Introduction: How to Make a Wooden Sword
A few weeks ago my son broke his favorite sword. It's one of those plastic numbers that lights up and makes all kinds of noise. I fixed it with some CA glue, and then whilst slaying dragons and rescuing princesses in our back yard, he broke it again in another spot.
I figured it was time to make him a sword he couldn't break. Something timeless that he could even give to his own son one day. So today, we're going to make a wooden sword out of Maple and Walnut.
It consists of three parts. The pommel and cross guard are made from Black Walnut. And the blade and grip are one continuous piece of maple. The cross guard has a through mortise allowing the grip to slide through. And the pommel has a mortise to accept the bottom of the grip.
Let's take a look at the template I drew after I made this thing, and how I made it.
Step 1: The Template, Materials & Tools.
The images I have attached aren't to scale, they are just for reference. If you want scaled drawings, download the PDF's. If you print them on 8.5 x11.0 (215.9 by 279.4 mm) paper, they should scale right.
This one's pretty simple, I used things I had lying around. But of course, you can use whatever you'd like.
- Maple for the blade and grip.
- Walnut for the pommel and cross guard.
- Wood Glue to hold the wooden sword together.
The Tools I Used
In order of appearance, of course.
- A whole lotta love.
- Table saw
- Cross cut sled
- Band saw
- Thickness planer
- Measuring tape
- Straight edge
- Combination square
- Benchtop belt/disc sander
- Router table
- 45° Chamfer router bit
- F-style clamps
- A sharp knife
- Very sharp 1/2" chisel
- Carvers mallet
And now for the fun stuff, let's make this thing!
Step 2: Cross Cut Your Materials.
This one's pretty self-explanatory. I rough cut all of my pieces to length using the table saw and a cross cut sled. You could use a miter saw, or whatever other saws you may have.
I cross cut my maple for the blade & grip to 19", the finished sword came out to 18" long. And I rough cut my pieces for the pommel and cross guard to about 12".
Step 3: Rip Your to Rough Width.
Then I set the table saw up to the proper blade height and width. And milled everything down to the dimensions I needed per my plan. Well, I pulled this outta my head and I drew the plan after I built the wooden sword. But you get the idea. Cut all your pieces to width.
Step 4: Cross Cut the Pommel and Cross Guard.
Then I cut the pommel and cross guard on the table saw sled. The cross guard is 5" long, and the pommel is 2" long.
The pommel is the piece that is attached to the bottom of the handle or grip. And the cross guard is the piece with the through mortise that would protect your hand from a sword wielding villan. Or your sister. Whichever is more fitting.
Step 5: Rip Your Blade and Grip Piece.
Then I ripped the maple that would become the blade and grip piece. I ripped it 3" wide, which is 1/2" bigger than the widest part of the blade. This gave me 1/4" on each side for the layout of the wooden sword.
I used a squared up piece here so that I could cut all of the jointery square. If you go and cut up the sword right off the bat, it's harder to make all of the cuts you're going to need to make.
Step 6: Re-saw Your Blade and Grip.
I wanted the blade to be 1/2" thick, but the maple I had was about 9/16" thick. So I set up a rip fence on the band saw, and re-sawed the maple a little bit wider than I wanted it so the thickness planer could bring it to the finished thickness.
This takes a tuned up bandsaw, a sharp bandsaw blade, and a perfectly square fence. If you do those things, resawing on the bandsaw is a breeze. If you don't, you run into things like blade drift and uneven cuts.
Step 7: Plane the Blade and Grip.
Then I finished milling the blade and grip up with the thickness planer. I made a few passes until it was perfectly smooth, and 1/2" thick. Well, it probably 1/32" over a half inch, so 17/32". This is because the chisel I used was exactly 1/2", and I didn't want to make the mortise too wide because there would be gaps in the mortise and tenons.
These are all things you need to think about when you're prepping your work piece. I get a kick out of it. But can see how it would irritate others. No judging here.
Step 8: Layout Your Wooden Sword.
Then I laid out the wooden sword. Now I made this up as I went along. I was going for a Viking style long sword. You can take a look at the template above to see all of the dimensions that I came up with.
I was really happy with the design, even though I didn't plan it out before hand.
Step 9: Cut the Shoulders.
Then I set up a stop block to the right distance from the blade and the blade to the right height. And cut the shoulders at the top of the grip square. These shoulders serve two purposes. They make the base of the blade wider than the grip, which is merely aesthetic. And they give the cross guard a stop, so they can't slide further up the blade.
They cover the mortise on the sides, but not on the wider side of the blade, so those mortises need to be tight.
Step 10: Cut Out the Grip.
Then using a fence on the band saw, I cut the grip out. This was the best way I could find to cut the grip out straight and square without any major hand tool work. A table saw has a round blade, obviously. So using that would mean there would be a piece left holding the grip to the waste.
I didn't want that. The downside is that the band saw doesn't leave a perfect edge, it's rough. But it sands/planes off easily and looks good with little effort.
Step 11: Rough Cut the Blade Out of the Blank.
Then staying about 1/6" away from the line I drew, I cut the blade out on the band saw. Well, I got a little closer than that, but it's only because I'm just that good. Then I'm going to sweeten this up on the disc sander next.
Step 12: Sand to the Line, and Make Everything Smooth.
Then I used the disc sander to get the blade shaped right up to the line. I also rough sanded all of my other pieces on the belt sander.
Using the disc sander to get with up to the line works really well, you should give it a try if you haven't. Oh, and I don't want to hear about my horrible sanding techniques. I do what works for me.
Step 13: Chamfer the Edges.
Then I chamfered the edges of the sword. I hit the edges, and slowly raised up the bit each time to minimize the amount of Material I was taking off. I put a slight chamfer on the handle, and a more prominent chamfer on the blade to give it that dragon slaying look. The depth of the chamfers is up to you, and what you'd like the sword to look like. I put an 1/16 chamfer on the handle, and a 1/4" chamfer on the blade.
Remember. You can always take more off, but you can't put more material back on the workpiece! So go slow.
Step 14: Mark Out the Joinery With a Sharp Knife.
Then I used this clamping contraption to hold the grip to the cross guard. I clamped two pieces to the blade, then clamped those pieces to my Moxon vise. This held the grip tight to the cross guard where I wanted it.
Then I marked the perimeter of the grip onto both sides of the cross guard. It helps if you put a slight chamfer on the bottom of the piece you're scribing. That makes the joinery tighter because the blade can sit closer to what you're scribing.
Step 15: Mortise the Cross Guard.
Then with a very sharp 1/2" chisel, I removed the waste where the through mortise will be.This takes a lot of practice, but that's one of the fun parts! Getting good at this type of carpentry was my favorite part of learning woodworking.
Take your time, and watch the edges. If you hit or dent the sides, that's what you're going to see.
Step 16: Mortise the Pommel.
Then I used the same process to mortise the pommel. I laid it out the base of the grip with a knife, then cut deeper after I removed the grip. This makes for the cleanest lines in my experience.
Use a vise and go slow, this little piece can break easily. So it might be advantageous to put the mortise into a larger piece of material, and then cut it out to the small size you need. But I was more than comfortable cutting into this little block.
Step 17: Pare the Sides.
Then I cleaned up the mortise sides with a paring cut. I like to back cut the mortise slightly, so there aren't any high spots to hold up the joinery when you slip it through. A back cut means that the inside of the joint is slightly wider than the top. It just gives the tenon a little more room to move and a place for glue.
Step 18: Test Fit the Joinery.
Then I test fit it, and it went in just how I wanted. You can hardly see any gaps. But they're still there. Maybe one day.
Step 19: Chamfer Your Edges.
Then I used a sharp chisel to chamfer all the edges of the pommel and cross guard. There are jigs you can make to do this, or you can use the router. But I think a hand cut chamfer looks beautiful and adds to the craftsmanship.
It's not something that everyone would notice or appreciate. But I do, and that's what matters when it comes to my projects. Other fine woodworkers always notice it too, I get a kick out of that.
Step 20: Glue Up Your Cross Guard.
Then I glued up the sword with Titebond II. I applied just enough glue so that when the joinery was slipped together, there was the tiniest amount of squeeze out. That's when you know the glue up was perfect. If there isn't squeeze out evenly, you didn't put enough glue. If glue gets everywhere, you used too much. Write that down.
Step 21: Glue Up the Pommel.
Then I did the same and glued up the pommel. The glue adds to the tightness of a joint if you make your joinery really tight, so it took a little persuasion. I pushed the pommel on, and it was done!
Be careful here, these pieces are small. And if you try to force them into a mortise that's too small, they will split. So make sure you just have to apply the slightest bit of pressure before you glue up.
Step 22: And You're Done, and Ready for Finish!
And I was done making the wooden sword. I wiped it off with a damp rag to get the glue squeeze out off. And it's ready for whatever finish you'd like, after a little bit of sanding with some 320 grit sandpaper of course. I haven't finished mine yet. I'm still debating on whether I'll use wax or some sort of poly.
Thanks for checking this out. I'll see you on the next one! Oh, and I have a free YouTube channel where I post these videos. If you enjoyed this and have an interest in seeing more of my projects. And being updated when they come out. A like, some positive feedback, or subscribing is really helpful and motivating. Just sayin'.