A 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.
Master 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.
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.”
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.