My name is Peter Lyon, and I am a swordsmith. I’d like to let you know who I am and how my interest in history led me to becoming an armourer and crafter of swords for historical re-enactors and for film productions.
I was born in 1964 and have lived my whole life in New Zealand, an isolated country whose entire history of human habitation stretches back less than 800 years. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, I have been fascinated with world history my whole life, and the mysteries left as knowledge and records are lost. As a child I read about the ancient world, learning of it through the fragments that remain, and the way archaeology is slowly revealing the lives of the people.
My personal interest has focused on medieval Europe, and my work and recreation reflects that. I started fantasy role-playing games while at university, and still enjoy playing them, and from that got interested in medieval reenactment and military history. I made my first sword, a polished and very heavy two-hander, as a showpiece. It reminds me of how little I knew at the time and how far I have come. It owed more to the misconceptions fed by film and media, with little historical basis, and stands in stark contrast to the swords I make now.
I started making weapons and armour in 1984 because there was no way to get equipment in New Zealand – no internet, and few contacts with overseas sources. I started out of necessity, but made it into a paying hobby as people asked me to make equipment for them. The orders grew until they filled most of my spare time, so in 1994 I made the leap into self employment. My insanity has been aided and supported by Helen, especially after we married in 1997.
I had been keen to become a jouster and began learning to ride in the late ‘80s, but jousting was low priority while I turned my craft into a living. In 1997 I joined the Order of the Boar, jousting from 2000 until retiring from jousting and riding in 2011. Although I no longer ride, Helen and I are still involved in medieval reenactment, but at a more social level as we get older.
My big break came in 1998 when I was asked to make the swords for the film production of The Lord of the Rings. Over the next three years working at Weta Workshop I made most of the “hero” swords (the steel ones that get seen in close ups) and a mountain of aluminium stunt blades for the fight scenes, as well as many other pieces. Since 2003, while still working full time at Weta Workshop, I have worked on swords and other props for many productions, and learned a lot about how the film industry operates. See my Filmography for more details.
I spent several days in February of 2002 learning the basics of pattern welding from a friend in Christchurch. This is something I would like to explore further in the future, when I have the time and equipment.
In recent years, I have had the opportunity to see parts of the world and experience the history I had only known through books, and share my enthusiasm and knowledge with others. In particular, speaking at Visby Medieval Week in Gotland and touring Britain in 2014 and again in 2016, have been among the highlights of my life. Things I had only been able to study from afar, I have been able to study up close and get new insights into, including special access to museum weapons collections where I have been able to handle and study swords up close.
I have handled and measured some original swords and read extensively on historical arms and armour. I feel my experience as a sword maker, plus my experience in period combat techniques as well as riding and jousting, allow me to make weapons and armour that are both visually and functionally correct for the way they will be used.
With my history studies, my practical knowledge of making and using medieval items, and my combat and jousting background, I have a useful knowledge base for any questions that come my way.