David Baker has carved out a niche as a Hollywood weapons fabricator. He re-creates historic weapons so Spike TV's "Deadliest Warrior" can pit soldiers of different eras against each other. CNET takes a stab at capturing his collection.
Zande warrior's Kpinga sword and knife
LOS ANGELES--The studio/workshop of Spike TV's "Deadliest Warrior" is decorated with the historic weapons featured in the show. Based on death-dealing devices used everywhere from feudal China to the European fields of the 100 Years War, the intricately made replica weapons are always on display. CNET had an opportunity to visit the studio and examine the weapons up close, with commentary added by weapons fabricator David Baker.
Baker: "Of the Zande [of North Africa] weapons, I think my favorite is the Kpinga. It’s a multibladed throwing weapon that ensures a blade will hit, regardless of how it is thrown. Its primitive construction and anthropomorphic design make it a real intimidator on the battlefield."
From Left to right: Katar, scissor Katar, shield for the Katar, Khanda sword (sheathed), Khanda sword (unsheathed), and Chakram.
David Baker: "The Rajput [of India] showed an amazing talent for designing fearsome and deadly weapons, and those that we used and tested are some of the best in the arsenal. The Katar and scissor Katar are punch daggers on steroids. The Khanda sword has a straight, double-edged blade and is one of the most powerful swords we have ever tested. The Chakram is a simple steel circle with a sharp edge--once thrown, all your opponent can do is try their best to get out of the way."
David Baker: "The Spartan shield is a laminate of hardwood and leather with a thin bronze skin hammered over the face. It’s carried with a hand grip and a forearm strap. The only surviving example of the Spartan shield is in the Vatican Museum--our measurements and construction guidelines came from there."
"The Kopis is the Greek horseman's sword, made with a forward angle in the blade creating a heavy cutting head. The handle wraps around the hand for a better grip. Examples of both iron and bronze blades exist."
"The Chinese broadsword is a heavy Iron Age sword with a wide fullered, or ridged, blade and usually a cast bronze handle. It’s not much for finesse, but a good chopper."
"The Nest of Bees was probably one of our most memorable weapons," David Baker said. "All in all, it's a very simple design--strap a small rocket to an arrow and let it go. Not very accurate by itself, but when combined with 25 other rocket powered arrows, it puts on quite a show. Tactically, for its time it would have sent fear into any army facing it."
Mixed weaponry from Spike TV's "Deadliest Warrior includes from left to right: Zulu war club, Zulu throwing stick, Celtic longsword, Celtic shield, Burta war club, and Mongol nace.
David Baker: "The Zulu war club is a simple weapon of found material, consisting of a flexible stick with a hardwood head attached, or sometimes a stick of wood with the root ball still attached. These would be fire hardened and shaped."
David Baker: "The Roman Gladius was the sword that created an empire. The basics of the weapon didn't change much for a thousand years. The thinking there was, if it works, don't fix it. That, combined with the armor, made the Roman Centurions an almost unbeatable force."
From left to right, a shield, steel crossbow, crossbow bolts, and hand cannon.
David Baker: "The steel crossbow is so powerful it needed mechanical assistance to draw, and in trained hands, it is deadly accurate with a long range. The hand cannon was an early and very effective use of gun powder in the West. It was easy to use and delivered a great amount of force. It wasn’t the most accurate weapon, but when used in volley fire, it was very effective."
David Baker: "The Ming armor is made of boiled leather with a bronze or iron plate riveted over it. This gave it a certain amount of flexibility, as opposed to a solid piece of armor. The Mongol sword is basically a Ming Dao sword but with an extended handle, by a hand and a half. It has a wider, heavier chopping blade, designed to be used both on horseback and on foot."
David Baker says that Ivan the Terrible's saber "is another one of my favorite weapons. The design of the saber is one of the earliest curved sabers used in the West and became the dominant design for the military saber for the next 300 years."
David Baker: "The war club really turned out to be a work of art. Jay Red Hawk, who was our Crazy Horse expert, shaped and sent over the stone head of the club. My assistant, Bryan Furtell, then soaked and sewed rawhide around the head and handle in traditional fashion, using sinew. The whole thing took several days to dry."
David Baker: "The Falcata is one of my favorite swords. It's a great cutter, short enough to get up close in a fight, has enough weight in its tip to deliver a crushing blow, with a sharp enough point for a thrust.
"It owes its design to the Greek Kopis, a weapon the Carthaginians knew well, but with the added benefit of superior metals, making it larger and stronger. It's a great weapon from foot or from horseback. I forged the blade from a 1 3/4-inch-by-1/4-inch bar of high carbon steel, drawing the head of the blade into a convex profile so it would cut more like a knife than an axe."
David Baker: "The Mongol-style bow was a composite of horn, wood, and sinew, laminated and wrapped in hide. Unstrung, the bow forms a shape like a C. When strung you can see the deep recurve and 'ears' that give the bow its bower. The Mongols used bows of different weights depending on the situation. On horseback, the bow would be around a 65- to 70-pound pull, while on the ground bows of 120 pounds could be used. They also developed many different types of arrow heads to use, depending on the situation."
David Baker: "The Sun Tzu repeating crossbow was a lot easier to re-create than I thought. It's a great piece of engineering. Relying on simple mechanisms and a leaf spring type bow, it produces a powerful, fast, easy-to-use weapon capable of firing 15 bolts a minute. Though it wasn't the most accurate weapon, what it lacked in accuracy, it made up for in speed. An army could put out 1,500 arrows per minute in the air with 100 men armed with these and someone loading for them. Even if they didn't kill the enemy with a single shot it would easily break a cavalry charge and slow even a heavily armed column."
Hannibal's Carthaginian shield was a laminate of hardwood and bull hide with a metal center boss and outer rim, making it lightweight and fast to use both on the ground and on horseback, Baker explained.
David Baker: "The Mongols used a type of armor called Lamellar, made up of small steel plates around 1-inch-by-1 3/4 inches. Each plate has six holes punched in it so the plates can be sewn together. For the show, we only had a few days to re-create the Mongol armor, and in trying to stay true to the original style of manufacturing Lamellar, we hand cut around 500 individual plates, punched six holes in each one and then laced them together, creating a very flexible sheet of steel plates. The great thing about Lamellar is that it gives you a lot of protection without giving up too much flexibility. We did several tests off camera and could not cut or get an arrow to penetrate the armor. In my opinion, short of full plate armor, Lamellar is by far the strongest."