Viking Wire Inlay




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

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

Step 1: Layout

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

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

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:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 10: Under Cutting

Here is the blade with all the under cutting done.

Step 11: Forming the Wires

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

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

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

Step 14: Inlaying

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

Step 15: Inlaying

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

Step 16: Inlaying

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

Step 17: Inlaying

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

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

Step 19: Making the Wire Twists

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

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

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

Step 22: Fileing

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

Step 23: Finishing

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

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





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    106 Discussions


    Question 7 weeks ago on Step 2

    where did u purchase your gravers? If online could you please provide a link?


    Question 8 weeks ago on Step 18

    Might be a obvious question but what’s the brown metal? And was it commonly used in Viking/Anglo Saxon inlays?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    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!

    4 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

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

    apw100ben potter

    Reply 11 months ago

    Why not just do the engraving when the steel is annealed, heat treat the blade fully and then add the inlay?

    ben potterRaynor35

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    4 years ago

    Looks amazing!

    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.

    ben potterred-king

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

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

    thepeltonben potter

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

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


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