Forging On: How the Waiting List Works

∴ Lessons From Time∴

As we roll into a new year, we can’t help but reflect on the last one – and on how the international ups and downs of Covid and Brexit have affected our business. We have been fortunate as a small artisanal business to have had the support of our clients and community throughout these strange times.

However, the unprecedented uncertainty of the past year has inspired us to revisit our waiting list, which has certainly been pushed about more than we anticipated this year. In striving to maintain transparent communication with our customers, we’re rethinking how the waiting list can best serve us – and you.

∴ Rolling With It ∴

When we add a new order to the list, we are giving it a place in the queue. By paying a deposit, you claim a right to that space, and the guarantee that no one can “skip ahead” of you. However, defining the queue in terms of months is not always as possible as it would be for a larger company. The best we can give is an estimate, based on our current workload and circumstances.

As a two-person company, we’ve discovered that a number of things can have a knock-on effect on the list. Chris may be ill or injured for a few days, a difficult-to-find machine part may need replacing, or a certain detail of an order may take longer than expected. Any of these affect not only the timescale of the piece Chris is working on, but the entire waiting list.

As such, we’ve found that estimating a particular month for completion isn’t always helpful to our customers. From now, we will instead give broader estimates in terms of seasons, and update customers with a more specific timeline closer to the time of production.

∴ Time Sensitive Orders∴

While we love the idea of making swords for special occasions, the way we work means we can’t guarantee completion by a certain date – no matter how far in the future it may seem. If you’re looking for a sword for a particular tournament, event or celebration, we’re unfortunately not the forge for you. Any orders placed with a specific date in mind are done so at your own risk.

∴ Blades ∴

Because of the way Chris works, it is often most efficient to heat multiple blades at once in the forge. Therefore, if you are ordering a bare blade rather than a complete sword, there is a chance we will be able to fit it earlier in the list without affecting the timescale for other orders. Get in touch with us to find out more!

∴ The Next Steps∴

Once we’ve given an initial rough estimate for completion in Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter, we’ll issue an invoice for 50% deposit to secure your place on the list. After the invoice has been paid and confirmed, we will have time to further discuss any details of your order.

We’ll issue a balance invoice a month before work is due to begin, taking into account any increases or decreases to the price agreed in our discussions. At this point, we’ll be able to give you a realistic estimate in terms of weeks, and any further delays will be explained personally via email.

When the second invoice is paid, we will send you a document containing all the specs and details we’ve discussed for your final sign-off. Once you give the go-ahead, we will get your sword on the bench and send one or two work in progress photos to ensure you’re happy with the final design.

Once the sword is complete, we will send a separate invoice for shipping based on the actual weight and measures of the final piece. Tracking information and an estimated date of delivery will be sent to you as soon as the sword is booked in for collection.

∴ The Best Policy∴

As a small artisanal business, we’ve been steadily working out processes as we go along to ensure each order goes as smoothly and transparently as possible. We’ve had a lot to learn, but our core values have always been integrity and communication, earning the trust of our clients and building real working relationships with fencers around the world.

We’re always happy to answer questions about the waiting list, or about the ordering process – just drop us a message.

On New Years Light, Long Before Prime

∴ Once More Around the Sun∴

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.

∴ A Learning Curve∴

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.

∴ Travels and Travails∴

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.

∴ Forging Ahead∴

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.

∴ Ever, Ever On∴

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.