We talked to Tony Swatton, legendary Hollywood blacksmith, about building a real-life version of Heaven's Disk from The Legend of Solgard
Sometimes we like to tell you about the awesome stuff going on around mobile gaming, not just about how awesome mobile games are. And this is definitely one of those times. Because what's more awesome than real-life weapons based on things from your favorite games? We can't think of a single thing quite frankly.
So when we found out that King had commissioned Tony Swatton, a legendary blacksmith in the entertainment industry with decades of work behind him, to make a weapon from Legend of Solgard, we figured it'd be silly if we didn't talk to him about the build, his career, and how you might get into blacksmithing yourself.
And that's exactly what this article is. Along the way you'll see some images from the build, and at the end of the piece you can check out a video that shows the process from piece of metal to an amazing looking, finished version of the Heaven's Disk from the game.
If you've not heard of Legend of Solgard, it's something of a departure from King. While it does have match-stuff mechanics, there's some deeper RPG stuff going on in the background, and a host of intriguing characters for you to unlock.
148Apps: First up, could you give our readers a brief overview of what it is that you do?
Tony Swatton: I am a professional blacksmith for the entertainment industry I use both ancient methods and modern technology to forge weapons, armor, and jewelry for film, television, fashion and more at my forge The Sword and the Stone in Burbank, California.
How did you come to make replica weapons from some of the most famous pop-culture franchises?
I had had made iconic weapons and costumes for over 200 Films and TV shows for over 30 years and over time more designers of video games found me. It was an easy transition to recreate real forged edged weapons from designs created on a computer and bring them to life.
Nowadays it seems that the franchises that capture the public's imagination the most are not live action. Especially with progress of digital animation and video game companies. So when companies want to have something tangible, that fans and creators alike can see up close and even hold in their hands to connect them to these worlds they love, they call on me and my forge to bring these often fantastical pieces to life.
The sometimes funny thing is that when these animators are dreaming up what would look best on screen they don't factor in real world physics because, why bother if you don't have to, who doesn't love floating crystals and flaming spikes. So when it comes time to break down a design to figure out how we're going to make a piece we are usually reverse engineering these pieces so we know how it's going to exist in the real world. Once all that is done then I can actually start heating metal and swinging a hammer.
What was the hardest part of making the Heaven’s Disk piece for Legend of Solgard?
It was really important to me that the etching on the blades was deep enough to really stand out even after the powder coating. It was a bit of a guessing game on the perfect depth for the etch since so much of it depends on the strength of the acid, the thickness of the powder coating and even just the width of the lines in the stencil. I was very happy that it all worked out and we ended up with a very strong design. I'd like to think that Embla would be proud! Actually, the hardest part of creating the Heaven's Disc for me was matching the vibrant colors. We used an electrostatic baked on powdered enamel to match the color palette that we were imagined by the developers.
And what did you enjoy most about the build?
I always enjoy the aspect of taking a an idea that exists on a computer screen and determining how I would make it real. When I was a kid I actually started as a gem cutter and polisher who loved going out into the wilds to find all kinds of rare stones to bring them home and work on bringing out their inner beauty. So any opportunity to use my lapidary equipment is a good day. So for Heaven's Disk the mother of pearl pieces were certainly tricky to line up with the settings that I cut out, so I really took my time to make sure it all fit together properly. With everything assembled the luster and depth they bring to the piece really catch the eye.
Other than Heaven’s Disk, what's your favorite piece you've made?
If I had to pick just one out of the 30 years I've been at this, I would probably say Captain Hook's Hook from the film Hook. Not only was it my first internationally recognized build but it is still one of my favorite pieces. I feel so fortunate to have worked on such an amazing production building for Dustin Hoffman and Steven Spielberg. Everyone on that set was so excited for the film and even though the time lines were tight, as all big productions are, we were all excited to be there and make something magical. I also really enjoyed making weapons incorporating traditional forge welding such as "Long Claw" and Gimli's Axe that I recreated in pattern welded steel for "Man At Arms" on youtube
What advice would you give someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
If you want to learn about blacksmithing, read books, go talk to other artists, really immerse yourself in this field. There are some formal programs popping up around the world but for most people who find a passion for blacksmithing the key is to just go do it and get as much hands on experience as you can. So finding conventions, seminars, local workshops to really get a feel for what it takes is going to be a great way to start on that path. If you really want to do metalwork join a national organization such as ABANA or BABA and take classes from them. Most of all practice until you understand the medium which you work in.
And lastly, if you could make a weapon or item from another mobile game, what would it be?
I am more of a reader of print books than someone who plays video games, but I'm always impressed with these creative designers' ability to surprise me. I have hundreds of books in my library detailing the entire recorded history of arms and armaments but each time I receive a design from a game company it is something unique. Personally I really enjoy making daggers. They really allow you to get creative in a defined workspace and with so many options for material use and design they never get old to me. Also, if we're talking Legend of Solgard there are some fun looking weapons like those used by the Sun Mage and Dunder Gronch.