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Old 20th November 2017, 06:20 AM   #1
Bryce
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Default Wootz Shamshir

G'day Guys,

I have recently acquired my first shamshir. It has a large heavy blade of kirk narduban wootz which is 36mm wide at the hilt and 840mm long and weighs 1050g. It has engraved "Shah Abbas" and "Lion" cartouches.

Can anyone tell me what the "face" peering over the lion's back represents? Is it something to do with the sun?

Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 20th November 2017, 09:53 PM   #2
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Congratulations for the wonderful shamshir.The second cartouches contains an image of a Lion and Sun and and is typically a Persian sealing mark placed by the master in the middle of the 19th century.
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Old 21st November 2017, 12:42 AM   #3
Battara
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To me it does look like the sun, which is a Persian motif.

The blade looks like a ladder pattern wootz. Very nice.
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Old 21st November 2017, 12:53 AM   #4
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OMG I had to look if I have still mine, yours is so similar!
It's what they call a Syrian/Badawi sayf with a very nice Persian blade.

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Old 21st November 2017, 04:45 AM   #5
Jim McDougall
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That really does seem like an outstanding blade, and most unusually so for these type of Persian trade blades. I personally know little of metallurgy in these wootz patterns, but the examples of these 'Assad Adullah' blades I have seen are usually with channels or fullers, wider blade and typically of lesser quality wootz patterns.

According to the brilliant article by Oliver Pinchot, "The Persian Shamshir and the Signature of Assad Allah", ("Arms Collecting", The Journal of the Canadian Arms Collecting Society, Vol. 40, #4, Feb. 2002), these kinds of blades bearing a cartouche and a pictogram representing 'Assad Allah' (=Lion of God), began appearing late 18th and into 19th century.

This represented a marketing shift for Persian blades into varied markets, particularly to those in Arabia, where they were highly favored over others.
It is noted that among possible reasons for the continued use of the name of this famed sword smith of centuries earlier, one potentially feasible is a tradition recognizing Assad Allah and his contributions to Persian sword guild.
An exemption from taxes for 300 years said to have been granted by Shah Abbas (1567-1628) for the swordsmiths guild, may have prompted this commemorative use of the Assad Allah name.
Aside from this tradition, the imbuement of quality certainly was present as well.

It is noted also that the Kirk Narduban term was a transliteration from Turkish 'kirk' (= forty) and 'merdeven' (=steps/stairs) , while more commonly termed ' The Forty Steps of Mohammed'.

A very, very nice example of sayf Badawi!

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 22nd November 2017 at 03:27 PM.
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Old 21st November 2017, 08:41 PM   #6
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G'day Guys,

Thank you for your replies. This large, heavy, plain blade fits the description of earlier made shamshir blades. If the Lion pictogram began appearing in the mid to Late 18th century, does this mean this sword was made then in the style of earlier blades, or was the Lion pictogram in use earlier than mid to late 18th century? Does anyone know of the earliest dated example with the lion pictogram?

Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 22nd November 2017, 08:43 AM   #7
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Bryce,
I agree with you regarding the the blade being earlier form, 18th century is appropriate estimate. The lion cartouche is original to the blade. Absolutely magnificent shamshir with top quality beautiful wootz blade.
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Old 22nd November 2017, 03:20 PM   #8
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Bryce,
With regard to your original question,
The lion pictogram is a stylized version of the Sun and Lion (Shir O Khorshid)which is an early symbol of Iran from about 12th century. It derives from old Babylonian astrology, the sun in the house of Leo, and became representative of Shia Islam. I am not theologically versed to explain the further dynamics, however, the Sun and Lion became the national emblem of the Qajar Dynasty (1794-1925). The attached image is the Pahlavi version of the symbol.

As I previously mentioned, Oliver Pinchot describes the use of this stylized lion pictograph well in his most important article, " ON THE PERSIAN SHAMSHIR AND THE SIGNATURE OF ASSAD ALLAH", ("Arms Collecting", Vol. 40, #1, Feb, 2002):

"....the remarkable popularity of Assad Allah blades during the Qajar era, throughout Persia, the Near East and Central Asia, then was the result of careful exploitation of an established name.
Despite the reduced quality of the product, clear marketing in a form which was readily recognizable ( i.e. THROUGH THE USE OF THE LION PICTOGRAM) proved especially effective, particularly among the illiterate.
The quality of Assad Allah blades produced during the Qajar era also reflected the supplanting of edged weapons by repeating firearms, and the dissipation of the quasi-mystical reverence in which swords had been formerly held.
In regions where the sword remained an important spiritual device and primary weapon, as among the Bedouin Arab discussed above, the demand for Persian blades remained consistently high".

The fact that this blade is heavier, and the apparent high quality of the Kirk Narduban steel, seems to suggest an earlier example using this well known pictogram, if what I am considering is correct. This does not mean that the blade has to correspond to the beginning of the Qajar dynasty (1794) as this was simply the era in which the use of this device became popular. The pictogram itself was a stylized version of the symbol long used in Iran, and may well have predated the Qajar adoption of the sun and lion.

The examples of blades I have seen with this pictogram usually have multiple channels , and though heavy, do not have the sweeping radius of the shamshir form as seen here. I have considered them probably first quarter of 19th century+.

Again, very nice example which may reflect earlier use of the Qajar pictogram with the Assad Allah signature, which in effect, seems to have become a kind of brand which paralleled the running wolf and name of Andrea Ferara in the European parlance.

In much the same manner regarding the Andrea Ferara name, on Assad Allah, L.A. Mayer ("Islamic Armourers and Their Work", 1962, p.26), notes him as one of the finest smiths, but most elusive and mysterious. Also that no contemporary chronicle mentions him as a living being and there are no historical details about his life or work.
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Old 22nd November 2017, 04:06 PM   #9
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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The entire document by Oliver Pinchot is online at

http://auctionsimperial.com/om-the-...llah/?locale=en


and is a brilliant rendition; as noted by Jim.
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Old 22nd November 2017, 04:23 PM   #10
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Default Sound of a Shamshir

A really nice blade, congratulations!

Roland

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Old 22nd November 2017, 04:39 PM   #11
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These multi grooved weapons are related to the Tears of the Afflicted blades are they not ?

See

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...tears+afflicted


for detailed descriptions of this style.
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Old 22nd November 2017, 04:54 PM   #12
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Well-observed, Jim and Ibrahiim. It is a handsome blade, congrats Bryce.

In this case, the likeliest explanation is that a blade dating from the late 17th-early 18th century was embellished with the cartouches containing the name and titles of Shah Abbas and the shir ve khorshid or Persian Lion and Sun during the late 18th or early 19th century. This would have been done to increase the value of the blade (and prestige of the owner.)

Period writers, notably British diplomat Sir William Ouseley, mention the considerable increase in value the Assad Allah signature could confer in Qajar-era Persia. See footnote 43 in the paper Ibrahiim kindly linked for the complete citation.
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Old 22nd November 2017, 07:50 PM   #13
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So that's what the triple fullers on mine are for . swishing!
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Old 22nd November 2017, 11:38 PM   #14
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G'day Guys,

The spine of the blade at the hilt is about 7mm wide and appears to have a forging flaw that has been filled with another metal. From what I have read on other posts, this seems common with these blades. If the smith was skilled enough to ensure there were no flaws in the face of the blade, why did they leave open forge lines on the spine? Was it because it doesn't effect the structural integrity of the blade, so wasn't considered a problem?

Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 23rd November 2017, 02:13 AM   #15
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Sorry Guys,
I just had another thought regarding the open forging line on the blade spine. The smith obviously wasn't happy with it and that is why he filled it in. If most/all? nicely patterned shamshirs of this period have this feature, then the only reasonable explanation is that it is an unavoidable result of the low temperature forging technique used to make blades with this wootz pattern?

Can anyone answer this for me?

Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 27th November 2017, 10:58 PM   #16
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G'day Guys,

I am still trying to decipher the lion pictogram. I understand that the "face-like" object over the lion's back most likely represents the sun, but does it also contain a stylized and partially inverted rendering of "Assad allah"?

Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 28th November 2017, 04:55 AM   #17
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The cleanest wootz was at the bottom part of the ingot, the dirtiest with a lot of slag- at the top. The smith partially cut and bent the ingot to use the clean part for the edge and the sides, with the lower quality part of it forming the inner core of the blade. The long “crack” on the spine is the seam of that bending. It is usually filled with brass or silver wire. It is not a forging flaw, it is a hallmark of a wootz blade.
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Old 28th November 2017, 08:22 PM   #18
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G'day Ariel,

Thank you for answering this for me. Where did you learn this?

Cheers,

Bryce
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Old 29th November 2017, 03:44 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
The cleanest wootz was at the bottom part of the ingot, the dirtiest with a lot of slag- at the top. The smith partially cut and bent the ingot to use the clean part for the edge and the sides, with the lower quality part of it forming the inner core of the blade. The long “crack” on the spine is the seam of that bending. It is usually filled with brass or silver wire. It is not a forging flaw, it is a hallmark of a wootz blade.



Thank you for this excellent explanation Ariel!
For metallurgy Neanderthals like me its great to have this kind of insight given that I can really grasp.
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Old 30th November 2017, 12:26 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryce
G'day Ariel,

Thank you for answering this for me. Where did you learn this?

Cheers,

Bryce



Hello Bryce,

I have exactly the same question as you, where did Ariel learned this?

Because there is imho a temperature problem. Wootz is forged at low temperatures of 750-850°C (I forgot the exact value) but fire welding requires a temperature of ~1100°C. At this temperature the pattern would get lost. So I'm quite confused about the fire welding theory. I hope, Ariel can solve this problem.


Roland
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Old 30th November 2017, 02:12 PM   #21
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All wootz blades I have appear to have exactly the same material for all their parts. Some are laminated/layered but some others appear to be monosteel.
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Old 30th November 2017, 03:24 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
All wootz blades I have appear to have exactly the same material for all their parts. Some are laminated/layered but some others appear to be monosteel.


Hi Marius,

wootz blades are never laminated. That is the huge difference between wootz and pattern welded/laminated steel. Wootz got its pattern without any laminations. European researchers realised this difference not before the middle of the 19th ct..

I think the wootz pattern exists because the steel is never fully liquid during the melting process like nowadays. This causes a massive growth of the crystalline carbon structures we admire. The first job of the wootz-smith is to manipulate the ingot in different ways for different patterns (hammering, rolling etc.).

European swords were forged at a temperature of over 1000°C, the steel is almost yellow heated. Wootz is forged at the much lower temperatures I mentioned and is only cherry-red during the forging process, which is much cooler than yellow heat.

The main problem for modern researchers is that antique wootz artists made a huge secret around their techniques including telling lies to visitors.


Best wishes,
Roland
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Old 30th November 2017, 05:04 PM   #23
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Hello Roland, and thank you for the explanation!

To my knowledge, the term "laminated" refferring to steel implies the respective object is made of multiple layers of steel, and NOT necessarily of multiple layers of different steels. So basically, if you bend a hot bar of steel over itself and press the two bends together, you "laminate" the blade.

I believe there is some misconception among us that "laminated" steel has to be composed of layers of different steels.

And I certainly have seen, and maybe even have one, swords made of at least two layers of wootz steel.

But maybe I am wrong about that...

Regarding to wootz making technique... yes, it is still a secret despite the works of Anosov, Verhoeven and Pendray but there are some smiths today that consistently produce wootz that comes very close to the antique one (have a look at the link below)

http://gotscha.nl/uk-Bulat-Symposium-2011.htm

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Old 1st December 2017, 01:36 AM   #24
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There would be no difference between a bar of monosteel bent over on itself multiple times and just an identical bar of the same monosteel used as is. As a matter of fact, the laminated one might be worse: the layers might not forge together to perfection without leaving defective spaces between them.

All mechanical damascus blades require steels of different carbon content: old European bloomery steel , Japanese Tamahagane, modern blades. Otherwise, there will never be a differential oxidation (damascus pattern) after etching.

Recommend the book by Manfred Sachse” On Damascus steel”.

The “pioneering work” of Anosov is, IMHO, overrated: Russian captain Masalsky witnessed Persian forges and published the description of their methods. Moreover, by that time Russians were already in Central Asian Khanates and unquestionably served as a source of information. Anosov indeed made wootz ( bulat) and learned the simplest rules of forging it ( low temperature), but the fine points of producing beautiful patterns by careful hammering were beyond him. He claimed to produce Kara Taban and Kara Khorasan blades, but in actuality all surviving blades from his workshop are of rather simplest Shams.

Yes, there are some blades with different wootz patterns. This was mainly to show the proficiency of the bladesmith. But a similar thing was done with malicious purposes: Russian officer Maksimov wrote a paper some 150 years ago in which he described bulat sabers made by “Asiatic smiths” out of broken blades forged together to sell them to Russian officers at high prices. Understandably, he recommended Zlatoust blades:-)


Yes, there are a few contemporary masters capable of forging “OK” bulat short blades. But there is perhaps only a single one able to make a long blade comparable to the best Persian or Indian ones: Georgian master Zaqro Nonikashvili. Google him.
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Old 1st December 2017, 08:59 AM   #25
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one reason for folding monosteel is it distributes any imperfections, inclusions more evenly. yes, if any of the layers do not fuse, the piece is junk. one reason swords were expensive. this occurred with bloomery or 'bog' steels which were essentially a spongy matrix of discrete particles of varying composition.

modern steels, it not neccessary as they essentially do not have any imperfections if they were made correctly.

experiments with using two steels of differing carbon content were done, laminating them a number of times and testing the carbon content of each layer. after about 8 folds (64 layers)* the higher content steel's carbon content was diffusing into the lower and eventually (i forget how many layers) it was essentially a mono steel of carbon content intermediate of the starting values.

japanese swords were made from steels from two different sources, one too high in carbon, the other too low. the laminating into hundreds of layers was to mix the two steels, done out of necessity, not to produce a pattern. the hamon pattern along the edge is a function of the heat treatment changing the crystallisation, not the layers. they did use a higher carbon edge section, a milder spine, and a softer core all welded into one, but that is not pattern welding/laminating. the hamon is brought out visible by polishing, not by etching. the areas outside the hamon are polished, not etched, as well. visual elements there are defects, some mild enough to ignore. some mean scrapping the blade and starting over. again, a reason the bl;ade of a master smith is so expensive.

it's like those sticks of coloured epoxy putty, cut off a bit and you have an inner and outer layer of different colour, one is the resin, the other the hardener. you mix them by flattening with your fingers, folding, flattening, folding, rolling, twisting, balling, flattening, etc until the layers diffuse together. not enough folding and you see the layers, too much and they diffuse together and more folding just a waste of effort.

* - related: try folding a piece of paper into layers, how many times can you fold it?
see: This Link
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Old 1st December 2017, 03:29 PM   #26
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Old 1st December 2017, 03:31 PM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
There would be no difference between a bar of monosteel bent over on itself multiple times and just an identical bar of the same monosteel used as is. As a matter of fact, the laminated one might be worse: the layers might not forge together to perfection without leaving defective spaces between them.

[...]
But there is perhaps only a single one able to make a long blade comparable to the best Persian or Indian ones: Georgian master Zaqro Nonikashvili. Google him.


Hello Ariel,

I beg to differ with your first statement!
Folding and hammering a piece of monosteel over itself serves the purpose of eliminating impurities and homogenizing the carbon content. It was a process widely used in the sword making in Persia and India. That's precisely why so many Tulwars ansd Shamshirs show clear signs of delamination these days.

In fact, the crack in the spine of Bryce's sword is a clear example of delamination.

Regarding the method of Zaqro Nonikashvili, in my posting I even provided a link to his method. And yes, he is probably the one who produces the best wootz. The Russian Ivan Kirpichev is also good but his results are not so consistent and he makes only small knives.
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Old 2nd December 2017, 12:27 AM   #28
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Sorry if I was less than precise.
By monosteel I mean truly uniform industrial grade European steel manufactured under tight conditions and with meticulous quality control. They did not require additional homogenization. Surely, lower quality steel manufactured in rather primitive and poorly controlled conditions will have variable composition in different areas. But monosteel Solingen, Birmingham and Zlatoust blades did not delaminate. Damascus gun barrels from Liege did, simply because they were deliberately composed of bars with different carbon content.

And yes, the seam on the spine might look like delamination. But not quite. The edges of the ingot with most impurities, slag and variable composition just could not be fused when forged under low temperatures needed for wootz. More precisely, it is not a delamination ( which implies past good lamination ), but an almost inavoidable defect of forging. They can be barely noticeable or ugly as hell. I have several wootz blades with them.

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Old 2nd December 2017, 04:38 PM   #29
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Hello Ariel,

I doubt that the crack in Bryce's blade is a manufacturing flaw. If it were, it would have been repaired with some bronze filling. I still believe it is a crack that appeared much later in the blade's life as a result of delamination. However, which of us is right would be rather impossible to check without a careful metallographic examination.

Moreover, even if it were a forging flaw, the precise forging process that involves fusing the edges of an ingot that was bent over itself is "lamination." So even of the defect appeared during the process itself, it would still be "delamination." Well at least that's how we called them during our metallurgy classes at the university.

Cheers!

Marius
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Old 2nd December 2017, 07:20 PM   #30
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You might be correct.
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