Welcome back to another issue of Mad Props! This week, we look at the broad world of movie swords.
Swords have been prominent in media since they were first cut and cast from stone and bronze thousands of years ago. Many franchises and genres utilize swords, even modern and futuristic ones where bladed weapons almost shouldn't belong. As such, sword props are very prominent, and many are made the same way real swords have been made for ages. Nothing beats the heat of a real forge for realism, and below are some examples of the best in the business.
One of the premiere smiths in Hollywood is Tony Swatton of Sword and the Stone. io9 featured his show "Man at Arms" previously, but his film credits include Pirates of the Caribbean, Sucker Punch, and Thor. While most of his weapons are forged traditionally, Sword and the Stone features several modern conveniences such as pneumatic hammers and electric grinders, allowing Swatton to produce upwards of 12,000 swords for a single summer of filming on Master and Commander and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Occasionally, productions will contract out to smaller forges for incredibly specialized weapons. Cedarlore Forge is one such company, contracted to make Heimdall's sword/Bifrost key for Thor. David DelaGardelle and Andy Davis worked to ensure the design would be rooted in reality, with historic roots drawn frome Germanic and Nordic ornamentation. The blade itself is made of tempered steel, with a subtle fuller and a flared ricasso, while the hilt is made of cast bronze and mahogany with knotwork carved via rotary tool. Several copies were made in both aluminum and rubber for stuntwork.
Productions outside of the US often try to hire local artisans, such as the Game of Thrones production in Ireland. Weapon Master Tommy Dunne, who has also worked on The Mummy and Gladiator, injects a fair amount of Irish heritage into the design process, while not limiting his team to traditional methods. Valyrian steel is represented in-series by pattern-welded, or Damascus, steel, while the weapons of the White Walkers are cast in acrylic resin to simulate ice. The production has used hundreds of swords alone.
Finally, there's the far more high tech method of making movie swords, employed by none other than Weta Workshop. In order to get exact replicas for extreme close ups (and for sale to the general public) Weta manufactures their swords with computer numerical control (CNC) machines. This results in a high degree of uniformity and ease of manufacture, with far more complex designs than what can be produced in several month of labor at a forge.
Tune in next week for a look at a more long-range flavor of prop.
Edit: sharing once more for the morning crowd.