Thor's Swordsmith Brings Forge and Fire to MI Tailgate

Author: Lucy Grinnan

2021 Tailgate Forge
David DelaGardelle's portable, propane-fired forge, pattern-welded sword heating inside

On Saturday, October 23rd, David DelaGardelle of Cedarlore Forge visited Notre Dame for a (literally) hot medieval tailgate, welcome on a chilly day! He shared his swordmaking passion and expertise with the crowd, describing his blacksmithing beginnings, inspirations, and creative process before he got down to hammering a heated pattern-welded sword using his anvil and a portable, propane-fired forge.

2021 Tailgate Hammering
David DelaGardelle of Cedarlore Forge hammers a pattern-welded sword

Tolkien's work first inspired DelaGardelle to study the history of sword-making as a teenager, and his interest in fantasy continues to fuel his smithing of mythopoetic weapons, including the Spear of Oromë from Tolkien's Silmarillion. His now twenty years of blacksmithing experience with metals including copper, bronze, and steel make him a go-to swordsmith among celebrities too: he has created a sword for rapper Post Malone and collaborated on Hofund, the sword of Heimdall (Hǫfuð and Heimdallr from medieval Norse mythology), from the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Thor movies. 

Thor Ragnarok Idris Elba 1
Heimdall wielding Hofund in Thor: Ragnarok

DelaGardelle also produces replicas of historical swords by consulting archaeological finds. He described holding a 2,000 year old Roman gladius as a humbling moment, a reminder that he has much to learn in the art of swordmaking. 

Using what he calls "reverse archeology," he studies ancient and medieval sword fragments for inspiration to create restored versions, including traditional Viking and Finnish swords. He brought many of these weapons to the tailgate for visitors to look at during his lecture and demonstration.

2021 Tailgate Swords
David DelaGardelle and Chloe Bensinger with a gallery of swords

"Why swords instead of kitchen knives?" he is sometimes asked. While sword-making is certainly not utilitarian, he calls it a way to connect modern people to our past and a "helpful barometer of the human heart." Character becomes visible when a person wields a weapon. For DelaGardelle, swordmaking is an art form that can build empathy and compassion. Like films, these artworks allow people to appreciate the world more fully and "step back with a more fresh, humble perspective."

His work also sparks conversations, friendships, and networks. DelaGardelle frequently collaborates with other blacksmiths and metalworkers, leads workshops, and teaches blacksmithing to young learners—and some of those found him at the tailgate! Recently David teamed with "Forged in Fire" champion Josh Weston to create a massive bronze sword

2021 Tailgate Swordsmith
The Medieval Institute's 2021 Swordsmithing Tailgate

After his talk, DelaGardelle and his frequent collaborator, artist Chloe Bensinger, began forging. (He typically designs his work in advance, then spends two to three months forging the object.) As he worked, he noted the oxidation scale flaking off the weapon as he hammered it.  

Read more about our planned events, which include medieval-themed presentations before every home game this fall.