The protagonist of the Nintendo Legend of Zelda games is Link, who's a sword-waving cross between Legolas and Indiana Jones. He runs around in a floppy hat solving puzzles and dispatching bad guys while trying to save the eponymous princess. My sons really enjoyed Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, and were keen to get swords and shields so they could start pretending to hack apart hordes of minions in the back yard. This seemed a reasonable request, but making these safe AND strong enough to endure the depredations of two enthusiastic and energetic youngsters is not entirely trivial.
This instructable will show you how to make robust versions of Link's sword, a scabbard, replicas of his wooden shields, and fully functional slingshots. While this stuff is all part of a costume, it's also all quite tough enough to handle being bashed, scraped and abused in the course of a usual day's play.
Note: this instructable is four projects in one, so if I've blasted past something too quickly, post a question in the comments.
Step 1: Design
Link's most well-known weapon is the Master Sword. However, it's a big fancy bejeweled and bewinged purple & green monster,* and the boys wanted swords that looked a bit more "real". They liked the look of the one that Link wears at the start of Twilight Princess - the "Ordon Sword" - so that's what I modelled these swords on (see screenshot above from IrateGamer's WiiU tech demo video). The shields I made are upgraded wooden shields from Skyward Sword, the banded shield and the braced shield (screenshots taken from zeldadungeon.net). The slingshot is the basic one from Skyward Sword.
* if you want to know how to make an awesome replica, see Jonny1983's beautiful hand-tooled wooden version.
Step 2: Shaping the Blade
Making these wooden swords requires a narrow length of wood (ideally hardwood, but softwood is fine if you don't give them too hard a time). Mine came from the demolition of an old bed base. You'll also need some 1/4" plywood. Power tools required are a jigsaw and a router with a decent sized roundover bit. A table saw makes cutting out the blades (and later on, the shields) a lot easier, but you could get by without one. I used a nailgun to tack everything together while the wood glue set, but clamps or even weights would work fine too.
Put a rounded bit into the router, and with the help of a guide, carve out fullers on the blade. These should start at the hilt and extend about two-thirds the way to the point. Carve them on both sides, each to a depth of about 5 mm. I tapered the blades on the table saw - this could be done with any saw (or foregone entirely). Round the end - these swords get used for whacking people with, and while a nasty bruise is all part of the learning process, a sharp point could take someone's eye out...
Put a roundover bit in the router, and rout both sides of the blade, right down to where the hilt starts.
Step 3: Make the Hilt
Draw a hilt + pommel + crossguard design on a piece of plywood with the help of a template. Cut out two with the jigsaw - roughly is fine, you can be well outside the lines at this stage. Now, get two offcuts of wood and glue all five pieces together as shown in the picture. I tacked them all together with a nailgun. Once dry, cut the pattern out carefully, and go around everything with the router again. I also drilled a hole in the pommel and routed this, too.
Note: whatever design you use, be sure to add a pommel (the wider bit on the end of the hilt). It helps stops the sword being flung out of the grip of an over-enthusiastic wielder.
Step 4: Paint and Add Grip
I sprayed the swords with a metallic grey paint. The hilt got roughly drybrushed with black paint to age it and to distinguish it from the blade, and to make it blend into the grip better. The handles got wrapped with strips of bicycle inner tubing for grip, and some Gorilla tape on each end to stop tearing.
Step 5: Scabbard
The scabbard was made out of some strips of wood and some mdf panelling. It was tacked and glued together, the tip shaped with a jigsaw, and the edges rounded over with the router. The scabbard was primed, painted brown, then duct tape was added in patterns to match the original. The notch at the top makes it a little easier to draw when behind your head. An old belt was drilled and screwed to the scabbard so it could be hung over the back, Link-style. The belt has an extra strap to hold it in place.
I designed the scabbard to be just big enough to allow the handle of the shield to go around it, so the shield can just be dropped over the scabbard (if the sword is removed first, of course). It's really a two-person job to stow or ready the shield, but of course the video game Link plays a few tricks that are only possible if you're made of pixels... not least drawing the sword in the first place!
Step 6: Shields
Link's round wooden shields are easier to make than his iconic Hylian shield, and they look pretty good. I cut out the circles on the table saw - my favorite table saw operation, it's almost like magic (see video). Just attach a piece of plywood to the saw at one point, then raise the blade a few mm. Rotate around the point, and repeat until you've cut all the way through. I added a handle, a strap out of a bicycle inner tube, added to texture to the front with a router and a few screws or nails for interest, and painted on the emblems for the banded shield on one and for the braced shield on another (by request; there is another basic wooden shield in the game as well). I used stencils and spraypaint; the outside band of each shield used a mix of black/green/blue or black/orange for a metallic effect. One of the stencils is here; just resize it to match the diameter of the shield.
Step 7: Slingshots
Slingshots are fun to make. We pruned a tree, cut out some forks, whittled off the bark and cut notches for some surgical tubing . An old belt was cut and drilled for a pouch, and the tubing secured using zipties. Super quick and easy, the kids can assist in nearly all steps and direct the look and size themselves, and the slingshots are almost too effective...
We masked off parts of the slingshots and spraypainted the rest red to make them look a bit like Link's. Get a bag of acorns for ammo.
Step 8: Costume Up
Link wears a green tunic with chainmail underneath, a floppy green cap, various belts and pouches, and leather boots. The clothing, belts and boots mostly came from thrift stores for a few bucks. The tunics with mail in the photos were sewn by my mother, who loves making stuff for her grandkids. She did a great job, and the boys are amped about Link-ing up for Halloween. Assemble it all together and let Link go save the princess (or at least collect some candy).