RECONSTRUCTING THE WARRIORS OF

THE BRONZE AGE



WEAPONS

11/27/13



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       My first sword is the bronze Mycenaean one by Del Tin (Italy).   It is dated to about 900 BC (rather later than the Dendra armor, that is) and is known specifically as the Naue type II.  This repro started at 3 pounds, 11 ounces, which is WAY too heavy.  The metal is also known to be quite soft.
        After 8 or 9 days of grinding and sanding, I got the weight down to 2 pounds, still hefty but far more manageable.  It is shown above with the hilt complete, and there is a close-up of the hilt, too.  The grips and pommel were cut from the same block of walnut, by the way!  No idea why they aren't the same color.  This photo shows the parts unassembled, with the wooden pieces carved out to fit into the hilt recess.  That was some tedious woodworking, using mostly my Dremel tool to fit the pommel but only knife and files on the grips.  Bronze "boat nails" serve as rivets, with a  piece of brass rod to hold the pommel since the nails weren't quite long enough.

       I am very curious to find out just how accurate this all might be!  My guess is that the whole hilt area was smaller and narrower, and the pommel may have been a different shape and secured in a different way.  But this feels good in the hand.  Finished weight, 2 lbs. 2 ozs.  Blade length from the tips of the guard is 22-1/4", maximum blade width is 1-9/16".  Overall length 27-3/4".


       The scabbard is wood covered with leather.  The spiral band and chape based on a scabbard shown on an ivory mirror handle from Cyprus.  I used leather for the chape because I do not know of any surviving bronze ones (for this sort of sword), and because I wasn't sure I could make a nice one!   The baldric is folded linen, and ends tie at the shoulder as shown in the Pylos fresco.


       Here is Neil Burridge's Naue type II, based on an original from Crete, shown next to my Del Tin sword.  You can see how Neil's is much finer and smaller overall--much more accurate!  A much better alloy, too.  He even hardened the edge for me.  All I have done so far is clean it up and carve a little metal out of the inside of the hilt area.

       The Del Tin really feels like a monster by comparison!   I'm tempted to take the belt sander to its blade again...   I plan to get olive wood for the hilt on the new sword.

       Complete!  Olive wood is a little hard to work with, but polishes up very nicely and looks great!  This sword is my best-feeling bronze one yet, light and well-balanced.  Here is a close-up of the hilts.  The pommel is held on by friction and a little hide glue.  3/22/06

       To learn sword-making from the master himself, see Neil Burridge's page on his annual Bronze Sword Festival, http://www.bronze-age-craft.com/Bronze-Sword-Festival.htm, or buy his swords here:  http://www.bronze-age-craft.com/swords_for_sale.htm


       I promised Neil Burridge that I'd do a nice job finishing and hilting this sword that he cast, and post photos and links to his site.  Glad to do it!  It's a British sword, the Ewart Park style.  It is a VERY nice casting, very clean with a lovely midrib.   Blade length is about 19", maximum blade width 1-15/16".  Jeroen Zuiderwijk has been working on an identical sword, and says the blade should not thicken at the widest part, and that the maximum weight should be about 750 grams.  Mine is 2 lbs 3 ozs (992 g), so there's a little grinding to do, but it will be much easier than on the Del Tin sword!

       Close-up of the midrib.  You can see that it fades into a very subtle raised area where blade meets hilt.  These first two photos were taken on August 7, 2004, two days after the sword arrived in the mail.  Now for some shop work!

       On August 29 and 30 I finally did about 5 hours of grinding and sanding, but only took off about 3 ounces.  So far I've only been grinding between the midrib and the point, though I cleaned up the rest.  But that's not enough, obviously.  Remember, kids, grinding makes the metal very hot!
See above--doesn't look much different!        September 22--After a couple more hours of work with grinder, flap sander, sanding disc, and Dremel tool, the weight is still 2 pounds.  Geez, I thought I'd made a little more progress than that!  I have realized that this bronze is considerably harder than the alloys that I've worked on before.  So I'll have to get meaner!

       September 26--One last grinding session, then sanding with coarse, fine, and extra-fine sandpaper, followed by Scotch-brite pot-scrubber pad on the sanding disc.  Only the buffing to go.  Got it down to 1 lb 14 oz, or 850 g.   Here is my edge-hardening jig, two old brass door handles attached to a scrap of sheet brass by the pair of screws at the far end, all taped to my old anvil.

       Edge-hardening jig in action.  The tabs on the sheet brass serve as guides to keep the "hammer and anvil" striking at the same distance from the edge at all times.  No steel touches the blade, and in theory this will make a uniform bevel right along the edge, while hardening it.  Well, in theory...


       After a long pause to find a decent bone, the hilt is coming along.  January 24, 2005, the bone handle is riveted in place.  Crappy job, my holes got crooked, the pieces are slightly askew on the tang, and I DROPPED one just after getting the holes drilled and broke it!  Glued it, seems to work.  You can see the line, second rivet from the left.  The oak pommel will fit over the tabs at the end, and the bronze dome will cover that.  Hopefully.  Just a little more carving to fit the pommel in place, polish the dome, and hammer it's edges down around the edge of the wood pommel to hold it.  Hopefully.  The rivets Neil sent are leaded bronze and work wonderfully, but next time I'll use narrower ones.

       January 28, the sword is complete.  The pommel seems to have worked well, and it certainly is shiny.  Consider me happy!  I also did a little more edge-hammering, using just a cross-peen hammer on the anvil, followed by a little filing to clean it up.

       A close-up of the hilt, showing the underside of the pommel.  There is also a view from the side of the hilt, and one from the end.  Thank You, Neil!   It's been a pleasure working on this. 

       January 30, the scabbard is done, too.  It is made of oak and based on the one from Barde Store Hoj, Denmark.  The inside is lined with linen to prevent the blade from rattling, and to keep the oak from making green marks on the metal! 


      
Order your fabulous Neil Burridge sword today!  http://www.bronze-age-craft.com/swords_for_sale.htm 


       Another excellent blade from Neil!  This one is a "rapier", generally believed to be more for thrusting than slashing since there is no tang.  The date is around 1300 BC.  17-1/4" long, weighs 11 ounces.

       An evening's work.  The blade is shined up, though I have left a little minor pitting and uneveness.  The blade is already thin enough and the midrib subtle enough that I don't want to take off too much metal.   The hilt has been cut and roughly rasped to shape--I think it's maple.

       Memorial Day, 2005, and it's finished.  Carving out the groove to a snug fit was dicey.  I kept routing out tiny bits of wood until the blade could be pushed almost all the way into the slot, then rapped it tightly in.  Almost didn't need rivets!

       The wood is coated with linseed oil.  Overall length, 20-5/8".  The grip is very short but feels quite good in my hand, and the weight is like a steak knife.

       The scabbard is quite plain.   The blade is wrapped with hair-on goat hide, which is sandwiched between two shaped pieces of thin wood, then a leather outer covering.  The leather and hide are sewn together at the mouth, as shown here, to keep the blade from getting between the layers.



       January 2006.  These are the two Type G Mycenaean swords from Albion Swords, made by International Steelcrafts in India.  They name the top one the "Odysseus" and the pointed one the "Achilles", while I'm starting to think of them as "Beater" and "Biter".   They were given to me by Steve Peffley, who did the lovely wooden models for them, only to find that the Indians had thickened them into (as he aptly says) "boat anchors". 

       Closer view of the hilts.  The pommel area should be hollow like the rest of the hilt.  On the originals, the guards were flanged as well, and the flanges hammered in to meet, so they were hollow inside.  These are solid cast, of course.   Note that these swords are bronze, while more recent castings are apparently copper.

      Work in progress.  I did not have a chance to weigh the swords before grinding, but have been weighing the dust and shavings that I grind off of them (having a small postal scale for that).  I spent about 4 evenings on the pointed one, with grinder, drill, Dremel, and belt sander, and removed over 9 ounces of metal.  I even drilled into the guards to remove a little weight.  About 3-1/4 hours on the wide sword has removed 9-1/2 ounces.  Still need to smooth out inside the hilt area, and do more blade work.

       A few more days of noise and dust, and it's pretty much done.  The shape of the grip is more refined, the guards trimmed down, the pommel hollowed, and MUCH work has been done on the blade.  Total of metal removed, 18 ounces!  And the current weight is 1 pound 8-1/2 ounces.  A boat anchor no more.  

       The hilt for the pointy sword will be ash.  One grip is about done, and the pommel is coming along.  The other two roughed-out pieces are also shown.  Current weight for this sword is 1 pound 5 ounces.   The wide sword will have a cherry hilt.

       First one done!  The wood came out with an interesting two-tone effect, different on both sides.  The single long rivet which holds the pommel pieces in place is very difficult to peen, being on such a steep "slope".  Finished weight is 1 pound, 6 ounces.

       2/22/06--Finished the second one, with cherry for the hilt.  It is clear from surviving organic bits, and from rivet lengths on other swords, that the pommel halves were often flat like the grip, so I went with that for variety's sake.  (Not just laziness!)  The final weight is 1 pound, 10 ounces.



       Another very fine Naue II by Neil Burridge, 1/16/07.  Take particular note of the excellent job of edge-hardening!  What looks like a machined hollow-ground edge has been hammered in.  Overall length 24-1/2 inches.

       Close-up of the hilt.  The rounded ridge between the flanges is there to allow the molten metal into the mold, and will be ground away before hilting.

       The tip, showing the geometry of the hardened edge.  Neil has a special tool he uses for this.
       Close-up of the edge--the hammer-marks are visible.  The surface has only been partially finished!

       The new blade shown with my other Neil Burridge Naue II.  Very similar in size, but not from the same mold.




       The latest lovely pieces from Neil, April 2007.  The basal loop spearhead is at left, and next to it his excellent socketed axe.  The latter is hafted with yew.  The Urnfield blade at center still needs to be cleaned up and hilted.  The sword at right is his Witham antenna-hilt, but doesn't have its antennas yet--see below for the finished swords.  But the scabbard is done, painted and waxed linen over wood, with 2 bronze rings held on by leather strips, and the baldric ends slit and braided through the rings.

       Two of my Mycenaean swords with their scabbards.   My Neil Burridge Naue II is at left; its scabbard is painted wood with bronze wire forming loops for the baldric.  At right is my Albion type G, with a linen-covered wood scabbard.  Both baldrics are folded wool strips, tied at the shoulder.  4/20/07


       Completed Urnfield sword.  This type generally had a cast bronze hilt, but that being a little beyond my capabilities and budget, I went with a single piece of yew wood.  Here's a close-up of the hilt.

       Finished Antenna Hilt.  Many of these were cast in one piece, while other types were applied in a couple different ways.  I opted for cutting the antennae out of thick sheet and pegging that to the pommel with a piece of rod.  Curling them up was tricky!  One end got kinky, and I had to uncurl it, smooth out some tool marks, re-anneal, re-polish, and re-curl.  Here is a shot from the end.  I use this sword with my Villanovan impression.


These three lovely blades by Neil Burridge have been languishing unfinished for far too long.  Top is a Type Ci rapier that I got from Gregory Liebau.  I MUST make a stone pommel for it!  Middle is a Type G sword which will get an ebony hilt, bottom a Type B dagger. 

 
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       These three small bronze points are from Native Way.   The large one at left is only about 6" long including the tang, which has a right-angled tip typical for c. 2000 BC.  The other two points are about 3" long, the right-hand one having a straight tang.  So they are javelins rather than spears or arrows.   I bought them rough-cast (nice and cheap!) and cleaned them up a bit.  The largest shaft is about 7/8" diameter by 5 feet long, plus the head and buttspike for a total length  of 69".  The smaller javelins are about 50" long; that on the right is 5/8" diameter, while the center one is 3/4" thick in the middle but tapered towards both ends.
 
       Looking for arrowheads?  http://www.bronze-age-swords.com/aegean_swords.htm, bottom of the page.


       Yes!  Good spears!  From Neil Burridge, of course.  The top one is his Irish "basal loop" spearhead, so called because of the two slots or holes at the base of the blade.  We don't know if they had any function!  The head is 14" long, and the shaft is about an inch in diameter, a brush handle from Torrington Brush Company.  Total length is 6'9".  The smaller head is just over 5" long but has a much wider socket.  I stuck it on a piece of pine closet pole for the moment, total length 5'1".  Both heads are secured by hide glue and a wooden peg.

       Two close-ups of the basal loop head before cleaning, giving a good idea of the cross-section.  The loops have not yet been opened. 



       Excellent spearhead from Chris Levatino in New York.  I polished it up and mounted it on a Torrington brush handle, secured with a wooden peg.  For a buttspike I used a brass flagpole butt, which I will replace when I get a better bronze one.  June 2009.

       Here's a lovely spearhead:
http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ho/03/euw/hod_1998.540.1.htm 


       Mike Kasner was kind enough to send me this reproduction of a javelin head from Ur, c. 2500 BC, just under 13" long.  It is gorgeous!   Neil Burridge is currently offering a copy of it, http://www.bronze-age-swords.com/Egyptian_and%20_Near_East.htm 


       Another Albion "boat anchor" from Steve.  I must be mad for throwing myself at these things!  Just a sucker for free toys, I guess, and can't stand NOT doing anything to improve them!  Starting weight, 2-1/4 pounds!  Well, it should be easier than those type G swords.  Here's a side view, showing the thickness.

       The handle in progress, shown along with two other potential handles from the same tree (a neighbor's maple).  The angle is a little more acute than I'd like, but we'll see how it goes.  Removing the bark was very easy.

       Grinding.  Lots of progress, and it begins to feel like a usable axehead.  Getting in between the flanges is a PAIN.

       Okay, let's call it an axe!  9/21/06  Didn't bother cleaning up the part that will be covered by the haft.  I hammered the edge before the final sanding to harden it, though I have not ground it sharp as yet.  

       9/23/06, all mounted and done.  Hide glue and rawhide fix the head to the haft.  The handle is kind of crooked, and the whole thing feels kind of heavy and clunky.  Not a brilliant piece of work, but it gets the point across (or the edge, as the case may be!).



      An Egyptian or Mesopotamian "epsilon" axe made from a piece of thick brass sheet (c. 1/8"), copied from one in the Axel Guttman collection.  The head is 14" long, and the overall length is 38-1/2".  Easy and cheap!

       This fearsome weapon is just over 13" long, overall.   Okay, it's more like a tool, good for whittling spear shafts.  The head is 5-1/4" long and came from Native Way--smaller than I'd expected!  Seems to be decent bronze, though, and I hammer-hardened the edge a little before sharpening it.  The handle is ash.  I enlarged the socket a little, but it's still less than half an inch in diameter so it's not going to stand up to combat. 

       This is an original bronze axehead owned by my father, Richard Amt.  It is reportedly from Luristan, and would date to about 2200 BC at a guess.  It was given to him by his brother Martin, formerly with the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and came to him from a curator at a museum somewhere in the Middle East.  The inner diameter of the socket is about 5/8" (16mm), and the outer diameter about 13/16" (21mm).  There is a slight horizontal flange at the top, measuring 1-1/8" across (28mm) at its widest.



       The knife from the Dendra panoply tomb, made from 3/32" scrap brass with an ash handle.  I wasn't planning on a pommel at first, but the original has a tab on the end which was clearly for attaching a pommel to swords and other knives.  Total length 14-1/4", blade 10".



       This is "Cast Bronze Dagger Blade #3" from Albion Armorer's "Moat Sale"--got it for my birthday.  I'm not sure just which dagger it is supposed to represent, but it probably should not have a tang.  Total length about 13-1/4", starting weight 1 pound, 12 ounces!  Oh, and it seems to be pretty much straight copper.  I am going to make it into an Early Bronze Age "halberd".  (Photo swiped from the Albion site!)

       Lop off the tang and start grinding.  The copper is soft and work goes pretty quickly.  About 4 hours of work cuts the weight in half, to 14 ounces.  Length is now 9-5/8", maximum width 2-7/8".
       December 21, 2005.  Shortened the midrib a little, then realized the overall dimensions were within a few millimeters of the halberd from Carn, Ireland.  So I rounded the shoulders to match.  I also hammer-hardened the edges, sharpened them with a file, and hit it with the sanding disc again to clean up the mess I made.  Weight is now just under 13 ounces.  The Carn halberd has an intact oak handle, shown in progress.  Had to use ash, though, since my nice oak stake turned out to be cedar...

      December 22, finished!  Routed out the groove with drill and Dremel, and dribbled in my last bit of hide glue before riveting.  Like the original, the handle is about 40 inches long (1 meter)!   Finished weight is 1-3/4 pounds.   It's a pretty scary weapon.

     

       Looking for arrowheads?  http://www.bronze-age-swords.com/aegean_swords.htm, bottom of the page.

* Main Bronze Age Page * Armor * Weapons * Chronology * ROMULUS *