Guest of Honour: Lord of the Rings conceptual illustrator, John Howe

In April 2005, we were honoured to have Lord of the Rings visionary illustrator, John Howe come for a visit.  His personality was as delightful as his works.  For more, please visit our events page.

Weapons of the Nazgūl

These Kingly blades were not maintained over the centuries, and though they appear rusty and pitted, their fine craftsmanship meant that they were still formidable weapons, even in their dilapidated state. The fact that these swords were wielded by creatures born of the dark lord may have imbued them with a destructive power seen nowhere else.  (Two United Cutlery broadswords, and the 'to-scale' Kropserkel Morgul-knife).  Accreditation to the Weapons and Warfare book by Chris Smith.

The Morgul-knife or Morgul Blade

Flesh biting blade:  A hand forged, annealed and tempered 5160 spring steel representation of the fearful blade that inflicts a mortal wound, without the chance of survival.  Aside from what remains of it on Weathertop, this blade can't be found anywhere else.


The Witch King arm armor /
armour (arm harness assembly)

ROTK WitchKing arm armour assembly (pauldrons with a haute-piece to protect the neck from a side-ways attack, rerebrace, spiked spur like couter, and vambrace that features curved ridges that twist and flow into the ridges on the gauntlets). This assembly has a dragon's wing theme and covers the cuff section of the WitchKing gauntlets that are worn beneath. This fully articulated armour set is incredibly intricate, and is as menacing as it is beautiful ("beautifully elegant and intimidating" as described in the Weapons and Warfare book.)


Nazgûl COSTUME exploits
(left) The Kropserkel Nazgûl costume on guard at The Royal Ontario Museum's Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers exhibit (2001).




(Below left) On set for a commercial for The Gathering of the Fellowship. "You wouldn't have change for a Shire penny would you? My steed isn't fond of concrete and my Fell Beast is in the shop." (below middle) The Nazgûl costume prior to it's first horseback appearance in the LOTR themed Medieval Times show in December 2003. (below right) Forced perspective:  Be thankful that you don't wake up to a view like this.

Our earliest incarnation of the costume in 2001 is pictured below in a photo test at a local park. In addition to park enjoying pedestrians and cyclists, we actually noticed animals and insects fleeing our photo session zone. We are considering marketing a bug repellant based on this system later this year. If any of the images look familiar to you, it's because they've graced a great many product promotional materials as 'authentic' pictures of the original costumes used in production, not so, but we thank those for the guised compliment in the mistake.



WK Battle Arms with Gauntlets

The WK battle arms (Pauldrons, rerebraces, couters, vambraces, and harness system) are shown here with the WK gauntlet set. WIthout the cloaks to conceal the details, you get an idea of what this armour set looks like on it's own.

The leg armour attaches to a wide belt with garters for the cuisses. This holds the assembly up.

Metal leg harnesses: "The Levis of Mordor"

Witch King and Nazgûl versions

Imagine what a symphony of metal would sound like. Hearing the approach of this full leg armour is as intimidating to hear as it is to see.

Matching the gothic style of the gauntlets, this armour is formed in 16 gauge steel and is an intricate assembly of perfectly fitting laminations and components; feet (sabatons), shins (greaves), knees and upper thighs (cuisses).  Shown above is the Witch King version of the legs.  There are notable differences between the Witch King and Nazgūl versions of the leg armour;  The Witch King's armour has a different knee fan or wing that splays on the outside of each leg, and a pointed and smooth sabaton (foot). 
These details are depicted in the images below.

A comparative image with the Nazgūl (left) and the Witch King version leg armour (right).

What are all the fashionable wraiths wearing for footwear?  How about some sporty looking, segmented and articulated metal sabatons, something you won't likely see in the Nike lineup this year.  These are the standard Nazgūl version of the sabatons, with a carrion or reptilian like representation. Notice how the gothic theme is translated to the adjoining greave (ankle and shin armour).  We haven't been asked if we want our shoes shined lately, at least not by someone who had a recent tetanus shot.

A client requested a custom designed pair of wraith sabatons that feature talon like toes and a twin pronged spur.  For more custom armour in this style, please check out our conceptual Nazgūl armour page here.

The Nazgūl version of the leg armour features a larger, splayed like platform from the knee cop (below). 

The Witch King version of the leg armour features an ornate fan like platform from the knee cop (left).

The Cuisse and poleyn assembly permit a very decent range of motion (right).

(left) Security gave me some difficulty at this event and it didn't take much persuading to show him who was truly in charge.

Weathered upper leg armour showing all the points of articulation with a multitude of lames both above and below the knee.


Longing for more armour?  Check out our full conceptual Nazgūl Armour page here.



THE ORIGINAL TALENTS: Director Peter Jackson's vision realized by the talents of Richard Taylor / Tania Rodger of New Zealand's WETA workshop crew, and costume designer Ngila Dickson have collaborated in what has developed into an incredibly memorable group of villains for what is already an epic picture of grandiose proportions. We are so thankful that these people put all the effort they did into this incredible film. I knew at first sight that we'd have to pay tribute to these geniuses and commenced right away at fabricating as accurate a hero wraith costume we could muster for the collection. Despite what one would think about a costume based on dark flowing robes, this bit of wardrobe is much more than meets the eye in so many ways. Dickson was given the task of creating something evil literally of nothing and she's right to be proud of the end result. The intricate culmination of Dickson's multi-layered flowing wardrobe and WETA's armourers' realization of conceptual artist John Howe's design makes for an incredibly creepy and beautiful outfit.

OUR REPLICA CONSTRUCTION: After an astonishing amount of study on every aspect of this costume from photographic references and visits to the touring exhibits, we managed to come up with an outfit we're finally quite pleased with. I hazard a guess at around 500 hours and counting were invested in this project. Here are some of the specifications of our version of the costume: Approximately 30 meters of material were assembled to pull this off. I'm 6'9" in this outfit as the hood is completely empty and I am covered by a one way black textile. Anyone looking into the hood will be horrified to see that there is nothing in there but pure, empty evil. The material is artificially distressed and frayed to look aged and well used. Naturally, the more it gets used, the better it looks.

SFX: Initially, I went through the process of trying to emulate the horrific screeching sounds by way of hawk & loon calls from the naturalist society. Later I was introduced to an animal from New Zealand that I was convinced the Riders sounds were based on, an Elk bugle (click to hear the sound courtesy of Clive & Trich Seddon at Wildlife Sculptures) . I couldn't help but feel that it would be terrible to be camping in New Zealand and to hear these sounds in the wild. After reviewing the behind the scenes content on the extended DVDs, I was thrilled to hear that the mystery of the wraith screeches was revealed. Talented Producer/Screenwriter Fran Walsh provided the raw screeches while she had a horse throat with Peter's direction. The sound engineers manipulated her screams with synthesized effects and she is now immortalized in our nightmares for all time. In my opinion they couldn't have given a more horrific sound to these characters. I have since implemented an electronic sound sampling device that delivers sound from a shoulder mounted amplifier and speaker system when triggered by a switch.

Scott Maple



Black Rider / RingWraith / Nazgûl / WitchKing Costume Replica

ALL METAL Nazgûl armor, WitchKing armor, RingWraith armor, Black rider armor


Conceptual Nazgūl armour page (ever wonder what the Nazgūl wear under their cloaks?)

RingWraith costume in action: 'PRANX' video part 1 (click here view -offsite link)

RingWraith costume in action: 'PRANX' video part 2 (click here view -offsite link)

Our Wraith was also a character in this Space Channel parody about out of work science fiction/fantasy characters in 2006

The battlefield Witch King costume replica (ROTK)

Our all metal armoured Witch-king costume on a recent visit to Mordor.

The sharp and spiky look is 'in' this year. Our merciless Witch-king is sporting the latest in menacing protective armour. Warning: Not suitable for fighting with women, results may vary. Shown here in hand forged and hammered steel, this armour set is as elegantly wicked as they come. The WK set has a weathered finish, with accentuated gothic lines and webbed wing motifs that make up it's multi-layered plate protection.

The crown of the Twilight WitchKing (FOTR)

The crowning component to the Twilight WitchKing outfit is this elegantly twisted crown of a mislead monarch, neither living, nor dead. Seventy-seven hand forged laminations, spires, and spikes adorn this die stamped ring (click on small image below for a closer look). Having seen the original crown on display, we're quite confident in saying that we are likely the first to make an all metal incarnation of this regal prop.

2007 brought an opportunity to fabricate a second Twilight WK crown, and with the aid of dies (positive and negative), the most intricate details were stamped into the steel plates, and some of the lesser known features from the original sculpt were implemented in this ultimate metal incarnation of the piece.


Our journey of making metal RingWraith ARMOR / ARMOUR

The Witch-King gauntlets version 3.0 (2003)

The fully articulated metal WitchKing gauntlets (shown here with a light weathering finish). Custom fitted armoured plates moving over each other with precisely slotted pins to control the range of articulation. It's like having bones on the outside.

Crafted by a professional blacksmith with 18 years of armouring experience, our replica gauntlets have been utilized by many as source material for their own imitations.

First piece:  Early Nazgûl gauntlets (2001)

Simply put; by design, 'kinetic art', and likely the most engaging prop reproduction we've tackled. These fierce gauntlets with industrial and later German Gothic influence juxtapose elegance and wickedness. A stroke of brilliance on the part of WETA and designers was to utilize armour that had a basis in historical design, thereby keeping one foot in reality. These ferocious armoured gloves were made to get the job done around Mordor, and NO, that doesn't mean scooping up Orc dung either.
As better reference came available, we were able to subtly refine the details that now appear in our latest incarnations of these pieces.
The main differences included a more angled gadling (knuckle plate) and accents on the finger lames (plates). Also missing in this early incarnation is the raised wrist spike. These have fully articulated fingers and wrist plates, 42 in all, with contrasting brass hinged cuffs and thumb plates.

Treated and weathered to reflect centuries of searching and plundering, this Middle Earth haute-couture ensemble is steeped in evil deeds.

Witch King Version 1.0 of the gauntlets (2001)

Prior to viewing the original screen used gauntlets in person, we believed that all the gauntlet sets used by the Nazgûl had similar vambraces above the wrist. Here was our first impression of the WitchKing gauntlet which shows a hybrid of the Gothic chevron Nazgûl vambrace and the WitchKing spiked knuckle gadling.

While the multi-lamed blade like fingers act like a rake of spikes when in a fist, the gadling acts like 4 concentrated impact points like a full fisted brass knuckle. The gadling on a back swing would yield unthinkable results in combat.

Witch King Version 2.0 of the gauntlets (2002)

The WitchKing, leader of the nine, wore a variant of the armour that defined his stature. This version of the gauntlets have sweeping hooked gadlings and have 4 metacarpal plates before the wrist (instead of 5). At this point, we were able to identify that the vambraces were 3 articulated plates with a splayed ridge motif, unlike the chevroned vambrace of another. The WK plates feature more dramatic webbing than the other Nazgûl versions.

Wraith Sword / Scabbard / Frog / Harness

The ornate heavy leather scabbard and harness system conceals the 39.75" blade of the 54 5/8" Witch King sword by United Cutlery. The United Cutlery team has put together some great looking swords and pieces from these films. There are cheap imitations of these swords out there, but they truly can't hold a candle to the official product.

The Kropserkel scabbard/harness features forged iron rings for tying off the belts and forged metal chapes (tips). The leather is dyed and finished with carvings of Noldor font scripture and symbolism, every one unique. Shown above right is the United Cutlery Sword of the RingWraith that we weathered to look more like the dirtier wraith's weapon. The finish on the production piece is nice, and already artificially weathered looking, but we wanted a more rusty blade, true to the film, and even creepier. I could appreciate that if United Cutlery sold them this way, corroded and dingy, most would probably have been returned by consumers. Styled RingWraith and WitchKing versions of the sword demand unique scabbards also. We've put together correctly dyed leather versions with styled metal chapes (tips) and hand forged iron rings for harnessing the belt. The lengths and points of attachment have enabled a well balanced sheath for wearing these huge swords.

Mark fails to conceal himself effectively.
Note to self: Gore-Tex smells like Hobbit.



The 'Kropserkel Edition' RingWraith figure

A co-worker and dear friend presented me with this gift one day while visiting. It's the Kropserkel Edition RingWraith figure, extremely limited. The piece features an X-Files series 'David Duchovny' head and hand (someone Scott is always described as resembling). Needless to say, we got a lot of mileage out of it.


Other LOTR stuff we've done:
Full conceptual Nazgūl armour set
ORC costume with armour
Uruk-hai armour
Sauron's helmet
Saruman's Staff of Power

For official LOTR amazing collectibles:

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