Is Angel Sword the Best Sword Maker in the World?

Daniel Watson of Angel Sword in TexasA few months ago, if someone had asked me who makes the finest swords in the world I would have replied without hesitation, “the Japanese.” This shows my level of local ignorance.

What if I told you that one of the world’s most talented master sword makers lives and operates in Austin’s backyard?

Don’t believe me? It’s true. Not only that, but this American master sword maker has blown away every single world record in Japanese sword cutting and they aren’t getting the trophy back any time soon. He hasn’t beaten the Japanese by a small margin; he has decimated them. This master owns the charts.

All of them.

Austinot Brittany and I had a rare opportunity to sit with this man, Daniel Watson, for an interview at the Sherwood Forest Faire. We were both amazed by him and his work. Read on, my friend; you’ll be amazed too.

At first glance, Daniel could be your next door neighbor. He is a husband, father and a grandfather, a likable guy with a twinkle in his eye and a spring in his step. Daniel looks like an average guy, but looks can be deceiving. You’d never guess how much information he has running around in his mind, how talented he is, or how influential he is in the sword making world.

Let me explain.

Angel Sword Blade with Colored SteelMaster Daniel Watson has over 30 years experience as a full-time swordsmith and is trained in Classical, European and Oriental sword making. He personally holds over 20 patents or patents pending in metallurgy, and is one of only ten artisans worldwide who make the toughest steel in the world: Damascus Steel. Edit: The specific type of steel made by Angel Sword is called Wootz Damascus Steel. According to Daniel Watson, this is the historic, true Damascus Steel.

His home for sword creation, which is more like a lab than a shop, is called Angel Sword and it is located right here in Driftwood, TX. Angel Sword is the oldest custom sword making company in the entire United States.

Master Daniel takes great pride in his craft and will boldly tell you that he makes the “finest cutting swords that have ever been made.” To put this in perspective: Besides Master Daniel’s work, the hardest steel on Earth fails at 125 foot pounds. Master Daniel’s swords more than double that figure, failing around the 250-300 foot pound mark!

But “that is just the beginning,” he says with a smile, glancing at one of his creations. “Then we turn it into art.”

And art it is.

Ornate Angel Sword Hilt

One of Angel Sword’s ornate hilts

Every sword that he makes is unique. There are no production runs. Each sword has between 100-500 man-hours involved in its creation. The blades boast not only the strongest steel in the world, but varying hues of color, ornate handles and etching that are actually a part of the steel that Angel Sword creates. These swords are truly magnificent.

Playfully, Daniel grins as he sits watching his apprentices run his shop and says, “I’ve created a big boys toy shop.”

We sit and talk for an hour or so, his mind quick and his eye gleaming as he adds, “I’m an engineer and a scientist. But I’m also an artist and this fulfills me. Depending on my mood, I might work in fiber optics or alcohol technologies.”

Normally when I conduct an interview, I set the pace, but with Daniel I’m lost as I struggle to keep up. I glance over at Brittany who is feverishly taking notes and continue the interview by asking him about his apprentices. Daniel smiles wryly and somehow I know I’m in for another shocking revelation of who this master sword smith really is.

He tells me that it is a requirement that each apprentice has purchased swords from him, prior to being accepted into his rigorous apprenticeship program. When asked why, Daniel explains that this shows him that they are serious about the apprenticeship and appreciate the quality of Angel Sword’s craftsmanship.

But being Daniel’s apprentice is not for the faint of heart. Regarding an apprenticeship, Daniel states, “The apprenticeship is 12 years long and it’s full-time. Four years in knife making, four years in sword techniques, followed by yet another four years in either metallurgy or artistry. You’re gonna learn what the fire is like and you’re gonna get beat on.”

Daniel Watson Dragon Etching in Sword Steel

This dragon is etched in sword steel – incredible

At this point I’m thinking to myself, it takes 12 years to become a doctor; how many full-time folks can he have that are interested in dedicating their lives to this art? As if reading my mind, Daniel answers my question with the savvy of a seasoned poker player. “I currently have four apprentices: three males and one female. My lead apprentice has been with me 8 years and he is working on his journeyman’s test piece.”

As I wrap up my interview with Daniel, I ask, “Did you ever have one of those ‘Aha’ moments of genius, where you knew this was what you were going to do with your life?”

Daniel responds, “Not really one; there have been a lot of ‘Ahas.’ I believe that most, if not all, people have moments of genius – true insight and true genius. The difference is what happens then. Do you follow through to the test and put your own theories to the fire? I am a hard proof kind of guy.”

The work of Master Daniel Watson and Angel Sword leave no doubt. Daniel truly is a hard proof kind of guy who has not just talked the talk, but has walked the walk. Tested by fire, he is a fascinating man who is perhaps the world’s finest sword maker…and he also happens to live right here in Austin’s backyard.

 

@EricHighland asks:

Do you know of any local artist that I need to meet? Please leave a comment and let me know!

***

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  • http://austinstf.tumblr.com slavetofashion

    A friend of mine fences with him – he’s amazing! It’s nice to hear about some of the hidden talent here in Austin.

    • http://www.facebook.com/eric.highland Eric Highland

      I couldn’t imagine crossing swords with this guy. I think I’d have to pull some sort of sneaky move to get an edge (pun intended) hehe

      • Katie 357

        Eric have you ment him not a chance. LOL wow is the only word for him.

  • Jason

    “He personally holds over 20 patents or patents pending in metallurgy,
    and is one of only ten artisans worldwide who make the toughest steel in
    the world: Damascus Steel.”

    Can you provide a source for your statement about there only being ten artisans worldwide making Damascus Steel? Thanks. In addition, how tough a steel isn’t solely dependent on the chemical make up of the steel, but more importantly, the swordsmith/bladesmith’s ability to quench and temper the steel at the proper temperature to bring out the desirable characteristics of a knife. You could have the toughest, strongest steel in the world and burn it up in the forge or crack it in half when you quench it. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/eric.highland Eric Highland

      Jason, I’m no metal expert of any kind. Here is a link on the patents however that is fairly well documented. http://bit.ly/KcS2YI As far as D Steel the comment came from Daniel, and I might have missed specifically what type of D steel. Apparently there is more than one. At the end of the day the guy was a fascinating interview and I enjoyed my short time with him. Thanks for the comment!

      • Jason

        Something is amiss if he’s making statements like that. I can assure you that there are many, many more makers or Damascus steel knives today. In fact, there are full manufacturing companies such as Damasteel AB of Sweden producing Damascus billets for knife makers and companies around the world. No offense, but as a journalist shouldn’t you verify the information you write? I’m sure he’s a fascinating gentleman but that doesn’t mean that everything he said is accurate or truthful.

        • http://www.facebook.com/eric.highland Eric Highland

          In all fairness Jason I did not confirm the Damascus Steel comment and I should have. Though it is possible like I said that he mentioned a specific type of D steel and I missed it. It does sound like you are quite knowledgeable about the craft though, and I appreciate your comments. I won’t even pretend to know anything about sword making. You make some valid points.

          • Jason

            The knife industry has a lot of misinformation simply because a majority of people don’t understand the processes that take place. This leads to a lot of inaccuracies being perpetuated as truth.

            I don’t know anything about sword making, but I work in the knife industry for ABS Mastersmith Murray Carter of Carter Cutlery.

  • Daniel Watson

    A small inacurracy in the article is the statement about Damascus steel.Angel Sword makes Wootz steel, which historically is the true damascus steel. Today there are large numbers of people doing pattern welding and calling it Damascus even though that is incorrect.

    • http://www.facebook.com/eric.highland Eric Highland

      Thank you for clarifying Daniel. I’ll edit the original post to reflect your comment.

      • Daniel Watson

        Changing the wording to “Wootz Damascus Steel” would be technically accurate.

        • http://www.facebook.com/eric.highland Eric Highland

          Post updated to reflect Wootz Damascus Steel. Thank you!

          • Jeremy Hart

            I encourage you to interview another maker to counter this mans claims. Sorry, but I want proof of his records he holds and how he supposedly got them. And I know there are more than 10 people who can make Wootz. Matt and Kerry Stagmer of Baltimore Knife and Sword can, and from my understanding they have taught a fair number of people how to make it themselves. This article is typical of how I’ve come to view Angel Sword, unfortunately- a ton of hype but next to no evidence to back it up. 

          • http://www.facebook.com/eric.highland Eric Highland

            Jeremy, thank you for your comment. I can understand you wanting proof. If you are in the Austin area, I would encourage you to take a trip down to Driftwood and ask Daniel yourself. Get to know him. My father who is now deceased used to say, “No contempt prior to investigation.” Wise words from a wise man. I could do all the research in the world and perhaps never to your satisfaction. But maybe, just maybe if you looked into it yourself personally you might find one way or the other for sure. I’d be interested to hear your findings.

          • Michael Capanelli

            Dude, I know this article is old news, but if you think you wrote anything short of an ad for AS your mistaken. You’re a journalist like I’m the queen of England.

          • Daniel Watson

            The Stagmers have indeed been working on wootz, but to the best of my knowledge have yet to produce the steel microstructure of wootz, even though they have followed one of the internet “formulas”. 

            As to records, check out the ninth World’s record for my blades:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVKozx4d4YQ
            Judge was the Japanese Consule General to the US.

          • James Baker

            I saw this cut with my own eyes as well. It was quite amazing.

          • Michael Capanelli

            That’s a lie too. There is no record of any anglesword ever breaking a record in all of JSA. Prove it!

          • Daniel Watson

            The proof is in the video. The cut was judged by the Japanese Consul General.

          • Daniel

            it says on the video that it was a nodachi record while the weapon was nagamaki. i would love a clarification though,
            but still even if the weapon was mislabeled a great showing by the blade and the its wielder, takes great skill to do that no matter the blade.

          • Daniel Watson

            A nodachi was defined by blade length and usually had a very long grip. The nagamaki had a katana length blade with a long grip.

          • Daniel

            and also of the blade quality aswell.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.burr Robert A. Burr

    Dan is a man of many talents, not the least of which is developing a manner of aging rum at an advanced rate. The results are impressive. I have a selection of his experimental rums and they are fascinating. The old saying that you can’t make old spirits quickly may be changing.

  • Frolic

    this is just a pile of crap.

    • Laird Morgan D’Gem

      Ah, Master Frolic, how is it that your statement has nothing to authenticate its merit??? Methinks you just like to see you name up on your monitor.

  • Brian Yamamoto

    There are quite a number of smiths making their own wootz these days. It’s not a secret formula, it’s historically well documented in fact. The only way to settle this is head to head destruction testing of the blades. In the end I believe we will find that once again the myth of “super steel” has been dispelled. Modern alloys, when well chosen for the task will always beat the ancient “mystical” steels.   

    • Daniel Watson

      Charpy V-notch impact testing on various steels at RCH 57 and 70F will give the desired information.  My wootz tests at 300 ft/lbs. No one in the world currently comes close to that.

      • Jomama Omyballs

        Hmm. Bad time to remember the nickname I gave for this account. In that case, take to the isle of fantasy swords. Is your swordsman ship great enough to recreate the swords of fantasy and videogames in perfect likeness?

        I’d like to see you try to make those weapons.

      • joshuaalayon .

        You, sir, are a legend.

      • Null

        Extraordinary claims require extraordinary
        evidence, Mr. Watson.

        • Daniel Watson

          Both the independent testing from UT Austin and the cluster of world records are extraordinary proof of my steel. But if you referring to no one else matching that please see the steel specs from Crucible steel as point of reference.

          • Null

            Thank you for taking the time to respond. Is this the independent testing you’re referring to?

            http://www.angelsword.com/DamaskReport03.pdf

            The only numerical data that I can see here is the Rockwell type C indentation test, which produced a hardness value “within the range of hardnesses expected from quenched-and-tempered tool steels produced by standard heat-treating practices”. The study’s determination that the blade was true damascus steel does not itself prove that the steel has properties superior to those of modern steels.

          • Daniel Watson

            No, the Charpy impact testing was another event entirely. At RCH57 and 70F the Techno-Wootz tested at 300 ft. lbs. While most modern steels test below 20 ft. lbs., S7 with aerospace level quality control tops out at 125 ft. lbs. The combination of my patented thermacycle technology and proprietary carburization/heat treat techniques effectively double that to 250 ft lbs in the Bright Knight series of blades. Not as good as the Techno-Wootz but still strong numbers.

          • Null

            I don’t mean to offend, but without independent verification that particular claim is extremely dubious.

          • Daniel Watson

            The tests were acceptable to the U.S. Patent Office. Just because you do not like the results does not make the tests dubious.

          • Daniel Watson

            But the real tests are shown in what we have done with these steels. The videos of our various world record cuts are up on Youtube.

          • Null

            I know nothing of patent law, but aren’t the relevant patents still pending…?
            As far as the YouTube videos go, it’s not as if the blades would have snapped in half had they been composed of “normal” S7, so I don’t see how these videos are relevant to the claim regarding their toughness.

          • Daniel Watson

            These are my relevant patents. All were granted; otherwise I would have said “patents pending”. You can find the patents at USPTO.gov: 7,163,595, 7,459,038, 7,459,039 7,459,040, 7,763,130,8,388,774.
            The videos are relevant because they are world records. If the metallurgical characteristics were not far superior to normal S7, then someone else would be able to beat those records.

          • Sonofasonogalegend

            Patents care nothing of what the product claims to do, patents protect the product from being copied by 70-80%. Ant they require no tests at all just a list of ingredients. I would know grandson of the founder of house of stainless steel which held the most patents on steels for 32 years till it merged with US steel in 1984.

          • Daniel

            Do are speaking of a different type of patent. Your grandfather’s patents were material patents. Mine are process patents. I might suggest that you follow the above links and read the patents.

          • Swordsman

            I don’t suppose any of you trolls saw the independent testing on mythbusters where machines pushed Mr. Watson’s under two pound katana against a .50 caliber machine gun barrel….the machine gun barrel was damn near bent at a right angle. The pair of you come off as small and petulent. If true damascus was so easily done someone would have challenged Mr. Watson’s Art directly with a product of their own. As opposed to trolling an honest inquiry. I look forward to owning an heirloom piece someday from one of the worlds greatest bladesmiths. Until then maybe one of you might break ONE of Mr. Watson’s records……if you have the stones that is….

  • K_smith72

    Sorry….its all a bunch of hype…smoke and mirrors. And Its giving real makers a bad name…First and foremost,if you didnt make it in a crucible,its not wootz ! I could write a novel with all the other things that are incorrect….But I will stop there.

    • Daniel Watson

      A steel is defined by its microstructure, not the way it is made.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cody.flood.315 Cody Flood

    i would like to possable look to purchase a sword, i would like to kno how much a specific sword would cost to make. my email is Legendofzelda1996@yahoo.com please send me a message and ill be happy to send u pictures of the sword i would love made.

    • http://www.austinot.com/ Brittany Highland

      Hey @facebook-100001517771589:disqus, I recommend you contact Angel Sword directly through the company website: http://www.angelsword.com/. All the best!

  • Philllip Dahlager

    Unfortunately most of his European pieces are historically inaccurate.

    • Ruki

      yep his viking pieces look more like dwarven swords from Elder scrolls lol which is not bad lol But i do admite i like historically accurate my self, aleast there to be some in the offer.

      http://fc03.deviantart.net/fs70/i/2012/338/2/1/dwarven_sword_by_folderol-d5n1wtn.jpg

      • Terran Starinus

        not even worthy of being called a +ULFBERH+T because look at the tapir not coming even close to a 45 to 23 degrees of an angle and is curved so not viking. NO VALHALLA FOR YOU!

        • Daniel Watson

          The Ulfberht swords were distinct because of their wootz metallurgy. I made a modern version of that steel for this blade.

  • Quinn

    Japanese swords aren’t the best cutting sword because a blunt flamberge can cut the same or even more

    • Daniel Watson

      Wrong!!! A blunt might get through 1 mat but I doubt even that. But the proof is in the doing, not the saying. Prove it by doing it and send in the video.

      • Daniel

        Daniel you are wrong. Take a peak at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXbLyVpWsVM
        at about 3:35 Clements uses a dull (dull is a relative term aswell but not in this as he runs his palm over the edge) edge medieval bastard sword and cuts the mat cleanly

        • Daniel

          i agree with Daniel though, the bastard sword wouldnt cut 5 mats, but if it were people he woulda bashed them to death with that blow lol but quinn is right in another thing without knowing it, katana is a brilliant weapon as a piece of metallurgical engineering (traditionally made, although this doesnt take away from your skill Daniel, but its a monosteel) and esthetics, how ever its design is not best for either cutting or piercing (although it trys to do both, as sort of a multi purpose sword). ill give an example of a turkish klij which has a better cutting properties, and western swords like viking swords that have a better piercing properties (and probably a greater bashing force in there aswell when swung lol). I dont think it would do well vs european metal clad (no matter in what shape) soliders. Katans lack toughness to the edge. (japanese armour was primarily leather with some lamellar armour here and there, but appearing late in more numbers)

      • shanethesmith

        hey dan your techno is cryrogenic thermalcycled d2 right?
        amazing HT setup man. love the nitro tanks and the salt tanks. also edge geometry people, Dan’s good at it. damn good.

  • Mythsandmore

    I’m sorry, but just look at the size of the blade he’s using – it’s bigger than a nodachi, and the handle is also much, much longer than a typical sword. Also, these “record shattering” cuttings are only done at ren faires at the behest of A.S. – why doesn’t A.S. go to sanctioned tameshigiri competitions and use their (closest thing they make to a regular katana) swords to task against traditionally made Japanese swords/swordsmen?

    • Daniel Watson

      Angel Sword blades not only hold the word’s record for most massive cut with a Nodachi, but also the records for most massive cut with a tanto (6 mats), wakasashi (10 mats), and with a katana (19 mats). I would really like to see a film of anyone beating ANY of those records.

  • jawnTEM

    I must say, that we met met many years ago, and if I needed a sword that contained both mystic and quality, you are the one I would purchase from. I hope to acquire one from you some time. Glad to see you are still in the business of making wondrous swords!

  • jawnTEM

    For you “Nay Sayers”, I would like to add, that anyone can make a Sword. I can take an old metal bed frame, cut it to length, bang it into shape, add a sharpened edge, a point, wrap duct tape around one end for a handle, and call it a sword. Technically, I would be right. Plus if I needed to defend myself with it, it could kill satisfactorily. After all, dead, is dead.

    But, comparing it to an Angel sword, would be like comparing a golf cart to a Lamborghini, or a Rolls Royce. My point is that many makers can make a sword. What Mr Watson can do is make a “Naming” Sword. The ancients used to add names to certain “special” swords, even Axes, and they were famous in their time. Everyone has heard of the Sword, Excalibur. James Bowie’s knife, also had a name.

    Any sword can cut, and to simply delegate value of worth to how “well” such an item can cut, is no more a value of worth than judging a man by how much money he has. I know of some homeless people in New York that I respect more than some of those that walk Wall Street.

    If you want a sword, then simply go somewhere else. If you want a sword with essence, one worthy of naming, then seek out Mr Watson. This, is what sets a true sword master, apart from many of the others.

  • randy

    I have seen all your videos on your site and I dont see any proof in your claims. Why not do some real destructive tests on your swords at lengths of 29 inches or longer? And damascus the toughest steel?? Somebody has been watching too many fantasy cartoons.

    • Daniel Watson

      Toughness is a highly measurable quality using standard engineering tests. The relevant test is Charpy Impact testing. My TechnoWootz Damascus (tested at 70F and RCH57) shows 300 ft. lbs. That is the highest showing in the world at high hardness.

  • Arick Gussler

    I’ve been a fan of Daniel’s works since I saw them at a NY faire about 16 years ago, when I was 15. I’ve been following them ever since. I’m not an expert of any sort, so I’ll just say that I’d love to own a piece or three. I probably would already if I hadn’t had the bad luck of trying to purchase a few from Darryl, who worked their booth at TRF a year I visited. Trusted him, since he was a moderator on the Angelsword forum, but still ended up paying money and never receiving anything.

  • Tristan Turner

    how could one become his apprentice?

    • http://www.austinot.com/ Brittany Highland

      @tristan_turner:disqus, I’m sure it’s quite a process. But I would recommend starting by seeing the swords in person and meeting Daniel. He’s usually at the Sherwood Forest Faire every weekend, so check that out.

    • Daniel Watson

      Please come see me at any of our shows. Since a full apprenticeship is 12 years, It’s best to see if we can stand being around each other.

  • Vinnie Hassing

    My names Vincent hassing and I would be tremendously horned to have either buy or ask how much it would be to have three unique blades made by angle sword

  • Caleb

    Angel has good steel. Not the best. His swords lack grace to the fittings and are generally not historic.