I made these for my "Rise of the Tomb Raider" Lara Croft cosplay, but I had a hard time finding much information on it or any tips on how to make it that didn't involve wood or metal or just skills, material, and money that I just don't have. So I decided to share the cheep, easy version that I created. Its about 18 in. long and, while it won't stand up to being used as a toy, its definitively sturdy enough for a prop!
You will need:
- 6 sheets of 12x18 in. Craft Foam ($.99 a sheet at AC Moore)
- Wood Glue
- X-acto Knife
- Hot Glue Gun
- Mod Podge (You don't need a lot, a small bottle will do)
- Acrylic Sealant
- Paint Brushes
- Red, Black, Light grey, Dark grey, and Brown Paint
- White Fabric scraps (optional)
- Coffee Grounds (optional)
- Shoelace or string (optional)
- Paper Towels or a Sponge
For my project, I used the matte Mod Podge, but you could probably use any version with similar success. If I were to try this again, I would probably try using the Hard Coat Mod Podge, just to make the finished project a little more stiff and possibly negate the need for the wood glue. I also used the Americana Multi-pirpose Sealer for my acrylic sealant which I really liked because it dried quickly, was easy to paint over, and hardened quite nicely when dry. For the craft foam, I used black sheets and I liked how they added to the weathered effect I gave the pickaxe, but you can use whatever color you want. For the fabric scraps, I recommend using an old sheet or something similar. Medical gauze strips might even work if you don't have any fabric/don't want to buy any.
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Step 1: Print the Pattern.
To make the pattern, I found an image of Lara's pickaxe online and traced the outline in photoshop, making separate images for the different layers I wanted to use. So that you don't have to do that, I've included the three images that I used as a pattern. I recommend printing onto card stock if you're able to so that your pattern doesn't get worn down after several uses. The pickaxe is 18 inches tall, so you won't be able to print it onto a single piece of paper. I solved this by using Adobe Reader's poster function in the print menu and sized the photo to 125%. You can use whatever function works best with your computer, just make sure it prints to be 18 inches tall (or whatever size you want it to be if you're not looking for it to be to scale). You'll have to tape or glue the pieces of your pattern together and cut it out. If you're using card stock, I recommend using an X-acto knife to cut out the holes in the middle.
Step 2: Trace Pieces Onto the Foam
You will need 4 handle pieces, 2 of the non bladed pieces with holes, 2 of the non bladed pieces without holes, and one of the bladed pieces. for the non bladed pieces without holes, use the third PDF and just skip tracing the holes (picture A shows how both the pieces with hole and without holes will look on the foam.) The bladed piece does not fit entirely on one sheet of craft foam as you can see in picture B, so you will have to trace it in two pieces. I chose to make the long blade into a separate piece which worked well because the layers that will be attached to either side keep it secured later on. Picture C shows where I cut the blade. Trace all 4 handle pieces on any scraps large enough for them.
Step 3: Cut Out and Assemble the Base
The craft foam cuts pretty easily with scissors, however for details and holes, I recommend using a X-acto knife. Use hot glue to attach the blade to the base. You should glue in between the two pieces and on the sides after they're attached.
Step 4: Coat the Base With Wood Glue
In order for the blades to be firm and not too floppy, the base needs to be coated in wood glue. The wood glue becomes very stiff when dry, so it'll help support your axe. I only coated one side of mine and it was plenty firm, but you can coat both sides if you want. It takes several hours to dry fully, so I recommend doing this before working with any of the other pieces. Leaving it overnight also works well.
Step 5: Cut the Rest of the Pieces
Again, the craft foam should cut easily enough with scissors, but and X-acto knife will be helpful for holes and details. You should end up with two of the sets pictured above.
Step 6: Assemble Into Three Sections
Start by using hot glue to attach one of the non bladed with holes pieces to one of the non bladed without holes pieces. You should make a solid layer of hot glue between the pieces and work in sections as shown above. Once those are together, add two layers of handles. Repeat this with the second set of pieces. Make sure that these pieces face the opposite direction! There is no "wrong" side of the foam, so it doesn't matter which way the piece face when you cut them out, but make sure you glue them so that you end up with the three pieces pictured above. At this point, trim the bottom of the handle on both non bladed pieces so that all the layers line up.
Step 7: Assemble Pickaxe and Seal
Use hot glue to attach the non bladed pieces to the base. When you add the hot glue to the side coated in wood glue, the wood glue may start to bubble. This is ok, it won't affect anything. At this point, you can trim any edges so that all the layers line up. I didn't do this because I personally like the slightly rugged look it has, but if you want yours to look neater, i recommend trimming it. You could even use a file to make it as even as possible. Coat the axe with Mod Podge, paying special attention to the sides. Once dry, coat with the acrylic sealant, again paying special attention to the sides.
Step 8: Paint!
Paint the axe the appropriate colors. Even if you use black craft foam, still paint the handle black, it helps it look like all one piece. You will likely need several coats of each color. I let the black foam show through a little on the red parts because I was planning on weathering mine, but if you want yours to look new, make sure the black doesn't show. If you want to weather your axe, once the paint drys, mix some dark grey and brown paint and drip in a section of paper towel or sponge. Dap it a few times like a stamp to get the excess paint off. Rub the sponge across the axe wherever you want to apply weathering.
Step 9: Finishing Touches (optional)
If you look at Lara's axes in the game, all of the sections have started to wear through to show the metal under the red paint. To replicate this, use a small brush to apply a little bit of light grey or silver paint to all of the edges in the red section. If you get too big of a glob, just use your finger or a paper towel to smudge the paint in the correct direction. For the handle grips, tear strips of white fabric. For the weathered look, rub some coffee grounds into the strips. Wrap the strips around the handles, securing the ends with hot glue. To make it so that I could hang the axe from my belt, I tied a small piece of shoelace into a loop through the hole by the handle.
You are now ready to climb mountains and fight bad guys!!...or at least look like you are!