Pattern welding is the ancient process of taking iron, which is hard and brittle, and folding, twisting and hammering it together with high carbon content iron, which is more flexible, to create steel that could cut through armour and neither break nor bend. Iron was not plentiful long ago, so the expense of forging blades made Viking swords a cherished possession. The process of the welding created beautiful and intricate patterns, which made them even more precious in the eye of the owner.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Fire tongs
- 3 lengths, approximately 48 inches by 3 inches, of 1084 steel
- 3 lengths, approximately 48 inches by 3 inches, of L6 steel
- Steel grinder
- Hydraulic press
- 6-pound sledge hammer
- Steel collar
Heat the steel in the forge. Accordion-pleat fold one length each of the 1084 and the L6 steel together five times to create a 12-layered billet of steel. Hammer it with the 6-pound sledge and the hydraulic press until it is at least 4 feet long by 2 inches wide, or 3 inches for a broader sword. This is the edge billet (solid piece) that will wrap around the outside of the blade and form the tip of the Viking sword.
Heat and fold another 4-foot length each of the two types of steel and accordion-pleat fold to create two billets approximately 7 inches long and 3 inches wide, with seven layers each. These two seven-layer billets form the centre pieces of the pattern welding. Keep them hot. Forging blades, firing the steel to a high heat and then hammering them, fuses the steel together on a molecular level.
Twist the two hot centre pieces to mirror each other. The folding and twisting give strength to the Viking swords and result in the ornate patterning that was very popular with the Vikings. The craftsmen were master artisans.
Grind the edge billet and the two centre pieces until they are polished, removing any inclusions from fire scale, a stain from the heat. This ensures a successful pattern welding process for forged blades.
Wrap the edge billet around the two centre billets and secure with a steel collar, forged and hammered into place to tighten the billets together.
Forge weld the tip of the blade by heating and hammering, to hold the billets of steel in place. Continue forge welding the steel until it is one piece of steel.
Heat and hammer the Viking sword into shape; this is the laborious part of forging blades. The blade should be widest at the end that attaches to the hilt, 2 inches to 3 inches. The edges should remain straight but taper gently until approximately 6 inches from the tip, where both edges should curve into a point.
Apply heat to the blade to make it strong and resilient. Once cool, polish it until the pattern of the twisted and folded steel is clear and distinct.
Create a hilt with leather or wood and brass that fits your pattern-welded sword.
Tips and warnings
- If you are dissatisfied with the appearance of the blade after polishing, you can apply lemon juice or vinegar to a cotton cloth and wipe the blade to etch it and bring the pattern into greater relief.
- If the mild forms of acid like lemon juice and vinegar do not have much effect, use extreme caution in applying a stronger form, like ferric chloride, because it could leave black, oxidised marks.
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