Swordsmith brings historical weaponry into present day
November 2012 - While running through the woods in rural Door County, Wis. as a child, homemade sword in hand, slaying imaginary dragons, David DelaGardelle knew even then he wanted to craft swords. “Looking back on my life, I feel like I’ve been a swordsmith at heart ever since I was a little boy,” says DelaGardelle, owner of Cedarlore Forge, New Castle, Ind. It was his love of ancient mythologies, folktales, Anglo-Saxon poetry and epic romances that inspired him from the beginning. It’s a passion he says his family instilled in him. “What helped fuel my growing imagination as a young man interested in swordsmithing was my incredible family and the blessings I had growing up,” says DelaGardelle.
It was in high school that DelaGardelle and his friend, Andy Davis, set out to learn swordsmithing. They began by combing the web. “Andy and I started teaching ourselves from books on the Internet,” says DelaGardelle. “We were blown away by the endless free knowledge there was online about this art form.”
They took full advantage of the free literature they found, forging swords and knives through trial and error until they became successful. After a few years of focused, self-taught experience and learning from fellow bladesmiths Ric Furrer and Rick Barrett, DelaGardelle and Davis created Mad Dwarf Workshop.
DelaGardelle‘s big break came in the wee hours in winter 2009 in the form of an email, requesting DelaGardelle and Davis create the sword for the 2011 feature film “Thor.” “With my folks’ blessing, I quit school to make the leap into full-time professional sworthsmithing and immediately began working on the movie,” he says. DelaGardelle had a month to create two steel and bronze swords and two aluminum stunt swords; a task that would normally take much longer. “It typically takes one to three months to create one sword to the complexity and level of historical craftsmanship I put into my work,” says DelaGardelle. The stunt swords also posed a challenge for DelaGardelle. “As a traditional swordsmith, aluminum is something I wasn’t very familiar with,” he recalls. “It was a surprise to me when I saw the aluminum gunk up like chewing gum on the grinder’s abrasive belts when I expected it to grind right off just like any other metal.” Despite sleepless nights and numerous cups of coffee, in the end DelaGardelle crafted a sword he was truly proud of.
Crafting new roots
Ready for a solo venture, DelaGardelle branched off from Mad Dwarf Workshop to establish his own company, Cedarlore Forge.
His workshop, which fits into a medium-sized sheet metal pole barn, is tucked away in the Indiana countryside. His shop houses “three forges, both coal and modern ones that run off propane, a large forge welding press built out of an old log splitter, three belt grinders for grinding steel and shaping wood, milling and drilling setup, two anvils, an assortment of steel, hardwood and nonferrous metals (for hilts) and lots of tongs for handling hot steel.”
DelaGardelle’s mono-steel swords primarily are made from 1075 and 1085 high carbon steel, while his “damascus” pattern welded blades are made from 1075/L6 silicon bronze. But for special projects he works with an array of metals. “I can use a variety of fine silver, copper, cast bronze or engraved brass, depending on the style and complexity of the piece.”
His most recent work also is the sword he’s most proud of. “[It’s] a hybrid-historical piece inspired by Germanic Spathas, with some slight late Roman influence,” says DelaGardelle. “The sword is named Oräddbror “the Fearless Brother” and is hand forged out of high carbon steel with a composite twisted pattern welded blade. The hilt is crafted out of more than 200-year-old Brazilian Blackwood; the grip from antique elk antler and the fittings from hand engraved brass.”
It’s not just the swords themselves that DelaGardelle wants people to appreciate he also wants them to see the message behind these historical treasures. “I hope my work goes well beyond being simple swords or weapons, and people look at the deeper meanings,” says DelaGardelle. “Truths about honor and valor, defending the downtrodden and weak and fighting for truth even when no one else will. I hope that through my work I might inspire others to use the God-given talents that we all have for a good and positive purpose, whatever it may be.” MM