Introduction: Plastic Pirate Sword Mod
This instructable will show you how to take a $12 Prince of Persia plastic prop (say that three times fast! Ha!) sword and turn it into something you might actually want to accessorize your pirate costume with.
I had most of this stuff in my crafty closet. You may have to make some purchases. This whole project cost me about $20, but if you have to buy everything, it may look more like a $50-$75 sword/dagger/cutlass, in which case, you might do better to buy a replica anyhow.
The inspiration for this came from TribalDancer and her turorial on modding a pirate gun. Check out her 'ible here: https://www.instructables.com/id/Steampunk-Pirate-Gun-Mod/ . If you want to know what kind of awesome costume either of these accessories could adorn, you can check out a story about my pirate costume on my website, www.ericayoung.com. I'm pretty new around here, but I just finished my first Instructable here so check it out, too: A steampunk necktie corset dress for all (okay, maybe several) occasions!
Step 1: Gather Supplies
1. Gather your supplies. Unless you're like me and you'd rather just start something and then figure out you need this other thing before you can do that next step and so you run around the house, search the tool box, the craft closet, the couch cushions for that thing that you're pretty sure is around here somewhere...
Or, if you're not like me, you will need:
• coarse & fine sandpaper (100 & 220)
• 1" trim brush - the wispier, the better
• detail paint brush
• small file - a metal nail file works fine
• nail clippers
• strong tape/glue
• masking tape
• some weights - heavy machine screws & fishing weights worked for me.
• pewter & Grecian gold Rub n' Buff paint
• orange, beige, & brick red acrylic paint
• black, brown, & red spray paint
• gold spray paint for fishing weights
• matte acrylic sealer
• terry cloth towel
• spray adhesive
• fabric glue - I used Aleene's
• scrap of red velvet*
• sewing scissors
• needle and thread
• plastic pirate cutlass
• rubber or latex gloves (**optional)
• beer (also optional, but delicious)
*The red velvet was an afterthought. I will take you through the steps needed to make your scabbard look wooden, and then I will show you how to cover it in velvet or other fabric.
**If you elect not to use latex gloves, your hands will look like this at a minimum. I, personally, do not like to work in gloves because I think it's harder to feel what I'm doing. If you work in a service profession--especially food service--you may want to think twice about this because these paints will hang out on your skin and under your fingernails for a couple of days.
Step 2: Sand & Basecoat
2. Unscrew all the pieces. Separate the filigree decoration from the scabbard and the hilt from the blade.
3. Sand everything. Start with a coarse grit sand paper and get as much of the finish off as you can. Don't worry about streaks in your plastic as the paint will fill in the scratches. If you skip this step, you risk the paint not sticking to your plastic.
4. Once your sanding is complete, use your terry cloth towel or a dampened paper towel and clean the dust off of your pieces.
5. Move them to a well ventilated area and spray (or brush paint) everything black. Give the pieces at least two coats to ensure both proper coverage and adequate depth of paint for additional sanding.
Step 3: Mask & Start Wood Grain
5. Once all the black pieces are dry, begin to apply your pewter colored Rub n' Buff to the blade. Start at the area closest to the hilt and work toward the point. Only a tiny bit of paint is needed to begin. It is a wax-based metallic, so it will fill in whatever aweful pattern has been molded onto the blade. If you prefer, you can simply brush very lightly on top of the pattern and let the black show through. I chose full coverage, so I was pretty liberal with the pewter color. Once both sides are complete, set this piece aside.
6. Begin masking any filigree. Now we will start our wood finish on the scabbard and hilt. Tape off the parts that will be metallic, if any. For this piece, I had to tape both ends of the hilt pieces, revealing a section in the middle to be faux painted. Mask off the whole end you are trying to preserve, as spray paint will be applied in a latter step and will blemish your 'metallic' surface if it's not properly covered.
7. Start layering colors. Once you're all masked off, take out your 1" trim brush and the acrylic paints. Start with your orange color and dry brush the paint onto the wood areas. Think of polished grain pattern. Apply the paint thicker in some areas, thinner in others. Do not cover the black completely. Let the orange paint look streaky--this is important. Set it aside to dry completely.
Step 4: Wood Grain
8. Maximize your time. While you're waiting on your first coat of orange acrylic to dry, you can begin putting the Rub n' Buff on the filigree scabbard pieces. Take a tiny little bit of the metallic wax on your finger, and oh-so-lightly begin to apply the gold color on the raised portions of the plastic. If you press too hard, it will seep into the cracks and lines and create a uniform appearance. To get that antique look, stay only on the surface and let the black base coat show through in the cracks. Remember, you can always add more, but once it's on, it ain't coming off.
9. Back to wood grain. If your orange paint is dry on the wood grain areas, go ahead and add beige. Just like the orange, don't worry if it's streaky. We will be building up all the colors over and over again, so eventually the wood areas will completely cover the black base coat, but for now just lightly paint over the orange. Set it aside to dry and continue making the filigree pieces 'gold' while you wait.
10. Now it's time to add the brick red acrylic on top of the beige using the same streaky dry brush technique. Let it dry. Now, you can take your finger and add a few streaks of black acrylic, or, like I did, a few streaks of 'spanish copper' Rub n' Buff. Then, go back and do it all over again. First orange, then beige, then brick red. After two solid color progressions have dried, it's time to head outside with the spray paint again.
Step 5: Spray Paint Wood Grain
11. Layer your spray paint. Start with your red spray paint. Hold the piece you are painting at least 12" away, if not 18". Spray off to the side and try to 'capture' a hint of the spray on your acrylic-painted surface area. The red coat will help reinforce the mahogany color and add depth. For a more straightforward brown, this could be omitted. Feel free to go slightly heavier with the red on the areas which you might expect to have more wear--on the inside of the hilt, for instance. Let the red dry adequately, then do the brown. Hold your pieces 12" away from the brown again, but strive for better coverage with the brown. Good light helps with this technique. Again, let this dry, then take it back to the sanding station.
12. Using the fine grit (220) sand paper, lightly sand the wood areas. Go harder in some areas then others, exposing the acrylic pigments you built up ever-so-patiently before. Once you have a bit of wood grain starting to emerge, wipe the dust off and take the pieces outside. Use your misting technique to add more red & brown again, this time very lightly. The initial sanding reveals the coloring and wood grain, the final misting gives it that well-worn laqcuered look. The second misting is your final and top coat of color so be judicoius about it's application. If you find you applied too much paint, simply sand and mist again until you achieve the look you want.
Step 6: Finish Up the Paint
13. Once you're certain you have the wood grain effect you want, remove the masking and begin the process of gilding the 'metal' pieces of your hilt.
14. Finish filigree. Using the same techniques as the filigree, lightly cover the raised areas wtih gold Rub n Buff, leaving the cracks and crevices black. Use the detail brush to get in tight places or in areas where the 'wood' butts up to the 'metal'. Be careful about how and where you touch the hilt when your fingers are covered in gold. If you accidentally get a bit of gold on your newly crafted wood, use your terry cloth towel to buff it off. It won't be completely obliterated, but it will be sufficiently dulled so as not to be noticable.
15. Coat with sealer. Voila! One side complete. Notice the polished wood grain effect and the contrast of gold on black. Now, take all your pieces outside--scabbard, filigree, hilt, and blade--and coat them with a sealer. If you skip this step, the Rub n' Buff will eventually rub n' buff its way onto your hands and clothing and mar your finely crafted plastic sword.
**Another note of caution: as with the other spray techniques, go lightly with a spray acrylic or it will cloud up and alter the coloring of your pieces, dulling the metallic shine and making the wood look like it's covered in white wax. I made this mistake already for all of us, so don't you do it, too.
Step 7: Let It Dry
16. The hard part now is let everything dry overnight. Yes! Do! If not, your sticky painted hands will come in contact with a dry-to-the-touch scabbard and your thumb will stick while you're screwing the filigree back together. When you remove your thumb, all the time and energy and acrylic underneath of said thumb will be removed with it. This may look kind of cool (like the pic on left) and be perceived as a ding in the wood. Or, if you're like me, it will bug you until you find a way to cover it up. That's where the red velvet will come in handy. Anyhow, if you like it the wood grain, let it all dry overnight before you attempt to put it all back together. 'Nuff said.
Step 8: Weights and Reconstruction
17. Weight it down. Before you screw the blade back into the hilt, you might want to add some weight for a more authentic feel. I happened to have some giant machine screws handy, but any disproportionately small but heavy object(s) will do fine. Tape or glue them into place with a strong adhesive. If you are lackadaisical about strong adhesive, you may wind up with a rattle in your hilt. Conversely, don't get too excited about your adhesive because you may regret if you decide you need to unscrew the hilt again later.
18. Ta da! Wooden hilt & scabbard complete. With hilt weighted and everything sealed with a matte finish acrylic, go ahead and put it all back together, admire your handiwork, and start swashbuckling. If, like me, you see room for further improvement, proceed to the velvet scabbard tutorial just below.
Step 9: Covering the Scabbard in Fabric
19. Cut scabbard fabric. If you know from the outset that you want the velvet scabbard look, simply don't paint it with a wood grain and leave the gilded filigree off until the appropriate forthcoming step. When covering your scabbard in fabric, make sure the fabric isn't so thick as to preclude the reapplication of the filigree when you are finished. I happened to have a scrap of bright scarlet cotton velvet lying around but was barely able to replace the filigree. I decided to use it anyway and plow ahead. Though I eventually muscled it back on, anything thicker (like leather) would not be conducive to this exercise. So, without further ado, cut your scrap of fabric with plenty of overlap.
20. Using the spray adhesive, coat the scabbard and the wrong (or inside) side of the fabric. Carefully place the scabbard down in the adhesive with plenty of extra on all sides. Try to be careful about how much stickiness you get on your fingers or you will find yourself having trouble later when trying to manipulate the fabric.
21. Carefully fold the first side just over the halfway point on the back of the scabbard. You can tell the back of the scabbard by which is your dominant sword hand. If you're a righty, you would wear your sword on the left side of your body. The part of the scabbard that is on the inside (and therefore touches your body) is now the 'back' side. Opposite for lefties, of course. Using your sewing scissors (regular scissors will prove next to useless for fabric), cut the excess fabric off. This doesn't have to look great as this edge will be covered by the opposite side. Use your fingers to smooth the wrinkles along the curves.
As a note: it would probably behoove you to start the first fold on the inside curve, as you will have to cut the fabric a bit to ease it around the curve. This cut could then be covered by the ample fabric gathered up on the outside of the curve in the next two steps. I, then, did this backward in my haste.
Step 10: Tidy Up Fabric Covering
22. Stretch fabric over the other side. For the opposite side, use your best judgment and trim away the excess before smoothing it out. This will make for the cleanest, straightest 'seam' on the back. Aim for a center line. Then, wrap the fabric around to cover the first side. The inside curve will probably need to be clipped to allow for more movement, otherwise, your attempt will just buckle. Another thing that may help is to use the bias. The bias is the 'angle' of the fabric weave. This means you're stretching the fabric at it's most stretchable point, rather than straight with the woven fibers.
23. Trim and glue. Now it's time to secure those pesky stray threads on the back. I used some fabric glue I had, but any kind of fray-check would be sufficient. The purpose of this step is just to keep the 'seam' from fraying with use. It shouldn't be needed as an adhesive, but probably can be used that way if you don't have a spray adhesive. Be carefuly, though, as some fabric glues react poorly to some fabrics and will mar your project. Do a test sample if you're uncertain.
Step 11: Finish Scabbard
24. Replace fancy filigree bits. After all your glues and adhesives are dry, you can wrangle the filigree back on top of the newly covered scabbard and screw it all back together! Yay! You have now turned a Prince of Persia plastic sword toy into a real work of reenactment genius.
25. If you plan on wearing the cutlass, you'll need to complete one final step. You must weight the scabbard down too, or your dagger/cutlass/sword will fall right out when strung to your belt, the hilt being heavier than any other constituent parts. To do this, you have to get creative. I purchased five fishing weights in two sizes. After spray painting them gold, I stitched the largest and heaviest inside a store made scarlet tassel. I used four smaller weights on the outside of the tasse. Sure, it looks like a tassel with gold fishing weights now, but what do you want? It's a plastic sword! As it happened, my sword had a mysterious hole drilled into the decorative ball end of the scabbard, so I fished my cleverly weighted tassel through it and stitched it securely with a needle and thread. Now it counterbalances the weighted hilt beautifully and looks wonderfully threatening hanging comfortably off my belt.