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I Forge Iron

iron age knives

Dave Budd

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I've been making some knives for members of a new Iron Age living history group (Dumnonika) that a friend of mine has set up and I thought I'd share some pictures of what I've been up to :)

First up, a ring hilted combat safe knife. Blade is about 13" long and the whole thing is made from EN45 spring steel, left with the hammer marks on the surface. The handle is wrapped with leather and the polished ring has been coloured with heat to give a little accent (though the oxides will rub off).


Next a pair of kitchen knives; large has a blade of about 8". Blades of EN42J high carbon steel, surface has been ground and finished with scrapers and stones (no belt grinders, angle grinders or buffing machines in the Iron Age, so I won't leave those surface finishes! *evil* ). Handles or beech with decoration coloured with ochres.


Upping the authenticity a little further. This one has a blade of wrought iron and shear steel (made from the same wrought iron and carburised using charcoal and deer poo), about 3" long. The blade has been stone ground to a fine finish then etched gently in vinegar to make the patterns more obvious. Handle is antler with cow horn guard and a slice of serpentine (aka Lizardstone, from Cornwall) pinned inplace with bronze wire.


And finally, about as close to 100% authentic as is possible without tanning my own leather and smelting my own iron.... This was a commission for Dru on here. The blade is about 4" and the same shear steel and iron as above, but this time (for experimentations sake) I ONLY used tools available during the Iron Age. So it was all forged close to finished dimension/shape, scraped to final shape (files are too expensive to use for stockremoval and a scraper works very well, especially on iron), then stones used to refine the finish and bring to a polish that was etched again in vinegar. The handle is cow horn and antler, the scrimshaw was taken from designs used on harness fittings from 1st Century AD somerset (Polden Hills) and dyed with chracoal and oil. The whole thing is glued together with birch tar. The sheath has been left undyed and the design was drawn on by Dru and I moulded it whilst wet.


Later in the year I plan to make myself a new knife from iron and steel that I make myself (got the ore, and my own charcoal, just no time), handled with wood from my land and sheathed in some deer hide I've got from a road kill a while back. All because I can *biggrin* Also, as soon as JohnN sorts me out with a power hammer I can get on and make a sword for the group leader!

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Dave, I really like all of the knives that you posted. Pukko-ish? Did you go with a Scandi edge? Really nice forging! I like your embellishments a lot.

The first knife is really cool as well! Did you punch and drift the hole?


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I really like the simple wooden handles; many people trying to make early style knives put a much fancier handle on simple using knives than would have been used. (this is of course compared to some of the extremely fancy work you could find on upper social status blades---gold and garnets, etc)

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Robert, the hole was punched out but the outside shape was ground and filed. In the past I've tried drilling the hole but my pillar drill is to girly for large holes in metal, so punching is faster and much more effective for me! The shape of the decorated one is quite pukko ish, but it (like all of them) is full flat, since that's what all of the originals were ;)

Thomas, I agree. Too many people making 'replica' everyday users go all out on highly polished and lots of decoration when really it is only ever the high status pieces that have that level of embelishment. Then of course the high status stuff is really highly decorated and embelished! I'm gradually teaching myself various new tricks so that I can start adding elements such as inlays to some of my work. That handle, though crude and simple, is my first attempt at scrimsaw. I've also been playing with bronze and silver casting and inlaying of wires into wood and metal.

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