Mameluke Saber made for the Art of Weapons Facebook group maker's challenge fall 2022. As part of the rules to the challenge I had to document my process of construction and historical research. The project was a collection of experimental techniques including craving wax, lost wax bronze casting, encased tang hilt construction, gold gilding and patina.
The maker's challenge theme was Mid-East and could be any weapon or armour from the region pre 20th century. I have long wanted to try a Mameluke sword and jumped at the chance to play with a bunch of new to me techniques. Mameluke style blades became popular with European military officers after Napoleon's Egypt campaign in 1801 and saw extensive service throughout the Napoleonic Wars, even making it to the American continent during the War of 1812. The US Marine dress sword is still a Mameluke to this day from first encountering the style in the Barbery Wars in Tripoli
Jean-Léon Gérôme's painting of Napoleon in Egypt was my main inspiration for the sword I wanted to build. Being a painting and being depicted sheathed in it's scabbard left a lot up to my interpretation.
Then I found this original Mameluke relic found in Canada at the War of 1812 battlefield of Chippewa along the Niagara River fought in 1814 and knew what I had to make
Started with a finished saber blade and jewelers carving wax. Working with hand tools I carefully carved the wax to match a number of original swords. Not a direct copy I wanted to stay clear of any cultural motifs that would pigeonhole the piece into a time and place, rather wanted to leave the interpretation open to what could have been a nice private purchase by an American or European officer in the early 19th century
Wax is much easier to carve than metal but has it's own challenges. Understanding the lines and architecture of the originals and translating that into a three dimensional piece is always a challenge.
But a little bit at a time the wax began taking shape
Carved the wax to final dimensions and fit them to the blade. Hopefully the castings will fit just as well.
The wax patterns are then gated to a wax tree ready for mold making
The mold is made by repeatedly dipping in refractory mud and silica crystals to build up a hard shell. Once hardened the wax is melted out, lost, leaving a void for the molten metal
molten bronze poured into the mold
The lost wax is replaced with metal
Final assembled and gilding the hilt components