Frosted Blades

Some of my customers order “frosted” blades, but what does that mean? And why is it cheaper than the crystal clear blades? Today, I will share with you the  answers to these questions and more. Stand back everyone! It’s about to get nerdy in here… as we discuss the secrets behind the movie magic.

First, let’s start with my signature crystal clear acrylic swords.

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This lovely Jahoel model short sword takes five hours of wet sanding to bring it to this level of clarity. Longswords like Azrael can take as long as seven straight hours of polishing! When placed on an open book, you can easily read through this blade.

This clarity comes at a price, and I don’t just mean money.

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Here is an Azrael sword lit up in pitch darkness. Do you see the swath of darkness up the middle? Why doesn’t it light up evenly? Hang onto your hats guys, it’s time for science!

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The beam of a flash light shines straight and true, illuminating the space you shine it on. The protective glass, or plastic protecting the light bulb inside is polished to 100% clarity to make sure all of that light goes where you want it to.

But you want a sword, not a flash light! How can we make the sword glow and not just let all that light pass directly through? We need to give the light something to reflect off of. That is why the edges of Azrael are so bright in the image. The curved surfaces of the sword meet in points and ridges and it is here that the light bounces off the acrylic in a way you can see it.

Here is a method for getting the sword to be brighter, though. Let’s take a look at Jace’s sword from The Mortal Instruments movie.

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You will quickly notice that the edge of this sword is frosted, unlike the rest of it which is crystal clear. Why did the movie’s prop team do this? To properly explain, we must see the blade in action.

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Yes, I know, we all need a moment to drool over Jamie Bower …

Okay! Moving right along. This sword has no light in it. So how is it glowing? Look carefully at where the shadows are on the actor’s body. He’s lit from underneath. By frosting the blade’s edge, the prop team cleverly gave the appearance of an inner glow by giving the light something to reflect off of! Pretty genius huh?

So what would it look like if the whole blade were frosted?

Isabelle Blade1 copy

Hands up everybody who recognizes this image! Yeah, I knew you would. This is a blade from the Shadowhunters TV show. The props team decided to opt for a handle that you can’t see through in order to hide a light inside. The style has definitely grown on me. There’s a lot of room to customize a sword just by its wrapping.

Ah but enough of my chatter about handles. It’s the blade we’re interested in here. Why is the frosted blade so much brighter? “Frosted” pretty much means “millions of tiny abrasions all over the surface” and it’s these tiny scratches that the light bounces off. Sometimes this effect is achieved by spraying a matte finish all over the sword, but this is not how I do it. Because my frosting effect is part of the blade itself, it cannot be rubbed off with wear.

Now, I mentioned that my frosted blades are cheaper than the crystal clear ones. This is because the frosted blades require only two to three hours of polishing.

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If you don’t care about being able to read through the blade, then not only can I cut the polishing hours in half, but I can also use a smaller LED like the one you see here. You wouldn’t think that it would make a big impression, being so tiny but …

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It sure does. With the light bouncing off millions of tiny abrasions all over the surface of the blade, it illuminates the pommel (butt end) of the sword even though the LED is pointed in the opposite direction!

Is there a difference in the smoothness of the sword? Yes. The crystal clear blades have a texture like satin, or glass. It’s a sort of liquid smoothness. The frosted blades feel more like silk or steel. Still quite smooth. The difference is a small one.

Any questions or comments about frosted blades? Scribble it in the comments and I will be happy to answer. I have a question for you, fellow Shadowhunter fans! Do you like the TV or movie blades better? And why?

I like the TV show blades better, personally. I love working with leather wrapped hilts!

Author: Ethan Kincaid

Ethan Kincaid was born in 1985 in Brockville, a sleepy little town on the St. Lawrence River. He graduated from Carleton University in Ottawa with a degree in Linguistics and a minor in Japanese Language. After finishing his education, he settled down there with his wife Kaitlyn and became a full-time writer. In 2011, he moved to Montreal and discovered its vibrant writing culture. In 2015, Ethan moved to Helsinki, Finland with his wife; he works as a props crafter and part time author. His first book, Blood of Midnight: The Broken Prophecy is the first of a new fantasy trilogy. The greatest joy in his life lies in helping budding writers find their voices. In his words: "I like to shake people until cool stuff comes out!"

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