Friday, April 5, 2013

A Project: Hallstatt Antenna Short Sword - c. 650 B.C.

This was an unusual and exciting project. This is a rare offering manufactured by Del Tin back in the mid-1980’s, and very briefly marketed through Museum Replicas. It only appears in the first catalogue, and was not offered again. By sheer chance, one showed up on eBay, and I managed to snag it for a not unreasonable price.
Surprisingly, there is relatively little information available on the original. While it is illustrated in a few books, its dimensions are not given. However, I was able to get in touch with the British Museum that houses this particular piece, and one of the curators, Dr. Jody Joy, was able to supply the missing data:

“The sword you are referring to is 636mm long. The blade is 509mm long and 82mm wide at the base. The handle antennae grip is 129mm x 88mm. In terms of the construction, as far as I am aware no detailed study has been made. It was acquired before 1895 and is listed as being from the Thames at London Bridge. I am afraid there are no further details. If you want to look the artefact up in future the registration number is 1936,1210.1.”

Not surprisingly, Del Tin had exaggerated the size of the sword, making it much longer in both blade and grip then the original (the overall length was 30.5” from tip to end of tang, with the blade 25.5” and the hilt 5” long. The original relic, as noted above, was about 25.28” from tip to end of tang with a blade length of 21.56” and hilt length of 3.71”). Also, the tang was about half length, with a mild steel rod welded to the end to make up the rest of the hilt. I resolved therefore to rework the piece both for greater strength and accuracy.

To correct the shortcomings, I cut down the blade at the shoulders by a small amount (under an inch). I was determined to retain the Del Tin “running wolf” marking on the blade, and also the approximate blade width. Another original detail I was trying to bring out was the fact that the fullers ran most of the length of the blade - were I to take more from the tang end of the blade these fullers would be even shorter than their already inadequate length. To bring the blade down closer to the length of the original it was based upon and address the other concerns, I ended up taking about 2” off of the tip and about .25” off the shoulders of the blade. I dislike doing this, as you have to regrind and repolish the edges, but it was the only way to go given the goals I had set. The hilt was reduced by 1.25” to about 3.75”

Naturally, the grip was cut down in size. These reductions made for a much sturdier hilt overall, as the mild steel rod is now proportionally much smaller in terms of the overall hilt length. I also cut grooves in the grip, to correspond with the original, though I did simplify the design somewhat, putting a single groove in place of the three closely spaced ones in the original. Not only did this save time, but I did not think that the wood grip would retain such fine detail as well as the iron grip of the original.

Finally, I carefully reshaped the cross and pommel, to ensure a close, precise fit, and refinished them by fireblueing. This was done in part to keep the character of the original, for on that the cross and antenna pommel were done in bronze, and the grip in iron. As I wanted to keep the original fittings, I decided that by fireblueing I would get the same sort of colour differential but using different materials. For final assembly, I carefully wedged in place the guard and grip, making them very solid.

For a full description of the rework of this piece, see my detailed write-up on Kelticos:

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