Monday, May 7, 2018

Special Forces Spike Hawk

I made this work for a retiring member of the US Army Special Forces. The colors and etchings all relate to the unit of the person who is receiving this as a retirement present.

1075 steel hand forged by me. Heat treated and tempered to be fully functional. Head patina is a mix of several processes. Sealed with Renaissance Wax. Pommel spike is the same, save for being made from mild steel

Handle is curly maple stained, filled, and sealed with a process used to make violins in days gone by. Green leather pig skin grip, cowhide and silk thread fixings.


Here I've folded the face over and forge-welded it to increase width to draw the edge down for a more graceful look.

I did a quick preliminary grind to make sure everything is the right shape and that I'll have enough material for the complete piece. This passed muster so I went forward with filing in details and refining everything. 

After shaping, drifting a detail hole just forward of the eye, and polishing to 600 grit, I do several cycles of cleaning with mineral spirits, acetone, and water to prep the surface for etching.

The original artwork, left, is placed on the right side of the tomahawk face. I use graphite transfer paper to carefully place and cut the art into the etch resist by hand (right).

Both sides have been etched. I used what is called the Bordeaux method to electro-chemically pull iron away from the work. It's simply an even mixture of copper sulfate and un-iodized cooking salt. The resist I use is a mix of fine rosin, asphaltum, and bee's wax. 

For this project I needed to make a pommel spike. I used a piece of 1" heavy wall steel pipe, cut in half, and shaped each half to what was essentially a pair of 'witch fingernails'. I then forged and stick-welded these together, cleaned them up, and drilled a hole for a hollow steel pin.

Working on the fit of the head and pommel spike on the curly maple handle. I've learned to leave a little extra at the top of my handles until the fit is exact and the surface has gone through one or two cycles of grain-filling and final sanding. The big extra bit up top gets cut off later.

To finish the piece, I dyed some feathers and wrapped the tips in deer hide and twine. I then added a thick braid of twine to each and looped them through the detail hole in the head. 

The handle got wrapped with green pig skin which I affixed with a corset stitch and a little glue. Over this I placed two decorative leather turk's heads.

I'm pretty please with this one and was very sad to see it go.

Friday, May 4, 2018

1728 Model Spanish Cavalry Sword

   Our copy of an original 1771 dated Model 1728 Spanish 'Bilbo' Cavalry Sword. Original #7366 in the collections of the Arizona Historical Society, Tucson. This copy will be on prominent display at The Mission of San Juan Capistrano for their exhibit of the Life of the Garrison beginning Fall of 2018.
   In 1728 a regulation sword pattern for cavalry troopers appears for the first time in Spain. This pattern, defined by Royal Ordnance of  July 12th of that year, presents a double-edged straight blade (as all Spanish cavalry swords of 18th cent.), having a double-shell or Bilbo iron hilt with knuckle-bow and curved quillons, as this period engraving shows, along with the scabbard made in leather-covered wood. This sword would be carried by all Spanish Cavalry and Colonial units up to the 1790s, with some colonial governments holding onto them long into the 19th century.
   This sword though designed for European wars found its way to the shores of America and in the hands of both the Spanish and later the Mexicans saw prominent use in what would become the South West of the United States.

    As to The Mission San Juan Capistrano, it became the seventh of twenty-one missions to be founded in Alta California. Like the previous six missions, San Juan Capistrano was established to expand the territorial boundaries of Spain, and to spread Christianity to the Native peoples of California. Unlike the British colonies on the East Coast of North America, who brought people from their homeland to form colonies, the Spanish believed they could transform the Native peoples into good Spanish citizens. The idea was to make colonial outposts called missions, led by Franciscan padres and Spanish soldiers - these Spanish soldiers are documented to have carried the Model 1728 Sword.

   We were honored to be able to work on this project for the museum of the Mission San Juan Capistrano! And with the great help of David Rickman and the Arizona Historical Society we were truly able to do the M1728 Sword justice!

~ Iron John