Posted: 19/12/18 (12:42pm)
I got the scabbard and hilt furniture for the P1796 back from the media blasters yesterday. I am not going to be doing any more work on the sword until the New Year but I thought that it might be interesting for you to see what steel that has been cleaned by media blasting turns out like.
The first time that I had something blasted, I thought that the guy had painted it with grey primer.
As you can see, the blasting gets to the bottom of any pits and removes all rust, paint and yes, patina. I would not usually use or recommend blasting but on something that is heavily pitted, and if the customer requests it, it is a quick way to clean up the piece prior to re-polishing.
Once polished, the steel will again be bright and shiny and as the customer requested, the colour and polish on the hilt will match that of the scabbard. After polishing the pitting will of course remain but as long as the metal is regularly cleaned and polished with Renaissance Wax, the rust will not return and the pits will merely be testament to the age and authenticity of the piece.
I photographed the blade alongside the scabbard and as you can see, it also requires a good clean and polish. I would never recommend having a blade media blasted. In this case, I will hand polish the blade, beginning with 240 grit and working my way up to a 600 grit finish. This will not remove all of the tarnish but it will remove some and lighten the rest, improving the overall look.
Posted: 11/12/18 (16:13pm)
I managed to finish the P1796 grip yesterday. I rounded the edges a little more. Then I began work on the hole through which the tang would pass. I began by drilling a hole through the centre of the grip. That part was easy, my drill press made short work of it.
Then came the time consuming job of chiselling and filing out the hole in order for the tang to fit snugly. I kept the blade on hand and constantly tested the fit. This photo was taken at the mid way point. It took a couple of hours but eventually I had a nice tight fit.
Having finished the woodwork, it was time to put the leather on the grip. Originally, I had planned to use shagreen but the presence of an ordnance stamp on the blade indicates that this was a trooper’s weapon and as such, the grip would most likely have been finished with leather.
I used a square of calf leather, which I soaked, shaped and then attached, smoothing the leather as I went and working it into the grooves. While the leather dried and bonded firmly in place, I aged then twisted the brass wire that would be used to complete the grip. Once the leather was dry, it was time to stain and age it before finishing it with the wire.
The grip fit perfectly into the old hilt furniture and I am happy with the antiqued finish I managed to get on the leather. It would not look right if the grip stood out as being brand new.
As you can see from the photo, I also got the welding done on the tang. The steel of the original tang was in good condition under the thin layer of rust so instead of making a new tang and welding it on to the stump of the old, I decided to grind a “V” through the holes, clean up the metal and fill weld. It turned out nicely. I also added a couple of centimetres to the tang tail in order to be able to peen the tang onto the hilt. I added far more steel than is needed so once the hilt is assembled I will shorten the newly added tail so that it is about 6mm proud of the pommel. The general rule when peening is that the piece to be peened should be the diameter of the tang plus 1mm.
The remaining work is to media blast the scabbard and hilt furniture. Media blasting will leave the steel a matt grey colour so it will all need polishing before assembly.
Once reassembled and after peening the tang through the pommel, I will drill through the ears and insert a cross rivet through the tang before peening both ends. Lastly, I will give the blade a good polish and coat all the metal with Renaissance Wax. However, all this will have to wait until after Christmas.
Posted: 06/12/18 (12:17pm)
I spent some time yesterday making a new grip for the P1796 light cavalry sabre. I started with a block of seasoned oak. The first stage was to reduce the block. I used the grip collar from the sabre to outline the front of the new grip – the part that will eventually fit inside the grip collar.
Having marked the wood, I reduced it using a Tenon saw. I prefer to work with hand tools; a band-saw blade wanders as it cuts whereas a stiff bladed saw, such as a Tenon saw will give one a nice precise cut.
After reducing the block, I roughed out a blank of the grip using a coping saw. A coping saw is ideal for cutting curves.
I regularly referred back to the original steel grip furniture to ensure that I was getting the right shape and fit.
Once happy with the general shape I roughed in the grooves and again tested the fit.
That is as far as I was able to get in the time I had available yesterday. This afternoon, between jobs, I will finish the grip by rounding it fully and sanding it smooth, ready for the leather and wire finish which I will describe and show in the next blog.
You may be wondering why I am doing this restoration between jobs as opposed to cracking on and getting it done in just a couple of days. Well, the answer is that when I agreed to take on the project, I informed the customer that I would not be able to make a start on it until early in the New Year. By using the down time on more urgent jobs - while I wait for glue to set or stain to dry etc, I am hoping that I will get this sword finished before Christmas and so be able to give my customer a pleasant surprise - although if he is reading this blog it will not be much of a surprise.
Posted: 26/11/18 (12:26pm)
I made a start on the 1796 Light Cavalry sabre. As you can see from the photo, a previous owner had made rather a mess of re-hilting the sword. The new owner wants it returned to how it should be.
Notice the gap between the ricasso & leather washer and the front of the guard. For some reason, when replacing the original grip, someone added a wooden block. I really have no idea why they did this.
I began by un-peening the tang and removing the string, pine wood, glue and leather "repair," In doing so I discovered that the tang had been irreparably damaged.
Not only was the tang double drilled, the drilling had cut through the edge, leaving only a few millimetres of steel attaching the blade to the tang. On closer inspection, I found a hairline crack through the remaining section. There was absolutely no strength or integrity to the tang and the consequences of swinging the sword - even without impact, could have been catastrophic. It is likely that the bend and crack in the tang were the result of just such an action and it is a miracle that the blade did not fly out of the hilt and that nobody was injured.
I am going to have to remove the damaged tang from before the holes, fashion a new tang and weld it onto the remains of the original. There is enough good steel for me to make a strong weld, after which the tang will once again be able to support the stresses of use. Regardless of whether or not the sword is going to be swung in future, it is vital that its strength and integrity are intact.
Once I have remade the tang, I will carve a new grip from oak, wrap it with shagreen, re-wire it and reassemble the hilt before re-peening the tang. Then I will make a replacement cross rivet, drill one neat hole through the new grip and tang and peen the cross rivet in place through the ears. Once again it will look as it should and would have looked when first made.
I will also media blast the guard and back strap before reassembly, re-polish the blade and media blast the scabbard before re-polishing it. I will not be able to do anything about the pitting to the scabbard and hilt furniture but having removed the rust and polished the steel, the sabre will look a great deal better.
Several applications of renaissance wax over the following weeks will protect the steel and help to prevent new rust from forming.
As promised, I will keep you posted on how the restoration progresses.
Posted: 20/11/18 (14:44pm)
I got back last night from another buying trip. After driving down south the previous weekend, I had not planned to be on the road again quite so soon but there were some great items coming up in auctions down in England and for the reasons mentioned in a previous blog, I wanted to inspect them in person before bidding so I drove back down south on Thursday. I am glad that I did. One item was a fake and others were not as good as the photo on the auctions websites would have bidders believe.
I did not get all that I had hoped. Many of the prices were too high for me to cover my costs and make a living, but I am very pleased with the seven items that I did buy. I now have enough new stock to list a couple of items each week until February 2019. That doesn’t mean to say that I am not going to buy any more. I am always on the lookout for good stock items, but given the time of year and the possibility of imminent snow, it means that I am not forced into making long and unpleasant road trips in winter conditions.
I can’t quite get my head round to thinking about Christmas. The weather has been so unseasonably mild and sunny that it is hard to believe that there are only five weeks until Christmas Day. Having said that, the weather has taken a turn for the worse and we have snow forecast for later this week.
I have so much to do. I have just taken on quite a major restoration on a P1796 Light Cavalry sabre and it will have to join the cue behind the other items patiently waiting their turn. Thankfully, the sword’s owner has accepted that it will be early in the New Year before I am able to get it done. When I do begin work on it I am planning to describe it in a blog and will include photos.
Posted: 12/11/18 (13:08pm)
It was a busy and very enjoyable weekend. I drove just under 900 miles and came home with a great find.
My road trip began on Friday morning in Scotland. I drove non-stop down to Derby, about 300 miles south, and picked up a lovely late 18th Century, George III naval cutlass. The cutlass has a plain wooden grip with a brass D-guard and scallop shell. The 656mm, broad, curved blade is stamped with a crowned GR. I also picked up a nice, bespoke George V P1897 infantry officer's sword.
From Derby I headed down to a motorway services just south of Peterborough, to rendezvous with a friend and long time customer, to return to him a lovely Georgian hanger that I had worked on and to collect from him a 1796 light cavalry sabre for restoration.
By then, it was about 8pm and Sue and I had had enough driving. It was time for supper so we enjoyed a deliciously unhealthy KFC at the services before continuing our journey to my parents home.
On Saturday morning, joined by my parents, we drove to Sheringham on the Norfolk coast. I left Sue and my parents to enjoy Sheringham while I headed off in the hopes of buying a few more swords. Unfortunately I didn't manage to but I enjoyed the morning and meeting the man who had the swords for sale. The seller wanted a fair retail price for his swords but it would not have allowed me to cover my costs, much less make any money so we were unable to do a deal.
By then it was past 1pm and time for lunch. We had reserved a table for 1.15pm so had to rush. I never did get time to stroll around Sheringham and enjoy being by the seaside, which was a shame because Sheringham is a pretty town and it was a beautiful sunny day.
The drive however was lovely. Norfolk is a beautiful county.
After a brief visit to a large car boot sale on Sunday morning - you never know what you might find (this time it was nothing), it was time for Sue and I to head back up to Scotland. We had a long drive home.
It was a lovely weekend. It is always great to see my folks, and to be able to combine doing so with buying more stock and collecting restoration commissions just adds a cherry to the cake.