Introduction: Jafar's Staff
Runner Up in the
Halloween Props Contest
Jafar has always been one of my favorite Disney villains. He's a tall, sinister sorcerer with an intimidating presence and an appreciation for puns. Not to mention a discerning taste in accessories. His staff is an iconic part of his image and character, and since it had been a while since I had built anything I thought I'd pay tribute to one of my favorite movies growing up.
- PVC Pipes - This staff comes apart into two sections, so you will need a pipe around the desired thickness for your staff (I used 3/4") as well as a short section of pipe that will fit snugly inside of the other (I think mine is 1/2")
- Heat Gun
- Sculpey oven-bake clay
- Wire Coathanger
- Craft Foam - 1/4" thick. You can get small sheets at Michaels.
- Elmer Glue-All
- Spray Paint
- Black and Gold
- Acrylic Paint
- Black and Red
- Hot Glue
- Paper Towels
- Wet/Dry Sandpaper (optional)
Step 1: I'm Just Getting Warmed Up!
You can simply use one PVC pipe for the whole staff, but I made two sections that couple together. My reasoning behind this was the fact that I was using leftover pipes and didn't have a section long enough. However it also makes things easier when you are shaping the head as don't have a long shaft to deal with as you work.
When planning where your staff fits together place the seam a few inches below the staff's curve, so everything that bent lies above the cut and the rest is a straight section below. Insert smaller pipe into the top (head) section and push it in a few inches. It should fit snugly enough to get stuck and stay secure, but if you are uncomfortable with the fit you could always add some adhesive. Keep several inches of the smaller pipe protruding out the bottom of the head section. This will fit into the lower section of the staff when you join them together.
You can shape your PVC pipe by carefully heating it with your heat gun. Or fire breath, if you happen to be the most powerful sorcerer... IN THE WORLD! When the pipe is good and hot it becomes flexible enough for you to bend around. It would be a good idea to wear gloves and clamp it down while you work, placing your bare hand on a hot surface or in the path of the heat gun can be unpleasant. Once the pipe cools back down it should harden in its new shape. Shape the head section into a nice curve but leave the connection pipe straight.
Step 2: Perhaps You'd Like to See How Snake-like I Can Be...
Building your cobra head is the tricky part.
Straighten out your wire coat hanger and use it to construct a basic armature to support the clay as you mold your snake head. Just a loop running from the neck to the nose should be enough. Feed the long end of the wire through the pipe to the opposite end and bend it around the edge to anchor it.
Lump some Sculpey around the wire and start molding. Keep some reference pictures nearby to work from. Or transform into a giant cobra and work from that. Whichever is easier. You do not need to sculpt the hood for now, but keep its placement in mind while you work. Do not treat your clay yet, it needs to stay soft for a while.
The cobra hood is made separately out of your sheet of craft foam, and includes the ridges over its eyes. Start out folding a piece of paper in half and cut roughly the shape shown above. The back of the head will fit in the hollow in the middle of the hood, and the small split end will angle downward into angry eyebrows. Lay this paper shape on your clay head to get a rough idea how it will look. Make changes to the shape as needed until you are happy with it.
Trace the shape of the paper stencil onto your craft foam and cut it out. The foam will be flexible, but will try to uncurl back into a flat shape. To shape it into a curve you will need to carefully heat it with your heat gun, as you did the PVC pipe. Give the overall hood a c-shaped curve, then bend the eye ridges down at an inward angle.
When your foam hood has cooled down and stiffened, gently place it on your soft clay head to check its shape. Make any necessary adjustments to the hood or head to make sure they fit together smoothly. I dug out a channel along where the foam came in contact with the head, that way when the hood fits into that groove it would stay flush to the surface.
When you are happy with the fit, carefully remove the hood again and set it aside. It is time to harden the clay head. Normally an oven is used to cure Sculpey, but in this case our sculpture is attached to a big plastic pipe that will complicate things. Instead, use your trusty heat gun to cure it. Hold the heat gun about three or four inches away from the sculpture and keep it moving around the surface. Be careful not to hold it for too long over the same area or it will start to brown and crack.
Step 3: The Golden Rule
Now it's time to make our staff look a little less plastic.
We'll start with the cobra hood. As of now the foam is too porous to look like anything but foam once it's painted. First we need to seal it to make the surface more smooth. Take some of your Elmer's Glue-All and make a mixture of 2/3 glue and 1/3 water. Use this mixture to paint a thin layer on the foam. Let it dry completely and add another layer of glue on top of that. Make several layers until the surface has a nice, smooth skin over it. Flip the foam over and repeat, covering every surface which you plan to paint (which is everything but the inside edge).
Sealing the foam involves a lot of waiting for glue to dry, so if you feel you need it, you can use this time to sand down your clay head to make it smoother. Make sure to use wet/dry sandpaper and wet it down. This prevents you from kicking polymer dust into the air, which is something you do not want to inhale.
Now that you've sealed your foam it's time to assemble your staff. Hot glue the foam into place on your snake head and fit your whole staff-topper into the rest of your PVC staff. It is time to paint.
Start by spray painting the whole thing black. Make sure the color is solid and even across the whole staff. After that dries it is time to add the gold. Do not paint on a solid layer of gold. Instead, hold your spray can about a foot away from your staff and lightly dust your staff with a gold mist. This will give the surface a little more depth and add a little of a tarnished appearance.
Now all that is left is the eyes. Use a small brush to carefully spread some red acrylic paint across the eyes. Keep a wet paper towel on hand in case you accidentally paint outside of the eye. After that is dried add some tarnish to cover up the edges of the red and make the staff look a little more weathered. Mix a half-and-half mixture of water and black acrylic paint and spread that sloppily around the edges of the eyes, making sure to fill in any deep crevices. Let it sit for a moment and wipe it back up with a paper towel, again sloppily. The idea is to wipe off the paint from the open smooth parts but leave some behind in the hard-to-reach areas where dirt would accumulate.
And that's everything. Apart from hypnosis. I'm yet to figure out how to install that, but for now you'll have a snazzy prop suited for a royal vizier.
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