“Master” Bladesmith (Prop builder …)

Well…Yeah! Hi, it’s me. I’m not telling a fictional story this time, but even though it’s true, I think the story is pretty interesting.

I’m going to be making a sword for the cover of my book.

That is to say, I’m not making a real sword, but it’s going to look darn real, and it’s going to be awesome.

And yeah, I said ‘going to be making’ which means I haven’t started yet, so you might be wondering how I know it’s going to be awesome.

It’s because I’ve watched a lot of YouTube videos on sword making.


No, actually I’ve made a few prop swords before, and have been learning lots more from videos along the way.

Here’s a picture of my earliest prop sword. Backstory: I dressed up as Westley from The Princess Bride for a masquerade ball, and I couldn’t find a decent sword, so I made one.

For reference, here’s a picture of the one I was copying.

Not an exact replica. But close. Alright for a first try in that department. I’ve been working with metal for a while, so I had some idea what I was doing, but not much. For example, the blade isn’t even sharp, and is easily bent in any direction. The handle is done in spray-painted plasti-dip. (Plasti-dip is a liquid rubber product used to coat the handles of pliers and such things.)

Alright. This one was for a play. A character in Pride and Prejudice had a military sword from … maybe the 18th century? I forget which year P&P took place in. I was commissioned to make the prop.

Here’s a picture of that one.

The blade on this one is a little stronger.

It’s made out of one of those industrial metal storage racks. (You know … whatever material I can get my hands on, basically. Walk into the store, tear apart one of their shelves … ‘I’d like to buy one of these, please! …What do you mean put it back??’)

Here’s the most recent one I did.

Sharp blade, oaken handle, water-shrunk hilt wrapping … and this is in the katana style. Katanas are totally awesome in my opinion. A friend of my mom’s asked me to help her youngest son make a sword, so this was the practice run. I did a lot of things differently with the one I helped him build, and overall, it’s the better piece. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of it on hand.

This sword is done with mild steel. A chunk I got at a local steel place. Right out of their scrap pile. It cost about 3 bucks.

So on to the newest, biggest, best project. Also, you’ll get a sneak-peak at my novel-in-progress.

Here’s the cover I have right now. I left the title out of this image to avoid copyright issues.

This is a cool little project I whipped up in Blender, a (free) program for modeling and sculpting and video editing and so many other things.

It’s based on Inigo Montoya’s sword, also from the Princess Bride.

I was really happy with it. I had the title and other text done in the Pristina font, which was a semi-decent look.

Like I said, I was happy with it.

And then something else great happened, and totally wrecked my plan.

I came across a new website for free fonts. You writers out there totally need to check out Fontspace. It’s got all the fonts you could possibly ever want.

I picked out a Gothic style font and threw it on the cover with some lighting, and here’s how it turned out.

Now that … is a neat font if I ever saw one. It transcends the smooth look of the digital graphic. It needs something more substantial behind it.

The forged steel blade needs to be thrust through real dirt.

There has to be real light coming up out of the ground.

The textures are O.K., sure. People could do better. They could make it look real.

I could hire somebody to design a photo-realistic graphic.

But … why in the world would I do that? There are so many reasons to improve it with my own skills.

For one, I end up with a cool sword at the end of the process.

Two, I get to share the building story with y’all.

Three … it might also drum up some interest for my book … but who knows. We shall see.

Here are some specs for my new sword.

It’ll be a little bit like Inigo’s rapier. But another look I really like is Alec Steele’s rapier from YouTube. So it might be a little bit like that one, too.

The blade will hopefully be made out of stainless steel. A little harder than mild steel, and also harder to work with. I don’t think I’ll temper it. It’s just a prop. (Although someday I do want to have my own forge and make legit swords.)

The place where I work has a plasma cutter table, (In layman’s terms, a computer-operated laser that cuts through metal), so getting the blade straight with a consistent taper toward the point should be no problem. Grinding it sharp will be another story.

…Jeez that’s going to be a lot of grinding. (We only have one of those little bench grinders with two wheels. None of the fancy stuff like the one Alec uses in his videos.)

The handle will be lathed to the general shape in the cover images above. I’ll probably use 1.5 inch mild steel round stock. Basically a thick bar or dowel.

If you don’t know what a lathe is, you’ve probably at least got a general idea. You put metal into it, and it spins fast while you slowly cut it down with a tool. In this way, you can make any sort of symmetrical part you want.

Here’s a picture I found on the internet.

One reason I’d do the handle in metal instead of wood is to balance the weight. With a long metal blade and a wooden handle, you’d be using your wrist just to keep the tip of the blade up. But if it’s balanced correctly with a heavy handle, the entire sword will (theoretically) sit in your hand without much effort, and actually feel lighter.

The basket hilt might be one piece, like Alec’s, or it might be a few pieces. I can use an oxy-acetylene welder pretty well (at least to bend things.) It’s basically a welder that uses real flame instead of electricity, so you can heat metal to the point where it’ll bend, or cut it, or weld it, depending on what you want, so I’ll probably use some thinner round stock to make the basket.

Here’s an image of an Oxy-acetylene welder heating rod to bend.

If the basket hilt more than one piece, I’ll use a TIG welder to assemble it. TIG stands for Tungsten Inert Gas. In most cases, the Inert Gas in question is Argon. It doesn’t react with the air, so when it’s blasted at the surface you’re welding, you end up with a really clean weld.

Other welders, depending on the type, leave a pretty dirty track that you have to clean up later.

With the intricacies of a basket hilt, cleaning up a weld would involve a lot of painstaking work with sandpaper and a triangular file to get in all the corners.

If it’s done right, TIG is also a lot prettier.

I’ve been learning how to use the TIG welder after hours, so with enough practice I’ll hopefully be able to achieve a somewhat reasonable result.

So there you have it! A general sketch of my plans for this upcoming project! As I begin building it … maybe in a few days … I will create another post and start recording the different steps.

Reason: this page probably took for…ever to load for y’all because there’s a ton of pictures.

So with the new post you’ll want to keep checking in every few days after progress starts to keep up with the build.

I’ll start with the handle, then the hilt, then the blade. Basically opposite of Alec’s (professional) approach … but he’s also a YouTuber and the blade’s the thing everybody wants to see. So his process might be practical and it might just be cinematic.

Until then, God Bless, and I hope you check out some of these links! I’ll throw them in again, because who wants to jump to a different page when they’re in the middle of a sentence, am I right?

My previous metal work

Blender, Free designing program

Fontspace for free fonts

Alec Steele’s rapier from YouTube, the last stage of his build

~Reflections of Renaissance/Carter Pierce

2 responses to ““Master” Bladesmith (Prop builder …)”

  1. Thanks for the detailed explanation of the different welding tools and terms! Helps make it more interesting and comprehensive. Can’t wait to watch your progress.😀
    BTW, this post loaded really fast even with all the pictures.


  2. As a fellow sword-fanatic (and font-fanatic, and cover-fanatic, etc.), this post was extremely interesting. Looking forward to the next updates!


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