Buildalong, langseax



I generally stay far far away from sword specific forum areas, but I'll get my feet wet here.

This is a langseax project. Someone recently told me there's a rule that a langseax can't be a sword, and MUST have a 20 inch or longer blade. Well, I'm breaking both rules!

I have been, for a few years, making and refining my "modern seax" design.

This is the regular larger model modern seax:


What I wanted to do with this one was keep my design style intact and build something...swordlike.

(A note: I do forge some, but I only forge to shape things for grinding. I mostly get my final profiles and convex grinds on the grinder. I have a very intimate relationship with my grinder. So do, occaionally, my thumbs, index fingers, and ballcaps. In this case, I didn't do any anvil work at all.)

Here's the blade after initial annealed state grinding and a 220 grit hand rub:


Overall, it's over 24 inches, the blade length itself is 17 3/4 (see, I'm breaking the RULES)

The material is 8670M, stock width slightly over 1.5 inches. nominally 3/16 thick.

I fail utterly to manage my camera and grinder at the same time, so I'll have to just write a few quick notes about the initial process:

I generally start with roughing in the handle profile on the contact wheel of my coot, using the knifemaker's rest. For a modern seax style, I then start roughing in a convex grind before doing the spine profile.

The first pass is at 40 grit on a blaze belt, at about 45 degrees an on the platen. this sets my plunge area and gives me a rough guide. If needed, I'll make another pass or two until I'm down to half the stock thickness.

Then I run edge up, pretty steep angle on the slack belt area, until I have an EVEN grind at about nickel thickness. At that point I switch to edge down and make several dozen passes until I've got it all worked out evenly with a good shallow convex.

Then I switch to 80 grit blaze and work it down a bit, edge up and edge down, making everything even as possible.

At this point I'll profile the blade, which magically gives me a slight distal taper. yay!

Then I switch to 120 and 220 grit norton blue belts, which run flatter than the blaze belts. that helps shallow out the convex a bit more.

At this point, all there is to do is run 220 grit by hand, lengthwise. I'll use a hardwood (ipe) sanding block with shop roll 220 grit to hit high spots and smooth out angle transitions, then put a piece of leather between the styick and paper and work it until it's right, and all the belt marks are out (including the plunges)

Then, off to heat treat.
To heat treat, I have a pass through propane forge, I work the metal through a few (3 or 4, as needed) complete heating and normalizing cycles. the first one or two involve some straightening of the blade. I'll run a third one with straigtening on some stock - this one didn't need it - and a final normalization sequence without having to work the steel at all.

Then, quenching heat. On the blades like this, I have a trick. It's undoubtedly bad practice but works, and provides a differential of hardness that has been measured (by a customer) after tempering at 57-58 on the edge to 50-52 on the spine. I quench, full length, into my working temperature canola oil, with the spine riding the inner surface of the 8 inch steel pipe that is my quench tank. The edge is towards the middle of the oil, and the spine along the inner edge of the pipe.

Since I do an interrupted quench with steel like this- Once I've reached a temperature that's just barely giving a few wisps of smoke, I'll dunk one more time and then straighten the blade in a wood jawed vise with welding gloves. If that's not terribly clear, I believe kevin cashen has some good descriptions, with temperature numbers, of interrupted quenching.

Once all air cooled, into the oven for tempering. This particular one I took up a notch, tempering 3x 1 hour at 405.

And this:


and that's where I'm at now, so more later!
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okay, here's me at the grinder. photos don't tell you much about what is going on. It's really a thing of feel and detail.


What I'm doing here is using a worn out 120 grit norton blue belt to take off the scale and oil residues and other crap. Then I use an 80 grit belt to touch up the areas in the tip that I left really overthick (on purpose) and finish the tip profile. Then 220 grit blue belt all over to give me the best available belt finish starting point for hand rubbing.

This is one of my two main hand rubbing stations. one is higher up and for working standing, this one is just right for me to sit on a stool so I can watch educational (sword training, knife fighting, deadliest warrior, NCIS, hunting, Ted Nugent, and bloopers) videos with my son while I do hand rubbing.


my view:


there's a hardwood (ipe) sanding stick, a piece of leather, and a strip of 220 grit. Using the sanding block and the 220 grit, I hit flats, high spots, tip areas, and even things out if needed. Then the leather goes between the block and the sandpaper and I just work the whole convex until I have no previous grit marks.

that will take a while, since I have orders to finish, too!

one of the issues with hand rubbing is grit selection.

Notice that I'm roughing on the belt grinder. I tend to work down to 220 grit there, then stick at 220 on the initial hand rubbing. Normally, you'd back one level, to 150 or 180 grit. The reason I don't is that I've managed to get a decent enough feel for the convex grinding that I can minimize the amount of angle changes, transition blending, tip work, and plunge massaging with the hand rub. So backing down a grit, while it might save an hour overall, leaves me removing more metal than I want.

After 220 is done, I'll show a quick set of passes I do on a crisp new 400 grit norton metalite belt, then I'll work at a slight angle with the 400 grit shop roll. Then depending on overall finish desires, I'll either switch to 320 grit gator wet/dry and move down to 800 in stages, or I'll do a solid final rub with gatorgrit wet/dry 400 (which is finer than klingspor shop roll 400!) and wipe with 600 grit.

The 220 grit I'm doing now takes a bit more time in getting the belt grinder stratch pattern out, but leaves a really nice base for the final stages.
No pretty pictures yet, but got through the last of the 400 grit belt work, and the fine tuning of the plunge lines. Just another couple of hours of 320-400-600 on the bench
I am just getting back from the reno show, but should have the handle build out photos going up this week.
okay, update time.

I'm going to skip repetitive photos of hand sanding, since it's probably even more boring than extended periods of doing the hand sanding.

Suffice to say it's at 400 grit, with a 600 grit wipe coming after the handle rough work is done. (the blade now has an owner, so I'm working to specs, and 400/600 working finish is requested)

Using black linen micarta, first I have to cut the micarta rough shapes out:


once you do that, there's a few rough cut scales of shiny black micarta like this:


But you can't glue that, so you have to roughen the insides a bit - I use a 120 grit belt on a 4x36 sander:


Then you have to clamp up to the tang and drill holes. This is NOT the only way of doing it, I use different methods for different materials, but in this case, I'm doing it as pictured.

Now, if I'd been going with a wood handle on this, the front two holes would not have been drilled, but the micarta will hold up to the shaping process with the small space up front for the guard section.



at the drill press:


after EVERY hole, you put in a pin. don't cheat it and try to drill 3 holes at once, because something will shift.


Once all the pins are in, I retrace the profile with a marking awl, since it's much easier to see on black micarta and won't wipe off.


Then, back to sawing the fine profile. This actually takes less time than grinding it all, but after this is will go to the belt grinder for touch up and then ... well, we'll get to that.

I have used a bandsaw for this, but two issues come up: 1: my bandsaw wasn't expensive enough to keep up my load. 2: micarta and single speed bandsaws don't mix.

After the glue up, I'm about to start finishing the handle today


Here's some shots after using a slack belt on the handle.

It's very difficult for me to describe the process involved in doing this. There's a lot of trick to evening out the scales, matching the tang curve in to the scales, working a scale guard like this one, and getting a well rounded "egg profile" handle. All I can really say is that, like an even 17.5 inch convex grind, it takes practice. :D

This is ready for the sheathwork to get started, once the waterforming is done, the handle will get taken to a hand rubbing stage, starting with a medium pass with 320 grit. Anything that need a wee bit of tweaking will be done at 220 grit by hand, then the whole thing gets 320 grit again. then 400, and a 600 grit wipe, heavier on the tang portions and blending in to the scales. Solid pin areas get hit with 800, and then rubbed out.

Oh yeah, the butt will get a "shoeshine" with 110 and 220 grit first, to shape the curve at the rear.

Here's the current state:





What an awesome pictures these all are, I think that these are the best and easily kill any person. :)