|On three sides mountains
sweep down sharply into Lake Ohau. In winter they are snow-capped
which gives a smoothness to the ridges and rocky outcrops.
There is a magical quality here that filters through the existing
beauty of the area. Ohau is the place where beautiful things
should be made. It has been my inspiration since my wife,
Jo and I moved here in 2000. Neither of us imagined that we
would find ourselves here in New Zealand's High Country after
all those years of travel between Europe and Africa, accompanied
by our (now grown-up) children.
I studied as an Industrial
Chemist and, usually in research, explored the science of
polymers, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and sugar. My
ultimate achievement in this field was a Ph.D thesis on
"Infra-Red Studies of
" Well, you
wouldn't have heard of it anyway! There were no more 'books'
left in me so I changed tack and spent twenty years trying
to instil a wonder of chemistry and biology to teenagers
in England, Zambia and New Zealand. Those years led me to
Ohau, the twisted road did lead somewhere after all.
During the summer months I guide and assist
clients (on behalf of my boss,Will Spry) to cast fly lines
to eagerly awaiting trout. Some monsters are caught and
others are discussed with much embellishment.
When the cooler months take over I carve
During the time of the Roman Empire gladiators
who had conducted themselves well and pleased both Caesar
and the people were granted their freedom. It was also traditional
to present them with a handcrafted wooden sword, a short
sword or gladius. This was deemed to be the greatest honour
bestowed on a gladiator.
Swords have been used as a weapon of choice
for centuries. We tend to associate their use predominantly
with European medieval history, linking the long sword to
the Crusades, Knights of valour and tales of chivalry. Medieval
swords, however, varied in size and weight and many are
displayed in museums.
When we moved to Lake Ohau my interest in
these weapons, which had played such a forceful part in
shaping history, was rekindled. So, in order to continue
the tradition of presenting a gladius, I handcraft swords
based on those used during the medieval period, swords which
may then be given as prestigious and unique gifts.
My raw material is
recycled native timber from New Zealand's High country forests
or disused artefacts. At some point in time the wood is
swept by mountain streams and rivers into Lakes Ohau and
Wakatipu and is finally washed ashore. I collect this much-weathered
and gnarled wood, remove the detritus and saw it into planks
for the blades or into small pieces for the hilts and pommels.
Then, with care, I handcraft the main components of a word,
honing and smoothing the wood with fine abrasives to increase
the light reflecting quality of the finish. Two coats of
the penetrating Danish oil are
then applied followed by a liquid beeswax polish. These
not only protect the wood but also accentuate the exquisite
grains, colours and markings. A sword is a pleasure to make
as it is unique, a one off, its final form and characteristics
being dictated by the raw material.