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.

 

 

The Zombie Survival Manual — Part One

ZombieSurvivalLogoSo you’re hanging out at the mall food court with your best friend—talking about football or space probes landing on comets, or maybe about the merits of The Evil Dead 2 versus Army of Darkness—when you hear a scream. Not a Jerry-Springer, I’m-gonna-whoop-your-ass-in-front-of-Abercrombie-and-Fitch scream, but an H-P-Lovecraft, Dear-God-his-entrails-are-coming-out-of-his-ear sort of blood-curling howl. You shove another handful of fries into your mouth and turn to look, then stop chewing.

One of the fries falls from your open mouth and lands on the red plastic tray.

It has begun.

The hungry dead have risen, and you’re fresh out of fries.

(Editorial aside: Please note my use of “the hungry dead,” here, not “the walking dead.” Because it’s not the walking that causes problems. Sure, it would be unsettling—and possibly violate several health codes—if the dead wandered like stray cattle across our cities. But really, what would be the danger? The occasional cost of quarter-panel repairs for your car. Higher dry-cleaning bills in crowded pedestrian areas. Maybe more slip and fall lawsuits in supermarkets. The real danger is the whole eating-your-cerebral-cortex thing.)

At Strongblade, we have always seen ourselves as both providers of fine historical/fantasy reproductions, and educators of the public. And there can be no finer act of education than protecting all of you from . . . The Zombie Apocalypse.

In the upcoming series, we will discuss the most efficient ways to survive an outbreak of the hungry dead.

Some of you know that I wrote a bestselling trilogy about a zombie-like plague in 14th century England. The Scourge is about a knight trying to fight his way through this post-apocalyptic medieval landscape to reach his wife. Where relevant, I will include snippets from the book. Because knights. And zombies (called ‘plaguers’ in my books).

In this first part of the series, I want to talk about the various weapons that can be used to provide undead relief. I will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each weapon, and provide a bit of historical, martial and literary insight into each one. Starting with weapon one: The sword.

Let it begin.

THE SWORD:

Advantages: Multiple edges, decent range, coolness factor

Disadvantages: Difficulty removing from bodies quickly, Awkwardness at close range, poor at penetrating skull.

 

NostrumCover900x600Tristan stands and straps his helmet on. “More of those things, Edward.”
I stand slowly, stoop and catch my breath.
“What’s wrong, old man?” he asks.
“Nothing,” I reply. “That creature hit my breastplate hard. Just need to catch my breath.”
He stares at me, the great helm hiding his expression.“There are only three,” he says. “I’ll take them. You get the rest of the walnuts.”
I shake my head and stand straight. “You want all the glory.”
I hold my sword in the long guard and take a deep breath.
The demons hurl themselves at us.
I hit the cobbled road again.
The impact blackens my world for an instant and fills the back of my nose with the taste of fire. I struggle against the creature, but I have so little strength. My sword is in its stomach, but it does not seem to care. One of the demon’s eyes is as large as a doorknob. The monster gouges at my visor, its twisted teeth clack against the bevor at my neck. It gibbers as it searches for openings in my armor. Desperate groans and growls. Hands batter my helmet, make my ears ring. I push at its chest. A thin black tongue thrusts out from its neck in a bloody spray. Not a tongue. The tip of Tristan’s sword. I shove the demon’s head to one side hard. Tristan pulls the blade back and hacks two-handed at the neck. Once, twice, and the third cleaves the head from the body. Blood spurts as the misshapen head tumbles to the cobblestones. The arms continue to rake at me for three or four heartbeats before the demon realizes it is dead.
“Excellent strategy,” Tristan says. “Letting it get on top of you so that I could kill it easily.”
“Shut your mouth, you baboon,” I say. He helps me up.
“I’m glad we shared the glory, Edward.”
 
— From THE SCOURGE:NOSTRUM by Roberto Calas

 In my historical fantasy trilogy, THE SCOURGE, the main characters tend to use swords when fighting the zombie-like demons that have overwhelmed their country. The characters are knights, so this is appropriate. The protagonist, Sir Edward Dallingridge, hacks his way through waves of undead while trying to reach his wife (who is a hundred miles away). In reality, the European medieval sword—while an excellent choice against lightly armored troops or unarmored opponent—is a is a difficult weapon to use against writhing hordes of undead.

sba-warspike1_lSwords are designed, primarily, to slash. Zombies are designed to not give a crap about slashes. See our problem? In most zombie mythos, penetrating the head is the only way to kill them. Sure, a powerful slash can cleave a head, but when you are swarmed by the undead, who has time for powerful slashes? And even if you had the time, you encounter the age-old and highly technical problem of sword-stuckery. A blade that penetrates the skull will remain lodged there until dislodged by an equal or greater force.

Don’t get me wrong. In the hands of a master, swords can be as good a weapon as any for fighting the hungry dead—especially small groups of them. Swords actually have a lot of good traits going for them. Well-made, well-sharpened European swords can shear off parts of a skull, so as not to get stuck. Swords have multiple, razor-sharp cutting edges, a good three-foot length to keep opponents at bay, and you get instant street cred just for showing up with one. There is nothing that will make you look cooler in a zombie apocalypse than strapping a medieval sword to your belt. So if you’re trying to be the alpha in your survivors’ group, then a sword may just be the ticket.

But wait . . . there are dozens of swords available. How can I write one post about all of them? Aren’t I generalizing to a ridiculous degree?

Yes and no. A Japanese katana might be a little more effective against zombies. Katanas are quick and curved, which makes it hard to get them trapped in skulls. But the same general principals apply. Swords are slashing weapons. Zombies laugh at slashing weapons. Until you slice the top of their skull off, kick their twitching body, and shout, “Who’s laughing now, lurchy? Who’s laughing now?”

Okay. So maybe it’s worth looking at the various types of swords and their various strengths and weaknesses in a zombie apocalypse. I have added a chart below, complete with a handy cutout line, so you can keep it in your wallet when the hungry dead come to snack. The overall rating is calculated using a point system for each of the categories. The higher the rating, the more effective against the hungry dead.

 

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

 

SwordEffectivenessChart

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

 So, the Roman gladius has it. Lethal penetration from the V-tip. Easy to use in close quarters, and blazingly fast. Killing barbarian hordes turns out to be remarkably similar to killing zombie herds. Those Romans were way ahead of their time.

Check back in a few days for the next installment, where we look at hammers, maces and flails!

Zen and the Battle Ready Sword

Sword fighting is like cool Chinese stuff.

There’s a popular saying in the sword industry: “Don’t put your tongue on the polishing wheel.”

Um. And there’s another popular saying in the sword industry that might just be a little more relevant than that one: “A sword is not an axe.”

A sword is not an axe. Unless it's this sword.

A sword is not an axe. Unless it’s this sword.

Okay, maybe that’s not really saying, but it should be. Because swords really aren’t axes. If you want to cut down saplings or thorns bushes, then you probably don’t want to buy a battle-ready sword. You want an axe. And as I hope I’ve established here, a sword is not an axe. Unless you name your sword “Axe,” in which case you have found a loophole. But you still shouldn’t use it to cut down brush.

I hear the questions all the way from my computer desk as I write this, which is odd because I’m writing this in your past, and you probably live really far away from me. Your question: “But why *can’t* I use a sword to cut down saplings? It’s battle-ready, right? That means it’s really, really tough.” And I give you my best Yoda nod, and say, “Much to learn, you have, young Jedi. Much to learn.”

Let’s start with definitions.

Strongblade sells battle ready swords. But what does that really mean? And what’s the difference between a battle-ready sword and a stage combat sword? In this two-part article, I will answer both those questions. And I will also tell you how the crop circles in England came to be there. But, in this first part, I will focus on battle-ready swords.

There really is no industry-standard definition of “battle-ready.” It’s one of those terms that people throw around, like, “special forces,” or “best-seller,” or “licensed practitioner of medicine.” What a joke. I mean, I perform surgeries all the time and I have no medical degree whatsoever. You see what I mean? The terms sort of mean something, but there is no exact specifications for it. There are some pretty solidly established minimums for battle-ready swords, and that’s probably the best place to start.

YodaKnight

Yoda hopes he doesn’t have to repeat his lesson.

Construction
I think everyone agrees that a sword should be made from carbon steel. Especially this guy. And not just a little carbon. A good sword should be made from high-carbon steel. Stainless steel swords look nice, and they’re usually pretty inexpensive, but as that guy in the link found out, they shatter easily. Carbon steel won’t shatter. This is why Conan’s dad didn’t talk about “The Riddle of Stainless Steel.” It was just the “Riddle of Steel.” Learned your lesson now, you have? asks Yoda. Yeah, Yoda. Just because.

Tempering
We’ve talked about tempering before, so I won’t go into too much detail, but tempering is a heat-treating process that makes a sword flexible on the inside and brittle on the outside. Which is the complete opposite of me. I am flexible on the outside, but inside I am shattering and crying and calling for my mother and wishing Saturday morning cartoons came back.

Sword fighting is like cool Chinese stuff.

Sword fighting is like cool Chinese stuff.

Why would you want a sword to be brittle anywhere? Well, perhaps brittle is the wrong word. You want the sword to be more rigid on the outside–harder and less flexible. Why is this? Because you want that sword to hold a nice edge. And to hold a nice edge, you need a really hard metal. The problem with hard metal is that it breaks more easily. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? Well, there’s a cool concept from the Chinese philosophy, Taoism, that explains this. The Taoists know that an oak tree is stronger and more rigid than a blade of grass. But when a powerful storm hits, it is this rigidity that makes the tree snap in the wind. A blade of grass is flexible enough to wave and flow with the storm, and it does not break. Or, as Yoda likes to say, “Upon a polishing wheel your tongue should never rest.” Yoda knows nothing of Taosim.

Because of this rigid edge, a tempered sword will actually break before a non-tempered sword. Without heat treatment, a high-carbon sword will bend easily, but won’t break (see oak tree/grass blade analogy above). But without the heat treatment, you can’t get a nice sharp edge on the sword. And, as you know, people don’t kill people. Sharpened swords kill people. But you shouldn’t let your sword kill people. It’s not cool. And totally against all Taoist principles. And Yoda doesn’t like it either.

Tang. Not even remotely what we're talking about.

Tang. Not even remotely what we’re talking about.

Tang
To be a strong, battle-ready sword, the high-carbon steel should be quenched in a barrel of Tang®. Apparently this powdered orange drink used by astronauts has a certain chemical in it that gives the steel . . . um . . . okay. I’m reading my notes now. What I said is incorrect. *Waves hand in Jedi fashion* These are not the tangs you’re looking for.

The tang is actually the narrow part of the sword that you attach the grip to. There are a lot of different types of tangs, but the strongest style is the full tang. This means that the blade and the tang are made from one piece of steel. Some sword blades have the tangs welded onto them. Which is like using blades of grass as the foundation to your house. (Yeah, I’m reeeeeeeally stretching that grass metaphor). Welded tangs have a tendency to snap off, and all you can do is keep pretending you still have a sword blade, and complimenting your opponent on his skillful ability to avoid being hit.

 

Melina in split sword dagger

Yeah. balance matters.

Balance
Balance is really a subjective thing. Some people like a more forward weight, so their strikes have more power. Some prefer a more rear balance, so the blade isn’t so top-heavy. And others swear that the center of balance should be a few inches north of the guard (north being toward the tip). A sword may not be balanced to your liking, but it could still be a fine battle-ready weapon.

A battle-ready weapon, although it is finely crafted using the best materials and forging techniques, should not be smashed against things, or used to chop down saplings. You would no more use a battle-ready sword to cut brush than you would use an F1 car on your road trip to Florida. Fine swords are meant to be used in battle by skilled swordsmen, who know the strengths and limitations of their weapons. I cringe every time I see a movie with sword fighting in it. Usually because the script sucks. But the other common reason for my cringing is the fact that the combatants are using their swords to block their opponent’s blade. Sword fighter in the Middle Ages rarely used their swords like this. Their weapons were too big an investment to use as a shield. Interestingly, they actually *had* shields. And why did they have shields? So they wouldn’t have to stop a hurtling piece of 3lb metal with one of their most expensive pieces of equipment—their swords. When two swords meet, bad things usually happen. Even though Hollywood would have us believe otherwise.

And there lies the fundamental difference between battle-ready swords and stage-combat swords. The latter are meant to take sword on sword abuse, and are typically used by actors rather than trained swords fighters. So check back soon to see the second part of this article, about stage-combat weapons. And crops circles.

Come back, you must.

Making your Mark

Read to the bottom of the post for an exciting contest!

Shadowward

Knights sometimes used swords to engrave people’s flesh. That’s not what we’re talking about.

In the Middle Ages, a knight’s faith was in his sword. No, literally, it was *in* his sword. Knights would have blacksmiths engrave sacred words on their blades. Words from their favorite prayer, the name of a patron saint, or simply the name of Jesus Christ. What do you have faith in? What favorite words or symbols will you put on your blade? A religious quote? Your family crest? Lyrics from a Bobby McFerrin song? It doesn’t matter. Strongblade’s custom engraving can add just about anything you want to your blade, usually for only $15 or less!

But it’s not just engraved swords. We can do helmet stands, tankards, daggers, pistol stands and knives. Here’s a page with all our engravable items (and more are being added constantly.) What can you have engraved on these things? What can’t you! Me, I’d like to engrave Gwyneth Paltrow’s lips on the top edge of my tankard, but I’m a lonely, lonely man. Have a wedding party to buy gifts for? Want an award for your employees? Going to become a sword-wielding superhero and want your mantra on your blade? The possibilities are endless!

So, how do you show us what you want engraved on your sword? It’s easy as a Kardashian! Just go to the product page of the item you want to buy, then click the “Engrave” button next to the item name. You’ll be magically whisked away by the power of Internet to Strongblade’s interactive engraving tool. This thing is like a video game! Seriously! I win every time!

The interactive engraving utility (I like to call it the Inenguti, but that hasn’t caught on) allows you to type in up to three lines of text, and position each line exactly where you want it. Here’s my latest:

 

Screenshot 2014-07-23 02.49.44

Move thine mouse here and touch button to swell the image

And the fun doesn’t stop at words. Strongblade can also engrave logos and other line art symbols. That’s right, put your own stylistic stamp on your blade. Want to know how? Just send an email to service@strongblade.com to get started with images.

Yeah. Game on.

So, are you ready to start engraving? How about a contest? The person who writes the funniest line of text to put on a sword will receive an e-book copy of my novel, THE SCOURGE. Just write the line in the comments below. There has to be at least ten responses before I will judge the best line.

Have a look below for some examples of custom engraving:

Engrave_Crusader
Engrave_Gladius
Engrave_Pirate
Engrave_Phalanx