ST. GEORGE — Nearly two dozen children learned firsthand Monday how to make swords using Bronze Age casting techniques.
Greg Wenderski of Austin, Texas, who calls himself the “Sword Casting Guy,” taught the six-hour class in the backyard of a St. George home, with nearly 50 attendees making 20 swords.
Wenderski, who is in the middle of a multi-state road trip across the Southwest, says the size of each of his classes is limited to 20 swords, due to the limited amount of casting boxes and sand he has available. However, he said parents and siblings are welcome to attend as observers, space permitting.
The St. George class was taught in the backyard of Zac and Joey Gibson, whose teenage son Jack is a fan of knives, swords and metalwork. The Gibsons belong to a local group of parents who home-school their children, Joey Gibson said, adding that she saw a notice about Wenderski’s class in a group posting a few months ago decided to see if they could get him to come to St. George. Monday’s class included approximately two dozen children, mostly from the home-school group, with nearly that many parents also in attendance.
As attendees arrived Monday morning, the enthusiasm in the air was palpable as Wenderski welcomed everyone to the class and started off by talking about different types of swords and how and when they were used historically.
Wenderski then had each of the sword makers choose a wooden pre-cut sword blank from the table. Options included designs patterned after Greek xiphos, an Egyptian khopesh, a Japanese katana and a ceremonial Indonesian dagger called a kris.
After Wenderski went over the safety rules, the young sword makers, many of them enlisting the help of one or more parents, then went to work shaping their wooden blades using belt sanders to give them an edge. Shortly after that, the finished wooden swords were then carefully placed into custom-made boxes filled with sand, which served as mold into which the molten aluminum could be poured.
After the metal had cooled down, the swords were then polished with grinding tools to make them smooth. Leather-like material was wrapped around each handle as a finishing touch. At the conclusion of the class, the pupils were allowed to keep both their finished metal sword and the wooden one used for the mold.
The students proudly showed off their handiwork to each other as the class ended, at which point a grateful but somewhat tired Wenderski went back to work packing up his gear and supplies back into his travel trailer.
“I love what I do because I get to teach people about the things I’ve always loved – ancient history, science, mythology, metallurgy – and give them a hands-on experience that they don’t really get anywhere else,” Wenderski told St. George News. “Seeing everyone’s excitement and full engagement with every step of the process is every teacher’s dream. And at the end of class, their pride and wide-eyed wonder at their swords is infectious.”
Wenderski, who taught science at public schools in Texas for 20 years, said he was inspired to make his first sword as part of a collaborative effort with a fellow middle school teacher who was teaching about ancient Greek weapons and warfare as part of her ancient civilizations class.
Using recycled aluminum collected from the students, Wenderski showed them how to cast a sword, which was then put on display in the other teacher’s classroom.
Wenderski said after repeating that popular activity on an annual basis for a few years, he decided to up his game.
“Finally it occurred to me that I needed to scale it up and pour a bunch of swords per class, and it has been a runaway success,” he said.
For the past four years, Wenderski has been teaching sword-casting classes as his main full-time job. Although he primarily teaches beginners how to cast aluminum swords, he also occasionally teaches more advanced classes that use bronze casting.
During Wenderski’s 16-day road trip through the Southwest he’ll teach 11 classes. He had multiple gigs in New Mexico and Arizona last week. His St. George stop on Monday will be followed by two classes in Salt Lake area this week, both of which are sold out, followed by a newly added class in Moab on Saturday, which still has spots available.
Joey Gibson said Monday’s class was a hit with parents and students alike, and she hopes Wenderski will come back soon for another visit to the St. George area.
“Kids and adults of all ages were able to work together, help each other and enjoy learning about the Bronze Age, metallurgy and sword styles,” she said. “Greg is wonderful at engaging children and adults in the class and bringing history alive. I think everyone who attended will remember this class and what they learned for a long time.”
For more information about Wenderski and his sword-casting classes and other activities, visit the Sword Casting Guy website. Additionally, Wenderski has filmed a couple videos for the YouTube channel “How to Make Everything,” the second of which shows him making a bronze sword out of more than 500 molten pennies. That video has already been viewed 1.7 million times since being posted on Dec. 18.
Wenderski said he is “amazed” at the wide variety of people who attend his classes, which are open to children as young as 7, if accompanied by a parent.
“It started out as a class for kids, but these days I get people of all ages and backgrounds – history buffs, aspiring metal workers, Scouts, soldiers, Game of Thrones or Forged in Fire fans and college students,” he said. “I often get two or three generations of one family taking the class together. One of the things I’m most proud of is that it feels like such a community event.”
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