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Dark Rocks

Five Balefire Swords Inspired by The Sea

Looking over our portfolio of custom fencing swords, certain themes come to the fore. There are, of course, a lot of stunning fantasy-inspired weapons which transport us to crumbling castles, tangled forests and dragon-infested mountains. Then there are those with a more maritime bent - from piratical cutlasses to classic shell guards to entire seascapes carved into the guards!

We're lucky enough to have a workshop in East Sussex, nestled between rolling green hillsides and the turbulent sea. Therefore the call of the ocean is never far from our minds, and Chris's water-inspired workmanship is a testament to this.

This month we're exploring five favourite sea-themed swords that we've had the pleasure to work on. Whether you're looking to commission your own oceanic fencing weapon, or simply seeking inspiration from the sea, we hope you enjoy our selection!

The Kanagawa Rapier

This splendid rapier was designed for a fencer studying Destreza, who wanted a sword with a slight back balance, good hand protection, and a touch of East Asian art. After playing with a few motifs, we settled on a homage to Hokusai's Great Wave off Kanagawa, which Chris envisioned engraved onto a spiral guard like that of our Adagio sidesword.

This combination offered both the comprehensive hand coverage that our client requested and a large, dynamic area for Chris to engrave. The waves are hand-engraved with chisels and gravers, with crashing waves following the shape of the spiral and a mottled texture behind. Blackening and selective polishing add to the stormy palette of the piece, offset by the brass wire-wrapped grip.

Chris saw this engraving project as a real turning point in his journey with the art, stating that "it was the change from not being able to sketch with chisels and gravers, to it becoming instinctive". Not only did it help Chris progress down his own artistic pathway, but it also gave him a new appreciation for Hosukai's iconic artwork with its simple lines rendering an intense sense of motion.

For more about the Kanagawa rapier and how it feels in the hand, check it out here.

The Maristella Smallsword

This maritime smallsword stems from much further back in Chris's journey as an engraver, but its simple shell motifs stand out and instantly give this sword a sense of the sea.

Our client requested a simple smallsword with clean lines, but details that reflected her love of the ocean. Drawing on the tradition of scallop shell guards found across historical rapiers and sideswords, Chris suggested using this as the basis for the sword's design, but using carved lines and selected polishing to give the shell an added sense of realism.

The addition of the periwinkle pommel was an idea put forward by our client, which worked out as a great shape to work with, allowing Chris to fine-tune the smallsword's handling for swift lunges and rotations. Again, selective polishing gives the shell a sense of light and shade, adding to its realism.

The quillon and knuckleguard are the final aquatic detail to really set this sword off, curling into little waves at the terminals. The wire wrap design was also carefully planned, with curls of copper crested with bright strands of raised steel wire, imitating sea foam.

To learn more about this seashell-bedecked beauty and read the story it inspired, check it out here.

The Aegir Estoc

Named for a Norse sea god, this fantasy estoc embodies the complex relationship that the Vikings had with the ocean. While the barbed terminals on the S-shaped quillons are reminiscent of a harpoon, symbolising dominion over the sea, the ring guard bears the unmistakable form of the feared sea serpent Jormungandr.

A large part of the sword's design was taken directly from our client's sketches, which highlighted a broad, gardually tapering blade and an eye-catching ring pommel based on Medieval Irish swords. The serpent ring was added as a later consideration, elevating the sword's mythic status.

The sword's handling is based on historical two-handed estocs such as the one in the Wallace Collection. The blade features some of the estoc's characteristic stiffness, while remaining safe enough for partnered drilling. Its slight forward balance makes it eager to act, rotating smoothly and leaping into the cut.

To read more about our the Aegir Estoc and see the original sketch that inspired it, check it out here.

The Fang of Tang Cutlass

Made as a wedding gift for a seafaring family member, this East-meets-West fantasy pirate sword pulls out all the stops. Chris was keen to represent both the bride's and groom's cultural backgrounds with this heirloom, so he borrowed the strong lines of a Chinese dao and added a Western cutlass-inspired guard.

While the sword speaks of piracy from the first glimpse, it is the small details that truly tell a tale of the sea: the top of the blade features a brass habaki, carved into a delicate wave pattern, while the steel of the blade features selective etching to bring out a natural stormy swell.

Though the sword is most likely to be kept safely above the hearth, Chris wanted to imbue it with potential for piratical adventures, so he balanced it to excel in close measure work such as boarding manoeuvres.

To learn more about this one-of-a-kind heirloom, check out the full profile here.

The Ingela Tessack

An early Balefire creation, this replica of a 16th-century tessack takes piratical flair to the next level. A force to be reckoned with from first glance, it features a broad, curving blade ideal for close ship-based manoeuvers and comprehensive hand coverage in the form of an exceedingly large scallop guard.

While scallop decoration is not at all unusual for swords of the same era - take our Nobilissima and Finisterra rapiers for example - here the shell takes centre stage, becoming a Sinclair-hilt-style basket. We can easily imagine a sea captain using that basket to knock out hapless boarders!

Hidden behind the shell is a sweeping counter guard with a thumb loop, based on similar sword types found at the Royal Armouries. This feature offers enhanced control in casting actions, leaning into the curved blade's keenness to tip into the cut.

To learn more about this piratical tessack, and read the legend Alicia wrote for it, check it out here.


Ready to start your Balefire journey? Get in touch now to share your vision.

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