“Tempera in questa aqua”: Experimenting with Impact of Medieval Quenching Recipes on Steel Hardness
Lecture by Emily E. Beck, Amanda Taylor and Nathan Mara
Held at the Oakeshott Institute on October 25, 2023
Abstract: The purpose of this lecture/interactive workshop is to share the results of a collaboration between The Oakeshott Institute, Arms and Armor, and the University of Minnesota. We used two medieval recipes–one from Caterina Sforza’s ca. 1490 recipe collection and one from the pseudo-Dohbringer German commonplace book — to prepare two different quenching liquids. These liquids – featuring such ingredients as crushed earthworms and mealworms and blood from a rutting buck – were used to quench steel samples at Arms and Armor and compared to steel samples quenched with water and rapeseed oil (common modern quenching liquid). All 4 samples were then analyzed with hardness testing and microscopic examination by the University of Minnesota materials science team.
Emily E. Beck is Assistant Curator at Wangensteen Historical Library, University of Minnesota. Amanda Taylor is a Research Affiliate at the Center for Premodern Studies, University of Minnesota, and a Fellow of the Oakeshott Institute. Nathan Mara is a Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at the University of Minnesota.