The sword makers of the past used several decorative techniques to enhance their designs. Today we are going to look at bluing or Black Oxide treatment as it is done today and what similar finishes were used in the past. The darkening of the metal today is done with a chemical treatment in a hot state to achieve the blue/black finish seen on our items as well as many other products such as pistols or rifles. This finish is a stable oxidation of the steel and has a resistance to some corrosion. But it should be noted is not going to stop rust in the right conditions.
The process for coloring hilts in the past had some similar results but was done in a couple of different ways. Some are covered in the description we sighted in our blog post on What is a Sword Furbisher, and entail repeated heating and treating with oil or other compounds to induce a coating on a hand worked surface.
There is also techniques such as browning or rust bluing that will create finishes of similar nature or as protective as the black oxide. Many of these are very old techniques used by crafts people through the ages. Today we use chemistry and material science to increase the consistency and quality of the result. Though it should be noted that the quality of some of the original finishes are exceptional and to be admired even today.
Here are a couple of our swords showing the blued finish on hilts. The first shows a blued hilt that is then polished in parts to give a contrasting bright and black look on our Gustav Rapier. The other two swords, our Duke of Urbino and a Custom Tuck show a solid blued or black oxide finish.
So check out the video to see some more examples, a look at an original sword with a black finish and some more details.
Blued Sword Hilts
Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography. He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.
Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons and armor since 1985.