Introduction: Zer0's Sword (Borderlands 2)
Third Prize in the
Halloween Props Contest
This is, in my opinion, one of the most iconic swords in modern gaming, but with so much undeveloped potential. Its infrequent use in gameplay (Guns render melee attacks almost useless in Borderlands 2) means that it sees very little use outside fan art.
Its grey and black tones go well with most costumes, so I felt it would make a great addition to my ever growing arsenal of game weapons.
Materials used were:
- 3mm thick acrylic (100cm x 16cm)
- Several 4mm diameter bolts
- 3x Sliding Potentiometers (500Ω)
- 1x SPDT switch
- 5m RGB LED strip (Only used 85cm of it)
- 3x Li-Ion 18650 cells
- Copper wire (About 1m)
- 20cm aluminium tubing
- Cereal box card
Epoxy resin + Hot glue
Also recommended (If not already owned)
- 18650 Li-Ion Charger (Doubles as a 1.2v AA charger)
Tools included a jigsaw, heat gun, screwdriver, soldering iron and a vice. Most parts I already had, although the LEDs and 100x pack of potentiometers cost about £15 total on eBay.
Step 1: Cutting Out the Main Shape
The actual model appears to be around 120cm, but I scaled it to 100cm. The handle is 15cm, the blade and joint are 85cm in total, and the main part of the blade is 4cm wide.
I had to cut 3 sections from the sheet of 3mm acrylic I had with a jigsaw, using the first as a template for the latter two, but a single 10mm sheet would have been easier to work with. The overall thickness and strength are similar though (After gluing the separate pieces together).
You can either draw the design out directly onto acrylic, or print out a scale version of the sword and lay it over the acrylic to cut around.
Step 2: Joining the Sections
Multiple pieces are likely to be slightly different sizes. Put the thinner ones on the outside, and try to align the upper face (Opposite side to the blades sharp edge) to be flat, so the LED strip will sit flat against them. Once aligned, clamp them together, drill bolt holes to match the in game positions (Roughly 30cm apart), then bolt them together.
If you used a single sheet of acrylic, you can ignore that part, and proceed to "sharpening" the blade. While clamped in the vice, run a plane down the edge to get an angle of around 30°, although these angles surfaces need not meet. I left the centre section of acrylic blunt to help give a more even light dissipation.
I'd recommend frosting the outer surfaces too.
Step 3: Making the Handle
To reduce the number of batteries required, I used an aluminium tube thick enough to hold 18650 Li-Ion cells (Although three 18650 cells were so long that it extended the handle 4cm further than planned). If you used a single sheet, either cut a slot from the middle (Like a tuning fork), or fix the batteries to either side of the handle.
The easiest way I found to bend the handle was using a paint stripper and jubilee clips, gradually tightening them to put the acrylic under pressure, then heating the acrylic to relieve the tension they were under, thus tightening the radius of the bend. The final product was unevenly bent and quite rough. it may be wise to wrap 5 or so layers of foil around it first to distribute the heat and pressure more evenly, preventing burning and indentation.
Step 4: Wiring
As with most devices, I oriented the Li-Ion cells to go in positive end first. As such, I soldered a copper strip to the +12v terminal of the LED strip via an SPDT switch, and the RGB ground terminals to wires long enough to reach the far end of the handle.
There is a 500Ω potentiometer connected to each colour channel, to allow them to be dimmed individually. These are all soldered together to form a common ground (I used 2 wires to connect this to the copper strip to make it more durable when fitting all the bits into the handle. If you have the right solder, you may even be able to use the handle itself as the ground "wire".
The original 150 LED strip had a total power consumption of 60w. The 85cm strip I cut off only had 24 LEDs (9.6w, 0.8A, 15Ω), with a single colour channel having a resistance of 45Ω. I figured that 500Ω potentiometers would drop the voltage across the LEDs by about 90% (Thus turning them off completely), but for some reason it only seems to be about 60%. Annoying, since I wanted to be able to completely shut off 1 or 2 channels using the slider alone, so I'd recommend 1kΩ or 2kΩ potentiometers instead.
A change I made later on was to fit individual SPDT switches in line with the potentiometers, so I could fully turn off each colour channel if desired. The end of a bottle cap was wide enough to allow the 18650 cells through with room to spare for the grounding wire.
Step 5: Cardboard Shroud
Cereal box card was sufficiently strong to make a shroud to cover the top of the blade and house the LED strip. The main shroud was formed from 9cm wide sections (1cm wide crest, 2cm high sides, and an additional 2cm to be folded under the sides to give it a more rounded edge.
Gave it several coats of wood glue both inside and out, before spray painting and dry brushing it silver.
Step 6: Permanently Fixing the Blade Sections
This step is irrelevant if you used a single piece of acrylic. I used hot glue to avoid it cracking when the blade bent, but this produced air bubbles.
Either use a glue that allows some flexibility, or use a single line of hot glue, and re-heat it and clamp it to spread out the glue. Cut off excess with a craft knife, and seal the edge with epoxy if cutting the hot glue away has left it too rough.
Step 7: Attaching the LEDs to the Blade
Test the LED array in-situ so to make sure all the solder joints are fine. Use dabs of glue over any delicate solder joints to avoid putting too much stress on them as you move them around.
Squeeze a generous line of multi-purpose adhesive onto the led strip, and sandwich it against the acrylic. Align the shroud and acrylic so that the bolt holes match up, then wrap string or non-adhesive tape around the two halves to help the glue spread. The sides of the shroud won't properly meet with the acrylic, so once the first line of glue has dried, squeeze glue down the sides and clamp them together. The size of my desk clamp meant I was limited to about 10cm at a time. When fully cured, attach the bolts. If they are a poor fit, you can just glue on bolt heads, as they are mostly cosmetic.
Step 8: Switch Module
Cut sections of wood (Pine is easy to work with: I had some scrap pieces of floorboard to work with) to form a housing for the switches. Hot glue is useful to temporarily hold the switches together as you attach them to the wood, but 2-part rapid epoxy provides a more secure base, and is the best thing for joining multiple sections of wood (Wood glue is too weak and slow setting for narrow seams).
Wrap the whole thing in cereal box card and use more card to make the details. Several coats of wood glue helps to seal the edges and prevent peeling.
Step 9: Handle Details
I used some scrap aluminium sheet to make an angled shroud for the battery cover, although thick card would be fine too. I also wrapped the entire handle in string to smooth out any gaps and ridges, then sealed it all with wood glue.
Another few pieces of card wrapped around the handle formed the two recesses on the hand grip. To ensure they made good contact all the way around, I wrapped string around to hold them in place.
Step 10: Final Painting
A combination of spray and hand painting the switch module and handle proved the most effective (After masking off the blade and already-painted sections). I used mostly silver acrylic for the switches, and matte black spray paint for the handle, as well as dry brushing the edges with a silver/black mix.
I gave the entire thing a clear coat of lacquer which actually seemed to help diffuse the light on the blade better than sanding it. Masking off the handle first would have been better, because it's designed to have a more matte finish on the in-game model.
Zero's sword uses a cyan colour, achieved by setting both the green and blue to 100%. I built this sword to accompany a future Deathstroke costume, so orange could be made using 100% red and 50% green. It's great to be able to change the colour to virtually any combination, although realistically the potentiometer's small size and effectiveness limits each colour channel to off, 50% and 100%, giving you 26 colour combinations (Or all-off).
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