A Tale of Two Swords

While creating the props for our DragonSpell Teaser Trailer, I was confronted with the fact that we needed a sword. A sword that looked fairly decent. One that didn’t have “Made in China” visible on the blade. And preferably one without cheesy-looking plastic decoration on the hilt. Unfortunately, that was all we had on hand. And the zero-dollar budget made buying one out of the question. Besides, if I had managed to talk Jordan and Ruth into spending the money, it wouldn’t have got here in time. I was left with no choice but to make something out of those plastic excuses for a weapon.

Drastic times called for drastic actions. We chose the handle from the sword of Chocolate, and the blade from the sword of Ice Cream. Tremble, world, there will never be an iSundae 3 ever because the swords of Ice Cream and Chocolate have been destroyed. They were thrown into the firey Mount Doom known as the craftroom and reborn as this sword. (Please hold applause until the end of the article.)

Not too shabby, eh? Now, granted, it still doesn’t look like something out of Weta, but it does look better than a Halloween prop.

In case any of you want to try this at home, let me give you a quick walkthrough of sword disassembling. First things first, find the little screws hiding in holes all over the handle and start unscrewing. You will need a ridiculously small screwdriver. Every single screw needs to come out. All of them. Otherwise the handle will snap while you’re removing the blade. (Why do you think I know this?) And, while this may sound ridiculous, that was actually the first time I had used a screwdriver for a prop. Big things were afoot in the prop world.

Once you unscrew both handles and carefully pry them apart, they should open up just fine, revealing something rather like this.

For both Ice Cream and Chocolate, the blades were barely glued into place. A quick twist and they were out. (Ugh. Sounds like getting a tooth pulled. Let me try that again.) A light yank and they parted ways with the hilts.

Then the idea was to take the good blade and stick it into the good handle. Easier said than done. I had to snap off the hidden end of the blade to make it fit, which, thankfully, made the “Made In China” nightmare vanish into the depths of the handle, never to be seen on film. (Permit the prop maker a satisfied chuckle.) Then, because one blade was thicker than the other, I had to resort to stuffing bits of cardboard and fake leather (to disguise the cardboard color) down inside the handle before screwing it back together. It was a bit wobbly after that, but sturdy enough for hero shots.

Once that was done, we still had to address the nasty plastic look of the handle. Now, here let me state that I was operating off of an over-arcing principle for all the props and costumes. I had very little detailed visual references, so I applied this simple rule: Tell a story in the item.

Kale’s costume, for example, had specific tears and rips because of what may have happened to her the day before. The mending had various stitches because of what the mender was possibly thinking. You get the idea. With this sword hilt I wanted to tell a story about Dar, the doneel whose sword it is. So, due to the doneel’s furry nature, a metal sword hilt would be rather slippery. I wrapped it completely in black leather. Dar is a rather dressy fellow, but he’s also a good soldier, so I made the leather have a somewhat fancy weave while keeping it fairly serviceable. A good grip, and all that. Copper accents and a jewel for a bit of bling, and there you have it. A Frankenstein of a sword that doesn’t look half bad.

You can insert the usual disclaimers here. Don’t go about snapping plastic blades without adequate eye protection. Refrain from running with the screwdriver, even if you’re excited about using it. Keep your fingers away from the crack between the rapidly tightening handles. Don’t eat any of the fake leather strips. You get the idea.

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