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Dustin R. Reagan

Joined: 09 May 2006

Posts: 264

PostPosted: Wed 20 Jan, 2010 9:41 pm    Post subject: 'authentic' replication of seax blades         Reply with quote

I recently got my hands on some wrought from the late 1800's and am planning on attempting an "authentic" seax blade (WI body with forge welded steel edge). I had a few questions on construction and technique.

-Most of the 'authentic' seax reproductions i've seen seem to have been made by welding the body steel to the edge with a simple butt-weld joint. However, in the book "Knives and Scabbards (Medieval Finds from Excavations in London)", nearly every examined blade showed a more complex weld-joint (usually with the body slitted and the edge wedged into the slit then welded, sometimes a scarf-weld joint and even a few "san-mai" style laminated welds). Is a butt-weld joint authentic concerning earlier seax blades (compared to the later medieval period blades examined in this book)?

-It seems as though there are two main ways of constructing a WI + steel composite blade:
o Weld a short, but thick "billet", then forge the billet out to shape.
o Forge the WI body nearly to shape, forge the edge nearly to shape, then weld together.

I can imagine that the first method is easier to weld, but that there would be all sorts of issues when forging to shape, since you have to forge the WI at a very high temp, compared to the steel, or risk splitting/crumbling (at least, that's been my experience with this WI).

I imagine that the second method could result in a difficult weld.

-Many of the 'authentic' seax reproductions i've seen have a subtle, but evident if you are looking for it, downward curve to the blade, post heat-treat. i'm assuming this is due to the typical downward curve resulting from an oil-quench. Yet, very few museum pieces seem to evidence such a curve. How can this curve be avoided? How do you suppose historical makers avoided this curve? Given a WI + 1060 construction, is a water/brine quench realistic?

-I've read that doing some folding/forging manipulations on crumble-prone WI can really help consolidate it and allow it to be forged at lower temps. Is this true? Would you recommend doing some sort of consolidation on the WI used for the body of the blade?

-Are there examples of non-pattern welded historical seax bodies, or do they almost always exhibit a pattern-welded (twisted/welded rods?) structure?

By the way, since I don't have a press or power-hammer, my first project will be a short (4-6") blade.

What are your thoughts?

Many thanks,
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Owen Bush
Industry Professional

Location: london
Joined: 31 Aug 2007

Posts: 221

PostPosted: Sat 30 Jan, 2010 11:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I only just found this question .
there are many different seax construction methods and most are not mirrored by modern makers .
One of the first things to remember when looking at old construction layouts that show "steel" is that the steel is either sheer steel made from carburised wrought iron or bloomery steel .
Both these materials happily work at wrought iron welding temps so there is little problem with them . Also most sheer/bloomery steel is very shallow hardening and would need water quenching to actually get it hard .

For using modern steel against wrought iron you will find that any quenching will down bend the blade (re-curve) as the steel on the edge is the only part hardening . With a 4 or 5 inch blade this will be very minimal . Also many many seax were not strait edged but were curved along the edge (think mini bowie) . When I make a seax I usually pre-curve the bl;ade to allow for the re-curve during oil quench . welding to wrought iron requires working at the very top end of the steel range and you have to be careful to not burn your steel away .
folding the wi a few times is a good idea and defiantly improves its welding and working characteristics .

A more authentic method of construction would be to have the edge steel sheaved between wrought outer layers . I am not off hand sure of the manganese content of 1060 however I would check first before quenching it in water or brine .If it is anything like 1065 then you could be looking at multiple edge pieces if you hardened in water .
good luck !

forging soul into steel . the home of bushfire forge school of smithing .
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