24 June 2017
Ewart-Park Leaf Sword
I am incredibly chuffed to have finished making the handle for my cast bronze Ewart-Park Leaf sword. I made this blade with Will Lord 4 years ago at a wonderful workshop called The Blade run by Woodsmoke Bushcraft at Dave Budd's forge down in Devon. After two days making flint knives with Antony Whitlock, mainly creating artisanal gravel, Will taught us to build a furnace using cobb, and the following day we cast knives and swords from bronze we made from copper and tin. Some of the copper was extracted from malachite which we smashed up ourselves. The final two days were spent forging steel knives with Dave in his outdoor Iron Age set-up, and hafting the blades on the final day. (That's now the neck-knife I posted here earlier this week.)
I still have to get some more bark to finish tanning the roe deer skin that will hopefully become the scabbard for this blade. With luck and a following wind, it might be done in time for the summer workshop.
If you search online for Ewart Park Leaf you'll find out about how these British swords were made, as several have been found, including the one from which my sword-mould was cast: pulled from The Thames at Isleworth in the nineties. These swords came from the Brithonic Iceni tribe, to which Boudicca belonged. The people defending their families with these bronze swords were defeated by the professional legions of Romans and their steel.
Originally the swords were decorated with finely cast dot designs in a leaf shape, sadly lost during polishing on mine. Also, the handles often had a V shaped profile where it met the blade, whereas mine is shaped internally and cuts across in straight line externally, for simplicity. I have used brass rod to secure a sandwich of ash wood either side of the full bronze tang, and used 5 rather than 7 rods as I won't be using this in combat soon, at least not outside my dreams. I have just this minute finished wrapping the handle in bucked rawhide twine which I made last night from offcuts from my latest satchel. This provides a very nice-feeling grip and completes the rough and ready look of this particular project. If you look at other recreated leaf blades you'll see a great deal of skill and a high level of finish on handles, usually topped with a rounded pommel. I like to think mine is what you might fashion in the ash woods of south-eastern England when your fancy handle got wrecked falling in the fire when you'd drunk too much mead, or added to a salvaged old sword where the handle had rotted away and needed making simply fit for use. I am a total beginner at wood and metal work, and an improver with tanning and bucking skins, so this is just right. Thanks so much to Chris Jackson for his generous help in getting this done in his workshop. We used a few 20th C tools to save time and I finished shaping it by hand with whittling knives and glass paper. I'm not going to oil or varnish it as I doubt those materials were widely available, maybe only linseed oil (flax). Grime and skin-oil would not have been in short supply!