Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Georgian naval dirk

This is actually a completely-refurnished dagger from a famous low-end Indian manufacturer (see if you can recognize it by the blade alone).  I still have all the original fittings, so it can pass for several time periods.

The Georgian period of British history lasted from 1714 until William IV's accession in 1830.  The concept of the naval dirk, issued to midshipmen as a badge of office (much like military dress swords of today), seems to have originated toward the end of the 18th century.  This dirk is an amalgam of several examples from the turn of the 19th century.

Many originals had grips of ivory.  In imitation of this, I started with a piece of light-colored wood, probably poplar, but the boiled linseed oil turned it orange, so that it looks, at best, like aged bone, and more like just...  well...  wood.  Still acceptable for the period!  It is quasi-turned by hand against the disc of a belt sander.

The grip turned out to be a little too short for the tang, so I made a quick pommel out of basswood.  This also adds a little better grip retention.

The pommel cap was a zinc-plated washer I'd originally assumed to be steel, until engraving it showed brass underneath.  At the other end of the grip is a simple sheet brass ferrule.

The guard was a challenge to make:  not only did its design have to be carved out with a Dremel and files, but before doing that I had to double up layers of thin bar stock and silver solder them together.  I tried clamping them, but the solder refused to flow between and just beaded on the seam.  What I wound up doing was spreading both surfaces with fresh flux, laying the solidified droplets onto one layer and stacking the other on top of it, then torching from the side until the solder melted and the top layer settled down - I was very lucky it sank straight down and neatly aligned before the solder froze; otherwise the whole thing would've been ruined.

Further damage to the illusion of a true high-class officer's weapon is done when inspecting the back.  The originals' suspension rings were mounted on small rounded studs that emerged from the side.  I don't know how these parts were made or attached; I think they were cast, and from photos they look to have been poked through holes in the sheet brass of the throat, but attempts to do this resulted in studs that wouldn't solder into place easily nor allow the throats to be fitted to the scabbard. Instead, here I have attached the rings to thin strips of brass like on a Roman gladius.

I should also have probably double-whipstitched the leather cover over the wooden scabbard core, but I didn't know how to do this at the time.  That would've let the seam lie flat so the throats didn't have to be open at the back.

The chape ends in a solid brass bead pinned into place with an escutcheon pin and again soldered on.  I initially designed the scabbard with the plan of matching the dagger to an epee du soldat from earlier in the century; that's why it's red and the chape is a slightly different design than one would expect for this type of dirk.  I've saved the earlier throat with integral locket for another project entirely.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Foundry, round V (and hopefully not last)

Our final project for foundry was a "mythology piece."  I pored over many potential subjects, including Greek gods and heroes in Mycenaean armor, and a wendigo.  In the end I went with a field I find surprisingly underrepresented - American mythology - and a figure even less well-known therein, John the Conqueror.

 The wax.  The statue (not including added base) measures 8-3/8 inches tall.

Quite a lot went wrong here and there.  I made his shins a little too short, giving the impression of him being all torso, and initially positioned his belt down too low; I had to shave it off and sculpt a new one higher up.  Also, his belt buckle is pointing the wrong way (i.e., toward the tip of the belt).

To make the statue stand on its own, I wax-welded his feet to a small pedestal.  When cast, considerable shrink holes opened up at the arches of his feet, the insides of the thighs and on top of the head where the main gate was.  Lab technician Ray TIG welded all the gaps closed.

Finishing this statue after it was cast sent me to the emergency room.  A flake of bronze bounced behind my face shield as I was grinding off the sprues and stuck in my eye.  Luckily this type of injury heals easily, but in this manner I lost the whole day and failed to finish the statue satisfactorily by the end of the semester.

Since the main gate attached to the top of his head, I made his coif smooth and textured it with many tiny grinds from a Dremel cutting wheel after getting rid of the stumps.  Admittedly, these grinds do give the impression of a straight-haired crew cut rather than the desired curly effect.

The statue is finished with liver of sulfur on the skin and hair, bismuth sulfate and titanium dioxide on the shirt and ferric nitrate on the pedestal.  Unfortunately, the titanium dioxide doesn't stick well.  I rubbed most of it off, then waxed; the remaining powder quickly mixed in with the wax and ran onto other areas of the statue.  I will have to remove it and redo it at a later date.

I handmade his broken chain from some heavy-gauge steel wire I had lying around the house.  It's a simple butted construction, and lies loose in his curled hand (I would bend the fingers to grip it, but not until after getting the statue's finish right).  I'm pretty sure this method actually turned out better than making a wax chain cast in place would've been.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Foundry, round IV

Much of the smooth finish and finer detail of my original clay was lost between the plaster mold, wax positive and sand mold.

Also, the upper right corner of the frame cast in a separate piece from the rest of it and had to be TIG welded.  I tried doing a little TIG welding myself at the suggestion of Jon Burns since I'm looking into getting a job in the foundry industry, but it's pretty tricky and my attempts failed.  Anyway, glowing-hot liquid metal is one thing, but when I can barely see what I'm doing while inches away from being electrocuted is when I get reluctant to continue.

The dragon itself is colored with ferric nitrate and the field with a heavy layer of liver of sulfur, which began to flake.  The liver was strangely greenish when first applied.  I had to brush back the two patinas several times with a Dremel wire brush to clean up where they splattered onto each other.

Unfortunately, the brilliant colors darkened and faded with the final wax.  I also had to remelt the wax and rub off the excess when it began flaking the next day.  Still turned out tolerably well, I'd say.