I grew up playing in tree forts and fighting my brothers with wooden swords we made, but it’s been a long time since I’ve made a wooden sword. By the time my third daughter was born, I figured I might never make a wooden sword again. Then I began reading heroic adventure tales, such as the Chronicles of Narnia, to my children. Just before Christmas I suggested to my oldest daughter that we try making her a bow, and she was elated.
I happened to have a few short pieces of osage orange, a very springy wood traditionally used for bows, which I laminated to some walnut and then shaped into something roughly bow-shaped. Unfortunately, my oldest daughter wasn’t able to pull the bow with a regular string. So I cheated. I re-strung the bows with elastic, and now they can launch a small dowel rod fifteen or twenty feet with little effort. (I also need to work on attaching some feathers to the dowels to make proper arrows.) My daughter is delighted. I think she’d take her bow to bed with her if I let her.
My second daughter, meanwhile, has become obsessed with swords. Everything is a sword to her–table knives, Tinker Toys, sticks, wooden spoons, whatever. So today I gathered some scraps of osage orange and walnut and made her a sword. Then I made her older sister a dagger, as per her request. At that point, I figured the other two kids should have one, too. Now they’re after their mother to make them sheaths for each one.
The construction of the swords was very easy. The guards are attached to the blades with a half-lap joint, and the two pieces are simply glued together. I shaped the handles with chisels and a half-round file, and I shaped the blades with a spokeshave. None of them took long to make, and I’m very happy with the contrasting colors of the woods. I’m also glad that I’m finally seeing some benefits of the hours I spent poring over pictures of swords and knives as a kid.
These are certainly nicer looking than the wooden swords my brothers and I used to make. But I have learned that, if you make something for your daughters, you must make it pretty.