Tessaiga 2.0 Tutorial (Repost, now available on Cosplay.com!)

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#1 Melchior on 17 years ago

(8/25/07 edit)

I put the pictures back on another host, hope they are useful for people. I don't cosplay actively anymore, and haven't been to any cons for over two years, but here you go. First though, a few common questions to address:

[b]Do you do commissions?[/b]

Sadly, no. I live in an apartment, and frankly this process is too labor intensive for me to consider doing for what most people are willing to pay for a prop. Sorry!

[b]How did you get the handle in?[/b]

A really long drill bit, a bit of patience, and some luck. I suppose there are better ways of doing it, and it appears there are some possible methods in this thread as well. I preferred working with one piece of foam as opposed to two or more, however.

[b]Why didn't you coat the foam with gesso?[/b]

Frankly, I didn't know at the time. It's been a proven method that works and keeps the foam in the proper shape, which lets you use less bondo, which leads to a lighter prop. I just didn't do it here. This tutorial is more a picture diary of my project, which I hope will help alot of you.

[b]Will this method work for [i]prop x[/i]?[/b]

It depends on the size, and complexity of the surfaces. Large, curvy props this will work well on. Small, intricate trinkets? Maybe not so hot. Stuff like body armor? I would assume so. Experiment with it.

[b]What kind of foam should I use?[/b]

There's two types, one apparently works better than the other. The stuff I used (dense Owens-Corning pink or blue foam, NOT styrofoam made from the little balls) is probably a bit easier to find locally.

(end edit 8/24/07)

Some of you may remember I put up this tutorial on Cosplay.com about a year and a half ago. Since that time, someone broke my sword, and I have remade it again in a better (more durable) fashion. This technique is somewhat time consuming and messy, but produces pretty good looking (if a bit heavy) results. Your mileage may vary, but for those of us without access to wood shaping tools it's a good start.

One last note, please work in a well-ventilated area when using fiberglass epoxy. It's very toxic and can cause brain damage if inhaled too much. I suggest working outside, or a very well ventilated garage if necessary.

All my old hosting died, so you're gonna have to just keep this gallery open in a separate tab:


Good luck!

[size=24]Tessaiga Tutorial V. 2.0

[b]Planning and Shaping[/b]
First off, before we start anything, we need to plan the shape of our weapon. Take a sheet of paper or several paper grocery bags taped together and draw yourself a pattern to follow. Sketch it in pencil first, then go over the correct lines you want in sharpie. Cut out the pattern.

Next, get your sheet of 2" dense foam insulation. You can buy this at Home Depot or Lowes, or any other home improvement store. The stuff you want is the dense foam, and it is usually a bright blue or pink and comes in 4x8 sheets.

Pin your pattern to the piece of foam, and trace around it.

Using a keyhole saw or some other type of saw (perhaps a jigsaw even, but I just used a small hand saw), cut out the shape of the weapon. Try and save as much foam as possible, as you may need it later if you mess up, or for future projects.

As you can see, I've drawn along this rough blade shape guides where I need to cut. I've marked the center of both the flat part of the blade, and the edge, so I know where to cut. This helps out a ton in the next step - shaping your weapon. The easiest way to do this is to use a handheld saw or knife of some sort. I've found that an electric knife (like one you use to cut a turkey on Thanksgiving) works quite well. In fact, it's what I used for this project. Here is a half of the sword shaped and lightly sanded to even out imperfections:

It takes quite a bit of time to finish this, but try and get the foam as close to the shape of your weapon as possible. It's ok if it is a bit uneven - you can get rid of these imperfections by sanding with a 150 grit or so sandpaper. Here are a few shots of what it should look like when you're done shaping and sanding the foam:

This is a close-up of the edge of Tessaiga. It tapers off and is also an edge at the tip of the sword. Careful planning and an exact idea of how you want it to look makes this kind of thing possible. If you rush, you may have to start all over again!

[b]Planning your Fiberglass coverage[/b]

Fiberglass is messy. VERY messy. However, using fiberglass cloth can bring strength to your prop weapon so it will not snap in half should someone, oh, pound it into the floor like someone did with my first Tetsusaiga. This time around, I'm adding the needed strength to the weapon by using fiberglass.

However, it should be noted you can't just randomly slap on cloth and expect it to come out good. Odd shaped props may require several pieces of fiberglass cloth fit together like a puzzle to not look lumpy and odd when finished. The best way to do this is to plan out beforehand how you are going to cover your prop with the cloth. To do this you'll need:

- A yardstick or ruler
- A cloth measuring tape
- A marker
- Lots of ingenuity

As you can see, I've marked the foam with the different pieces of fiberglass cloth I plan to use. This will make it easier for me to put them all together when the time comes to actually fiberglass it.

Here's a better look at how I try and keep track of which pieces go where. Of course, whatever works best for you will do just as well.

Finally, here's a closeup of the edge of the sword. Edges break easily, so you're going to want to make sure you have cloth covering them. Here, I've taped two strips of cloth along the edges so I could cut them to shape at the tip. Doing this will help you get a better idea of how things will go together, especially if you're bad with spatial relations (like myself).

Now that you have everything ready and cut out, you can begin fiberglassing your weapon. Plan to do it on a nice day outside, as it gets messy and there are noxious fumes that come from the epoxy.

To do this, mix up some epoxy according to the instructions on the can, and begin coating the various pieces of cloth with it on a clean flat non-porus surface. I used a sheet of tin foil as it was easy to clean up afterward. Once you have coated the piece of fiberglass cloth, lay it on the foam weapon. Brush out any bubbles in it as you go along until all of it is flat. You will definitely see some of the foam melting and becoming deformed - this is because too much epoxy has been used. The less used the better this time around - once it dries you can always go over it again with more epoxy to fill things out. I made the mistake of using too much epoxy on one side of the sword, so I have to make up for it in the next step - Bondo. However if you're pretty good with it you shouldnt have TOO much of a problem.

Coat half of the weapon and then allow it to dry. It usually takes 2-3 hours in warm weather, but it is best to wait until it is only slightly tacky to the touch to continue. Let it sit overnight. When you're done, you will want to cut off all the parts of fiberglass that are soft or sticking up and put another piece of cloth over the gap left. Once you have finished coating the weapon, it should look something like this:

The above picture show how lumpy this came out. Its due in part to the foam melting. Be careful not to use too much epoxy so this doesnt happen to you!

Once it's all dry and not in the way, you can begin the bondoing process. This gives your prop weapon a finish layer which will look great once it is finished. There are two options you can take when using bondo - normal bondo or fiberglass bondo. The difference is described below. For my first Tetsusaiga, I used fiberglass bondo instead of fiberglassing the foam first. It didnt work too well and ended up snapping when someone hit it against the ground. Using the method above will help prevent accidental breakage of your prop weapon.

#2 Melchior on 17 years ago

[b]The almighty Bondo(TM) and what it can do for you:[/b]

Now that you have yourself a pretty cool looking blade made out of foam, it's time to begin the messy and time-consuming part. For those of you not famliar with the Bondo(tm) family of products, they are used extensively for automotive and marine body repair work. They come in a can with a tube of a catalyst putty, and dry VERY hard in approximately half an hour. Once Bondo is dry, it can be sanded and painted. While this is a little more complicated than just using wood for your prop weapon, it is a good alternative for people without woodworking tools and the knowledge of how to use them effectively.

I bought a gallon can of regular Bondo to coat Tessaiga V.2.0. I probably won't use all of it, but it's good to have around just in case, as well as for future projects. Depending on the size of your prop weapon, you may need alot less or even more. A friend of mine made Sango's 6' boomerang in much the same way, although I am unsure how much she used.

Before you begin applying bondo, read the directions on the can and make sure you understand how to use it. Adding too much hardener cream will make it dry too fast and cause it to be difficult to work with, while not adding enough will cause the bondo to not completely dry or dry soft in some areas, which creates additional work. Once you're ready, liberally apply Bondo to one side of your weapon. Do one batch at a time and do not rush this step. Optimally, you'll want about an 1/8" layer of bondo over the whole weapon. Most importantly, try not to work the bondo any more than you have to. The more you mess with it after you apply it, the more inconsistiences you may create. Once you apply it, try not to move it around too much. Below is what it will look like:

Now, wait for it to dry. About half an hour is sufficient. It should be hard to the touch, but also tacky. Repeat this process until the entire surface is covered in bondo.

Once you're done with this, you can begin the most important (and most tedious) of making your weapon - sanding. How good your weapon looks is totally dependent on how much effort you're willing to put into sanding it. After sanding down high spots and reapplying more bondo to the low spots to level things out, it will probably start to look something like this:

This is really the part that takes the most time. As you apply successive layers of bondo and repeat the sanding process, the surface of your weapon should be smoothing out nicely. At this point, make sure to cut out any soft or incomplete portions of Bondo with a utility knife and fix them so they are solid, or else you will be repairing them down the road.

You may want to also pay serious attention to the edges of your weapon now. They are the weakest points in the prop, and if not carefully covered and sanded, they will break, chip, and buckle as the weapon is used.

[b]Finish Sanding and filling[/b]

So, you're almost done sanding, eh? Great. Before you paint, you've got a few more things to do - namely finish sanding and filling small defects in the surface of the weapon. To do this, you use Filler Putty. It is available for purchase in the same place you can buy Bondo itself. It comes in a squeeze tube, is usually Red in color, and is MUCH easier to work with than Bondo. Hover, it is NOT designed to be used on the edges of a weapon, and tends to flake off or dent easily (as I have learned). So if your edges arent finished by now, take some more time with normal Bondo and make them look good. It should look something like this:

Once you're done with that, begin filling in the small defects in the surface of your weapon. Filler putty does not take long to dry, and sands much easier than Bondo, so this is a relatively easy step. Once you've gotten things smoothed out, sand with increasingly fine grades of sandpaper until it is one continuous surface. Here's what Tessaiga looked like at this stage:

Once you're done with finish sanding, wipe down the entire weapon's surface with a slightly damp cloth or tack rag to remove all the dust from the surface. If you skip this step, your paint job may suffer because of it.

[b]Priming and Painting[/b]

Finally, you're in the home stretch! If you're still with us, there isn’t much left to do! For this step you'll need the following:

- Filler Primer - This is a special type of primer which can be sanded and helps paint stick to the surface of the weapon.
- Automotive Paint (color of your choice) - This can also be purchased at an automotive parts store. Choose your color well. In some cases clearcoat finish is included in the paint, but with other colors you may need to purchase a can of clearcoat finish separately.

Now, in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area, begin primering your weapon.
Coat both sides thoroughly, and give each ample time to try. Take time at this point to use filler putty to fill in any obvious pinholes. The more thorough job you do the better it will look.

Once you're done primering, take a VERY FINE grade sandpaper (somewhere around 300-400 grit), and LIGHTLY sand the surface of the primer. If you sand off primer, you're sanding too hard. Once you're done, wipe the surface down with a slightly damp rag or tack cloth to remove dust particles.

Finally, paint. This is pretty easy, just take your time and apply the paint evenly. Not much to say. It may take alot but when you're finished it should look similar:

[b]Finish Work[/b]

I won't go into it too much here, as it's kind of Tessaiga-specific, but at this point in your project, you can begin the finishing details.
Attaching the handle, wrapping the handle, and doing any detail painting or stenciling on the blade of your weapon are all things you can pretty much figure out on your own. But just in case you're making a tesssaiga, here's some general hints:

Handle: I used a 1" diameter dowel rod, and lathed down the part of it that would be sunk into the blade. Drill a deep hole (12-18") into the end of the blade, and then stick the handle in. You may want to drip industrial adhesive in the hole too to help keep it from moving around. I also drilled into the handle through the blade and put a screw in to help keep the foam from breaking off inside the blade.

Handle Wrap: Check out the embroidered lace and cording section of your local fabric store. It took about 7 yards of cording to wrap the handle of my sword. It would probably take more had I done it correctly, but honestly I had no idea how to make an authentic handle wrap.

Fluffy fur thing: Bought some really nice long-pile fur of the internet, and made a little tube of it. I put a drawstring-type thing around the top and bottom of it, slid it onto the blade, and then pulled it tight and tied it. I also put a bit of duct tape inside too to help hold it in place. If there is a better way to do this, please let me know.

Once it's all done, you've got yourself a new prop weapon. It's a bit heavy depending on size, but (in my opinion) looks great while being more durable than cardboard-based weapons. Here are some pics of what it looks like finally!



And that brings us to the conclusion of this tutorial. I hope it helps you out! Anyone who has any specific questions can email me anytime at [email][email protected][/email].

#3 ZiggyB on 17 years ago

I'd like to say, thank you very much for posting this information.

That's just fantastic work. :)

#4 Dewy on 17 years ago

Holy crap! Thats so much work! I applaud your patience...o.o

#5 AlikNyankoChan on 17 years ago

Foolish questions...

What should we use to apply fiberglass and bondo? A normal plastic fiber brush? Metal spreader? I assume not a foam brush.

How many pounds does your Tessaiga weigh? How long and wide is it? I'd love to know mainly as a basis for comparison for making other weapons using this method.

And about how many hours(not including waits for curing) do you think making the main blade took you?


#6 Melchior on 17 years ago

[QUOTE=AlikNyankoChan]Foolish questions...

What should we use to apply fiberglass and bondo? A normal plastic fiber brush? Metal spreader? I assume not a foam brush.

I used a few cheap 1" brushes in the fiberglass application process. Assume you're going to go through a few of them, especially if you need to apply further coats, as the epoxy dries pretty fast and unless you get to it quickly you end up with a block of glue instead of a brush (I was never successful in using a brush more than once - and foam brushes don't really work all that well either).

[quote]How many pounds does your Tessaiga weigh? How long and wide is it? I'd love to know mainly as a basis for comparison for making other weapons using this method.[/quote]

Tessaiga is about 6-7 lbs. I believe the blade is 54" long, and there is 18" of handle exposed. At it's widest its around 13" and at the base of the blade its (i believe) 7". It is composed of 2" thick insulation foam at it's thickest.

[quote]And about how many hours(not including waits for curing) do you think making the main blade took you?[/quote]

Significantly less than my first attempt. I would estimate between 10 and 20 hours, including preparation time.

#7 kazamaCEO on 17 years ago

I had the same questions as AlikNyankoChan, along with whether you'd take commissions or not. :D lol, j/k... I've been thinking about fiberglassing a pair of warblades for my next costume (being that I don't have access to woodworking stuffs), but I think they would be a daunting task for someone who has never fiberglassed something before... So I'm still thinking about it... >_<

Your Tessaiga came out awesome! Thank you so much for posting this; it's cleared up a few questions I've had about the process and makes me wants to put rubber gloves on right now. *rolls up sleeves* lol ^^;;

#8 touma on 17 years ago

this is great,
for the fiber glass cloth about how much did you use and what kind?

#9 Melchior on 17 years ago

[QUOTE=kazamaCEO]Thank you so much for posting this; it's cleared up a few questions I've had about the process and makes me wants to put rubber gloves on right now. *rolls up sleeves* lol ^^;;[/QUOTE]

You DEFINITELY want to have a pair of gloves on when you work with the epoxy. I can't stress this enough. It does NOT come off anything, and skin is no exception. In addition to that, try the best you can to be ventilated as possible. A friend of mine has suffered some somewhat scary side effects from working with it, but it's perhaps because of an allergy. Still, you can't be too safe with it.

[quote=touma]for the fiber glass cloth about how much did you use and what kind?[/quote]

I used um.. A little over one bag. Each bag is about 1.5 square yards of cloth. But then I only put one layer of fiberglass in it too.

#10 Infini on 17 years ago

I've got the foam board, but I'm a little nervous about trying to get the correct shape when cutting it, since I really don't have any pattern of sorts. Did you just guess on the shape of the blade, or did you draw it out on a large paper beforehand?

It would be a huge waste of such a large piece of board if I messed up and had to buy another couple before getting the shape right, so I'd like to only have to do this once. :)

#11 Melchior on 17 years ago

I sketched it out on a large sheet of paper first, then pinned the pattern to the foam and cut it out.

#12 psythe on 17 years ago


I remember when you first posted your other tutorial, reminds me of when the majority of the posts used to be about COSPLAY ;D Outstanding post and tutorial, this should get a STICKY as it could help out with MANY people who are trying to make larger props.

I cast STICKY VOTE! =)

#13 touma on 17 years ago

I second the sticky vote this thread is too helpful not to

im slightly confused, when i searched for fiberglass and epoxy there were many diffrent kinds of both. may i ask what kinds of fiberglass and epoxy you used?

#14 Melchior on 17 years ago

The fiberglass I used is just a fiberglass cloth. To use it you just mix dump out some of the epoxy into a cup and brush it on. It'll mix with the fiberglass and harden in the span of 24 hours. You can purchase it at any automotive parts store such as Auto Zone.

It is also called fiberglass resin.

#15 touma on 17 years ago

oh ok,
it was getting confusing looking online with the diffrent types of fiberglass cloth (heres a link to see what i mean [url]http://www.shopmaninc.com/cloth.html[/url] dont know if the only diffrence is the weave)they also have something called epoxy resin.
Thanks for the info ill go look and see what they have the auto store.
Thanks again

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