You've ran across this guide, and there's probably a reason. You could be an actor, looking for a cheap, safe way to make props. You could be a LARPer who doesn't happen to have an extra five hundred dollars to spend on foam weapons that cost twice as much as real weaponry. You could simply want to smash things up - an urge that surfaces curiously around the time that lady parks in front of your driveway. Hopefully, you've come to the right place.
This Instructable brings together everything you need to know to make your own foam weapon. Each step contains links to smaller I'bles that offer various different methods to complete the step, giving you enough wiggle room to be creative. As I discover new things, I'll post new methods. Some of the links in the steps may have only one method right now, which either means I don't have any other ways or I haven't gotten around to posting them. Sometimes instructions aren't enough, though, so if you need help with anything or have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me. I'd also really appreciate it if you'd let me know about errors and problems, because this is such an expansive Instructable that I'm sure to have missed something.
If, however, you plan to go out and make your own weapon, I give you fair warning: It's not easy. My technique of weapon-making is a work in progress, though I've done my best to mitigate the confusion. It's not fast, and it can require a lot of odds and ends, which means it's impossible to estimate average price and time costs. (It feels kind of like one of those really intricate RPG quests). I've been making these things for more than a year and sometimes it's still frustratingly difficult. Sometimes I fail, and all my hard work goes to nothing. Just try not to set expectations, because you risk being dissatisfied with something fantastic. Also, remember, there is no recipe for making a sword. There is no "doing it wrong".
To see further examples of what can be done with these methods, click on these:
- Steampunk Ninjato
- Hand-and-a-half Sword (light up pommel)
- Modern Ninjato
- Sparkly black post-apocalyptic Ninjato/Buster
- Smackers (Gothic dagger)
- East-Asian-art-ish Ninjato
- Cardboard ninjato remade
- Fantasy Pseudo-Ninjato
- Dagger Spear
- Cardboard longsword
- Cardboard ninjato
- The one with lots of weird stories
- Home-Depot-only challenge
- Fantasy-ish Hand-and-a-half Sword
- Psychedelic Cyberpunk Ninjato
Step 1: A Grand List of Materials
- Craft foam
- 1/4" thick sheets
- 1/16" thick sheets
- Craft foam
- Soft, large chunks of foam (from, say, a mattress)
- Packing foam
- Masking tape
- Duct tape
- Acrylic paint (In metallic colors to make things look like metal)
- Mod podge (I use the glossy kind)
- Gorilla glue
- Foam glue
- Dry sparkles
- 1/4 inch fiberglass or carbon fiber rods [you can find these attached to driveway reflectors]
- Filament wound epoxy tubing
- Sharp things
- Kitchen knife
- Electric kitchen knife
- Jackknife or pocket knife
- Hack saw
- Cutting surface
- Paint brushes/sponges
Step 2: What You'll Need to Know
There are a few things you need to know before you head into this. Those things are listed below, so click the links to learn how to do them:
There are also a lot of pitfalls you should avoid and handy little things you might run into. Don't worry about remembering all of these. If you have any to add to the list, let me know! I plan to grow this list over time.
- Acrylic paint and mod podge flake off of duct tape
- Aluminum foil tape will completely crunch up if you put it on foam and hit it against something
- Silver duct tape fades over time, and can wrinkle
- Sometimes the blades can turn out kind of twisty... as of yet I haven't really figured out how to avoid this or what causes it
- If you're making a guard and you think the foam might rip, it will - I've made this mistake many times
- Mod podge is dry pretty quickly, but it can take hours to become transparent
- If you want a solid layer of sparkles, mod podge something and dump them on and then shake off the excess. Sparkly paint will give you a light sprinkling, nothing very noticeable.
- Fiberglass rods can really bend quite a ways - and will. Sometimes when you're fighting. Carbon fiber is much lighter but it doesn't do this.
- Sharpie, especially black sharpie can be used to patch up missed spots after you paint something.
Step 3: Planning
It's a good idea to plan out the visual elements of your sword on paper so that you can make sure you like the way it looks. Sometimes, when I'm trying out new techniques, I'll draw out the innards of the sword so that I can be a little more sure of the concept. I find it easier to visualize what I'm trying to do when I've got it all drawn out on paper, even if the design only makes sense to me. For instance, the design above is quite detailed and not well explained, because the materials aren't labeled. I can see them in my mind, though, so it works well enough.
It's also a good idea to gather all the materials you know you'll need and make sure you know how you're going to execute the plan. In other words: in what order will you do the steps? Will you do all the cutting first to get it over with, or finish every part individually? Will you paint this now or later? That kind of thing.
I have an order that works best for me. It might not work for you, I don't know. You have to get a feel of the process and then decide. This is the order I generally like to take:
- Gather all necessary foam, and cut out all the pieces needed for the blade
- Tape the blade pieces to the blade and carve the blade
- Paint the blade
- Cut out and make the guard
- Make the handle
- Attach the guard and wrap the handle
- Make the pommel (if there's a pommel involved) and add finishing touches
Step 4: Forging a Blade
There are two ways to make a blade, the carving method and the stacking method.
Carving Method: If you want to paint your blade, this is the method to use. It does, however, require an electric kitchen knife, and as a result there is a higher risk of messing up.
Stacking Method: This method is definitely the easier method. It's a bit tedious, as there is more to cut out and put together. There will be more of a change in how your blade looks with use if you choose this method. The blade is covered with duct tape, as a result isn't really optimal for painting (acrylic paint flakes off duct tape). It's safer, though, because there's no electric kitchen knife involved, and there's less of a risk of ruining everything. If you use this method, there's no need to carve a sharp edge.
Step 5: Crafting a Guard
I've documented the making of two basic kinds of guards. If you understand the fundamentals of both types, you should be able to take it from there and make whatever guard you can imagine. You can also forgo the guard altogether.
Step 6: Molding a Handle
If you choose to make a round grip, you'll probably want to wrap it with something from the decorations step. There's also the square handle, which takes quite a bit longer to make but doesn't need to be wrapped.
Step 7: Carving a Pommel
I generally suggest making your pommel out of craft foam because it's safer, but there is the option of using a hard object as a pommel. You can get creative with the pommel. You can use a simple foam piece as a cap, or maybe wrap a strip of thin craft foam around the handle. If you make a square handle, you'll probably skip the pommel.
Step 8: Agonizing Over the Decorations
You're finally ready to start bringing your weapon to life with jewels and gears and handle wrapping, and it's kind of exciting, but what do you do and how do you do it? The thing about decorations is that you can spend as much time agonizing over them as you can making the weapon in the first place. That's why I suggest designing your weapon first. However, the decorations have a lot to do with getting the weapon to meet your expectations, and sometimes something from your design doesn't work. That's why I suggest not having any expectations.
This step is a bit different than the rest in that instead of linking to the instructions, you'll find them in the pictures above. In terms of materials that you might need...
- Thin craft foam
- Steampunk gears
- Leather or pleather
- Cool fabric
- Old electronic parts
- LEDs (& tiny button batteries)
- Acrylic paint
- Rubber sheets
- Sparkly sticker rolls
- Scoubidou string
- Friendship bracelet thread
- Electrical tape
- Duct tape
- Foil tape
- Glow tape