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Why Did Some Infantry Soldiers Carry Short S…

Why Did Some Infantry Soldiers Carry Short Swords in the Gunpowder Age? Pioneer Short Swords

Antique French Sword Sizes Compared

Antique French Sword Sizes Compared

Wootz “Damascus Steel”: History,…

Wootz “Damascus Steel”: History, Metallurgy, Production

This is going to be a rather long, and in depth video on wootz steel, it’s history, metallurgy, and production. For the most part, it is based upon excellent academic work by Ann Feuerbach and metallurgical experimentation by John Verhoeven. 

Historically (prior to the 18th century), “Damascus Steel” also referred to wootz, or crucible steel, which was produced all over South East and Central Asia and the middle east. In order to differentiate between the two forms of “Damascus”, I will be using the nomenclature of pattern welded steel, and wootz steel. 

Also known as pulad, fulad or bulat, wootz is an ancient crucible steel, which was produced from as early as the first century, CE. It is typified by being high in carbon content, usually between 1 and 2 percent and a low slag content. 

Metallurgical identification of wootz steel is problematic, as no single criteria can be used to differentiate between crucible steel, and decarburised wrought iron. In order to confidently say whether a sword is crucible steel or not, the blade must be polished and then etched in nital, and examined via low magnification microscopy. The presense of spheroidised cementite is considered evidence of a crucible produced steel. 

Wootz can occur in two different forms according to Ann Feuerbach, soft wootz with less than 0.8% carbon, and hard wootz with greater than 0.8%. The vast majority of pattern presenting wootz and historical wootz is hard wootz, whereas the majority of crucible steel that produces no pattern is soft wootz. 

The names Pulad and Fulad derive their meaning from the words for Purified, and fittingly Wootz also typically contains lower levels of slag than other steels, such as bloomery iron or decarburised wrought iron, however if the wootz was made using one of these as a source of iron, this can introduce slag into the final product. 

For the most part, the clay crucible would be filled with a charge. This crucible charge would contain iron, often a mix of “soft and hard iron”, referred to by Al Kindi as male and female iron, as well as some form of plant matter such as rice husks, pomegranate peels, wood chips, leaves or vines. These served two purposes: Firstly, to provide carbon to the steel, without which it would not melt and would not produce useable steel, and secondly to produce gasses as they pyrolise, protecting the steel from the atmosphere of the furnace. Some processed such as the Deccani process utilised in Hyderabad used glass as a protective flux. 

The crucible was heated for anywhere between 6 hours (as in the south Indian process) to two days, as in the Deccani process, or as much as 6 days in the Isfahan process. The resulting wootz button or egg was then polished in order to check the quality of the wootz. 

In the Isfahan process, the wootz ingots were taken from their crucibles after firing, and placed in a heated room or compartment for two days, to temper them and relieve stresses prior to forging. 

Isfahan wootz is particularly well known, as is Khorasani steel. The most famous of persian swordmakers hailed from Isfahan, Assad Allah, during the reign of Shah Abbas. There is an interesting legend as to how he rose to such prominence.

According to this legend, Shah Abbas held a competition with the intention of finding a new shamshiraz, or swordmaker for his court. In order to root out the best of the best, he offered a prize for a swordsmith who could cut an iron helmet given to him by an ottoman sultan, without damaging their sword. All failed, but one. Assad Allah, whose name literally translates to Lion of God, approached the helmet, swung, and cleaved it in two, without rolling an edge. 

The secret to producing wootz steel was lost for a long time, as the ore sourced dried up around 1750, and wootz production ground to a halt. Crucible steel was still being made, but it lacked the distinct patterns in the steel, which had served as a guarantee of quality. It was only recently through the combined efforts of John Verhoeven and the late Al Pendray that it was revealed that trace amounts of carbide forming elements are responsible for the formation of wootz patterns. In particular, the pair discovered that vanadium was a vital alloying element in pattern formation.

Recently, Verhoeven has revisited the topic with a 2018 paper titled Damascus Steel Revisited, in which experimentation solidified his claim that internal banded microstructures resulted from microsegregation of Vanadium between dendritic and interdendritic regions of the ingot during solidification. Vanadium therefore acts as a nucleation point for cementite spheroid formation, leading to linearly aligned bands of cementite after forging.

British Samurai Bayonets – 1907 Pattern &amp…

British Samurai Bayonets – 1907 Pattern & Arisaka

There is a connection between WW1 era British bayonets and Japanese samurai swords and knives that most people don’t know about. Here we look at the 1907 pattern British bayonet and its inspiration the Type 30 Arisaka.

Presentation Grade 1882 French Officers Swor…

Presentation Grade 1882 French Officers Sword

This is a presentation grade French Infantry Officers sword, model of 1882, dating from 17th July 1896. It features an engraved guard made of German Silver (aka nickel silver) and a nickel-coated Klingenthal blade with frost etched floral panels and a precise dating. It is highly decorated, and very fancy.

It is 107cm overall, making it 7cm longer than the standard variant, and weighs 895 grams, making it 205 grams heavier than the regulation sword. It retains the offset fullers, and has gained an extra bar on the guard.

This example was custom made with deep relief carvings in the backstrap, containing the initials CS or SC.

The 1882 was used through the late 19th century, and into the 20th century, including world war 1. It was primarily a thrusting sword, though some rare examples were field sharpened. This example retains its nickel coating and blunt edge on the blade.

Antique Leather Restoration – Sword Scabbard…

Antique Leather Restoration – Sword Scabbards, Belts & Other Leather Military Items

My preferred antique leather product is Pecard Antique Leather Dressing. It is very easy to find (or order) in the US.

Why an Obsolete Sword Design from 1845 was R…

Why an Obsolete Sword Design from 1845 was Reintroduced in 1915

This is a model 1845/55 French infantry officers sabre. It was produced in chatellerault in 1915.

Officially, the 1845/55 pattern was replaced by the 1882 pattern. However due to the war, the French decided to start producing the 45’s again as they already had tooling for that. As a result, some 30,000 of these were made during WWI.

The hilt is gilt Arco, an alloy of copper, charcoal and zinc, potentially also tin. It has a distinctive reddish appearance under the gilding. The 1882 used a “German silver” alloy for the guard – also a copper alloy.

The blade is plain steel (without a nickel coating) – unlike the 1882 which is nickel coated.

It features one broad fuller and one narrow fuller on each side. The 1882 has offset fullers.

British Flank / Light Infantry Officers Sabr…

British Flank / Light Infantry Officers Sabre, 1796 to 1803

This is a British interim sabre from between 1796 and 1803, for a Flank or Light Infantry officer. With a wedge section blade, heavily curved, and a 1796 style hilt, this sword was scaled down to fit the needs of an infantry officer and is extremely quick and agile.

The deeply curved, slightly shorter blade is well suited to draw cuts, and the overall lightness compliments the POB (12cm from crossguard)

The reason it can be accurately dated to the interim period of 1796 to 1803 is because of the British war office officially adopting new patterns of sabres in those years.

In 1796 the (rather well known) 1796 light cavalry sabre was adopted, which this mimics in hilt design, featuring a stirrup hilt (“P” shaped guard) and a curved blade.

Flank infantry and Light infantry officers often engaged in skirmishing tactics and thus officers for these regiments tended to go for more combat appropriate swords than their official pattern (The 1796 spadroon, often considered to be a terrible sword).

As a result of the number of Flank/Light infantry officers using 1796 Light Cavalry sabre derivatives, the 1803 was soon officially adopted for these regiments, featuring a broad, heavily curved blade and a more elaborate and more protective hilt.

This design falls between those two.

Revolvers & Hunting Knives – Arnachellum…

Revolvers & Hunting Knives – Arnachellum & Sons of Salem

Looking at an antique Bowie knife made by Indian maker Arnachellum, and considering where these fit in their historical context.

Leather Hilt Covers on Military Swords Occa…

Leather Hilt Covers on Military Swords

Occasionally we find antique military swords with leather covers on parts or all of their hilts. Here we look at a British example with a blade from the 1860s, a hilt from the 1890s, and applied leather over its entire guard on inside and out.