This lesson is based on that on which I learned, and some experimental methods and ideas. Thanks to my LARPing friends at SUNY Purchase for helping me learn a safe way for making good boffers.
Step 1: The Materials
1) 1/2 inch PVC pipe. This will act as the core to provide support for the foam padding, and our hilt. This generally costs $2 - $4 for a 10 foot piece, higher depending on the quality. (check the PSI on the piece, the higher the number, the more durable, but lower grade does just fine for this project. The piece should be cut down to the size we need, which will be about 14 inches.
2. Duct tape. The color preference is up to you, The cost depends on where you go. Online websites tend to have the best deals, with larger roles costing about $3.25 per role of 1 in x 60 yards, to about $6.25 for 2 in x 60 yards (preferable) on tapebrothers.com. Of course, online stores like tapebrothers.com have a WIDE assortment of colors too, making them more appealing. Of course, hardware stores like ACE have a decent selection, but the roles tend to be more expensive. Look in large flea markets, sometimes god deals do come from there too, but I digress.
3. Pool Noodle. This makes up the foam padding for our boffer. You can find them at stores like poolcenter.com for about $3 for 60 inches (5 feet) of foam. I recommend poolcenter.com for this. Note however that it must have the hole down the center.
4. Electrical tape. This will be used to add grip to our hilt (handle) Depending on store, prices will vary. I once again reccoment tapebrothers.com, you can get the rainbow pack - 10 rolls of electrical tape (red, purple, blue, orange, yelow, green, white, gray, black, brown) for around $10 ($9.80 + shipping) here: http://www.tapebrothers.com/Electrical-Tape-Rainbow-Pack-p/el766clrain.htm
5. Open cell foam. Yellow, usually lightweight. This will be used to create thrusting tips, or soft squishy ends of the boffer designed for using the end of a boffer to thrust safely. For this, you have a lot of places you can turn to. Old chairs, couches, eggcrate are just three places you can find some, scavenging doesn't hurt it is all the same, and if you can't scavenge, you can buy reasonably large quantities cheaply.
6. Scissors for cutting tape when needed.
7. Knife, or switchblade for cutting the pool noodle.
YOU MIGHT BE ASKING: Why use PVC and pool noodle? For one, it is a lot cheaper than pipe foam and graphite kite spar, and secondly, for those who don't know how to properly wield a boffer, the heavier PVC boffers are good for learning how to control your swings..
Step 2: Preparing the Pool Noodle
NOTE: I am approximate here in this tutorial, but when it comes to hilt size, pommel size, etc. feeling it, and not working off exact measurement is encouraged once you get the hang of making boffers, and easier to get right on larger weapons, but allows for more flexibility nonetheless.
Take your pool noodle, and cut it down so you have piece approximately 20 inches overall. Yes, it is in the scheme of things a lot, but it is better to have a cut-down piece with excess than not enough foam, you can alway remove the excess.
So now, you should take your piece of PVC, and take your piece of foam, and put them next to each other. With a ruler, take the foam, and measure two inches, and put the pipe alongside the two inch mark. This is as much foam off the pipe as you should have off the pipe. This is enough where foam shearing won't be to much of an issue, but not so much that you get what I call a "floppy" (more common amongst my friends is a term being more obscene) - no, or not enough backbone making it whip more - and being more painful - and if you have very very little pipe, and a LOT of foam, you can be disarmed easily without much effort. More on that another time.
Since you aren't working on a lot of pipe, we need to cut down the foam. Take into consideration the hilt size - which for a dagger should be enough to fit a fist around it with at least an inch of wiggle space. So for now, lets say about 4 inches. Since we are working with a 14 inch piece of pipe, we should also take into account the pommel. At minimum, you should have an inch of pipe for the pommel. I go for two 2 inches just to be safe.
Now, that is approximately 6 inches for pommel, and hilt, which leaves us with 8 inches of pipe + 2 inches off the pipe for a 10 inch blade. Cut the pool noodle to this length, then cut off a 4 inch piece for the pommel. Save the rest, small pieces can be recycled.
Step 3: Putting It Together
There are two methods I know of for getting the foam on the pipe, one will be shown here for now.
First, take your piece of PVC, mark two inches off one end for where the pommel begins, then 4 inches for the hilt, then mark off the end of the hilt where the blade begins.
On the side with more pipe, take the 10 inch piece of pool noodle and twist it on to the pipe through the hole until you reach the mark where the hilt begins. Take the 4 inch pommel piece, and shove it on the other end until you reach the hilt beginning mark on that side of the PVC pipe. Now you should have a pommel and "blade" on the PVC pipe with enough space in between for the hilt.
Now we tape.
Step 4: Taping Down the Foam to the Pipe + Taping the Hilt.
To start, take the duct tape, and start with the piece of tape on the PVC pipe. Travel upward, aqnd up lengthwise up the blade, around the end, and back down to the other side, and end on the hilt. ( Refer to the makeshift drawing of a boffer, with the red representing the tape.) Repeat until there is no pool noodle showing. Be careful to try and lay no more than one layer of tape in an area to prevent making the boffer hard.
Taping like this will anchor the "blade" to the hilt pretty well, and because it wraps around the top, will be better secured to the blade (funny way of putting it) so-to-speak and wont come off as a whole nearly as easily if at all..
The tricky part here is not only making sure that the tape securely anchors the "blade," but also that it isn't wrinkled. This is not easy, and takes time to perfect. I have not done this yet myself, though I am getting better. This is where you must experiment a bit. I personally like lying the boffer on a flat surface lengthwise, and rolling it back-and-fourth like rolling a hot-dog in ketchup, until the tape is smooth, but other methods work well, and this is just an experimental method for me.
Repeat the same process for the pommel.
DO NOT spiral wrap the tape. For one, the boffer becomes harder, and getting hit stings immensely. Secondly, it uses more tape than necessary.
Now you can work on the hilt. Take your electrical tape, and wrap around the hilt at the top, and bottom where the duct tape lays. This will strengthen the anchoring, and help prevent twisting the blade on the PVC.
To tape up the hilt, I will do this in two steps.
The first step is the primary layer/color. This you can do with individual pieces wrapped around the hilt piece of the pipe until it is covered completely.
The 2nd layer is not only for show, but makes, from personal experience, the hilt easier and more comfortable to grip. You can take the same color for this, but I prefer another color for asthetics. Wrap the tape around one side of the hilt once, then tape up the hilt diagonally, creating a diagonal stripe pattern. Wrap around the other side of the hilt, and cut. Congrats, you now are mostly done with your boffer. Now we need one more thing before we can say that we are done.
Step 5: Thrusting Tips
We need to add thrusting tips - soft pieces of open-cell foam that allows us to safely poke people with our boffers in combat, to put it in basic layman's terms.
Take a piece of open-celled foam, and cut into squares of about 2 in by 2 in by 2 in. If your foam is in pieces, or of a thickness that doesn't allow for this, dont fret. Take enough open-cell foam to come close to this measurement, and tape together, wrapping around just enough to secure the two pieces together.
To attach to the pommel and blade, all you have to do is tape from one end of the hilt, or pommel across the thrusting tip, and down to the other side. Repeat until all 4 sides of the tips are secured on.
To finish, take your knife, and punch holes in the thrusting tip until it squished like an accordian. This will make the foam softer, and not as hard/painful to the thrust.
Congrats, you have now finished your first boffer.
I hope you learned from this tutorial, and had no problems.