Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Let's Make Cosplay: Mini Post: Specialty Edges for Blades

This is a mini blog post where I wanted to talk about how you could create a specialty edge on a blade. This is an extension off of the sheathed sword blog post and in this post I’ll walk you through how to do a wavy edge on a blade with aluminum tape.

This is tricky because you need a light tape so that it doesn’t rip the aluminum tape. Painter’s tape sticks too much and would be too hard to remove. Tape like masking tape, which doesn’t have as much adhesive, would be ideal.

What you should do is attach this tape to the blade’s edge and then draw out whatever wavy edge design that you want to have on the blade. Use an exacto knife and run it along the wavy lines you drew carefully so that you can pull off a piece to expose the first edge. Sand that one way. After you sand it, put the tape back over that section and peel off the tape from the other section. Sand that in a direction different to how you sanded the first section and you’ve got a specialty edge! 

Let's Make Cosplay: Sheathed Sword

The sheathed sword prop was a prop that was a Youtube watcher suggested. It was a really interesting prop that I wanted to make so I chose to create it and gift it to the viewer, especially because I wanted to create a set of videos that also covered how to make a sheath that would comfortably hold a sword properly without denting the tip of the blade (which is a common problem with many sheathes). Most sheathes have a flat bottom and causes the tip of the blade to wedge flat onto the bottom which damages the tip. Interested in seeing how this prop was made? Check out our videos at

The materials I used were as follows: lambent flooring, 1/8 inch medium density fiber board (MDF), #4 half inch Philips flat head wood screws, 1/2 inch PCV pipe, 1/2 inch wood dowel rod, aluminum tape, a wood ring, friendly plastic, poster board, white glue, cement glue, red pleather, and acrylic paint (tan,gold and mango colors).

The tools that I used were as follows: a hand saw, an exacto knife, a heat gun, a yanky push drill, a Philips screwdriver, a rasp, a file, a pair of scissors, some sponge brushes, a 80 and 150 grit sanding sponge, a fine tip marker, and some rulers.

Before we start I want to cover some issues with aluminum coating. Before you coat anything in aluminum coating you need to make sure you start with a firm and ridged material. Aluminum coating wrinkles really easily. If you start with a flexible or flimsy material the sword will bend and the coating will wrinkle. In order to combat that the sword needs to be strong, firm, and sturdy so it doesn’t bend and the sheath also protects the sword and keeps the sword straight while it’s sheathed so it bends less and thus lasts longer.

In order to make the sheath you will want to cut it out of the same wood as the blade and at the same size so that it will fit snugly. After that, the other portions of the sheath can be made out of whatever wood you want. I made the sheath with three layers. There is a top layer, the middle layer, and the inside layer. The middle layer of the sides of the sheath are the wood that is made from the same material as the blade. I glued some poster board to give some more wiggle room on the inside of the sheath so it would help protect the blade. You need to be able to gauge the friction that will happen when pulling the sword out of the sheath or sliding it back in and the poster board helps decrease the friction.

After I get all those portions cut out (the sides and the insert at the bottom of the sheath to protect the bottom of the blade) and the poster board glued in I took a wood planer and rounded the edges of the sheath, making sure that everything lined up before I finished rounding the edges of the sword and sheath. If you find any holes in the sheath after you’re done rounding off edges and you put the sheath together you can use friendly plastic to fill them.

After you’re done with that portion of the sheath you can move to the handle of the blade. I chose to use a piece of ½ inch pvc pipe. I cut a slit down one side of it so that I could heat up the pipe and wrap it around the nub I made on the blade to insert it into the handle. You can heat up the pipe with a heat gun. After you’re done wrapping the PVC over the nub you need to put screws through the PVC and into the nub potion to keep the handle firmly onto the sword. You’ll want to do 4 to 6 screws (2-3 on each side of the handle). If your sword weighs more, you’ll want to put in more screws for support.

In order to make the ring portion of the handle I decided to take a wood ring. The problem with using wood is that you always have to be careful in regards to the grain. If you screw against the grain in the wood it will cause the wood to splinter. Since wood rings have grains that go in every direction it is impossible to put in a screw in a wooden ring because it would splinter. Since I couldn’t screw it in to mount the ring into the handle I chose to use friendly plastic because it is extremely hard and durable after it’s dried. I put a small slit in the ring so that it would mount a little better to the PVC pipe before I globbed on friendly plastic to make sure that the ring sticks extremely well and firmly to the PVC handle. Friendly plastic sticks quite well to things that are rough in texture and this helped to anchor the ring and the PVC together.

After the friendly plastic dried and fully hardened I took some red pleather and began to wrap it around the handle. I mounted the pleather to the PVC pipe with a screw before I glued around it to make sure that it stayed firmly and didn’t get pulled off. After that, you need to wrap up the handle, overlapping the pleather halfway over the piece before it so you get a thick double layer grip and a nice crease. After you wrap it fully from the top of the handle to the bottom you need to put a screw in the other end through the pleather and into the PVC. Make sure the wrapping around the PVC pipe is tight so that it doesn’t slip so that you lose your grip.

After you’ve got these parts all assembled and ready to go you can get ready to paint. You should sand all the edges of the sheath to make sure that all of them are smooth and you should also lightly sand the ring so that it will take well to the pain and not have weird textures across the wood.

Since there are holes where screws are on the sheath I used friendly plastic to hide the holes.
As a note, I choose to use friendly plastic as a patcher because I use my heat gun for a lot of crafting and the friendly plastic works well with that. It’s not an end all patcher. You could also use resin. I just prefer friendly plastic because it’s more convenient for me.

To start painting, you will need to put a base coat on the prop of whatever color you want the prop to be.  With dark gold I use a brown base coat. If it’s a light gold I use a tan or a grey depending on what color the gold is. Metallic paints don’t take to whatever you’re painting the first time so you need a base coat. The primer you choose changes up how the metallic color will show later.

After you paint and varnish the sword and sheath it’s time to bring out the aluminum tape. For this, patience is the most necessary thing you need. You have to be VERY careful because this material is VERY easy to wrinkle or to misalign. Also, if you don’t have a big piece of aluminum tape to cover an area, take advantage of existing lines and edges to hide the creases. You’ll need about one foot wide aluminum facing tape. Contact paper brushed nickel also exists so you could use that as an alternative. Note, you don’t want to layer aluminum tape over itself because you can see the edges come through and it look like cracks. Also, make sure that you use a very stable and unmoving material as a base.

While you’re attaching the aluminum tape you need to peel away the adhesive protection slowly and work with it. Take a straightedge (I used a putty tool) to push it down. As you go make sure there are no air bubbles or cracks. Get it done. At some point you might have to layer over a piece of aluminum. Try to get it to stick as little as possible over the edge. Cut the edge with the exacto knife to pull the piece of aluminum tape away and you have a clean edge from piece to piece with no overlap.

The trick to making it look realistic is to sand it. For this, you’ll need some sanding sponges. You’ll want a rougher sanding sponge for the side of the blade that needs to look like it is being used. Just use it a little bit to give some direction and nick so that it looks like it’s being sanded against a stone. Use a lighter sanding sponge for the side that isn’t being used to remove the shine.

If you want to bring out the grooves you can also go in with a wash to bring out the scratches that you put in with the #35 sanding sponge and it will create more detail work. If you do it right you’ll have enough grit to distinguish it from the sword without it looking super old.

That’s the tutorial for this weapon! I did have some tips about how you could do a custom specialty edge on your blade and we’ll have that up in another blog post following this one titled specialty blade edges. As always, if you have any questions please check out our youtube or email us at

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mini Post: Technique: Base Painting

Base painting is EXTREMELY important when you go to paint a prop. Coating a prop with a base coat of paint ensures that later layers will stay on the prop and that it all paints evenly. It also smooths out the surfaces and makes sure the paint will go on more evenly. It is a good idea to coat with a base color similar to the color the prop will be. However, altering the color of the base coat will alter the color of the top coat overall.

Do note: you ALWAYS need to make a base coat for metallic paints. :)

Mini Post: Technique: Dry Brushing

Dry brushing is a nice way to put on some detail onto a prop. They can give an allusion of lines or shadows. The key to dry brushing is that you take as much paint off the brush as possible. Brush specific areas and then go into deeper areas to pound the pigment in. You should stay with blacks or dark browns when dry brushing to get the best effect. Also, you should also make sure to do a wash prior to dry brushing. 

Let's Make Cosplay: Creepy Book

This book was made for a person who suggested it as a prop. The premise behind this book would be that it would look like it was floating. The person who wanted the book suggested that we use acrylic but that really didn’t work because it would be too heavy if it was made purely out of acrylic. He also wanted to make sure that it bounced and looked like it was moving while it was floating.  You can find all the videos corresponding with this prop on Youtube at .

The list of materials I used are as follows: 1 inch eps foam, 1/4 inch eps foam, 1/4th inch MDF, twist ties, poster board, 1 carbon fiber rod, 1/8 inch pvc sheeting, heavy bundling wire, strapping, wonderflex, paint (you will need tan, black, brown, gold, and silver), fishing line, varnish IPS weld on 2007, cement glue, #4 half in, Philip flat head wood screws #8, 1.5 inches Philips flat head wood screws, and finishing nails. 

            The tools that I used were as follows: hand saw, exacto knife, heat gun, sculpting tools, yanky push drill, Philips screwdriver, hole puncher, dropper, syringe dropper, dremmel, box cutter, rasp, file, scissors, sponge brushes, colored fine tip markers, rulers, and circle template.

The fist thing you're going to need to make is the support structure. This structure is going to be your base. Without it there is really no way the prop will be able to sit up properly and be supported. The support structure will have two parts; the book and a harness structure that will be the base to hold up the book.

           For the book, the easiest way to have done this would be to make it out of foam. However, foam is not extremely strong and it is easily damaged. You could easily have gaping holes where you can see the inside foam. We will start with the foam and later add PVC to cover over it to protect it.

            The harness will push a plate onto his back with two brass tubes. The brass tubes would be where the carbon fiber rods would slide in and as such would fit snugly, giving the allusion that the book was floating. If the tube wasn’t in the right position you could bend the tubes to be in the right position or you can bend the tubes to bring them up up or down to shift the friction and make it easier or harder to take off.

                In order to make the book bounce I chose to install carbon fiber rods to make the book wiggle a bit and allow it to bounce. When completed, the book will look like a book with two rods sticking out of the bottom. In the original design, the carbon fiber rods were supposed to go through a jacket and get into the tubes.

First, you will need to heat up the carbon fiber rod and bend them before you tie them down to the foam. To attach the support plate to the foam I drilled holes in so that there was a place to use twist ties to hold the carbon fiber rods together to the support plate. The plate is in the center of the book to take all the weight so that everything can be mounted to the support plate instead of the foam. After that, I took two pieces of foam and cut them to the size he wanted and then cut a piece of 1/4 inch foam sheeting and made a hole in it so that it would fit so that it looked like two pieces of foam with another piece sticking out. This was all glued together with insulation 78.

Obviously foam is not the most durable material so the cover of the book is going to be made with PVC sheeting. It’s also thermafomable so you can do the entire book binding in one piece with the PVC sheeting. I took a big rectangle and shaped a binding by folding over the edges twice.

Next, if you look at reference pictures, there were metal bits on the inside of the binding. To recreate that in the prop I took some wire and bent u shape staples. I painted them in black then gold before I mounted them into the PVC and then mounted the PVC to the foam since it would be hard to paint after it was mounted. After that, I painted the inside cavity so that that section would be done. I would normally paint everything last but since this was an interior piece and there were other details going on top of this stuff it was necessary to paint it first.

In order to give the book more protection I cut some pieces of mdf wood to cover the book and make sure that it was protected. The book was only around half a pound but it was still kind of heavy for what it was made to do.

With the back and binding done it’s time to work on the face. I positioned the face and then realized that I had to cut off a chunk of the front cover so that I could inset the layers that were going to come on after it. I heated up the PVC sheeting, cut it out, put a depression in the foam to accommodate the face and details of the book. Unfortunately, this required me to reposition some screws that were mounting the front cover, back cover, and foam to the central support plate. After I adjusted the screws and made sure that everything would be covered up and they provided the necessary support I took another bit of PVC sheeting and heated it up before I pushed it into the hole.

I then began to work on the decorative cover, making sure that I had it all glued together with ip 2007 plastic glue. Making sure that it is screwed and glued ensures you that it definitely mounted. Make sure that everything you want done is done correctly before this step because you won’t be able to pull the prop apart after this.

After that, I sanded up the binding so that I could give it a correct texture. I used a rasp to give it the scratchy look and after that I began to work on stencils for the details that were going to go on the book. This is where you basically try your best to recreate a specific pattern or detail that you want.

After this, I created a decorative edge for the back with wonderflex. In order to attach the wonderflex you will need to heat it up with a heat gun before you put it on the back. This will cleverly hide all the screws as well.

After I’m done stenciling and putting on that edge I put on the piece of one inch foam and draw the face onto the foam as much as I can. After you draw on the face, you can use your rasp and start cutting into the most defined areas. Leave areas that are supposed to stick out alone. After you do that, you might go back in and redraw the face again so that you can plan how you’ll carve the rest of it. After you’re done carving the face you will need to get some more wonderflex and heat it up before you stretch it all across the foam face. Press the wonderflex firmly against the foam so that you can get all the details. Using sculpting tools to do this will help define your lines better. The wonderflex is strong and durable and ensures that you won’t have foam pieces breaking off of the book. After you’re done with the wonderflex, you can put your stencil up to the top of the book and make sure everything’s stenciled right. Do NOT use sharpie or marker because that will bleed easily. Use paint or a base coat so that it won’t show through the paint. Put everything in where you want it to go and make sure everything looks in place.

Once everything is in place, mark everything on the wonderflex before you slowly take out the warm wonderflex off of the foam. Then you can slowly carve all the details out of the wonderflex and paint it. Make sure you cover the prop with a base coat. Start off with a flat color, especially because we will need to dry brush later to give the book an older appearance. After you paint the book with a base color you can wash the entire thing (paint washing the entire prop allows for the foam to take on some more texture). I used grey as the base coat for the silver paint. Don’t forget, you HAVE to base coat anything before painting with metallic paint because metallic paint tends not to stick. I also washed the inside of the book because there are lots of cracks and crevices in the book and I wanted to pull out all those details. The only part that you should not wash is the portion with the gold detailing because the gold detail looks so new and shiny.

Once you have the binding on the book you should take a saw and run slits down the foam to make it look like the book has pages. You will need a really fine blade to do this job because if you use a thick blade it will not look realistic. After that, you can take a rough sanding sponge and run it down the lines so that it looks more like pages and thus mitigates possible damage.

Now it’s time to dry brush. The key to dry brushing is that you take as much paint off the brush as possible. Brush specific areas and then go into deeper areas to pound the pigment in. You should stay with blacks or dark browns when dry brushing and it is best to dry brush after putting the wash on the prop.

After this, I painted the silver pigment on the face and put a black wash onto it to bring out the details on the face. If you didn’t wash the face it would be much harder to see the detail when you take a picture of the prop. After that, I painted the back with a un-uniform metallic silver. To do this, you need to put blotches on the paint and then work into the paint that is already on the surface.

In order to define one of the edges of the book I took a dry brush and began brushing a lighter color on at an 90 degree angle to make it look like it had more of an edge on the side that was being used the most. I used a tan bit on the binding on the side and for the pages because you are trying to  bring out different which brings out the emphasis on how pages look. You want to do this same technique with raised edges as well. However, make sure you are not using metallic paint with this technique because you cannot see the detail.

After you are done painting you will just need to put everything together.

I chose to finish this prop a different way because the person who wanted this prop wanted the prop to extend much farther than what we agreed upon. I chose to finish this with a stand which involved me taking long strips of acrylic. I heated them up and bent them (one piece for a central stand and two for smaller legs to make an X). You can glue these together with IPS #3 for acrylics and then set some screws in there to ensure that all three pieces are stuck together. Unfortunately, with the new method I went about this I had to open up the book again so that I could adjust how I was going to mount this. I opened the book up and cut out the carbon fiber rods and I used the screws that were holding the book to the center plate to stop the acrylic sheeting when it was inserted into the book. I cut a notch into the foam so that there was a slit for the plastic acrylic to slide into the book and hit the screws. The foam allows the book to be held in place on the acrylic sheeting.

Do note, a piece of acrylic is not really strong enough to hold weight, especially in wind. It will flop over. I heated up the main shaft and curved it so that it would have more strength and be able to hold more and be more resistant to breaking. Bending the plastic gives it more area to apply force as compared to a straight piece that is easier to snap. I also attached another piece of plastic on the base of the main piece of acrylic that is going straight up to add additional support. The pieces of clear acrylic sheeting look like a pyramid. Do your best to keep it blemish free because if you scratch it the effect will be damaged. If you don’t look for it you cannot see the acrylic stand. However, since the prop is extremely top heavy a good wind will knock it over. Be VERY careful when you’re moving around. I suggest that if you’re walking that you should take it off and put it on only when you’re getting a picture taken.

That’s it for this prop! As always, if you have any questions please feel free to email us at! 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Let's Make Cosplay: Prop Sword

This was an interesting prop that I had made for one of my assistant’s friends.

I used the following materials: 5 inch pcv pipe, 3 millimeter silver acrylic sheeting, IPS Weld on #3, friendly plastic, resin, a carbon fiber rod, EPS foam, plastic skulls, 3M insulation 78, plaster of Paris, white glue, hot glue, #4 half in, 4 inch Philips flat head wood screws, one inch philips flat head wood screws, and black and sliver acrylic paint.

I used the following tools: a hand saw, a hot knife, a heat gun, a yanky push drill, a Philips screwdriver, a rasp, a file, sponge brushes, an 80 grit sanding sponge, a mixing container, some mixing sticks, paper towels, a fine tip marker, and some rulers.

To start off this prop, I began with cutting the silver acrylic. Now, most people probably won’t be using this because it is extremely expensive and rare to find. However, I chose to use this material because of its look. I began by drawing my template onto the plastic. Your sword will differ depending on what sword you’re looking to create and the reference art you have.

In order to create a crisp ridge along the spine of the sword you’ll need to use the hot knife to cut in the middle of the sword before you bend it. The line that you cut into the back of the blade will make a sharper edge. After you make this incision you will need to start heating up the acrylic before you can start to shape the sword before you put these two pieces together to form the sword.

After you have finished molding both sides of the sword pieces you will need to put both pieces together. You should start by taping these pieces in place so that the pieces line up correctly and that they match each other. Slowly use the heat gun to heat up both pieces of the acrylic pvc sheeting while gluing them together with the ips weld on #3 for acyrlics. Be careful with the heat or you may cause the plastic to deform. This process is also very difficult because you need to make sure you seal the entire sword up completely or the resin will leak out.

Note: If you find that you have holes when you pour in your resin you can use some friendly plastic to seal those holes temporarily until the resin hardens. I checked to see if it leaked by testing it with water and plugged all the holes with friendly plastic before I went any farther.

Before you pour the resin in you want to insert something into the blade that reinforces the structure a little more. I used a carbon fiber rod and a long piece of PVC pipe down the length of the sword. This would be reinforced by the resin and allow for more stability and rigidity through the entire prop. After that, I filled the entire sword with resin and allowed it to harden and dry.

While that’s sitting you can focus on the more complicated parts of this prop.  I definitely found this to be the ribcage and the arms. I cut EPS  foam for all these pieces and used insulation 78 spray to glue them all together. Insulation 78 spray is really easy to use. All you do is spray the pieces that are going to be stuck together, rub the pieces together to make sure that the entire surface is covered, let it sit for a bit so that all sides can get slightly sticky, and then put those pieces all together. After all the pieces are stuck together you can begin to use the rasp and files to cut the basic shape out.

Some people ask about you can manipulate the texture of foam. The texture of your foam differs with how well you sand the foam. Sanding foam is much easier to sand than other materials. For this prop, a more pitted look was more ideal so I left it that way. I made some plaster of Paris to paint onto the foam and fill in details. After the plaster of Paris is dry you can work to sand the plaster of Paris to work on whatever form you want to make.

Now we want to attach the entire piece together. This is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT because you need to make sure the entire prop is well supported throughout the entire piece. If there isn’t good structure there will be no way to do any action with the prop without it breaking so make sure that your prop is structured well throughout. The blade is well structure with the PVC rod, carbon fiber rod, and resin. You will need to make sure the handle and the base are well supported as well.

I chose to attach the chest piece onto the sword before putting anything else onto the blade. I attached this piece with hot glue.  

After that, I used the hot knife to cut through the plastic of the blade where the sword arms would be inserted and stuck in before I cut out the section that the handle would be inserted in.

In order to get the skull details on the sword, I used the plaster of Paris to fill the skulls to give them more rigidity and strength. The horns that went onto the sword were made from pieces of PVC sheeting cut into triangles. Lightly heat them with a glue gun before you wrap them into cones.

After these details were done, I used the hot glue gun to mount the arms in place and to attach the skull onto the sword. In order to make sure the skull stayed on the prop I inserted a screw into each skull which also held open the jaw for a more eerie and creepy look. You will need to put filler into the sides of the skulls to make them look nice. White glue and plaster of Paris will get the job done.

After that all that is done it is time to paint the skull section of the prop. I used acrylic paint mixed with plaster of Paris to paint the skulls. The reason I mixed the paint with the plaster of Paris was to ensure that in case the skulls got damaged the paint job wouldn’t matter too much because it would be painted all the way through.

After this it’s time to finish some more minor details for the prop. I made the decorative bits for the handle and the tip of the cone out of foam. It’s much easier to sculpt and shape the detailed bits from foam. After you cut those pieces and finish them you can glue and mount the decorative bits for the handle. Then you can move to cut the grip for the handle from the foam. You can use the same trick for the sword to do the grooves of the handle, cutting in the middle before you cut out the curves. These curves go on the outside and is purely decorative. After that, you cut the triangles out for the spikes.

After all the foam pieces are cut cover all of it in modpodge. This is to give it elastic resistance to cracking. By covering it in modgpodge the prop will take damage and the paint will stretch. I personally used three layers of modpodge on these pieces to make sure that they were fully covered.

After that I primed all the foam and everything else that hadn’t been painted to be painted, using a black paint to cover everything. Don’t forget, priming pieces with paint before you do your paint job is very important! After the black primer coat was dry I began painting the silver. I used a dry brush to brush on the silver paint and dabbed at the prop with the brush so that the prop looked like it was made out of bone and that the dented parts looked more dented.

That is the basic gist of how I made this prop sword! If you’re interested in more details, please check out all the related videos on our youtube, located at . If you search prop sword you will find our individual videos for that project! As always, if you have any questions, feel free to shoot us an email at or find us on facebook at