All "How do I make [______] sword questions

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#1 Marsalla on 15 years ago

Ive been noticing a rash of questions on the board lately on how to make certain swords. Ive decided instead of everyone replying to the threads posting basically the same advice I would share my personal experiances, as well as give others a place to post their methods which can [U]**HOPEFULLY** [/U] be made sticky. Im going to basically outline the couple methods which I know best, which are by far [U]NOT[/U] the only methods to making props.

The first method which I am sure every has read is the fiberglass and resin over foam method. There are several links posted as to how to do this, but some people [like me] hate linking to a different page, so here goes.

The first step when making any prop [in my opinion] is to get everything on paper. And I do mean everything. Front, top, side, bottom, back, inside out, etc views are very recommended with tentative dimensions or ratios. I.E. My Zabuza sword is 5'10" long, 18" wide, and 2" thick for just the blade. The hole is a 6" diameter circle, etc etc.

After you have your idea fairly concrete go out and purchase your foam. I personally got a sheet that was 4'x8' at Lowes for about 11 bucks with tax, not bad. For most projects you will not use even 1/4 of the foam you buy.

Once you get the foam to your work area [Can be tricky, its a big rectangle that weighs next to nothing, tying it down in a truck is the only safe way to transport IMO], this is where you transfer your idea on paper onto the foam. Sharpie marker works like a charm, and does not eat through the foam. In this stage, you can see almost perfectly how your finished prop will look. Admitted, it will have a [U]LOT[/U] of extra foam around it, but you can lay your hands in rough position and check for proportion to your body. Artist note: a straight edge, piece of yarn, square, and other drafting tools help get very nice lines for cuts, but are by no means the only tools you need, or have to have.

This is the stage where most people mess up, the cutting phase. Insulation foam can be cut using just about anything, the problem is that with some tools the cut is bad, jagged, splintered, or is not a square cut. Any number of cutting implements can be used from kitchen knives, sawzawls [omg i hope thats not a southern term], hot wire cutters, etc. Since most tools will have some problem with their cut, I leave about 1/4 to 1/8 inch buffer around where I want the final line to be.

The next phase is where you get out the sand paper. Im sure a power sander COULD work, but there is always that lack of control and the possibility of removing too much, or even breaking off sections. Im not going to go into a long essay on grit of the paper, but basically the rougher it feels, the more it removes, but leaves a rougher surface behind. This is where the true detail of the finished piece comes together. It also allows you to fine tune your blades edge, roughen out any bad cut areas, make things round, and basically gives the final form to whatever you want to design. The biggest thing to remember is patience is key, also you might want to invest in a rubber band dust mask to keep from inhailing styrofoam chips and dust. Im not sure if its toxic, but who wants stuff that doesn't biodegrade sitting in their lungs?

Ok, not lost yet? If not, then we are on to the next step which is actually applying the fiberglass and resin. I have never really used the fiberglass tape, so I cant give you heads or tails on how good it is, but ive heard its kind of nice since its adheasive on 1 side, and you can apply resin to the other, but ...... how strong is that 1 adheasive side? Who knows, I don't. Ok, going on, this is going to be the messiest, longest, and most health hazardous step, so PLEASE DEAR GOD protect yourself. Resin gets hot as it cures, its sticky as anything, when it cures its as sharp as a razor, it stains, is hard to remove from clothing/hair/skin, is toxic, and does not stay crunchy in milk. In other words, its bad stuff, wear gloves, goggles, a filtered rubber breathing mask [if one is available, if not do in a WELL ventilated area], old clothes, put your hair up, and have someone on hand to scratch your nose and that spot on your back. K, if your suited up and ready to go, read the directions on your resin. Most have their own ratio, blending method, cure time [time taken to completly dry and become hard], tacky time [the time before it gets tacky and starts to be hard to work with], etc. Once you have the directions in your mind as to how long you have to work with the resin, get out your fiberglass. Most often it comes on huge rolls, so you will need to make it more managable. Simple household scissors can cut it up, so get em out and get to snipping. It helps to have 3 or more different sized pieces. Like any material, the big stuff is used to cover big surfaces, the small stuff is for curves, detail work, and odd corners/places. So now that all your stuff is prepped, get that mask on and mix up your resin in an old container which you dont mind throwing away. Moms brand new tupperware, pots and pans, and animal food bowls are not recommended mixing containers. Rubber bowls, gallon buckets, empty coffee cans, etc. are good mixing containers. Now just dunk the fiberglass into the resin and remove. It should be kinda clear/yellowish tinted, this is good. Squeegee off a LITTLE of the excess resin so its not slopping everywhere and apply. Lather, rinse, repeat for the first layer. Artist Note: Other folk like to leave the resin slopping around and use an old disposable paint brush to smooth the surface, works for some, doesn't for others. Just giving yall what works for me. By the by, cloth weight/weave and resin types are not covered because there are so many. Ask around in the hardware store what the would recommend to refinish a surfboard or do spot repairs on your car. 30 bucks for a gallon of resin, and about 50 bucks for a huge roll of fiberglass is about right, but I could by off by a couple hundred depending on your area and what kind you buy and quantity you buy :).

After the resin has fully cured [Some take 12, 24, up to 48 hours], suit back up and get out that power sander! Hand sanding is ok too, but takes more time at this stage. At this stage your not too concerned with damaging anything, you just want to smooth out the big areas. [Some people apply a quick layer of spray paint so they can see their peaks and valleys beind sanded, works for some, not for others, do what makes you happy/comfortable] Once you get the big valleys semi sanded down, go back up a step and apply at least another layer of fiberglass and resin to make sure its nice and strong. The only note is to rotate the weave 90 degress from the original. If you applied the weave going north/south on the first layer, apply it east/west on the second, then north/south on the first, etc etc.

And thats it in a [BIG] nutshell. Resin can be painted much like any surface, so get out those paints and get to it. The final product will be sorta milky white/clear/yellow depending on your resin. If the paint is having a problem applying you might wanna get some light grit sand paper and rough the surface a bit to give the paint something to adhere to. Kinda like how you cant paint on glass very easily cuz its so smooth? Also can take details such as cloth athletic or leather tape for grips, yarn, buttons, widgets, whatsits, cogs and sprockets.

TADA your prop is done!

#2 Marsalla on 15 years ago

The other method is for a blade or blade/hilt/handle that is entirely made of poured resin, this can be used to acieve an entirely clear, or tinted look. This is basically a copy and paste from when I explained to MemoriesOfYuna how to make the brotherhood blade from FFX. Editing is not my forte, so its unedited, just read brotherhood as "your sword"

First you need to decide on size. The bigger the sword, the less detail you have painstakingly (sp) carve into it. Plus a bigger size is a bit forgiving in post pour cleanup. [Note: Whenever you cast ANYTHING there are always imperfections from air bubbles, overcasting, cast lines, etc etc etc.]. Im not talking make the sword twice as big, but make it as close to actual proportions as you can, you will be thanking me later. [Note: more materials will be needed, but it will save sanity, casting things that are inherantly small totally sucks.]

The second step is to actually design the sword..... on paper. This is where you go through and decide how you want it to look. ALL the final details should be banged out here. Im talking, measurements on blade length, width, thickness. The dimensions of the bubbles as a group, as individuals. The handle, etc etc etc. This is where you also decide on the color scheme. Exactly how far down the blade do you want opacity to shift to clear? Etc etc etc.

Third step is materials. This is where the fun starts. Whenever im making a mold to cast something, I do a 1:1 scale of whatever im casting. In this case, your gonna be casting the sword, so you need to do a 1:1 of the sword. This can be out of wood/metal/etc. This is where all that hard work of planning comes into effect. So initially the materials you will need will be for creating the mock up. For most people, just making the mock up is good enough. But if you want to go super accurate and "realistic", you will need to keep on going.

Third step B. This is the part that sucks. I usually create 2 box shapes out of wood. 2x4's and plywood work very well, plus you need to get some caulk and caulk the joints. This ensures that the box is liquid tight. Now, ive never made much success otherwise, so im gonna give you my personal method. I make casts for resin using latex. Yes, latex. Im lucky enough to know industry people who do this stuff all day, so they give me a deal on latex materials by the 5 gallon bucket. [I.E. I have no clue on price for this].

The fourth step is to basically make an armature to hold the prop halfway suspended in the lower box, coathangers, wire, nails, whatever. )After spraying the prop to be cast with a generous, but not gloping amount of release agent). Then you pour the latex into the UNCOATED wooden box with the sword suspended into it. BUT FOR GODS SAKE DO NOT POUR THE LATEX OVER THE SWORD. You will wear off the relase agent and get it into the latex, which will play hell with the finished cast. The idea is to split the sword as CLOSE to half way as possible, or its gonna play hell with the pour. After the 1 side has dried spray the prop, and the latex "blank" areas that have set with more release agent, this ensures that you have 2 halves of the mold, and it allows the finished cast to be removed. Next I take the other half box and seal/secure it over the top, and pour more latex into it in the way of the first. Usually ill create a hole in 1 of the corners so im not dumping it directly onto the sword, but rather its flowing over it from the side. You want to make sure that the latex has TOTALLY set between doing the 1st and second boxes, or your screwed. After everything has finished setting, you want to remove the 1 halves of your mold and pray that you used enough release agent. If everything worked out correctly, you have 2 "halves" of your prop and are ready to go.

Last step, this is the tricky part, for most props, when you cast something you have a pour point, usually at the top/bottom/side/wherever and just dump the resin in and whenever it sets, tada, your prop is cast. Edit : Whenever you do your final pour, of resin into the mold, you need to coat both sides with a generous amount of release agent. This makes sure the resin doesnt bond, or attempt to bond with your mold. Also, whenever you do start pouring, the 2 halves need to be SECURED together. I personally hinge one side, and screw home made brackets into the other 3 to totally lock the box down. If you dont have it secure, the resin might run out leaving a puddle of goo that is a royal pain to clean. Thats it for the edit ... I think. Im tired so I might have missed something.

For this project however, we are trying to make the blade totally opaque at the top, and taper to a transparent at the cutting edge. Im going to be trying something kinda weird with this to accomplish this, so this isnt the step for making most props, its just a step im going to try and see on the brotherhood. What im going to do is cut away a portion of the mold on the topside of the sword so that it is entirly open. Basically the mold will be entirely intact, except for the wood and latex op the top edge of the blade. What this will HOPEFULLY allow me to do will be to pour resin in increasingly tinted shades until I get it very very blue at the top.

Creator note [that means me ]: Im not entirely sure how to cast this though. Meaning, im not 100% positive if I have to pour a little, tint the rest, let it set a bit, pour more, tint more, etc etc etc. Or if I can pour, let set, make more resin, tint, pour, let set, etc etc. Im assuming I will need to do something akin to the first method. I am thinking that if the resin totally sets, then a new layer is poured, the layers could possibly seperate, meaning the blade will fall apart into nice neat layers; or if it will just look like total garbage because there will be very distinct start and stop points to the tinting.

If all else fails, you will have a nice mold for the brotherhood, and could just experiment with tint intensities and cast it all 1 color, but whats the fun in that? Also, before you go to this long drawn out process, you might want to make a mold of a block/circle/whatever shape you want; and try different pour methods to achieve your final cast. Im still thinking a bit of the pour, tint, let semi harden, pour, MAYBE mix the 2 layers a bit with a wooden paint stirrer, lather, rinse, repeat would be the best option though.

Final note [I swear this time] I have done resin casting in the past, just nothing this complex in terms of coloring the resin and getting the color to change through out the piece. If anyone wants to try this, let us know how it works. Ill probably be attempting this in a few months once I get my Zabuza 100% and I finish my other orders. Anyway, this was supposed to be the simple version, guess it got complicated. Best of luck!

Edit: If anyone has any questions on my method, my AIM is [email][email protected][/email]. Im on it sometimes, sometimes im not. Your best bet to reach me would be to serial stalk me on AIM till I go online, which I usually do a couple times a day, or just post here and Ill give input.

#3 Marsalla on 15 years ago

Self propping time! Hopefully we can get people to contribute their methods? Paper mache? Gesso? Wood? Plaster? ANYONE!?

#4 Elvenwolf on 15 years ago

Well, I'm no expert in swordmaking, but I just finished sanding my samurai sword in woodshop today. It's not bad and I suspect the wood warped a little. Anyways, I basically just went through the threads on to find people's ideas and I just recently found one of my own and I think it will work. Just keep in mind that this is a theory for a samurai sword, but it is a logical one (at least to me).

Machines/Tools/Materials you'll use/need:
-Radial Arm saw
-Table saw
-Sander (belt or sandpaper = your best friends)
-Files of varying teeth
-Chisel (? if you really mess up or need to get an edge w/o cutting)
-Protective eyewear like goggles
'Stain (optional)
'Few pieces of hardwood
'Wood biscuit (optional)
'Chrome or metallic paint/spraypaint

1. Get the measurements of the sword you are making - width, height, length of all the parts. If you don't know a friend with the sword you have in mind, go online and find measurements for a similar sword and then estimate on what you think looks proportional. Luckily, my friend had a samurai sword so I took measurements from that and online. Tips: Definitely know the thickness of everything from the bottom of the blade to the tip of it.

2. Make a template of the sword. Either trace out an available one or draw one on paper from your measurements. Use pencil to do a rub on to the wood or pen; if you are using pen, you will have to cut out the shape and tape it onto a piece of wood, then use tick marks to indicate the edges of the blade.

3. Woodshop time. I worked with pine and it's a soft but strong wood. Other people have recommended it while I've heard other hardwoods are also okay, but more difficult to work with/carve. Basswood I hear is also good. Anyways, find a piece of wood and cut it in to the length and width of the blade. Since a samurai sword's blade is curved, you want to make sure the wood is wide enough to cut into and make that curve. Leave a bit extra so that you can make a joint with the handle.

4. Put it through a planer. Take the thickest part of the blade, adjust it, and send the piece right on through.

5. Cut the width and even height if you so desire of the end of the blade so it will fit into a handle (look at parts of swords/pictures of parts for reference). Do not make it a curved tang - having a straight cut rectangle is easier to work with.

6.. Now that you know the length of the handle, leave some room for your tsuba or handguard. Use a bandsaw to cut out the template of your blade. Make sure the small space of wood where your tsuba will slide onto is rectangular.

7. Sanding time. Use a sander to bevel the blade. You must have very steady hands to do this. Make a line down the middle of your sword where the edge is supposed to be. Clamp your sword either between tables or have the edge side pointing towards you so that you can angle the sander to create the edge. Go with the grain when you sand from the bottom of the blade to the tip. Make sure you leave a thicker portion of the wood to make the collar. Or you could do it separately, but it may be easier to just have it made from the same piece of wood. Touch up with sandpaper going from low to high grit. You can also use a file to make a flatter edge vs. the rounded one you may get from using sandpaper.

8. Make the tsuba. Decide if you want an oval shape or round shape. I hear you can use a wood biscuit or cut a piece of wood, send it through the planer, and cut out the rectangular shape you made at the end of your blade, which will be going into the handle. Once you've shapened your tsuba/carved it, slide it from the tip of the blade to the rectangle. It should be fairly snug, and if it doesn't fit, sand or use a file. You can use glue, but it should fit onto the sword well enough.

9. You can do this step before putting on the tsuba:
Measure and make the handle out of whatever hardwood you like depending on if you are going to do any carving or not. Measure the end of your cut-out blade to the handle so that the end will slide into the handle. Then cut out the handle using two pieces of wood and sandwich the three pieces together by gluing. That or find a block of wood the size of your handle and have fun with a dremel and chisel if necessary. Or, even ask your woodshop teacher for an effective way of joining the handle and the blade. In any case, your handle will be thicker and wider than your blade. Sand the blade with a sander and sandpaper.

10. Home stretch: Now that you've got your sword all fitted and sanded, you can begin to paint/stain the wood. For the blade, according to someone's tutorial and a few other propmakers, a few layers of gesso on the wood and some chrome paint will do the trick or some metallic spray paint. For the tsuba, you can gesso and paint it or stain it for a nice touch. (Of course you'll want to stain the tsuba separately then). Wrap the handle via tsukamaki, which is explained clearly on this site [url][/url]. And voila, you have a nice, wooden samurai sword.

So, that was a pretty detailed method - if you can't figure it out from there, well...I can try to explain some more, but all the tools and materials are pretty much listed.

Now my only question for any other more experience woodworkers is: Is there anything that will make the wood stronger? Like some kind of coating? The blade of my prototype samurai sword is thin, made to scale, and with the grain so it's as strong as it can be.

#5 Sarcasm-hime on 15 years ago

I've made two swords (Kamui's sword and Seifer's gunblade, pics in my gallery) and both were made out of pine, cut using a bandsaw (the only power tool involved), shaped with a pushknife, sanded, then finished using many layers of gesso, metallic spraypaint and clear lacquer. For the details I used mostly Paperclay as it adheres to the wood very well and is lightweight.

#6 Shaman Soul on 15 years ago

wow, thanks for all of those helpfull tips, i want to make auren or tidus's sword, just for fun, and mabye if i get bored, ill make the whole costume XD but thanks ! i was gonna buy wood, and cut it with one of those..... i have no clue what they are called.... whateva XD its like saw.... lol, but, its not a saw.... o.O'' its.. a circular shaped saw that spins, and you just put the wood under it and it cuts the wood thing.... ^^

#7 Elvenwolf on 15 years ago

I think you're talking about a radial arm saw that cuts across the grain...but in all honesty, I think all saws are round ^^;;; at least the machine ones. Definitely try making your own sword out of wood - it's a lot of fun.

#8 Lakidaa on 15 years ago

Well, the Jig saw is a line-shaped-saw. er.

I'd use that to cut out the basic shape of a sword, If I ever thought about making my own. I'd rater g and comission the smarter people. I'd cut my hand off. ;_;

#9 Midnight-Nin on 15 years ago

Im wondering if theres any other easier way of making a sword. Especially cheaper.... Im planning to make Renji's sword from Bleach for cosplaying in the near future and the design seems complicated. Ive read over your guys tips and are quite understandable and useful but Im not sure of myself of making something like that.

Heres a pic of the sword in an angle (its the one at the bottom):

Another one where his sword seprates:

#10 Elvenwolf on 15 years ago

Lakidaa, I was talking about machines, not hand-held tools. Then again, the bandsaw is straight >.> alright then, Midnight-Nin, do you want to make a sword that can separate? It looks somewhat similar to Ivy's sword (Soul Calibur II) and I've heard suggestions on making the different links of the sword then attaching them to some kind of reel, akin to a measuring tape reel. If your school has a woodshop, I would use it. I made my sword for free, technically, so that would be the cheapest way to go. If not, try the foam method or even posterboard. Be creative too and experiment with a few different methods, such as the "measuring tape" one if you want the sword to be able to separate.

#11 Midnight-Nin on 15 years ago

[QUOTE=Elvenwolf]...I've heard suggestions on making the different links of the sword then attaching them to some kind of reel, akin to a measuring tape reel. If your school has a woodshop, I would use it. I made my sword for free, technically, so that would be the cheapest way to go. If not, try the foam method or even posterboard. Be creative too and experiment with a few different methods, such as the "measuring tape" one if you want the sword to be able to separate.[/QUOTE]

I would like the sword to separate itself (it'll be neat too). I do have a woodshop at school, hopefully the teacher will let me try such thing (and I used to have him as a teacher :)) but I dont think I can make a sword... I wasn't allowed to last, last years. Something about "No weapon making" rule but Im sure he might let me if I told him its for cosplaying (along with other reasons -.-"). But Im wondering what you mean by the "measuring tape" way?

EDIT: OH, um making it out of wood, won't it make it heavy o_O

#12 Elvenwolf on 15 years ago

Absolutely not. You're thinking huge, solid chunks...hmm tape measurer is what I mean: [url][/url]

Ah, here's an idea! Ok, you'll have these very small hollow tubes of whatever material, plastic, can even use empty pen tubes. Y'know how you can take some pens apart right? Ok, so then you can make the sword links out of wood and use dremel to stick a link to a pen tube OR you can make several different planes (yes, think math) and glue the pieces together so you'll have a hollow link. Then attach that to a pen tube. Now we go to the tape measurer idea - put a string into the tubes and have some slack and attach it to a reel (if you have to, take the tape measurer apart and investigate). Then glue the last piece of link, the very end of the sword, to the string. Now, the links can separate (not evenly, but they can still separate) and when you want something solid, you can just pull in the slack! Yeah, that was totally made up just now and it seems like it would work in theory. Test it out first and see if it makes sense to your teacher - anyways, this really isn't a functional weapon so I don't see why this guy would have a problem. Just say you're making a prop. Ok, good luck!

#13 Midnight-Nin on 15 years ago

OMG Thank you!!!!!!!!

Thanks for the steps and explaining it all to me in a way I can understand :thumbsup: When I read it, another idea came to me... Im gonna try craft foam and see what happens but Im gonna try to use wood. Also, do you recomend a type of string? Like fishing string or something? Plus, where would the tape measurer would go? Unless I find those mini ones at dollar stores and hardware.

Im hoping that its not gonna be as heavy I keep on thinking if i were to make it out of wood Y_Y...

Anyways thanks again and thanks in advance just in case ^o^

#14 Elvenwolf on 15 years ago

Hmm, well you could actually use a mini tape measurer and see if it can pull up the links, given that they're aren't heavy enough. The first link looks twice as large as the rest, so you could build the first link around the measurer, thus hiding it while giving it a stable place to rest. I think fishing line would do...I've never made a detachable sword, but fishing string sounds pretty good + strong to me.

Anyways, make a prototype first and test out the small measuring tape, because if that tape can retract those links, then you're gold. If not, then you might have to pull in/let out the slack manually via a small reel which you can discreetly hide in the first link, yet have a small hole at the side of the link where you can turn the reel (yes, I'm thinking fishing pole type reel...haha, hey, if it works, it works!). Be creative and imaginative. You might even find some household objects that will work...heck I recently just made a pair of articulate wings out of an old umbrella I literally tore and sawed apart. So yeah, good luck with everything and let me know how it goes.

#15 Eleryth on 15 years ago

Ok, thread revival.

I notice this is about making swords... either of you have tips for making sheaths? I found one post... and it was out of wood. What if you don't have access to power tools? The biggest power tool I'd most likely have access to is one of them hand-held jigsaw things. Are there other methods? What materials did you find worked out best?

In the far future I need to make a sheath for a sword. I am just doing my research now. I can't tell what the base might be, as it's quite elaborately covered (not scrollwork, more like... a 3D-ness). The sword isn't that katana like; I think it's more like the swords from LOTR (like Narsil).

I want it to be light, and to be something I can apply a sculpting material to, like paperclay (even if I have to glue it). I figure I have to make the sword first, before making the sheath, so that I know it fits.

I was thinking of using crafting mesh, 'sewing' it together with yarn, coating with fabric/paper mache, then possibly leather or paperclay...but I don't know how well that will hold up. Would using plastic sheeting work (styrene)? I have seen Amythest Angel do awesome things with plastic and foam, but I don't know about the sheaths. Would plastic be to smooth to add paperclay to? Gotta sand it first to rough it up?

I know that I don't HAVE to make the sheath - it's just something I'd really like to make, to help complete the overall look of the costume, you know?

The sword/sheath is in this picture.... [url][/url]