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Old 20th September 2019, 10:19 AM   #1
MForde
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Default Identifying Modern Wootz

Hello all,

With modern-made wootz steel (or, as this is such a complex subject, a better term might be modern-made wootz-looking steel) now being made in the West and India how is everyone protecting themselves from the reproductions and fakes that must already be on the market? We have many examples, with provenance, of original wootz blades that are still in pristine condition so we cannot always use that factor as an indicator and artificial ageing of high carbon steel is an easy process to undertake. I'm curious as to how us antique weaponry collectors will adapt.

Matt
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Old 20th September 2019, 11:16 AM   #2
Ian
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Hi Matt,

There are two schools of thought about discussing the faking of weapons. One says that we should know as much as possible and should discuss these issues openly so that collectors can be better informed. The other says we need to not tell the fakers how to make better fakes, and therefore should share our thoughts selectively with just those we know are legit.

Almost certainly there are people who visit these pages to get ideas about what weapons to copy and how to make their new pieces look genuine and old. Folks can browse these pages without becoming a member, and some of them may be fakers of edged weapons. However, many of our members were casual visitors before eventually deciding to sign up and participate, so not every lurker has nefarious intent!

Using the PM function or email with other members is a good way to communicate if you have an item that particularly concerns you, and you want someone to give an opinion about it being real or fake.

Personally, I'm in the camp of not making it any easier for fakers to fool people and steal their money. There are some excellent resources and references on this site's static pages, as well as numerous discussions about wootz on the forum. Some of these are good "defensive" tools that can help collectors spot the obvious fakes. And remember it's not just the steel, but the hilt, scabbard, inscriptions, etc., that go into assessing whether an object is genuine. Broad knowledge helps and is perhaps the best defense against a faker.

Ian
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Old 20th September 2019, 12:51 PM   #3
ariel
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Modern knives made out of crucible steel do not even approach the old wootz-y pattern and nobody except for Nonikashvili succeeded in forging a modern long wootz blade.
The metallurgical secret of wootz is no secret anymore. Modern metallurgists cracked it open.
The real secret is a process of smithing: how to force the dendrites to get organized in a beautiful pattern? Here scientific methods are powerless: we are talking about minute tricks , such as temperature, force and directions of hammer blows etc. We have irretrievably lost this information formerly transmitted orally and practically in a father-to-son manner.
I might not worry about forgeries. One glance at the blade is likely to be sufficient to identify modern manufacture. Machine-generated music is good for the elevators: it cannot compose Bach’s Prelude in E-moll.
Anosov got all the technical details from his “industrial spies” , but still, his blades were just poor imitations of true Persian or Indian wootz.
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Old 20th September 2019, 10:59 PM   #4
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Ariel said it quite well.

To illustrate this, I include a link to the best modern wootz patterns I have seen, made by the Russian bladesmith Ivan Kirpichev.

In the first blade you can see he managed to reproduce the Kirk Narduban and the "rose" patterns...
... yet the watering pattern is easily distiguishable from the antique ones.

And he told me that he doesn't manage to get this quality of patterning with consistency.

https://knifeandcraft.com/en/ivan-kirpichev
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Old 21st September 2019, 12:35 AM   #5
ariel
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Kirk narduban and “Rose” are easy: they are just superficial embellishments. The blade is notched either across its width or as a rounded point, then forged, polished and etched. Notching disturbs the architecture of dendrites, and... voila!
The real trick is to obtain a sophisticated pattern on the rest of the blade.


This is why I am always amused when I read some notes about sorts of wootz:
“ The highest is Kirk narduban, after that there are Kara taban, Kara Khorasan and the lowest , - Sham”
Kirk and rose can be made on any variety of wootz and I have seen them on a lowly Sham:-) And, BTW, some people claim that the “ non-pretty” Sham and the barely recognizable Indian” salt and pepper” one are mechanically the best.
The “ beautiful” ones broke on impact and there is a case when an expensive blade fell on the floor and shattered to smithereens

Last edited by ariel; 21st September 2019 at 05:44 AM.
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Old 21st September 2019, 04:49 AM   #6
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Default Skill is Necessary

Ariel,

I agree with you completely. Forging the old wootz blades was a matter of learned skill. I am a fairly good finish carpenter but even if I were given exhaustively complete plans plus the best of hand and mechanical tools, I am sure that I couldn't make a Chippendale chair to match those made by the old masters. Not only did they do their work with hand tools only, they were able to make a good living in that labor intensive environment. To be able to do this, one needs a long and diligent apprenticeship under an old master who not only molds your hand/eye skills but also your mindset.

Sincerely,
RobT
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Old 13th January 2021, 04:26 PM   #7
ALEX
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
...Modern knives made out of crucible steel do not even approach the old wootz-y pattern and nobody except for Nonikashvili succeeded in forging a modern long wootz blade.
...
Ariel,
I am with you... but... I saw Nonikashvili's wootz shamshir, it is impressive to say the least, the fittings are incredible, but I still doubt whether he forged that particular blade from scratch or reused old Persian wootz blade. There are other wootz blades he made shown online, most are not as impressive as that shamshir blade, not even close... why is that?
Also, have you seen
THIS post? In 2007, in London, this wootz Kilij blade was made. Not as bold as Nonikashvili wootz shamshir, but just as good as the rest of his blades (both punt and sarcasm intended). Please correct me if I am wrong and lack understanding of his work.

THIS is referenced shamshir, in his hands (post 155). Did he made that wootz blade, i.e. forged it from scratch, or did he 'finished' aka 'made' an old blade with fittings, inlay, etc.? The other wootz blades he made do not show the same quality pattern. Are there other of his swords with similar pattern to the above shamshir?

Last edited by ALEX; 13th January 2021 at 04:50 PM.
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Old 13th January 2021, 06:31 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobT
...I am a fairly good finish carpenter but even if I were given exhaustively complete plans plus the best of hand and mechanical tools, I am sure that I couldn't make a Chippendale chair to match those made by the old masters. Not only did they do their work with hand tools only, they were able to make a good living in that labor intensive environment. To be able to do this, one needs a long and diligent apprenticeship under an old master who not only molds your hand/eye skills but also your mindset.

Sincerely,
RobT
This instantly reminded me of 'The Patriot', Benjamin Martin and his obsession with chairs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=2lvz3v_dtyA
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Old 8th February 2021, 10:26 AM   #9
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I was hoping for more meaningful discussion... so allow me to reignite the subject. Here are 2 newly made wootz blades: one on the left, next to old Assad'Allah blade (for comparison), is made in Turkey. One on the right is made in Finland. The first is a sword blade. Both look just as good as original, and stunning work.
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Old 9th February 2021, 08:30 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian
Hi Matt,

There are two schools of thought about discussing the faking of weapons. One says that we should know as much as possible and should discuss these issues openly so that collectors can be better informed. The other says we need to not tell the fakers how to make better fakes, and therefore should share our thoughts selectively with just those we know are legit.

Almost certainly there are people who visit these pages to get ideas about what weapons to copy and how to make their new pieces look genuine and old. Folks can browse these pages without becoming a member, and some of them may be fakers of edged weapons. However, many of our members were casual visitors before eventually deciding to sign up and participate, so not every lurker has nefarious intent!

Using the PM function or email with other members is a good way to communicate if you have an item that particularly concerns you, and you want someone to give an opinion about it being real or fake.

Personally, I'm in the camp of not making it any easier for fakers to fool people and steal their money. There are some excellent resources and references on this site's static pages, as well as numerous discussions about wootz on the forum. Some of these are good "defensive" tools that can help collectors spot the obvious fakes. And remember it's not just the steel, but the hilt, scabbard, inscriptions, etc., that go into assessing whether an object is genuine. Broad knowledge helps and is perhaps the best defense against a faker.

Ian
Anyway we could develop a list of wootz experts willing to take questions and give opinions on a blade?
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Old 10th February 2021, 12:07 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mross
Anyway we could develop a list of wootz experts willing to take questions and give opinions on a blade?
Very good idea. Perhaps a separate thread dedicated to the subject?
Also, 1. I do not think it is even possible to re-forge old wootz blade without completely losing the pattern. Re-grinding-re-shaping - yes. but re-melting old wootz - no. 2. Lets not associate all modern wootz smiths with fakery. The masters I am familiar with, whose wootz blades are shown above are legit smiths with passion for wootz. some spent decades perfecting their skills and achieved great results. They're making new, not selling antique blades. They fool no one! I actually did commission a wootz blade, and witnessed it being made (from scratch, not re-forging). I cannot disclose the process here, but I can attest to the fact.
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Old 10th February 2021, 06:44 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ALEX
I actually did commission a wootz blade, and witnessed it being made (from scratch, not re-forging). I cannot disclose the process here, but I can attest to the fact.
Great!

It would be interesting to see the pattern you have on your new blade and see how does it compare to the antique wootz.
Is it from the Finnish blacksmith who claims to have reproduced the antique wootz pattern?!

You can see below one small knife Kirpichev offered me to buy (blade length 8 cm).

PS: If I remember correctly, Verhoeven describes a method of recovering wootz pattern after it was lost during re-heating.
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Last edited by mariusgmioc; 10th February 2021 at 08:08 PM.
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Old 10th February 2021, 07:17 PM   #13
Silver John
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I recently saw this video: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=iwsYool-JVI

The smith uses modern bearing steel (52100?) melted in a crucible with small amount of powdered graphite and glass. The knife produced from the ingot had a remarkably wootz like pattern.
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Old 10th February 2021, 12:26 PM   #14
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Here is a closeup of another blade made last year by another, unknown master, He is making these blades in his yard in the village in Central Asia, they call them "bulat"/Russian for wootz. They use certain local steel, not from India and not from old blades, they do not have any of it, they use the cheapest and simplest methods and tools, basically firewood and hammer, to make it. The result does not match the best antique Persian blades, but not too shabby.
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Old 26th August 2021, 02:42 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian View Post
Hi Matt,

There are two schools of thought about discussing the faking of weapons. One says that we should know as much as possible and should discuss these issues openly so that collectors can be better informed. The other says we need to not tell the fakers how to make better fakes, and therefore should share our thoughts selectively with just those we know are legit.

Almost certainly there are people who visit these pages to get ideas about what weapons to copy and how to make their new pieces look genuine and old. Folks can browse these pages without becoming a member, and some of them may be fakers of edged weapons. However, many of our members were casual visitors before eventually deciding to sign up and participate, so not every lurker has nefarious intent!

Using the PM function or email with other members is a good way to communicate if you have an item that particularly concerns you, and you want someone to give an opinion about it being real or fake.

Personally, I'm in the camp of not making it any easier for fakers to fool people and steal their money. There are some excellent resources and references on this site's static pages, as well as numerous discussions about wootz on the forum. Some of these are good "defensive" tools that can help collectors spot the obvious fakes. And remember it's not just the steel, but the hilt, scabbard, inscriptions, etc., that go into assessing whether an object is genuine. Broad knowledge helps and is perhaps the best defense against a faker.

Ian
"There are two schools of thought about discussing the faking of weapons. One says that we should know as much as possible and should discuss these issues openly so that collectors can be better informed. The other says we need to not tell the fakers how to make better fakes, and therefore should share our thoughts selectively with just those we know are legit. "

hmm dont want to sound nasty here but such silly though is a major issue..

The only useful way to anything productive is to compile as much factuial informaiton as exsists and then investigate any theory to its rational ends. making it available to everyone and to confront fakers actively.

Is it "fakers making better fakes" or ill informed poeple buying buying fakes in a very secretive competitive atmosphere?, and how are they illinfomred.. by a lack of discussion. ..

seems pretty obvious if you are "hiding bigbrain "discouveries" from your peers because of some abstract fear of a potential possiable.. ect that this attitude only helps people make fakes to begin with and intentionally stunts any sort of informaiton about these topics....
and is the reason faking happens in any case as most people financially involved in these topics have a vested interest in giving deceptive information and there is little free accessable informaiton to reference sometimes "an expert told me" ect... expert whos also the seller.. . .

if anyone can make a real good fake of an antique weapon thats actuially convincing and worth what its sold for then they can make new reproductions and sell them for as much as the antiques..

If you wanted to fake .. lets say a fine antique shamshir.. well you could sell your sword for the same as the real antiques without telling a single lie..
as i can safely say today nobody can produce an even rude copy of a shamshir and sell it for less than the originals.

fakery in antique arms is normaly either rather embarressing or its done by mixing and matching antique parts.

convincing fakery in antique arms ushaly focuses on mass produced items.. or "rare" variations of some item that already exsists.. like a bayonet with some "special" feature.. for example a 1907 smle bayonet with a sawback or some nonsence. or some rare markings.. a mosin nagant in tibetian service with some fake marking they invented that nobody can check ect ect.


in other realms of fakery there is a real profit to be made huge volumes (almost most chinese "antiques" sold today are fakes for example-chinese government even made alot of them in the past , and id say many marble greek and roman busts are fakes too and there is some corruption between some governm ent funded museums, fakers and auction houses in this area for sure.. .. fake ceramics , stone items,, ect are much easier and much more profitable to fake than antique arms (mostly).. which are exceptionally hard to fake convincingly when the buyer is informed. as the items are far more complex and have 100x or 1000x the reference points for assessment compared to a ceramic item.

This is in theory is a forum to discuss the collecting, use, construction and history of antique arms.

antique dealing, auctions and collecitng is full of scammers, frauds and fakery..
it has always been so. and its so sucessful because of the secretive, deceptive or competitive nature of many collectors and sellers and a lack of informaiton for newcomers and potential buyers in a hostile competitive environment. lets make an effort to reverse such a stagnant culture..
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Old 26th August 2021, 06:27 AM   #16
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Ausjulius, I have to agree with you. We do need to be up front about how to work out if a blade is a modern fake. There will be few really good fakes out there, but the method of handle attachment and materials, and koftgari methods can give a hint as to the age of the blade.

As far as wootz, analysis of the steel will often tell you if the blade is modern as modern steel is relatively high in Manganese but low in Sulphur and Phosphorus. Many of the old blades also had copper in significant levels and so these are a few things which will give a clue from the analysis. A tang with the handle removed can be analysed using atomic absorbtion spectroscopy without damage to the blade.

Another thing is that in old swords made from wootz you will almost always have a seam along the spine where the top of the ingot was. It makes an ugly seam and sometimes a groove and this is the first thing I would check to see if it was genuine or not. Modern smiths do not use this part of the ingot and grind it out, the old smiths didn't do this.

Most modern wootz is forged at low temperatures and so the pattern is frequently not like the old watering it is very dentritic in nature. Also because the old swords were forged in charcoal forges the temperature during forging was different and as a result many of the old blades will show changes in pattern type over the length of the blade.

Modern smiths are more inclined to forge the blade partly to shape and then grind it the rest of the way and so the watering will often be different towards the edge and will be more stripy as you get towards the edge. There are old blades like this but it is common in modern wootz blades.

Those are a few points for now, there are no doubt more which could be worked out but that is a good place to start and the more familiar with the original stuff the easier you will pick something which may be suspect.
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Old 26th August 2021, 12:17 PM   #17
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I agree with ian, the 'modern' cancel culture that believes banning information and destroying knowledge will not stop any undesired acts. Only exposing them through shared knowledge will.
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