This Instructable will show you how to create a (semi) realistic machete prop for for home movies or to compliment fancy dress costumes. It can be adapted to create other bladed items such as swords or daggers e.g. for pirate outfits.
The idea was born after my friend raised the possibility of shooting our own horror film. After doing a couple of location scouts, we hit a problem. What to do about props? Most good horror films feature an array of weapons. We couldn't use real weapons (and rightly didn't have access to them) to film outside, on streets and residential areas as it's illegal. So I decided I could try and create our fake movie weapons in as easy and cheap a way as possible, but at the same time making sure they looked realistic.
The whole point of this project is to create non-lethal props that still look good on camera.
Have fun with this project, it's a fairly simple one to complete and the results are rewarding if you take care with it.
Step 1: What You Need:
1. Thin MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard . The sheet I used was 3mm thick and about a metre and a half long by half a metre wide
2. Modelling foam. As this was the first time I had tried this project out, I was cheap and used an old yoga foam roller. I would definitely recommend using proper modelling foam as it can be sanded and shaped a lot easier
3. A jig saw
5. A permanent marker
6. Black spray paint (I used Plastikote primer)
7. Chainmail Warhammer paint or any other silvery/metallic paint. This is really up to prefference
8. A craft knife
10. PVA glue
11. A sander
Step 2: Draw Your Outline
Look online for ideas as to what you want to create. Either print off a large scale photo (if your printer will allow) or simply draw the outline freehand in permanent marker. If you want to make a replica of a functioning implement, just trace round it. I scaled up a photo of a Jungle Machete and used that.
Make sure you're happy with your outline before you start cutting
Step 3: Cut Out Your Shape
Using the jig saw I cut out the outline of the machete. Be careful to clamp the sheet of MDF at the right points to stop it shaking, as the vibrations from the saw can snap the wood, as it's quite thin.
Follow the outline round. REMEMBER, it's always best to cut large to start with, then go back and get the detailed curves and nooks etc. This way it's less likely you're going to make a mistake and the have to start again
Step 4: Sand an Edge
Obviously real blades have edges on them. To add to the realism I used a hand sander to go over the blade until it had a visible edge, just move the sander up and down until you see it form.
The edge should not be so that the wood becomes at all sharp, but it should be visible. The true benefit of this becomes apparent when we proceed to paint.
Step 5: Spray Paint
This step is pretty self explanatory, spray the whole piece of MDF with black primer.
Do this even if you plan to paint the blade completely silver, the primer helps any other paint stay on better.
Give the whole thing a good couple of coats and leave to dry.
Step 6: Add a Handle
As I said in the materials section, I would really recommend using proper modelling foam. It's easy to use and is fairly strong. I improvised with the foam roller shown above. Using a craft knife, I cut out a block of foam, which I then divided into two, to form both sides of the handle. I then traced around the MDF handle onto the foam and used the craft knife to shape the handle to exactly the size I wanted.
If I had been using modelling foam I could have then sanded the handle to have more of a curved, uniform shape. Sadly, because I used the roller I couldn't do this so it ended up rough and a bit shoddy. Never mind! I sprayed it black and covered it in ducktape, that seemed to cover up most of the lumps 'n bumps.
Step 7: Add the Appearance of a Sharpened Edge
I used Chainmail Warhammer paint. It shines like genuine metal so is a nice after effect. I used a small paint brush to apply a light coat to the edge I had sanded. This makes it look like the blade has a black protective coat and the metal on the edge is exposed still. I did this as it's what the CS Jungle machete looks like.
If you're lazy and don't want to do this, it doesn't really matter. I have attention to detail OCD so it had to look as similar as possible to the real thing :p You can also go the whole way and paint all of the blade silver, It's completely up to personal choice and the prop you're making.
Leave the blade somewhere undisturbed to dry. If you're unhappy, just spray paint over the blade and start again.
Step 8: Finished! Now Have Fun!
The prop should be finished! If you wish you can go back and add any other little details in paint or adapt the shape of the handle.
The sheet of MDF has left me room for a whole arsenal of props so once I've made them I will add the photos to this 'Ible.
As part of the film we will also be using blunt melee weapons. Keep an eye out for when I publish an Ible on that (They'll probably be made out of large blocks of modelling foam).
These props can be used in home movies (so no one gets hurt) and for fancy dress costumes (so you don't get arrested for carrying something potentially harmful). Be careful if using thin MDF for action scenes as it can break if you whack something too hard with it