- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 23, 2001

MINNEAPOLIS A craftsman reaches into a furnace and pulls out a glowing strip of steel that will eventually become the blade of a fine sword. On a nearby workbench sit a breastplate and other pieces for a suit of armor.
Hot metal hisses as it is plunged into water, while the clang of hammering rings out in the cluttered workshop. A worker lovingly puts the finishing touches on a headsman's ax.
Here, in the basement of a warehouse in northeast Minneapolis, 46-year-old Christopher Poor and his merry band of armorers are keeping an ancient craft alive.
Arms & Armor Inc. uses electricity instead of water wheels to spin its grinding wheels, and gas instead of wood to fire its forges. The 22-year-old company makes some of the most highly regarded reproductions of antique swords, shields, armor, daggers, stilettos, spears, maces and flails.
Mr. Poor "does have a worldwide reputation. His stuff's good," said David Edge, curator of arms and armor at the Wallace Collection, a noted London museum of art and weaponry.
While most Arms & Armor customers are private collectors who buy from its Web site (www.armor.com) or catalog, the company also supplies to theater, television and movie companies. Demanding authenticity, the reconstructed Shakespeare's Globe theater in London chose Arms & Armor to supply it with rapiers.
Mr. Poor's office is decorated with armor and weapons he uses for jousting and fencing, including a replica of an Italian suit of armor from 1460.
"It's been whacked and axed and trampled and abused," he said.
Rare books also line the walls, providing important references. Sometimes a 17th-century woodcut drawing can provide clues to what kind of tools were used to make a piece. The company's close relationships with European museums and collections also give it an edge when it comes to authenticity.
"It's not just the grubby workshop. There's a whole lot of research in what we do," Mr. Poor said.

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