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Old 20th September 2019, 09:19 AM   #1
MForde
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Default Identifying Modern Wootz

Hello all,

With modern-made wootz steel (or, as this is such a complex subject, a better term might be modern-made wootz-looking steel) now being made in the West and India how is everyone protecting themselves from the reproductions and fakes that must already be on the market? We have many examples, with provenance, of original wootz blades that are still in pristine condition so we cannot always use that factor as an indicator and artificial ageing of high carbon steel is an easy process to undertake. I'm curious as to how us antique weaponry collectors will adapt.

Matt
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Old 20th September 2019, 10:16 AM   #2
Ian
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Hi Matt,

There are two schools of thought about discussing the faking of weapons. One says that we should know as much as possible and should discuss these issues openly so that collectors can be better informed. The other says we need to not tell the fakers how to make better fakes, and therefore should share our thoughts selectively with just those we know are legit.

Almost certainly there are people who visit these pages to get ideas about what weapons to copy and how to make their new pieces look genuine and old. Folks can browse these pages without becoming a member, and some of them may be fakers of edged weapons. However, many of our members were casual visitors before eventually deciding to sign up and participate, so not every lurker has nefarious intent!

Using the PM function or email with other members is a good way to communicate if you have an item that particularly concerns you, and you want someone to give an opinion about it being real or fake.

Personally, I'm in the camp of not making it any easier for fakers to fool people and steal their money. There are some excellent resources and references on this site's static pages, as well as numerous discussions about wootz on the forum. Some of these are good "defensive" tools that can help collectors spot the obvious fakes. And remember it's not just the steel, but the hilt, scabbard, inscriptions, etc., that go into assessing whether an object is genuine. Broad knowledge helps and is perhaps the best defense against a faker.

Ian
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Old 20th September 2019, 11:51 AM   #3
ariel
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Modern knives made out of crucible steel do not even approach the old wootz-y pattern and nobody except for Nonikashvili succeeded in forging a modern long wootz blade.
The metallurgical secret of wootz is no secret anymore. Modern metallurgists cracked it open.
The real secret is a process of smithing: how to force the dendrites to get organized in a beautiful pattern? Here scientific methods are powerless: we are talking about minute tricks , such as temperature, force and directions of hammer blows etc. We have irretrievably lost this information formerly transmitted orally and practically in a father-to-son manner.
I might not worry about forgeries. One glance at the blade is likely to be sufficient to identify modern manufacture. Machine-generated music is good for the elevators: it cannot compose Bach’s Prelude in E-moll.
Anosov got all the technical details from his “industrial spies” , but still, his blades were just poor imitations of true Persian or Indian wootz.
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Old 20th September 2019, 09:59 PM   #4
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Ariel said it quite well.

To illustrate this, I include a link to the best modern wootz patterns I have seen, made by the Russian bladesmith Ivan Kirpichev.

In the first blade you can see he managed to reproduce the Kirk Narduban and the "rose" patterns...
... yet the watering pattern is easily distiguishable from the antique ones.

And he told me that he doesn't manage to get this quality of patterning with consistency.

https://knifeandcraft.com/en/ivan-kirpichev
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Old 20th September 2019, 11:35 PM   #5
ariel
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Kirk narduban and “Rose” are easy: they are just superficial embellishments. The blade is notched either across its width or as a rounded point, then forged, polished and etched. Notching disturbs the architecture of dendrites, and... voila!
The real trick is to obtain a sophisticated pattern on the rest of the blade.


This is why I am always amused when I read some notes about sorts of wootz:
“ The highest is Kirk narduban, after that there are Kara taban, Kara Khorasan and the lowest , - Sham”
Kirk and rose can be made on any variety of wootz and I have seen them on a lowly Sham:-) And, BTW, some people claim that the “ non-pretty” Sham and the barely recognizable Indian” salt and pepper” one are mechanically the best.
The “ beautiful” ones broke on impact and there is a case when an expensive blade fell on the floor and shattered to smithereens

Last edited by ariel; 21st September 2019 at 04:44 AM.
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Old 21st September 2019, 03:49 AM   #6
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Default Skill is Necessary

Ariel,

I agree with you completely. Forging the old wootz blades was a matter of learned skill. I am a fairly good finish carpenter but even if I were given exhaustively complete plans plus the best of hand and mechanical tools, I am sure that I couldn't make a Chippendale chair to match those made by the old masters. Not only did they do their work with hand tools only, they were able to make a good living in that labor intensive environment. To be able to do this, one needs a long and diligent apprenticeship under an old master who not only molds your hand/eye skills but also your mindset.

Sincerely,
RobT
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Old 13th January 2021, 03:26 PM   #7
ALEX
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
...Modern knives made out of crucible steel do not even approach the old wootz-y pattern and nobody except for Nonikashvili succeeded in forging a modern long wootz blade.
...
Ariel,
I am with you... but... I saw Nonikashvili's wootz shamshir, it is impressive to say the least, the fittings are incredible, but I still doubt whether he forged that particular blade from scratch or reused old Persian wootz blade. There are other wootz blades he made shown online, most are not as impressive as that shamshir blade, not even close... why is that?
Also, have you seen
THIS post? In 2007, in London, this wootz Kilij blade was made. Not as bold as Nonikashvili wootz shamshir, but just as good as the rest of his blades (both punt and sarcasm intended). Please correct me if I am wrong and lack understanding of his work.

THIS is referenced shamshir, in his hands (post 155). Did he made that wootz blade, i.e. forged it from scratch, or did he 'finished' aka 'made' an old blade with fittings, inlay, etc.? The other wootz blades he made do not show the same quality pattern. Are there other of his swords with similar pattern to the above shamshir?

Last edited by ALEX; 13th January 2021 at 03:50 PM.
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Old 13th January 2021, 05:31 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobT
...I am a fairly good finish carpenter but even if I were given exhaustively complete plans plus the best of hand and mechanical tools, I am sure that I couldn't make a Chippendale chair to match those made by the old masters. Not only did they do their work with hand tools only, they were able to make a good living in that labor intensive environment. To be able to do this, one needs a long and diligent apprenticeship under an old master who not only molds your hand/eye skills but also your mindset.

Sincerely,
RobT
This instantly reminded me of 'The Patriot', Benjamin Martin and his obsession with chairs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=2lvz3v_dtyA
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Old 8th February 2021, 09:26 AM   #9
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I was hoping for more meaningful discussion... so allow me to reignite the subject. Here are 2 newly made wootz blades: one on the left, next to old Assad'Allah blade (for comparison), is made in Turkey. One on the right is made in Finland. The first is a sword blade. Both look just as good as original, and stunning work.
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Old 9th February 2021, 07:30 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian
Hi Matt,

There are two schools of thought about discussing the faking of weapons. One says that we should know as much as possible and should discuss these issues openly so that collectors can be better informed. The other says we need to not tell the fakers how to make better fakes, and therefore should share our thoughts selectively with just those we know are legit.

Almost certainly there are people who visit these pages to get ideas about what weapons to copy and how to make their new pieces look genuine and old. Folks can browse these pages without becoming a member, and some of them may be fakers of edged weapons. However, many of our members were casual visitors before eventually deciding to sign up and participate, so not every lurker has nefarious intent!

Using the PM function or email with other members is a good way to communicate if you have an item that particularly concerns you, and you want someone to give an opinion about it being real or fake.

Personally, I'm in the camp of not making it any easier for fakers to fool people and steal their money. There are some excellent resources and references on this site's static pages, as well as numerous discussions about wootz on the forum. Some of these are good "defensive" tools that can help collectors spot the obvious fakes. And remember it's not just the steel, but the hilt, scabbard, inscriptions, etc., that go into assessing whether an object is genuine. Broad knowledge helps and is perhaps the best defense against a faker.

Ian
Anyway we could develop a list of wootz experts willing to take questions and give opinions on a blade?
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Old 10th February 2021, 11:07 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mross
Anyway we could develop a list of wootz experts willing to take questions and give opinions on a blade?
Very good idea. Perhaps a separate thread dedicated to the subject?
Also, 1. I do not think it is even possible to re-forge old wootz blade without completely losing the pattern. Re-grinding-re-shaping - yes. but re-melting old wootz - no. 2. Lets not associate all modern wootz smiths with fakery. The masters I am familiar with, whose wootz blades are shown above are legit smiths with passion for wootz. some spent decades perfecting their skills and achieved great results. They're making new, not selling antique blades. They fool no one! I actually did commission a wootz blade, and witnessed it being made (from scratch, not re-forging). I cannot disclose the process here, but I can attest to the fact.
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Old 10th February 2021, 05:44 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ALEX
I actually did commission a wootz blade, and witnessed it being made (from scratch, not re-forging). I cannot disclose the process here, but I can attest to the fact.
Great!

It would be interesting to see the pattern you have on your new blade and see how does it compare to the antique wootz.
Is it from the Finnish blacksmith who claims to have reproduced the antique wootz pattern?!

You can see below one small knife Kirpichev offered me to buy (blade length 8 cm).

PS: If I remember correctly, Verhoeven describes a method of recovering wootz pattern after it was lost during re-heating.
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Last edited by mariusgmioc; 10th February 2021 at 07:08 PM.
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Old 10th February 2021, 06:17 PM   #13
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I recently saw this video: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=iwsYool-JVI

The smith uses modern bearing steel (52100?) melted in a crucible with small amount of powdered graphite and glass. The knife produced from the ingot had a remarkably wootz like pattern.
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Old 10th February 2021, 11:26 AM   #14
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Here is a closeup of another blade made last year by another, unknown master, He is making these blades in his yard in the village in Central Asia, they call them "bulat"/Russian for wootz. They use certain local steel, not from India and not from old blades, they do not have any of it, they use the cheapest and simplest methods and tools, basically firewood and hammer, to make it. The result does not match the best antique Persian blades, but not too shabby.
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