Aluminimum

I’ve been working as best I can in my “free time” (a term whose meaning has changed with age, children, and other obligations) on a batch of aluminum sword blanks I got an amazing deal on. They were originally spare stock made for Prince of Persia, but were never finished. This means I actually had to apologize to a couple of high school girls in a class I was teaching  a couple weeks ago for the fact that these did not, in fact, contain any traces of Jake Gyllenhaal sweat.

The first batch of finished straight blades

Why invest in a large new batch of swords? In large part because I find myself teaching a lot of youth classes- at least five different workshops/classes/camps/etc this Summer. Aluminum is a lot lighter than steel, and while I did sell off the Dave Baker custom aluminum rapier sets that were one of my original Fight Designer, LLC investments (decided the weight advantage wasn’t worth the tradeoff in weakness of threads in the assembly), I think it makes sense for broadswords. This batch has also been an experiment in how quickly, cheaply, and easily I can create the kind of hilts I’d want to use on a movie or stage set- so there’s no threaded aluminum tangs, just rivets. The guards and pommels are aluminum, which is easier and faster to work than steel, plus won’t bite in to the aluminum blades unduly. The grips are heat-shaped PVC, and the handle wraps are grip tape rather than leather. My resources are limited not just financially, but also by the fact I’m now in an upstairs apartment with no shop. I miss having a shop!

All told, when I’m done, I’ll have over 30 of these swords in 3 different styles- more than I’d have thought I’d get, but did I mention it was a great deal? I’ve got a handful of other aluminum swords, and a few more blanks to finish, from Albion’s moat sales over the last couple years (probably the closest I’ll ever get to an actual Albion, as they run in the thousands), and while these are not as nicely machined by far, the aluminum itself is fine; bends then springs back as you’d want it to, and actually rings pretty nicely if you hilt it up tightly enough.

One of the Albion aluminum swords, which I've put much more work into.

And they’re so light and fast. My wife says she’s lost much of her respect for screen swordfighters now. Just how light are they? Allow one of my one year old twins (and a free animated gif app from my iPhone) to help me demonstrate:

...and this is a kid who can't talk or use a potty

Yeah. That light.

I’ve now wrapped up my two weeks of teaching stage combat at Henrico High, a three week intensive public speaking class, and this week I’ll be leaving the house before 7am to do stage combat about an hour’s drive West of Richmond. Then later this Summer are two classes/workshops for VCU’s Summer Arts Discovery series and a guest spot at SPARC. Now if only I had some fight choreography gigs as well… the one movie I was going to be doing has been “postponed” (we’ll see), and I just haven’t made the theatre contacts I need to outside of VCU, unfortunately.

Granted, there’s plenty of work I can also be doing to prepare for this Fall, when I’m directing a show on top of my other obligations. Anyone want to help build some set pieces this Summer? Costumes? Props?

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2 Comments

  1. Posted June 13, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Do you find aluminum to be durable enough for use? I have only used steel as far as metal swords go, and I have always been wary of aluminum.

    Adorable gif!!

    • Posted June 13, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      Intellectually, I know that aluminum is supposed to “fatigue” more than steel with repeated shock. That said, The only problems I’ve ever had with them (so far) have been either with threading on pommels (where it’s a narrow enough little bit of aluminum that a strong grip can actually strip the threads by hand-tightening) or if it is in contact with a harder metal somewhere that rubs (like a steel hilt that gets loose, then starts to bite in to the aluminum). Thus for this batch I’m sticking to riveted (mild steel or brass rod) assembly and aluminum or brass furniture. We’ll see how long they hold up, but being lighter they don’t tend to impact as hard either. They burr similarly to steel, but are faster to file down. Being thicker, you don’t have to worry about removing a little metal.

      Movies with a real budget often treat them as disposable (and depending on the alloy used, the construction, and the use, they may be), but I know folks who have been using some for ages.

      I generally discourage hard hitting for stage, but sometimes for film you need people to be able to commit a little more, so I can see going through them faster on a film set than when teaching kids.


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  1. By Checking in « Them's Fightin' Words on June 16, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    […] aluminum swords mentioned previously were definitely the right choice for this kind of class. They seem to be holding up just fine, and […]

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