The Bearclaw Welded Fire Swords may not have been the first fire tool we ever made, but they’re still our trademark. The process of developing the “right” sword lead to studies in metallurgy, alchemy, thermochemistry, jewelry, Bushido, and ultimately lead to opening Bearclaw.
Our founder started doing tool-based fire performance in the late 1990s. And though his first tool was a variable wick staff, the sword was in development immediately after his first burn. Initial sword designs were very rough, with bolts sticking out and dubious metals. But the beginnings of this design could be already seen. Slowly this primitive design gave way to dozens more as he made more for himself and other admirers. How the idea for the welded edge came about, no one is completely certain. But it proved to be the right idea. That very first welded sword is still in use after years of solid use.
The welded edge, unlike a folded edge, is a different metallic structure. This allows the thin aluminum sides to heat up without the edge getting heated as much or as fast. This transfers much of the flame heat back into the wick, yet allows the edge to be used for cutting and raking motions along the body with relative safety. The wick on the back edge of the sword is always more than an inch away from the edge, so dramatic rakes along the back, legs, body, etc are more possible with this sword than any other.
The wick design involves a complicated mix of metals (aluminum, stainless and copper), cotton, and kevlar. The kevlar is stitched to the aluminum body with copper wire. Each of these materials were specifically chosen for their specific properties. But the real wicking potential comes from the cotton and stainless. The internal cotton core is at least twice as absorbent as kevlar, and many times more absorbent than fiberglass or other high heat materials. This is where the prodigious amount of fuel is stored making this one of the longest lasting burns of any fire tool.
The Tsuba and handle of this sword and it’s cousins, the Twin Welded Fire Swords differ pretty severely. The single sword has a full round tsuba (cross guard). This gives the ‘katana look’ to the sword. The tsuba gives better flame protection to the hand than western cross guards, and better mobility than fencing dishes. The handle is beefed up with hardwood covering to give some protection from the heat, but the edge is exposed all the way through.
The continuous edge is an important safety factor in this sword. As mentioned above, it doesn’t take as much heat as the body, but is does take heat, and it’s slowly transmitted up to the handle. Typically, this means the sword is quite warm by the end of the show. However, This heat is a beautiful indicator of the overall heat of the sword. If the handle is too hot to hold, then the rest of the sword is too hot to re-fuel. This prevents accidental auto-ignition problems. Also, this gives the wielder a clear, obvious, blind indication of the orientation of the sword, allowing rakes and such to be performed in the heat of the moment without stopping to verify where the wick is.