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Rapier

This rapier, together with the leafblade sword, I made at a bronze casting course from Neil Burridge (see his website: Bronze Age Craft). I did this course to the some experience in bronze casting, so I could start out on my own and have some idea of what to expect. The course was a truly unique experience, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone. And if you don't believe me, read my review of the experience on this site (along with many photos):
http://mitglied.lycos.de/tgrb/bronze_casting_Threwortha_farm_26_28_maart_2003/
The mould material and casting process are not fully authentic, which nobody can within a single day. But the method itself is very similar, and about as close as anyone has ever gotten to casting swords authentically to my knowledge. So far casting a full sword authentically has remained an elusive goal amongst bronze casters. Hopefully I'll get there someday!

The blade

Original
 
Found: Blackrock (hoard)
Age: middle bronze age

Mould
 
Material: ceramic

The mould is made by Neil Burridge out of a modern ceramic material. Aside from the material type it's very similar to the stone moulds originally used in the bronze age. The ceramic material is less prone to breaking during casting, making it safer and reliable, and therefore more suitable for courses. 

Casting
 

Here is the rapier just after casting and still glowing. The lid of the crucible was fused, so some time passed between taking the crucible out of the fire and the casting. But fortunately the bronze was still liquid enough and the casting as succesful. 

Casting result
 
On the left the rapier is shown just after it was taken out of the mould. The casting feed was removed when the bronze was still glowing, as bronze is brittle when glowing. The metal has defects in it, like wrinkling and pits, which can be seen in the two photos on the right. This might be due to the relatively long time the crucible had been exposed to air before casting, which might have created oxides resulting in inclusions in the metal. 

Finishing the blade

30 March 2003
For polishing the blade I decide to experiment with a piece of flint with a curved surface. This appears to work very well, and results in a smooth and shiny surface. 

 8 November 2003
The blade is now nearly finished. The remains of the casting feed and air vents were sanded off on a flat stone, using sand and water. This removes material relatively fast, but leaves deep scratches. Most of that has been polished away, but still some further polishing is required.

The hilt
 
As the hilts of this type of sword were made from organic material, few examples of hilts still exist. This one from the museum in Dublin still has the hilt attached to it. As I don't have any additional information about this rapier, I don't know the material of the hilt. For my rapier I decided to use antler. Finding a usable piece of antler isn't easy, as each antler has a unique shape. But I found an antler from which I could make a hilt with a similar shape.

Separating the hilt from the antler
 
The three photos above show how the hilt was cut from the antler. First a groove was sawn around the stem until the soft core was reached. Then with a strong blow the antler could be broken.

Finishing the hilt

8 November 2003
I've  smoothened the ends of the piece of antler, and now started on the groove in which the blade will be placed. This is quite a difficult job, as it will have to be a tight fit or the blade will sit loosely in the hilt. Fortunately the core is softer, which makes it easier to carve in the groove. 

1 April 2004
The slot of the hilt in which the rapier will be inserted is now finished. Getting through the hard outer layer was a hellish job, for which I used flint and eventually the tip of the rapier blade. When I reached the core, the rest was easy. After I soaked the hilt in water, the core was so soft that I could scrape out the slot far enough to fully insert the rapier hilt plate. Next job is to drill the holes for the rivets.

1 December 2004
The holes have been added to the hilt. For this a bronze pin was used, with a faceted point ground at the end. This pin will also be used for rivets.

12 February 2005
It's finished! The hilt is attached using the rivets. This didn't go perfect, due to the rivets not fitting well in the holes, and the surface of the hilt being at an angle. But they are well fixed, and the rapier is finished. Now it needs is a scabbard.