Friday, December 24, 2010

spark in the darkness

The year dims down towards its last gasp. Black mornings slowly merge into short days, but the work pace doesn't slacken. Some mornings I am starting the forge at six thirty and working in a bubble of light like a craft in an ocean of darkness. The open door gapes like a mouth into the early morning black, then the delicate deep blue emergence of proto-day. I twist the strands. Late one day I manage to light my forehead and eyebrows on fire with a 'wumf' of flame, I beat them out and don't receive any burns just more manageable eyebrows, and a shiny forehead.
Twisting the strands is surprisingly challenging. I always discount this step as an easy part of the process, but by not preparing a mental space for the work I leave myself open to being caught off guard by it. The twisting and straightening is a full weeks work. Once the strands are twisted and I straighten them and make sure the patterns match, I cut the tips off at an angle and forge them around so that when they are joined they will form a Gothic arch shape. Then I tie them together with iron wire and forge weld them.
When the core strands are welded together I bend the 600 layer edge billets around them and tie that in place with iron wire. Now I am ready to forge weld the whole composite sword blade, this will establish the final pattern in the steel and is the crucial weld. Once the billets are all welded together it is time to consolidate the welds and draw them out to the proper length and outline.
A nine layer strand in the vise ready to twist the next section.

A twisted section

Three strands twisted and ready to be straightened.

Two sets of matching core strands after straightening.

The strand tips cut off at an angle and ready to be forged into half of a Gothic arch.

two strands with the tips forged round so the pattern will follow the edge strand as it curves around the sword tip.

The core strands tied together with wire and ready to be forge welded.
Forge welding the core strands.
Two become one.
I consolidate each weld and give it a chance to mature by reheating it and lightly forging it again.

This core billet is ready to be cleaned up and have the edge billet wrapped around it.

I surface grind and then flat grind the surface of the edge strand that will be touching the core billet, this helps make sure I get a perfect fusion between the two when I forge weld them together.

The edge strand wrapped around the core.

Four composite billets ready for the forge.

First sword heating up to around 2200 degrees Fahrenheit. Successfully forge welding the tip where it wraps around the core billet is the most challenging part of this process.

The edge billet is forge welded in place, the pattern is set. Soon this will be a sword blade, but for now the forge welding is done, yuletide awaits.


Dave the Dead said...

Yet again, I am in awe. I find myself awaiting the next installment like kid awaits Christmas. Thanks once again for sharing your work.

Jim & Jean said...

A beautiful sequence Jake. Informative and quite entertaining at the same time.


Anonymous said...

... And in this we see the Art taught by Welland to men, and to those who could see and make living what the eye of the Smith, himself, intended .... Beautiful work Jake and a wonderfully clear "step-by-step".
Thanks so much for taking the time to show this to us.

Jake Powning said...

thanks for the kind words everyone. It's my pleasure!

Luke said...

This is great work. Its good insight into your work. If you dont mind my asking, is there any reason for two short billets and two that are significantly longer? Was there this much variation in the lengths of viking age swords?
Again, Thanks for posting this!

Jake Powning said...

Hi Luke, good to hear from you. The two shorter looking billets are for normal sized Viking swords and the two very long billets are for something special...

Fimbulmyrk said...

This is the reason I am a very big fan of your work.

There are many men forging swords.

But you have a spirit to your work, due to the way you see it. Thanks for your blog, I will follow it on

May I post a photo of "Vindsvall" and its concept there? I am deeply impressed with it and want to share it with others. I will give full and complete credit to you and link your website in that post.

You have inspired me thoroughly.

Fimbulmyrk said...

Ah yes, and this one´s for you:

Hope you enjoy it.

Jake Powning said...

Hi Fimbulmyrk, sorry for not responding sooner, I've been away. Thank you for the kind words! Of course you can use a photo of vindsvall in your blog, it would be an honour. It's a very nice blog. I enjoyed reading it.