Introduction: How to Make Battle Ready Foam Fighting Swords!
Several years ago I took a class in medieval style sword fighting. I wasn't very good at first but after a few weeks I was beating my way through half the line. I was obsessed, sword fighting was like no other sport I had ever played, and I desired to become one of the best in my class. However, being able to swing a sword gracefully doesn't come without practice, and being able to efficiently win in battle doesn't come without constant dueling and building of your reaction skills, and that requires good training swords. That's why I made these. They are weighted and balanced to replicate an actual sword. The foam padding and soft sleeve make for a blade that you can be hit by all day long without being bruised.
The video has some awesome demo's at the beginning and end and a helpful build tutorial in between so make sure you check it out: Here. Also, there are two templates available, one for several guards and one for a single guard. If you have any questions at all be sure and leave them in the comments and I will answer them as soon as possible. Thanks, Enjoy.
- PVC pipe cutter (or a regular old saw)
- Hot glue gun
- Ram rod (needs to fit semi loosely in PVC pipe)
- Sewing machine (or sewing needle)
- Rotary cutter (optional for cutting fabric)
- Jig Saw
- Belt Sander (or something to round the edges of the wooden guard)
- 7/8 drill bit (I used an Irwin Speed Bore)
- Flathead screw driver
- Paint (you want it to look shiny don't ya?)
- Fabric for the blade sleeve (This fabric needs to be extremely durable and soft. If you can't find both then make one sleeve be durable and put another one on top of that for softness)
- Pipe insulation (pre-slit)
- 3/4" thin walled PVC pipe (needs to be cut to the overall length of your sword)
- Electrical tape
- Duct tape
- Paracord or leather strips (pretty much whatever you want to wrap the handle in)
- Double sided tape (if you wrap the handle in paracord)
- Guard Template (download and print in normal sheet size)
Single Version: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwB600jz5yPkeDNo...
Multi Version: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BwB600jz5yPkMkp...
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Step 1: Making the Core
The first thing you are going to need is the PVC core. I chose to use thin walled PVC because although rigid, it is still quite flexible and this will prevent it from snapping or shattering (can you tell I've broken a lot of training swords?). The other reason you need to use thin walled is because it requires less foam padding. If you use something thicker the amount of padding required to make it safe will make the blade too bulky.
All of that being said, the first thing you need to do is cut the PVC to the desired length (3' is what I use but you can do what you want, although I wouldn't go any longer than 3-1/2') and find the center of the pipe. If you are using 3' of pipe then this will be 1-1/2' from one end. Next, drill a very small hole in the center to accommodate a small nail. If your nail goes through the entire pipe then make sure you cut it down and sand it flush with the pipe.
Once you've done that then you need to make a stopper to go in the center of the pipe. The method you use to make this can vary. I found the easiest way to make it is to hot glue a dime onto a scrap piece of foam (like what's used for shadowing tool boxes) and cut it out with scissors (this way there will be extra foam around the dime). After I got the stopper made then I applied hot glue around the edges and quickly rammed it down the pipe to the nail. Go ahead and mark the end that you inserted the stopper through since that is the end that is going to be the handle.
Now you need to prepare your foam blade. First, take the pipe insulation and cut it to length. The length needs to be at least 1/2' (6 inches) shorter than your PVC core (the difference between the blade foam and the core is how much handle you get). So for example if your core is 3' long then you would cut the foam to be 2-1/2' long. Once you have it cut to length, then tape over the seam every couple of inches with electrical tape and make sure that your taping starts flush with one end of the foam (this is going to be the end that goes onto the pipe first).
Once the foam has been prepared then pull it onto the core (make sure the taped end goes first). I find that by alternating where I pull on the foam can help prevent stretching. Also, make sure that you leave around 1/2" overhang on the end. This will be your padding for stabbing (and believe me, it's important).
Now that your blade is on the core you may notice that the pipe insulation has split in some places. This is OK just tape over it all again. Then wrap the ENTIRE foam blade in duct tape. I know in the video and in some pictures you will see mine only half wrapped, but if you want the sword to last you must wrap the whole thing. One last thing I always do is tightly stuff the blade end of the core slightly over the top with scrap pieces of foam, then use electrical tape to hold it all down. It makes the sword more solid and gives even more padding for stabbing.
Step 2: Sewing the Sleeve
This step might seem like a lot of extra work but trust me, it's worth it. You see if you just wrap foam in duct tape then it will feel like you're being smacked every time you get hit. Plus the end of the blade will tend to leave scratches and red marks, especially in the winter.
To begin, choose your fabric. I recommend you buy a fabric that you know won't fall apart easily (obvious right?). Remember this fabric needs to be doubly strong because the hand guards are made of wood. If you can't find a fabric that is soft as well as durable then just make two sleeves, one for durability and the outermost one for softness.
To make the sleeve, first make sure that at least one edge of your fabric is strait and lay your sword parallel to that edge. Then fold that edge over the sword and line it up so that you have just enough extra for sewing later. Once you have that marked and cut then fold the strip of fabric in half and sew a "heavy" stitch along side and top edge of the sleeve. Next simply flip the sleeve inside out to hide the stitch and pull it onto the sword. Your sleeve should be around 1-2" longer than the blade so use a blunt Flathead screwdriver (or something similar) to stuff all of the excess fabric up under the foam.
Step 3: Making the Guard & Pommel
To make the guard, first cut out the template (available under the supplies list) and glue it to the bottom right edge of a 2x4. After you've cut it out, then clamp it bottom side up in your vise and drill a 7/8" hole in the exact center of the piece. Once I had that done I rounded off all of the corners and edges using my belt sander and gave it a few coats of glossy black spray paint (I had no silver on hand). Remember, if you don't round the edges well enough then the guard can tear up the fabric sleeve on other fighter's swords.
To make the pommel, first cut the end of your 2x4 so that you have a 1-1/2 X 1-1/2 (or buy stock that is already that size). Then draw a line 1-1/2" away from the edge and drill another 7/8" hole 3/4" deep 3/4" away from the edge (the center of the block). Once the hole is drilled, cut off the piece at the cut line and use a belt sander to round off all of the edges and give the pommel the desired shape.
Step 4: Assembling the Hilt
Assembling the Hilt correctly is one of the most important parts of this build. The blade can be replaced, the handle can be re-wrapped, but a wobbly guard and pommel can't be fixed easily. So Do It Right!
First make a paper tube (preferably out of card-stock) by wrapping a 1-1/2" wide strip of paper around the pipe, gluing it at the end, and sliding it halfway off. There is really no way to know exactly how much paper you'll need. Basically you want the guard and pommel to go on as tight as possible, without collapsing the paper tube. I've even used a trading card and although it was difficult to get on, that guard still doesn't wiggle to this day. Once you have the tube made and slid halfway off the pipe then slip the guard on over the paper. Then slide the guard with the paper all the way up to the blade.
Now before you can put on the pommel you need to add the weight to the sword. I wanted my swords to weigh 1lb each so I simply stuffed the open end full of sand. This also makes them balance 5-6" in front of the guard. If you wanted a rapier style sword and need it to balance at the guard, then you could get some round steel and use a wooden dowel to offset the steel from the center so that the steel sits in the handle. Make sure that whatever you use, that it is in good and tight. If you use sand or fish tank gravel then use another stopper like from earlier and seal it in with hot glue.
For the pommel, glue another paper tube into the hole and then slide it partway onto the handle, add super glue in front of the paper then continue to slide it up as far as it will go (if your paper tube collapses then try again). Once you have the pommel on, then drill a very small hole halfway through the guard and pommel and insert a small nail along with some glue into the hole. This completes the assembly of the hilt and if done correctly neither your guard nor your pommel should wobble or spin.
Step 5: Wrapping the Handle and Some Final Inspirations
Wrapping the handle is possibly my favorite part in this entire build. I have a small obsession with handle wraps, they give a chance to be creative, express yourself, and makes the sword feel amazing in your hand. There are several ways you can wrap the handle. The easiest way is to just wrap it in electrical tape (but it gets slick when wet). If you want something of higher quality, you could plat the handle in leather, or you can do as I and wrap it in gutted paracord. All that being said, here is a crash course in the humble single cord wrap.
The amount of paracord you need is always tricky, I usually use around 6-7' or so. First wrap the handle in double stick tape so that the paracord won't slip. Next hot glue the end of your paracord right below the guard and do one wrap and glue that one over the first. After that, begin tightly wrapping the cord around the rest of the handle without overlapping. I usually come up an inch short and wrap the uncovered area and part of the braid with electrical tape to blend the pommel with the rest of the hilt. After this I like to tie a bunch of repeating clove hitches right below the guard to improve aesthetics, but that is entirely optional.
Well I hope you found this instructable and video tutorial helpful and entertaining. If you have any questions be sure and let me know. Thanks for reading and watching.