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Making a heron mark sword (not for sale)

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Hello all.  I've been reading the Wheel of Time since it first came out.  Like many of you, I've read and reread the series numerous times.  While it has its weaknesses, I'll always have a soft spot for this one.


Now, one of my main reasons for posting is that I'm a hobbyist blade maker.  I never thought that the heron mark swords that are officially licensed were good enough.  They don't fit the descriptions in the book at all, at least not of the one that I figure we all want:  Tam's blade.  So, I decided to make one of my own.  Now, in the interests of not causing any legal issues, I'll not be selling these, so this should not be taken as an advertisement.




The first question, of course, was what kind of steel to use.  Because the heron mark swords are supposed to be made from power-wrought steel, I wanted something tougher than the usual high carbon steels, but still with the ability to take a keen edge that pretty much never needs sharpening.  That meant a steel with very high toughness, and a lot of wear resistance.  I needed something that could form enough complex carbides to keep and retain a keen edge, and still be incredibly tough.  For the metallurgically inclined, to me, that meant CPM 3V.  3V is a powder steel with a similar toughness to premium S7 or 5160 steel, but at a much higher hardness, which means it can take a better edge.  It has ridiculous wear resistance, which means it's a real bear to polish, but that also means it can hold an edge for a long time.


Okay, so got that figured out.  It takes a 6" piece of steel to get the right curvature to the blade to maximize cutting ability.  It only comes in 36" OAL.  I squeezed an extra inch by the design of my pommel, etc.  It's still 5" shorter than the officially licensed version, but then, it's a lot tougher stuff.


I made a couple prototypes, but the one I liked best requires a milled out slot for the guard and pommel.  The finished blank prior to heat treating is the third one from the top here:




After it came back from heat treat (professionally done by Peters Heat Treat), I milled out the guard slot out of some thick chunks of brass (1.5x1x6") and milled a slot into the pommel piece.  I suspect this could be done with a drill press using the method I used, which doesn't involve any side-loading.  I rough shaped them with an angle grinder and my belt grinder, and attached handle scales made out of curly maple, which were epoxied on with 6 pins in a frame pattern.


Now, the book mentions that the handle is wrapped in a "nobby black leather."  I looked up nobby, and found it means stylish.  Somehow, I don't think that's what RJ meant.  So I figured he meant knobby, or textured.  I used a pebble backgrounder stamping tool.  The risers under the leather are leather cord, attached via superglue.  The leather is glued on with 5 minute epoxy.  After I got the wrap on, I reapplied the pebbling, because it had gone away when I strapped the leather down.  I got a heron lapel pin for the heron on the hilt, and glued that in place, as well as using the pin to pound it into the wood of the handle.  I've got another for when I get on making the scabbard.


I etched the heron into the blade, although I'm not sure I got it deep enough.  It doesn't really show up in the pictures.  Here's where I'm at so far.


Now, I'm a little stymied here design-wise.  The book calls for the slightly upcurved quillons to be worked to look like braid.  I'm not entirely clear on what that means.  Right now, I'm envisioning something like this fan art from Deviant Art:




I'd love to get your input on what you think RJ meant by that.  This project will likely take months more to complete, but I figure this would be a community that would appreciate this.  I don't know of any other battle-ready replicas of Tam's sword, especially not ones made from premium steel.  Thanks for looking.  I hope you appreciate this as much as I've enjoyed making it.  Cheers!

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I would gladly purchase one of those from you. Is it mounted and made for use?


Yes.  My blades are made for use.  I wanted something that would be more "battle-ready," as it were, than the Windlass version, and also much tougher.  I'm not sure if I'd even be allowed to sell these, since I'm sure they're protected by copyright law, so as of right now, I'm not making any for sale that are specifically heron-mark.  This one is just for fun.

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Got the braidwork sketched out.  I'll start cutting it into the brass hopefully this week.




Thanks again for the good words.  Do any of you remember any details about the scabbard?  I think it's just supposed to be simple black (leather?), but I'm not sure if it should be leather-wrapped wood-core, or plain leather, etc, and if there's supposed to be a chape or not.  Need to go back and look at the books again.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Yeah, I've always imagined the Shadar Logoth Dagger as having that style of blade. Curved, but not too curved. Would you consider me paying you for the materials and such and you making something for me? I wouldn't be 'buying' it from you, just.... you would be helping me out and I would give you a hefty honorarium.  :tongue:

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Hi CrimsonFalcon07:


My name is Tom Maringer. I am licensed under Bandersnatch Inc. to make coinage for The Wheel of Time. But long before I got involved in making coins I was making custom knives and swords, so I have a pretty good idea of what you're going after here!  If you have copies of the KNIVES annual in your library (ed: Ken Warner), there were pics of my swords in every issue from 1981 to 1996, and there were a couple articles I wrote on sword design in the '95 and '96 issues. There are photos of a few of my blades here: http://www.shirepost.com/wp/cutlery/


First of all, your results are looking quite good and I applaud your choice of steel.


Secondly I'd encourage you to contact Bandersnatch and see about getting official. Fan art is fun, but it's ever so much more so when you have the support of the copyright holders who are behind your efforts. 


Thirdly I wanted to mention that I've made my share of heavy clunky swords... weight and balance are critical. Distal taper seems to be a key factor, as well as allowing the blade to taper slightly in width. A heavy pommel is not needed for balance if the taper is right. Weight reduction over all increases blade speed and maneuverability. If there is one thing I wish somebody had told me forty years ago when I was starting, it is this: "If there is one cubic millimeter of metal anywhere on the piece that is not actually performing a needed function... take it away. What is left is what you want." 


Finally, the full-tang method has problems when scaled up from knife to sword. Take another good look at the Japanese tang construction method! You can get more useable blade out of your stock, reduce excess weight, and avoid the ricasso by adopting the habaki. 


Have fun!



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Sorry, I was away from the internet on vacation for a week.  Jak, feel free to shoot me a PM and we can discuss whatever you'd like.


Tom, thanks very much for the post.  I'm a hobbyist maker, and don't really want to turn it into a business.  I just want to make what I want, and not worry overmuch about customers or commissions.  If I think about going official, I'll certainly contact the folks at Bandersnatch.  Thanks much for the suggestion!


I appreciate the suggestions.  I did grind in a fair amount of distal taper before grinding in the bevels, and the balance and point of percussion are right about where I want them to be.  Up until after I sent this blade off for heat treat, I didn't have the tooling for milling out guard slots, so this represents my first foray into taking steps for a more traditional construction method.  I try to change one thing at a time when I'm learning new stuff, so I don't miss as many lessons.


Thanks for the good words, Daruya.  I definitely appreciate them.  Once I get to finished product, I'll throw up some more pics, and maybe do a cutting video too.

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