Kimberleigh Smithbower-Roseblade has a very personal connection to her collection of swords.
The Vancouver-based western martial arts practitioner and swordplay instructor at Academie Duello took that connection to a new level when she travelled to the southern U.S this month to have a hand in forging one of her instruments.
Western martial arts is the practise of formal fighting techniques. Roseblade, trained in various weapons such as the rapier, sidesword, greatsword and quarterstaff, said making a longsword of her own was a powerful experience.
“To be able to make it myself was really special. Not to just have this tool that is mine and mine alone, but to be able to make it and create it and hone it into something that is just for me,” she said. “This is your sword, not someone else’s. You know exactly how it moves, how the balance is.”
Roseblade, 29, is as unique as her sword. In addition to her unusual craft and profession, she also fronts the folk-funk band The Figures. Several years ago, she honoured her longtime interest in elf mythology by having her ears surgically modified to take on a more pointy, elfin shape.
“I don’t do anything half-assed,” she said.
Roseblade appears in this Academie Duello tutorial:
To create her personalized weapon, Roseblade worked at Darkwood Armory in Laurel, Miss. with the company’s president, Scott Wilson, up to seven hours a day for a week.
She said she had always liked the swords the company sells online and earlier this year when she met Wilson in Vancouver, he offered her the chance to come down and make her own. According to Wilson, Roseblade was a dedicated worker and student.
“She learned quickly,” Wilson said. “She certainly could have some [metal work] ability if she could put the time in over the years. I think she is really interested and that is always a big plus.”
The process of handcrafting a sword starts with a blade of spring steel, the same type used to make the springs in cars. A repeated process of shaping, filing and shining follows.
After the blade comes the crossbar, the T-shaped metal piece above the handle that protects the hands, and then more personalized details.
Roseblade welded blobs of metal to the crossbar and then filed them down into tiny rosebuds. Roseblade’s signature roses were also added to the pommel, or tip of the handle.
While Roseblade stands five-foot-six, her completed sword is slightly less than four feet long, and weighs between three to five pounds.
A longsword costs between $185 and $1,200. Roseblade said her sword would retail for $385. Because she did much of the labour herself, she only paid for materials.
As a final touch, she engraved the blade with letters from the old Irish alphabet, Ogham. She said the letters represent how she studies, trains and fights — a combination of protection, honour and strength.
Her Facebook post with her album of the making of her sword, titled “The making of a Roseblade,” attests to the lingering excitement and pride she feels.
“I am so grateful and still beaming from the whole experience. Now gaze at the glory that is my sweet, sweet longsword!”
To find out more about western martial arts or to take one of Roseblade’s classes, visit academieduello.com.