Approximately 3 million people died during the Crusades.
Torsos pierced. Arms chopped. Heads crushed.
Behind every weapon used to kill soldiers or civilians is a Weapon Smith.
Eyal Azerad is a modern bladesmith.
“In the Middle Ages, it was a butchery. Butchering each other.”
The blacksmith knows a lot about the medieval art of war.
He shows me what the techniques looked like.
Sword in hand.
And the spark of a child in his eyes.
“Nowadays, even with a real sword, in reenactment battles, you’ll never get the real feeling. Because back then, they were fighting for their lives. No matter how real your armor or how much effort you put in your sword technique, you’ll never get the real feeling.”
Eyal recreates historical weapons. The real ones.
Once wielded into other peoples’ bodies.
Now resting in peace inside glass containers.
“What I always wanted to do was really to create swords that were made in the historical fashion. As close as possible. To get real swords.”
Eyal travels every year to Europe, visits museums and gains close access to the arms.
Pictures. Weight. Dimensions. Drawing table.
Thus begins the blacksmith’s work.
“When you go blacksmithing for swords, you’re really at the elite aspect of blacksmithing. It’s not simply forging something in the shape of… You have to understand tempering, you have to understand heat treat and many many aspects. There’s a lot of physics involved in it. You also have to understand steel at a molecular level. How does heat affect the molecules of steel.”
Every blacksmith needs a master.
Acquiring all this knowledge. A journey of 15 years.
But Eyal had no teacher.
There are no schools for sword smithing.
There were no video tutorials on the internet back in the 80s and 90s.
And blade smithing masters are hard to come by.
So he learned by himself. As a kid.
Trial and error. And Books.
“One day, just to give you an example of how ridiculous it was, when I was 13 years old, my father went out on a Saturday morning to do the groceries. When he left, I took his old Hibachi barbecue, put some charcoal, took a piece of steel that I had in my house, let it heat up and just started hammering. With a regular hammer, on the balcony. Just to try. The second time that he went out, I did the same thing, trying to make it a little bit longer. The third time I tried to make a little pocket knife. Just the blade. That taught me what colour the blade should be before it’s ready.”
He now owns a shop. Trains employees in his ancient trade.
And sells his swords online. Darksword Armory.
Sword enthusiasts from all over the world:
Backyard testers. Uploading their videos on YouTube.
Fighters. Jousting, reenacting historic battles or hitting each other with full contact in an arena.
Collectors. Decorating their houses with man-made historical swords.
“They want a real sword. When they look at it they know it’s a real sword. That it was traditionally made.”
Tradition commands Eyal to work with his hands.
Even if he uses modern tools.
None of his swords are machine-made.
Like the ones they sell in gift shops.
Eyal’s clients want real swords. Real weapons.
Killing tools of days long gone.
“I don’t consider them as weapons. When I look at a sword, for example, it’s like looking at a Monet. At a Salvador Dali. It’s a piece of art. And that’s why I like them not made by machinery. It’s really a work of art, but I understand that a lot of people might see them as weapons. And a lot of people might use them as so.”
Pieces of art that you can order sharpened for a few dollars more.
Are you afraid that one of your weapons might be used to hurt somebody?
“Always. Not necessarily hurt someone, but… In Rwanda, for example, they got the machete from a company in China. 10 cents a piece. You have to think about that. How disgusting a person you have to be to accept 10 cents. Wanting to make 10 cents on a machete, knowing perfectly well that this machete is going to be used to chop up somebody in pieces. For ten cents.”
“Given my industry, I still have an obligation. Just like if I was working in some sort of toxic chemical plant. The obligation of not to dump it in the river… What if you find out one day that your machete or your katana was used in genocide? For 6 to 7 hundred dollars.”
Eyal then adds that he cancels and refunds any orders made by people who live in countries where he thinks his weapons might be used to kill another living being. Human or animal.