Bladesmithing - Past Work

These pieces represent only a few of the large number of knives, tools and weapons I have made since the late 1970's. This has included everything from small 'hide out' knives to full sized 'bastard' swords - working tools to combat blades. From the very first, my interest has been the blade as cutting edge - not so much as a decorative object.
I have remained most interested in the wide possibilities of aggressively forged blade shapes. (Rather than the more limited 'straight ground from bar' profiles so common to 'knife makers')
Although I have worked extensively with layered steels, my work centres on the more dramatic potentials of Norse inspired, multiple twisted bar, 'Pattern Welding'.
Even when working with more conventional flat stack ('Damascus'), I prefer the randomly distorted lines created buy aggressively hand hammered billets.
To maintain durable cutting edges, most layered steel billets are then forged welded to a solid carbon steel core (creating a more functional hard edge).
Many knives feature 'one piece' construction, as I have less interest in the 'knife as jewellery' aspect seen in much contemporary knife making.

Objects are shown from most recent to earliest work.

Samples of Past Work
are also seen on

'Darkness Take You'
Summer 2015

water hardened mild steel with steel inlay
hemp cord wrap

$ 250 - this item available

'Darkness Take You' was another attempt to have some fun with the mental image of clumsy Orcs, toiling away in the dankness of Saurman's Isengard. (see 'Orc Knife', further down here)
The blade is deliberately roughly forged and only semi-polished, ground to a 'display' thinness on the edge.
It also uses a special 'inlay' technique I have been experimenting with. Close examination will pick out the text 'Good Day to Die' and 'Darkness Take You' - in the language and runes used by the Uruk-Hai.

total 65 cm / 25 1/2 inches
blade 53 x 5 x .6 cm / 21x 2 x 3/16 inches
weight is 1100 gm / 38 oz


antique wrought iron
$ 150 - this item available

Before the modern age, iron was valuable, just as a raw material. Old objects were commonly returned to the blacksmith to be 'recycled' into new objects. I had this small piece of scrap wrought iron, most likely originally a piece of hinge strap or wagon fitting. There was already a hole punched into one end of the bar. I chose to re-forge the bar, leaving the now distorted hole open. You can also see several shear line cracks from imperfections in the old metal, which I chose not to re-weld closed.  Loosely, the shape of this smaller knife was inspired by my earlier work with one piece kitchen knives.
Once polished, the blade surface was lightly etched. The resulting pattern is created by slight variations in carbon content within the original wrought iron.

trade axe
Finished Replica
Comparison with Artifact
Full view with Handle
French Trade Axe

bloomery iron with inset carbon steel edge
modern (commercial) ash handle

$ 800 - this item available

One of the few actual artifacts I have in my collection is a French Trade Axe. It is of the 'Biscayne' pattern, a type made specifically for the Fur Trade. The object was found near Angus Ontario, not far from the Nottawasaga River - the route from Lake Ontario north towards Ste Marie Amoung the Hurons. This pegs the earliest deposit date to about 1600 +. This type of axe stopped manufacture about 1760, so the most recent deposit date is not likely beyond the late 1780's.

I decided to make a replica of the artifact, using my own bloomery iron. This would match the original metal, the forging processes, as well as the profile of the axe.
In the end I had a bit less material to start with than in the original, and my forged shape is not quite identical to to artifact.

Finished dimensions:
head weight = 1050 gm
width at edge = 9.5 cm
total length = 20 cm
thickness at eye = 2 cm
width of eye = 5 cm
handle length = 51 cm


for a more complete discussion : go to the blog post
French Trade Axe from Bloom Iron

layered seax
layered seax
Hector's Bane : Finished - with etched surfaces
hector's polished
Hector's Bane : with original polished surface

'Hector's Bane'
Spring 2012

bloomery iron / carbon steel core
$ 1000
- this item available

'Hector's Bane' shows a combination of influences:
The unique nature of bloomery iron is featured by deliberately allowing the natural flaws of a raw bloom to remain. This has been emphisized by etching the finished surface, the mottled greys indicating variations in carbon content within the material.
To create an effective cutting edge, the two half pieces of one bloom have been forge welded on to a hard carbon steel core.
The blade shape was inspired by ancient Greek *bronze* knives.

After some consideration, the polished blade was lightly etched. This resulted in a 'fog' colouration over the surface, a result of the variations in carbon content within the original bloom.  

26 x 4.5 x .7 cm overall / blade 16 cm

hectors outline

'Gull Wing' Axe, from Bayeux Tapestry
mild steel with spring steel core
Wide Adze, from Mastermyr Tools
mild steel with lap welded carbon steel edge
Norse Ship Building Tools
Spring 2008

for Parks Canada

In 2008 I was approached by Parks Canada to make a complete set of Norse building tools for the living history program at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC. (I have had a long association with this site and the Norse Encampment program.) I was able to undertake additional research in Denmark into historic prototypes.

A fuller description of this project, and the tools created, is available HERE

layered seax
layered seax

Norse Heavy Tool Knife
Spring 2007
private commission

The blade is a seax - here with more of a lift and curve to the point. The overall length of the blade is a bit over six inches At its widest (just back of the false edge) the blade is roughly 1 1/4 inch wide.

The blade is made up of 209 layers. The starting block was 13 layers : M/LM/L/M/L/M/H/M/L/M/L/M/L/M M = 1018 mild steel at 1/8" L = L6 alloy (.5 nickel and .5 carbon) at 1/16" H = 1095 carbon steel at 3/16" The overall carbon content is lower, with the bulk of the material being supplied by the mild steel. The inclusion of L6 is to mimic meteoric iron. This pile was welded and folded in three for a billet at 52 layers. That billet was drawn to a bar, with a third twisted right, a third twisted left. The last third was flattened and pulled out to twice that length, then welded to a second core of high carbon steel. The resulting bar was turned on its edge, and the two twisted segments welded into the final billet. This billet at 209 layers was forged out into the blade. The finished blade is ground back at the edge to expose this high carbon steel cutting edge. This edge is hardened a bit more than normal for a plain mono block knife, as the layered back adds the required flexibility for the final blade.

The hilt is a natural piece of caribou antler. The wire wrap is a feature the customer requested. I drilled two small holes that the wire ends tuck into, then the strands were soldered together at top and bottom.


Pattern Welded Norse Seax
Spring 2007
private commission

The billet for this blade is primarily mix of mild steel and a low nickel alloy called L6, along with a layer of high carbon steel. The L6 simulates the use of meteor material in my historic blades. (L6 is .5 % nickel and a middle level .5% carbon - meteorites are closer to 5 % Ni, but with no carbon). The initial stacks were at 13 layers, these have been welded and folded to four to give a 52 layer bar.
Part of that bar is drawn and cut in two. A piece of high carbon steel is stacked between these and the whole welded to form the cutting edge (at 105 layers) When forged to a blade and polished, this hard carbon steel is exposed to form a durable cutting edge.
Next the remainder of each billet was pulled to a long octagon and twisted, just enough for two rods. These were then squared and welded to the prepared cutting edges. This gives a total count of 209.

The blade was hilted with a length of natural caribou antler. This was carved using Norse patterns by another artist.


Pattern Welded Sgian Dubh
Spring 2006
private commission

This is a custom knife created for a customer who wanted to mark his upcoming wedding with a distinctive heirloom object.
The knife has a 5 1/2 inch long pattern welded blade in a semi drop point style. The hilt is bog oak - in this case oak recovered from an original Roman era timber dock at the city of London, about 2000 years old. (What the English supplier told me was the source.) It bears Celtic knotwork carving on the right (out from leg) side and the owners name and wedding date on the inner.
The blade is formed of a total of four core rods - each at about 40 layers.
I started with a stack of 9 plates, then welded and folded in four. The starting stack was composed of mild steel / L6 alloy / wrought iron / high carbon tool steel. The sequence was M/I/M/L/H/L/M/I/M. This block was drawn and half was twisted. This section with the right and left twist was then cut and forms the two core rods along the back of the blade. The remaining half of the block was drawn out and cut in two. These pieces were then welded to another piece of carbon steel. When I count the layers (I include all four bars) the total layer count is 158. The decorative material is ground back to expose that hard carbon steel cutting edge.
This was a fairly complex project. The creation of the pattern welded billet was the most straight forward part, but is always quite time consuming. The bog oak proved quite difficult to get. This material is quite hard, working almost like copper metal. The surface carving was done with burrs on a rotary shaft.

Fall 2004
sold to private collection

This is just one of a number of potential blade profiles I had designed for a customer in late 2003. The project involved creating a striking letter opener using the pattern welding technique. This particular profile, I had thought the most pleasing of the lot, was not the one the customer selected in the end. Latter (early 2004) I decided to make up a small billet into this blade. In keeping with its function as a letter opener, it has no carbon steel core and is only sharpened at the very tip.

Shown in Use
Detail of the Layered Pattern
Overall View

Layered Steel Opener

private commission

This unusual piece - a Layered Steel Bottle Opener , was ordered by a customer as a special gift for a friend. It follows the form and function of a wine bottle opener - cork screw and foil cutter. I worked together with silver smith Brenda Roy - who created the silver bolster block inlayed with semi precious stones. Overall the piece has an Art Nouveau feel in terms of colour and line. Completed in December of 2003.


'Possibilities of Damascus'

sold to private collection

Left side view
Right side view

'Possibilities of Damascus' was created for the exhibit 'Traditions & Innovations' in 2003.
The billet it was forged from was actually made up several years earlier. This was a practice bar to show the effects of a number of possible surface effects on an even, high count, layered stack. Again I used the heavy one piece blade and handle style that I like so much.

orc knife
'Orc Knife'

sold to private collection

Orc Knife was a piece done at the very end of 2002, a couple of days after I had seen 'The Two Towers'. It was an experiment in a number of different ways. First - I had looked at the production designs used for Jackson's 'Lord of the Rings', and had tried to work in a similar style. Second - I had used the air hammer for about 90% of the forging, giving me good practice in shape generation on that tool. Third - this object was offered on sale over Ebay, my first experiment with that venue.

A copy of the original Ebay listing can be seen HERE.
This includes more details on the blade, the design and some detailed images.

'Sword of Heroes'
sold to private collection

Right side view
Left side view

'Sword of Heroes' is a Pattern Welded Short Sword produced in early winter of 2000.
This blade formed the centre piece of a short television segment that originally appeared on '' in November 2000. This featurette was produced by the Royal Ontario Museum, as part of their continuing effort to relate their collection to the work of artisans employing traditional techniques.

More detail about the sword, with production notes and close up views, is available HERE


Cult of
'Cult of the Head'
sold to private collection

'Cult of the Head'
was specifically created for the exhibit 'A Celtic Renaissance' in 1999.
The blade is made of two five layer cores surrounded by ten layer edge blocks, all a combination of mild and high carbon steel. This piece takes its overall form from early Celtic Iron Age knives. The first use of iron was confined to weapons, with the profiles copied from even earlier bronze working traditions. The use of heads as pommels is also a feature of a number of artifact blades. This is another reflection of the Celtic 'Cult of the Head' , with the head profile pommel cast in place using high tin alloy. The sinuous curves of the forged hilt elements reflects lines typical of La Tene decorative work..

kitchen 1 kitchen 2 kiechen 3
One Piece Kitchen Knives

pattern welded layered steel alloys
with carbon steel core

- The first two use wrought iron, high carbon and L6 (.5% nickel) alloys.
- The third has no high carbon in the layers, but more of the L6 - and was also etched using different acids.
L = 1995
M = 11/1999
R = 12/1993
all sold to private collections
(commissioned as gifts)

axes tools weapons

These objects are a small part of the selection of Norse woodworking tools, knives and weapons created in 1997 for the 'Norse Encampment' - the living history program at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC.

The first group includes a belt axe, a splitting axe and a two handed fighting axe (L to R). Each of these is made of a large block of mild steel, folded to create the eye. A sliver of carbon steel was welded at the overlap to create the cutting edge. The second pair are two fine wood working tools - a finishing axe and hand adze (L to R). In this case both have the eye punched out of a solid block, a method typical of Norse axes. These two pieces are exact reproductions from tools from the Mastermyr tool box (circa 1100 AD). The stress on weapons was greatly reduced for the presenation. Even still, each male had at least one 'long arm'.
Seen here is a simple sword (forged blade and cross guard, cast pewter pommel and antler hilt. Hunting type spear (forged blade and socket on ash shaft). Also a simple leather plate helmet and wooden shield with forged centre boss and re-inforcing straps.

cable These three pieces represent some early work with 'Cable Damascus'

A technique where braided steel cable is forged into a solid billet (from July of 1993).
The image is fuzzy - but the pattern resulting from welded cable is rarely dramatic in any case.
More important are the blade shapes themselves. - - The top is patterned after the 'ulu' knife of the Canadian Arctic, with a caribou handle.
- The other two are variations inspired by table knives from the Romano-British period (circa 100 - 400 AD).

all sold to private collections


The three knives shown here represent early work with flat stack - 'Damascus'.

- The two small skinners (5/93) have olive wood handles with brass cross guards. One features a rough peened back edge as a decorative treatment.
- The larger "nanchez" pattern bowie (1/93) is hilted with ebony and brass. The pattern here is created by cross peening the layered billet, then grinding the block smooth before forging the blade shape. All of these knives are early experiments with layered slabs on carbon steel cores.

all commissions / sold to private collections

ritual blade

Ritual Blades

In the past, I have created a good number of specialized blades for modern or historic ritual service. This work relies on a general understanding of ancient and historic practices and forms. Often these blades will utilize specialized materials, such as copper, bronze or actual antique wrought iron, and specific wood or other material types into handles. The ability to forge blades out of actual bloomery iron (identical to ancient metals) may be of particular interest to some. It is often possible to incorporate special steps into the creation process as requested.

Illustrated are two hammered copper blades from the later 1980's, both private commissions


forged high carbon
walnut with brass fittings

This is where is all began...
I had made this solid tool knife during my first year at Black Creek Village. I normally spent two days in the Blacksmith shop, followed with two in Gunsmith's. The blade is about 6 inches long, forged from an old file. All the finishing work was done with hand tools (1860's equipment).

go on to "Custom Bladesmithing"
Note that using this link will take you away from the Gallery series

return to the Gallery

(Short Cut HERE back to the site index / map.)

All text & images Darrell Markewitz - the Wareham Forge