|What is Faggoting?|
|The word "faggot",
"fagot" or "fagott" is not overly popular in English but
not without interest. A faggot, according to Webster's, could be:
|As a verb, to faggot or faggoting means
|In German, faggoting metals would be described as
"gerben" or, in older versions "gärben", "gärwen". The
respective word family has just as many meanings, including the tanning of
leather, to mix doughy stuff (including food stuff and clay) by kneading and to
weld raw steel / iron pieces to a solid mass.
Related is the word "Garbe" = bundle of cereal plants after reaping or sheaf. You just as well could call it a fascicle / fagott.
|I have no idea how smiths in what now
is England called their "faggoting" around 500 AD or so, but the
German ones most likely did call it "gärwen" or something
Whatever. Fagoting (or gerben) in a general sense obviously just means the formation of one piece of iron / steel by hammer welding several pieces. You could talk about faggoting your bloom instead of compacting it, and so on. I won't. I will use the term "faggoting" exclusively for:
|A rather interstting if ominous point aboht faggoting is:|
|Weird - but there you are! My guess is that the people researching iron and steel history had no first hand experience of forging and just didn't know what a real smith was doing all day long. It's in some way similar to Engelhardt's complete ignorance of the pattern-welding that was going on all aorund him. There are none so blind as those who will not see.|
|In an old-fashioned bakery the kids
on occasion were allowed to make their own cake from pieces of dough left over
from making the serious stuff. Let's say there were pieces of white dough,
light brown sweet chocolate dough, and dark brown bitter chocolate dough. You
could of course just throw the lumps at random into a form, bake the mix, and
get a patchy looking multicolored cake with varying flavors.
If you want a homogeneous cake with one color and one flavor throughout, you would do some "gerben" in the sense of kneading. Small kids would do that. The older ones were motivated to learn a few things on the side and made their dough in a way that resembles what smiths would do with pieces of different iron / steel:
|If you start with 7 layers - 2 dark brown, 2
light brown, 3 white - each about 2 mm thick, you have 14 layers after the
first folding, 28 after the 2nd, 56 after the 3rd,..., 7 times 2 times 2 times
2 .... times 2 (multiply 2 by 2 as often as you fold).
Excuse me, I forgot this is an advanced module. So the number of layers NF after F foldings is obviously
|An ancient smith didn't use a rolling pin but a hammer for the "stretching", and he did it at "welding temperature". Modern smiths in essence do use a kind of rolling pin that they call a roller. In contrast to dough the welding is not "automatic" but takes some consideration (I'll get to that). You loose some dough in the process whenever you cut of the edges after rolling to get a rectangular piece again; and you loose some iron every time you fold. No so much because you cut off the edges but because at the welding temperature you burn some of the iron, you form iron oxide or scale that you must remove.|
|In both cases the uniformity increases with the
number of foldings. So folding a lot is good? Not really. There are several
reasons why there is an optimum number of foldings:
The long and short of all that is:
|If you start from very inhomogeneous
materials with respect to the carbon and possibly phosphorus concentration that
is also full of slag particles, proper faggoting will make it far more
homogeneous, with less total slag content (some is squeezed out while folding),
and only small slag particles (because of all the banging and stretching). But
no matter how good you are at faggoting, the final product will not be as good
as one made from more homogeneous steel with fewer slag inclusions.
Quite elementary - and very important. Good blade smiths around 300 AD (give or take a few centuries) had already reached the zenith of their craft. You, the smith in modern times, and any smith since then, cannot do better in terms of smithing skills. You only can do better because the materials you work with became better.
|We might guess that the improvements in smelting technology produced blooms good enough for making a sword from one piece of faggoted steel around 1000 AD (give or take a few centuries). I'll get to that. But before I do this I must ask the tough if onerous question:|
|The answer, you guessed it, is
simple: who knows? I certainly don't and I don't think anybody else would know.
There is a reason for this ignorance. It is difficult to impossible to
determine if an old iron / steel artifact has been faggoted. There are several
reasons for this deplorable state of affairs:
|However, those are general problems. In a specific cases, something can be done and has been done. I' will first introduce and discuss the rathe recent work of Stefan Maeder, who more or less introduced faggoting to the archaeological world that so far has igmpred it. Then I will give examples from finds I made or was allerted to.|
|Japanese Polishing and Faggoting|
|With experience, you can always assess the quality of an old forged blade by looking closely at the blade - provided that it has been properly "polished". Looking at a (more or less black) as-forged surface or on a roughly ground one only betrays big defects like major cracks or huge inclusions. A perfect polish, producing a mirror-like surface may also not show much structural detail. If, however, your polishing procedure polishes different materials differently, you may now see something. That will automatically happen if the particles in your polishing slurry are not as hard as the very hard (martensite) parts of your blade but harder than the bulk steel.|
|Time to read up what I have written long ago
about polishing. Here
it is. And time to realize that early mankind, out to make that perfectly
polished blade, would more or less automatically run across polishing
procedures that render visible some structural details of blade on a
"macro level", i.e. you can see it with the "naked eye" or
at most by looking through a simple magnifying glass.
That part of early mankind that got totally obsessed with blade polishing are the Japanese. Others might have done it too; we simply don't know. Since no or very few Western swords older than 800 years or so survived with their original polished surface, we simply do not know how well all those Celtic, Romans, Merovigian, Viking, and so on, swords were polished.
|The Japanese do have well preserved old swords
and, more important, their ancient art of polishing and evaluating polished
sword blades survived until today.
Here is an example from a Japanes "tachi", forged around 1370:
|Japanese polishing makes the layered structure well visible. Of course, we can only see it because the welds are stucturally different from the rest.|
|That's why Stefan
Maeder had three blades or parts of blades from South Germany evaluated by a
Japanese polishing expert. Since all blades were heavily corroded, only parts
remained after polishing down to the metal. What Maeder found out for his three
specimen is rather interesting.
Here is one example:
|What we see is:
|Maeder thus proved his claim that the
Japanese polishing method does allow to "see" certain structures of
Western sword blades. He did not prove his
other claim that modern metallographic methods cannot do the same because he
did not make a comparison.
Here is another example of what you see after "Japanese polishing": a pattern welded blade with three twisted layers in the center. Once more there are distinctive signs of faggoting. The pronounced structure (white line) of some weld seams between the twisted rods might indicate not-so-good welding there or the use of brazing with a "speiss" flux.
|It is thus possible to detect
faggoting - up to a point. We just have almost no relevant data. There are, no
doubt, some investigations into the matter that I'm not aware of, but all we
can say from the examples above is that faggoting was known at least to some
smiths around 600 AD. Most likely it was known much earlier but I have no proof
of that right now (2015).
Much later (Jan. 2018) I do have some hints that faggoting was known rather early by Celtish smiths. More to that lower down.
|Faggoting requires extensive and conscientious fire welding. Just compacting your bloom also employs fire welding but not in a conscientious way. In fact, faggoting only makes sense if you do not produce too many new defects in the process. This brings us right back to fire welding as the most important technology in iron and steel working of blooms (as opposed to crucible steel).|
|Stefan Maeder meanwhile was able to analyze another sword by "Japanese Polishing". It is a 300 BC Celtic Sword from La Tène. Here is the picture:|
|While a lot is said about the power of Japanese polishing for revealing structures, nothing is said about what, exactly, one sees. My guess is that we look at the result of faggoting a sandwich of two steels with just a few foldings.|
|The Sword from Singen|
|Singen am Hohentwiel is a town in the heart of Suebia and thus also old Celtic country. In 1950 a remarkable iron sword was found in one of many graves discovered there. The people in charge allowed it to be investigated by metallurgists. The results were published in a somewhat obscure "Festschrift" 1); I give to you in full.|
|I have already covered that sword here, so I will only make one statement here: What you see below It looks very much like faggoted steel. It that is true, at least one smith in Suebia (where else?) knew how to faggot iron and steel as early as about 750 BC!|
"EIN GRABFUND DER JÜNGEREN URNENFELDERZEIT MIT EISENSCHWERT VON
SINGEN AM HOHENTWIEL"; p.37
P.O Boll. T.H. Erismann, W.J. Muister; Dübendorf: "Metallkundliche Unbtersuchungen einws frühen mitteleuropäischen Eisenschwerts",; . 45
Frühes Eisen in Europa. Festschrift Walter Ulrich Guyan zu seinem 70. Geburtstag (Deutsch) Hardcover 1981 by Harold Haefner (Herausgeber)
Books and Other Major Sources
11.2.2 Metallurgy of Celtic Swords
Critical Museum Guide: Landesmuseum Württemberg; Württemberg State Museum, Stuttgart, Germany
11.3 Pattern Welding 11.3.1 Background to Pattern Welding
Old Suebian Things
Large Pictures 1
Sword Polishing and Revealing the Pattern / Structure
11.4.3 Ulfberht Swords
The Frankish Empire And Its Swords
Some Old Names Around Steel and Iron
11.3.2 More to Pattern Welding
Large Pictures chapter 11.4
11.6.4 Metallurgy of the Japanese Sword
11.1.3 The The Luristan Iron Sword
11.6.3 Making a Japanese Sword - Part 2
Large Pictures Chapter 11.6
Early Iron Swords
Moravian 9th Century Swords
Tricks of Smiths
12.2.5 Static Properties of Composite Swords
The Luristan Project - Results
Metallography of 8th / 9th Century Swords and Saxes
11.3.4 Metallography of Pattern Welded Swords
11.6.2 Making a Japanese Sword - Part 1
Sword Places: La Tène
Additional Pictures - Chapter 11.1
© H. Föll (Iron, Steel and Swords script)