Sunday, May 11, 2014

Comparisons: The Original Chakram (IV of IV)

Here it is, at last!

This has been a calvary. Among my job (unstable to say the least), a roller coaster of personal life (no kidding) and my ever-growing collection (I'll post about it soon!) I've had literally NO TIME to properly finish and wrap up this entry for months. My apologies, I know some of you have been waiting for it. Thank you all for your patience! But here it is, finally!

This last entry is about the only two original chakram replicas left: the Daryl Kyle's replica commissioned by Davis Panzer, and the RomansEmpire eBay replica. This ends the chronological review of the original chakram reproductions I've found closer to the original.

As always, you can check my previous entries on this topic here:

Part I of IV: about the original chakram prop and the Icons replica.
- Part II of IV: about the Creation Ent replica, in all its versions.
- Part III of IV: about the Todd's Costumes replica, the Marto 10th Anniversary Gold Edition replica, and the Silver Screen replica.

Special thanks to both Roman and Daryl Kyle for the photographies and information on their pieces. Many thanks to Beatlesrock for his extra info and photos on the Daryl Kyle's piece. Finally, thanks to spirit_wolf_71 for even more photos of Daryl's chakram.

- THE DARYL KYLE'S REPLICA

Daryl Kyle's company: Texas Steel Prop Replicas.

In my last post I talked about both Todd Coyle and Davis-Panzer. Well, this is a continuation of sorts of that story.

In March 2012, after granting the license and rights to produce the Kurgan helmet (a prop from the Highlander franchise) to Daryl Kyle and his company Texas Steel Prop Replicas, the big boss at Davis-Panzer, Peter Davis, approached Daryl about making an "ultimate Xena chakram". It seems Mr. Davis had in mind to build a new chakram reproduction like none other. I suppose they signed a contract, and from one day to another Daryl started manufacturing products for the licensee of Xena merchandising.

Why? I have my suspicions. Back then Todd Coyle wasn't officially producing Xena replicas with Davis-Panzer anymore. He only kept selling a few things on his site (namely Xena's scabbard and Gabrielle's battle staff, plus the full costumes of Xena, Gabrielle and Callisto), but his official runs of chakrams were long gone and sold out. He was indeed selling his freshly-made Silver Screen replicas through legendaryheroes.com, but given their lesser quality I can only assume they were not reaching the cyphers some Creation or Todd's replicas were easily making on eBay.

I have the theory Mr. Davis wanted something of high quality again, something that could bring new blood and life to the world of Xena replicas -and sell for first-line prices once again. Thus why he sought Daryl Kyle to make a brand new deluxe edition for him.

Following these orders, Daryl made three versions of the chakram: the original version, the Yin Yang version, and the splitting Y&Y version. It's the first of them the one I'm going to talk about.

Versions of the Daryl Kyle replica: For once this section will be short, because as for today there's only one version of this "ultimate" original chakram replica made by Daryl Kyle.

Both sides of Daryl's chakram replica.
Photos by Daryl Kyle.

Daryl's chakrams are made in a different way than most previous replicas. His are not casted in molten aluminum, but cut on a machine called "multi axis lathe" from a solid block of aluminum (much like the Icons replicas, only those were grounded down sections of a large aluminum tube). This procedure has the advantage of being completely mechanized -obtaining 100% perfect and pristine identical pieces with no casting errors-, but it seems to also be rather expensive.

The chakrams are then hand polished and hand painted, and the paui shells (the only part of this version not made in the USA, but imported from New Zealand) are fitted manually as the last step.

Some process pictures of the making of the pieces.
Photos by Daryl Kyle.

As for the design itself, Daryl says he spent a lot of time getting the right measurements from screen-used props, without consulting other replicas as Icons or Todd's. True, though not all merit is his -I'm positive he had a BIG help from experienced collector Otsillac, who tried to put his expert eye to the service of this new replica. I can definitely see "his hand" behind some of the best details on this version.

The shape and proportions of bolts and squares are almost perfect.
Photos by Daryl Kyle.

Daryl has recently commented that due to budget issues he'll probably start making chakrams through sand-casting instead of using the lathe. If a new version of his chakram comes out of that, only time will tell.

Accuracy level: Daryl is not Xena's biggest fan (no offense intended). He's a perfectionist, yes, but making the "ultimate" replica requires more than that, requires true love for the piece that's being made. It requires ADORING the piece as we Xenites do -because our love will make us accept nothing less than perfect. Daryl has that kind of love for Highlander, anyone who know him a little can see that, but not for Xena. Thus why (despite Otsillac's best efforts) his piece is sadly not the most perfect chakram there is. Let's see why.


       1. Size: Correct. As far as I'm aware, this replica has the perfect size
       ..............................................................................….......... Score: 1/1
       2. Material (shine & color)Incorrect. It has a mirror-like finish (a) 
       and the yellow/golden hue (b) is too pale and dull.
       ............................................................................................ Score: 0/1
       3. Saw-like pattern: Incorrect. Bolts shape is correct -it's based in
       the last S5 Creation model-, contour lines (c) are too thin and shallow.
       ......................................................................................... Score: 0,5/1
       4. Squared pattern: Incorrect. Contour lines (c) are too thin as well. 
       ......................................................................................... Score: 0,5/1
       5. Blade edge: Correct. The replica has a thin blade edge.
       ............................................................................................ Score: 1/1

       _____________________________________________TOTAL: 3/5

The score 3/5 is not bad at all, above all compared with other versions reviewed here, but an "ultimate" version should be nothing less than 5/5. Or even more! And that's not the case.

Which is the main problem of this replica? It's something difficult to measure, because more than an isolated thing it's an addition of little details. In three words: it's too perfect. It lacks the "organic feel" the original prop had, those little details that made it look like a real (an ancient) weapon. This chakram doesn't look real, it looks decorative. Which is totally ok for many people, and I respect that, but for me that is something I just can't disregard.

The one thing that first catches my eye are the contour lines. Way too thin and not deep enough. They are not visible, and are too subtle. But that's just the tip of the iceberg -there are other small details that seem a bit off for the experienced eye. A pity, because as I mentioned before some other details are great (I'm pretty sure those perfect bolts are thanks to Otsillac's help).

Additional features: In words of Daryl himself: "I designed a relative easy stand, as to not distract from the actual charkams, no fancy boxes or stuff like that. Each one is numbered and a COA comes with it… they are also offering a picture booklet of the design and process." 

An extra shot of Daryl Kyle's chakram replica.
Photo by All_hallows_eve.

I've never seen one of these chakrams in the flesh, so I've never seen the stand or the booklet myself. I suppose the chakram comes with a couple of hooks, or else a very simple table stand. About the booklet, I know it illustrates the creation process, so I guess it must contain some kind of illustrations of photographies that document the "making of" of the replica.

If someone has pictures or information of them and would be kind enough to share them I'll promptly edit this part.

Certificates: As you can read in the previous paragraphs, these replicas are/were? numbered and come with a COA. I say "were" because it seems they are sold out. They were available for sale in the site of Legendary Heroes for more than a year (with a very high asking price, around $1,000!), but now they are no longer there.

Anyhow, I ignore the number of chakrams that were produced, because neither Daryl Kyle nor Davis-Panzer have specified how many chakrams the license cover. As you can see in this pic, the COA doesn't say a thing about that either, as it only reflects the number of the piece itself.

Daryl's chakram come with a fancy COA, don't you think?
Photo by All_hallows_eve.

There's one last thing worth mentioning. Note that the COA says "A screen-used chakram was provided to us to ensure design accuracy, allowing for the same look and feel as the original prop; giving you the the prop look, feel and finish!" Daryl has confirmed Mr. Davis got someone to lend a screen-used chakram for the process, but it seems the lending was very brief.

>> EDIT: Fellow collector Beatlesrock has written me to note that only a few of Daryl's chakrams came with the booklet and the COA, and that many got sold as is, unnumbered and without any extra feature or certificate. He says five or six passed through his hands, and all he received was this COA from Davis/Panzer, different to the one I mention above.

This is the COA Beatlesrock received.
Photo by Beatlesrock.

He also notes that all the chakrams he got were "marred by the mistake of spidery thin lines going straight around the circle". He has sent these additional couple of photos to illustrate what he means:

If you look closely, you'll see the metallic parts in the blade have
very thin scratches. That's what he means with spidery lines.
Photos by Beatlesrock.

Conclusion: As always, I'm sure there's much to love about this chakram replica, as much as I am it is not for me. However, this chakram has an advantage: it's a recent reproduction. That leaves me/us with the option of hope. Who knows? Maybe in his next take Daryl will improve some of this details and make a more accurate version.

____________________________________________________________

Let's now go for the last chakram replica, the one sold (and still for sale) by RomansEmpire on eBay.

- THE ROMANS EMPIRE EBAY REPLICA

eBay's logo. Here you can fin RomansEmpire

I don't have much information about Roman himself. He seems to be established in El Paso, Texas, and as far as I know he's a professional prop and replica maker, specializing above all Star Wars lightsabers. I've talked with him a couple of times, and he seems to be a very nice guy.

About how he ended up making chakrams and other Xena stuff (like Gabrielle's sais), I have no clue. I think he genuinely likes the series, though I feel Star Wars surprises that love by much :) Anyhow, whether it was due to a commission or to a personal desire, the facts are he's been selling chakrams through eBay for several year now. In fact, when no many other chakrams were available, his were the best "to go" option for many fans who wanted to star a collection, myself included.

Roman's logo, from his recently reopened site, romanprops.com

Some say Roman has "killed" the market with his pieces, but arguably he's kept the market alive. I'm still surprised about the incredible amount of people who purchase his chakrams every month, showing and proving that the Xena spirit is still out there. Even if they don't go to cons, are not involved in any Xena community, or even know/care about props or other replicas, many MANY people remember Xena and crave to have a chakram of their own. And Roman gives them the possibility. And that is good.

Versions of the Daryl Kyle replica: Much like Daryl Kyle's chakram, there's only one version of Roman's replica, at least that I know.

Both sides of Roman's chakram replica.
Photos by RomansEmpire.

About the way it's made, Roman's own descriptive from the eBay listing is very illustrative: "Chakram comes with a high mirror-like polish, and is detailed to perfection with genuine Paua Shell Inlays and perfect black accent lines surrounding the gold finished surfaces. This is a high end CNC machined replica with a flawless metal body and blade. The entire chakram was machined from a solid piece of aircraft grade aluminum. It’s quite hefty and very well balanced. It measures 9.5 inches in diameter with the center of the ring being a 1/2 inch thick and tapering to approximately 1/16 of an inch at the outer most edge (not sharp). An all around gorgeous prop to behold and treasure". A CNC machine means this is also a mechanized piece, instead of a casted piece (with all that it means).

Photos by RomansEmpire.

It's design is a funny thing. It measures EXACTLY like Todd's replica, but doesn't present the same disposition of the bolts in the saw-like pattern. No, if you look at it closely you'll see the golden bolts here are a bit bulky, which results in the "negative" bolts or empty spaces being smaller. We've seen that before, do you remember? In the Todd's 10th Anniversary Gold Edition.

Yes, my theory is that Roman based his replica in the Todd's Gold reproduction. 95% of the details match, even the characteristic way in which the angles of the bolts differ from the original prop. Too many details are identical to be just a coincidence. Even the mirror-like look&feel of the blade.

Here you can compare both pieces side to side. Designs are almost the same.
Photos by Beatlesrock and RomansEmpire.

According to this you can all imagine how the rating will go, but let's see.

Accuracy level: Being very similar to it, the score of the RomansEmpire replica is surely going to be fairly similar to the punctuation of the Todd's Gold replica (which let's remember was 2,5/5).


       1. Size: Incorrect. Replica is noticeably smaller than the original prop.
       ......................................................................................... Score: 0,5/1
       2. Material (shine & color)Incorrect. It presents mirror-like finish (b). 
       Plus, the silvery parts are not metal, but are painted silver.
       ............................................................................................ Score: 0/1
       3. Saw-like pattern: Incorrect. Contour lines are ok (not as thick as in 
       the Marto replica), but bolts and negative bolts are off (a).
       ......................................................................................... Score: 0,5/1
       4. Squared pattern: Correct. All elements have the right proportions.
       ............................................................................................ Score: 1/1
       5. Blade edge: Correct. The replica has a thin blade edge.
       ............................................................................................ Score: 1/1

       ______________________________________________TOTAL: 3/5

You see, the score of this reproduction is a bit higher than the Todd's 10th Anniversary replica, mainly for two reasons: the gold paint here is not gold-plated nor reflective, and the contour lines are a bit less thick (just enough to look harmonic with the overall look of the piece). Overall, even though the rating is not very high compared with other top-quality chakram reproductions (like the ones from Creation Ent), I think it serves its purpose, and represents well enough the chakram for those who want a piece of these characteristics.

I'm fond of Roman's replica, because it was one of my first replicas.

However, I'd like clarify a couple of things. Daryl Kyle's replica also scores 3/5, but I see it as a bit superior than this one. For me, capital aspects like size or bolt-shape are better achieved in that replica, while in this one are further from the "ideal chakram" we've been seeking.

I think Daryl and Roman themselves are very similar, actually. Both are perfectionists and highly talented in their own fields, but neither of them is nuts about Xena. And that can be perceived in their Xena replicas, because they feel like...well, replicas. Shiny nice metallic things, but not chakrams.

Additional features & Certificates: Roman's replica doesn't include any additional feature nor COA, except for a paper with care and cleaning instructions. However, he has developed a black methacrylate wall-mounts and metal name plaques that can be purchased apart.

Roman's black wall-mounts work for both chakram models.
Photo by RomansEmpire.

Sometimes, though, he makes combo listings and includes the wall-mount for free when you purchase one of his chakrams. Those are usually very good deals if you're after both chakram and mount :)

Conclusion: Roman's replica was one of my very first Xena replicas. I'm fond of it, as it brings me good memories. However, I was always aware of its limitations, and went for a Creation Ent replica as soon as I had the chance. That's just me, of course. As I said above, this chakram is not meant for the accuracy nerds like me, but for all those numerous fans that want a chakram in their lives. Still, Roman, if you're reading this and want to make it more accurate, know that won't hurt anybody! ;)

***

The chakram comparisons are over! But stay tuned for more entries and more info on Xena props and replicas!

SOON: Comparisons: The Yin Yang Chakram

Note: All photomontages by me. Original pics by All_hallows_eve, Beatlesrock, Daryl Kyle, RomansEmpire and spirit_wolf_71. 

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