An edge view of the South Cave Sword that shows the best surviving section of the lower grip. A brass collar can be seen in the grip which suggests that the handle was oval in cross-section. Also note the 'seam' down the length of the scabbard on the reverse side - this is in fact a split which was quite misleading.
On the upper side of the scabbard is the funkiest openwork panel 'supported' by two checker-board panels. The upper one has seven enamelled cells and the lower only six. I could not determine how the mouth or the throat of the scabbard was secured in place other than being jammed in place. The main panel is apparently held in place by the checker-board sections - these have a pair of flush rivets each that pin them to the front sheath.
For no reason at all I have uploaded a mirrored view of the opposite edge... odd.
My model version of the original Ivory grip - here modelled in Milliput and set on to a card and super glue 'blade'. the brass spacers are also in super glued cardboard. There is no detail in the upper grip at this point but the overall size is pretty accurate.
The upper crescent piece also has a smaller 'trumpet' device facing the upper end at it's tips, echoing the larger ones on the cross guard. As a reoccurring theme the trumpet devices are not trumpets at all as the archaeological report calls them, but to my mind are in fact male inspired bits and I may add that is not solely my genderish conclusion!
I didn't feel that it required the finial at the end of the tang. It was going to be too difficult to make in card to be honest.
The curious egg and crescent upper pommel/guard. It was probably made this way because a section of Sperm Whale tooth formed the crescent and a tooth tip used to fill the resulting gap. The top of the tang was finished off with a brass cap that looks for all the world like a draw knob. I have recently seen some more styles of grip like this - some where the upper grip is not separate like this but made as one unit.
An exploded view of the proposed components.
Close up of the idealised components.
The total remains of the original grip a little more spread out than is actually the case. It is all very slender by comparison to a Viking style sword - delicate even.
The back of the scabbard - a little out of focus. Note the tram lines down the back close to the edges of the scabbard. These lines in the brass sheathing over time encouraged some splits which are quite tidy and in places gave the appearance of joins which wasted some materials and time forcing me to look again at the reference images.
The baldric mount beaten from sheet just as it was recovered from the cache. Again note the split in the scabbard which looks like a deliberate joint that has sprung over time.
The chape was wrenched from the sword by a plough and now doesn't sit too well with the rest of the scabbard.
Curious reference photo angles were used in an effort to understand how the scabbard was constructed. Often images have to viewed any number of times before one realises that the evidence is really staring one in the face. Equally you feel that you have never taken enough shots at all.
I think here I was trying to see how the decoration on the throat was cut and how far it extended. A shot from face on would miss this.
A wonderful piece of original work. The geometry of the swirls is perfect.
The baldric mount after conservation. The blade is in a poor condition and was never going to be extracted. Here again are the splits in the brass sheathing implying that there were more parts to it than there actually were.
A shot picking up the decoration on the baldric mount showing some denting and distortion. Also the chunky rivets used to secure it in place on the back sheet of the scabbard.
The chape is reasonably symmetrical but difficult to resolve from just the technical drawing.
I have speculated that the 'toe' on the chape where the ring and dot are may have had some decorative coral or enamel in it.
The scabbard mounts evolving from the carved resin. The one on the left is much more progressed. The resin sits on plastic card which starts the fret. However, the drawings can't always be relied upon too closely and the photographs of the original are essential to cross reference with. They are very satisfying to get right but drive me mad!
My efforts to get the lower hilt to sit in the model of the cast throat of the scabbard.
View of the same reassuring myself that it sat neatly in the throat piece.
The undercut lower edge of the throat. This piece was to shrink a little more than the other modelled pieces in the moulding and casting which caused some problems.
I think I should start an industry in cardboard swords! I don't think that the feminine nature of the throat plate would have been lost on the original sword/scabbard makers. There is after all a rope knot that has a colourful name.
The modelled throat mount from the point of view of the sword tip - and it has crossed our minds as to the 'feminine' nature of the piece. Perhaps I'm reading too much into this put the whole aspect of sliding the weapon in through the slot this piece. Very Frankie Howerd!! Obviously, I have had to study the commonalities of these things in some detail. Prior to casting this still needs a little polishing - and that too is a double-entendre! In fact there is a fine line that needs carving on the rim (gets worse!) making it even more realistic/accurate.
Try to ignore the deformed hand! The sword's throat mount from the underside for the scabbard modelled in plastic card and two mixes of Milliput for clarity.
The earliest stage of reconstructing the chape with a round bar echoing the overall shape. This was then covered with plastic card which was then slide free.
The plastic card was then encased in Milliput resin and when set, the overall shape was drawn out.
The chape half quite well advanced. For economy and ease of casting it was judged that a half could be modelled and moulded and then joined as two wax halves before casting.
Top view of the modelled chape half.
The final stage of the modelled chape half. You can see how the drawing lacks subtlety that can only be picked up from images taken of the original. Foreshortening has to be taken account of too.
Side view of same.
The modelled spine and baldric mount. It was decided that casting this would be expedient and faster avoiding the construction of various tools for the repousse work. Some of that plane worked out. It was made and moulded in three sections which then had to be joined which threw up some other considerations that needed addressing.
The lower section of the modelled spine. The original was joined to the chape. The knock-on effect of the chape done as two halves was that the spine need to attached in another way to imitate the original construction.
The modelled spine and baldric sections. I should have put tabs on the hemisphere piece too.
The upper openwork panel nearly complete. At this point I was unsure if any of the panel was secured originally with rivets. Looking at the images closely I decided that it hadn't been riveted down and was in effect trapped in place by the checker panels. In the end I used very fine rivets on the end tabs to place the piece secretly. The lower mount was dislodged by the plough hitting it which forced me to reconsider how they were fixed in place - hence the use of extra 'secret' rivets.
The lower openwork mount prior to moulding.
The two openwork mounts side by side for comparison. It is my conclusion that they were made by separate craftsmen at possibly quite different times. Also meaning that the sword was to some extent a mish-mash of parts that were suitable.
The upper openwork mount at the top is a more accomplished piece of geometry and carving.
The first time the blade and the modelled hilt were fitted. It does look a little too clinical at this point. The blade is quite unremarkable but exceedingly serviceable.
At this point the hilt looks rather Chinese to my eyes...! The tip of the tang is over long.
The modelled hilt disassembled. I was a little unsure about the shoulders of the blade as they were not clear in the x-rays because of the bronze throat still sitting in situ.
The replica hilt was to be made from antler rather than Sperm Whale tooth like the original. Only Walrus Ivory could be found and ensuring that it got into this country was going to be difficult if impossible. Quite a hunk of antler was required and the best candidate for that was Moose or European Elk.
To kick this off I thought it best to get some of the geometry correct so that it had a flat base and the hole through the centre at the correct point. I can see that I must have changed my mind at some point as to the orientation of the upper hilt section.
The upper hilt piece looking quite inelegant at this point. I was probably still unsure if I had chosen the correct piece to cut it from.
After some more work it is beginning to look quite convincing. The geometry is still a concern.
It is finally looking like the modelled piece. There was one little aspect that I had not expected and that was that it was still to dry out a little and shrink back from the 'egg' piece - so I had to cut another egg to fit. I had also left a lot of 'meat' on the upper section for carving the 'trumpet' motifs.
The blade gets to try on the first organic segments of the hilt. Not a great photo... They need to be a snug fit but not too tight as the stresses can be too much for the antler pieces when compressed by the final rivet. On the other hand if they are slack, there is little one can do to prevent any movement in the segments subsequently.
A close up of the hilt area on the tang with the organic fittings. Antler is a wonderful robust material and is generally but not always a subtle off white shade. Some mottling was found and is quite random. I expect that Ivory is more regular in colour throughout it's thickness.
Side view of the cross-guard. You can see hoe the trumpet motif is cut from the background material.
I don't know if you can see it from the image, but I was rather proud of the way the hilt looks at this point with all the brass collars or spacers in place. They in turn have tram lines cut around them. The uppermost collar marks a point where the tang has another shoulder to prevent the upper hilt from sliding further down. It happens to be about 1mm thinner than the other collars. The finial is in place too and this is actually missing one tram line in the lower half due to an engineering hic-up.
In this image the up-swept arms of the upper hilt are now finished in a similar manner to the lower hilt echoing the trumpet or penis terminals. The effect of cutting the antler to the correct size has now diminished the Chinese look to the hilt and it is now distinctly Romano-British in style now. The grip is pleasing in the hand too. However, the general sensation is that the whole sword is rather delicate - again by comparison with later Viking or Saxon swords.
Regarding the build of the scabbard, I felt that I needed to construct the final brass sheet around a stiff core. Equally, it seemed that when the width of the throat was looked at; the width of the lower hilt or cross-guard; and the final width of the scabbard, there seemed to be a fair bit of room left when compared to the the thickness of the blade. This in turn was guided by the remains of the tang in the hilt which turned out to be about 5mm - not that the blade couldn't have been thicker below the hilt, but I do not know of instances of this. The oak sheath is only a few millimetres in thickness and does at least protect the blade when oiled as it soaks into the wood fibres.
The angular slab is a piece of ivory. The antler is a little less creamy in colour but is a good alternative that is at least organically derived. There are products that emulate ivory but it was felt that this would be a more realistic approach and not too far from the alternative options that presented themselves to the original builders.
The final cast bronze elements are placed on the shaped oak scabbard - more for effect than anything else. However, the impression is that parts seem to correct and look the part. There is no way that they could have been secured to the oak other than to be glued which would have been cheating. The castings are finished to a sheen rather than polished unlike the hilt brasses.
The reverse side of the scabbard with the spine in place. This is a trio of castings rather than a single repousse piece done for expediences sake. The effect of the finished bronzes looks quite striking against the bare oak. It would have been nearly impossible to clean the bronzes without staining the oak.
A view of the lower reverse section of the scabbard. Note the positioning of the spine in relation to the chape. The curved bar positioned near the top of the chape was originally joined to both arms. The crescent end to the spine was located underneath the joining bar.
The hilt now fits snugly into the throat plate. The cross-guard required a certain amount of re-shaping from my imagined design - the cup side of the throat is more complex than it first seems.
A close up of the lower front side of the scabbard with the bronzes in situ. Before the fitting of the brass sheaths, the oak inner scabbard needed to lose some weight and thickness. The brass sheaths were made from .5mm brass and as I worked with it, I came to the conclusion that the original was even thinner.
The initial fitting of the brass sheathing to the scabbard and also with the bronzes set in their final position. It was apparent that the bronzes needed to be curved a little in their section. The brass is in two lengths with the rear overlapping and gripping the edges of the front piece. It all slides together in the fitting stage.
The initial fitting of the brass sheathing to the scabbard and also with the bronzes set in their final position. It was apparent that the bronzes needed to be curved a little in their section. The brass is in two lengths with the rear overlapping and gripping the edges of the front piece. It all slides together in the fitting stage. The chape then slides over the ends to secure the bottom end.
An overall view of the scabbard only requiring the enamelling in the checker-board panels.
An overall view of the scabbard with the sword in the sheath only requiring the enamelling in the checker-board panels.
The upper hilt and scabbard in a more subdued light. All the panels are riveted in place and the only element that requires any work is to fold the backing brass sheet at it's edges more tightly. This can only be done at the very end of the build.
All the major components of the sword and scabbard in an exploded view. The only difference to the design is the fact that the oak had to thinned to such a degree that it was in danger of splitting almost spontaneously. To solve this, I wrapped the oak sheath in glued linen to strengthen it. This is a technique common in later scabbards. I don't think this is correct for the period but it was a solution. The oak sheath was a lot more robust after the use of the linen. I may try and keep the scabbard so that it can be dismantled like this to demonstrate the 2000 year old technique of the build.
The sword in it's final guise. I can't recall if I mentioned it earlier but the decorative panel is held in place by four tiny rivets at it's ends which are actually covered up by the chequered enamelled panels. These have a pair of flush rivets in their centres which hold them to the backing plate. My reasoning for the deviation was that the original lower panel was knocked askew as it relied only on being trapped in place by the enamelled sections. It seemed more secure that way.
Close up of the hilt sat into the cast throat. There is a bit of bleaching out due to the flash. Sadly it has also left the resin enamel look a bit rounded in the cells.
Detail shot of the upper cast panel. The edges of the backing sheet of brass that grips the front side is turned over back itself adding stiffness to the scabbard sheathing. From what I can see in the images of the original this is actually a thickened edge left when the sheet was beaten out. To correct this it would have taken a number of re-builds to get the sizing exactly correct. Probably an aspect that requires closer inspection.
Detail of the lower decorative panel. It is attached in exactly the same manner as the upper panel.
It was a gloomy day and the action of the flash has washed out all the detail but this gives an impression of the whole sword and the accompanying scabbard.
View of what I have termed the 'spine' and baldric mount. There a number of rivets as well as the four large dumpy ones anchoring the whole piece to the backing sheet. With all the mounts etc in place, the effect is that if you place your finger in the baldric loop, the sword will invert itself.
View of the lower area of the back of the scabbard. There is a deviation here from the original. Where the chape and spine meet - the crescent shape was part of the chape and trapped the lower section of the spine underneath it. As the chape was not all cast in one piece for expediences sake, the crescent shape is now all part of the spine. This has the added effect of allowing the scabbard to be deconstructed.
The scabbard is all rather slender - the controlling factor being the throat plate at the mouth of the scabbard and the chape at its end. The section is not perfectly flat but has a slight curve to it. At the end of the cast chape there is a feature resembling an 'eye' on either side of the chape. The original is bare but I believe that it had enamel in it originally hence the red 'eye'.
A similar view of the upper section of the scabbard.
The front face of the lower section of the scabbard. I believe that as a result of being struck by a plough, the lower decorative panel was shunted sideways and the chape wrenched off. Additionally from below the base of the decorative castings, the whole scabbard and blade were bent at almost 90 degrees downwards - ensuring that the blade could never be extracted.
An overall view of the reverse side of the scabbard.
A close up of the reverse side of the upper section. The flash has highlighted the tramlines that sit just either side of the spine and baldric mount. These are just scratched into the brass however, I'm inclined to think that they are partially punched in too. At this late stage, I found that trying to add this detail started to deform the scabbard and was something that should have been added at an earlier stage. Over time, these tramlines split and gave the impression to begin with that the scabbard had been made from four components and not the two.
The lower reverse side of the scabbard. The finish is no more than a satin sheen - polishing it seemed to be a little overkill and better derived by time and not too much enthusiasm. It will be a muggins to keep clean though.
The grip taken from what I call a Batman angle to add drama. The flash is murderous but it demonstrates the curves to the hilt and how it sits in the throat.
The spine and the loop of the baldric hanger.
The baldric loop in three-quarter section. I cast this instead of using repousse work as the original has. The intent was to save time and costs - however, I cannot be sure that it saved any time. What I can do though is reproduce it which had to be done with the chape which proved to be very troublesome to cast. It was cast three times with only one being usable.
The lower scabbard at a dramatic angle. The flash has highlighted fine scratches in the brass near the chape which aren't apparent in normal lighting. The original chape was cast as one piece but I carved one side and duplicated it and joined it at the wax stage. The original is somewhat asymmetrical with mine being a little too perfect by comparison.