Posts Tagged ‘African’

Fun With Damascus Steel

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Today, I have a special treat for you. You may or may not know this, since it does not come up particularly often, but one of my favorite blade materials is Damascus steel. For two reasons. First, barring unfinished or tarnished steels, it is one of the only true “dark” finished steels that I know of.

The next reason is that, even though I have a great love for all dark weapons, (to me they have more character than most) the truth is that, most dark weapons are not inherently dark, and require special finishes, most of which rarely do any more than provide an aesthetic touch to a blade.

Damascus steel on the other hand, has an inherent dark aesthetic beauty that requires no artificial colorings or preservatives. Ok, so maybe there are some forms of Damascus that have artificial colorings. Some shades of Damascus require chemical treatments or the usage of special alloys or metals to achieve the desired effect.

But in the grand scheme of things, these are no worse than the coatings used to enhance the appearance of monosteels. Nonetheless, it is still the only type of steel that I know of, whose aesthetics are also functional, and whose enhanced cutting power does not really require any special finishes / treatments / coatings. Damascus steel has an inherent beauty all it’s own.

But the cool thing is that, in the hands of true metalworking artists, using these various other methods, Damascus can be made into patterns and colors of amazing beauty. I was quite thrilled to find a site that featured such beautifully wrought Damascus blades, each one uniquely and excellently finished to a level of detail that, much like J. A. Harkins work, totally blew me away…

I present to you a taste of the blades of Kevin and Heather Harvey of Heavin Forge. First up:

<_>

The Zulu assegai – In Damascus

Zulu Assegai in Gaboon Viper Damascus

[view full size]

Now obviously, as one of my favorite African weapons, this Damascus Assegai caught my eye. Definitely a thing of beauty. Due in no small part to the very eye catching Gaboon Viper Damascus pattern on the blade:

Zulu Assegai – Close up of Blade

Zulu Assegai Blade Close Up

[view full size]

Now this is a very unique spear, first because of the shaft style, which appears to have been carved to appear like a dark horn grip at the bottom, and smooths out the rest of the way up. Very cool. And the head sports a cool damscus pattern they have appropriately called called “Gaboon Viper”, as it emulates the characteristic diamond pattern found on the back of the aforementioned reptile… I’ve got two words for the head on this spear: Absolutely Awesome…

<^>

Persian Fighting Blade!

Persian Fighting Blade

[view full size]

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, I needn’t explain to you why I like this blade… It’s all about the points and curves… (I’m sure you can figure it out… ๐Ÿ™‚ ) And it doesn’t hurt that it has a Damascus blade. Which is actually appropriate since Damascus steel is reputed to have been developed in ye old Persia and was also called watered steel at the time. No surprise, as Damascus does look like Steel with waves in it…

<^>

Next we have a piece i like to think of as from the West. The Wild West. California gold rush and and all that jazz… It should be self explanatory why:

Gold Rush Bowie

Gold Rush Bowie

[view full size]

Yep, we have a bowie knife, perhaps almost the trademark of the wild west, (besides the ever ubiquitous revolver), in an amazing gold and almost cobalt blue Damascus hue… I’ve always like gold accents on black blades, but this just takes it to another level altogether…

Gold Rush Bowie – Close up of ricasso and top of hilt

Gold Rush Bowie - Ricasso and Hilt

[view full size]

There’s gold in that thar bowie!… I seen it with my own two eyes!!

<^>

Finally, but certainly not least, we find a weapon harking from the dark continent of Africa, an interesting little dagger that reminds me of an insect for some reason. A long wasp maybe? I dunno. But here is it, in all it’s insect like glory…

African Dagger

African Dagger

[view full size]

Now this particularly dark brand of Damascus is one of my favorites, perhaps the only true dark steel in existence. And this sample is particularly beautiful, complementing the overall theme of this dagger very well. Between the African styled hilt, and the really very cool horn sheath, it’s perhaps one of the most intriguing implementations of a Damascus dagger I’ve seen to date…

<^>

And that’s all I’ve got for today. You can see more of Kevin and Heathers’ work at Heavin Forge. Perhaps what really impressed me was not only the creative use of color in the steel, but also the overall attention to detail, fit and finish on every weapon. Absolutely beautiful. Make sure you swing by their page.

As much as they were all great works of art, after looking at them all, I discovered I had a favorite. Probably because I tend to gravitate towards more dark colors and organic shapes, I liked that last waspy dagger best. It just spoke to me. We had a grand old chat.

I think I’m gonna give it a name. I’m calling it the Black Stinger… Yeah… In fact I think i’m gonna have to make myself similar blade one of these days. It won’t be nearly as cool as this one, but If it has half the personality, I’ll be looking forward to quite a few great conversations with it…

P.S. I’d like to point out, for the record, that I am not insane. Just a *wee bit* loopy when it comes to certain blades… But I’m totally harmless, I assure you… No really… ๐Ÿ˜›

Kevin and Heathers Damascus Blades – [Heavin Forge]

A Longitudinally Challenged Tribal Spear…

Saturday, October 6th, 2007

Considering the wide variations of spears I have covered in the past I thought it an unexpected coincidink that I should run into this interesting piece:

Tribal Warrior Spear

Tribal Warrior Spear
[view full size]

This, as you can see from the picture, is a short spear. A very short spear. But notwithstanding it being length challenged, it still bears all the menace of it’s larger kin, and then some. Actually short spears have a very distinguished history. Most notably in the hands of Shaka and his Zulu warriors. Shaka was a Zulu Chieftain, considered by many to be a military genius. He made radical changes to the way the Zulu nation conducted war. Some of the more well known changes he implemented was in their battle tactics and, more importantly (for our purposes anyway), their weapons.

Traditional Zulu wars consisted of stand-off wars, with two armies facing off against each other at a distance, and sending volleys of long spears (called Assegai) towards the opposing army. While this was effective for stand off combat, the length of the spears made them unwieldy in close in combat. Shaka decided to take advantage of this weakness by making his armies faster and more mobile, and also be equipping his men with two different kinds of spears. The Standard assegai for stand off battle, and a significantly shortened spear called the Iklwa.

After the assegai had been thrown, from a distance, Shakas armies would quickly move in and engage the enemy in close quarters combat. Then, given extensive training in high speed maneuvers, and shorter spears, they had more speed, and better control of their weapons at hand to hand range, and this gave them a decided advantage on the battlefield when they closed in on forces using the traditional long and unwieldy assegai. Genius I tell you. Genius. But, as is my way, I digress.

I bring all of this up because this spear looks like something Shaka would have come up with. Like for assassinations or something. The Iklwa had a longer, broader head than a traditional spear, making it more akin to a short sword on a stick, than a spear. But though this is much shorter, and has more of a traditional spear head, it does have points on both ends, as well as a spur on the spear head, which could be used as a guard or even to hook an opponents shield/weapon. All very evil looking.

And the handle is adorned with tufts of fur around the spear head and very pointy pommel. Traditionally, this would have served to prevent blood from running down the spear handle and making it slippery. But it just looks cool here. Personally, I consider this a weapon that pays contemporary homage to one of the great historical Zulu tribal weapons of South Africa. The Zulu Ikwla. Even if it’s blade is a little on the small side. And it’s short. Just don’t be too quick to dismiss it because of it’s size. Size is not as important as how you use it… Or so I am told… ๐Ÿ™‚

Tribal Warrior Spear – [True Swords]

Flying African Blades Of DOOM!

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Today I would like to introduce you to some very, very special guests. A set of particularly wicked throwing implements. Following are examples of one of the more historic and rare forms of throwing knives, originating in Africa, that are certainly one of my most favored, unique, and rarely seen throwing knife designs. Grab yourself a cup of tea, coffee, vodka and tonic, or a lemon-lime mocha frappuccino – if that’s what floats your boat (though I would have some serious concerns about you if it does) and make yourself comfortable, as I present to you, my favorite throwing knives of Africa.

Banda Tribe (RCA) Throwing Implement

Banda Tribe (RCA) Throwing Implement

Mabo Tribe (RDC) Throwing Implement

Mabo Tribe (RDC) Throwing Implement

Now these have been called a number of different names, most notably “Shongo”, “Kpinga”, “Sapa” and one of the most popular (probably an butchered version of one of it’s tribal names) : “Hunga-Munga”, names which seem to be used, incorrectly, to describe nearly every form of this kind of blade. It is important to remember that, as you can see from just the two examples above, there are actually many different variations on this blade, each from their own unique African tribe; many of them were not named, and the ones that were likely had a unique name depending on where it was made and which tribe it was from. But one thing is universally certain, these are some hella crazy throwing blades, no matter what you wanna call them!

What is also cool is that this blade design has actually made it into Hollywood! In the movie “The Mummy Returns” we can clearly see one of the baddies toting one of these blades in his belt in the small of his back:

Hunga Munga - Concealed Back Carry

Hunga Munga - Concealed Back Carry

Shortly thereafter we see him throw it, very narrowly missing a (very fortunate) protagonist:

Hunga Munga - Impact!

Hunga Munga - Steerike!

YA MISSED!! ๐Ÿ˜› (Whew!!)

Anyway, as you can see from the pics above, these blades generally have three points, give or take, depending on where it’s from, arranged in order to maximize the amount of time that any sticking points will be presented to a target. You will also notice, especially on the Banda tribe version, that every possible blade edge has been sharpened as well, to provide as many cutting edges as possible.

At the same time, this innovative design even allows for a handle, so that it can be thrown without injuring the thrower. Genius! African weapon engineering at its best. They certainly beat the Hollywood glaives I’ve been ranting about hands down, though they do so at the cost of portability, which I will talk about shortly.

To me, the most interesting aspects of these particular blades is how their cool and evil looking aesthetics are entirely functionally motivated. The observant will notice that these designs are asymmetrical, unlike similar smaller weapons like hira shuriken, Or even equivalent weapons like the fuuma shuriken, where all the blades/points are arranged radially around it’s center of rotation. I believe the asymmetry of the design served a specific purpose.

Smaller throwing weapons like hira shuriken are symmetrically designed in order to periodically present a sharp point to the target during flight, regardless of what direction it is rotating. However a hira shuriken are light, usually only a few inches in diameter, designed for speedy deployment, can be held between the fingers or in the palm of one hand, and can easily be thrown in a controlled fashion with a light grip.

Not so with these blades. What may not be apparent from these pictures is that these African throwing knives can be over a foot and a half in length, with the combination of large mass and razor sharp edges intended to inflict massive cuts on impact. To safely control such a weapon in battle, you need a handle. But adding handles always reduces the chances for a throwing weapon to stick, due to the possibility of the handle hitting the target.

Their solution was to build a small handle into the design, and skillfully position the blades so that the desired balance of the weapon was not negatively affected, angling all of the points in one direction, and then shrouding the handle with a blade pointing in the same direction. The end result? A directional throwing knife with almost the same the sticking potential of the much smaller shuriken, the mass of a throwing axe, with a safe, built in throwing handle for maximum power and control. These folks design a mean weapon!

The only (minor) caveat to this design is that, unlike most hira shuriken, these knives have to be thrown with all of the points facing the target in order to maximize the chance of a stick. Throwing it backwards could still wound an enemy if they were struck by a blade, but your risk hitting with the handle and bouncing off. But unlike a hira shuriken, thrown properly from the hands of a fairly strong warrior, it would be more than just a distraction. This weapon could take you out of a battle very quickly. Without the need for poison either.

What was even scarier about these weapons is that their design is such that, if they hit the side of an opponents shield, its rotating momentum and mass would keep it rotating long enough to cause it to hook on to the edge of the shield and rotate around it and hit the unfortunate victim on the other side. Talk about a clever (albeit very mean) design. Throw in their size, their sharp lines and (of course!) their many pointy bits, you can probably see why I like these weapons so much. Their dark metallic finish just adds to their evil charm. They are just so freaking cool and intimidating all at the same time, on so many levels… What more is there to say?

Mabo Tribe (RDC) Throwing Knife – [Mambele.be]
Banda Tribe (RCA) Throwing Knife – [Mambele.be]

Nzappa ZAP!!

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

No, before you even ask, I am not about to blog about a stun gun. Or Lightning. Or anything even related to electricity. Nor am I testing out the new knife forging and sharpening spells I learned at Hogwarts, even though though from the heading you might be tempted to think so. No, since I seem to be running into a lot of different throwing axes, I decided to “throw in” (pun intended… … … OK, y’all need to c-section that pregnant silence right now! Yes, that was corny, cheesy, whatever, just humor me and laugh anyway dagnabbit!!) a look at another interesting African style axe called… You guessed it! The Nzappa Zap!

Nzappa Zap

Nzappa Zap

This axe, like one of my very favorite other knives, (which I plan to blog about in the very near future) is from the Congo, and features a funky design that is interesting and unique on many levels. First off you’ll notice that the handle is club shaped, with a rounded knob for a head, and a flared base. Another unique feature is how this club is attached. Instead of attaching an eye to the axe head, through which the handle is fixed, this axe head is attached to a post that is fixed through a hole in the nob on the head of the axe handle. Yet another difference, a necessary result of this design, is that the blade is attached to the post via a series of struts all attached to the post.

Functionally, this kind of axe was used in battle for close in combat, and could also be thrown at intermediate distances. A very unique, all around, multipurpose battle axe design. Not as wicked, dark or pointy as I like my weapons to be, but you can’t have everything now, can you… Hmmm… Maybe I could design a wicked mutant Nzappa Zap… With all points and wicked curves… and powder-coat it black… no, black chrome… Yeah… That would be awesome… Time to break out the sketchpad…

Nzappa Zap – [Widforss]

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