Warning – if you’re a Middle-earth or movie memorabilia collector at all, your bank balance may be about to take a hit! Our friends at United Cutlery have sent us some information about their fabulous range of Hobbit replica weapons. Here’s what they have to say:
‘United Cutlery is no stranger to the world of creating officially licensed replicas from television, video games and motion picture films. Beginning with replicas of the famous survival knives from Sylvester Stallone’s popular Rambo films, United Cutlery established its presence at the forefront of the replica-making business, and went on to produce popular officially licensed collectibles from the Indiana Jones films, Blade Trilogy, The Expendables franchise, and perhaps most popularly, The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Most recently, United Cutlery has continued this proud lineage with the design and creation of a series of arms and weapon replicas from the blockbuster film trilogy, The Hobbit.
Bilbo’s epic quest was split into a trilogy for film production. Throughout the course of the film series, United Cutlery created a selection of officially licensed replicas and prop weapons from each motion picture, beginning with Orcrist, the Sword of Thorin Oakenshield, Sting, the Sword of Bilbo Baggins, the swords of Kili and Fili the Dwarves, and the storied staff of Gandalf the Grey.
To help conceptualize the manufacturing process and bring these legendary pieces of Middle-earth to life, United Cutlery partnered with well-known fantasy designer Kit Rae. Kit Rae is one of the foremost fantasy and collectible weapon designers in the industry, with a worldwide following of his unique weapon designs and fantasy art. Since the mid 1980s, Kit Rae has designed an exclusive lineup of fantasy collectibles for United Cutlery. Given his decades of design experience and expertise, United Cutlery naturally chose Kit Rae as the Design Consultant to supervise the production of the officially licensed weapons and arms collection from The Hobbit film trilogy.
United Cutlery’s approach to creating these replica props is simple but steadfast—to create the most accurate and visually stunning replicas as possible, using modern materials and production methods, at a price that is affordable to the average person. From the start of the long design and manufacturing process, to the completion of the final product, painstaking attention to detail and top-quality craftsmanship are the focus of the project. Following these uncompromising standards, United Cutlery went to the best, Weta Workshop of New Zealand, the company that produced the actual filming props used on the sets of the film series.
The start of this arduous process, which usually takes around 10 months to complete, typically begins shortly after filming is completed, around six to 12 months before the release of the film, using the actual filming props produced by Weta Workshop.
“Rather than simply creating a semi-accurate replica based on prop master photographs, as is often done, we prefer to have the actual props in hand to photograph, measure, take molds from, or make 3D laser scans,” said Rae, in support of United Cutlery’s commitment to producing the highest quality replicas available.
These renderings are then used for the tooling process, which takes up to six months, since each piece is machine milled from large blocks of steel and tailored to the specific injection and machines, steel presses and grinders required for production.
“Sometimes it is a simple process, and other times we run into problems where something that was done by hand on the original prop cannot be replicated exactly in a production replica. In those cases we try and get as close as possible,” said Rae.
Once a pre-production sample is assembled and hand finished, the piece is photographed as a final prototype and sent through the various stages of quality assurance with United Cutlery and the licensor, in this case Warner Brothers, where it is intensely scrutinized before receiving the go ahead for mass production.
The prop replicas made mostly of poly resin, such as the staff of Gandalf, require a different avenue to production. These poly resin replica props are created by taking a casting of the actual filming prop, to make the master mold for the prototype. After they are cast, each piece is hand painted and finished to match the filming props as closely as possible. This often requires using skilled artisan techniques to achieve the distressed, weathered and aged finishes of many of these types of prop replicas. Occasionally, some minor modifications must be made. For example, the helm replicas are often slightly enlarged to fit an average, adult-sized head, rather than made to the exact specification of the actual filming prop, which was custom designed to fit a particular actor.
While United Cutlery strives for accuracy in the design and ensures that the final production pieces do have the same appearance as the actual prop, it is interesting to note that there are quite a few differences in how the handmade props used in the films are made, versus how these mass-produced replicas are crafted. Often times, the actual prop weapons are simply made of aluminum or other lightweight materials, with rubber blades and grips that are carefully painted to look like raw materials. In other instances, the filming props are actually custom-made, fully functional real weapons, with steel blades and fittings, as was the case with many pieces in The Hobbit collection. United Cutlery’s careful task is to transform these incredible props into real-life replicas using fine quality, real-world materials. In the end, however, every final product must pass United Cutlery’s strict quality Standard.
Each officially licensed piece is individually serialized for collectibility, and comes with a certificate of authenticity describing its provenance and attesting to its prestige. Thanks to United Cutlery’s commitment to excellence and visionary leadership, these highly sought-after Middle-earth relics have been brought to life in the 21st century, and now have a home among their dedicated fans and collectors.’