Over the last couple of years my sister has been getting into HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) and especially the longsword. She recently had a significant birthday so I thought I'd make...
Over the last couple of years my sister has been getting into HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) and especially the longsword. She recently had a significant birthday so I thought I'd make her a small, but realistic and functional, longsword. It went pretty well, if I do say so myself. I did not, however, take as many photos as I would have liked, but I was doing this thing in very short bursts so I only had a few minutes here or there to get this done.
To start, I read a bit about longsword proportions, looked at some pictures and sketched a couple of possible designs, before finalising a 1:1 scale drawing to work from. I bought some O1 tool steel (carbon steel so it can be hardened and sharpened properly) and started to cut. Almost immediately I made a mistake, I cut the steel 25% too long. But that was OK, I just went with it.
I roughly shaped the metal and got it in the forge to heat-treat. Plunged into oil then slammed hard into my newly-built plate quench (aside: the plate quench is two hefty slabs of aluminium, designed to suck heat out of the steel fast, while holding it flat to prevent warping). The plates worked, the metal came out dead flat and not at all warped, which was good because there was very little space to grind out any distortions. I heart plate quenching.
Next, cutting up some brass to make the crossguard. Cutting a 1.5x3mm slot in that was incredibly frustrating. I broke all four of my remaining 1mm drill bits, eventually had to resort to very fine diamond burrs and going extremely slowly. Luckily there is a bit of overlap from the blade so the slightly messy slot is covered up a bit. Similarly for the pommel, which was cut from brass rod and shaped on my lathe before I totally botched cutting a hole for the tang. If anything I made more of mess of the pommel, during the final fit up I just filled it with glue and wedged it in the right place.
Inbetween making an awful - albeit recoverable/hideable - mess of the sword hardware I also finished up shaping and finishing the blade itself. This is where I don't have a lot of photos, but I ground a bevel onto the blade and wondered about cutting a fuller (groove down the centre of the blade) before realising that I absolutely did not have the tools to do that and would make a total mess of it. I also thought about sharpening it to scary sharp but given my sister has two reasonably small children I left it fairly blunt. It'll make a good letter opener but not much more. If she wants it sharp I can always put a serious edge on it another time.
Final pre-glue fit up, as you can see it matches the design drawing pretty well, apart from being to a slightly different scale.
I had considered making a wooden handle, as is traditional, but I was running short on time and I had plenty of leather so instead I did two layers of wrapping. This is the base layer (I do not remember why I have 1mm orange leather but I do) wrapped and clamped so the glue can dry. Another layer went on top of that and I ran a final polishing disc over everything, put a very light coat of metal lacquer over the metal to keep it shiny and that was it. Sword done.
I cut a piece of round bar steel, cut and forged it to shape as a support, treated the hot metal with beeswax (gives a lovely black finish which stops rust and looks nice). I set this in some flame-finished oak and gave that a coat of tung oil. Once the various finishes and glues had dried it was good to go.
The final product, dangling point, handle detail, view from above and in my hand for scale
I think this is one of the best things I've ever made. I hope my sister likes it. I have some metal left so I might try making another - there's a few things I'd do differently.