Friday, August 3, 2012

Wooden Swordmaking

This past May my wife and son and I went down to the Georgia Renaissance Festival, and while there I picked up a little wooden sword for my son (at 16 months en garde is already a part of his small vocabulary and he knows how to sword fight). It came from The Black Swan Armoury and was very cool but very simple. I spent some time looking around at their selection, they have lots of different sizes and types of weapons, and decided that I could make some myself.

This past week I finally decided to try my hand at my own toy sword. While I was looking up wooden swords online (gotta do my research) I found this blog post. The sword designs he came up with are really cool and inspiring. I decided to go a little more simple than those but if I do many more of these I might have to try using some cool wood like he used. And I definitely want to make some leather scabbards like he's made.

I spent some time designing what I wanted the sword to look like and this is what I came up with:

It's a fairly basic design and I figured that it gave me a place to add a hand guard but didn't require it if I didn't feel up to it.

I got some pieces of wood from work. They're from a pallet that was being thrown away so I have no idea what kind of wood they are. I traced the shape onto it and started to cut it out with my coping saw.

Now I have to admit to not being very good with a coping saw. The angle of the blade is adjustable and somehow it kept getting turned in directions I didn't want it to. This resulted in me taking a chunk out of one side of the blade.

I could have kept the same shape but it would have required me to shave both sides down and end up with a much smalled dagger, so instead I decided to go with the flow and see how it evolved. I used my rasp to round the edges and just generally refine the shape.

After I had the shape defined fairly well I took a round file and began to make a separation between the handle and the blade.

After I had a good defining line between the blade and the handle I went back to the rasp to quickly thin the blade out. It's not that much thinner than the handle, but I wanted some amount of difference. I also used files when I got closer to the thickness I wanted to smooth it back out and to give it a bevelled edge. I also used files to smooth all of the edges and a half round file to round the handle.

Once I felt comfortable that I had it shaped just the way I wanted (or the way my coping saw apparently wanted) I sanded it all down. I'd like to say that I took my time to do it right and started with a coarse sandpaper and then gradually moved to a fine grit, but in reality I just grabbed some scrap sandpaper and scrubbed vigorously until I had turned my scraps of sandpaper into shreds of sandpaper. At that point it was pretty smooth so I was happy.

I wanted to do something to it to finish it off and make it look really cool so I stared at it for a while and tried to imagine it with different accessories. I considered doing a cool design with my wood burner but I just couldn't figure out what to do so instead I ended up just going with a leather wrapped handle. I had a long strip of some sort of fake leather that I ended up using because it was already the perfect size.

At some point during all of my projects I end up cheating or using something in a way that it was not intended to be used. This is that moment. I didn't have any glue and I just wanted to finish it so I ended up using this ModPodge Puzzle Saver stuff that I have. It's basically glue so hopefully it will be fine, but it's not intended for this kind of use so it might come apart later and force me to find the appropriate type of glue. Either way I spread some of it around on the handle and the back of the strap as I wrapped it around.

Once I had wrapped the strap around the handle I tucked the end under and coated it with more of the "glue".

Here are a couple shots of the final project.

I'd like to make other styles too. Maybe I'll try to make the style I was originally going for. I'd also like to make some more wooden swords that are less toy and more prop. Right now I'm incredibly inspired by this sword by Blind Squirrel Props as well as this sword and this sword by Fevereon Props. Their work is way over my head and they use a lot of materials and tools that I have no idea how to use, but the way they put things together and the awesome props they make are really incredible. Maybe one day I'll achieve that skill level.


  1. This is extremely cool. My neighbor made us wooden machine guns when we were kids. They were awesome.

    1. Thanks. I would have loved to have a neighbor like that when I was a kid. Instead I had an old lady neighbor who let me have an old pool cue out of her junk shed, which was still pretty cool as a kid.