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Jason Dingledine
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PostPosted: Thu 15 Sep, 2005 7:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jesse Frank wrote:
Well, not to nitpick , but we don't HAVE to use modern alloys to make these out of, it's just more economical . I've done it;) Not to get too far off topic, but It's kind of neat to see the differences in the working properties of modern alloys, even simple steels, and real wrought iron.

But going through the whole rigamarole of building the furnace, gathering charcoal and ore, smelting, consolidating, carburizing, forging, ect. does tend to add to the price compared to just grabbing a bar off the rack Big Grin

Don't take any of this the wrong way, I'm not trying to be troublesome or anything. I've got a tremendous amount of respect for you and the company you're associated with, and have learned a tremendous amount from the information you have so kindly posted for our collective benefit. Sometimes it's hard to convey tone in type, even with "emoticons" or whatever they are.


Just to elaborate a little, you are right it would be possible to use traditionally smelted material, as this is something that I am investigating and learning from Mike Blue for use in my forged Japanese blades.

Economics is another issue. Unless someone is willing/capable of producing finished billets of specifics widths, lengths, and thicknesses, for a price comparable to the "factory" sources...............well...........

Also, we are dealing with the numbers in one week that most maker's deal with in a year. So, and materials issues/variables are magnified by that ratio. If there are any large variables in a steels chemistry it will affect my heat-treating (which is controlled by time at temperature down to +/- 20 secs), and create an anomoly. My mindset doesn't like anomolies. Wink

With me, it is all about consistency.

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Doug Gardner




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PostPosted: Thu 15 Sep, 2005 7:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Robinson wrote:
J. Padgett wrote:
I don't think anyone is willing to put a patina on an Albion sword, Peter. They're just too nice for that.


It's been done.


Just to give one example: Eric McHugh's Knight

OK, now could anyone tell the difference between this and an original? Absolutely! As well as Eric did, he did not age the blade. It is a bit iconoclastic to have an aged hilt on a blade that looks like it was made yesterday, with no nicks, pits, or spots. I still love the sword, and think Eric did a magnificent job. It looks much better in person than it does in these pictures. However, there is still something not quite right about it. Perhaps Patrick is right that it is a vain proposition to try to artificially age a sword. However, I bet someone will get it right eventually. It will just take a lot of study, experimentation, and persistence. I'll bet you that if I were to continue to work on aging Eric's knight, it'll look extremely authentic. Just give me a few hundred years of oiling and polishing with a rag and I should have it. Cool

--Doug

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Lance K.




PostPosted: Thu 15 Sep, 2005 9:56 pm    Post subject: Re: Historical authenticity of modern day reproductions         Reply with quote

Kirk Lee Spencer wrote:
I sense the curiosity of the experimental archeologist and the creative urge of an artist.


Yes, I feel Albion is blessed to have such wonderfully creative talent. My interest in swords is for the most part on a visual level, which is why I find the Albion designs to be visual standouts among the designs out there. I find the majority of the NG's and the Museum line to be the most visually striking of all production swords, including many of the customs I have seen.

I am always fascinated by the different information that comes up in these threads, and seeing the various levels from which it is spoken from. Thanks to all who have participated, it is very much appreciated. Happy
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Peter Johnsson
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PostPosted: Thu 15 Sep, 2005 11:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jesse Frank wrote:
Well, not to nitpick , but we don't HAVE to use modern alloys to make these out of, it's just more economical . I've done it;) Not to get too far off topic, but It's kind of neat to see the differences in the working properties of modern alloys, even simple steels, and real wrought iron.

But going through the whole rigamarole of building the furnace, gathering charcoal and ore, smelting, consolidating, carburizing, forging, ect. does tend to add to the price compared to just grabbing a bar off the rack Big Grin

Don't take any of this the wrong way, I'm not trying to be troublesome or anything. I've got a tremendous amount of respect for you and the company you're associated with, and have learned a tremendous amount from the information you have so kindly posted for our collective benefit. Sometimes it's hard to convey tone in type, even with "emoticons" or whatever they are.


Hey Jesse,

Know that I do respect what you do.
Making steel yourself and forging this into blades is something Iīd like to explore more myself. I really like the subtle effects you can get by doing that. It is the *only* way to get close to that type of quality, if and when you need it.
How much of the streakiness you could see in ancient blades in the day when they were new is difficult to know exactly, as it tend to depend on type and degree of polish. My gues is that it varied from the homogenous looking to obviously folded and layered. I have seen examples of both extremes in knives and swords from the very early iron age.
My impression is that you could find pretty "homogenous" steel rather early on (meaning it looks homogenous with a pragmatic polish, but it would show a stong streaky structure if etched or given a high polish). We mostly see very rusted remains today and that makes the streaky, strandy structure exaggerated: they may not have looked like that when new. To us the visible structure looks beautiful and quite the opposite of machine made. I think that is why it has a special attraction to us today.
For a smith to make his own material and shape it into sharp and functional blades is a fine thing worthy of respect.
It is somethign I am fascinated with myself. I am currently making experiments on non-historical blades for special projects, just for the fun of working with structures in steel.
I will probalby not abandon modern ready made steel however. Both have their application and benefits.
Studying and exploring the structure of steel (custom made or commercially availably) as well as heat treat and its effect on the structure of steel is one of the most important and interesting tasks for the modern blade smith, I should say. The effects can have an impact on what we seek in "authenticity", but it will also be an important venue for expression of the spirit of blades.
Alll this is a very multyfacetted thing and that is what makes it so interesting.
Seeking something that conveys a feel of autenticity means one have to explore several roads: history of cultures, art and styles, The web of correlating functional aspects of blades, the craft and methods of making blades but also general historical aspects of society, its "flavour" scale and economy. All these work together in having an effect on the shaping of swords through centuries.
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Sep, 2005 2:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I personally believe there's always going to be a significant difference between originals and reproductions, no matter how much time you spend studying original fabrication methods, and even if you try and re-create the entire production process from start to finish. The main problem is that we don't have masters from the old days to teach and guide us in our learning process, which means that you develop very different methods, which make give a similar result, but to the original smith he'd spot the differences immediately. However, I personally do strife for perfection in my own reproductions, meaning getting the methods right, and having the same finish and production marks as on the originals. And by comparing the difference between my reproductions and the originals, I can quite often figure out why those differences are there, and figure out what the original metalworkers did that resulted in those differences. Then I can adjust my production methods, and get my production methods more authentic. A lot is also simply down to experience and skill. It's for example a good thing to look at other countries where people still perform ancient crafts, and witness them at work. That's often quite a humbling experience!

If you want to make a reproduction with modern fabrication methods, but resulting in a close reproduction of the originals, it gets even more difficult. Especially if you don't have a lot of experience in doing it the authentic way. In that case you won't spot the differences because you don't know what to look for. That's the main reason why I'm very often disappointed with reproductions, because while they superficially look similar, they don't have the right production marks. The shapes and finishes may be only slightly different, but which to me these differences jump out immediately. To me each product is like a book that tells the story of it's fabrication, which can be read by just looking at it.

When I do make reproductions using modern tools, I can do it in such a way that I get pretty much the same result as when using authentic methods, because I know exactly what I can achieve using authentic methods. So the tools I use I select specifically to make sure I get the same finish as when I'd be using authentic methods. Or in some cases, I use modern tools to get finishes like on the originals that I can't achieve myself due to my own lack of skill. But if I hadn't done it the authentic way so much as I did, I'd never have been able to get as close to the originals using modern methods.
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Jesse Frank
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Sep, 2005 5:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow Peter, you've expressed my own opinions way more eloquently than I ever could. I agree 100% Bravo! Happy Thinking about it a little further, I have had some fairly solid chunks com out of my furnace, so if they were using a catalan or stukoven or something else that produced a much larger bloom, I suppose it may be more possible for it to have a fairly homogeneous product.

Jason, that's awesome. I flew up to Mikes place this time last year for a run he and John did. He runs a big ol'rig. More people really need to get into it. And it's cool to have some truly water hardening blade steel, free of mangenese. If you go to sandblaster.com I think it is, you can get specular hematite complete with a chemical analysis and MSDS , so there is about as much guesswork as to what's in your end product as with buying a bar. I'm with you on the control aspect, my rig runs a +-2 degrees myself.

Jeroen, that is pretty much the same approach I take. Honestly, it is difficult to justify using all or as close to period methods all the time. Too time consuming and expensive, especially for one person.\, but if you know what goes into it, one can approximate the aesthetics of it fairly well. Happy

Thanks, everyone for all the well informed insights Happy

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Peter Johnsson
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Sep, 2005 6:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeroen,

Interesting read. I recognize what you are saying.
I have sen some of your work and I recognize your strong interest in materials and methods. It is a element in contemporary experimental archaeology to use these two: methods and materials to arrive at "authenticity". After all it is perhaps the two most obvious things to ask for: is it the same material? Yes? No? Is it made the same way as it would have been back then? Yes? No?
(unfortunately, it is very difficult to really know if we have arrived at the correct methods or material. It will still be an approximation derived from our present understanding)

It is also true that production methods will always leave tell tale signs in the finished product. If you know what to look for you can probably find traces of production methods.
These can to varying degrees differ from what you would see on original artefacts. However, sometimes these differences will be so small as to be really marginal. In other instances the differences are going to be dramatic. Therefore it is important to match type of reconstruction with type of manufacturing process.
And perhaps most importantly: define what you are striving to reproduce.

Bronze age artefacts have a very rich expression that tell about the labour involved in their making.
it is true for iron age and medieval artefacts as well, but to varying degrees.
What can be confusing is to determine what part of their present expression is derived from their making and what is the patina of time and use.
An ancient artefact will always look ancient even if perfectly perserved. These are very subtle things, but readily observable.

I feel an important aspect is often forgotten when discussing reconstructions. Focus on materials and methods will not automatically lead to a higher degree of "authenticity". They will not by themselves result in correct shape, from, function and style. They might, but it all depends on other things that are relative of the skills amd insights of the craftsman.
When we today strive to reconstruct ancient steel by making it ourselves, we will tend to be amateurs compared to the ancient steel makers. we can be really good or marginally good. Who can honestly tell the difference, if we are really critical about the authenticity of the material?
When casting bronze smelted in a charcoal hearth, poured from a clay crucible, we are mezmerised by the situation: it feels very much like being transported back 1000 years BC. Still our using these methods is in no way a guarantee the object in the mold will in any way be comparable to an ancient artefact: method, material, and shape can all be more or less "wrong".

I would argue that all our attempts of reconstruction are flawed, by the simple fact we are 21st C beings. We have no living masters to tell us wha and how to do things. Our perception of objects are strongly nfluenced by our own time and its understanding and aesthetics.
Again, it is all about the scale and scope of the question: what do we mean by authenticity? What elements are we trying to understand and reconstruct?

It is all very easy to point out differences in materials and methods and thereby disqualifying a reconstruction as being faulty.
I would argue that by using what we "believe" is correct methods and tools we are by no means guaranteed to come any closer to "authenticity".
It is all about what part of the process and object we are focusing on.

I often meet the argument that you have to duplicate ancient techniques to get close to a proper result. It is an alluring argument, but I feel it is often used to cover up for shortcomings in shapes, expression, finish or function of the artefact: You can se that it was obviously made by hand by some arguably "ancient" method (even if we cannot know exactly how they went about this back then), but the artifact also looks mishappen, unfinished or even clumsy. It often looks draatically diffent from surviving artefacts.

Again, it al comes back to the trinity of shape (or style, or character), function and materials. If it lacks in any of these three we will feel it: we are not going to be convined.
Regardless of method chosen to make a reconstruction we must strive to remain true to what we see in surviving artefacts. "See" is here an active thing: it is not passive like the image recording of a camera: we see what we seek. What we can seek depends on our understanding and previous experience. That is perhaps the most imprtant element in making "authenticity" a less than absolute thing.
Any reconstruction will always be a choice of focus: what do we mark as a priority in our study?
A good reconstruction will convey a convincing feling of quality in all thee elements: character/style, function and materials.
Regardless what road we travel to arrrive at this, we are bound to make some compromizes. By choosing we will always have to leave things by the road behind us. A rich and convincing reconstruction will bring along a good selection of impressions, observations and ideas. A poor reconstruction will only convey a feeling of shortcomings in character and quality.
By working with "acient" methods it is possible to convey some feeling of proper materials used, but still limited by the skill and understanding of the craftsman. They will bring no more and no less.
I am not trying to belittle the importance of understanding ancient techniques, methods and materials: I only like to put this study in perspective. I often find that by focusing on materials and techniques, craftsmen tend to look less carefully at shape/style and function of the object reproduced. This is an unfortunate limitation of experimental archaeology: it demands the skill of an ancient craftsman, the knowledge of a modern archaeologist + the insights of a designer in the analysis of the functional aspects of the objects. It is a tall order for sure...

When arrowheads or swordbaldes made by arguably ancient methods (charcoal fire, bog iron, hand cranked grinding stones) still does not perform like originals would have because of shortcomings in the functional department (a result of misunderstanding design and form) we have still not learned anything about these objects apart from the fact that the probelm is very complex.

I hope this what I am saying does not come across as confrontational. I really do not mean that. This is a question and problem that I am very interested in: I really want to stress that regardless of what road you choose to follow in making reconstructions, there are always going to be obstacles to overcome and consequenses that influence the result, that are different from whan ancient craftsmen faced.
This does not disqualify our attempts. It is only good to remember that a reconstruction will always be a reconstruction, while an original will always be an original.
By striving for "authenticity" we should also be clear about what elements we are working to reconstruct.
Even if using modern materials and modern techniques, it is still possible to come very close to the three elements of Style, function and material: the result wil still be a reconstruction, however.'
It is all part of a learning process.

Have I confused matters enough yet?
Wink Cool
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Jesse Frank
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Sep, 2005 6:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Have I confused matters enough yet?


Not at all. You've put it remarkably well.

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Jesse Frank
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Sep, 2005 7:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

On further reflection, I would have to say that as steel makers, we have the potential to be much better than they were, given the enormous amount of knowledge that has been built up since that time. Possibly without even realizing it, since we don't know whether they were reaching the potential of the available technology (I'm speaking of earlier period, mostly).

We will have a much higher learning curve, due to the amount of research that has gone into it. For instance, when making iron into steel, at least for earlier period methods, one can follow the advice of Theophilus. But how long do we leave it to cook? He doesn't say. But one can find charts dealing with carbon diffusion with relation to time, temp, and alloy, learn how long to cook it at, and by being able to fairly accurately judge temperature by eye under certain lighting conditions from previous use of a thermocouple, get a product that is much more uniform and consistent than was probably available at the time, even though one would be using all period techniques.

I don't know, just food for thought.

BTW, this is a really cool topic Cool

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Randolph Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Sep, 2005 7:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jesse Frank wrote:
On further reflection, I would have to say that as steel makers, we have the potential to be much better than they were, given the enormous amount of knowledge that has been built up since that time.


I have NO clue as to what all that technical metalsmith's jargon meant ( Eek! ), but I think your observation leads to an interesting question. If modern techniques allow for the creation of better steel, then it could easily be suggested that were ancient swordsmiths teleported HERE, they would naturally take advantage of our (well, your) modern methods in order to create a finer or (quality assumed), cheaper weapon: they would have no emotional need to maintain old methods, but would be more concerned with advancing their product. So I think Peter is quite right when he says the character of a sword can be lost if too much attention is applied to processes of metallergy alone. The ancients wouldn't ignore technological advancment, so why should we? The characteristics Peter mentioned are the ones which make a sword- a blunt blade made in the ancient manner is good for nothing. I've ordered a Mainz gladius from you guys, Peter, and have no doubt that I will recieve a weapon of the ancient world in the most important sense. If it has modern steel instead of ancient iron, so much the better!

Thanks,

R.

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-Thucydides.


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Jesse Frank
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Sep, 2005 8:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Randolph,

I definitely see and respect your viewpoint, however it can also be said that of course the ancients, on the whole, utilized new and better technology when available, that's why we're at where we are today, but that to follow that particular logic to it's conclusion could mean that there would be no modern sword makers, historically based or otherwise, as it is an outdated technology. So the question really begs to what degree of authenticity is one happy with? To some, a nearly indestructible L6 bainite Howard Clark is perfectly acceptable, because they are after durability, and that's fine. To others such as yourself, a modern alloy that closely resembles ancient steel made with a computer controlled mill and hand finished to appear and feel like an original is acceptable, even preferred, and that's fine, too. Still others would like something that is made with the most period methods and materials available, also made to look and feel as close as possible to the originals, and there is nothing wrong with that, either. It really is up to the individual to what lengths they are willing to go to to get as authentic an implement as possible.

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Randolph Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Sep, 2005 8:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jesse, you make a good point. Us ancient historians have a nice time because we can let the archaeologists worry about the science while we get along with the interpretation. I personally don't have a problem ignoring ancient metallergy, but an archaeologist would probably slap me for doing so! As you say, people approach the sword from different angles and so require different qualities. My point really concerns swords as weapons rather than artifacts. Of course to fulfill its role as an artifact, especially one representative of the past, the process of construction in a sword could matter to someone a great deal. But I think that in regarding a sword purely as a weapon (surely its primary purpose even with its antique design taken into account), functionality must be considered as more important. That is the way I think a Roman legionary would see it, so I am happy to! But I guess it is as you put it- you say potayto, I say potahto. Happy
"A collision at sea can ruin your entire day."
-Thucydides.


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Jesse Frank
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Sep, 2005 8:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Happy
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Sep, 2005 9:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Randolph,

I think it's really all in how you view the sword. If the desire is to obtain the best sword possible then yes, one would want to use the best materials and technology available. I also think you're quite correct when you say that ancient smiths would have quickly adopted our technology to their uses without a second thought. After all they were making weapons not artistic curiosities. Today the collective mindset is to view the sword as a piece of art, a symbol, or a curio. In that context replicating the authentic methods of manufacture become very important as we're then dealing with the sword on an emotional level rather than viewing it strictly as a tool. I value my forged custom pieces more highly than my production pieces. Not because they are more functional or durable, but because they have been made by the traditional process of fire and anvil and posess a stronger link to the past because of this.

It's all about perspective.

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Sam Barris




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Sep, 2005 10:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Randolph Howard wrote:
I think your observation leads to an interesting question. If modern techniques allow for the creation of better steel, then it could easily be suggested that were ancient swordsmiths teleported HERE, they would naturally take advantage of our (well, your) modern methods in order to create a finer or (quality assumed), cheaper weapon: they would have no emotional need to maintain old methods, but would be more concerned with advancing their product.


I've had similar discussions on this forum once before and also on Bugei's sword forum. It's a good point. The fact that we made the transition from bronze to iron, or from swords to firearms, is proof of humanityís urge to place advancement over tradition. This would probably have been a given when swords saw frequent battlefield use and their quality was a life or death matter for both individual warriors and the civilizations they defended. Look at the modern military. We didnít keep sails around just because they were cool looking, we switched to steam propulsion, and so on. When something gives you a tactical advantage, you use it without hesitation or you risk ruin.

In the here and now, quality of swords matter somewhat less. Itís kind of a pity since we can make such wonderful blades these days. Heinlein wrote that by the time we finally learn to do something right, itís already obsolete. I think that principle applies here. In the sense that swordsmanship is no longer the avenue by which we defend our lives and honor, it seems that tradition should rule. After all, our ancestors could test their weapons and techniques in life and death struggles that we can only approximate (often poorly) with modern training and tournaments. Wouldnít it therefore be best to imitate them as closely as possible? Itís a tempting idea, but for it to hold one must assume that the evolution, history and purpose of the sword is at an end. Given the mental and physical benefits of swordplay (and martial arts in general), as well as the sheer joy of beholding and wielding a finely made sword (bow, staff, spear, etc.), I must differ with that assertionÖ at least part of the way.

As much as I love feeling the surge of my ship cutting through the water with her engines ahead flank, itís not nearly as powerful an experience as feeling the wind catch in a boatís sails. Likewise, cars are great, but riding a horse at full gallop is akin to a spiritual revelation. By the same token I conclude that a traditionally forged blade, wrought from the earth with sweat and fire, will have a power to it that a machine made blade will lack. That isnít really anything that can be quantified with performance specifications, I just feel that there is a kind of magic in the work of human hands when it is guided by centuries of accumulated wisdom and blended in measure with the elements of nature. Perhaps the term techne would be a better way to explain it, although thatís not quite right either. I just canít help but view that kind of human creation with a certain reverence, even if our machines can do it faster and cheaper. This has been a very disjointed post and Iím sure I sound like some kind of a crazy sword hippie by this time, but there it isÖ

Pax,
Sam Barris

"Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools." óThucydides


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Jesse Frank
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Sep, 2005 11:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Iím sure I sound like some kind of a crazy sword hippie by this time, but there it isÖ


I wouldn't worry about that, the guys around here call me the "hippie viking" Eek!

Talk about an oxymoron... My motto is "Peace, love and PLUNDER" Laughing Out Loud

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Sam Barris




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Sep, 2005 4:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jesse Frank wrote:
My motto is "Peace, love and PLUNDER" Laughing Out Loud


Outstanding! I'll raise a horn of mead to that. Big Grin

Now that I look up, I think Patrick hit most of what I was trying to say in fewer words. Blush

Pax,
Sam Barris

"Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools." óThucydides
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Sep, 2005 4:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sam Barris wrote:

Outstanding! I'll raise a horn of mead to that. Big Grin

Now that I look up, I think Patrick hit most of what I was trying to say in fewer words. Blush


That's Patrick - a man of few words. (and 3000+ posts). Big Grin
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Mon 19 Sep, 2005 1:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Johnsson wrote:
Jeroen,
What can be confusing is to determine what part of their present expression is derived from their making and what is the patina of time and use. An ancient artefact will always look ancient even if perfectly perserved. These are very subtle things, but readily observable.

Yup, I agree with that. Sometimes people are tempted to make things look like the museum stuff, because that's they way they feel they should look. A big example and petpieve of mine is the artificial darkening of wood, or using bog wood. Fresh wood is white, or almost white, not dark brown or black. This is especially the case of bronze age artifacts. The only thing they may have done is apply line-oil, which gives a slighly darker look, but nowhere near as dark. And even the use of that is debatable. Quite often I get to hear the remark wheter I'm going to patinate any of my bronze reproductions, and of course my answer is no. If you want to see green bronze, go to the museum. Or wait three thousand years, then mine will have naturally patinated Happy With my reproductions I always want to make them as they would have been newly finished. This includes compensating for any wear during the lifetime of the original artifacts. This can be tricky sometimes, as it happened before that I f.e. reproduced and axe, only to find out later that the original was actually a very worn piece.


Quote:
When casting bronze smelted in a charcoal hearth, poured from a clay crucible, we are mezmerised by the situation: it feels very much like being transported back 1000 years BC. Still our using these methods is in no way a guarantee the object in the mold will in any way be comparable to an ancient artefact: method, material, and shape can all be more or less "wrong".

Fortunately though, for bronze it's a lot easier to get an accurate alloy then when it comes to steel. A lot of the copper and tin used in the bronze age were very pure, creating a pure tin bronze. Sometimes lead was also added, which is also not a problem. All of these metals can be obtained in pure form as well nowadays, so the original alloys can be matched very accurately. The only problem is when it comes to early bronze age bronzes, which had a lot of impurities such as arsenic, antimony, nickel etc. It's difficult to make those, and foremost I wouldn't want to make those due to their toxic elements. So for these I replace the impurities with tin. This gives a different alloy that looks similar, but casts differently and has different mechanical properties. So the comparisson with these and the originals is more limited.

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I would argue that all our attempts of reconstruction are flawed, by the simple fact we are 21st C beings.

Correct. Just the way I analyze what's happening is totally different to start with. I think like a modern engineer (which I am), not like a bronze age metal worker. I think in terms of temperature, thermal conductivity, airodynamics, themal stresses, friction, surface tension etc. etc. Someone in the bronze age would have been familiar with the effects of these, and how he could influence them, but he'd look at it from a very different perspective, probably with a lot of "superstition" involved. It's just impossible to set aside modern thinking.

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often meet the argument that you have to duplicate ancient techniques to get close to a proper result. It is an alluring argument, but I feel it is often used to cover up for shortcomings in shapes, expression, finish or function of the artefact: You can se that it was obviously made by hand by some arguably "ancient" method (even if we cannot know exactly how they went about this back then), but the artifact also looks mishappen, unfinished or even clumsy. It often looks draatically diffent from surviving artefacts.


That's where things as skill, experience and knowledge of the original artifacts comes in. Without these, you simply can't make a good reproduction.

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Regardless what road we travel to arrrive at this, we are bound to make some compromizes. By

Exactly. And it's very important to realize which comprimizes you are taking, and what the result of these comprimizes will be on the final result. For me the factors that determine my comprimizes stem from my limitations in skill, time, health etc. But what I want to achieve is making reproductions that a) if buried 3000 years ago and dug up by archeologists today, the archeologists should not be able to tell them apart from the originals and b) if I'd go back to the bronze age, I'd still be able to make them with what's available there, bringing only my knowledge and experience with me and c) To include as much archeological evidence of bronze working in my fabrication process as possible, and therefore having to invent as little as possible. There's more, but these are to me the most important driving factors that determine where I put the limits of authenticity. But you won't see me peddling a hollowed out tree trunk across the the northsea to get some bronze from the UK Happy

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This is an unfortunate limitation of experimental archaeology: it demands the skill of an ancient craftsman, the knowledge of a modern archaeologist + the insights of a designer in the analysis of the functional aspects of the objects. It is a tall order for sure...

Yep. But there are people I know that have it. So far I've only met them in flint-knapping, not in bronze or iron working yet. Well, there are some in iron-working that come quite far. But I know two flint-knappers, D.C. Waldorf and Errett Gallahan, who have been working at it continuously for 40-50 years, and achieved such a level of skill and knowledge that they excel in all those aspects. These people are my inspiration, and hopefully someday I can achieve something similar for bronze age metalworking. I just have to make sure to keep on doing it continiously for the next 40 years!Happy

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When arrowheads or swordbaldes made by arguably ancient methods (charcoal fire, bog iron, hand cranked grinding stones) still does not perform like originals would have because of shortcomings in the functional department (a result of misunderstanding design and form) we have still not learned anything about these objects apart from the fact that the probelm is very complex.


This is one problem I have with a lot of professional archeologists that do experimental archeology. A lot of times I see conclusions being drawn about how something doesn't work or doesn't work very well, while they're just not doing it properly. They place they're own shortcomings with the ancient people, which I actually see as an insult. If I makes something, and it doesn't perform as it should, I immediately look for what I did wrong. If a sword doesn't cut properly, I'm either not using it properly, got the edge wrong etc. etc.

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I hope this what I am saying does not come across as confrontational. I really do not mean that

Not at all, I understand exactly where you're comming from and highly admire that attitude Happy
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Mon 19 Sep, 2005 1:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sam Barris wrote:
Randolph Howard wrote:
After all, our ancestors could test their weapons and techniques in life and death struggles that we can only approximate (often poorly) with modern training and tournaments. Wouldnít it therefore be best to imitate them as closely as possible? Itís a tempting idea, but for it to hold one must assume that the evolution, history and purpose of the sword is at an end. Given the mental and physical benefits of swordplay (and martial arts in general), as well as the sheer joy of beholding and wielding a finely made sword (bow, staff, spear, etc.), I must differ with that assertionÖ at least part of the way.

Exactly. We can't improve swords, because their function is lost. So we don't know what makes a better sword. We can guess, but never be sure. You can make a harder steel, but was that desirable at all? Maybe those which we consider the superior quality swords were actually considered failures because of reasons we just don't know anymore? So we can make something that may be superior, be we never know for certain, or we can choose to make something as close to the originals as possible, so it's at least about as good. But then it depends on what you want, a good weapon, or a good reproduction. I only care for good reproductions, including all shortcomings of the original. F.e. I want to have an early iron age sword reproduced, which probably was made from pure iron, which compared to steel is a totally crappy material. Nevertheless, I still want it out of pure iron. They made it that way, and somehow they made it work. The entire shape of the weapon was totally optimized to get the most effective weapon out of that material, so to make it in steel would make a sword that's totally the wrong shape for the material. So you'll end up with an inferior steel sword, while otherwise it woulld be a superior iron sword, despite the fact that the steel version would vastly outperform the iron one.

As much as I love feeling the surge of my ship cutting through the water with her engines ahead flank, itís not nearly as powerful an experience as feeling the wind catch in a boatís sails. Likewise, cars are great, but riding a horse at full gallop is akin to a spiritual revelation. By the same token I conclude that a traditionally forged blade, wrought from the earth with sweat and fire, will have a power to it that a machine made blade will lack. That isnít really anything that can be quantified with performance specifications, I just feel that there is a kind of magic in the work of human hands when it is guided by centuries of accumulated wisdom and blended in measure with the elements of nature. Perhaps the term techne would be a better way to explain it, although thatís not quite right either. I just canít help but view that kind of human creation with a certain reverence, even if our machines can do it faster and cheaper. This has been a very disjointed post and Iím sure I sound like some kind of a crazy sword hippie by this time, but there it isÖ


Quote:
As much as I love feeling the surge of my ship cutting through the water with her engines ahead flank, itís not nearly as powerful an experience as feeling the wind catch in a boatís sails. Likewise, cars are great, but riding a horse at full gallop is akin to a spiritual revelation. By the same token I conclude that a traditionally forged blade, wrought from the earth with sweat and fire, will have a power to it that a machine made blade will lack. That isnít really anything that can be quantified with performance specifications, I just feel that there is a kind of magic in the work of human hands when it is guided by centuries of accumulated wisdom and blended in measure with the elements of nature. Perhaps the term techne would be a better way to explain it, although thatís not quite right either. I just canít help but view that kind of human creation with a certain reverence, even if our machines can do it faster and cheaper. This has been a very disjointed post and Iím sure I sound like some kind of a crazy sword hippie by this time, but there it isÖ


I fully agree with it. I mean, I'm a modern metal worker, which means that I sit behind a PC, tinkering with some numbers designing some virtual metal part, and halfway across the planet some machine turns out a metal part which I may never even see in real life. It's just not the same as taking a bit of metal, and working it with nothing more then muscle power, fire and some tools without a machine or computer in sight. Eventhough the ancient smith would probably love the idea of just sitting on a chair all day, instead behind the burning hot furnace, working long hours and being physically wrecked at a fairly young age, I still get a heck of a lot more enjoyment out of ancient metalworking then my real job!Happy
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