How did you start making swords?

Looking back through the flow of life that led me to being a sword maker for the last four decades, I blame one fellow. Errol Flynn. As a kid in central Minnesota there was an afternoon movie on local TV that often ran themed weeks of old films. It was the highlight of my year when they would run sword movies and especially when Flynn appeared in one of his iconic roles.

 Errol Flynn as Captain Blood

"Captain Blood"

He was born on June 20, 1909 and died Oct 14, 1959, yes tomorrow is the anniversary of his passing. He was an Australian born actor who became famous for his roles in swashbuckling adventure films during the Golden Age of Hollywood.  The hero who would right wrongs and fight for the damsel in trouble. To my young self this was inspiring and set me along a path that got me tens of dollars in the bank and an esoteric, in depth, knowledge of old weapons and how to use them.

Duel on the Beach Flynn and Rathbone

"Captain Blood" the famous duel on the beach, dive deep here.

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)  was the one that caught me first and has never let me go. It is an iconic movie in so many ways and its influence can still be seen in action movies today. When you add such films as Captain Blood (1935), The Sea Hawk (1940) and Against all Flags (1952) a true genre was created. We probably would not have such moments as the iconic duels in movies like "The Princess Bride" or the legendary tales of pirates like Captain Jack Sparrow, without these earlier films of Flynn.

Errol Flynn as Robin Hood

"Robin Hood"

Robin Hood's daring do inspired quite a few days of my brothers and I to turn our local sumac patch into many bows and arrows. We proceeded to reenact battles and sieges to our hearts content. We, of course, did not have much safety gear but the bows were not very strong and we avoided any major issues even though we where aiming at each other. In the movie the stunt men were rumored to have been able to make an extra fifty dollars a day if they strapped on padding and let Howard Hill the archery expert shoot them. He is said to have never missed and was known for some incredible shots with a bow.

Against All Flags movie lobby card

The swashbuckling movies of pirates and seafaring were also great favorites of mine and may well have lead to my exploration of the use of the sword in so many different forms and styles. Not to mention trying to create a ship or two in our yard to practice boarding actions. If you have not spent some time with Peter Blood, Geoffrey Thorpe, or Brian Hawke you have missed a good voyage or two.

While the films of Flynn can be tough on today's audiences used to fast paced action films. They are well worth an afternoon or evenings watch for iconic characters, stirring music and, most importantly, great classic sword action. I would also say it would be tough to have a good knowledge of how film and sword play have evolved over the years with out some understanding of the classic Hollywood era films.


Arms & Armor French Rapier

I know from having kids and younger friends that they have often have skipped this crucial part of any sword persons development but if you are able to see them for the first time I envy you! If you are able to introduce them to new folks it is well worth the time.

These films led me down a long path of becoming a historian, martial artist and craftsman. So when someone asks the question I admit Flynn is probably responsible.

One side note-

Watching such films may well leave you with a bit of a crush on Olivia De Havilland and Maureen O'hara, this is perfectly normal, but may influence life decisions moving forward.

Olivia De Havaland with fencing gear and script    Maureen O'hara from Against All Flags

Olivia De Havilland                                 Maureen O'hara

The sword films of Errol Flynn (he made many others as well).

Captain Blood (1935)

Prince and The Pauper (1937)

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

The Sea Hawk (1940)

Adventures of Don Juan (1948)

Against All Flags (1952) - watch the trailer

The Master of Ballantrae (1953)

Crossed Sword (1954)

The Warriors (1955)

We suggest watching a few of these then deciding what type of sword to get here or here.


divider swords

Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography. He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.

Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons

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