A Hidden Swordsmith In Havasu

A Hidden Swordsmith In Havasu
Cortez Fields / 14 Jun 2019 / No Comments » Comments

By Cortez Fields

Blades crackle in the darkness. Master swordsmen face each other in epic duels across the galaxy. Red and blue sabers have captured the imaginations of fans of “Star Wars” for decades, but for years even the most ardent of fans had no real way of enjoying what a real light saber felt like in their hands, aside from the toys that could be found in a store or replicas only meant for collectors.

Enter Ripper Blades, the only place in Lake Havasu City where light sabers can be actually held.

Ripper etches bolts of lighting into a saber at his shop. Jillian Danielson/RiverScene

Located on McCulloch Boulevard in what is quickly becoming one of the coolest buildings in Lake Havasu City, Ripper Blades specializes in creating original and authentic collectible light sabers to battle sabers and cosplay replica swords. The designs are intricate, fascinating, and often beautiful.

This unique business is operated by longtime best-friends-turned couple Veronica Salter and Gary Ripper. Salter is the brains of the business, and Ripper is the creative manufacturer of the swords themselves. Ripper has been loving sabers since he was a child.

From an Early Age

“I’ve loved “Star Wars” since birth,” Ripper told Riverscene correspondents. “ I always used to play with sticks.” Ripper is originally from the Bay area of California, having lived in San Francisco for the majority of his life. His love of “Star Wars” and swords led him to eventually building hilts with PVC pipes. His hilts took off and became part of the saber community.

Soon he started to invest more time to his craft of making blades, even when many of his family stopped believing in him. His friends continued to support him, however, leading him to make better light saber worthy blades.

Alain Boch, the current TSL (The Saber League) champion, talked Ripper into continuing to create blades. Ripper delved deeper into the saber community through the course of his crafting, eventually creating his own customer light sabers.

“I would make these blades around Christmas time and sell them and make more money. I knew I had something there.” Ripper said. The sword smith’s dedication soon paid off and he made a name for himself within the saber community.

The Sabers

The most unique blades he’s created are the “flat blades” which are modeled after various swords styles, including katanas, and are great for display or cosplay. Ripper Blades is also the only company to have invented the “flat blade” in the world of collectible and ornamental blade-building. The model swords are primarily made from acrylics, especially the flat blades. The battle sabers and tubular swords are made from poly-carbonates, which make them stronger and capable of withstanding multiple blows. This is thanks to Ripper’s unique and intricate sword styles.

Ripper Blades vary depending on their design or customization. Ripper handcrafts every blade himself, including every fine etching and detail. He has done everything from custom “Game of Thrones” blades to blades inspired by “Spiderman-Into the Spiderverse” and “Venom”. Ripper has more than 50 different styles of blades he’s designed and created. These include actual, working sabers which not only light up, but also make authentic noises of light sabers.

Blades are on display in Ripper’s light saber shop. Jillian Danielson/RiverScene

Ripper  credits his success from groups within the community such as battle sabers, who created ways to customize toy light sabers into more realistic replicas. These innovations include everything from inlaid LED’s to enhance lighting to soundboards which mimic the film’s light saber sound effects.

However, while Ripper crafts all of the blades, he does not create the hilts. Ripper Blades works with other hilt creation companies to complete their blades. Salter is the driving force in this supply chain between saber customers, hilt makers, and distributors.

The Brains Behind the Business

Veronica “Vee” Salter is the capitalizing force behind the business, and a 20-year marketing veteran in Lake Havasu City. Salter has been working on Ripper’s business since he moved to Havasu in 2016. The two had been friends for more than 20 years, extending from their time in the Bay Area together. Salter decided to help Ripper shortly after he moved to Lake Havasu City because she believed in his work and she’s always been fascinated with swords.

“I’ve always loved swords. When I was younger I knew I wanted to sell swords, I just didn’t think they were going to be like this.”

Salter is not a huge fan of “Star Wars” but she appreciates the culture and openness of the saber community. She has worked hard to make Ripper Blades a real brand. Now Ripper Blades has become a known distributor for saber and Ripper flat blades. Ripper himself contributes his newfound success to Salter.

“Before her, I was just out here selling plastic swords,” Gary told us. “Now she’s branded me  and made me a real distributor.”

Gary Ripper creates a blade inside of his shop on McCulloch Blvd. Jillian Danielson/RiverScene

Salter has brought Ripper Blades into the international distribution stage. Ripper Blades sells to the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Japan. The company also has distributors on either end of the United States, including two in the Bay Area.

Blade City, another popular saber and sword vendor, is also a distributor. Salter is currently working on finding a distributor in the UK to drive down shipping costs. As the head of marketing, and a fan of the saber community, Salter appreciates the exposure Ripper Blades has gotten from The Saber Legion.

The Saber Legion

Gary Ripper’s blades have become so unique and practical that they are used in The Saber Legion, which is the largest saber club in the world. The club is a place for fans of sword fighting and “Star Wars” to come together and spar as Jedis (Or Sith) would. The Legion has hosted four annual tournaments thus far, and Ripper Blades is a sponsor for the organization. The competition has become so popular it’s been featured in major publications such as ESPN and “Nerdist”. The TSL has chapters across the country, and Ripper is part of the Arizona chapter. Lake Havasu city has its very own Saber Club, with eight members including Ripper. He loves sparring with fellow Havasuvians and wants to make it more mainstream for Lake Havasu City in the future.

The Future

Salter and Ripper are currently planning on opening the first Ripper Blades store on McCulloch Boulevard in Lake Havasu City with a showroom to display the iconic blades. The duo also want the shop to be a place where Havasu locals can learn to make their own light sabers. Ripper Blades is hoping to integrate more community activities, such as BBQs and public saber battles, after their grand opening.

For those who would like to feel like they are warriors from a galaxy far, far, away with their own saber, find out more information about Ripper Blades through its website https://ripperblades.net/, and on its Facebook and Instagram. You can also apply to join the The Saber Legion on their website: https://www.saberlegion.org/

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