This is part one of a three part series about the first costume I made for my kids.
This is the project that started it all. This is the beginning of my journey into all of this crafty-ness that would eventually lead me down the path to woodwork and leatherwork (and someday metalwork).
It all started the day I became a father.
A few years ago when my first kid was born I decided I wanted to make him a set of toys that I would have loved to play with when I was young. My plan was to make everything fun, but also somewhat historically accurate, so that he could play with it and get in touch with his heritage at the same time.
…and so was born the Dark Ages Germanic Warrior Costume Project (or DAGWCP).
Now, to be clear, when I say “Germanic” I am speaking anthropologically; I don’t just mean the people who come from the area that is now modern-day Germany. I mean a group of tribes that, generally speaking, share a common culture including such peoples as the Goths, Saxons, Normans, Danes, Angles, Franks, Geats, etc. (among many, many others).
So basically it mostly includes anyone that come from the areas of modern-day France, Germany, Scandinavia, and Southern Britain. In other words, guys like this:
The first thing I did was hit the books. A lot of my research was done between the covers of the excellent “Man-at-Arms” series by Osprey Publishing (from which the above image was scanned and used without permission), but I also found some good stuff at my local library.
I decided to make the entire kit 2-to-1 scale, meaning a historical shield with a 36″ diameter and 3/4″ thickness would be built for my kid with an 18″ diameter and 3/8″ thickness. The whole kit would be based on measurements for a 6-foot tall warrior, so that he could play with it whenever he reached a height of 3 feet.
This is a simple concept, but I feel like I’m having trouble explaining it. Let’s move on to my strong-suit: pictures!
The first item I would be making was the sword.
I started with a scale printout of the design I made in Adobe Illustrator. Then I traced the lines with a pencil and rubbed them onto a pine board (top picture above). Then I cut out the outline with a jigsaw and chiseled out the basic shape (bottom picture above).
It’s important to constantly fit-test your project before you get too far along:
Next I cut out the cross-guard and fit it over the hilt of the sword. When I was a kid my cross-guards always broke off because I made them a part of the same cut-out as the blade. By using a separate piece I could run the wood grain perpendicular to the blade and give it some strength (in addition to being closer to the actual historical construction of dark ages swords). In the right-most picture above I’m shaping the pommel out of a scrap piece of wood with a rasp.
As always, feel free to click on any picture for a closer look.
I wanted to put some detail into the grip. I took some wood pieces from a local hobby store and shaped them with a rasp. In the above image the two left pictures show the pieces I started with; the picture to their right shows the end product of each respective piece.
I cracked the barrel piece when I tried to fit it too early (when the hole wasn’t big enough yet). I tried to force it and it cracked, but with a little glue you can barely see where it’s broken.
After shaping those wood pieces I dry-fit them on the handle to make sure everything was going to work out. The middle piece will be painted to look metal, the other two pieces will be stained wood.
At this point I was mostly done with the shaping, so I added some detail with a chisel. The triangular symbol is associated with the god Odin. The runes on the blade, are not random, but entirely meaningful to me (the first two runes stand for victory and protection).
After an application of linseed oil and a light sanding, I applied wood-filler to all the cracks, gaps, and rough spots. After the filler dried I sanded the sword smooth all over.
I originally had a little knob on the bottom of the handle for the pommel to fit onto (see the original plans I printed out earlier), but this seemed too weak, so instead I drilled out the handle and inserted a dowel.
Then I added the pommel, taped the parts that I wanted to remain wood-looking, and spray-painted the whole thing. I glued some heavy washers to the pommel to cover the hole and give the sword some balance.
I also added a little celtic-knot detail piece in the washer holes (a pair of fancy buttons from a craft store).
I hope you’ve enjoyed this. In the next installment I’ll go over all the other items I made for the kit including scabbard, spear, axe with axe-ring, helmet, and armor.
I hope you’ll join me. Thanks for reading!