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For our haunted forest this year, one of our actors decided he wanted to be an 8 foot tall grim reaper. He would use drywall stilts underneath his cloak to get to the height. The only problem is, what is a grim reaper without his scythe? After all, the angel of death needs this scary tool to harvest souls for their journey to the afterlife.

I decided to make this prop after briefly searching available props on the market. Needless to say, I was unimpressed with the selection. As with most store-bought Halloween props, they were cheaply made and not nearly long enough for our 8 foot tall actor.

Besides, why buy one when you can make it cheaper and better, right?

Step 1: Preparing and Shaping the Blade

Tools & Materials Needed:

  1. 1/2" scrap plywood (3 - 4 feet long)
  2. Jigsaw, scroll saw or band saw
  3. Electric sander with 120 and 220 grit sandpaper
  4. Pencil

Use a pencil to draw the blade shape onto a scrap piece of 1/2” plywood. You can see from the photos, it took me a few tries before I was finally happy with the design. For me, this was one of the more difficult parts of the project, but maybe that's because I'm a perfectionist.

My blade ended up at 3-1/2 - 4 feet long, but you can really do any size or design you want, just make sure to leave the blade’s tang long enough so it can be attached to the shaft.

Once you are happy with the shape and design, cut it out with a jigsaw, band saw or scroll saw. Remember, (as Norm Abrams would say) "there is no more important shop safety rule than to wear your safety glasses".

Next, since we are wanting this to look like metal, use a power sander to get the blade as smooth as possible, Start with a coarse 120 grit sand paper and work your way down to a 220, and then even finer if you want. Just be careful not to sand through the top layer of the plywood.

If you're going for realism, you will also want to sand down a bevel for the blade’s edge. There's no need to make it sharp, we just want to give the appearance of an edge.

Step 2: Prepare the Shaft

Tools & Materials Needed:

  1. A warped 2" x 2" at least 8 feet long
  2. Drill press or electric drill with 1/2" drill bit
  3. Electric sander with 120 and 220 grit sandpaper
  4. Jig saw or scroll saw
  5. Small blade chisel
  6. Pencil
  7. Tape measure

Go to your local lumber yard and select the most bowed 2” x 2” you can find. They’ll be happy to sell it to you. They might even sell it cheap, so be sure to ask for a discount.

You can make your scythe as long as you want. Where I live, I couldn’t find any 2” x 2” ‘s longer than 8 feet. And since our Grimm Reaper actor will be 8 feet tall (on stilts), I had to splice the 2” x 2” with another to extend it an
additional foot and a half.

I hope you didn’t put the sander away because now you are going to need it to smooth out the entire shaft. Also, round off all the edges. We don’t exactly want this to look like a square piece of lumber when it’s finished.

Measure and mark out where you want the blade to penetrate the shaft, then drill small pilot holes on each end and make sure they are centered. Then use a ½” bit, or a bit the same size as your blade width to drill out the pilot holes. If you have access to a drill press, that would be ideal for this. It may be difficult to drill the holes straight through the center using only a hand drill.

Use a jigsaw, scroll saw, coping saw, or whatever works to safely remove the material between the two holes. Then use a small chisel and rasp if necessary to clean it up.

Test fit the blade into the shaft and remove more material as necessary until you get a good snug fit.

Step 3: Painting & Details

Tools & Materials Needed:

  1. Brown or rust colored spray primer
  2. Spray paint (silver and tan or light brown)
  3. Acrylic craft paint (black & silver)
  4. Paint brushes
  5. Wrench, pliers or other tool with a blunt metal edge

The Blade:

Now time for the fun part. Give the blade a few good coats of brown or rust colored primer. Wait for it to dry, then flip it over and repeat for the other side.

Give the primer at least an hour or two to dry and then spray a couple coats of silver paint. Flip the blade and repeat for the other side.

Once the blade is dry, mix a small amount of silver acrylic craft paint with a small drop of black, and dry brush streaks perpendicular to the edge of the blade. This will give the blade more depth, and make it look "used".

Give the beveled edge a coat of shiny silver acrylic paint for more added realism.

If you want to give the blade an appearance that it is beginning to rust, all you need to do is take a tool like the edge of a pair of pliers or a wrench and carefully scrape away some of the silver paint to reveal specks of the brown primer underneath.

Don’t get too carried away doing this, just a few hints here and there that there is some rust beginning to form. Also, it’s best to do this the same day you spray the sliver paint, otherwise the paint will harden and be much more difficult to scrape off.

The Shaft:
Spray paint the entire shaft a light brown or tan color to give it a natural look. Wait for it to dry, then brush watered down black acrylic paint over the entire surface and wipe away the excess. The realism this step adds is amazing. Just make sure you put a drop cloth or plastic down to protect your floor.

Step 4: Putting It Together

Tools & Materials Needed:

  1. 1-1/4" Screws (3)
  2. An old rope
  3. Torch or lighter
  4. Screwdriver
  5. A drill
  6. A small drill bit for pilot holes

After all the paint has dried and hardened, insert the blade into the shaft. You may need to later touch up some of the paint on the blade depending how snug the fit is. Pre-drill a couple holes and fasten with screws to hold everything together.

Tightly wrap natural looking rope around the joint between the shaft and blade. The rope serves to hide the screw heads and gives the prop more of an "old-world" look. If your rope is synthetic, you can use a torch or lighter to melt the end of the rope to itself to hold it into place.

<p>Oh my, this is a freaky looking prop. I would be wary of coming near anyone or anything holding this scythe.</p><p>Very nicely done!</p>
<p>Thank you very much.</p>

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Bio: I'm a typical jack of all trades but master of none. I enjoy building things, especially props, decorations and costumes for our local haunted ... More »
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