Friday, 28 October 2011

The Sword Saga: Part 3

Chapter 3: Assembling the Hilt
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"In pure gold inlay on the sword-guards / there were rune-markings correctly incised"      (Beowulf, Lines 1694-1695).
  The blade was ready, and so too were the Staffordshire Hoard pommel cap and collars beautifully crafted by George. Next came the challenge of putting the whole thing together.

These early Anglo-Saxon swords have considerable organic material in the construction of the upper and lower guards, which comprises a layer of wood or horn sandwiched between two thin metal scennas of  gold or other metal.
I decided to use a gold coloured copper alloy and black buffalo horn. Now on my previous sword I had used green-horn which is a fantastic thermoplastic material which polishes up to a marvellous translucent shine. Buffalo horn does not and is a truly vile material. After a considerable amount of cursing, the scenn-plates and the horn sections were riveted together,  then shaped and polished up.

I had already got a grip piece, a wreoþenhilt, made from wood covered with goatskin. Under the leather, a spiral leather former had been glued, so giving a ‘twisted grip’.
Paul had made the tang of the sword parallel rather than narrowing to the tip, so the next step was to shape the tang correctly. This involved the use of that diabolical instrument, the Angle-Grindere ! It was then that I discovered  that Paul’s pattern-welded sword-blade was not just beautiful but that the steel was very tough. Almost two grinding-discs later, the tang was finished. The upper and lower guard sections were then drilled and filed to produce holes into which the tang would fit snugly. Unlike some folk, who use modern glues, I try to get the fit tight and snug so that the whole hilt is tight and secure : a rattling hilt is unsafe, in my opinion. After innumerable dry runs, finally first the lower guard, the grip and the upper guard were gently eased into place. A mallet was used to complete this. Next the remaining two inches of protruding tang was removed leaving a stub of steel which was then secured by peening over the edges.
The assembly was checked and found to be secure, so the next job was to attach the ‘pommel-cap’ which George had made. I had previously drilled the upper-guard assembly with four holes to take the pins. It speaks for the quality of George’s work that this job, which I had dreaded, went like a dream and the sword Noþung was complete.

The next task was to make a Sword Sheath.

...To be continued... 

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