When constructing a wooden sword it's important to design a piece with its particular use in mind. Some settings where you might find a wooden sword are on the stage, as a dramatic prop, as a decorative ornament or as a practical tool for fencing practice. Ornamental pieces don't need to live up to any particular quality standard, however, theatrical and fencing models need to be durable and accurate to the swords on which they are based.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Graph paper
- Drafting tools, including pencil & rulers
- Safety glasses
- Band saw
- Wood clamps
- Wood plane set
- Woodcarving knife
- Sandpaper, coarse and fine grit
- Wood varnish and brush
Draft a diagram of how you want your wooden sword to look when you are done. Be sure to include accurate dimensions if you intend the sword to be used in convincing theatre or in realistic fencing activities. You can also adjust the weight of a wooden sword to match the real thing by carving out recesses for weights.
Choose the piece of lumber. For swords that will see theatrical or fencing uses, you'll want to choose a dense hardwood with a consistent grain. Look for pieces that are free of knots and other imperfections. Another consideration is how crush and crack resistant a wood is, which is in many cases an exercise in trial and error.
Mark a rough outline of the sword shape on the wood, with the arch of the wood's grain facing outward into what will become the striking edge. Cut away a rough silhouette using the band saw. Repeat this step after turning the wood on its side until you have reached a rough version of the final shape.
Clamp your wood into place and use a set of wood planes to winnow down the rough shape into a more refined final form. To plane effectively, start with the larger coarser blades and work your way down to smaller tools. To shape curves, such as those in the famous scimitar or katana swords, use a sharp carving knife to shape the two curved sides. When trying to decide if your sword is ready for sanding, make sure that the blade is perfectly symmetrical, free of bulges that could make unbalance its weight.
Hand sand the nearly-finished wooden sword with high grit paper to remove any jagged edges and wood burs. Once the entire item has been sanded roughly sand it again with a fine grit paper to make for a smooth finish. Apply wood varnish in coats, allowing at least four hours to pass between coats. Three coats of varnish will have your wooden sword ready for fencing practice.
Tips and warnings
- It's best to construct the blade of the sword from a single solid piece of wood for added strength.
- You can add decoration before varnishing, if you so desire. If you're making a theatrical wooden sword, you might consider brushing on silver leaf or a similar product to give an authentic look.
- Be careful when positioning your hands while using a band saw.
- Always wear safety glasses when working with wood.
- Make sure to apply varnish in a well-ventilated area.
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