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Google Engineer Shows How To Forge Swords and Knives 201

Posted by timothy
from the like-y'do dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Niels Provos, an engineer at Google working on malware and phishing protection, is showing on YouTube how to forge knives and Viking swords. The process is absolutely fascinating and follows the steps of Viking blacksmiths from a thousand years ago. It starts by taking small bars of metal that get heated and hammered together until they become a solid piece. He then shows how to form it with the hammer, heat treat and polish it. All the videos are narrated explaining the purpose of each step. Sure beats sitting in front of the computer."
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Google Engineer Shows How To Forge Swords and Knives

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  • by arisvega (1414195) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @02:23PM (#42464689)
    .. who cares. Cool as heck!
    • Cool, glad you found the link, I was thinking the exact same thing.

      I was also thinking the guy in the NOVA special could probably sell that sword for many thousands of dollars ;-)
    • by Alomex (148003)

      Quote from the show:

      ALAN WILLIAMS: The swords were far better than any other swords made, before or since, in Europe. And these must have been extraordinarily valuable to their contemporaries, because of their properties.

      Except for the Damascus sword, which was fabricated in several places in the Muslim empire, including, famously, in Toledo, Spain, where to this date there is a blade making industry.

      Not only that, but the Viking sword was merely an attempt to duplicate the quality of the Saracen sword.

      • by asliarun (636603)

        Quote from the show:

        ALAN WILLIAMS: The swords were far better than any other swords made, before or since, in Europe. And these must have been extraordinarily valuable to their contemporaries, because of their properties.

        Except for the Damascus sword, which was fabricated in several places in the Muslim empire, including, famously, in Toledo, Spain, where to this date there is a blade making industry.

        Not only that, but the Viking sword was merely an attempt to duplicate the quality of the Saracen sword.

        Not that it matters, but just to set the record straight, "damascus" steel, just like the "Arabic" numeral system, was neither invented in Damascus nor in Arabia nor in Spain. Both the numeral system and the steel was invented in India. It should be more accurately called Wootz steel. This steel making technique technique was mastered and perfected by ironsmiths in South India around 300BC. The original technique also died with the ironsmiths over time, and has was only recently replicated with success some

    • by Saffaya (702234)

      Youtube link of said documentary : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXbLyVpWsVM [youtube.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 03, 2013 @02:26PM (#42464729)

    I can own a +12 undead slayer. Can I forge this IRL?

  • by Roogna (9643) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @02:30PM (#42464775)

    This is one of those things I've wanted to try doing since I was a kid, but simply never had the space for. Time to buy a few acres out somewhere.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why buy a few acres? There are forges out there that teach classes and such for a reasonable fee. Prospect Hill Forge is such a forge (Boston area).

    • by Psychofreak (17440) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @02:44PM (#42464959) Journal

      Don't need acres. Many hobby smiths are using a space of little more than 100 square feet for a shop. Of course no power hammer, just forge, anvil, and some small power tools.

      While I don't make knives (not because I can't) my "workshop" is my driveway. Everything gets put away in the garage when I am done. A person can start out using a coal or lump charcoal fired forge made by digging a shallow hole in dirt, and using a hair dryer with an iron pipe on the end for air. Find a large steel slug, or piece of axle, or railroad track, say 30-100 pounds for an anvil (and it will be better than a cast iron anvil by far). Get a couple hammers such as a 2 pound ball pein and a 3 pound cross pein to start with. You can use long stock without tongs, and make your own tongs (Remember the BLACKSMITH makes the TOOLS, not the other way around)

      Car or truck coil spring is nice stock to make knives and tools out of for a beginner.

      There are forums dedicated to blacksmithing and knifemaking.

      Phil

      • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @03:39PM (#42465647)

        Good advice! May I add a few things...

        - Ear protection. You don't have to go for uncomfortable headphones, but cheap ear plugs are definitely a good idea.
        - Keep a fire extinguisher handy
        - Expect to get through a number of wire brushes; brush off the slag regularly, if you want a clean result
        - Experiment with quenching, (water is OK, oil is better, but see remark above fire ex. above), if you're using good-quality steel, (easy to pick up as parent suggested)
        - Try carbon face hardening if you're using (cheap) mild steel

        In either of the two last cases, all you need is an open-topped container...

        I suggest you start here...

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steel [wikipedia.org]

        • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @03:43PM (#42465687)

          Sorry, forgot the most important - eye protection!

          (I have had more shit dug out of my eyeballs than I care to remember... fortunately, if you don't destroy your eye totally, it seems to heal pretty fast. But life's a bitch while it does, believe me)

          • by Jmc23 (2353706)
            Just hit the target area perpendicular to your sightline of the target. Though that doesn't deal with ricochets.
        • by Culture20 (968837)
          I've heard old ammo cases make excellent oil quench tanks since they're designed to be watertight, and if the oil reaches catching temperature, you can just douse it by closing the lid.
      • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @04:41PM (#42466467) Journal
        It starts simple like this, and it could eventually consume all your time.

        I was simply drinking coffee in Starbucks. Then someone told me you can actually brew the coffee at home. Start with a simple stove top percolator, he said. Then it became a cheap 10 cup presto coffee maker. Then came the French Press, then the "grinding your own just before brewing", roasting your own bean just before grinding just before brewing, espresso machines, pump based espresso not the wimpy steam pressure espresso, .....

        Now I am driving 150 miles each way to slopes of the Smoky Mountains each weekend to tend a patch of coffee shrubs which I am going to harvest, dry, grind and brew. They are saying the next step is to feed the coffee fruits to some weasels and collect the beans from its other end, then to dry, grind and brew. No one told me this is where I am going to end up. So watch out.

    • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @03:24PM (#42465459) Homepage Journal

      I have acres. I have timer to stoke the fire. I can even cut timber to build the forge and a building to house it. It would take a little ingenuity to come up with a bellows and an anvil cheap. But, you know what? THIS IS WORK!!! There's a lot of stuff that looks cool, if you can sit around and watch it being done. But, when it's your muscles, learning a new skill, man it's ROUGH!!

      The physically hardest job I've ever done was pouring concrete. Following close behind was roughing out some prison buildings, in the mud, in the middle of winter with cold rain running down my back. Then, logging. By comparison, carpentry is easy, and that is real work.

      What I'm saying is, I'm familiar enough with real work to recognize it when I see it. Forging iron is going to be about as hard as pouring and finishing at least a half mile of city street. If you want quality work, you'll do that half mile of city street after at least six months of hard work acquiring the skills to do it. You're not going to light a fire, and turn out a beautifully crafted sword on your first attempt!

      Call me lazy, but if I decide that I want to craft my own knife or sword, I'll machine it on power equipment!!

      • I've poured 'crete too. The trick is to pour it where it belongs. It's a bitch at first, but gets much easier.

        Try tearing down an injection molding machine barrel that was assembled incorrectly (cold cap screwed into hot barrel). You'll need a 100+lb, 10 foot cheater bar and a forklift to generate about 50000 ft/lbs, a wet rag on the cap, a torch on the barrel and patience.

      • Actually, it is not too bad. Of course you'll use some muscles you don't use at a desk job, but -if you don't have to do it as a full time job- forging is not too bad if you keep a couple of things in mind. First, work hot enough during the rough stages. Hotter -> softer -> more efficient metal displacement. Second, use proper hammering technique, using the wrist, elbow and shoulder. And third, hammer at the right place, from the correct angle, so that you don't do things to your workpiece that take m

      • by gknoy (899301)

        I believe that the physical labor is part of what drives the satisfaction that smiths find in their work.

  • The moment a ' thing' passes into history its celebrated DIY YouTube commemorates the event

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @02:38PM (#42464883)

    You only ever hear people with nice soft office jobs make these kinds of dumbass statements. This sort of thing might be fun as a hobby, but as a life it would suck. It is hot, it is dangerous and the pay would not be great.

    No one really wants to do hard work for a shitty living, stop romanticizing it. I think it is an offshoot of the Noble Savage BS.

    • Mike Rowe would like to talk to you [mikeroweworks.com].
      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        There is a difference between modern trades and being a viking blacksmith.

        A modern tradesmen is not spending his nights starving in a cave. He is not living day to day to feed himself. He has osha to protect him.

      • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland.yahoo@com> on Thursday January 03, 2013 @03:14PM (#42465363) Homepage Journal

        Why? trades jobs suck. I have many trades person in my family. My dad, uncles aunts etc..

        I always heard the same thing from them: You want to go to school and get a good job becasue trades jobs suck.
        Paraphrase.

        Different hours, low security, in order to make 'real money' you work all kinds of crazy overtime. Deal mostly with uneducated loud mouths.
        I work with people in a specific trade right now, and all of them over 35 our pretty beat up and wish they had an office job .

        • I'll have to agree with geekoid. I moved to NZ in 2002. Not having any computer qualifications I decided to pursue an adult apprenticeship as a machinist (Fitter/Turner to those of us in the Commonwealth). Two years of night school and two more years of dealing with the adage of "those that can't, teach". While I enjoy working with my hands and the equipment I get to play with is great, it's hard work with the constant danger of losing fingers or worse. It's hard on 40+ year-old bodies, and the pay is
          • by gknoy (899301)

            It's never too late to learn programming. Your pay scale may not be awesome, but if you find that you enjoy it and like learning, there's little to be lost by learning programming.

        • by CAIMLAS (41445)

          Interesting. So what you're saying is:

          * white colar IT work fits your definition of a trade job
          * working hard and taking your lumps sucks

          I've got news for you, most of those over 35 who had an office job would be all sorts of beat up in other ways - they'd have health problems from sedentary lifestyles, for starters. No, their knees, planters, and fingers wouldn't hurt as much but their backs would.

          Working for yourself is always preferable to working for someone else. That's what most of these people bitch

    • by Bodhammer (559311)
      There is a lot of satisfaction in craftsmanship. It is very fulfilling to make things. Even though I work in Avionics, I love to brew beer. I may even open a brewery soon. I recommend two books for you: "Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work" and "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values"

      The way things are going, it might be nice to have skills that don't require electricity.
    • Being a blacksmith, you could probably make some money but it's a niche market. Meanwhile, it's not like they don't exist... you can buy swords at various places. I think even SkyMall used to sell sword replicas from films and such.

      It would be great if the world simply rewarded people for doing things, even if just above average. There are things I'd love to do: glass blowing, metal work, etc... unfortunately I need an income. And while I might be able to make a living, between the demand for some thing

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        99% of those swords are made in some mostly automated process. They are basically just stamped out in a factory.

        You think you would like to do that work, but once you do it your will wish for your old programming job back.

        I brew beer, make cured meats, bake bread, hunt, fish, but I would not want to do any of those as professions.

        • by Jmc23 (2353706)
          But what if we lived in a society where you wouldn't have to do just one all the time? The tasks themselves are intrinsically rewarding, it's just the mass production and constant repetition that kill the joy.
          • Without the repetition its highly unlikely that you'd be good enough to make a living at any of those things though
            • by Jmc23 (2353706)
              Not really, one must simply master the master tool. Any increase in mastery propagates down to specialized tasks and vice-versa.

              The act of crafting breeds respect and admiration for quality craftsmanship and a distaste for waste. You would be suprised how little it takes to live comfortably when you own quality, maintainable goods.

              I could spend a whole day working to pay for some nice machine made dinnerware, or pay 1/4 less for something that'll last 1/10 as long, or I could spend 10-12 hours in the stud

      • It is a niche market, and you won't get rich. I am an apprentice level smith. A friend of mine (who is a master smith) says that the only way to end up with a small fortune in smithing is to start with a big fortune.

        I forge kitchen knives and straight razors mostly. From bar stock to finished item can easily take 8 hours or more. Even if I can sell them at a decent price for such items, my hourly rate is very low. The profit for a 100 euro kitchen knife, per hour, is much less than if I had been flipping bu

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      No one really wants to do hard work for a shitty living, stop romanticizing it. I think it is an offshoot of the Noble Savage BS.

      If you were an average guy living in Norse society (or anywhere else in Europe) circa 1000 CE, your likely career options were:
      - soldier or military sailor (that's where the big bucks were)
      - fishing
      - farming (these folks were likely to be at the bottom of the social structure)
      - shipbuilding
      - smithing
      - merchant shipping

      None of those activities is particularly safe or pleasant.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        I agree they all sucked, but folks love to romantize that period and many other shitty periods in human history.

        • " folks love to romantize that period and many other shitty periods"

          And to "romantize" that is bad because ... what?

          What period in human history wasn't shitty?

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            Romanticize is clearly what I meant.

            This time would be considerably less shitty assuming you live in a first world nation. Living to 30 and beyond is pretty nice.

    • by Jeng (926980)

      If you sit in front of a computer all day it is sometimes nice to go home and do things not on a computer.

      Much like if you sat in front of a forge all day you might like to go home and sit in front of a computer.

      I did not vtfv (view the fucking video), but I rather doubt that the guy is looking to do this for a living, but is instead doing it as a hobby.

      • If you sit in front of a computer all day it is sometimes nice to go home and do things not on a computer.

        Yes. My hobbies are hunting, playing cards, and repairing/restoring vehicles.

    • "No one really wants to do hard work for a shitty living, stop romanticizing it"

      Hopefully you recognize that absolute terms like never, always, and nobody are rarely strictly accurate.

      There are 7 billion people on this planet, and I can assure you that among them are many who sincerely enjoy doing hard work for a living, find their work deeply satisfying, and often its own reward.

      Maybe that's not your thing. Maybe it's not what most laborers would choose if there were lower hanging fruit. But I fail to se

      • many who sincerely enjoy doing hard work for a living, find their work deeply satisfying, and often its own reward.

        No one said they didn't. The question is whether they would prefer to have had an office job for livelihood and done the 'hard work' stuff as a hobby.

        Ask most 55+ yr old trade workers in the 'hard' trades and you'll find most of them no longer find it worth the trade offs with their old and broken bodies. Hard work is satisfying, but it has costs you don't always recognize until it's too late.

        • by idontgno (624372)

          Hard work is satisfying, but it has costs you don't always recognize until it's too late.

          Soft jobs have their own costs. [healthmad.com]

          Let's face it. It's all just life. No one's getting out alive, and age has its own built-in liabilities, regardless of how hard you work (or avoid working) your body in your youth.

          • The damage from lack of activity can be mitigated with, funnily enough, more activity.

            The damage from too much hard activity....not so much.
    • Not just people with nice soft office jobs, people who have never known financial hardship. Wanting to work with your hands is understandable, but wanting to suffer the lifestyle that comes with it? Haha it's my second greatest life transplant fantasy after sending a libertarian back to the Gilded Age.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      You realize, don't you, that the Blacksmith in town was often one of the most prominent figures?

      Blacksmiths, butchers, bakers, millers, and merchantmen, - you know, the people you depend upon to make or supply the tools and supplies you need to provide for yourself - were the equivalent of today's "technology" workers (except they produced quantifiable things bereft of heavy sales and marketing). Just because they worked hard does not mean they weren't successful or profitable, and that they lived in caves.

  • I mean, if you work at Google in the anti-malware devision you've probably got a good idea about the types of exploits coming down the line. Now, if someone like that is acquiring skills they'd only really need if life as we know it were blasted back to the iron age...

  • by DRMShill (1157993) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @03:31PM (#42465549)

    Two conclusions I can draw from that video:

    1. The stereotype of blacksmiths looking like body builders must be pretty accurate.

    2. A good sword must have cost as much as a shitty car.

  • If he was MAN, he would have hammered that himself with a hammer, not a hammering machine.
  • This man is showing how to manufacture weapons. Surely he must be arrested, tried, and sentenced for this evil deed.

    And Google said they'd 'do no evil' my ass.

    But foolishly, folks, this is awesome cool that he shared the vid with all of us.

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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