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Jeremy V. Krause

Location: Buffalo, NY.
Joined: 20 Oct 2003
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PostPosted: Tue 08 Feb, 2022 9:02 am    Post subject: Period finishes         Reply with quote

Hello everyone,

One aspect of this hobby which I particularly enjoy is thinking about and experimenting with period finishes. Obviously, historical pieces tend to be corroded to an extent where we can't see how they would have been finished in period and maintained over their working life.

I like to consider to what finish weapons would have been taken when made new and how the appearance of the steel would change with age, and be effected by maintenance of the surface.

There are different opinions on how period pieces would have been finished. Certainly, the methods and level of finish would have varied widely. Climate, materials, class, methods and more would have resulted in a given piece's surface appearance.

Modern reproductions aimed at presenting a period finish tend to be taken to a "satin" or slightly higher level of finish. Then we tend to keep our pieces bright using Scotchbrite pads and treat them with some protectant. This is generally how I maintain my collection as well.

However, I have decided to experiment a bit with my ideas on how a period piece could have been finished and how they could have looked in period.

In an effort to approximate a period finish on some of my pieces I have been experimenting with simple aging and wanted to share my results.

I'm sure my little project will develop and I will show more results using different methods as I try them out.

All of my methods are non-aggressive to the material so I can bring my pieces back to the typical reproduction level finish in an hour or so. I may get a bit more aggressive with technique on lower end pieces but I'm not going there at this time.

One aspect I find particularly interesting is how using the same aging and finishing techniques produces differently appearance finishes depending on the type of iron or steel being used.

We see in these pictures how using the same method (using salt water combined with flour over a few hours- then wiping down with oil) can look different on different materials.

Firstly, these pictures don't really show the finishes in the same way as they look in person but I will try to explain that further. The camera just doesn't pick up certain aspects of the appearance.

So here we have from top to bottom. . .

1. A smelted iron and smelted steel Danish war axe made by Owen Bush- this may be the most historically constructed piece in this livne up. After multiple salt water and flour treatments over the course of a day the surface is a motley "rainbow" kind of effect. The different colors really don't show up in the pictures. It's an interesting appearance. I don't know that I care for it especially but is it a fair approximation of a period finish. . . . I don't know.

2. A medium danish axe made by Eric McHugh in modern mild steel body and a high-carbon steel edges welded on. This finish using the same method produced a nice overall darker gray finish with a few areas darker here and there. I like this finish the most of the ones I tested but that is just what I think "looks cool" and really may have no relationship with an accurate presentation of period finish.

3. A mono-steel all-purpose Anglo Saxon knife with copper and silver inlay made by Tod or Tod's Workshop and Tod's Cutler. This finish is more of a dark gray/black/ and brown mottled appearance with some "rainbow" colors throughout but not to the extent of the large Danish axe.

4. An early 14th. C. style eating knife made in shear steel by Owen Bush and hilted by Tod. This finish shows a lot of striation and "flowing" lines in the steel. It has darker sections and then different colors especially at the more "dramatic" sections where the steel is folded. I will say that this knife was not treated exactly like the others. Instead I use it to eat and when done wipe it off with a damp paper towel or rinse it off then apply olive oil.

I have ordered some sand which I plan to combine with some oil to apply to some or all of these pieces to see how that looks in an effort to approximate how period folk's might have treated their weapons.

In short, this is a huge subject and there are so many directions to go with this issue. I hope folks find it as interesting as I do.

I will certainly share more pics if something stands out and I can take more pictures if people would like to see something in particular.

And lastly, I make no claims that these experiments do accurately reproduce an historical finish. There are just too many variables and so really, I am just having some fun, and making some stabs at an issue which is really interesting to me.
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Graham Shearlaw

Joined: 24 Oct 2011
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Posts: 153

PostPosted: Wed 16 Feb, 2022 3:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Useing linseed oil to blacken surfaces is one historical option, but its not a food safe finish and it needs to be applied to hot metal.
So after sharpening you'd likely leave the edge bare.
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