David DelaGardelle was a freshman at Ball State University when he got a call from a props designer asking if he’d be willing to make a few swords for the movie “Thor” (2011). It was a dream come true.
Five years later, DelaGardelle, a member of New Life Presbyterian Church (Yorktown, Indiana), works full time as a swordsmith in his rustic workshop, Cedarlore Forge.
“[Biblically], the cedar tree is the symbol of strength, purity, and dignity,” DelaGardelle explains, referencing Psalm 29. The idea of the forge also has biblical themes, particularly that of a refining fire.
A self-described Tolkien nerd, DelaGardelle spent many of his early years running around in the backyard, building castles out of cinder blocks, re-enacting epic battles, and crafting toy weapons out of whatever he could get his hands on. While many boys enjoy such play, DelaGardelle never grew out of it.
By the time DelaGardelle was in his early teens, his father began driving him to blacksmithing meetups around the state. As his skill and interest grew, DelaGardelle eventually decided to enroll in Ball State’s art program, focusing on metalworking and jewelry. On the side, he continued crafting swords, often using medieval tools such as the anvil, wet stone, and a smelting furnace.
When he received the offer to create four swords for the gatekeeper character of “Thor” (played by Idris Elba), he decided to quit school and focus entirely on his craft. “You can get all of the degrees in the world for art and still not do it,” he explains.
These days, DelaGardelle mostly works on custom swords from commissions he receives from around the country. He says he enjoys bringing their visions to life.
Meanwhile, he makes it a goal to keep his passion from taking over. “Your art is never going to be great when you make it number one,” he says.
Rather, he tries to focus on sword-making as a means of communicating Gospel themes.
Much of the history surrounding sword-making has pagan overtones, and the modern trade does as well, DelaGardelle explains. Further, much of what surrounds the history of Christianity and the sword is murky, particularly with regard to the violence propagated by the church during the Crusades. But DelaGardelle sees the sword as a symbol of good used to push back evil.
“Today I strive to craft historically-rooted but mythically-inspired swords that speak to the hearts and souls of young men — swords that have a boldly ‘Christocentric’ foundation that challenge our own broken and sinful hearts, yet also encourage holiness and peace.”