Dawn of the Deadly Blades 

Missoula's Zombie Tools makes a killing off weapons designed to slay the undead

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Sure, but is a zombie apocalypse a realistic scenario?

"I really don't think there's a way, scientifically, to have corpses come back to life," says Gaff, laughing. "But it's like with the H1N1 virus or bird flu or swine flu—even if you're not dealing with a zombie apocalypse, you're talking about lots of people dying, rapid depopulation, failing infrastructure. What zombie [stories] are doing is asking: What would that scenario look like? How would it all play out?"

The Zombie Tools crew gets it. Beneath the gory aesthetics and zombie lore, the weapons makers note that the zombie apocalypse is just one way to illuminate the multitude of disasters people fear most.

"A lot of the interest in zombies is in how will people react," says McCarter. "It's the ultimate shit-going-to-hell scenario, and so it provides people the perfect platform to really talk about this stuff—what weapons would we use, and also how we would band together as people."

On the Saturday night before Halloween weekend, Zombie Tools is alive and kicking. Inside the workshop, 20 or so partiers drink rum and soda and Black Butte Porter to the spooky synth metal of local band Satan's Slave. Others gather around the flaming fire pit just outside, while two people with fencing swords battle it out under the eerie light of a full moon.

Jokes about zombies abound. A group of people shows up dressed as zombies and they wonder aloud if it was a dangerous decision, having stepped into the lair of zombie slayers. McCarter talks about doing a photo shoot in which he's seated in a throne made of de-toothed zombies, holding a goblet of Maker's Mark in one hand and a sword in the other. It's his idea of changing up the attitude about the zombie apocalypse from fear to merry embrace.

click to enlarge Joey Arbour, right, and Chris Lombardi test one of their handmade blades on a deer carcass at the Zombie Tools workshop on Missoula’s Westside. “People like to talk about it, but as far as I know we’re one of the few companies that makes something based on killing zombies,” says Lombardi. “And they’re really sharp.” - PHOTO BY CHAD HARDER
  • Photo by Chad Harder
  • Joey Arbour, right, and Chris Lombardi test one of their handmade blades on a deer carcass at the Zombie Tools workshop on Missoula’s Westside. “People like to talk about it, but as far as I know we’re one of the few companies that makes something based on killing zombies,” says Lombardi. “And they’re really sharp.”

"Don't just survive, thrive!" he says.

All afternoon, the Zombie Tools crew has been demonstrating their blades, which has resulted in several slaughtered pumpkins covering the pavement in slimy, brain-like chunks. McCarter has turned in his T-shirt (Che Guevara as a zombie and the words, "Fuck the Revolution. Bring on the Apocalypse!") for a black vest suit and tie, and Arbour and Lombardi are also dressed for cocktail time. They take turns pulling blades off the shelves for anyone who asks—proud craftsmen showing off their wares.

"A lot of our blades can be used for camping," says McCarter. "The 'Zak Axe' has got a full handled grip and an inward curve, and it's a smaller blade that you can use for cutting down your trees."

"The Squid Axe," a tool not yet for sale, also has a few other potential uses. It's a small curved blade that the metalsmiths say is their most original design yet.

"We're not sure what the 'Squid Axe' will be used for," Lombardi says. "But people really seem to like it. Invariably, anyone who hunts says it would be a great skinning knife. But it's great for cutting cheese, too."

Most of those blades seem like they could do some major zombie damage but, for now, as the party carries on, Zombie Tools is just as much about living in the here-and-now as it is about imagining a future full of zombies.

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