October 2016 UPDATE;
Upgraded the blade for this scythe. Please see: https://www.instructables.com/id/Glowing-Reaper-Sky...
I Recently posted an instructable about my Ultimate Grim Reaper costume (https://www.instructables.com/id/Ultimate-Grim-Reaper-Costume/) and one comment stated that I should have an equally awesome scyth. Well, I do have one that I created years ago for my OLD reaper costume. Figured that I would add this to instructables too.
Step 1: Go for a Walk...
This project started one day while walking through the wooded part of my property. I stumbled across this old branch, partially covered with some loose bark that fell from a nearby oak tree. This branch was over 12 feet long but had close to a two inch diameter thickness and under the bark was the most awesome worm tracks I ever saw. It also had this wonderful bend to it.
About a minute after finding this, I knew what had to be done.
I already had my old Grim Reaper costume but never created a scythe for it. This branch was the perfect inspiration.
This project requires some basic woodworking skills and a few hand tools.
What I used:
1/2" scrap piece of plywood
Antique buttons or pins
Cheap rubber skull prop
a few screws
Step 2: Building the Staff & Blade
Sorry I don't have any actual construction pictures here. Unfortunately I created this thing over 10 years ago.
Much of this will depend on the material you use but in this case, I decided to use mortise and tenon joints to attach the handle and the blade.
First thing to do is decide on the height. I wanted this to be just under 8 feet so I could maneuver it in most buildings and keep it looking intimidating. Making it too small and it begins to look like a kid's toy. Too large and it's way too difficult to carry.
Cut the branch to length taking the shape into consideration. I kept the larger part of the branch at the top so I would have more material to attach the blade.
I also wanted to consider how to walk around with this safely. If you are wearing a costume, you might not have the best visibility and you need to know exactly where the blade is at all times. Otherwise, you'll be stabbing people and knocking stuff over everywhere you go. Kind of ruins the effect when that happens.
Once I had the branch cut to length, I cut off another section of branch about 10 - 12 inches in length for the handle. I also took a piece of old 1/2" thick plywood I had laying around and sized up the blade.
The blade can be made in many ways using many materials. I've seen some really beautiful blades created with dense foam and support rods glued inside for strength. This is a good idea since it saves weight and is easy to work with. The plywood does work well but it's much harder to make it look like a blade.
I basically sized up the blade so that it would curve from the top of the staff but come down to a point at my lower back. This way, I could always feel that point behind me and knew I wasn't stabbing someone else.
I simply cut a 1/2 inch groove into the top of the staff at a slight angle to give the blade a tilted look.
After positioning the blade temporarily, I marked the spot where I would attach the handle. The handle position is very important to help with maneuvering the scythe. With the point of the blade in my lower back, I positioned the handle at a comfortable height so that I could rest my arm on top of it AND the handle would run directly under my wrist and forearm. This way, whenever I grabbed the scythe, as long as that handle was under my left forearm, I knew exactly where the blade was.
To attached the handle, I drilled a 1/2 inch hole about 2/3's of the way through the branch. I then trimmed off some material at the end of the handle to fit into that hole to make a rude mortise and tenon joint. Glued it into place and then ran a 4" wood screw through the other side of the branch down into the handle to securely hold it into place.
For the blade, I cut it to shape using a jigsaw and filed the edges using a rasp and sandpaper. (The blade originally had several teeth cut into it near the top of the blade which looked really cool. Look closely at the old picture above. I recently had to cut them off because those teeth became an issue with the new, taller reaper costume).
I looked up some alchemy symbols online that I thought would look interesting and pulled out the Dremel. After going a little creative with the Dremel and adding a few other rude carvings into the plywood, I had the look that I wanted. Attached the blade by slipping the plywood into the slot I created in the top of the staff and secured it with wood glue and two screws.
Step 3: Finishing Touches
After assembly, I wrapped the joints with twine to give it some texture and an older feel. Also to cover up some cut marks and screws.
I also had some old antique pins and buttons lying around so I stuck a few to some interesting points on the staff. I also found a 1" old marble that I thought would look real nice in the end of the handle. Took a little time to remove some wood so the marble fit into the handle but I definitely like the look. I used some epoxy to hold that in place.
To finish it off, I covered it with 3 or 4 coats of polyurethane to preserve it and bring out the details of the branch. The polyurethane also covered the twine and kept it securely in place.
Lastly, I sprayed the blade with some silver paint and found this old rubber skull prop and cut out the bottom so I could mount it on the top.
When using this in costume and for (so many) pictures, it was easy to rotate the scythe to the left so the blade swung out from behind me and showed up nicely in every picture.
Hope you like it.