How to Make a Wooden Gladius

By Julia Salgado ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Wooden plank
  • 1-1/2-inch diameter wooden dowel
  • Coping saw
  • Plane
  • Measuring tape
  • Wood glue
  • Round wooden cupboard door handle

The gladius was a short, broad sword used by the Ancient Roman army for close-combat infantry fighting. Usually less than 18 inches in length, the gladius was shorter than the other sword frequently employed by the Romans – the spatha – which was more often used by cavalrymen. From the third century, use of the gladius declined as fighting styles changed, and close combat became less of a part of roman military tactics. Making a gladius from wood is the ideal way to reproduce the weapon for purposes such as stage productions or dramatic reenactments. The relatively lightweight and sturdy medium allows an actor to wield the weapon with relative ease.

Cut a plank of wood 3 inches in width and 10 inches in length. The plank should be about 2 inches thick. Mark the midpoint of the width of the plank, and draw a line running along this midpoint, parallel to the two long sides. This will be the ridge in the middle of the sword.

Mark a midpoint in the thickness of the plank also, and use a hacksaw to cut a rough diagonal from the central line to the midpoint of the thickness. Do this on both sides of the central line; then turn the plank over and repeat. The plank should now have a diamond cross section.

Make a mark on both long edges 3 inches from the end of the plank. Saw a diagonal cut from one of these marks to where the central line touches the end of the plank. Repeat this from the other mark to bring the blade of the gladius to a point. Plane all four horizontal surfaces until they are uniformly smooth.

Cut a piece of dowel to 7 inches in length. Drill a hole in the dead center of the nontapered end of the plank, equal to the diameter of the dowel. This hole should be 1 inch thick. Drill an identical hole into the dead center of the base of the cupboard handle.

Apply wood glue to each hole and insert one end of the dowel into each. Leave the gladius to dry, and then use a file to remove any excess dried glue or untidy edges of the wood.

Spray the gladius with a coat of white primer; then allow it to dry before spraying the whole piece silver. Hand paint the handle of the gladius with a deep mahogany brown, taking care not to splash any on the blade part of the sword.

Dip your brush into some black matte paint and wipe thoroughly with the tissue paper. Paint the blade of the sword with the remaining flecks of paint on the brush, returning to the pot to dip the brush and wipe with the tissue after every four or five strokes. This gives the silver a rugged, aged effect, making the sword look more realistic. This is a technique known as dry brushing.

About the Author

Julia Salgado has been writing professionally since 2007. Her work has been published by the "Manchester Evening News" and "Q Magazine." Salgado holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Manchester Metropolitan University.