main difference between a forged recreation of a museum piece that
I make and the Albion recreations is simply one of the starting
On a forged sword, I create a "blank" or basic shape that
establishes the distal taper and the basic volumes and distribution
of mass. At Albion, we have chosen to use a CNC milled blank to
serve the same function, which can be done more efficiently and
consistently than forging each blank by hand.
In both cases the final quality is a direct result of the awareness
of shape and dimensions as well as the control of the process. To
use the potential of the CNC machine in blade production means that
the skill and insights of the smith are translated to the program
guiding the milling process. If the milled blank is incorporating
the important details and proportions that are shaped during the
forging, a high degree of consistency is possible while keeping
the final swords very close to the characteristics of a forged blade
(and the originals that are being reproduced).
It takes some tweaking of the data fed to the CNC machine to bring
the milled blanks close to the dimensions of a forged blade blank.
The most important aspects of this is that the shaping of the fuller,
the character of distal taper, the edge bevels and outline shape
of the blade are properly defined. The shape and proportions of
the blade blank is the foundation of the final characteristics of
The idea is to bring the milled blanks as close as possible to the
shape of what a forged blade blank would look like before grinding
work begins in my own smithy. By measuring several original swords
and comparing how distal taper and cross section changes along the
blade, it is possible to make comparisons and see not only the amount
of variation in specific measurements, but also how these typically
relate to each other. Establishing the typical proportional relationship
between different parts of the blade makes it possible to design
blades today that will share both general and specific aspects of
During forging/milling some 70-80% of the shape is defined. The
rest is achieved by grinding. This is very exacting work that puts
high demand on the skill of the craftsman responsible for the grinding.
The last 20% of the process often demands 80% of the work.
It is interesting to note that historical swordsmiths often seems
to have been implementing design principles of harmonic proportions
like the golden section. The same rules of harmonic proportions
were used in anything from the building of cathedrals and seagoing
ships to the making of books and musical instruments. That the best
and most beautiful swords through the ages are the result of the
same school of thought would not seem to be surprising.
In historical times the blade smith and the grinder of blades were
often separate professions, and for good reason, I think. This was
a way to make blade production rational using well-developed skills
by specialized craftsmen.
The situation at Albion is actually quite close to how work was
organized in the armouries in medieval times. Blades are produced
by a smith (or a CNC machine as in the case of the PJ line) to be
defined by the grinders. Cutlers are doing the mounting of the blades
and hilt components and a scabbardmaker is responsible for scabbards
It is fascinating to see how the ancient method of organizing the
production of arms and armour still is a viable process today.
We swordmakers today all face the same challenge: To make swords
that are functional and true in both handling and aesthetic qualities,
while working in a modern world with modern materials. High quality
work is only possible when these four components are in harmony:
materials available, production methods, aspired goals and the attitude
of the maker.
There are many ways to go about this, in fact as many roads to follow
as there are makers. The inspiring fact is that the resulting swords
will always reflect the aspects of its production and the aspirations
of its maker."