Introduction: Quick and Easy Crowbar Prop

This is a lightweight crowbar prop made from PVC pipe. I built it for a Gordon Freeman costume for Dragon Con 2014. So why not use a real crowbar? The 'con has some (IMHO, very sensible) rules regarding weapons and I figured it would violate the spirit, and quite possibly the letter, of those rules to brandish a real crowbar. Plus real crowbars are heavy and I'm going to be sweating enough under all that EVA foam all day.

Did I mention it was quick? Took me about 2 hours to build, not including painting. Material cost should be well under $10 USD.

Shout-out to ejk00 for helping me hash through the idea for this. Also thanks to wisegye for his 'ible on bending PVC pipe (I recommend you read it before attempting this project).

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Tools

  • a real crowbar (optional)
  • pipe cutter
  • hacksaw
  • heat gun (I use the Harbor Freight 1500w model -- it's a LOT cheaper than some others I've seen. I think I got mine on sale for less than $10)
  • jigsaw
  • sharpie
  • vise or clamp with wide, flat jaws. I used my dinky little 6-inch woodworkers vise.

Materials

  • 1/2-inch PVC pipe (about 3-1/2 to 4 feet) (most of the pictures are of my first attempt where I used 3/4 pipe, but it was a little bulky; I re-did it in 1/2 and got way better results)
  • electrical tape
  • sand
  • some scrap 3/4-inch-thick wood
  • spray paint

Step 2: Make Curve Patterns

Option 1: If you have a real crowbar

Lay the actual crowbar on the scrap wood and trace around the two curves (I'll call them the "hook" and "pry" curves). You don't have to trace all around the entire thing; it's really only important that you trace the inside of each curve.

Option 2: If you don't have a real crowbar...or are just lazy

Download the pattern attached to this step (pattern.PDF), print it out, cut out the two curves patterns with scissors, then transfer the curves to scrap wood

Once you have the curves traced onto your wood, use a jigsaw to cut out the pattern pieces, leaving enough wood that you can bend the pipe around the pattern. The last two pictures show how the patterns should be cut.

Just so you don't forget later, it's always a good idea to label each piece.

Step 3: Prep the Pipe for Bending

Cut the pipe to length based on your real crowbar. Mine was about 46 inches.

Mark and label where each curve will start on the pipe. The nice thing here is you can make your prop longer or shorter than the real thing; mine's actually a bit shorter.

Next, cap one end of the pipe with electrical tape, fill it about 1/2 way with sand, then cap the other end with electrical tape. The sand helps to minimize the amount of crimp the pipe experiences when it's bent.

Step 4: Bend It to Your Will!

Use a heat gun to heat the area for the hook curve. I would notice the plastic would start bulging out a bit when it was hot enough. Once that happens, carefully bend the pipe around the hook curve pattern. Hold it there until it cools (maybe 30-60 seconds). Repeat for the pry curve.

Make sure you keep the pry curve in the same plane as the hook curve!

When the curves are cool and rigid, un-tape the ends and pour the sand out.

You'll notice in the pictures that the hook-end experienced some crimping on the inside of the curve. This was my first attempt where I used 3/4" PVC. When I re-did it with 1/2" I didn't get any crimping.

Step 5: Making the Flat Ends

I recommend you practice this step on a piece of scrap pipe. You'll even notice my first three pictures are from my own "practice round."

Start by opening the vise up just enough that you can get the end of the pipe in it. Don't open it too wide -- you'll have a fairly short work time, so don't waste it closing the vise.

Heat the end of the pipe with the heat gun until it's soft, then clamp it in the vise to get the flat. Again, practicing on some scrap once or twice will help you get the look you want, as well as get the timing right.

You'll want a flat on both ends. When you're finished, use a hacksaw to cut a nail-puller notch on the hook-end's flat (as shown in the third picture).

Step 6: Paint It

I was going for a Half-Life look, so I started with a base of flat black spray paint. Once that was dry, I masked off the ends with blue tape and paper and used red spray paint for the grip section.

And now it's all ready for menacing headcrab zombies!

Comments

author
FatAngus made it! (author)2016-06-01

Turned out amazing! Thank you so much!!

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lewisb42 (author)FatAngus2016-06-02

Sweet build! It is for cosplay?

author
FatAngus (author)lewisb422016-06-02

Joker cosplay for Phoenix Comicon this Saturday! Super excited

author
lewisb42 (author)FatAngus2016-06-02

Post a pic if you can -- would love to see it!

author
FatAngus (author)lewisb422016-06-07

It turned out great!

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lewisb42 (author)FatAngus2016-06-08

You both look fantastic! Well done!

author
Bruce Wayne engineering (author)2015-09-27

how much does it cost to make if you already have the tools but not the supplies?

author

About $10, maybe $15 once you figure in the paint. PVC is cheap. :)

author
Bruce Wayne engineering (author)2015-09-27

Thanks for this though. it is much more realistic than some foam crowbar at a Halloween store, and it is more durable and light. This will be the perfect addition to my joker costume. *cough* I mean totally batman armor

author
Bruce Wayne engineering (author)2015-09-27

Instructions not clear, i got a foot stuck in the toaster. It wasn't mine...

author
AshleyE2 (author)2015-01-03

I would have loved it if you had done an instructable on the costume as a whole. It looks pretty good.

ps. did you enter any contests at Dragon Con

author
lewisb42 (author)AshleyE22015-01-03

I probably should have, but I was kind of rushed with it and didn't take a lot of pictures. Look around the net for how-to's on making armor from EVA foam (i.e., craft foam, anti-fatigue mats, etc) using pepakura models as a pattern. This is a good starting point: http://www.ianjamesduncan.com/2012/08/14/how-we-ma...

I wanted to enter the video game costume contest at DC'14, but as it turned out I only got to go to the 'con for a few hours on Saturday and Monday due to a family member getting sick that weekend. :(

author
AshleyE2 (author)lewisb422015-01-04

Thanks for the advice, I've also checkout files and posts at the 501st forum. Your costume looks awesome. Sorry you couldn't enter the contest but it happens.

author
gman47 (author)2014-08-31

why did you do half life

author
gravityisweak (author)gman472014-09-02

I'm going to guess he did Half-Life because it is a rare and classic example of a "10" in video games. One of the highest rated games of all time, of which there are very few in existence.

author
lewisb42 (author)gravityisweak2014-09-02

It's certainly one of my favorite games ever. Re-playing it is like re-reading a beloved book.

author
lewisb42 (author)lewisb422014-09-02

There was also an issue of skill -- this was my first time making cosplay armor, so I thought an HEV suit would be a good one to learn on.

author
gravityisweak (author)2014-09-02

Thanks for the tip about reducing from 3/4 to 1/2 to eliminate crimping. I was wondering how you avoided that.

author
lewisb42 (author)gravityisweak2014-09-02

It also ended up being much closer to the thickness of my actual crowbar. :)

I originally was just going to patch over the crimping on the 3/4 version (maybe with sugru or bondo), but I just didn't like the heft of it, hence the do-over. MUCH more pleased with the 2nd attempt.

author
MsSweetSatisfaction (author)2014-08-31

Woah hard to believe it's plastic, great job! Thanks for sharing!

author

Thanks! I was genuinely surprised how well it turned out.

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Bio: By day, mild-mannered CS prof. By night, husband, father, basement tinkerer, video game player.
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