During Brandon Sanderson’s book tour for Words of Radiance, super-fan Val Alston traveled from Mexico to attend a signing event at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona in order to meet the author and present him with this amazing homemade Shardblade!
We reached out to Val to get the full scoop on the design and creation of the Shardblade, and he was nice enough to share his story. Check out Val’s process below, including some in-progress photos!
Sanderson’s books attracted my interest first, and as I saw and read interviews with him, I was amazed by his enthusiasm for teaching, charity work, and his fans. Brandon gives us all the magic and kindness of his heart for a fulfilling experience. Thus I wanted to honor him, as I admire his person more than just his amazing characters and beautiful stories.
Of course he doesn’t do it alone, and I wish to thank all who support him, too. His aura seems to attract passionate, talented, and professional individuals into his life who contribute to the whole majesty of all his literature.
I decided to bring Oathbringer to life, but as a hybrid of a few descriptions based on the distinct Shardblades—not perfectly, but as close as I can without magic. I hoped my ideas would capture the magic of the blade (like its smoky transparency when it cuts) and not just the shape.
An early sketch:
The idea to build the sword as a gift was conceived approximately at the end of September 2013. I can’t honestly remember why it popped into my head, or what I may have been reading of Sanderson’s literatureat the time, as I had already finished The Way of Kings during the summer.
I began by speaking to a friend, Karl Schneider. As a fan of Star Trek he has had various props made in the past. I told him what I wanted to achieve and the adventure began!
He gave me some ideas on materials I could use, and found smoke-colored acrylic glass to be an awesome way to represent the misty/smoky nature of a Shardblade when it passes through matter. So I looked up specialty shops that worked with acrylic type materials, and amazingly, the best one in Guadalajara, Mexico happened to be 10 minutes away from my apartment. It is called Acrymaquetas.
I researched descriptions of Shardblades and their characteristics while in use, much of the information I found at The Stormlight Archive wiki. I also looked at hundreds of pictures of real swords for reference.
I originally planned on taking more time to slowly work on the creation of my Oathbringer hybrid. Initially my idea was to merge an intricate hilt (custom-made by someone else in metal) with my own blade made of acrylic glass by placing the blade over the hilt with a center steel shaft to represent the transition between the “magical” smoky glass and the real steel.
Yet after considerable thought, I decided instead to design my own blade fully constructed from acrylic glass in order to shave some expense and time with the hope of having it ready as a surprise gift for Sanderson’s Words of Radiance tour.
Acrymaquetas, the acrylic design and laser shop, made it very clear that if I wanted anything decently realistic that I’d have to hand them a 3D STL (STereoLithography) model. Well, I did it and it was tough. I had no previous 3D modeling experience at all. Kudos to all who work in the CGI animation business!
One of my early 3D failures:
I decided to use Google SketchUp software since it is free, and I used models from the warehouse as foundation at first. But after many hours, I began to manage 3D modeling sufficiently to create more of my exact ideas from scratch.
All in all, it took about 102 hours from start to finish. It has been a grueling but satisfying journey, and I savored the process of bringing something magical to life. Sanderson has evoked my first fandom experience; I’ve never been one to be so enthusiastic about any particular artist or celebrity.
Photos from the crafting process, December 2013-March 2014:
I want to express a very special thanks to the team at Acrymaquetas, including Miriam Flores (front desk), LilianaPalacios (designer), and the Magical Acrylic Technician, Jose. They had never had a project be so challenging, although they really enjoyed the process as well.
Very special thanks to my friend Samuel Barnes, whose construction expertise gave me structural advice and much needed help in creating the wooden shipping box.
Have fun lugging it around for 5 days while you bond with it!