Year One – Retrospective

Starting CAD design

I started designing the Master Sword with Solidworks. I went through a few different designs, but got hung up on the wings. First the CG Ocarina model, then the poster Ocarina model, and I ended up deciding on using the Skyward Sword art model as it was just released. This process took over a couple years.

First hilt casting

At my day job, I design parts and fill out orders an in a steel cutting shop. I’ve made many professional contacts there. I traded some design work to get the mold CNC milled from my Solidworks design. The hilt was cast with a two-part liquid plastic in a wooden mold.

Version 1 - April 2013

To create the first Master Sword, I used 5/16″ mild carbon steel for the blade – I had it cut to shape with the CNC plasma cutter at work, and my brother ground the edges. There are a lot of flaws with this replica. I didn’t remove the mill scale, and I made the mistake of painting it, but the serial code stamps at the mill still showed through after the third coat of primer. Painting was a mistake.

Version 2 - July 2013

My second sword was much better – I changed to 3/16″ steel and the surface was Blanchard ground shiny smooth instead of painted. The Triforce was engraved with an engraving machine, instead of just scratched into the layers of paint with a Dremel. I took some proper pictures too. Making the hilt from two halves was proving to be a challenge. While all my replicas so far were full tang, this one had oak on the handle instead of welded pipe, and I think the braided handle looks pretty good.


I made a third one like this as well, but also made a concrete pedestal. It went through a few iterations, where this one has a snug leather inlay and a steel gasket at the top. I found a better paint for the hilt that changes in colour from blue to purple depending on the light. This one got the attention of a few people who put down pre-orders on my next set. This justified the next round of improvements.

Hilt Solidworks model evolution

This gave me the opportunity to change the model of my hilt to closer match the in-game model. Instead of working from 2D art, I started by pulling the actual in-game model using Skyward Sword and the Dolphin emulator. Here is the evolution of the model, from in-game low poly, cutscene high-poly and my first 3D printed model. The last hilt model is for future runs.

3D printer and new hilt mold

I bought a 3D printer (Solidoodle 3) and re-designed the hilt to be in one piece with a foam core center. I made a silicone mold, but my success rate with casting was about 40%. All other Master Swords shown here use this mold. I also changed the type of plastic I cast with (from Smooth-cast colormatch 325 to Smooth-cast 310) – it’s a lot easier to sand and shape. I file the foam core center out to make these full tang.

Finished Skyward Sword

The gems and tongs were now separated, which really helped with painting. After a handful of upgrades to improve my printer’s accuracy, these small parts can be easily produced with a little clean up. The biggest change here is that the blade are now CNC machined themselves, instead of with an angle grinder. This one is proudly on display as part of a client’s Zelda collection.

Twilight Variant

I also designed and 3D printed some fancy tongs and filigrees for the Twilight Princess variant. I’m really happy with how this one turned out. Did you know that the polygonal in-game model is identical between Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword?

Upcoming projects