New Year always seems a poignant time at the forge, as this time two years ago we were setting up Balefire Blades with our fingers tightly crossed and no idea where it would take us. Two years later, we find ourselves at the helm of a thriving artisanal business, working with clients around the world on some incredible custom swords.
2019 was the year we truly started forging Balefire’s identity, making some key decisions as to the sort of work we wanted to be known for, and developing a distinct style. While our commissions ranged from the most complex of complex hilts to Middle Earth-inspired longswords, this was also the year that we created our first standard model: the Angelo broadsword.
By far this year’s biggest challenge has been working out how much time to dedicate to each weapon we craft. While Chris’s constant tinkering and improvements around the forge have sped up a number of processes, we realised that there are certain corners we don’t want to cut.
On the one hand, choosing attention to detail over faster production was a difficult one, as it meant delaying our waiting list and increasing our prices to account for more realistic production times. On the other hand, it was a no-brainer: Chris prides himself in creating functional artworks, both in terms of look and feel. If an extra day’s work can turn a good sword into something that gives the wielder shivers with every swing, we consider the extra time worthwhile – and we hope our customers do too.
Having set a standard for our work, all that remains is to thank our customers for their patience, and keep them as informed as possible while we catch up with the waiting list.
In order to focus as much time as possible on our waiting list, we made the decision not to sponsor tournaments this year. Our one exception was the wonderful women’s and non-binary fencers’ event By the Sword. We ran a stall across the weekend, selling gorgets and sword care kits as well as providing on-the-spot maintenance for attendees’ long-suffering swords.
We were also delighted to attend Swordpunk twice, showing off Chris’s blacksmithing skills in May, and returning to run a sharp cutting stand in September. It was wonderful to be able to offer a unique insight into what we do, while sharing skills with a wide range of martial and performance artists.
Our final weekend away from the forge was a trip to Malta for the MHFA International meeting, where we showed off the Angelo broadsword, piloted Alicia’s range of sword belts, baldrics and frogs, and visited the De Valette sword.
Back at the forge, Chris has been taking his craft in an ever-more traditional direction, honing his hot-forging skills, and using these techniques more and more frequently to create crossguards, pommels and complex hilts. Toward the end of the year, he began self-training in forge welding techniques, which he’s gearing up to use in future Balefire projects.
So what can we expect in 2020? Well, to a certain extent we know exactly what to look forward to, as our order books are already full up to summer. There are some amazing projects on the cards, from historical replicas to fantasy visions – as ever, it’s an honour to bring these sword-wielding dreams to life.
Throughout it all, we’re looking forward to keeping you all updated on each new creation and work in progress with photos, specs and fiction. It’s been a remarkable two years of gaining experience and defining goals, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds.