Mike Craughwell (aka Michaelcthulhu) went from making fantastic giant swords as a hobby to working on it full time. He started posting videos on his YouTube channel about nine years ago. It generated a great deal of interest, mostly from video game players wanting to see (or own) real life versions of the giant, impractical weapons often found in games.
Here’s a highlight reel of Mike’s work from last year.
People ask Mike how to get started with sword making. “The only formal training I had was a 6 month welding course,” he says. “I had to teach myself.”
MIG welding is good for structural welds, or when you intentionally want to build up lots of material. TIG welding is good for delicate stuff; there’s no messy spatter. Mike sometimes switches back and forth between the two on a project.
“You can use a welder to build up basic shapes and fill in the in-between bits with weld. Then you grind back to get what you want,” Mike says. This works especially well for the more organic shapes in his designs. It isn’t a technique he’s seen many other people doing. You can see this demonstrated in the video below.
Mike’s advice for learning something is to try it. He once promised a customer a design with symbols etched on the sword, having no idea how to do. With some research and practice he learned to etch with salt water and a battery charger.
YouTube and Wikihow are great resources for learning, but Mike says you have to try things to see if they actually work. “Experiment and accept there is a 50% failure rate,” he advises.
Mike includes tutorials on his YouTube channel. If you have 38 minutes to kill, watch “How a Buster Sword is Built” below. He explains many of the cutting, welding, braising, and grinding techniques he uses in constructing the Buster sword.
A less time-gobbling taste of Mike’s work is this “Micro Build: Tiny Buster Sword” video, in which he makes a hand sized Buster sword suitable perhaps as a rather large necklace or keychain.
Mike tries to incorporate humor into his videos. “Some other sword guys talk about what the sword could kill. My swords are not bad-ass killing machines… giant swords are innately funny.”
Here’s an example of Mike’s sense of humor, showing how big swords grow from little swords.
Mike likes to demonstrate that his swords are really made from steel. Showing them on fire or destroying something that is on fire absolutely shows what they are made of.
“I grew up in a row house in the suburbs,” says Mike. “I never got to play with fire as a kid, so I started adding fire to spice up my YouTube videos. I really liked it, and now I include a lot of fire stuff.”
Apparently he gets caught on fire quite a bit in his work. “What’s the normal amount of time for a person to be on fire in a year?” Mike muses. “Probably zero.” Check out an example of Mike’s pyromania below.
Mike continues to churn out giant swords and fun videos on a regular basis. Check out his Facebook page to learn more.
Andrew Terranova is an electrical engineer, writer and author of How Things Are Made: From Automobiles to Zippers. Andrew is also an electronics and robotics enthusiast and has created and curated robotics exhibits for the Children's Museum of Somerset County, NJ and taught robotics classes for the Kaleidoscope Enrichment in Blairstown, NJ and for a public primary school. Andrew is always looking for ways to engage makers and educators.View more articles by Andrew Terranova