Meet Zach Luna, Sword Design Contest Winner

ZachLuna

Zachary Luna, holding Strongblade’s Medieval European Falchion (Click on the image to see the product page for this fine weapon)

The first Strongblade Free-Forge Contest brought in talent from across the world, but only one virtual blacksmith could be victorious. Meet Zachary Luna, who drafted one sword to rule them all. Zachary lives in Los Angeles, and, among other things, occasionally works “in specialty costume fabrication (building armor and superhero suits).” He’s had education in the arts, and has worked for years to perfect his trade. But, Zach, you had us at armor and superhero suits.

 We asked Zachary a few questions about himself and how he learned to create swords that even an elf would envy. Sprinkled in with his answers are other sword designs that he has created, in case you want more eye-candy from Mr. Luna.
ZachLuna_CombinedSword1

Zach’s winning sword entry, in case you missed it.

Strongblade:  Can you tell us a little about why you designed the sword you did, and the process for drafting it? 

Zach: Well, in terms of why, I think I even wrote a cheeky sort of description for it–it’s pretty clear that I wanted to re-design a specific sword from a recent high-budget fantasy film.  
I think we need more cool, functional falchion options out there. I even used my prize to purchase another big single-edger, a piece based on the Thorpe falchion in Norwich.
I sketched out the basic dimensions with a simple mechanical pencil, then defined all of the hard edges with a black pen line so that they would photograph more clearly. I took a cell phone pic under hard lighting and then cleaned up the color balance on a photo editor. I like the bronze-y tone because it looks like an image drawn on parchment or whatever.
ZachLuna_Rapier

Another example of Zach’s stupid design skills. And that’s stupid as in awesome. Like phat, with a ph.

Strongblade:  It’s obvious that you have some mad skills in the artistic arena. How did you acquire those skills?
Zach: Haha, thank you! I’ve been sketching and doodling things as long as I can remember, but I also worked on a minor in studio art while I was in college, if you want an answer with more formal training involved. Like anything, it’s just a matter of practice over time.

Strongblade: What advice would you give to budding artists and designer?  
Zach: I’d say learn as much as you can about the subject you’re working on, and absorb influences from all sorts of different places.  And to just START trying and working on it, you’ll only get better. When it comes to designing swords, that means not just looking at game/movie swords and modern replicas, but also researching historical weapons and going and examining authentic artifacts in person, if possible.

ZachLuna_Battleaxe

I’m told people don’t say phat anymore. So, this battle axe is fo’schizzle.

I was lucky enough to get to examine a lot of historical swords in person, at museums in London, New York, and Paris. But you can easily get a copy of Oakeshott’s Records at a library or research historical swords on the Internet. Your imagination builds new concepts based on the breadth of influences it has already taken in, so the deeper your knowledge of previous examples is, the more freedom you have when playing around with something new.  And your choices can be more informed when you decide to break or bend the rules. 
The difference between thinking “I want this hilt to look cool, I guess it should be shaped like a dragon tooth/animal head” and thinking “we’ve got a long, single-edge blade with a deep belly, so the grip would tend to have a slight recurve, matched with a pommel that hooks foward, like a Chinese dao, Circassian shashka, Grecian kopis or Iberian falcata–I’ll start there and add some dragon ornamentation after the basic structure is laid out” is huge.
As for “just starting and working on it” you can begin designing even if you don’t have a lot of sketching and drafting skills at first. There are programs like inkscape that let you play around with blade shapes, forms and proportions without ever worrying about having to draw a straight line. Heck, I’ve had sword and scabbard designs produced by several big companies and I STILL have to bust out a ruler whenever I need to lay down a straight line. Just keep trying. :)

Reddit Asked Us Anything

They asked. We replied. They shook their heads.

They asked. We replied. They shook their heads.

So, last week, the Reddit Fantasy community asked us to answer questions about us, our company, weapon and armor history, and the best ways to make fried plantains. We actually provide Reddit Fantasy’s engraved Stabby Awards, bestowed upon fantasy authors deemed worthy by the community. I have not been given one yet, but I’m certain that’s just a clerical oversight, soon to be remedied.

Stabby

Mine’s coming soon, right Reddit?

These are what the Stabby Awards look like, by the way (shown at right). We provide the daggers and engravings for these. Not sure if readers are aware, but we also engrave swords for weddings (engraved tankards and daggers do well too), churches, and businesses (and just about any other occasion when you need an engraved gift). Pretty cool stuff.

But I digress. The Ask Me Anything questions on Reddit were by turns fascinating, hilarious, and absolutely insane. But we expected no less from our readers and customers. I’ve highlighted a few of the questions and posted them below. Feel free to visit our Reddit AMA to read the rest.

The Questions and answers:

Anti-dragonWeapon

The Dragonator 5000

Q: What’s the best weapon to slay a dragon with? A two-handed battle axe or a claymore? How about a chimera? Are your weapons crafted by you, or someone else? What’s the biggest weapon you’ve had someone ask for?

A: The best weapon to slay a dragon is a probably an M116 Pack Howitzer, with explosive shells. If you can’t find one, and are reduced to medieval weapons, then I would go with a pike and a good battle axe. A chimera is tricky. You need a good shield, first and foremost, and then I would probably use a good, sharp arming sword. Chimeras are quick, so an axe wouldn’t work well. A spear might be good until the chimera gets inside your range. Our weapons are made all over the world, from the US and Scandinavia, to India, the Philippines and China. Many of our weapons are made specifically for us, to our standards and measurements. As far as the biggest sword… we’ve had someone ask us for a Zweihander, which we don’t actually carry at the moment. Although we do carry our own exclusive fantasy Buster Sword.

And this is just her dagger...

And this is just her dagger…

Q: I see a great number of very improbable and awkward-looking weapons in fantasy. What, in your opinion is the worst you’ve seen, and explain why the design would be impractical for real-world application. Additionally, what is your favorite fantasy weapon and why? Finally, what do you think is the finest overall hand-held weapon in history?

A: Excellent questions. I think one of the most consistently inaccurate weapons in fantasy is the double-bladed battle axe. They look awesome, and fearsome, but, short of some Babylonian, ceremonial weapons, you don’t see them in history. Why? Well, most likely because warriors have to be efficient in battle. Why put two heavy pieces of identical steel on a staff? All you need is one good killing edge. It’s far better and lighter to put a spike or a hammer on the other side–then you have a different type of weapon, to pierce or crush armor.

My favorite fantasy weapon is the arming sword, I think. A basic knightly sword, with a 36-inch blade. I think most of us fantasy authors grew up with knights, and their swords have always held a special place in my heart.

The finest over-all hand-held weapon in history is probably the M-16 assault rifle. Kidding. The finest medieval hand-held weapon varies, depending on the situation. I think the Roman Gladius was a beautifully efficient weapon that worked masterfully for what it was intended. The pike was brilliant on the battlefield. But if we’re talking best all-around weapon, I might have to go with the poleax. An axe-blade on one side, a hammer on the back, and a spike on top. Short enough to be quick in combat, and long enough to get good leverage on a swing.

But my favorite weapon will probably always be the knightly sword.

The casebearing leaf beetle actually *does* use feces as armor.

The casebearing leaf beetle actually *does* use feces as armor.

Q:If you were going to provide armor [to] a large, large army of quasi-expendible soldiers, what would have a good cost/benefit trade-off? How would the need to provide standardized sizes for humanoids who vary wildly in body type make a difference?

A: I, personally, would cover them in feces. This would make it difficult to fight them, and would increase the shock value. And feces is an equal-body-size armor. One size fits all. If you actually want to protect them, I would go with hardened leather, assuming you are in an environment with enough animals to provide the raw material. Leather is fairly inexpensive and easy to tailor. If you have more time and money, then chainmail would be your next bet. But mail takes more time, and requires more maintenance. If you’re really cheap, then give everyone quilted gambesons. Or feces.

Q: Say I were planning to go up against the Rabbit of Caerbannog, a small yet vicious foe. What’s the best weapon to combat “sharp, pointy teeth?” (P.S. Beautiful work.)

A: Assuming you don’t have a Holy Hand-grenade around, you should have a strong shield and find a Holy Cauldron of Stewing. Thanks very much for the kind words. I’m in love with our latest line, the Esterlina Swords.

+20 Health.

+20 Health.

Q: Which sword is best suited for cutting plantains?

A: I like a nice Japanese katana. They tend to make the best cuts, and the trace of clay in the metal gives the plantains a more earthy flavor. But that’s just me…

Q: How would you go about making the best sword possible, using any kind of modern technology with an unlimited budget?

A: Hmm. Now there’s an interesting question. The great thing about modern technology is all the composite materials we have around. Stuff that is stronger than the best steel, and light as balsa wood (well, almost). Scientists are doing some groundbreaking work with nanotechnology, creating metals that are lighter and harder than anything we’ve ever seen.

For your sword, I would start with that. Nano-tech, composite metal. Make a blade that is feather-light and sharper than a razor. Use the same material for the guards. Add an ergonomic, composite grip, and a nice counterweight of your choice for the pommel. Salt to taste.

MyStabby800

I have a placeholder until r/Fantasy gets the clerical mistake corrected and sends me my Stabby award.

Q: New life goal. Write a book so that I can get a dagger with my name engraved on it.

A: I know, right? I’ve written six. Where’s my damn Stabby? I watch them go out like a cat staring at minnows in a fishbowl..

 

Many more questions await your perusal at our Reddit AMA. Go have a look if you’re enjoying the banter I’ve highlighted here. Thanks for reading, and see you next time, when we interview the Strongblade sword design contest winner.