The Ravens Warband


Seax is the Anglo-Saxon word used to describe both a single edged knife, and a single edged sword ('long-seax') similar to a machete. Long-seaxes do not appear to have been used in England in the early Saxon period.

The term 'scramasax' is also often used although it occurs only once in a historical account, in the 'History of the Franks' by Gregory of Tours. He describes how the sixth century Frankish king Sigibert is assassinated by two young men using 'strong knives commonly called scramasaxes' (cultris validis quos vulgo scramasaxos vocant). It should be noted that, given the date, the reference was probably to large knives rather than long-seaxes.

Fig.1 shows the six basic shapes of knife blade used in the pagan Saxon period. Sizes (blade plus tang) ranged from very small (3") to about 12". A typical fighting knife is about 8" long.

Figure 1: Knife types

a. Curved back, curved cutting edge, late fifth to early eighth century;

b. Straight back, curved cutting edge, late fifth to late seventh century;

c. Angled back, curved cutting edge, mid sixth to early eighth century;

d. Curved back, straight cutting edge, early seventh to early eighth century;

e. Angled back, straight cutting edge, late sixth to early eighth century;

f. Straight back in-curved near tip, curved cutting edge, late seventh century.

Cut the blade from steel plate (3/32" to 1/8" thick) using a hacksaw. Make sure the point is well rounded, use the curvature of a penny piece as a guide. File all the edges smooth and round them off (fig 2); finish smoothing with emery paper.

Figure 2: Stages in rounding the edge

The handle is most easily made from a softwood such as pine although coarse grained hardwood, such as ash, or horn or bone can also be used. Cut the handle roughly to shape and drill two holes the same diameter as the thickness of the blade in one end. Remove the wood between the holes with a chisel to make a slot to accept the tang of the blade. Hammer the blade into place. If the blade is loose pack the hole with strips of wood or use glue. Take care not to split the wood, but if it does split start again (hence not finishing the handle before assembly). File and sand the handle to shape.

You will also need a sheath which should be made from stiff leather. Lay your knife an the leather and cut out the pattern as shown in fig.3 using scissors or a sharp knife. Bend the belt loop back (fig.4) and sew to the back of the sheath. Fold the sheath over, and holding the knife in place, sew tightly around it (fig 5).

Figure 3: Sheath pattern Figure 4: Sheath construction Figure 5: Completed sheath (back view)

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