Skip

It annoys me that knights aren’t allowed to carry their swords
September 20, 2010 10:28 PM   Subscribe

Beloved author Terry Pratchett was knighted in 2008. He has since decided that he needed a sword.

So he went and gathered the deposits and smelted the iron ore himself, threw in some meteor iron, and took it to a blacksmith who helped him to finish the blade worked with silver.
posted by quin (55 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
While smelting your own iron ore is cool, Pratchett's sword ain't got nothin' on my favorite sword of legend.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:31 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


As I said to my sister when she linked me this info: This man continues to be all eight colors of awesome.
posted by strixus at 10:33 PM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Does it make me an incurable nerd if this was the first thing that popped into my head?
Then Beleg chose Anglachel; and that was a sword of great worth, and it was so named because it was made of iron that fell from heaven as a blazing star; it would cleave all earth-delved iron. [...]

But as Thingol turned the hilt of Anglachel towards Beleg, Melian looked at the blade; and she said: 'There is malice in this sword. The dark heart of the smith still dwells in it. It will not love the hand it serves; neither will it abide with you long.'

'Nonetheless I will wield it while I may,' said Beleg.

The Silmarillion, "Of Túrin Turambar"
posted by teraflop at 10:37 PM on September 20, 2010 [13 favorites]


I admire his pluck in mining and smelting his own ore for a sword.

(But by Anoia, I dread seeing Pratchett's name in an FPP these days.)
posted by maxwelton at 10:38 PM on September 20, 2010 [25 favorites]


(But by Anoia, I dread seeing Pratchett's name in an FPP these days.)

Phew, yeah, no shit.
posted by mrnutty at 10:47 PM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


(But by Anoia, I dread seeing Pratchett's name in an FPP these days.)

Oh lord, I know...the first thing I thought when I saw his name was Oh No! I'm so relieved it's about something cool.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 10:55 PM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Holy Crap, don't give me a heart attack! Could we please put I AIN'T DEAD on Pterry posts?

*grumble grumble* Now I'll go read the links.
posted by misha at 10:57 PM on September 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


He mined 81kg of ore! That's, like, at least 100lbs!

I guess it must take a lot of ore to make a bit of iron, but 81kilos seems like a ton of mining.

Really cool, good for PTerry. He should wear it with pride, there's a long tradition of eccentric English gentlemen bending and breaking laws and customs with impunity behind him.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:01 PM on September 20, 2010


But by Anoia, I dread seeing Pratchett's name in an FPP these days.

I think all posts about Pratchett, and any other awesome but somewhat elderly people, should take a page from the way wilderness programs teach you to begin when you have to use the satellite phone to call home(in case it cuts out unexpectedly): "This is colfax, and it's not an emergency." In this case, my preferred format would be:

"He is not dead. Beloved author Terry Pratchett..."

The fact that he found actual meteorite ore to put in his sword just makes it that much more awesome.
posted by colfax at 11:04 PM on September 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


I like a happy Terry Pratchett story. I also like the word "smelted", so keep up the good work everybody.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:06 PM on September 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


If anyone is wondering what mining and smelting your own iron looks like, a friend of mine did it a while back and took lots of pictures.
posted by y6y6y6 at 11:09 PM on September 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


I will now just assume he is dancing around with his sword using Gza as a soundtrack..
posted by mannequito at 11:21 PM on September 20, 2010


Previous discussion of Sir Pratchett's knighthood.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:47 PM on September 20, 2010


Watch out smelting mine tailings. Lots of surprising toxic stuff in there.
posted by poe at 11:50 PM on September 20, 2010


Beloved author Terry Pratchett...

Jesus Christ, this scares me every time.
posted by gc at 11:59 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


PS - Sir Terry, please continue being awesome.
posted by gc at 11:59 PM on September 20, 2010


I heard somewhere that meteor iron is actually weaker than regular iron - apparently no carbon in it.
posted by Tom-B at 12:23 AM on September 21, 2010


That should be
╭━━━━━━━━━━╮
┃ I Aint'nt Dead ┃
╰━━━━━━━━━━╯
if we really want to be pedantic
posted by nielm at 1:23 AM on September 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


Wiltshire... West of London...

Well yes... But really, no.

And good on Terry for this - such a cool thing to do. In fact, I want to do it now. Now, which way's west?
posted by benzo8 at 1:30 AM on September 21, 2010


╭━━━━━━━━━━╮
┃ I Aint'nt Dead ┃
╰━━━━━━━━━━╯

if we really want to be pedantic

If you want to be absolutely pedantic, it should be "I Aten't Dead".
posted by Alnedra at 1:40 AM on September 21, 2010 [18 favorites]


He mined 81kg of ore! That's, like, at least 100lbs!

I guess it must take a lot of ore to make a bit of iron, but 81kilos seems like a ton of mining.


It was easier once he'd crafted some pick handles and made a toolbox from planks.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:55 AM on September 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


Take note: this is the only possible FPP about a guy forging his own sword that is acceptable.

When I say "long live Terry Pratchett," I do not mean it figuratively. Just hopefully.
posted by JHarris at 2:07 AM on September 21, 2010


The article just says found a field with deposits of iron ore near his home in Wiltshire but I assume we talking about bog iron or something similar here rather than say, ore hewn out of rock in the sense we perhaps normally think about mining? Does anyone know of any more specific details to the story?
posted by adamt at 2:18 AM on September 21, 2010


He mined 81kg of ore! That's, like, at least 100lbs!

More like 180.
posted by rodgerd at 2:38 AM on September 21, 2010


Sokka also made a sword from sky metal, resulting in 'likely one of the best melee weapons in the world of Avatar'. So, Pterry is in good company.
posted by asok at 3:22 AM on September 21, 2010


Terry Pratchett deserves his own sword, forged from the ingredients of his labour. A tangible, heavy, wonderful thing to swing around at dinner parties.
posted by h00py at 4:50 AM on September 21, 2010


This is all kinds of awesome. But I was expecting the sword to have a bit more of a discworld flair to it.
posted by Fizz at 5:07 AM on September 21, 2010


Man, you know that thing is like ..eight kinds of magic.
posted by The Whelk at 5:18 AM on September 21, 2010


A tangible, heavy, wonderful thing to swing around at dinner parties.

Swinging swords around at dinner parties is dangerous. Do not attempt this at home, or anywhere people may be dining. Use swords responsibly. Will no one think of the children?

Pratchett has always seemed like a considerate individual, and I expect he would not condone wild sword antics outside of fiction.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:26 AM on September 21, 2010


Verily, not since Kahless created the first bat'leth by dropping a lock of his hair into lava from the Kri'stak volcano, and then cooling the burning lock in the Lake of Lusor and forging it into a blade, has such a sword been made.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:27 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


But I was expecting the sword to have a bit more of a discworld flair to it.

Compared to Captain Carrot's sword, this is pretty spiffy.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:29 AM on September 21, 2010


Holders of the Pratchblade may cast:

Author Ex Machina

Narrative Causality

and

Very Personally Specific Gravity.
posted by The Whelk at 5:30 AM on September 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


Swinging swords around at dinner parties is dangerous. Do not attempt this at home, or anywhere people may be dining. Use swords responsibly. Will no one think of the children? Pratchett has always seemed like a considerate individual, and I expect he would not condone wild sword antics outside of fiction.

“You can’t give her that!” she screamed. “It’s not safe!”
IT’S A SWORD, said the Hogfather. THEY’RE NOT MEANT TO BE SAFE.
“She’s a child!” shouted Crumley.
IT’S EDUCATIONAL.
“What if she cuts herself?”
THAT WILL BE AN IMPORTANT LESSON.
posted by stuck on an island at 5:51 AM on September 21, 2010 [23 favorites]


The fact that he has to hide the sword from the government is more absurd than anything that ever happened on Discworld.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 6:31 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Brilliant! Now all he needs is a narmy.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:40 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, my, does it ever make my heart skip a beat when I see Pratchett's name turn up on the Blue. Luckily, it's still because he's doing interesting things.

I firmly hope that when I do see it for the last time it's on his own terms, still fully of sound mind and body. But, oh, will I miss living in a world that has such as he in it.
posted by ChrisR at 6:45 AM on September 21, 2010


Kind of makes the giant Pratchgan seem like easy going.

(The Pratchgan was one of the topics I interviewed him about...apparently it's so heavy it's going to need special supports to hang on the wall...)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:55 AM on September 21, 2010


Metafilter: A tangible, heavy, wonderful thing to swing around at dinner parties.

I always wanted to throw one of those up. The, uh, post... not metafilter. Too much bile.
posted by LD Feral at 7:07 AM on September 21, 2010


Enron Hubbard: "The fact that he has to hide the sword from the government is more absurd than anything that ever happened on Discworld."

I suspect that may have been a quip by Pterry being taken a little too seriously. While knife and weapon laws are very strict in the UK, nobody's going to come and take it off him, unless he goes down the local High Street swinging it around at people.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:17 AM on September 21, 2010


unless he goes down the local High Street swinging it around at people.

On the other hand ...would you stop him?
posted by The Whelk at 7:20 AM on September 21, 2010


If you want to be absolutely pedantic, it should be "I Aten't Dead".

The disclaimer should be at the front of every pTerry post. (Not to toot my own horn too much, but like so.)

Though considering how often it comes up, it should probably be "I Still Aten't Dead" by this point.
posted by kmz at 7:25 AM on September 21, 2010


John Brent Macek read this article, and quoted Lord Dunsany:


"And so it was it became a magical sword. And little magic there is in English woods, from the time of anemones to the falling of leaves, that was not in the sword. And little magic there is in southern downs, that only sheep roam over and quiet shepherds, that the sword had ...not too. And there was scent of thyme in it and sight of lilac, and the chorus of birds that sings before dawn in April, and the deep proud splendour of rhododendrons, and the litheness and laughter of streams, and miles and miles of may. And by the time the sword was black it was all enchanted with magic.

"Nobody can tell you about that sword all that there is to be told of it; for those that know of those paths of Space on which its metals once floated, till Earth caught them one by one as she sailed past on her orbit, have little time to waste on such things as magic, and so cannot tell you how the sword was made, and those who know whence poetry is,...


posted by Nyrath at 7:59 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Since we're being all pedantic, anyhow--Sorry stuck on an island, but Death just doesn't sound right with regular caps.

“You can’t give her that!” she screamed. “It’s not safe!”
IT’S A SWORD, said the Hogfather. THEY’RE NOT MEANT TO BE SAFE.
“She’s a child!” shouted Crumley.
IT’S EDUCATIONAL.
“What if she cuts herself?”
THAT WILL BE AN IMPORTANT LESSON.
posted by tzikeh at 8:02 AM on September 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


"He mined 81kg of ore! That's, like, at least 100lbs!"
More like 180, as mentioned above. I'm a knifemaker and swordsmith as a hobbyist, and I've done some smelting.

If it's bog ore/limonite (fossilized bog ore), then it's only up to 60% at most iron oxide, more likely less, with the remainder as phosphorus, sulfur, carbon, silicon, and other impurities. The reduction process, assuming a short stack, is also fairly inefficient -- I've seen 200lbs of high grade ore go into a smelter to come out as only 6-7lbs of iron, in a smelter run by experienced amateurs (professional knife makers). The best I've been able to do with my small setup is about a 20% conversion of ore to iron, using magnetite sand and charcoal.

The resulting bloom isn't a usable bar or iron, either. It's a lump of iron, slag, and unburnt charcoal, with carbon levels ranging from 0% to over 5 (cast iron, basically.) You need to refine the slag and other impurities out of it, which can take several heats and a lot of banging on the anvil, with a corresponding loss of iron to oxidation with each heat. If the resulting bar (assuming the European tradition; India (wootz) and the Japanese had different processes) doesn't have enough carbon, it would need to be pack carborized into blister steel, then forge welded back up together, losing more iron in the process.

Then there's forging, which loses more iron, and then the grinding and polishing, both removal processes -- so, yeah, it may well take 81kg of ore to make one sword.
posted by Blackanvil at 11:12 AM on September 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


How in the world can he have Alzheimer's and do something like this at the same time? I always thought that to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's, you must exhibit quite obvious symptoms of forgetfulness. Can someone with symptoms like that really pull off building a kiln, mining iron, and forging a sword?
posted by fremen at 11:18 AM on September 21, 2010


fremen: At first, you have good days and bad days. On good days you're just as smart and capable as you ever were.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 11:52 AM on September 21, 2010


NPR did a series over a period of years about a man diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's.
In 1999, Tom DeBaggio was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease. He was 57. Soon after the diagnosis, he began talking with NPR about his illness. He wanted to document his decline, to break through what he called the "shame and silence" of Alzheimer's:

NPR's Noah Adams started the visits with Tom, his wife, Joyce, and his son, Francesco, at DeBaggio's Herb Farm and Nursery in Chantilly, Va.

"I still talk, I still stand up on both feet, I still look the same — maybe they go out of here and say, 'Doesn't look like anything wrong with him.' And of course you don't see it," he said in 1999.

Over the course of a year, Tom DeBaggio described his growing confusion with language: the sudden, inexplicable tears. And the waves of anger that came with Alzheimer's.

I picked up the conversations in 2005. Tom took me through the nursery, proud to show off dozens of kinds of tomato plants.

When I visited Tom again three years ago, his decline was pronounced. He couldn't name the disease he has, but he could still express his feelings about it.

"I still don't understand why. It just happened in, I guess. I can still do things — but it's hard to do. And I sure hope that Francesco and all of those people, and everybody like that, that they wouldn't have to go through this," he said.
Listen to the whole series (linked on the right side of the page I linked to). It's incredibly moving.
posted by rtha at 12:06 PM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Left side of the page, that is.
posted by rtha at 12:07 PM on September 21, 2010


Oh gosh, I love this! How practically Vimesian of him!

"I'm a Fantasy Author, damn it, that used to mean something," Pratchett fumed aloud. "All of a sudden they expect me to hobnobb with the Queen and wear tights and be distinguished. Just because they made me a knight--" He stopped very suddenly and smiled. It was the devious kind of smile that makes lesser fantasy authors say, Me? A fantasy author? Wrong bloke, mate! What manuscripts? These aren't my manuscripts. Nothing to see here, ha ha!

Because they forgot something, Pratchett realized. He was a knight. And the thing about knights is, they have swords.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:28 PM on September 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


I twitch when I see his name, too. My FIL developed early-onset Alzheimer's, and it's a nightmare, and I am miserable for any person who knows they will be facing that. If his case goes anything like FIL's, though, it'll still be a few years before there are effects really noticeable to people outside his immediate friends and family. No idea what's really typical.

On a more pleasant note, I've seen a couple of different pictures of swords associated with this (just delightful) story. Does anyone have confirmation of which is really the one he made? The pic OP posted is just a link to a pic, with no text...
posted by galadriel at 2:32 PM on September 21, 2010


Then there's forging, which loses more iron, and then the grinding and polishing, both removal processes -- so, yeah, it may well take 81kg of ore to make one sword.
posted by Blackanvil


Couldn't leave without pointing up the eponysteria.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:44 PM on September 21, 2010


The pic OP posted is just a link to a pic, with no text...

Sorry 'bout that, I wanted to keep it as clean as possible. I got to that picture by following the link labeled "See Sir Terry's meteorite sword here" to this site which appears to be in his own words.

I hope it's the correct photo, because the one pictured is quite beautiful.
posted by quin at 3:22 PM on September 21, 2010


I got to that picture by following the link labeled "See Sir Terry's meteorite sword here"

Aha! I'm apparently half blind. (Thanks!)
posted by galadriel at 4:37 PM on September 21, 2010


Wow, thanks for everybody who multiplied by 2.2 for me, I could never have done that.

I'm being sarcastic now, just like I was when I said 8okg was 'at least 100lbs'

thanks, though, genuises
posted by paisley henosis at 8:03 PM on September 21, 2010


I hope Sir Patrick Stewart takes note of this: a proper knight should make his own sword, not try to take someone else's.
posted by homunculus at 8:48 PM on September 21, 2010


« Older "A novel metric of habitability"   |   Are you a cafeteria American? Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post