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William Fox




Location: Great Britain
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PostPosted: Fri 28 Feb, 2020 8:54 am    Post subject: Pattern Welded Viking era sword Castle Keep         Reply with quote

In 2016 I commissioned Rob Miller of Castle Keep to make a Viking era sword with pattern welded. Rob told me that the blade was forged by Mick Maxen.

I was and remain impressed by the craftsmanship and balance of the sword but would like some members opinions on the blade.

You will see from the photographs that the blade contains small pits, little holes in the steel, which over time attract moisture. I did raise my concerns with Rob Miller, but he assured me that this is normal, and referred to the pits as 'inclusions'.

I am not qualified to comment, other than the fact that I own several antique pattern welded swords from Solingen that do not contain these 'inclusions'. I also have studied the pattern welded replica of the Sutton Hoo sword at the British Museum, and can find no pits in the blade.

Could members of this forum please express their honest opinion. I did pay £2,700 for this sword, so would like to know if the blade is 100%.



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Hadrian Coffin
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PostPosted: Fri 28 Feb, 2020 9:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello,

I would say that he is right, in a sense, those are from inclusions causing a poor/imperfect surface on the weld line. Is this correct to the period? Yes.

Is it a fault? That depends. A pit like the ones shown, but in which the weld is solid is not a *fault* per say, it is only a cosmetic issue. A deep pit/ that causes a pause of cohesion in the weld (essentially a bit of delamination) is. This is hard to prove from the photos, but it looks like the welds are solid.

You could, however, get a much better surface and weld. It is a cosmetic issue at the least. Prior to finishing the blade he would have been able to notice the pitting and throw it out. Iím surprised he didnít. That isnít something you see come out of the shops from most of the top of the line makers these days.

You are on the cusp, £2,700 is the budget end for top of the line (with exceptions) for a patternwelded sword like this. That being said, the hilt furniture isnít overly complicated (i.e. there is no complex inlay, etc), so I would think that a huge part of that was going into the blade (where you would expect numerous throw outs for bad pitting like this).

It depends what you are after óa perfect sword, or a historically accurate sword. That being said, I think I too would be disappointed, given the price.

Hadrian

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Last edited by Hadrian Coffin on Fri 28 Feb, 2020 10:31 am; edited 1 time in total
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Henry R. Gower




Location: United States
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PostPosted: Fri 28 Feb, 2020 10:12 am    Post subject: Pattern Welded Sword         Reply with quote

Greetings,

Your post motivated me to closely examine the only pattern welded sword that I own. It is a Viking style sword made for me about thirty years ago (OMG !) by a U.S. knifemaker, who was intrigued by the challenge of making any sword, let alone a pattern-welded one. After two unsuccessful attempts, he made one that he was satisfied with, and so was I. So anyway, I examined the welds carefully, and I could not identify any inclusions. So, there's that.
Your sword is aesthetically more attractive than mine, as are the patterns. I quite like the look of it, especially that wide fuller which I am guessing, probably gives the sword a lively feel due to lightness. Mine is somewhat blade-heavy. I confess, the only information I have about metallurgy comes from watching a weekly US television show called "Forged In Fire." I cannot venture an opinion as to whether those inclusions are "normal," or not. Purely as an aesthetic opinion, they would bother me somewhat. Due to the overall appeal of the sword, however, I might learn to live with them, or perhaps not, I cannot say.
Well, there's my tuppence worth,

Henry
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William Fox




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Feb, 2020 11:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hadrian Coffin wrote:
Hello, Thanks Hadrian.

Do you think that these pits could be ground out and the blade re-etched and polished? In answer to your question, I was looking for a perfect blade.

I am thinking to do a full review of this sword on this sight.

Best regards

Will





I would say that he is right, in a sense, those are from inclusions causing a poor/imperfect surface on the weld line. Is this correct to the period? Yes.

Is it a fault? That depends. A pit like the ones shown, but in which the weld is solid is not a *fault* per say, it is only a cosmetic issue. A deep pit/ that causes a pause of cohesion in the weld (essentially a bit of delamination) is. This is hard to prove from the photos, but it looks like the welds are solid.

You could, however, get a much better surface and weld. It is a cosmetic issue at the least. Prior to finishing the blade he would have been able to notice the pitting and throw it out. Iím surprised he didnít. That isnít something you see come out of the shops from most of the top of the line makers these days.

You are on the cusp, £2,700 is the budget end for top of the line (with exceptions) for a patternwelded sword like this. That being said, the hilt furniture isnít overly complicated (i.e. there is no complex inlay, etc), so I would think that a huge part of that was going into the blade (where you would expect numerous throw outs for bad pitting like this).

It depends what you are after óa perfect sword, or a historically accurate sword. That being said, I think I too would be disappointed, given the price.

Hadrian

That which does not kill us, makes us stronger
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Hadrian Coffin
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Location: Oxford, England
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PostPosted: Fri 28 Feb, 2020 3:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Do you think that these pits could be ground out and the blade re-etched and polished? In answer to your question, I was looking for a perfect blade.


Sorry, but no they can not be.

Unfortunately there are two factors with pits like these. They will be quite deep. The first problem is that if you could grind them away, in order to grind enough material off to make them Ďdisappearí you would make the blade far too thin to be structurally sound. The second problem is that as you remove that material you will likely expose other pits and/or widen/enlarge those that are already there, rather than make them go away. Often the pits only appear as you start to remove significant material (i.e. grinding in a fuller) and actually show that you have already ground too far, rather than not enough.

Best of luck!
Hadrian

Historia magistra vitae est
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Feb, 2020 5:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I wouldn't be very happy with pits like this on such an expensive sword.
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Zach Gordon




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Feb, 2020 5:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

FYI óI once bought a pattern welded blade like this (as in it had a similar amount of pitting). It was being sold by Paul Binns in the UK for £300. He was selling it Ďas isí and cheap, as there was nothing functionally wrong with it... and like Hadrian said it is probably historically accurate... but he didnít want to mount it/sell it with the expensive commission he had been intending the blade for. As the welds were good, just pitted, he finished the blank and sold it to me cheaply, and remade a new one for the commission.

Z
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William Fox




Location: Great Britain
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PostPosted: Sat 29 Feb, 2020 12:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I feel so let down by this so called producer of bespoke hand forged swords!

When Rob Miller supplied it to me, I was going through a pretty tough time and didn't have the energy to push back on this unacceptable failure of quality control. It was supposed to be a once in a lifetime commission that I would hand down to my son.

Does anyone have any opinions on my options?

I will write to Castle Keep and ask them to take it back, and replace the blade, or refund me. If they will not then get ready for my review of this sword, which will appear on this and several other sites in the coming months.

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Ian Hutchison




Location: Louisiana / Nordrhein-Westholland
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PostPosted: Sat 29 Feb, 2020 2:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Those inclusions do look pretty big, especially given the cost.
'We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.' - Adrian Carton de Wiart
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Ralph Grinly





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PostPosted: Sat 29 Feb, 2020 10:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well..I think a few folks are over-reacting , maybe. One thing no-one is mentioning is..does the purchaser intend on USING this sword ? IF he is..then the pits *might* be a *potential* problem. If it's purely for display..well,,it's a fairly authentic example of a REAL pattern welded blade Happy
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William Fox




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PostPosted: Sun 01 Mar, 2020 12:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ralph Grinly wrote:
Well..I think a few folks are over-reacting , maybe. One thing no-one is mentioning is..does the purchaser intend on USING this sword ? IF he is..then the pits *might* be a *potential* problem. If it's purely for display..well,,it's a fairly authentic example of a REAL pattern welded blade Happy


When I commissioned it, I specifically said that it was to be used for cutting.

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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Sun 01 Mar, 2020 6:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

When someone buys a sword at this price, one expects a certain level of aesthetic presentation.

I have a shear steel knife which I got for around $500. It doesn't have any flaws or pits of this size though it does have some grain to it as one would expect.

I have 2 other shear steel composite swords at a much higher price and though there are very small imperfections- they are small. I have extensive inlay on one and that does have some gaps- though due to the design and nature of inlay is to be expected.

The sword being discussed here differs in degree. These pits are just too big I think. Whether they affect the stability of the sword we can't say.

When I commission something exceeding $2000 I'm going to expect a pretty high standard from the maker and I haven't been let down yet thankfully. Hopefully a good resolution is found here.
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Arne G.





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PostPosted: Sun 01 Mar, 2020 8:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The pits by themselves might not bother me so much, but at the £2,700 ($3461.59) price point is where I would have heartburn...

Were this at the $2000 level or less, given that I don't think the structure is compromised and that the hilt looks magnificent, I would probably not be so discomfited. I might even be somewhat happy, knowing that historical artifacts had these sorts of imperfections. Heck, finances permitting, I might even pay a bit more. But not $3461.59, or really even close to that.

For comparison I bought a bare pattern welded blade from Michael Pikula years ago for ~$1600 and that blade is flawless. You deserve better, William.
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Zach Gordon




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PostPosted: Sun 01 Mar, 2020 9:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
For comparison I bought a bare pattern welded blade from Michael Pikula years ago for ~$1600 and that blade is flawless. You deserve better, William.


I have two pattern welded swords from Michael Pikula --he really is in a league of his own, his stuff is flawless. One was a commission one was a sword that he had made, that I just bought. I do not know how many the second went through, but I know with the commission as he was going there were a couple of blades that revealed themselves to have pits/etc (they weren't aesthetically perfect), and I know he threw out the imperfect blades, because he mentioned it in his various updates as the commission was going along. The finished sword, when I got it, was perfect. There are no pits, etc.
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Arne G.





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PostPosted: Sun 01 Mar, 2020 3:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Zach Gordon wrote:
Quote:
For comparison I bought a bare pattern welded blade from Michael Pikula years ago for ~$1600 and that blade is flawless. You deserve better, William.


I have two pattern welded swords from Michael Pikula --he really is in a league of his own, his stuff is flawless. One was a commission one was a sword that he had made, that I just bought. I do not know how many the second went through, but I know with the commission as he was going there were a couple of blades that revealed themselves to have pits/etc (they weren't aesthetically perfect), and I know he threw out the imperfect blades, because he mentioned it in his various updates as the commission was going along. The finished sword, when I got it, was perfect. There are no pits, etc.


Now that you mention it, he had the first attempt fail on my commission as well, which he tossed and reworked to make a second, perfect blade - he really is an outstanding craftsman!
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Mon 02 Mar, 2020 3:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Most antique medieval swords have any number of flaws that would appall a modern collector. These include, but aren't limited to, twisted pommels (done deliberately for gripping purposes), very short grips (also deliberate so you can cradle rhe pommel while grasping the grip), canted pommels, disproportionately small or thin pommels, asymmetric crosses, sometimes really short crosses, wandering fullers, wandering central ridges, not to mention problems with blade warping that may be less easy to discern centuries later. All of these are part of the medieval aesthetic. Even what would have been costly Viking Era and pattern welded swords are not immune.

Whether or not these are acceptable to a modern collector is a different story. We live in a society that increasingly demands visual perfection as the criteria by which we evaluate products or even people. Given this context, it's understandable that people may be upset with a less than immaculate sword.

Yet, I do think there's something more to be considered. There is a peculiar irony when people comission a high-end medieval sword, presumably because they are looking for a maker who will make it similarly to a real sword, only to not want the sword to be "too close to the real thing" by having some of the very characteristics that make antique swords real, "medieval" swords. Something to think about.

For the record, I cannot comment specifically about pitting in a blade. I don't know enough about how common it was on newly made period swords. It may be that these flaws are not even consistent with most medieval blades. My purpose is to invite more consideration, in general, as to what we count as acceptable in replica swords.
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Arne G.





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PostPosted: Mon 02 Mar, 2020 9:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
Most antique medieval swords have any number of flaws that would appall a modern collector. These include, but aren't limited to, twisted pommels (done deliberately for gripping purposes), very short grips (also deliberate so you can cradle rhe pommel while grasping the grip), canted pommels, disproportionately small or thin pommels, asymmetric crosses, sometimes really short crosses, wandering fullers, wandering central ridges, not to mention problems with blade warping that may be less easy to discern centuries later. All of these are part of the medieval aesthetic. Even what would have been costly Viking Era and pattern welded swords are not immune.

Whether or not these are acceptable to a modern collector is a different story. We live in a society that increasingly demands visual perfection as the criteria by which we evaluate products or even people. Given this context, it's understandable that people may be upset with a less than immaculate sword.

Yet, I do think there's something more to be considered. There is a peculiar irony when people comission a high-end medieval sword, presumably because they are looking for a maker who will make it similarly to a real sword, only to not want the sword to be "too close to the real thing" by having some of the very characteristics that make antique swords real, "medieval" swords. Something to think about.

For the record, I cannot comment specifically about pitting in a blade. I don't know enough about how common it was on newly made period swords. It may be that these flaws are not even consistent with most medieval blades. My purpose is to invite more consideration, in general, as to what we count as acceptable in replica swords.


What you say is perfectly true, of course, but seems to miss the point. The issue is that for £2,700 one expects a much higher level of quality. Making a pattern welded blade without inclusions (or, I think the term might be cold shuts) is difficult and expensive. The better makers will scrap blades that don't make the cut, as noted regarding Michael Pikula's work. At the least it should be a lot less expensive to have a blade made with these flaws, not cost more. One certainly does not need to pay a premium to have flaws introduced! I can have blacksmiths in India do that for a fraction of what Rob Miller charged! Why William Fox's sword was allowed to be delivered with these flaws is mystifying, at least at this price point. At say half that cost, sure, it would make sense and be fine. Otherwise, this is not acceptable.
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Tim Lison




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PostPosted: Mon 02 Mar, 2020 8:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Arne G. wrote:
Craig Peters wrote:
Most antique medieval swords have any number of flaws that would appall a modern collector. These include, but aren't limited to, twisted pommels (done deliberately for gripping purposes), very short grips (also deliberate so you can cradle rhe pommel while grasping the grip), canted pommels, disproportionately small or thin pommels, asymmetric crosses, sometimes really short crosses, wandering fullers, wandering central ridges, not to mention problems with blade warping that may be less easy to discern centuries later. All of these are part of the medieval aesthetic. Even what would have been costly Viking Era and pattern welded swords are not immune.

Whether or not these are acceptable to a modern collector is a different story. We live in a society that increasingly demands visual perfection as the criteria by which we evaluate products or even people. Given this context, it's understandable that people may be upset with a less than immaculate sword.

Yet, I do think there's something more to be considered. There is a peculiar irony when people comission a high-end medieval sword, presumably because they are looking for a maker who will make it similarly to a real sword, only to not want the sword to be "too close to the real thing" by having some of the very characteristics that make antique swords real, "medieval" swords. Something to think about.

For the record, I cannot comment specifically about pitting in a blade. I don't know enough about how common it was on newly made period swords. It may be that these flaws are not even consistent with most medieval blades. My purpose is to invite more consideration, in general, as to what we count as acceptable in replica swords.


What you say is perfectly true, of course, but seems to miss the point. The issue is that for £2,700 one expects a much higher level of quality. Making a pattern welded blade without inclusions (or, I think the term might be cold shuts) is difficult and expensive. The better makers will scrap blades that don't make the cut, as noted regarding Michael Pikula's work. At the least it should be a lot less expensive to have a blade made with these flaws, not cost more. One certainly does not need to pay a premium to have flaws introduced! I can have blacksmiths in India do that for a fraction of what Rob Miller charged! Why William Fox's sword was allowed to be delivered with these flaws is mystifying, at least at this price point. At say half that cost, sure, it would make sense and be fine. Otherwise, this is not acceptable.


I solidly disagree with you Arne, precisely because of Craig's point. Did William commission this sword to be historically accurate? This sword blade could be entirely historically accurate. Did William commission it to be a flawless version of something historical to appeal more to a modern sensibility? What discussion did the smith and customer have prior to the blade's making about it's finish? Was there discussion in progress, along with photos? Did William approve photos of the sword prior to delivery? Did the smith point out the flaws and ask if the customer was ok with them? This issue doesn't seem to me like an issue of "Is the sword worth it?" but rather an issue of "Is the sword what was agreed to?" It's pretty clear from William's posts that he's dissatisfied, but also seems like he didn't have a clear idea of his own expectations, or didn't communicate them well to the smith. As someone who has commissioned many high end swords, I can tell you that issues like this come up. I have asked smiths to make changes, I have refused to accept swords, and I have asked to send swords back for further work. I've even had one (very well respected) smith tell me that the money we agreed on wasn't enough and that he wouldn't deliver my sword as agreed without more. Sword smith's are running a small business and as in any business dealing; caveat emptor. As for William's sword, I would be dissatisfied too, but I also NEVER would have accepted it. The smith is well respected so will likely work with William to find a resolution, especially now that William has gone public about his dissatisfaction. Smith's rely on having a good reputation since this is a small community that commissions expensive swords.... I'll stand by to see what the outcome is.
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Rob Miller
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PostPosted: Tue 03 Mar, 2020 2:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A few observations on this if i may.

I have always offered a full refund to ANY customer who is unhappy with my work in any way.

If Mr Fox had asked me 4 years ago for a refund on a purchase he was not happy with then my position would be exactly the same,there would be no dispute.

I received no request from mr Fox in this regard. I did answer his queries concerning the blade welding and was prepared to re imburse him if that were his wish.I received no request.

Now 4 years later i have been sent a thread that puts my reputation in a poor light. Mr Fox appears to be using this as some form of leverage,although ironically enough i have had no e mail from him on this matter since 2016,so the complaint is new to me. I see that i am to either offer a full refund or this will be reviewed with a view to damaging my reputation.hmm. It would seem fair to me that after 4 years it seems a bit late to ask for a refund,looking at the blade it would also seem that it may not have been cleaned and oiled for some time,there is a slight bloom from one of the weld inclusions.

I have no problem in principle with refunding any customer who is unsatisfied with my work,but the manner in which this has come to light and the time elapsed do not make me feel particularly beholden, i would have prefered to have heard from the customer directly rather than from the Ďinternetí,the horse has bolted now.

I do not make my own pattern welded steel,i get it from an excellent maker,and it is always a joy to work with. I think people confuse Ďpattern weldí with damascus steel though,Damascus very seldom shows any faults,pieces i have had in the past may have the occasional small blister,but pattern welded steel requires a different type of welding altogether,the twisted core is welded to the cutting edge,and you can see where the twists meets the edge,this can sometimes be a deep joint,not a fault. But by the same token i would also say that this can stick out like a sore thumb too.I tend to etch the blades a lot deeper now so that the overall billet is darker,this could benefit from that and a clean and oiling,i would be happy to do so as a compromise of sorts. I think in view of the manner in which this has been handled that is a very reasonable response.

I would be interested to see the antique pattern welded Solingen blades that Mr Fox has for comparison.
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Tue 03 Mar, 2020 6:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh it's been four years- that's different.

If Mr. Fox knew that he could get a refund but didn't do so at the time and now is bringing up the issue 4 years later then the craftsman wouldn't have any obligation to provide the refund- in my mind anyway.

Hopefully, with some cleaning and etching the appearance of the pits can be lessened.
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