Guest of Honour: Lord of the
Rings conceptual illustrator, John
In April 2005, we were honoured to have Lord of the Rings
John Howe come for a visit.
His personality was as delightful as his works.
For more, please visit our
Weapons of the Nazgūl
These Kingly blades were not maintained over the
centuries, and though they appear rusty and pitted,
their fine craftsmanship meant that they were still
formidable weapons, even in their dilapidated state.
The fact that these swords were wielded by creatures
born of the dark lord may have imbued them with a
destructive power seen nowhere else. (Two
United Cutlery broadswords, and the 'to-scale' Kropserkel
Morgul-knife). Accreditation to the Weapons
and Warfare book by Chris Smith.
Morgul-knife or Morgul Blade
Flesh biting blade:
A hand forged, annealed and tempered 5160 spring
steel representation of the
fearful blade that inflicts a mortal wound, without
the chance of survival.
Aside from what remains of it on Weathertop, this
blade can't be found anywhere else.
Witch King arm armor /
armour (arm harness assembly) ROTK
WitchKing arm armour assembly (pauldrons with
a haute-piece to protect the neck from a side-ways
attack, rerebrace, spiked spur like couter, and
vambrace that features curved ridges that twist
and flow into the ridges on the gauntlets). This
assembly has a dragon's wing theme and covers the
cuff section of the WitchKing gauntlets that are
worn beneath. This fully articulated armour set
is incredibly intricate, and is as menacing as it
is beautiful ("beautifully elegant and intimidating"
as described in the Weapons and Warfare book.)
COSTUME exploits (left) The Kropserkel
Nazgûl costume on guard at
The Royal Ontario Museum's Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers exhibit
On set for a commercial for The
Gathering of the Fellowship. "You wouldn't have
change for a Shire penny would you? My steed isn't
fond of concrete and my Fell Beast is in the shop."
middle) The Nazgûl
costume prior to it's first horseback appearance in
the LOTR themed Medieval Times show in December 2003.
right) Forced perspective: Be thankful that
you don't wake up to a view like this.
earliest incarnation of the costume in 2001 is pictured below in a photo test at a local park. In addition to park enjoying pedestrians and cyclists, we actually noticed animals and insects
fleeing our photo session zone. We are considering
marketing a bug repellant based on this system later
this year. If any of the images look familiar to
you, it's because they've graced a great many product
promotional materials as
'authentic' pictures of the original costumes used
in production, not so, but we thank those for the
guised compliment in the mistake.
WK Battle Arms with Gauntlets
The WK battle arms (Pauldrons, rerebraces, couters, vambraces, and harness system) are shown here with the WK gauntlet set. WIthout the cloaks to conceal the details, you get an idea of what this armour set looks like on it's own.
The leg armour attaches to a wide belt with garters for the cuisses. This holds the assembly up.
leg harnesses: "The
Levis of Mordor"
King and Nazgûl versions
what a symphony of metal would sound like. Hearing
the approach of this full leg armour is as intimidating
to hear as it is to see.
the gothic style of the gauntlets, this armour is
formed in 16 gauge steel and is an intricate assembly of perfectly fitting laminations and components;
feet (sabatons), shins (greaves), knees and upper
thighs (cuisses). Shown above is the Witch
King version of the legs. There are
notable differences between the Witch King and Nazgūl
versions of the leg armour; The Witch King's armour has a different knee
fan or wing that splays on the outside of each leg,
and a pointed and smooth sabaton (foot).
These details are depicted in the images below.
A comparative image with the Nazgūl
(left) and the Witch King version leg armour
are all the fashionable wraiths wearing
for footwear? How about some sporty looking,
segmented and articulated metal sabatons,
something you won't likely see in the Nike lineup
this year. These are the standard
Nazgūl version of the sabatons, with a carrion or reptilian like representation. Notice how the gothic
theme is translated to the adjoining greave (ankle
and shin armour). We haven't been asked if
we want our shoes shined lately, at least not by
someone who had a recent tetanus shot.
client requested a custom designed pair of wraith
sabatons that feature talon like toes and a twin
pronged spur. For more custom armour in this
style, please check out our
conceptual Nazgūl armour page here.
The Nazgūl version of the leg armour features a
larger, splayed like platform from the knee cop (below).
The Witch King version of the leg armour features
an ornate fan like platform from the knee cop (left).
Cuisse and poleyn assembly permit a very decent
range of motion (right).
gave me some difficulty at this event and it didn't
take much persuading to show him who was truly in charge.
upper leg armour showing all the points of articulation
with a multitude of lames both above and below the
ORIGINAL TALENTS: Director Peter Jackson's vision
realized by the talents of Richard Taylor / Tania
Rodger of New Zealand's WETA workshop crew, and costume
designer Ngila Dickson have collaborated in what has
developed into an incredibly memorable group of villains
for what is already an epic picture of grandiose proportions.
We are so thankful that these people put all the effort
they did into this incredible film. I knew at first
sight that we'd have to pay tribute to these geniuses
and commenced right away at fabricating as accurate
a hero wraith costume we could muster for the collection.
Despite what one would think about a costume based
on dark flowing robes, this bit of wardrobe is much
more than meets the eye in so many ways. Dickson was
given the task of creating something evil literally
of nothing and she's right to be proud of the end
result. The intricate culmination of Dickson's multi-layered
flowing wardrobe and WETA's armourers' realization
of conceptual artist John
Howe's design makes for an incredibly creepy and
REPLICA CONSTRUCTION: After an astonishing amount
of study on every aspect of this costume from photographic
references and visits to the touring exhibits, we
managed to come up with an outfit we're finally quite
pleased with. I hazard a guess at around 500 hours
and counting were invested in this project. Here are
some of the specifications of our version of the costume:
Approximately 30 meters of material were assembled
to pull this off. I'm 6'9" in this outfit as
the hood is completely empty and I am covered by a
one way black textile. Anyone looking into the hood
will be horrified to see that there is nothing in
there but pure, empty evil. The material is artificially
distressed and frayed to look aged and well used.
Naturally, the more it gets used, the better it looks.
Initially, I went through the process of trying to
emulate the horrific screeching sounds by way of hawk
& loon calls from the naturalist society. Later
I was introduced to an animal from New Zealand that
I was convinced the Riders sounds were based on, an
bugle (click to hear the sound courtesy of Clive
& Trich Seddon at Wildlife Sculptures) . I couldn't
help but feel that it would be terrible to be camping
in New Zealand and to hear these sounds in the wild.
After reviewing the behind the scenes content on the
extended DVDs, I was thrilled to hear that the mystery
of the wraith screeches was revealed. Talented Producer/Screenwriter
Fran Walsh provided the raw screeches while she had
a horse throat with Peter's direction. The sound engineers
manipulated her screams with synthesized effects and
she is now immortalized in our nightmares for all
time. In my opinion they couldn't have given a more
horrific sound to these characters. I have since implemented
an electronic sound sampling device that delivers
sound from a shoulder mounted amplifier and speaker
system when triggered by a switch.
Our Wraith was also a character in this Space Channel parody about out of work science fiction/fantasy characters in 2006
battlefield Witch King costume replica (ROTK)
Our all metal armoured Witch-king costume on a recent visit to Mordor.
sharp and spiky look is 'in' this year. Our merciless
Witch-king is sporting the latest in menacing protective
armour. Warning: Not suitable for fighting with women,
results may vary. Shown here in hand forged and hammered
steel, this armour set is as elegantly wicked as they come.
The WK set has a weathered finish, with accentuated
gothic lines and webbed wing motifs that make up it's
multi-layered plate protection.
The crown of the Twilight WitchKing (FOTR)
The crowning component to the Twilight WitchKing outfit is this elegantly twisted crown of a mislead monarch, neither living, nor dead. Seventy-seven hand forged laminations, spires, and spikes adorn this die stamped ring (click on small image below for a closer look). Having seen the original crown on display, we're quite confident in saying that we are likely the first to make an all metal incarnation of this regal prop.
2007 brought an opportunity to fabricate a second Twilight WK crown, and with the aid of dies (positive and negative), the most intricate details were stamped into the steel plates, and some of the lesser known features from the original sculpt were implemented in this ultimate metal incarnation of the piece.
Our journey of making metal RingWraith ARMOR / ARMOUR
Witch-King gauntlets version 3.0 (2003)
The fully articulated metal WitchKing gauntlets
(shown here with a light weathering finish).
Custom fitted armoured plates moving over each other
with precisely slotted pins to control the range
of articulation. It's like having bones on the outside.
by a professional blacksmith with 18 years of armouring
experience, our replica gauntlets have been utilized
by many as source material for their own imitations.
First piece: Early Nazgûl
put; by design, 'kinetic art', and likely the most engaging prop reproduction we've tackled. These fierce gauntlets
with industrial and later German Gothic influence juxtapose elegance and wickedness. A stroke of brilliance on the part of WETA and designers
was to utilize armour that had a basis in historical
design, thereby keeping one foot in reality.
These ferocious armoured gloves were made to get
the job done around Mordor, and NO, that doesn't
mean scooping up Orc dung either.
As better reference came available,
we were able to subtly refine the details that now appear in our latest incarnations of these pieces.
The main differences included a more angled gadling
(knuckle plate) and accents on the finger lames
(plates). Also missing in this
early incarnation is the raised wrist
have fully articulated fingers and wrist plates,
42 in all, with contrasting brass hinged cuffs and
Treated and weathered to reflect centuries of searching
and plundering, this Middle Earth haute-couture
ensemble is steeped in evil deeds.
Witch King Version 1.0 of the gauntlets (2001)
Prior to viewing the original screen used gauntlets in person, we believed that all the gauntlet sets used by the Nazgûl had similar vambraces above the wrist. Here was our first impression of the WitchKing gauntlet which shows a hybrid of the Gothic chevron Nazgûl vambrace and the WitchKing spiked knuckle gadling.
While the multi-lamed blade like fingers act like a rake of spikes when in a fist, the gadling acts like 4 concentrated impact points like a full fisted brass knuckle. The gadling on a back swing would yield unthinkable results in combat.
King Version 2.0 of the gauntlets (2002)
WitchKing, leader of the nine, wore a variant of
the armour that defined his stature. This version
of the gauntlets have sweeping hooked gadlings and
have 4 metacarpal plates before the wrist (instead
of 5). At this point, we were able to identify that the vambraces were 3 articulated plates with a
splayed ridge motif, unlike the chevroned vambrace of another. The WK plates feature more dramatic webbing than the other Nazgûl versions.
Wraith Sword / Scabbard / Frog / Harness
The ornate heavy leather scabbard and harness system conceals the 39.75" blade of the 54 5/8" Witch King sword by United Cutlery. The United Cutlery team has put together some great looking swords and pieces from these films. There are cheap imitations of these swords out there, but they truly can't hold a candle to the official product.
The Kropserkel scabbard/harness features forged iron rings for tying off the belts and forged metal chapes (tips). The leather is dyed and finished with carvings of Noldor font scripture and symbolism, every one unique. Shown above right is the United Cutlery Sword of the RingWraith that we weathered to look more like the dirtier wraith's weapon. The finish on the production piece is nice, and already artificially weathered looking, but we wanted a more rusty blade, true to the film, and even creepier. I could appreciate that if United Cutlery sold them this way, corroded and dingy, most would probably have been returned by consumers. Styled RingWraith and WitchKing versions of the sword demand unique scabbards also. We've put together correctly dyed leather versions with styled metal chapes (tips) and hand forged iron rings for harnessing the belt. The lengths and points of attachment have enabled a well balanced sheath for wearing these huge swords.
Mark fails to conceal himself effectively.
Note to self: Gore-Tex smells like Hobbit.
'Kropserkel Edition' RingWraith figure
co-worker and dear friend presented me with this
gift one day while visiting. It's the Kropserkel
Edition RingWraith figure, extremely limited.
The piece features an X-Files series 'David Duchovny'
head and hand (someone Scott is always described
as resembling). Needless to say, we got a lot
of mileage out of it.