Viking Age Oval Brooches

I have been working for some time on a set of oval brooches, reconstructed from fragments found in Northern Cumbria. The brooches are of the Berdal types with gripping beast motifs, from the early in the viking period. I started off by making a number of sketches of the reconstructed brooch, as the original does not fully survive, and is smashed into a number of pieces.

After this, I decided to sculpt the original in milliput, as it is tough, hard-wearing, can be sculpted, sanded, filed, and carved, and, most of all, I am familiar with it.  I constructed myself a wooden former to fit inside the brooch, screwed to a small flat piece of wood to hold when shaping, and laid over it a thin layer of milliput to form the shell of the brooch. I then added small panels for the raised decorative areas, which I roughly shaped a design on. Then followed the time-consuming bit, sitting down with a scalpel, and sculpting the designs in all the panels individually. As you can see from the picture, there is a lot of thinking, re-thinking, sketching, and trials that I go through during the process, to get the final product.


When I was happy with it, I removed it from the base, and did a final scrub, sand and clean to get the finish as good as I can.



When this is done, I got in touch with a friend of mine who works in a lead foundry, who offered to make up some wax copies for me, and help me through the next stages of production. This was the bit I know nothing about, and would almost certainly have to have sent it off to a foundry and just asked them to ‘make that’!


IMG_1435My friend cast up the basic shell in wax, and added the tags on to the back of the brooch which will form the hinges and hook when finished. Our next challenge was adding the small ‘animal’ knobs to the top of the brooch. In the original these were cast separately, and riveted on, but that is a lot of small individual items, and a lot of filing, hammering, and fitting, so we decided for the prototype to cast them in the wax, and fuse them on, then the whole object will be in one piece.

IMG_1437As the first one was added, the final object begins to appear, though when I confirmed to my friend that there was still another 8 to add, I think his heart sank a little!

Berdal 1

Berdal 2

Berdal 3

Berdal 4

As you can see, the object is now beginning to resemble its 8th-9th century counterpart, the next stage, is casting it in brass, followed by polishing, and fitting with silver wire chevrons!

thanks for reading



Posted on September 18, 2013, in Crafts, Metalwork. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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