Friday, February 3, 2012


The sun cuts low through winter trees, woodsmoke hangs in the air.  Walking through the forest one day I find what's left of a raven dance, the steps clear in the snow. I can see where a raven has scratched it's beak back and forth drawing concentric lines.

As part of a project I have been drawing too, exploring Viking Age ornamentation with pencil and paint, I interpret the knotwork that was inlayed long ago on the blade of an axe that was found in a place called Mammen in Denmark.

If you look closely you can see that this is a beast tangled in it's own horns and body, head thrown back.  Viking Age ornamentation is expressive with a narrative purpose that forcefully shines from the arcane lines. Strange and beautiful, what must a Viking artist's dreams have looked like. These were the shapes of their fierce spirit allies; the heath monsters that they drew on their weapons to frighten their enemies.  Perhaps they believed that by tying them up in this way they where harnessing their power.

I have been exploring Mammen ornamentation for a sword I have recently completed. I've shown many of the steps of it's creation on this blog. Here is the finished product - Galdrgrimm.

This blade exemplifies the ancient European tradition of pattern welding. A mastery of this time consuming and challenging process produces a swirling star like pattern running down the center of the blade and a keen edge which has been folded and refined to produce a shimmering subtle effect in the steel. Galdrgrimm is forged of contrasting layers of carbon steel and has a subtle blue sheen from the tempering process. Two narrow fullers run down one side of the blade and a wide single fuller graces the other. 
The hilt and scabbard are carved in the Mammen style; a popular form of narrative ornamentation in Denmark and elsewhere during the Viking Age. It features looping intertwined figures of dragon-beasts and human forms. 

The figured maple wood of the scabbard seems to shift and ripple when turned in the light, adding a mysterious glamour to the complex knotwork. The high layer edge steel refracts light in a similar way to the maple, so that there are dimensions to this sword which can only be experienced in person.

"Galdrgrimm" is a combination of the old Norse word 'galdr' which was a sung incantation and the word 'grimm' which comes from an Indo-European root word that is cognate with the word thunder. Therefore "Galdrgrimm" roughly translates to "thunder-song".

hilt - bronze, blackwood 

blade -pattern welded 1075/8670m

scabbard - quilted maple wood lined with 
sheered sheep fleece, hand cast silicon bronze.

blade length - 26 3/4" 

hilt length - 6 1/4"

overall length - 33" 

weight - 2 lb : 7.0 oz

 Smoke curls from the chimney, winter ages, the setting sun glints on the ice bordered river.


pjsnell said...

Was it common for blades to have two fullers on one side and one on the other, or is that your design?

Jake Powning said...

thanks, there are some examples of blades with different fullers on one side than the other I believe, but they are rare.

Fimbulmyrk said...

I can hear its song.

Myles Mulkey said...

Jake, I believe I have seen some blades with these types of fullers from a Migration Era context, which I think is great for this project. Gives it an extra feeling of age and importance, like the blade was a relic from an older time.

You are my hero for making this one haha. Keep doing what you're doing.