One sword for my nephew, one sword for me

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Project by BTimmons posted 01-18-2013 09:12 PM 39614 views 28 times favorited 25 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is what happens when I don’t have pressing projects to work on and I feel compelled to make shavings, regardless of the outcome. In any case, it’s good “me” time, and it’s been great practice using planes for freehand shaping, rather than mere flattening and smoothing. I’ve always been something of a sword nut, so when boredom struck it didn’t take me long to decide what to do.

The large one was inspired by the German bastard swords seen in the late Medieval period and early Renaissance. (They were called “bastard” swords because they were neither true one-handed or two-handed swords, but more of a mix between the two.) This one was finished with boiled linseed oil, and I kind of wish I hadn’t. It yellowed the maple too much.

The smaller one which will be a gift for my nephew’s 9th birthday was inspired by the ubiquitous one-handed Norman sword of the early Medieval period. On this one, I’m pretty happy with how the octagonal sections of the cross guard and pommel turned out. Could be better, but planing free hand can be tricky. I did use boiled linseed oil on the hilt in order to darken it, but the rest of it will be waxed only to preserve the contrast between the maple and mahogany. This one is also built at roughly 3/4 scale. He’s only 9 after all. Swords of this type had a blade length around 30-32 inches, whereas this is closer to 24 inches. The hilt is also appropriately smaller to fit his hand.

There are lots of fun steps that go into shaping these, so I included some process pictures. There are a lot more of the larger sword since I had to really stop and think in between steps. I was totally winging it. Plans are massively overrated, anyway. Working on the smaller one felt much more automatic, having done the larger one already. The few pictures that I did take, it required a lot for me to slow down long enough to pull my phone out. On both swords, the hilts are mahogany and all other components are maple.

Here is the rough maple blank that forms both the blade and the tang.

Roughing the tip into a point.

At this point the blade has been shaped into a diamond cross section, and the homemade scratch stock has been used to carve out the fullers. (Scholarly nitpicking: The proper term is fullers, not blood grooves. The idea that the human body creates a suction when stabbed, requiring grooves to let blood flow and relieve said suction, is an old wives’ tale. The fullers are there to lighten the blade by removing mass, while simultaneously stiffening its cross section.)

The ugly little scratch stock that could. All I used was an old hacksaw blade. It was little flimsy and I had to bend it back into shape more than once, but I was able to rough up the edge enough to get the job done.

Here the lower edge of the blade has had a distal taper applied to it. Very seldom did sword blades have perfectly parallel edges. It was much more common to see very subtle narrowing towards the tip to help balance the blade.

Both edges with distal taper now.

The cross section of the mahogany hilt was done with my table saw.

Mortise for the cross guard has been chiseled out and fit onto the tang.

Here the pieces for the hilt have been cut and sandwiched together, forming a hexagonal cross section.

Now the cross guard has been shaped. The tight radii were done using a Forstner bit on my drill press, all other curves were roughed out on a band saw.

Just wanted to see what it looks like in my hand at this point.

The maple spacers were cut by hand and beveled with a smoothing plane.

Test fit of the hilt with the spacers. The table saw kind of got away from me when I was roughing out the blank along the tang, so I had to fudge a little bit and use a shim to tighten things up.

The hilt was profiled with some curves. Then the pommel was mortised, shaped, then glued into place.

EDIT: Almost forgot to include these two pictures of the smaller sword in the works. Like I said, I didn’t take many process pictures this time!

Here the blade has been roughed out along with the cross guard. The octagonal pommel is yet to be cut and shaped.

This pommel is secured with a mahogany wedge that fits into the end of the tang. You should be able to make it out in picture #5 up top. Trust me, it’s there!

Thus concludes the great wooden sword making adventure (for now).

EDIT: Added a picture of the birthday boy. Needless to say, it’s a hit.

-- Brian Timmons -

25 comments so far

View Dan's profile


159 posts in 3456 days

#1 posted 01-18-2013 09:19 PM

Absolutely amazing! Makes me want to give it a try. I have an affinity for bladed weapons, particularly swords.

-- Dan - Wooden Treasures CT -

View Chris Moellering's profile

Chris Moellering

227 posts in 4145 days

#2 posted 01-18-2013 10:49 PM

Very, very nice. My sword-making generally has a more utilitarian flair. I did dabble in one closer (but not nearly as nice) as yours, which my son managed to reduce to splinters. Maybe once he gets about 10 more years on him I’ll attempt something this nice that he can hang on his wall….

-- Grace & peace, Chris+

View Derec's profile


77 posts in 3466 days

#3 posted 01-18-2013 11:00 PM

Wow! Great job! My son would be jealous (I am), I have to step up my game!

-- Derec

View a1Jim's profile


118334 posts in 5074 days

#4 posted 01-18-2013 11:03 PM

Very cool swords nice work/


View Sarit's profile


552 posts in 4637 days

#5 posted 01-18-2013 11:08 PM

Beautiful craftsmanship!

Are you gonna do some fencing with your nephew? These seem almost too nice for that.

View DocHollandaise's profile


5 posts in 3628 days

#6 posted 01-18-2013 11:33 PM

I really liked how you built the handle assembly exactly as if it was a real metal sword. It’s certainly stronger this way but no one gets to see the great craftsmanship when it’s totally finished. C’est la vie.

View Don W's profile

Don W

20443 posts in 4064 days

#7 posted 01-18-2013 11:45 PM

Nice job Brian, both the project and the blog.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 3982 days

#8 posted 01-19-2013 12:12 AM

Thanks, everyone! These are pretty much decorative and not for banging together. If they were hickory, maybe.

-- Brian Timmons -

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


24948 posts in 5173 days

#9 posted 01-19-2013 12:20 AM

Nice job. Does he get the long one to make up for your arms being longer?

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 3982 days

#10 posted 01-19-2013 12:59 AM

Topamax, the maple’s a bit soft to be knocking around. Don’t want to wreck the looks or bust any knuckles.

That’s what the replica lightsabers are for!

-- Brian Timmons -

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 3982 days

#11 posted 01-19-2013 01:01 AM

Oh yeah, and my resolution for my next project is simple. Better photography. Anything beats the ugly floor of my garage for a backdrop.

-- Brian Timmons -

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 4655 days

#12 posted 01-19-2013 01:58 AM

Way cool, Brian!

-- jay,

View  woodshaver Tony C   's profile

woodshaver Tony C

8662 posts in 4850 days

#13 posted 01-19-2013 02:29 AM

WOW! Great job on the swords! I really enjoyed all the pictures also!

-- St Augustine FL, Experience is the sum of our mistakes!

View Jeff Waggoner's profile

Jeff Waggoner

105 posts in 4187 days

#14 posted 01-19-2013 04:51 AM

Thats really cool! I’ve recently began a small adventure into sword-carving and I love it. Though I at first opted for more Fantastical looking models i do love actual sword trivia and such and seeing actual recreations is always really refreshing! plz make more

-- Jeff Waggoner,

View UKTony's profile


10 posts in 3474 days

#15 posted 01-19-2013 04:57 AM

That’s awesome!!!

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