Swashbuckling is a great imaginative play activity for kids, but no pirate is complete without a sword to guard his treasure with. There are as many ways to make a pirate sword as there are miniature pirates waiting to sail the seven seas, and with a little creativity your young pirates will be doing battle in short order. The type of sword you build should be determined by how long you want it to last and how much effort you are willing to put into the project.
Look at pirate books, websites and movies for design ideas. Pirates carried many different types of sword, since their idea of shopping was to take someone else's. One type of sword commonly associated with pirates is a the cutlass. A cutlass has a slightly curved blade with a hilt guard. Another is the scimitar with its bold curve and double pointed tip. Find or create a good outline drawing of the sword you like in a straight side view. Use a computer to print it out, or have it printed at a copy shop to fit the size of your pirate. Cut out the paper outline to use as a template.
Spray glue the paper template to a piece of 1/2-inch-thick plywood and cut out the design with a jigsaw or band saw. Sand the wood smooth. Patterns and designs can be cut into the wooden handle with a rotary tool and various wood cutting bits and shaping wheels. Use silver spray paint to give the blade a gleam and decorate the hilt with gold. Wrap ribbon around the handle for a cushion and attach a jewel or tassel to the hilt's end for a final touch. Carry your wooden sword in a sash, tied around the waist, or over one shoulder snugly, to hold the sword at the pirate's hip.
A quick and dirty version can be made with cardboard salvaged from cartons available for free in most garages, or behind a local shopping center. Use your paper outline and cut two or three thicknesses of cardboard to your basic sword shape with scissors or a sharp knife. Use duct tape to tape the layers together to form a blade stout enough to last for an afternoon or two of pillaging. Wrap extra layers of duct tape around the sword for added strength and decorate the hilt as outlined in the wooden sword section.
For the truly serious reenactors who are never satisfied until someone has been run through, try the PVC and pipe insulation boffer weapon. Cut a piece of 1/2-inch PVC pipe long enough to serve as the hilt and blade. Cut a piece of foam insulation to the same length, plus 3 inches. Cut one end of the foam off about as long as you want your hilt. Cut a second piece of foam pipe insulation 6 inches long. Cut it with a bevel on both ends and cut a hole in its center to slide it over the pipe. Fit this guard piece onto the PVC. Slide the handle section on behind it. Cut the long piece of insulation to a point and slide it onto the pipe until it touches the guard. Wrap the entire sword in three or four layers of duct tape. This gives you a weapon that may sting slightly, but will not break skin or bone, and will last through many hours of rough play. Be sure to set some combat rules and be prepared to confiscate all weapons if the rules are broken.