Forging a Shadowhunter’s Blade

April, 2015

Way back before the (very well done) TV series Shadowhunters, my daughter was a big fan of the main character, Clary Fairchild from the book series “City of Bones”.  In an effort to recreate the character in a cosplay, her Seraph blade was a required component.

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She asked for my help to create 2 swords and 2 daggers.  We started by buying a large slab of 1″ thick acrylic.  We sketched the design of the Seraph blades onto the block leaving a little extra room on all sides.  We cut the shapes out on a bandsaw and the result was a generally knife-shaped.  I was pleasantly surprised how well the bandsaw handled the Acrylic.  It did not melt at all and I found it to be machine-friendly stuff, even if it did have a funky odor when heated.

Next came the sanding using a belt sander.  I left the hilt untouched, rounded the handle, shaped the end into a 4-sided diamond shape, and sharpened the blade to a point.

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The final step was alternating the use of a blow torch and freezer to get rid of all the fine scratches and make the acrylic crystal clear.  Major scratches resulted in a trip back to the belt sander to smooth out.  The process works because the heat of the blow torch melts the surface of the Acrylic.  Once cooled, it is smooth and transparent.

This was a learning process because there were times when I left the blow torch on too long and the liquid Acrylic on the surface of the blade caught fire.  This was easily extinguished, but did leave nasty brown scars on the Acrylic, so it should be avoided. Sanding out the burnt Acrylic was not fun.  For safety, I blunted the blade and the tip.

I’m no swordsmith, but in my humble opinion, the design of the Serpah blade is quite poor.  The ornament above the grip makes the blade very top-heavy and is not very comfortable to hold.  After a while of holding it up, my hand gets tired.  Perhaps there is some magical ability required to wield it properly that I lack?

To further bring the prop to life, the Seraph blade should glow.  Not like a lightsaber, but just a general, supernatural light emanating from within.  Unfortunately, there is no place to hide an LED and battery in the blade itself since it is transparent.  So, we made special gloves with a warm white LED sewn into the palm and a small coin cell battery pack on the back with a switch.  In dim light, the light from the glove shines through the transparent Acrylic giving the impression of a glowing blade.  It’s a subtle effect, lost on many because the cosplay is typically done in bright light of a convention hall.  We found we could also use shards of left over acrylic and make them glow by holding them over the LED in the glove as well.

After completion, we realized that 4 blades cannot be held by 2 hands, so we invested in some nice frogs.  After much shopping, we settled on a pair of leather, medieval frogs that held the blade at an angle for easier access.  So, 2 blades would be worn on a belt while 2 were held.  I thought it was a bit of overkill on the weaponry, but my daughter insisted!

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