This is a Viking Seax, a single-edge blade shorter than swords, but useful for personal defense and as a backup weapon. Measuring the original lets me experiment with making my own version, which will be faithful to the form as developed in our past.
This is a Viking-age axe I bought in 2009. It is a typical fighting-axe design, constructed by wrapping the steel around the eye, and welding it on the right face of the blade. This asymmetrical construction is very common, but only revealed on this piece by grinding through the corroded surface of the 1,000 year old piece, polishing the original steel below, and etching with mild acid to reveal the interior structure.
Mildly destructive examination of artifacts make them as useful as a detailed technical book on the object, and opening them up this way reveals information unavailable any other way. In this case, beyond confirming the method of construction, additional details were revealed including the addition of another plate of steel to thicken the piece, as well as conclusive evidence that the entire axe was made of steely bloomery iron, averaging 0.4% carbon throughout.
To better understand the artifacts of antiquity, and be able to reproduce them with some sense of authenticity, a study of original artifacts is very helpful. I have had the pleasure of obtaining a few pieces, and because of the generosity of my friend and mentor Jeff Pringle, have had access to dozens of pieces that would honor any museum.
To the right, a selection of Viking-age knives. These are all small, 3 to 5 inches long, and heavily worn from sharpening. Most knives of this type are made from simple steel, low to medium carbon, and piled together of several smaller bits and pieces.
By examining these knives, one gets a very intimate sense of what was considered a good balance between utility of use, and conservation of material that was, in its time, far more valuable than the labor of the smith producing them.
A customer asked me to reproduce this Gladius hispaniensis, known as the Sword of Tiberius, and hangs in the British Museum. While not being able to handle the original, I was able to take detailed measurements from the museum photography, and generate a plan for the new sword. My research indicated that the sword was constructed of "piled steel," a term used to indicate that the piece was built up of smaller strips of materials in order to get the required amount, rather than starting with a sword-sized bar.
Fortunately for me, the customer didn't want the scabbard reproduced as well, saving me much work.
My research also showed that the guard and pommel were usually made of wood, and the grip of some large ungulate bone, so I chose Olive and Elk Shin for these parts. A bronze plate forward of the guard, and a bronze nut to secure the tang to the handle, and the reproduction was complete, along with shallow weld flaws that are also often found in swords of this era.