Introduction: Viking Wire Inlay

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Wherein Ben endeavors to explain one of his methods for inlaying non-ferrous metals into steel for knives and swords.

Step 1: Layout

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The first step is to mark the pattern on the steel. I like to do the layout in pencil.
Then I go over it in pen.

Step 2: Tools

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The gravers I use are (top to bottom): 1/8in flat, 1/16in flat, 3/64in flat, 1/16in V graver, knife graver, and round punch. For most of the work I drive the gravers with a hammer.

Step 3: Test Piece

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This shows the test piece that I did to try the techniques for this blade. Doing a test piece allows you to make sure that all your tools and materials will work with each other.

Step 4:

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Here is the clamp set-up I use to hlt the piece. The 2x2in oak board is held in the vice and the C-clamps hold the blade. I use a towel for padding to help prevent scratching and to further secure the blade

Step 5: Engraving

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I use the 1/8in graver to cut the channel for the twisted wire border. Different patterns can be achieved by varying the depth of the cut.

Step 6: Engraving

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Next, using the V-graver, I engrave the trinity knot and herringbone lines.
I cut the runes using the 3/64in flat graver.

Step 7: Under Cutting

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All the areas to be inlayed must be undercut or the inlay will work loose. I do this on the longer lines with the knife graver held at an angle. The finished channel should look like this /_\.

Step 8: Under Cutting

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For the shorter lines I use one of the flat gravers to undercut the edges. The undercutting is the most critical part of the process. Done right, the rest is easy and the wires fly into the grooves. Done wrong, the wires will not stick and must be scraped out and the undercut redone.

Step 9: Under Cutting

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The undercut notches on the bottom of the wider channels help lock the wires down.

Step 10: Under Cutting

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Here is the blade with all the under cutting done.

Step 11: Forming the Wires

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For the runes I first draw the wires out and square them. I use pliers
for this because I don't have a draw plate.

Step 12: Forming the Wires

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Here you can see the wire drawn to the proper width. All wires must be
annealed to dead soft by heating up to red and quenching in water.

Step 13: Inlaying

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The wires must fit very closely or gaps will be visible in the finished piece

Step 14: Inlaying

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I use the 1/8in graver to cut the wires to size.

Step 15: Inlaying

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For the dot inlays I form a bead on the end of the wire using a torch.

Step 16: Inlaying

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Then I hammer them into place with a flat-end punch.

Step 17: Inlaying

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Then I hammer them into place with a flat-end punch. Then once they are fixed I cut the wire and hammer them down all the way.

Step 18: Inlaying

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For lines with sharp corners it helps to work from the corners out.

Step 19: Making the Wire Twists

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This is my set-up for twisting the wires. They must be annealed several times during the twisting and again at the end before inlaying them. It also helps to square them.

Step 20: Inlaying the Twists

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The two sets of twisted wires must be inlayed at the same time. Setting about a half-inch at a time helps keep them even. By changing the alignment of the twists different patterns can be formed.

Step 21: Blade After Inlay

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Here is the blade after all the wires have been inlayed.

Step 22: Fileing

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I then file off most of the extra metal being careful not to scratch the blade.

Step 23: Finishing

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Finally the inlay is taken down flush with the rest of the blade using 220gt sand paper and a hardwood sanding block.

Step 24: Finished

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Here is the finished inlay polished to 1000 grit and a shot of the reverse side of the blade.

Thanks for looking.

You can see pictures of the finished knife on my website




jackowens (author)2015-05-29

Looks amazing!

thepelton (author)2009-04-30

You could use the runic alphabet from LORD OF THE RINGS.

Iridium7 (author)thepelton2010-04-15

 called elvish writing 

It's not elvish. The dwarven alphabet is based on Futhark, but the elven alphabet looks more like the Islamic alphabet and something else, I don't remember what. The writing on the One Ring is in the elvish alphabet.

red-king (author)thepelton2010-01-10

 you mean the messed up writing stuff, like what is on the ring?

ben potter (author)red-king2011-09-26

It is not actually an elvish script, but the historical type of writing the the Anglo-Saxons.

thepelton (author)ben potter2011-12-21

J.R.R. Tolkein was a University Professor, so he probably used the historically correct Futhark.

ben potter (author)thepelton2011-12-22

Tolkien's dwarf runes are based on the original Futhark but have several differences.

ben potter (author)thepelton2010-05-24

I used a modified Anglo-Saxon Futhark.

linda.hightower.733 (author)2014-12-26

are you doing the way they did it with the uthbert sword?

linda.hightower.733 (author)2014-12-26

are you doing the way they did it with the uthbert sword?

sir_ghattas (author)2014-12-02

Love it, cant wait to try!

CharlesChristopher (author)2014-03-16

Beautiful. Have you ever considered trying the old fashion gilding process?

Eldalote (author)2014-01-16

one word - epic!

MrE (author)2013-07-27

Oh I have another question as well. I read all the comments and you said that your inlay is quite strong but have ever thought about running this through a draw plate mechanism to further force the inlay and provide a consistent and solid driving force? Or do you think this would be to much pressure and might actually drive the blade metal out of shape. I only ask because the hammering might not be consistent. I understand that you have many years of talent to compensate for irregularities but for someone less talented a drawing ight help smooth things out. Oh and one more when you undercut for the small circles do you use a graver for that and just loop the inside of the hole or how do you do that one?
sorry for so many questions but I a enthralled with this and am very curious.

ben potter (author)MrE2013-07-30

A draw plate would strip the inlay out. You MIGHT be able to use a roller mill, or a press but hammering is most likely the best (and it's traditional).

MrE (author)ben potter2013-08-17

I did mean roller mean roller mill, not draw plate, so thank you for that. Because now that I looked at it a draw plate is for wire. But thank you for all the answers.

ben potter (author)MrE2013-07-30

The small circles are undercut with a graver.

MrE (author)2013-07-27

This is so Awesome. I mean this it. My question to you is have you ever heat treated the inlay, and if you did do you use borax or some sort of rosin to permanently bond the two metals? Or would this cause to much thermal expansion. I ask because I have seen tutorials where you inlay the metal by fusing the layers by melting the metals. But that might melt your detail, so I can see where that might not be good. But my question still stands can you fuse the metals.

ben potter (author)MrE2013-07-30

The non-ferrous inlay would melt at the HT temp. You are talking about a steel or iron inlay like the "Ulfbert" swords.

elizruge (author)2013-07-18

I just went to the Viking museum in Lofoten, Norway, this morning and this looks like the real thing. Great craftmanship!

Zephyr655 (author)2013-01-21

I went onto your website and saw some of your work. It was incredible! But how did you make dwarven head seax blade look blue like that?

zombeastly (author)2011-08-25

i would really like to learn this language even if it is dead

Jar Sqwuid (author)zombeastly2011-12-21

Hehe luckily for you it's not a language. You don't learn how to speak runes, you learn how to transcribe into runes. Kind of like how we spell japanese words out in english, our alphabet is phonetic. Runes are an alphabet, and super easy to learn. I write in them all the time. This is the younger futhark I think, and the most commonly used. I use the elder futhark. This is the website I used to learn runes with :) (Without the spaces.)

ht tp : // runes . info / rune piece 07 . ht m

Raynor35 (author)2010-05-08

Ben, at what point in the process did you do the inlay?  I mean in relation to the rough grind, quenching, tempering, final grind/polishing, and sharpening.  It looks like the blade has already been rough-shaped and taken to maybe a 200-grit finish, so I would guess sometime after the rough grind.  And regarding that point, whichever it is, is that a pretty standard process for you, to inlay at that point in the process, or is there sometimes a reason to vary it?  Thanks!

ben potter (author)Raynor352011-03-12

you have to do the heat treating first or you will melt out the inlay. You have to do a differential heat treat so the the area to be engraved needs to be relatively soft.

It needs to be polished out to about 220gt and its final dimensions.

Raynor35 (author)Raynor352010-05-11

Actually, to simplify, did you do the wire inlays before or after heat-treating?

ben potter (author)Raynor352010-05-24

After, and you have to do a differential heat treat.

skimmo (author)2010-02-24

f,i,r,s, f,r,e,n,d,s first freinds?

ben potter (author)skimmo2010-02-24

fierce friend.  Anglo-Saxon Futhark. There is no "s" on the end.

skimmo (author)ben potter2010-02-24

hmmmmm i see, what is that letter?

ben potter (author)skimmo2010-02-26

it isn't a "letter" just a detail to balance out the chevrons in front of the runes.

skimmo (author)ben potter2010-02-27

i ment this the sowilo

MatrixRage (author)2010-02-27

Truely amazing man, I'm glad I added you to my favorites. I bought a video on engraving with gravers just a bit ago, and this will be a nice addition to my knowledge base.

strumbot (author)2009-12-08

Awesome work Ben, just beautiful.  Now I want to do this on my seaxs.  The broken back design really makes it look better too.  This method will be much better than the chemical etch and leafing I planned to do.  Thanks!


ben potter (author)strumbot2009-12-09

I'm glage you found it useful.

imbignate (author)2009-04-30

Are you using Elder Futhark, or a different alphabet? I'm having trouble identifying the fourth rune (sohwilo?). I can read the runes, but not translate. I get:

Fehu, Isa, Raido, (sowilo?) - space- Fehu, Raido, Ehwaz, Nauthiz, Dagaz, and then what looks like a backwards Kenaz.

Fears Frand = Fierce Friend?

If you're trying to write in English, then that's my guess- if not, then I'll be glad ot hear the answer.

kelticwonder (author)imbignate2009-07-19

it says fire friend

imbignate (author)kelticwonder2009-07-19

you left out the 4th rune, sowilo. It does indeed say Fierce Friend, which is the author's website.

Malachiore (author)imbignate2009-05-03

It's not Elder Futhark, but it is very simmilar.

jaythedogg (author)2009-05-28

I almost yelled "THIEF!" until I saw it was Ben Potter, from the BladeSmith forums. :) Good tutorial though. :)

cava002 (author)2009-05-04

The sword says Fire Friend?, what kind of alphabet is that?

mohawk93 (author)cava0022009-05-28

that my friend is the elder futhark the same runes used by the vikings themselves

PKTraceur (author)2009-05-18

How exactly does it stay in? Other than that, BEAUTIFUL job, it looks amazing. How well would that work on a kukri blade 1/4 thick? -PKT

ben potter (author)PKTraceur2009-05-20

The wires stay in place because of the under-cut in the channels. similar to dove tails in wood working. This kind of inlay, while not traditional for a kukri would work, as long as it is made in the traditional manner with a differential tempered blade. The traditional Nepalese kukri is tempered by pouring water over the edge and not on the back of the blade.

SixTwelve (author)2009-05-18

I just can't get over the braid effect from the twists. So obvious, once thought of. But I doubt I would have thought of it in, say, 1000 years. Another surprise is that trinity knot. I was predicting it would be ungainly at best, and, more likely, dorky. I guess that 15 years honed your vision a little bit. Very pretty. Thanks for this window into the process!

arnivore (author)2009-05-08

This is very beautiful. Nice work.

jaysbob (author)2009-05-04

how well does this inlay stand up to use and abuse? I'd imagine its fine for a blade that is more of a display piece (what I imagine this is) but it seems that for something that's seeing more wear and tear (someone mentioned a hammer earlier) that such delicate engraving would work its way out over time. although I'd imagine repair work probably isn't too much of an issue. amazing work either way though with a range of decorative uses beyond just those for a seax. well photographed and documented too. cool stuff!

ben potter (author)jaysbob2009-05-05

Actual the inlay is VERY strong, short of bending the blade to the breaking point or gouging the silver and copper out it is pretty much there for ever. There are many blades from the viking age where the inlay has out lasted the steel. This piece (as are all my pieces) is fully functional and will stand up to hard use.

yomero (author)2009-04-30

thank you for this instructable, it was very helpful to me, i do know how to work with silver, and just recently learnt how to forge a blade, this inlaying just adds up to it. just to be clear, the bottom of the gravers is supposed to be wider than the top, right? and its the spreading of the metal that holds it in place, right?. anyways, great instructable

About This Instructable



Bio: I am a full-time bladesmith working in the Celto-Norse style.
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