Dwine – Broadseax

Dwine – intransigent verb \ˈdwīn\

: to waste or pine away: languish

– Merriam-Webster Dictionary

 

Between the words in old sagas, between the rhyme and meter, I sense a presence—the words not said, the gods not named. I imagine these characters, the unspoken ones. One of them is called Dwine. In the world of mythology there is balance, what is lost in one place is found somewhere else. As the warrior diminishes, something else grows. His name is like the sound of bare branches in the wind. The second half of life is his domain. The force and wrath and strength of the young, that drains away as time passes goes somewhere. It goes into Dwine.

Germanic peoples during the migration period carried elaborate swords with pattern welded blades and bright ornamented scabbards and hilts. They also carried big knives, which grew larger over the period. These were brutal unlovely things; the blades had a strange looking humped back with a straight edge. Archeologists call this family of knives seaxes, after the Germanic word for ‘knife’.

 

Swords embody a world of stories, of dragon slayers, leaders, and noblemen whose ancestors are gods and kings. The knife has a different story and like the gods I imagine, it is untold. It’s an implied story, unlovely as the blades themselves. The characters are common folk, not descended from kings, yet their story is older. The seax cut hearth wood and slave-taker, it protected crops not castle walls. The gnarled-handed people who held these knives called on names that weren’t recorded.

 

 

I forged the blade for this Seax as a demonstration at a smith’s moot called CanIron VIII with help striking from my friend and fellow swordsmith Jeff Helmes.

The blade is constructed from five strands, the four spine strands are nine twisted layers each and the edge bar is 700 layers of folded steel.

 

I’ve been exploring seax hilts on paper for years. It’s a challenging form to design with few examples of intact hilts. Petr Floriánek has been doing allot of work in exploring ancient Germanic aesthetics, especially as it relates to the seax. His work has inspired me to look deeper into this form.

I decided to follow my sense of the grimness of these blades. I chose oak for the grip and leather for the sheath. Oak has commonness; it’s the wood of the spade handle, the door lintel. It’s a peasant wood with roots in the oldest myths. It’s the wood of Thor and Taranus and Zeus— lightning gods and unpredictable protectors.

 

Blank faces look out from the ferules, turning away from the centerline of the knife to be clothed in expression along the edge and spine, where the blade speaks its knife language.

The sheath is woven with dream creatures, neither man nor beast, twisting in and out of sense.

 

 

The grip is carved from oak with skeletal beaked serpents.

 

 

I carve the fittings from wax and cast them into bronze.

 

 

Finally I assemble the parts, capture the light they reflected yesterday and collect words together, try to describe what I was doing, what the grim faces mean, but this story is not told in words.

blade – 32 cm / 12 3/4″

hilt – 24.2 cm / 9 3/8″

blade width – 4.5 cm / 1 3/4″

overall length – 56.2 cm / 22 1/8″

 

“One look in his eye

everyone denies

ever having met him.”

-Tom Waits

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Jake Powning

Jake is a professional swordsmith, artist, and writer who explores the strange place where traditional culture and the land meet.

26 Comments:

  1. Freakin’ awesome shit Jake!

  2. Tis a fine Seax indeed, most impressive. I have just recently discovered your work and I must say you are master of your craft. I am particularly fond of the dragon slayer on the home page. I hope that one you kept for yourself, you never know when a fire drake of the North shall emerge. As an aspiring bladesmith I’m currently forging one for myself, though it’s the frost wyrms that plague our land so it must be crafted accordingly. I wish you a most successful hunt form the ancient redwood coast.

  3. Thanks Andrew. Thank you silverleaf, good luck with your forging project! 🙂

  4. Thanks for this, Jake. The grim face reminds me of my father, a dwindled warrior whose power goes on.

  5. Exceptional work, glad your mother shared your post.

  6. Richard Sullivan

    BEAUTIFUL work, Jacob! It is inspiring to see your talent emerge in such magnificent works of art! Slainte!!!

  7. Wow, great blog, Jake. The shape reminds me of Kev’s blade.

    J

  8. Fantastic work Jake.

    I was wondering how you go about buying one of your creations? Is there ai waiting list I can go on?

  9. Inspiring work.

  10. Beautiful craftsmanship! your pieces are truly inspirational. Keep up the good work!!

  11. Thanks so much everyone! Hi James, I’ll let you know if something becomes available. 🙂

  12. These are amazing, I wish I could even fathom being able to make such beautiful swords. Would there be any way to acquire any of them?

  13. How can you give your pieces names when they haven’t deserved them? It’s not exactly in the vein of our Scandinavian tradition.

  14. I make them you see, so I feel entitled to name them. I encourage you to make pattern welded swords and not name them though, if that’s what you like. 🙂

  15. @ Ola. Exactly how does a modern blade prove itself deserving of a name in modern Scandinavia? A maker has every right to name his work, and that is a timeless tradition in any culture.

  16. How elegant it is, what a beauty! You are a real Blacksmith Artist, the spirit of the Jomsvikingelag lives in Your creations!

  17. eugenio c. martins

    Jack parabéns pelo trabalho, é trabalho de artista, acima de artesão, quanto a nomear, sem
    dúvida alguma há necessidade de ter um nome. abraços. Eugênio C. Martins – Brazil

  18. You truly master both words and fire! I loved the blog and the pictures!

  19. Life gets busy…work work work. Then you sleep. Wake up…start again…a Near Endless Cycle in the modern world. But on occasion, one can find the time to just relax, think, create, imagine. And sometimes I find myself on this site…and am just floored, flummoxed, surprised, overjoyed, amazed, envious, jealous of what I find. Jake, you really are a very fine artist. Your brush is a hammer, your paints, metals: copper, bronze, iron and steel. Your canvas – the forge. I am so glad to have learned of your work. It is ongoing pleasure fest of visually stimulating neo-Artifacts. I will drink a beer in your honor. Prosit!

  20. Hello Jake – your work is a magnificent blending of nature captured in human artistry, and beautiful beyond words for this student of the sword.
    My mentor, swordmaster F. Braun McAsh, and I have been admiring your work this evening and would welcome the opportunity to chat, (one of Braun’s best friends is Darrell Markewitz of Wareham Forge – do you know him by any chance?). :0)
    We very much hope to hear from you soon.
    Best,
    Jo & Master McAsh

  21. You master both words and steel. Thus they are “Rún iaránn” in a truer sense of the word.

    And thusly you have every freakin´right to name your blades;-), for they are more than just something made. I believe it was not differnt for the ancestors.

    Keep up telling tales of fire and steel!

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