Tag Archives: sword



Make Magazine has a great slideshow on “Ten Tips for Drilling Better Holes“. It is a good reminder that even seemingly simple tasks can have a lot of considerations in achieving a good result. While I would not take anything off the list they present, I would add one: be sure the drill bit will not hit your hand as it exits the other side of the material (or if it slips off).

I saw this over at La Bricoleuse and had to share: it’s a Rit Dye color chart. Choose the color you want, and it will tell you which Rit dye or combination of dyes will give you that color. Now, a lot of other factors go into achieving certain colors on particular fabrics, and Rit is not the best dye for all types of fabrics, but it is readily available at most local stores and easy to work with in a pinch, and this chart is a good starting point for many colors.

I just stumbled on a cool blog called the “Creaturiste’s Labatory”. He has a post on oil clay vs water clay in terms of sculpting, though many of the other posts are useful and interesting as well.

This is pretty cool: The official licensed replicas of props from Doctor Who are being manufactured by the same prop maker who builds them for the show.

Finally, here is a very cool video of Tony Swatton forging one of the swords from the series Game of Thrones. He has a number of videos showing the making of other weapons as well. It’s amazing to see the mix of tools and techniques he uses for hand-forging custom weapons at the pace which the entertainment industry requires. Though he mainly does film, TV and theme parks, I’ve heard his name mentioned in theatrical circles as well.

Merchant of Venice bond

Props at the Victoria and Albert Museum

While it is interesting to read about how props have been constructed and used throughout the long history of theatre, it is rare to find surviving examples of actual props from bygone days. After a production, props are either integrated into a theatre’s prop storage, taken home by the cast and crew, or simply disposed of. I would hazard a guess that most historical props are kept in private collections or buried deep in the back of stock rooms at old theatres, with no way of knowing just what is out there. Luckily, some of these items do make their way to museums who recognize their historical value. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has a few such items in their collection related to props.

Merchant of Venice bond
Merchant of Venice bond, image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The first is this bond from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. For those unfamiliar with the story, Shylock lends Antonio (the aforementioned merchant) 3000 ducats; if Antonio cannot repay, he must give Shylock a pound of his flesh. This bond secures the deal and is a critical prop during the courtroom scene where Antonio’s fate must be decided.

This bond was used by Henry Irving during the production of The Merchant of Venice which opened at the Lyceum Theatre in 1879 (the museum states it opened in January, but all accounts list its opening as November). The production was designed by Hawes Craven. It is made of beige vellum mounted on cream cotton cloth with black petersham ribbon and burgundy-painted metal seal. The dust and age is a deliberate treatment done by the prop maker. Interestingly, this prop has some areas torn on purpose and stitched together with double cotton thread; it seems likely this was done so the same prop could be torn up each performance and reattached before the next one.

Irving’s production of Merchant was one of the most influential at that time, as well as one of the most popular and long-running. You can find scores of books and articles delving into every aspect of this production and his performance.

This prop came to the British Theatre Museum (a branch of the V&A which closed in 2007 and whose collection was absorbed into the main museum) in 1968 by Lady Wolfit. It had probably belonged to her husband, Sir Donald Wolfit, a well-known English theatre actor-manager, who had died just a few months prior to the Lady’s donation.

Property Sword
Property Sword, image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Next is this property sword, also used by Henry Irving for an 1895 adaptation of King Arthur. The sets, costumes and props for this show were designed by Arthurian artist Edward Burne-Jones. This prop is based off of a sword used during the Holy Roman Empire for coronation ceremonies, known as the “Sword of Saint Maurice”.

Property Sword
Property Sword, image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The prop itself has a pommel made of carved brazil nut wood with an embossed and painted metal scabbard. It was built between 1894 and 1895.

Bakst Designs
Bakst Designs, image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The final image is a drawing showing the stage property designs done by Léon Bakst for a production of the ballet La Spectre de la rose at the Diaghilev Ballets Russes in Monte Carlo in 1911. The pencil, watercolor, gouache and gold paint drawings show a green wing cushioned chair, a sewing frame behind a curtain on a curtain rod, a harp, and a bed with blanket and pillows. You can find more of his set designs on his official site, as well as his costume designs. This is the only example of his prop designs that I have ever come across.

Last Links of Summer (observed, not actual)

Well, well, we made it almost a whole week without a hurricane or earthquake here in New York. Here are some links to keep you occupied over the weekend. I would wish you a happy “three-day weekend”, but most of you are in theatre, and we don’t get holidays off.

List of Tools is more than just a list of tools; it breaks down all sorts of tools into different categories, tells you what they are used for, and includes all sorts of other relevant information. It’s great when you want to know the difference between a ball peen and a straight peen hammer, or how to measure the inside diameter of a pipe.

Here is an interview with Clive Lankford of Lancaster’s Armouries, a British sword and armor maker that specializes in stage combat weapons.

The Washington Post did a nice spread on Chris Young, prop master at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC. It’s wonderfully photographed, and always great when a larger media outlet pays attention to the work that goes on behind the scenes.

How old is your globe? This site lists various names of now defunct countries, along with when they changed and what their modern equivalent is. So if you find an older name on your globe, you know how old your globe is. Also great in reverse, for when you need to make a globe or a map and want to make sure you aren’t using any anachronistic geography.

Finally, here is a walk through a haunted house. The pictures are all taken with flash, so you really get the details of the construction behind a lot of the pieces and scenes.


Ancient Greek weapons

Ancient Greek Weapons

Pulling from the same source as my previous posts on Ancient Egyptian weapons and Ancient Greek helmets, I’ve assembled a collage of common weapons used in Ancient Greece.

Ancient Greek weapons

1. Greek sword, bronze, 19.5 inches.

2. Greek sword, bronze, 32 inches.

3. Greek sword, bronze, 25 inches, called Gallo-Greek.

4. Bronze sheath belonging to the previous sword.

5. Bronze lance-head.

6. Hand arbalest, or balista, similar to a crossbow. The drawing is taken from a description in a Byzantine text, but its actual use in Ancient Greece is doubtful.

7. A coat of mail showing how the sword is worn on the right.

8. Antique spur, bronze.

9. Greek spur, bronze.

10. Greek or Etruscan mace-head, covered in points.

11. Antique dagger, bronze, 16.5 inches. Called a “parazonium”, it was common to both Greeks and Romans.

12. Hatchet, bronze.

The illustrations and descriptions have been taken from An Illustrated History of Arms and Armour: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time, by Auguste Demmin, and translated by Charles Christopher Black. Published in 1894 by George Bell.

The types and styles of Ancient Egyptian weapons

Egyptian Weapons

I came across a book with some fun little illustrations showing the history of arms and armor through history. The pictures are not terribly detailed, but they give a good overall look at the shapes and styles of common weapons in various historical periods. The first one I’ll be showing is on Egyptian weapons.

The types and styles of Ancient Egyptian weapons

1. A mural painting of Thebes showing Egyptians fighting.

2. Egyptian soldiers from Theban bas-reliefs.

3. Egyptian coat of mail. Some coats which have survived to the present have bronze scales, each scale measuring an inch and a half tall by three-fourths of an inch wide.

4. Egyptian coat in crocodile’s skin. From the Egyptian Museum of the Belvedere, Vienna.

5. Egyptian buckler with sight-hole.

6. Sword-breaker

7. Egyptian quiver

8. Egyptian hatchet

9. Sword

10. Scimitar

11. Dart

12. Sling

13. Unknown weapon

14. Unknown weapon

15. Hatchet, from bas-reliefs of


16. Scorpion or whip-goad. These were most likely 25 to 27 inches long. They were probably in bronze and iron.

17. Egyptian wedge or hatchet, bronze (4 inches). From the Museum of Berlin.

18. Egyptian knife or lance-head, iron (6 inches). Also from the Museum of Berlin.

19. Shop or khop, an Egyptian iron weapon (6 inches). Museum of Berlin.

20. Egyptian lance-head, bronze (10 and a half inches). Louvre.

21. Egyptian poignard, bronze. The handle is fixed upon a wooden core.

22. Egyptian hatchet, bronze, bound with thongs to a wooden handle of 15 and a half inches. British Museum.

23. Egyptian hatchet, bronze (4 and a half inches), fixed into wooden handle of 16 and a half inches. Louvre.

24. Bronze dagger (14 inches). Louvre.

25. Egyptian poignard, bronze (11 and a half inches), found at Thebes. The handle is in horn.

26. Egyptian poignard and sheath, bronze, 1 foot long. Ivory handle, ornamented with studs in gilded bronze.

The illustrations and descriptions have been taken from An Illustrated History of Arms and Armour: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time, by Auguste Demmin, and translated by Charles Christopher Black. Published in 1894 by George Bell.