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Palstave

Original
 
Found: Bargeroosterveld, Drenthe, Netherlands
Age: middel bronze age

This axe was found together with a fragment of a similar axe, fragments of a knife and two bracelets inside a burial mound. The axe is of a British type

The mould
 
Material: steatite (soapstone)

This mould is made from soapstone. Soapstone is used in british moulds to cast axes and spearheads. Soapstone is very resistant to heat, and very easy to carve. The most work is to make two matching plates. For this I used modern tools. The shape for the axe I've carved using a bronze chisel. The mould doesn't have a casting funnel, just like the original moulds. This is a seperate piece made from clay, which is attached to the mould before casting. This is to prevent the cast from pulling the mould apart when it cools and shrinks. After a test cast using tin, the mould was modified a bit. Stone moulds were meant for multiple castings, unlike clay moulds. Soapstone doesn't have to be fired, which is a big advantage. The shape of the cast is more limited though, as it should be able to fall out of the mould freely.

Casting result
 
This is the first succesfully cast axe from the mould. Unfortunately the loop isn't complete. But by removing it, it will be a good non-looped axe. I'll modify the mould to enable the loop to fill more easily. The casting result is otherwise of excellent quality, with a very smooth surface and hardly any oxidation. Unfortunately the mould as some minor damage after the first cast, but it can be worked away by modifying the mould a bit.

Finished axehead
 
The axehead is finished with modern tools, as quite a bit of material needed to be removed to remove the failed loop. The axe was quite sharp straight from the mould, and after hammer hardening and grinding, it's definately my sharpest axe yet!

Second axehead

Casting result
 
Further castings gave a number of fully succesful axes, of which this is an example. The casting feed was removed directly after casting, and broke away with just a few hits by a stone.

 
It only took a few hours work even using authentic methods. This clearly shows the advantage of a stone mould. The casting result is of such a high quality, that the axe comes out almost ready for use. The cutting edge was hammer hardened, ground sharp and the axehead was given an overal polish to bring out the shine of the metal.
 
Third axehead
 
This is the third axehead which I've finished myself. This one too only costed 6 hours work from cast result to finished axehead. This axehead will be hafted and used.
 
Total result from the mould
 
This is the total result from the mould, before it was damaged beyond repair. The mould eventually broke at the loop, where the last axe pulled away a second of stone while it cooled down. As the soapstone was very weak, original stone moulds must have lasted much more castings. Also opening the mould much sooner, before the axe cooled may have made the moulds last longer.