NORTH BERWICK, Maine. - A company called Hickory Arms uses hickory wood to create waster swords, or “practice weapons” for a range of uses. Historically, wasters maintain the weight and balance of its metal counterpart and were provided by the swordsmith.
Hickory wood is said to be very hard, stiff, dense, and shock resistant, boasting a combination of strength and toughness that is not found in other commercial woods. It is commonly used to make tool handles, wheel spokes, drumsticks, ladder rungs, and archery bows.
Hickory Arms says it uses hickory for almost all of its products as it is well-suited for the rigors of full contact. Since it is also somewhat flexible, it says the wooden wasters bend rather than splinter when struck.
The swords are hand-made by the company’s owner, Trent Schriefer, who says the wood is hand-picked with special attention to the growth rings in the wood. Most wasters break when the growth rings run off the edge of the blade, so when selecting wood, the majority of the rings should run parallel to the edge of the sword along its entire length, says Hickory. This makes the sword stronger and allows it to last longer before wearing out.
Trent Schriefer of Hickory Arms
After the wood is selected, each item is rough cut and given time to allow for the wood to “settle in” before Schriefer finishes the pieces. He then coats the swords and wasters with a polyurethane finish, which resists dirt and water better than other finishes according to the company. The company says it chooses polyurethane over “period” finishes because it dries without the sticky and tacky feeling of tung oil and beeswax respectively.
Hickory Arms says the balance of its wasters is closer to their metal counterparts than any on the market. The hickory swords can be used for tactical and fitness training, historical demonstrations, costuming, and gifts. The company also makes other products such as wooden crossbows.
Hickory Arms also offers custom orders in ash, oak, maple, and other hardwoods, as well as in alternate finishes, but recommends that swords made from anything other than hickory be used for display purposes only as they can crack faster during combat making them unsafe for the user as well as onlookers.
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