I'm working on a Link costume from The Legend of Zelda, and that costume isn't complete without the Master Sword. This is for a child's costume, so the sword is scaled down to 30" in length and made from foam which is a safer material than wood or resin.
I used EVA foam floor mats which had been sitting in my junk pile. While they weren't in the best of shape, I was able to cut out what I needed. The EVA foam and leather were also left over scraps from other projects.
• Sword and scabbard pattern, I've provided the pattern but it is scaled to a child size
• EVA foam floor mats
• (1) pack craft foam
• 3/8" threaded steel rod
• contact cement
• plasti-dip, 1 can
• 1/8" hardboard to serve as cutting guides for angles
• spray paint, 1 can each - silver, blue, gold, and green. I used Rustoleum
• hobby knife and blades
• metal straight edge
• metal file
• electric sander
• belt sander
• leather punch
• drill and hole saw
• rotary dremel with grinding bit
• rotary dremel depth attachment
• oscillating dremel with cutting blade
• wood burning tool
• heat gun
• painter's tape
• $55 for materials. The only thing I need to buy was green and gold paint. So my cost was only $8.
• Hobby blades are very sharp.
• Use a cutting mat. It will protect work surfaces and blades.
• A heat gun gets very hot and can cause burns, be wary.
• Paint in a well ventilated area and wear a respirator
Step 1: The Sword
I first sketched the sword in Google Sketchup. I scaled this to a 30" length, which is in proportion to the costume wearer. An adult would need a larger sword.
I then printed out the template and traced it to the foam. I cut out the full shape with a hobby knife. You'll need to cut out the sword shape twice as we'll glue the two pieces back to back. It's okay if the cuts are a bit rough because the blade edge will be beveled later. The hobby knife should cut through the foam easily. Replace the blade often for sharp, clean cuts. I used an electric sander to smooth off the pattern on the back side of the mat so that the two sides of the blade glue up tight. I buy anti-fatigue mats from Harbor Freight as they have the best price.
While I started with one big sword shape, I later cut the sword into individual shapes. This will produce the best accuracy. It's more difficult to carve out the entire shape and easier to carve out individual pieces.
While I wanted the blade thinner, the thickness will be (2) sheets of foam so that I can embed a steel rod. The foam by itself is not rigid enough. I'm inserting a 3/8" threaded steel rod cut to length. A threaded rod provides more grip for glue than a smooth rod. A dremel with a grinding bit and depth attachment creates a trench down the middle to embed the rod. You could hand cut this, but if you have a dremel and attachment you can get a cleaner cut. I left the rod 1" short of the tip and .5" short of the hilt. If you run it all the way out it could puncture the foam and injure someone. The rod ended up being short on the hilt side. When I made individual pieces, the handle got longer as I'm restricted to (1) or (2) pieces of foam. Re-cutting a piece of foam to make it thinner is too much trouble. I should have waited to cut the steel rod until all my pieces were done... or you know, measured everything.
I used hardboard as a guide to get the taper of the blade edges, using the oscillating dremel tool for the cut. I glued the blade halves together over the rod, with enough of the rod protruding to attach the handle. Coat both pieces of foam and the steel rod with the contact cement, then reapply immediately because the foam will soak in the cement. I typically wait ten minutes for it to dry, then attach the pieces. The rotary dremel with a tapered grinding bit smoothed out any roughness on the blade. I set the speed to 15-20k rpms depending.
For the handle I cut out pieces of foam and glued them together using contact cement. Previously with foam I've used hot glue, but decided to try contact cement. It's really nice not burning myself or having strings of glue everywhere. The bond is very strong with contact cement.
Using a dremel and file, I shaped the handle pieces which will later be strung onto the threaded rod. Since the handle has various tapers, I cut out shapes with a hole saw. I was restricted to the hole saw sizes I had, but I got pretty close to accurate.
For shaping the rounded pieces, I glued up foam to an equivalent thickness and height. Sometimes it was a bit thicker or thinner than the reference. I drilled a hole in the center for the steel rod, but then ran another bolt through. I cut pieces of hardboard to act as a guide, sandwiching the foam in between with nuts on each side and clamped the rod in a vice. I then used the oscillating dremel to cut to the guides with a file or the rotary dremel and a grinding bit to smooth out any imperfections. The guides ensure uniform angles and cuts. I then assembled the small pieces. The handle is a craft foam wrap. I first glued just one edge to the rod, then glued a little bit at a time, wrapping it around the handle, until the thickness was accurate.
I used a dremel and wood burning tool to create the indentations in the hilt. Breaking the shapes down individually would have made for a cleaner and more accurate final product, but this is a kid's toy and those details just aren't necessary. This approximation is close enough.
I used a wood burning tool to create the triforce symbol in the blade, but did not create the filigree because I didn't think I could make it look good. Craft foam is used for the other details.
The diamond shape is more floor mats cut at an angle.
The handle grips are just thin strips of craft foam glued to the handle. I used tape as a guide to line it up.
Once everything is glued up, use a heat gun to close the pores of the foam before plasti-dip. The foam will darken slightly and acquire a sheen. This step doesn't take long, so don't burn the foam. Heating the foam closes the pores so it absorbs less paint.
I plasti-dipped the entire sword once assembled. Then I taped off to paint the various parts, using blue, green, silver, and gold. Be thorough in your taping to avoid overspray and leaks. I had a few. You'll have to paint in sections. I'd paint one color, let it dry for 24 hours and then paint another section.
If this was for me, I'd do a dark wash to make it look a little grimy and used. It just adds a nice degree of realism and contrast, but the costume wearer wanted to forgo this step.
Step 2: The Scabbard
I made a scabbard in much the same way. It's all foam floor mats, sized to fit the sword. I waited until the sword was complete before building, just so I knew it would fit. I started by cutting the faces according to the pattern, then I cut strips of as wide as the sword is thick. I glued the main shape of the scabbard up, tapering towards the sword's point.
The edges were rounded over with the dremel and craft foam creates the details.
To line up the triforce shapes, I taped them together first, aligned correctly and glued them to the scabbard as one unit. The craft foam details were cut long. I'd glue the face of the detail on each side, making sure to line them up, then wrap the detail around the edge. Overlap the edges and cut in the center. It's a perfect seam that can then be glued down. The craft foam also has a little bit of stretch to it.
The bolts/rivets are craft foam. I used a leather punch to punch the perfect circles out of the craft foam.
The leather band is real leather, contact cemented at the seam. The loops for the leather are craft foam. The scabbard harness has an aluminum hook that hooks the leather band on the scabbard.