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Josh MacNeil




Location: Massachusetts, USA
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PostPosted: Wed 26 Nov, 2008 3:27 pm    Post subject: Cast Iron Swords         Reply with quote

I was sort of half watching a show today about King Arthur. It was basically trying to separate fact from fiction and find out which aspects of the story were based on fact. When it came to the part about Arthur pulling the sword from the stone, it tied that with the notion of pulling an iron sword from a stone mold. This kind of bothered me, as I always thought that swords during the Dark Ages were constructed by pattern welding. Was casting a common method of production as well, or did this show just have its facts all screwy?

-JM
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 26 Nov, 2008 3:47 pm    Post subject: Re: Cast Iron Swords         Reply with quote

Josh MacNeil wrote:
I was sort of half watching a show today about King Arthur. It was basically trying to separate fact from fiction and find out which aspects of the story were based on fact. When it came to the part about Arthur pulling the sword from the stone, it tied that with the notion of pulling an iron sword from a stone mold. This kind of bothered me, as I always thought that swords during the Dark Ages were constructed by pattern welding. Was casting a common method of production as well, or did this show just have its facts all screwy?

-JM


A steel or iron sword might be forged or ground to shape but casting a sword wouldn't work very well with period technology and would be difficult to do even today for the blade, although cast steel is used for hilt components like guards and pommels.

A cast blade from a stone mould works with Bronze in the Bronze age but not for steel.

The only reference I can remember for seeing a steel blade being cast is in a " Conan " movie and we all know how historically accurate Hollywood films are. Wink Big Grin

Ordinary cast iron usually has a very high carbon content and is very brittle and just about the worse sword material I can think of.

Some very good modern knives are made using compressed powder technology where the steel in powder form is in a sort of mould and heated under enormous pressure and produces steels with very high carbon content and exotic alloys that wouldn't be possible using normal casting methods.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Josh MacNeil




Location: Massachusetts, USA
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PostPosted: Wed 26 Nov, 2008 6:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Jean. I figured that was the case, considering what I already knew about casting and metallurgy. It makes you wonder where that show was getting its facts. The name of the show was "Is It Real?" on the National Geographic channel. You'd think NG would have access to historians who actually knew what they were talking about. The other weapon related portion of the show discussed how Arthur came upon Excalibur. The theory there was that many weapons belonging to kings and warriors were throw into lakes or rivers after their deaths as tribute to pagan water deities. That at least seemed plausible.

But since we're on the subject, what could be the historical basis, or plausible reason behind the bit about Arthur pulling the sword from the stone? Might be cool if we can get a decent discussion about that part. Thoughts...?
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 26 Nov, 2008 6:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Josh MacNeil wrote:

But since we're on the subject, what could be the historical basis, or plausible reason behind the bit about Arthur pulling the sword from the stone? Might be cool if we can get a decent discussion about that part. Thoughts...?


Most probable answer is that it makes a good legend, it's magic and it's a challenge that only the right person can pull off.

Real World question: How could a sword end up stuck in stone happen ? First real natural stone or some form of cement or concrete poured around the sword ? How would one deliberately set up a sword in stone ? How could it happen by accident ? A few thousand years in a cave with mineral deposits forming around the sword ...... sword would probably rust to red dust before that happened ?

Oh, read this: http://www.myArmoury.com/feature_stone.html

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Doug Lester




Location: Decatur, IL
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PostPosted: Wed 26 Nov, 2008 8:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What it might be is that the origin of the story had to do with a bronze blade being pulled out of it's stone mold and got changed into iron or steel in the retelling. I don't know if "way back then" in Europe that anyone had the ability to make a forge that would generate the temperature needed to melt Iron. I would also question whether or not the stone use for the molds would stand up to having molten iron or steel poured into them. I know that modern steel starts out being cast into molds but my understanding is that it has to be run through a rolling mill to refine the grain as well as draw it out to a usable shaped bar. The rolling out would be a type of forging.
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Nathan Gilleland





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PostPosted: Wed 26 Nov, 2008 8:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I actually heard that the "Pullin the Sword from the Stone" started as a metaphorical statement. King Arthur buit his kingdom with Excalibur, but I heard that the stone reffered to the Bible. During the telling of the story, it changed from a metaphorical sense to a more literal sense.

I can't remember where I heard that. I'd love to hear other theories too.

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Terry Crain




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PostPosted: Thu 27 Nov, 2008 6:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Do you mean to tell me that Sauruman's Uruk-Hai didn't really make their swords from pouring molten metal into molds?

I am disillusioned..... Wink

Terry

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Donal Grant

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Sean Scott





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PostPosted: Thu 27 Nov, 2008 7:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If, as some research suggests, Arthur was a Roman Cavalry commander, his sword would probably have been a steel spatha.
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Geoff Wood




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PostPosted: Thu 27 Nov, 2008 8:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Doug Lester wrote:
What it might be is that the origin of the story had to do with a bronze blade being pulled out of it's stone mold and got changed into iron or steel in the retelling. I don't know if "way back then" in Europe that anyone had the ability to make a forge that would generate the temperature needed to melt Iron. I would also question whether or not the stone use for the molds would stand up to having molten iron or steel poured into them. I know that modern steel starts out being cast into molds but my understanding is that it has to be run through a rolling mill to refine the grain as well as draw it out to a usable shaped bar. The rolling out would be a type of forging.


This makes sense as a possible explanation of the story's origin. Stories are borrowed from one culture, time or religion to another if they 'work' as stories. There seems to have been some cultural continuity between bronze and iron swords (there is a corroded iron sword in the national museum of Wales in Cardiff that, aside from the material, looks exactly like a bronze sword in form). I suppose the closest to a cast 'sword' nowadays would be the directionally solidified columnar crystal and single crystal gas turbine blades and vanes that are now used, but the technology probably a bit beyond Arthurian times.
Geoff
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Thu 27 Nov, 2008 8:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Doug Lester wrote:
What it might be is that the origin of the story had to do with a bronze blade being pulled out of it's stone mold and got changed into iron or steel in the retelling.
Well, problems with that is that the last bronze sword was cast around 650-600BC in Europe, so that a long time before the Arthur myth. Also, pulling a bronze sword from a stone mould doesn't really require any strength, as the moulds existed of two halves, which you can simply open. Plus the sword when cast is completely inside the mould, so you can't pull it out or even see it, unless you open the mould. Then there's the fact that a cast bronze sword is basically a sword shaped piece of bronze, that first has to be turned into a sword by removing flash, feed, sharpening and hardening the edges, polishing the blade, making and attaching the hilt components. So the vigorously pulling on a sword to get it out of stone, doesn't make any sense for bronze swords.

Quote:
I don't know if "way back then" in Europe that anyone had the ability to make a forge that would generate the temperature needed to melt Iron.
Easily, but then it would be cast iron, and useless for swords. I've molten iron with just three lumps of charcoal, by accident using bronze age bellows. Temperature is not really the issue, that only depends on the fuel used.

Quote:
I would also question whether or not the stone use for the molds would stand up to having molten iron or steel poured into them.
If it works for bronze, it also works for steel or iron. The only real problems would be whether the steel or iron would actually fill the mould properly (cooling rate, viscosity of the molten metal etc.)

Quote:
I know that modern steel starts out being cast into molds but my understanding is that it has to be run through a rolling mill to refine the grain as well as draw it out to a usable shaped bar. The rolling out would be a type of forging.

You could cast a proper steel sword, if you could get a crucible of liquid steel that does not take up a large quantity of carbon (which they couldn't back in the days, due to the CO environment in charcoal fires, unless using a glass seal as in crucible steel melts). However, casting swords, whether it's bronze or steel is a difficult thing to do, due to the problems you have with casting long, thin artifacts and ensuring there's no significant porosity or many of the other problems you can get with casting. Many steel swords are also a lot thinner and longer compared to bronze swords, so that makes casting even more a challenge. But I see no reason why with modern technology it shouldn't be possible to cast good quality steel swords, though it would probably be really expensive, requiring a lot of expertise (so possible yes, practical no). The reason why modern steel bars get rolled is simply because it's the cheapest method, and it makes the quality of the steel less sensitive to porosity as this gets flattened and stretched lengthwise, so it doesn't remove much of the lengthwise strength of the bar (in cross-section it does make it somewhat weaker though).
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G Ezell
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PostPosted: Fri 28 Nov, 2008 10:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've always suspected the 'drawing the sword from the stone' was a reference to forging (i.e:drawing) a sword from a stone (ore, or meteor).
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Nov, 2008 9:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I figured it was just a euphemism for honing military training, similar to "a diamond in the rough" being a euphemism for finding a good thing in a sea of bad.

M.

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F. Carl Holz




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Nov, 2008 11:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It would be interesting to find out when the drawing the sword from the stone bit became part of the story, was it always there or did it get added on later? From what I understand most of what we recognize has Arthurian legend is descended from welsh Arthurian legend (which is supposedly somewhat different) as passed down by the french and anglo-norman authors who took a liking to it. It would be interesting to find out if the sword in the stone bit is included in these legends as well or if it is absent.

Then again I could have got my facts wrong.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Nov, 2008 10:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

F. Carl Holz wrote:
It would be interesting to find out when the drawing the sword from the stone bit became part of the story, was it always there or did it get added on later? ....... It would be interesting to find out if the sword in the stone bit is included in these legends as well or if it is absent.


There was a real "sword in the stone", at a knight's grave if I remember it right. (I think the location was in Italy.) I would have to search, but it could have been St. Maurice. It was not dislodged until the past century. Any how, it was long enough ago that it could have been incorporated into the modern Arthurian legend. As we know it today, it is sort of a compilation of many separate, and older stories.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sat 29 Nov, 2008 10:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:
There was a real "sword in the stone", at a knight's grave if I remember it right. (I think the location was in Italy.) I would have to search, but it could have been St. Maurice. It was not dislodged until the past century. Any how, it was long enough ago that it could have been incorporated into the modern Arthurian legend. As we know it today, it is sort of a compilation of many separate, and older stories.


Perhaps you're thinking of: The Sword in the Stone—The Legend of Saint Galgano.

Happy

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 30 Nov, 2008 5:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Or Durendal?
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