Forget apprenticing for Donald Trump. Two apprenticeships have opened in Scotland under a master swordsmith who seeks new minds to train in the art of weaponry—as in making actual, sharp swords out of metal using nothing but rudimentary tools.
While they are not making swords for knights of old to wield in ancient battle, as most swordsmiths would have done in the Middle Ages, Macdonald Armouries does make historical swords for a number of requesters, including collectors, theater companies, museums and historical fencers. They are one of only a few specialist swordmakers operating in the UK and have a strong reputation for quality, especially in commando knives (Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knives, for those who prefer to be exact), which have been said by some to be the best in the world. Though they opened in 1998, they make swords from the Bronze Age to today, which allows customers to make specific requests for swords only seen in museums or read about in ancient texts.
They can also deal with requests from fans and moviegoers. Macdonald Armouries is well known for their 17th century style Montoya Rapier, a sword that lovers of the movie The Princess Bride will instantly recognize. It is a reproduction of the swept-hilt rapier used by the character Inigo Montoya, a Spaniard known for his fencing skills. They are also the only swordsmith firm to stock commercially-available swords of legend, which are from the original animation series He-Man. These are full-sized replicas, which, as anyone who has seen the series knows, have to be large enough for its muscular hero to wield.
The owner of the Brunswick Street Lane shop is Paul Macdonald, who at age 41 is ready to give two lucky learners the chance to study and perfect the art of creating swords. As master-at-arms, Macdonald says that the job can be quite demanding, but also rewarding.
Becoming an apprentice swordsmith does require some skill. No previous sword crafting experience is necessary to apply, but Macdonald is looking for certain knowledge and qualities in his candidates. He wants quick learners and people who are confident in their abilities. Those who have had previous experience with creating things by hand or through the use of power tools may be especially qualified. An interest in history will also be a large part of the job, according to Macdonald. Each sword is well researched for reproduction accuracy as well as for quality, and Macdonald adds that a background in design or craft wouldn’t be amiss.
Those who make the original cut will be able to visit the sword-making firm for a trial day to see how they do. Macdonald says that he has opened applications for apprentices before and had around 150 interested enough to apply. While many said they would be quite thrilled to be chosen, Macdonald says that it was not too difficult to whittle down the list to qualified individuals who have the perseverance and patience to see the job through, as crafting a specific sword can sometimes take up to a few months.
Apprentices seeking to apply to the swordsmith should be serious about their inquiries and be willing to make the commitment it takes to learn to forge swords by fire.
By Marisa Corley