I finished making the swords for the Easter show yesterday. They're Roman short swords, needing to be extra short because the tallest soldier we have is still under 5 feet tall. So, what wood should I use? I didn't want to take a 4-inch width piece of wood and cut it down, like I have before. My friend with the table saw is awfully busy these days. Looking around Home Depot, my eyes lit upon a package of shims. Yes, shims, those wedge-shaped pieces of wood used to adjust window and door frames. At 15 inches long, they are the perfect length, and hey, they already taper! I picked out the best shims (a few had holes), and glued two together for each sword.
After the glue had dried, I sanded them, then I cut the tips into a dull point. Now they were just pointy sticks. I experimented with both silver spray paint and chrome duct tape, finally deciding on the spray paint partly because their armor will have the same coating. Now it was time for the handle. If you look up images of Roman short swords online, you'll find two basic images: one with a hilt that looks like a cross between a T and a handlebar mustache; the other with a hilt that doesn't stick out much and is round like a collar. The first one is usually found at costume shops and toy places; the second is found at authentic Roman gear places. So that's the one I went for.
I used brown duct tape for the handle part, then black braid wrapped around multiple times for the hilt. They look pretty good. Now if I can only get the boys not to swordfight with them during the last few rehearsals!