Suontaka swords are for sale! See final paragraph for details.
When we think of vikings, we often imagine a brutish northman with a propensity for violence and a fondness for horned helmets. Their gods are similarly blood-thirsty and capricious, acting with a set of curious principles in their bizarre and wonderful mythos. For over 200 years, Vikings were the scourge of Europe, raiding and pillaging where they went. Yet despite their reputation as harbingers of destruction, the scandanavian people were also master craftsmen. Their uniquely alien culture still lives in the crowded intricacies of their surviving work. One of my favorite examples is the sword found in a female viking grave in Suontaka, Finland. Every inch of the piece is brimming with glorious detail, threatening to overflow the margins of its given frame. The modern reproduction by the esteemed swordsmith Rob Miller, is one of the most spell-binding swords I’ve ever seen (link here).
My own journey to create this historical reproduction began back in April 2014. I was inspired by the work of Nils Andersson’s Suontaka project who was nice enough to describe the steps he took in great detail. I had a rough idea of how I could start, but at the time I didn’t have any experience in 3D modelling or vector graphics. The vector graphic pattern of the knotwork proved straightforward enough, but I had no clue on how to give my 2D representation a 3D form.
I ended up asking a friend to help me out with the initial 3D model, and he was kind enough to do it for a small fee.The 3D knotwork details on the guard and the pommel was too much trouble for him so the pattern on the model was completely flat.
Because of this, once the plastic parts were printed, I had to hand carve the knotwork details myself. This took several hours and gave me a deep admiration for the craftsmen that choose to carve the original completely from scratch.
Up until then, I had planned to commission a local foundry to create wax copies from moulds to fit a particular sword blade (the albion type X bare blade). It occurred to me that there was opportunity here to offer my designs to a wider audience. I started talking to a number of notable sword manufacturers, but we weren’t able to come to a satisfactory arrangement. Since I didn’t have an affordable supplier who could deliver bronze copies of my parts, I would need to license out my design, and no one was particularly happy (or in a financial position) to fork out cash for a licensing fee.
I ended up shelving the project for a while, until I met a sword distributor by the name of Rob who happened to also live in Canberra. He got me in touch with a foundryman in Pennsylvania who was very excited about what I was doing and offered to help make moulds and bronze casting at just over half the price of what the local foundry was charging. Rob also helped me open up a line of communication with Sonny, the owner and operator of Valiant Armoury, and it so happened he had a new production blade that would be perfect for the project. By this time, my 3D modelling skills had vastly improved. I decided to redo the 3D model I had for the Suontaka project to include the rippling overlaps in the knotwork, and also to create slots that would perfectly fit the new sword blade. The new parts were printed and given a finish by John (our foundryman in PA), and sent over to Sonny for a test fit (and as it turned out, also a photoshoot).
They were then sent back to John who made moulds and waxes, and cast the copies in bronze.
The work doesn’t end there though. Due to the high detail density on the piece, little air bubbles are trapped during casting, and they end up as little lumps embedded in the bronze. It takes a steady hand and several hours to work them out of the metal.
John does an exceptional job of it, of course.
It’s taken a while for Sonny to bring all the parts together (he’s added his own bells and whistles to the project in the mean time) but things are finally beginning to take shape! We’ve decided to use the Hanwei Tinker Viking bare blade as a base for this production run, but if we make more the in future we’ll probably use the blade of Valiant Armoury’s Norseman sword.
We’re very excited to begin taking orders for the available 4 swords that are currently reaching the end of production. Each sword will come with a scabbard and belt suspension in colours of your choosing for $1050 + 30 shipping CONUS (international buyers please get in contact for a quote). The sword will be shipped within 3 weeks of payment. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to place an order.
Since the production of the fittings are costly and time consuming, it’s unclear if we will be doing more of these in the future. We’re hopeful that a market for our Suontaka sword exists and that John can dedicate the time and effort to make more, but for now we can’t promise anything.