. Well, have fun with it and good luck!

Matthew
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Daniel Wallace




Location: Pennsylvania USA
Joined: 07 Aug 2011

Posts: 580

PostPosted: Sat 13 Sep, 2014 10:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

your forging looks real good, won't have to do too much grinding on that one. and looks like everything went well with the quench too, one very functional spear coming up. Big Grin
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Joshua Koss




Location: Ottawa ON.
Joined: 30 Dec 2009

Posts: 10

PostPosted: Sun 14 Sep, 2014 12:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just to be clear, the most recent picture I posted has after a bunch of grinding which was followed by a quench. The second to last picture is as far as I got with the forging. I wish I could forge something as clean as that last photo. Razz
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Joshua Koss




Location: Ottawa ON.
Joined: 30 Dec 2009

Posts: 10

PostPosted: Sun 14 Sep, 2014 12:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew, stone you say? I have heard very little about stone moulds used in casting. I've heard of people using it for pewter. I guess it would make sense to do it with bronze. I'll have to remember to look into that. Got any tips as to where I could find more details? Type of stone, carving tools, etc?
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