Join Date: May 2006
Yes, a type of forging was used in bronze blade production. It is "cold" forging, where the blade is first cast, then the edges are cold forged down to a very thin edge, bronze has the quality of fast and (relatively) easy work hardening, so by cold forging the blade edges down to a feather edge hardening and edge sharpening were achieved at the same time.
True forge technology is necessary to work meteoritic material, it needs to be brought to a weld heat and brought together into a homogenous mass, this is then forged out, turned back upon itself and rewelded, something in excess of 7 welds usually need to be taken before the impurities have been washed out of the material, when the material is clean it can be forged to shape and cold worked to the finished product.
Bronze is usually an iron/tin alloy that melts at about 1700F, iron melts at about 2800F and will forge weld at a little below this temperature, nickel melts at about 2600F. The 1700F necessary to melt bronze for casting can be brought up to the necessary temps for welding iron and nickel, the nickel will stick first then the iron. The 1700F needed to melt bronze is what I would call a "high cherry red", and is more than adequate to forge iron. Introduction of oxygen will raise the fire temperature to the necessary heat for welding.
Meteoritic material was used in Sub-Saharan Africa, and it was worked in primitive forges; the original Javanese/Balinese forges were not much more than a depression in the ground with air delivered to the fire through bambu tubes from feather bellows. You do not need high technology to weld iron. In fact, the traditional type of "hole in the ground" forge is still in use in some parts of Jawa, and probably is still in use in some parts of Bali.
The progression from bronze working to iron working in both Europe and in SE Asia was not a cessation of one type of production, and commencement of another, the two technologies and the two materials continued side by side for a long time, the "Bronze Age" and the "Iron Age" overlapped one another. In fact, I believe that investigation would demonstrate that bronze swords were in fact at no disadvantage at all when compared to early iron swords.
However, to return to the question of whether or not the KT dagger is of meteoritic material. My personal opinion is that the Jambon hypothesis still needs to be accepted for what it is:- a possibility.
I probably should mention that early iron blades would have been cold forged along the edges and work hardened, not quenched like a steel blade. It took a long time before smiths discovered that adding a little bit of carbon to the iron made it hardenable. In fact even in the Middle Ages in Europe, some swords were still iron, not steel, and what they called steel then was often what we would call "mild steel", ie, low carbon steel.