The Stormlight series by Brandon Sanderson is a sweeping fantasy, and one of the magical items described in the series is a Shardblade. The massive weapons belong to Shardbearers (they’re soul-bound to the Blade), and the blade can be used for everything from cutting tough surfaces like rock to severing souls. Val Alston is a hardcore fan of the series, and he wanted to do something to honor the author both because of the stories he’s told and the fact that Sanderson does charity work and teaches. To that end, Alston decided to create a replica of the six feet long Oathbringer Shardblade to give to the author.
He researched the appearance of the blade in the books and online and started an early sketch. This was around September of 2013. Alston ultimately decided the sword should be made from acrylic glass in a smoke colored hue and was happy to find an acrylic and laser shop – Acrymaquetas – in his neighborhood. He says:
I researched descriptions of Shardblades and their characteristics while in use, much of the information I found at The Stormlight Archive wiki. I also looked at hundreds of pictures of real swords for reference.
I originally planned on taking more time to slowly work on the creation of my Oathbringer hybrid. Initially my idea was to merge an intricate hilt (custom-made by someone else in metal) with my own blade made of acrylic glass by placing the blade over the hilt with a center steel shaft to represent the transition between the “magical” smoky glass and the real steel.
Since he decided on acrylic, Alston had to provide a 3D model to the shop so they could make the blade. He didn’t have any experience with making 3D models, but he taught himself. He used Google’s free SketchUp software and spent about 102 hours modeling the sword.
It’s not precisely for cosplay, but it’s an example of someone teaching himself how to use new material and programs to make something. That definitely transfers to costuming.
Alston gave the completed blade to the Sanderson while he was on a recent book tour.
Read more about the construction process at Tor.