Fri
Apr 18 2014 9:00am

Crafting a Shardblade for Brandon Sanderson

Shardblade Val Alston Brandon Sanderson Stormlight Archive

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:

Shardblade Val Alston Brandon Sanderson Stormlight Archive

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.

Shardblade Val Alston Brandon Sanderson Stormlight Archive

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.

Shardblade Val Alston Brandon Sanderson Stormlight Archive

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:

Shardblade Val Alston Brandon Sanderson Stormlight Archive

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.

Shardblade Val Alston Brandon Sanderson Stormlight Archive

Shardblade Val Alston Brandon Sanderson Stormlight Archive

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:

Shardblade Val Alston Brandon Sanderson Stormlight Archive

Shardblade Val Alston Brandon Sanderson Stormlight Archive

Shardblade Val Alston Brandon Sanderson Stormlight Archive

Shardblade Val Alston Brandon Sanderson Stormlight Archive

Shardblade Val Alston Brandon Sanderson Stormlight Archive

Shardblade Val Alston Brandon Sanderson Stormlight Archive

Shardblade Val Alston Brandon Sanderson Stormlight Archive

Shardblade Val Alston Brandon Sanderson Stormlight Archive

Shardblade Val Alston Brandon Sanderson Stormlight Archive

Shardblade Val Alston Brandon Sanderson Stormlight Archive

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.

Shardblade Val Alston Brandon Sanderson Stormlight Archive

Have fun lugging it around for 5 days while you bond with it!

19 comments
Mitchell C. Swan
1. Mitchell C. Swan
In curious as to how much it weighed.
Rich Bennett
2. Neuralnet
Wow, what a cool gift! Thanks for sharing with us how you made it.

Like #1 I too am curious how much it weighed.
Mitchell C. Swan
3. Kenneth Hayes
Forget how much it weighs, the real question is can I but one?
Joe Romano
5. Drunes
What a wonderful testament to Brandon as a writer and creator and to Val as a fan and creator, too.
Mitchell C. Swan
6. Stroniax
Just don't slip and cut yourself! ;)
Alice Arneson
7. Wetlandernw
This. Is. AWESOME.

Well done, dude! I wish I could have seen Brandon's face the moment he saw this Blade.
Georgianna Miller
8. gomiller
Wow, I was at that signing and did not see this!
Nadine L.
9. travyl
This is great Val.
In addition to Brandon I wish I'd just anybody who saw it unpacked. Especially border control, when you brought this weapon from Mexico into the US. - I bet plenty of people stared at you, very obliquely of course, as to not aggravate you :)
Thomas Stessl
10. tommythecat
This is the scenario playing out in my head...

Acrymaquetas: "We need a 3D model in order to make this for you."
Val: "I don't know how to do 3D modeling or have any software for it."
Acrymaquetas: "..."
Val: "Screw it...I will teach myself"
Acrymaquetas: "Uh huh..."

Some time passes...

Val: "Here's your 3D model!"
Acrymaquetas: "Wait...what?!?!?!?"
Val: "Yeah, it was tough, must suck to work in CGI."
Acrymaquetas: "That's actually kind of impressive."
Val: "Thanks, can we make my sword now?"

Kudos man...a lot of people would have given up meeting a road block like that.
Deana Whitney
11. Braid_Tug
That is super impressive.

I'm also wondering how many of the Acrymaquetas people are now reading the books. :-)
Mitchell C. Swan
15. james lnz
Sorry, that was a bit harsh. looks like a great gift and great quality, just not a fan of that type of design.
Mitchell C. Swan
16. Danhop
@8 I was at that signing too and didn't see it! Bah, they must have waited until the end or something. I'm sure he would have mentioned it if they showed him before the signing.

It was a good signing though! Love Brandon!
Val Alston
17. Vexmeister
Its important to me that you guys know that Im not from Mexico, Im from PUERTO RICO. Im just in Medical School in Guadalajara.

To all those who where at the Poisoned Pen in Phoenix that night, I apologize that I could not share the moment with you, my flight in was delayed. Yet the truth is that presenting it before the end would have disrupted the programmed Q&A and signing, and that was the important part of his tour.

Im SO GLAD you guys liked it too!

CUSTOMS did stop me since the shipping box was HUGE. They asked me what was inside and I told them it was a SWORD, oops, I told them then that it was just acrylic... But they xrayed it anyway! Later as I hauled it through the airport I was asked if I had my dead grandmother inside that box? Lol. Really! The rotating doors, bus and rental car where interesting challenges with a 6 by 3 foot box.

So now lets keep reading and living Sanderson's magic! Thanks!

Oh, to tommythecat, you hit the nail on the head!

Sincerely,

Val C. Alston
David Foster
18. ZenBossanova
I was at that signing! It is a shame I missed it!
Alice Arneson
19. Wetlandernw
This must be why I always stay until the very very end of a signing - just in case something like this happens! It hasn't happened yet; so far I've had to content myself with picking up some good bits of info by hanging around.

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