Sunday, April 23, 2017

Making an all-metal akinakes, part I

One thing I've long been unsatisfied with is the fact that all my attempts at making akinakai have had to have wood hilts.  Archaeologists have found a few blades with hidden-type tangs that might have comprised organic-hilted akinakai, but most of the finds I've read about from confirmed Achaemenid sites (Persepolis and Deve Hüyük, mostly) have solid iron hilts.  This is in keeping with the fact that the akinakes seems to have developed since the late Bronze Age as a one-piece casting with perhaps only a cord or leather thong wound about the grip. In the Iron Age, akinakes hilts would have most probably have been likewise forged in one piece.  One or two finds from Persepolis are grooved in such a way as to suggest that the hilts were folded around the tangs from a thin bar, while another is an iron knife with what appears to be the bottom half of an akinakes hilt made of bronze, with a groove completely bisecting the guard.  Metal has the advantage of being less delicate than wood and so the hilt can be less bulky.

Now, hot-forging anything more complex than a tanged leaf arrowhead is well beyond my skill.  However, as last year's Elamite dagger project shows, shaping with a cheap angle grinder requires very little skill, and I happen to have access to a drill press at the moment.  With care, it may be possible to fabricate a slab-tanged akinakes that looks passably like a proper one.  Since the grip will be wrapped with leather, the use of a slab tang should be less obvious.

Right.  As before, the blade and hilt are sketched onto normal paper, folded and cut, then glued onto cardstock and cut again.  I did these while still planning another wood hilt, so they are not quite as according to the current plan.  I cut off the pommel section of the hilt tracing, then traced the rest onto a scrap piece of 1/8-inch steel, and added a straight line so as to first bisect the piece so each scale can be cut out and shaped without damaging the other.  The pommel will be made from 1/2-inch bar stock.  The blade will be from the leftover 1/4x1-1/2-inch bar from last year's Elamite dagger.

Next I glued the hilt pattern to the blade, using the folding lines and the bar itself to ensure proper alignment (as you may have noticed, the hidden tang on the original blade pattern was crooked).

It would be ideal to use a large plate so that the guard can have a corresponding full profile on the blade, but this is what I have to work with, so the sides will have to be filled with extra steel bits traced from the severed wings.  A slight gap will probably remain since this bar stock thins down a bit toward the edges.  Perhaps adding lots of solder will help.

The tang will be much narrower where it passes through the pommel.  This same method was used on the Naue type II of LBA Southern Europe and while it's not accurate here, it should mean the pommel has to be filed out a lot less.

This next step ought to have been done earlier but it's not a loss yet.  I punched a couple holes in the pattern with a hobby awl to mark the rivet holes and widened them with a thin file.

That's all the work I'm doing for today.  The holes need not line up precisely, since they'll be filed wider to fit the pins - as long as a thin round file can pass through, that should be sufficient.

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