Date Published: 2015-03-16

Creating The Hobbit Prop Replicas- Behind The Scenes


Hobbit Swords
Hobbit Swords
Hobbit Swords Gandalf’s staff rendering & drawing
Hobbit Swords Gandalf’s staff rendering & drawing
United Cutlery has a long-standing history of creating the finest officially licensed replicas from television, video games and even motion pictures. Over the last 30 years, Untied Cutlery has produced an array of officially licensed collectibles from the popular Rambo films starring Sylvester Stallone, the Indiana Jones films starring Harrison Ford, the Blade Trilogy, The Expendables franchise and more. In addition to these heavy hitters, United Cutlery is perhaps best known for its exclusive lineup of officially licensed replicas from the blockbuster Lord of the Rings series and The Hobbit Trilogy. Over the course of the past two decades, United Cutlery has brought this story to life in vivid detail, manufacturing an impressive selection of weapons and arms replicas from this film franchise.

Orcrist drawings & renderings
Orcrist drawings & renderings
To help facilitate the design and manufacturing process, United Cutlery turned to well-known fantasy designer Kit Rae. Kit is one of the most well-respected and sought-after designers of fantasy and collectible weaponry in the industry, with a worldwide following and steadfast fan base. Kit’s partnership with United Cutlery dates back to the 1980s, so he was naturally the first choice for supervising the long process of creating these storied collectibles.

Following United Cutlery’s vision—to create the most accurate and visually stunning replicas possible using modern materials and production methods at a price that is affordable to the average person—Kit Rae and United Cutlery went straight to the source of the actual filming props used on set, Weta Workshop of New Zealand. “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.


Hobbit Swords Mace of Sauron technical Drawing
Hobbit Swords Mace of Sauron technical Drawing
This was to ensure that each replica matched the actual prop as exactly as possible. After being sketched and photographed extensively, these renderings are used for the tooling process and making molds for each piece, a process that can take up to six months to complete. According to Kit Rae, “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.”

After a sample is milled and tailored to the correct specifications, it is hand finished (painted, aged, distressed, etc.) to match the actual prop, then photographed as a final production prototype. The prototype is then intensely scrutinized throughout the various stages of quality control and assurance to make sure it stands up to United’s strict quality standard. Each prototype is then sent to the licensor, Warner Brothers, for final inspection to ensure authenticity and quality before mass production begins.

Hobbit Swords Production mold & prototype of Gandalf’s staff.
Hobbit Swords Production mold & prototype of Gandalf’s staff.

While most of the knives and sword weapon replicas are crafted and machined from steel, other replicas such as the staff of Gandalf are made of poly resin. In these instances a mold is cast for the prototype, often using the actual filming prop. After the replica is cast, each piece is hand painted and finished to match the original prop as closely as possible. Another common alteration applies to the helm replicas. They are usually enlarged a bit so that they can be made available in a one-size-fits-all size. This is because the helm props used in the films are custom-designed to fit the actor, not necessarily to fit the average person. Another interesting point to make is that the actual props used for filming are handmade using simple, lightweight materials like aluminum and rubber that are painted to appear as they do in the films. In these scenarios, the replicas produced by United Cutlery bring you the look and feel of the film prop in an actual functional piece.

Hobbit Swords Finishing techniques on Tauriel’s daggers
Hobbit Swords Finishing techniques on Tauriel’s daggers
At the end, however, United Cutlery’s commitment to excellence is the common denominator for every Lord of the Rings and Hobbit Replica. “We consider our film replicas heirlooms that fans of the licensed property will cherish for many years beyond the life of the film, and as a fond memory of the world created in the film,” said Rae. In keeping with this sentiment, each officially licensed replica is laser serialized for authenticity and also includes a certificate verifying its authenticity. Take advantage of this opportunity to bring home your favorite relics of Middle-earth today! Browse the entire selection today!



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