Historically, blacksmiths forged swords by combining a variety of techniques. Typically they forged the blade by hand using a hammer while they employing molds for making the cross piece and pommel. However, the artisans of the Bronze Age used molds to create the entirety their blades. They made these molds from sandy clay, basing them on a real sword or a wooden model. Though no one has been able to exactly replicate the quality of these 3,000-year-old swords, they do achieve satisfactory results by mimicking the process and going through a lot of experimentation.
Things You'll Need
- Fine clay
- Rolling pin
- Bucket of water
- 4 marbles
Break off a large portion of your clay, enough to encase your sword, and mix sand into it until it becomes gritty and coarse. Knead the clay as you would dough by pressing the heels of your hands into it and pushing it out. This works air bubbles out of the clay.
Take half of the sandy clay and place it on your workspace. Sprinkle water on your rolling pin and begin to roll it into a long, oblong shape wider and longer than your sword. It should be at least an inch thick. You will make a two-part mold, and this will be the first half.
Crumble half of the fine, unsanded clay between your fingers and sprinkle it along the length of the mould. Take your model sword and press the flat of it halfway into the clay. Take four marbles and embed one at each corner of the mold. You have now finished the first half of your mold.
Sprinkle the exposed face of your mold with ashes. This will keep the two parts of your mold from sticking together.
Sprinkle the top of the sword with the remaining unsanded clay. Knead the second half of the sanded clay and roll it out into an oblong form the size of the first one you made.
Take a ruler and lay it along one edge of the sword mold in such a way that part of it hangs off the edge. Place the newly-rolled clay over the top of the sword and press down on it with your fingers to make sure that it takes the shape of the sword.
Leave the molds to dry to leatherware. Leatherware is a stage in the clay drying process when the artist can still carve at the clay, but it still largely hardened. Leatherware is a dark grey color and feels cold and slightly damp to the touch. Check on your clay every day to see if it has reached this stage. It can take up to a week, but it depends on the moisture in the air.
Lift up on the ruler to separate the top of the mold from the bottom of the mold. Remove the sword. Use the edge of your ruler to cut a triangular funnel into the mold, leading from the edge to the pommel. This will be the channel through which you pour your liquid metal.
Allow your molds to dry out completely. This can take as long as a week or two. Dry clay is light in color and makes a glassy sound when you rub a fingernail across it. It should not be cold and damp to the touch.
Take your molds to a community art center. Many art centers periodically fire creations that members bring in. Check your local arts programs to see what is available and have them fire your molds for you.