So, here's a picture of the finished piece, all tidied up and ready to go off on show at The Cotswold Water Park in the cafe - http://www.watermarkclub.co.uk/leisure_countrypark.shtml .
What else has been keeping me busy? Well, one of my weekday evening pursuits has been attending what we know locally as 'Fight Club'! Here I am breaking the cardinal rule - blogging, let alone mere talking about it should be verboten, huh?! Its actually a fencing /combat session run by a bunch of people who are interested in the reality of medieval combat - they're called The Messengers. Western culture has become obsessed by the apparent brilliance of Easter martial arts - but has seemingly forgotten that similar (if not superior) forms of combat had evolved in Europe over a similar length of time. Due to the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution, many of the details of western martial combats were forgotten - however, this group are drawing upon the few surviving scripts and manuals from the time to rediscover the skills and techniques which were used. We're currently training using longswords, rapiers, daggers and bucklers. Another form which people are interested in is that of the 'messer' (shortened from the German 'Grosse Messer' - or 'great knife')... Basically the messer is a falchion - that vast array of weapon types which were similar in function to swords, but usually single edged and constructed more like a knife...(read on here if you want some more background!! - wikipedia link about the messer ) We have but one in the club at the moment, which means sparring opportunities are somewhat limited! Only one messer? How difficult could it be to make one? Well, the blade for our sparring version is made out of nylon rather than steel (limbless members of the group were unable to sign their subs cheques, so steel was quickly abandoned) - and in the version our in-house Yoda, Alan brought in the other week, it had a fabricated aluminium hilt. I had a look at it... and to be honest, I was unimpressed. The hilt was too wide and awkward to grip. ... Could I CAST one, I wondered?! Well, first off, I had to acknowledge that cast rather than sheet would be more brittle - but to be honest, the hilt is not subject to too much 'hard' impact trauma. Anyway, to be extra cautious I 'beefed up' the size of the casting to be doubly sure. I made the pattern out of polystyrene, as there had to be a central channel to house the tang of the nylon blade - and I like the fact that a single evening with the wire cutter, some glue and some sand paper would leave me with a functional pattern with out any of the worries of a complex multi-part mould. Et voila:
Here are a couple of pictures by way of comparison as to what I was trying to replicate:
... I wasn't that impressed by the historical authenticity of the 'Karakal' tennis racket grip either!
So! That was my challenge.... First off, I managed to get hold of a big sheet of nylon sheet from a local supplier - the stuffs almost identical to what the white plastic chopping boards are made from. I cut a replica blade (though mine is slightly deeper to compensate for the fact that it wasn't quite as thick)
... so, here's my pattern attached to a very complex series of sprues - with FOUR pour ins (one at the pommel end, farthest away) and three up at the cross-piece end of the hilt. Once the glue dried (hence the pot of paints weighing it all down!) I added three drinking straw vents to the sprue, and carved two HUGE pour cups as I wanted to ensure a maximum weight of metal to ensure that it squirted down and through the thinnest sections of the hilt - which on the hand grip was down to only a couple of millimeters.
Behind is one of my trusty sand flasks which this monstrosity was transferred into before sand/sodium silicate was packed round and gassed... The furnace was heated and the crucible loaded with some of my best quality ingots.... A period of trepidation followed! John and I carefully worked out our pouring order and to make sure that the metal went in very fast - again, another reason for such wide pour-cups. When it came to the crunch we liberally sloshed metal into both ends and were gratified to see a rewarding spurt of metal blowing out from all three vents. Hurrah!!! Another off-shoot of this was that excess metal ran of the pouring bench and into the bucket of 'Elf an' Safety' water. Before it melted a hole in it, it solidified into some exquisite shapes. More (and this time deliberate!) experiments into pouring metal into water to follow ladies and gentlemen!
The results were VERY pleasing... There were a couple of holes in the handle where the metal hadn't quite met up over the thinnest parts - but as this wasn't a structural part of the sword and would be hidden under the leather grip, I wasn't at all bothered - all easily plugged with the same aluminium filler I was using to glue the tang of the nylon blade into the hilt anyway.
After an evening's furious dremel sanding, the sword is basically finished. Its currently up at my mate Rocky's place awaiting a final bit of planing on the blade... pictures to follow shortly!