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Old 23rd September 2017, 05:08 PM   #19
Jim McDougall
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Originally Posted by urbanspaceman
With reference for my request for information about the roll-forge still at use in WKC Solingen: I spoke to Andre Willms at WKC and he referred me to the Klingenmuseum in Solingen, but unfortunately they were not able to help either. Somebody must know!

Keith, in trying to respond to this I have to admit I am not familiar with metal working processes, so unclear what a 'roll forge' is. However, it seems possible that the 'rolling mill' might be what is meant?

The rolling mill was apparently around in England with Henry Cort and Funtley iron mills near Fareham, England with a patent around 1783. There seem to have been uses of this in Sweden earlier (1760s) and probably earlier. These apparently roll forged steel into the thinner stock for blades.

This further seems to have been known even as early as mid 17th century, as Robert Porter of Birmingham had a mill which supplied as many as 15,000 blades to Parliamentary forces in 1642. This in addition to the blades produced in Hounslow.
q.v. "The Making of Birmingham" Robert K. Dent (1894) p. 147, notes there were 'slitting and rolling' mills in several locations, including Digbeth, which was where Robert Porter had his mill. It states he converted his corn mill into a 'blade mill'.

The Royalist forces destroyed his mill after Edgehill (1643). However his son seems to have continued in Birmingham with blades as in 1686 he approached the Cutlers Company for approval.

In Aylward (1945, p.32) it is noted that the Hollow Sword Co. backed by Lord Dartmouth "...had a rolling mill at Hounslow, but in spite of this it petitioned for a patent for the importation, trial and marking of blades".
(this from "The Shotley Bridge Sword Blade Co." Appleby-Miller, 1943)

Interesting that this entry alludes to the Hollow Sword Co. which we know was centered at Shotley Bridge, but mentions a rolling mill at Hounslow. Hounslow by 1672 was in complete shambles by then, so why mention it as a viable mill for blades? Further it is clear that blades were to be brought in to be finished.

It sounds as if Birmingham production was pretty sound in these times, but their blades were not highly favored if I recall other notes.

Aylward (p.33) claims that small swords of Shotley Bridge may exist but none have tang marks which might identify them, and that it seems that the company imported forgings from Solingen which were ground, tempered and finished at Shotley. He provides lists of the makers there from Henry Hooper (Hoppe?) 1687; Adam Oley 1692; includes others Mohl and Oley and through the 18th century, with William Oley last in 1808.
Hermann Mohl is listed as a grinder 1687-1717.
Remember he is the one arrested with chests of blades in 1703 from Holland (Solingen blades) suggesting this practice of importation was right.

It does not seem that iron deposits or smelting were key to the location chosen for the Shotley premises, as the 'cementation' process required iron ore of higher quality, which was imported from Sweden to the port at Newcastle.

Regarding the case of Solingen, they apparently depended greatly on Swedish iron as well, though the deposits near there were high in manganese needed for pliable blades. Beech forests provided well for the carbon needed.
It seems there are mixed reviews on the actual production, the materials etc. so more work needed.

So why Shotley? Hounslow was still extant in some degree in 1672 and had mills, so why not refurbish it? Birmingham was active in production, but were their blades disfavored?
If Shotley and the Hollow Blade scam were just a front, why are Shotley makers listed through the entire 18th c. and why even into the 19th?

The rolling mills were introduced in Solingen in 1847.......Burton went there in 1860s and they were still using hammer and anvil. Why did the most industrious blade making center in the world not have these 'rolling mills' until mid 19th c. when it seems they were around early in the 17th and in England?

The more I read on these conundrums the more questions!
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