When Hollywood Needs Shiny Instruments of Death, This Blacksmith Delivers (Wired)

2013-08-12 : Wired Interview

Tony Swatton is the most famous blacksmith in Los Angeles. But he’s not forging horseshoes. Rather, Swatton has banged out a place in Tinseltown as the go-to guy when a big-budget movie or hit TV show needs custom metalwork. The swords in Pirates of the Caribbean? Those creepy-cool murder weapons from CSI and Criminal Minds? The Infinity Gauntlet from Thor? All were Swatton creations. The 49-year-old got started in heavy metal at the tender age of 17. “I saw a guy making armor at a Renaissance fair,” Swatton recalls. “I watched him work for about two hours, went home, replicated some equipment, shaped a section of railroad track into an anvil, and made a helmet. I went back to the same fair two weeks later and showed [it to] him. He thought it was one of his own.”

As a young fan of fantasy and science fiction books from authors like Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard, Swatton had often visualized the armor and weaponry from his favorite sword and sorcery titles. “I wanted to have them, to hold them tangibly,” he said. The trouble was, he didn’t have the money to buy replicas. He decided to make his own and became very good at it.

His business, The Sword and the Stone, has been going strong for 25 years, and his services range from knife sharpening, which costs four bucks, to massive armor projects that top $100,000. He’s got no end of work to do, and some years he’ll create more than 1,200 swords alone.

“No one is doing that kind of production,” he says. “And each one is handcrafted, one at a time.”

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