The musical is based off of The Ocarina of Time video game, so first I had to find some accurate reference images from the game. From those, I drew out a paper pattern for the blades.
After cutting the pattern out of plywood, I made another pattern to find the bevel on the blade. I was working on three swords (one for Link, one for Dark Link, and one for a lobby display) so taking the time to make these patterns saved a lot of time in the long run.
I used a rasp and block sander to shape the blade.
I turned some of the handle and guard parts on a lathe. The quillon block (otherwise known as the écusson) is just a slice of PVC pipe.
For the rest of the detail on the guard, I used pieces of MDF which I shaped with my belt sander and fine tuned with a Dremel.
Dagger with single thumb ring, about 16 inches long, fifteenth century.
Dagger with double thumb ring, sixteenth century. The two rings were placed there to fix the dagger on a shaft, or at the end of a lance, to resist cavalry.
Dagger, anelace, or Verona dagger, fifteenth century.
Dagger, anelace, fifteenth century.
Dagger, fifteenth century.
Dagger of a German lansquenet, sixteenth century, about 14 inches long. Polished steel sheath.
Dagger of German lansquenet, sixteenth century.
Main gauche, Spanish, with the inscription “Viva Felipe V.,” which shows that this weapon was in use in the year 1701.
Stiletto (Spitzdolch), about 12 inches long, end of the sixteenth century. In Germany these weapons were also called Panzerbrecher, or cuirass-breaker.
Dagger, Swiss, sixteenth century. These daggers are often provided with small knives, which served to cut the thongs of the armour, to pierce holes, and for various purposes.
Dagger, German, sixteenth century.
Poniard, German, with wavy blade, very short and broad.
Poniard, German, sixteenth century. The guard has four quillons.
Main gauche, sixteenth century.
Main gauche, German, sixteenth century.
Main gauche, German, about 20 inches long, sixteenth century. Engraved handle.
Main gauche, German, with indented blade for breaking the enemy’s sword; thumb ring, and quillons curved in inverse directions; sixteenth century.
Main gauche, German, with indented blade for breaking swords, sixteenth century.
Close-up of indented blade of previous dagger.
Large German brise-épée, sixteenth century.
Close-up of indented blade of previous dagger.
Poniard, German, sixteenth century.
Large main gauche, German, with indented quillons, and grated guard as sword-breaker, seventeenth century. It measures about 25 by 10 inches.
Stiletto, German, called Panzerbrecher, or cuirass-breaker, about 12 inches long, sixteenth century.
Poniard, about 10 inches long, richly studded with precious stones. This weapon belonged to Sobieski, King of Poland.
Poniard, German, called Panzerbrecher. The numbers on the blade probably used for measuring the bore of cannons.
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.
I made this decorative Yoruban sword back in 2004, when I was attending Ohio University and had a lot more beard.
The show was called “The Gods are Not to Blame”, and it is a Yoruban retelling of the Oedipus Rex tale from Ancient Greece (the Yoruba people are one of the largest ethnic groups in Western Africa, with a cultural history of hundreds, if not thousands, of years). My future wife was the set designer on this show, and nearly all the props had to be constructed to be completely authentic; her design involved extensive research into Yoruban artifacts, furniture, and design.
This sword, while appearing like a tradition sword, was built using very modern methods. It’s actually a fairly simple construction, although it has a few hidden tricks. I carved the handle from a piece of poplar, while the blade is taken from a sheet of steel plate. I traced the shape onto the steel and used a plasma cutter to cut it out. I also cut the cross shape out with the plasma.
Now for the hidden fun part. I took a steel rod and sharpened one end to a point. On the end of the tang of the blade, I notched a “V” shape. This is where the sharpened end of the rod went, and I welded the two pieces together; the reason for the sharpening and the notching was to give me a lot of surface area to attach my welds to.
I then had to drill a hole all the way through my carved figurine for the rod to slide into. I needed an extra-long drill bit for this part. I also notched the bottom for the tang to slide into. It was like cutting a mortise for a metal tenon. This step was necessary to keep the handle from spinning around the rod.
I threaded the end of the rod which was sticking out of the top of the figurines head, and tightened a nut down; this is how the handle remained attached to the blade. For one final little touch, I drilled out the top of the head so the nut could fit down inside, and then filled the whole thing over with some Bondo auto-body filler. The nut was now hidden within the top of the handle–with the unfortunate side effect that the handle was now permanently attached. Since this was a decorative sword and not a stage combat weapon (the blade was mild steel, and not to0l-hardened like a weapon’s blade), it would hopefully not need routine maintenance and tightening.
I traced the designs onto the blade from my full-scale drawing and engraved them with a Dremel tool. For my final step, I stained and sealed the handle.
It was a very hefty sword and a lot of fun to swing around. One day, I wasn’t paying attention while swinging it around, and I accidentally cut all my facial hair off. And that, my friends, is the secret origin of “Clean-Shaven Eric”.
What makes this a success is that we SEVERELY LIMIT who touches the guns, how, where, and when. Guns are NEVER ‘dry fired’. That is, fired without a live round in ’em. In our world, if you pull the trigger, you are doing it for real every time. If you’re not doing it for real, your finger does NOT even go inside the trigger guard, and there will still be no live round in it. If the weapon fails to discharge, you DO NOT get to try again. You re-holster it, and move on.
This is, of course, important stuff for every props person to know, especially with a number of incidents that have happened in the past year, which are also linked to from this site.
Hoevels, whose character was to commit suicide, had been given a real blade instead of a harmless prop, London’s Telegraph newspaper reports.
As he collapsed with blood spurting from his neck, the audience started to applaud not realising Hoevels was not acting.
The Santa Fe Opera has at least one knife or sword in every show. Drew Drake, the former head props carpenter, taught me that whenever the props supervisor, run crew, or a stage manager placed a blade on your work table, you should drop everything you’re doing and immediately dull the sharp edge. By doing that, you ensure that you don’t forget about it, or worse, you leave it for later only to find someone has taken it off your table and brought it up to stage without checking the blade’s sharpness.
If you don’t have proper safety procedures for dealing with weapons on stage, then you have no business using them. There are already enough things in theatre that can cause injury.
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