Weekend DIY Project: How to Make a Wooden Sword for Your Kid

by Brett on January 18, 2012 · 51 comments

in Manly Skills, Projects

Crom is pleased with Gus the Barbarian's epic sword. Thulsa Poopy Diapers will be vanquished!

Last year, I went to the Craftsman Experience shop in Chicago for a blogger summit. I played with tools and learned how to make several easy projects, such as a sawhorse. The project that was the biggest hit among all the participants, however, was definitely the demonstration on how to make a wooden sword, put on by professional prop designer Holly Conrad.

Simple, quick, and cheap, this is a great project to do with the kiddos on the weekend. And when they’re done, they’ll have a sword they created with their own hands (and a little help from dad) that can be used for hours of imaginative fun. Even if you don’t have any children, I still recommend taking on this project. If you’ve never really worked with tools, but have always wanted to try, making a wooden sword is a great starter project. Plus, you’ll have a freaking sword when you’re done!

Last weekend, I invited my brother-in-law over to my garage to make some swords for our respective boys. We cataloged the steps with my trusty camera, so I could share how to do it with you all. My thanks to Holly Conrad for passing on the instructions to me at the Craftsman Experience.

Tools & Materials

Tools

  • Bandsaw (Jigsaw or coping saw could work too)
  • Sandpaper
  • Rotary tool (Optional for sanding)
  • Scissors
Materials
  • 1/4″ MDF board (plywood could work too)
  • Blank paper
  • Marker
  • Two-part epoxy
  • Gray primer
  • Leather strips/fake jewels

Assuming you already have the tools (or assuming you borrow them), this is a pretty cheap project. The wood, epoxy, and leather strips set me back $15. Even after making two swords, I still have some leftover wood that I could use to make some throwing stars or something.

Total time to complete sword: 40 minutes

Design and Draw Your Sword Pattern

Sword of Awesomeness by Brett McKay, age 29.

On a blank piece of paper, draw your sword design. This will serve as our pattern on the wood. Get as creative as you want with it. You can go with a traditional straight blade or make your blade curved like a pirate sword. My brother-in-law made his sword look like Link’s wooden sword from the NES version of The Legend of Zelda.

After you draw the outline of your sword, draw a line inside the sword dividing the blade from the hilt.

This is a good step to let your kiddos do. As you can see, I have the drawing ability of a 10-year-old.

I guess technically, because my sword design fits on a single piece of copy paper, I’m making a dagger or knife. In the hands of a toddler, it would be a sword. It’s all relative. Feel free to make your sword blade longer for a more sword-like sword.

Cut Out Pattern

Take a pair of scissors and cut out the entire sword. This is our pattern.

Trace Full Sword Onto Board

Trace your sword pattern onto the MDF board with a marker.

Cut Pattern, Detaching the Blade From the Hilt

After you’ve traced the sword onto the board, take your pattern and cut along the line you drew earlier, dividing the blade from the hilt. We want to detach the blade from the hilt.

Trace Two Sword Hilts Onto Board

Trace an outline of your hilt on the board two times. I repeat, two times. When we cut the pieces out, we’re going to sandwich the entire sword piece between the two hilt pieces.

Use Bandsaw to Cut Pieces

Now the fun part. Rev up your bandsaw and cut out the three pieces. Why a bandsaw? The blade’s flexibility makes cutting irregular and curved shapes a breeze. I’m using a small benchtop bandsaw that’s great for small projects like these. If you don’t have access to a bandsaw, a jigsaw could work. If you don’t have access to a jigsaw or you’re a luddite who prefers using elbow grease, a coping saw will work, too. If you’re doing this project with your kids, let them use a coping saw. It will build some character.

Don’t worry if the cuts aren’t perfect. As you can see, mine are horrible. We’ll clean everything up when we sand.

Glue Hilts Onto Main Sword

Squeeze some epoxy out on a piece of paper and mix it together. Work quickly. This epoxy sets in 5 minutes.

Apply a thin layer of epoxy to the hilts and attach them to the main sword. Remember, we’re sandwiching the main sword piece between the two hilt pieces. 

Let Epoxy Dry

The epoxy sets in about five minutes, but I’d give it about 20 minutes to dry before you start sanding the sword. Go wrestle an alligator while you wait.

As you can see, my sword looks rough. Really rough. The hilts aren’t lining up, you see my marker outline, etc. Nothing a little sanding can’t clean up, which brings us to our next step…

Sand!

Get some sandpaper and sand down all the rough edges. With the hilt, the goal is to make the three separate pieces look like a single piece of wood. I’m using a rotary tool with the sanding attachment to make quick work of this job.

We want our sword to look sharp, so create a bevel by sanding the side of the blade at an angle. Here’s how it looks up close:

Repeat on the other side.

Spray With Gray Primer

Spray your sword with gray primer. Spray one side, let dry. Flip over, spray the other side.

Modify If Needed and Add Finishing Touches

As you can see, my finished sword looks a bit different than the original design. After I finished my sword, I realized the handle of the hilt was way too wide. I could barely get my man-sized paw around the handle, so there was no way a kid would have been able to grip it. I took the sword to the bandsaw again and thinned the hilt down some. Modify your sword if needed.

Now we can add some finishing touches. I bought some scrap leather pieces at Hobby Lobby and gave my sword a leather grip. You could also let the kiddos glue on some plastic jewels or paint it however they want.

There you have it. Now it’s your turn. Happy sword making!

{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lewis January 18, 2012 at 8:35 pm

My dad is disabled, and can barely use his hands, so he ended up making me swords out of tinfoil as it was all he could manage – thanks for this guide, really brought back some memories (And a tear or two to my eyes, I’m not afraid to admit). Will definitely be making a sword to mail to him :)

2 Timothy January 18, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Great tutorial! Now I can make one since I missed out on that at Craftsman.

3 Bryan January 18, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Good stuff. My kids had a military history day at school last year. My 11 year old dressed up as a Celtic warrior and I made a sword and shield for him. He loved them and used them often.

4 Andrew January 18, 2012 at 9:17 pm

I’m 20 years old and found this article fascinating. I love the age of Swords and Dragons, secret nerd of manliness at heart. I’m gonna make a sword for myself now.

5 John-Boy January 18, 2012 at 10:09 pm

My dad had a different method. He would take a garden post and use a sander to flatten it out on two sides down to the handle. The handle he would simply round. He would drill two holes partially into the post and glue in dowel rods to create a cross guard.

6 Len L January 18, 2012 at 10:16 pm

My dad made me a wooden sword that I still have to this day (I’m 35 now…). It was just a simple stick of wood (like a 1 x 3) with a small stick as the crossguard…all held together with black electrical tape (which made a fine grip in my mind).

7 Mike Collins January 19, 2012 at 12:22 am

Awesome guide, making a few gift swords, right now.

8 Mike Collins January 19, 2012 at 12:23 am

Awesome guide, making a few swords, right now.

9 JG January 19, 2012 at 3:03 am

Next project:

Gus’s epic shield?

10 George P.H. January 19, 2012 at 3:31 am

Funny – I just saw a kid with a badass sword and shield at the mall the other day! Plus it’s nice when dads make stuff for their children instead of just buying everything.

I wonder about the primer coming off at the bottom of the hilt; it’s visible in the last and first pics; I wonder if anything could be done about that. I used paint and a clear finish for a few bats I made as a kid (nothing this fancy – just an axe and some sandpaper), but that was wood and this is MDF!

Anyway, cool stuff.

11 Hometipster.com January 19, 2012 at 5:39 am

As kids we used to make our own swords. Made our own go-carts as well and then played out medieval jousts. Great fun!

Nice ‘How To’, thanks!

12 Guy In A Cave January 19, 2012 at 7:07 am

It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.

13 Pall.e January 19, 2012 at 9:40 am

I once bought a sword from a fair but it quickly broke (probably on one of my brothers) and so my brothers and I examined it and tried to figure out how to improve on it. We ended up getting an old post (a 4×4 maybe) and splitting it into four. Then cut out a round guard popped it onto one of posts and stealing one of my mom’s old belt to use as leather wrapped around the hilt. Granted it looked more like a rapier but it was still awesome. Definitely will repeat if/when I have kids.

14 pete January 19, 2012 at 10:09 am

+1 on the dad point scale for making (not buying), what very well may be the sh1ttiest looking sword ever.

15 Shannon January 19, 2012 at 10:16 am

I just love the picture of my cute nephew! Good work little brother!! I would ask you to make your two nephews some but they would create some serious damage with those to each other or our house. :-)

16 Brandon Weldy January 19, 2012 at 10:50 am

This is great! My son would love this. He is 16 months old and already terrorizes his mom with the foam sword he has, as well as paper towel rolls, spatulas, or anything else he can wave around.

17 Ian January 19, 2012 at 10:55 am

I believe I went through over two hundred swords as a kid – sticks, PVC pipe, toys, old ski poles and wooden dowels. In college I bought a couple wooden bokens. Now my wife and I duke it out with the big padded Nerf swords.

18 Spence January 19, 2012 at 10:55 am

I suggest using real wood. Some MDF is full of not so good chemicals including formaldehyde etc. At the very least make sure your MDF is formaldehyde free. Also, MDF is not very durable. I made my son a shield out of left over lumber from construction projects and a knife and sword from left over unfinished oak flooring they look great and will last a very long time despite his beating them on trees…I mean dragons.

19 Mark Ruddick January 19, 2012 at 12:02 pm

I remember as a kid making swords out of political sign posts. (Sharpened 1×2) I asked my Dad to borrow tools, he asked what for. I said “to make a sword”. His response, “okay have fun”. Very different from today…I’d tell my kids to wear safety glasses to protect their eyes and then go have fun.

20 Rachel January 19, 2012 at 12:35 pm

I had sword I made from a fence post when I was a kid. We had a wobbly old wooden fence and I pulled out a stave, since the top was already shaped into a point. I glued two smaller stripes of wood to form the hilt, one on each side, then I took rope and wrapped it around the strips so you couldn’t see that it wasn’t one solid piece. Then I glued a honking big fake amethyst to the center of the hilt. Of course I named it “Excalibur.” If you make wooden swords for your slightly older kids (girls, too!), it could be a fun project to let them help with the decorating!

21 Steve January 19, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Why use epoxy?
Good old white wood glue is cheap, easy to handle, doesn’t smell toxic and it’s fun to rub the excess off your hands ;-)

22 Thor January 19, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Me and my dad made a sword out of a oak plank, whole thing carved out of one plank. Heavy for a 11 year old but it was fun as hell (:

23 Jon B. January 19, 2012 at 4:40 pm

I want to know how the hand model got bloody knuckles (photos 2-5). Collateral damage from alligator wrestling?

24 zeus January 19, 2012 at 8:38 pm

I remember making wooden swords while growing up.

25 Brent January 19, 2012 at 10:28 pm

Make him chess set and teach him something other than violence…

26 FMAfighter January 19, 2012 at 10:53 pm

@ Brent,

You can/should make both and teach both, chess and swordplay.

Civilize the mind but make savage the body.

Here’s some cool things you can do with an impact weapon (stick) or toy sword:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nz6hsDtwVZ8

How to make a Whip (DIY):
http://www.khww.net/articles.php?article_id=99

27 Alan January 19, 2012 at 11:02 pm

Oh, this does bring back memories.
I used to make a TON of swords out of branches and 2x4s and anything straight and pointy. In the end I settled on a 5″ x 4′ oak board was the best material. I would fire up ye olde bandsaw and spend a couple days cutting out the boards and filing/sandpapering them down little by little. Then another few days refining and refining and sandpapering, then I would go glue them together just like you did. Then prime, paint, repaint, sandpaper more, and paint again. Then use electrical tape for the handle. If you’re going for a realistic look (as Brett was not) a little sandpaper and a lot of elbow grease can do amazing things.

Here’s some pictures of a few I made a while ago.
http://cl.ly/DTiW
http://cl.ly/DUOA
http://cl.ly/DUrh

This was a really good introductory guide. If you enjoy making this kind of stuff, try your hand with an oak board. Much harder to cut, but much nicer to work with and the end product is STURDY.

28 George January 20, 2012 at 2:07 am

I remember my brother and I made swords and shields and “maces” from coke bottles tied with a rope to a PVC pipe and would go at it with the neighborhood kids.

Boys need a little more violence in their lives, its good for them. There is nothing more depressing than a boy thats been deprived of his violence.

Give him this, and teach him virtue and kindness, and you’ll have a guy that has everything.

29 Matt January 20, 2012 at 10:26 am

Nice project, would like to see something similar for a basic boat.

I like your watch as well – what is it?

30 MoneyforCollegePro January 20, 2012 at 11:31 am

What an awesome project! I don’t even have any kids but I want to make an adult sized version for myself.

31 Oops January 20, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Thankfully the politically-correct haven’t jumped on this article yet, accusing AoM of encouraging violence and war-like behavior for our boys.

32 DylanSOB January 20, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Well… First off that is a nice lil sword. I’ve yet to have kids, but when I do the only toys they have will be wooden (hand made or otherwise).

I wish I could say that I had fun wooden swords when I was a kid but the best I could do was a 4 foot length of quarter inch metal pipe that was my “rocket launcher”.

That being said MDF would definitely not be my choice material. Much to much glue to be chewing on if said kid is all but a toddler. A simple primer as the coating would probably only add to the chemical compound of this sword.

If yer son deserves a sword consider spending a little money and grab a nice chuck of ash or birch or similar hardwoods (think baseball bats) and a create an implement of destruction!

33 tavatea January 21, 2012 at 7:30 am

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34 vpostman January 21, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Gus is huge! I remember just a year ago you were complaining about his…
….
“a year ago”
…oh damn, you’re right!

Excellent article. My father, while a great man, has never been much for crafts, so I had to make do with standard-issue plastic toys. Thank god I was easily entertained.

But see, trouble is now I want one…

35 Randy N January 22, 2012 at 6:08 pm

To Brent comment #25 — Hand over your AoM membership! Cool project for your kids or grandkids. Brings back lots of good memories of being a kid!

36 Brent January 22, 2012 at 10:55 pm

To Randy N: There is nothing inherently manly about hitting other people, or promoting it by making your child a “toy” that has the sole purpose of maiming other things. I find it sort of strange you would insinuate that I were unmanly because I don’t support making makeshift weapons for children. I would ask that you remove yourself from the website if i were less tolerant. Oh, there’s something to teach your kids: tolerance. A very manly virtue. Or how about how not to hit people, or fantasize about stabbing them…

37 Anil January 23, 2012 at 1:24 am

Good one. I would suggest to make the handle a little smaller so that kids can easily grab it. Cladding will give it enough strength even if the handle is just the half.

38 S.S. January 23, 2012 at 3:22 pm

I’m baffled by the assumption of some here that chess is more civilized and/or less violent than swordplay. Bunch of armies beating each other up, reduced to blunt blows by the stylized nature of their carvings, and then there’s what happens if one of the players gets upset. At least in swordplay generally upset is the result of violence and the cause of cessation rather than such process working in reverse!

39 S.S. January 23, 2012 at 3:23 pm

P.S. @Guy In A Cave: WIN. How many heart levels do we need to get the magical one, remind me?

40 s January 24, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Oh Man!!

No wonder we have so much trouble in this country. Your opinions are just that, Opinions… dont agree, too damn bad.

Wicked sword dude… would have been proud to use it as a young lad.

41 Brent January 24, 2012 at 7:54 pm

@S.S.: If you could make a coherent sentence one might be able to make sense of what you were trying to convey. But chess is not about violence, it is about strategy. The game requires no violence whatsoever. Additionally, if you wanted to remove the names of the pieces and their shapes, the game would still be the same. a game of strategy, to out-think your opponent. Not that swordsmanship can’t enable this thought development, but most kids don’t wield swords for the purpose of learning how to use it.

In addition, most people on here simply talk about making them for their sons and nephews when girls are equally capable of liking or wielding swords…food for thought.

42 Randy January 25, 2012 at 11:50 am

I made my boys swords out of furring strips (1×2). Just cut it to length, cut two pieces for the handguard & blocks between them. Drywall screws held it together quite well.

They got a bit larger & managed to break them, so I bought some of the cold steel training swords. They’re great, and FULL impact.

43 Paul O January 26, 2012 at 2:40 pm

For halloween my son went as a character from my daughter’s (and my) favorite cartoon show, Adventure Time. The character carries a sword and, while they sell a model of it at Toys R Us, that wouldn’t do for his costume as far as I was concerned.

I’ve included the link to a gallery in my name above so you can follow along.

I used a similar process described above, only using hardboard (or masonite) for the structure of the blade, and some 2 part sculpting apoxy to bulk it up. Part of a cereal box and a lot more apoxy made the hilt and handle. After some careful sanding and Dremel work, all that was left was the paint it – which was done with regular old cheap acrylic paint.

It may be slightly fragile, but I think it turned out awesome. He’s still too little to really play with it, but my daughter gets a kick out of it.

I’ll admit that I’ve got a few years of sculpting experience under my belt, but if you’re going for a premium quality sword for your kid, you gotta go the extra mile.

44 Brian H January 26, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Nice project… can’t wait to make one for my kid, he will love it. My wife? Not so much.. too bad!

Sweet watch.. you have to let me know what kind it is.

45 Pete January 28, 2012 at 10:47 am

My Dad would make me wooden weapons of all kinds. I had a short and long sword, a spear, and a couple of shields. Awesome memories! I still have the crusader knight’s shield that he made me. Can’t wait to share this tradition with my Grandkids. (Along with teaching them to throw knives and hatchets!)

46 J. dale Himebaugh February 3, 2012 at 11:11 am

I am a recent subscriber to your site, being a new discoverer, and have taught Victorian Etiquette for a number if years. Your story herein intrigued me because I had made for my son, now 31 an an former Army Ranger, still has the wooden sword that I had fashioned from an old construction stake, sanded and smoothed then painted white, and covered with runes upon the blade drawn with a magic marker. What fond memories the article brought back to me.

Wishing you the best of success,
J. Dale Himebaugh

47 steve February 4, 2012 at 8:33 pm

I have a son due in April. We are doing a Knight and Dragons nursery. I’ve very excited about doing things like this with him.

48 Jake February 17, 2012 at 2:26 pm

This is a very nice guide! Also, you could use this same technique to make longer swords as your kid grows!

49 Hank March 21, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Sweet, this is awesome! I’m totally gonna make one of those for my uhh….kid..yea…that’s right. It’s for him. Just like that one time I found a sword of thorin oakenshield for sale that I got for my wife.

50 Will March 24, 2013 at 10:36 am

I’ve made plenty of swords for my girls (they love playing pirates and beating the crap out of each other). Although my issue with a straight wooden sword was discovered after my oldest wacked me (really hard) in the shins just after making the first one (owww! left a bruise for weeks!).

Since that time I’ve been making them out of carboard- but using a wood core to make them stiffer. I let here draw the sword she wants on the cardboard, then I cut it out and another identical cardboard one. I trace the form on the 1/4″ MDF then make an outline ~1/2″ smaller than the cardboard, at the same time I like to round over the points on the wood- just in case. Then glue the cardboard on either side of the wood core.

I then like to wrap the whole thing in tape while pressing the edges together to give it a nice finish. Usually I’ll use masking tape for the handle, then some of the nice metallic silver *real* duct tape for the blade. They turn out really sweet looking!

The best part is I haven’t had any parents object to me making/giving them to their kids also, since the walls, furniture, cat, and my shins are all now relatively protected from the rath of my 4 year old!

51 Marvin Hansen March 26, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Great article. Thanks for sharing it. I have four kids and I am always looking for new ways to spend time doing things for them.

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