I was looking for a project to test out a different approach for making props, so I decided to make a cardboard replica of Sting for a friend of mine who is a big Lord of the Rings fan. While the sword is fairly accurate to the movie version, I did take some liberties with some details. And obviously it isn't nearly as impressive as any professionally-made movie prop replica, but it is much more affordable (being made mostly from cardboard and hot glue), and for my first sword, I think it don't look half bad.
Like my other Instructables, I will include DAISNAID notes (Do As I Say, Not As I Do) so y'all can end up with something better than me if you were inclined to give it a shot.
Much of my approach has been inspired from Featherweight's pictures at Cosplay.com. Check him out. I promise you his stuff is a helluvalot better-looking than mine :-)
Step 1: References and Templates
For an accurate replica, you need accurate references, so the first thing I did was use a search engine to find as many high-resolution pictures as I could. I also looked up the specs for replicas being sold to get the right length. I took a good look at the details, deciding how each piece would be done and how everything would come together. The planning stage is very important to avoid any frustration later on.
A document was then created in an image-editing program with a canvas size big enough to accommodate the prop. Then a reference picture was imported into a new layer and scaled to the proper size. The sword was then traced on yet another layer. Once that was done, the reference layer was hidden and the line art was duplicated several times. The original line art was then hidden and the duplicates were modified, erasing different parts, to create the different pieces that would be needed. The layout was then optimized and printed out. It wouldn't all fit on one page, so everything was carefully lined up and secured with masking tape.
A large piece of corrugated cardboard was found and sprayed with an adhesive and the printed template was stuck to it. After a few moments to allow better bonding, the individual pieces were cut out using a box cutter. Some of the smaller pieces were cut using scissors. Essentially, these would be the bones used to make the skeleton in the next step.
Now before anyone asks, the measurements and the templates used will not be made available. There's alot to be learned in the process described here and I believe the reader will gain more value by going through the experience themselves. Everything you need to know has been written here :-)
Step 2: Building the Frame
Assembling began with the handle. The template had two "spines" and four ellipses designed to come together to help guide the overall shape of the handle. The ellipses were numbered in order to avoid any confusion and the spines had lines marking where they should line up. A spine was glued into place on one side, followed by the ellipses which were systematically halved and quartered. The process was repeated on the other side and all of the joints reinforced with hot glue.
Two more spines were created using a thinner cardboard (can't remember if it was from a cereal box or from poster board), designed to go along the center of the length of the blade and coming to a point at the tip. This too was secured with hot glue.
Next came the hand guard pieces. Pressure was applied in the center of the pieces with a ruler to better control the bend of the cardboard as it would be glued into place. Masking tape was then used along the spine of the blade to create the slant towards the edges.
DAISNAID: Two things I would do differently here: 1) Finish the handle shape before gluing on the guard. I believe this would have made the sword stronger than it is now. It's not a huge issue, but it feels somewhat weak around the guard, probably due to some hollowness. 2) Apply the masking tape before gluing on the guard. Again, not a huge issue, but it could've looked better. Oh, and I would opt for wider masking tape if it's available. Doing one side at a time created slightly more work :-)
Step 3: Reinforcing the Frame
To finish the handle shape, Paper Clay was used to fill in the handle frame. After it was shaped as best as possible, the sword was set aside a few days to allow the Paper Clay to dry and harden so that it could be sanded into the final shape.
The beveled edges for the guard were then applied and hot glue was used to fill in every nook and cranny created by the corrugated cardboard. The edges of the blade were filled, as well as the hand guard and any space that remained that wasn't needed. Another pass was made with the tip of the glue gun to smooth out and shape as needed.
DAISNAID: While the sword felt solid enough at the time, fear that it may still be too flimsy and not durable led to covering the blade and handle with paper maché. While it worked out okay for the handle, the paper maché created some ugly detail that was hard to get rid of on the blade. This is where I should have stuck more with Featherweight's approach, covering each side of the blade with one piece of thin cardboard.
Step 4: Creating the Pommel
For the pommel, a length of cardboard from a cereal box was wrapped around the base of the handle and taped to maintain the diameter. Gauging the depth, a cap was hot-glued inside the cylinder to prevent it from sliding further than it was intended to. The other end was then measured and cut to shape the curves that would run along the circumference of the handle. The bottom of the pommel was designed and cut from another piece of the cereal box and glued to the end near the cap. Two other pieces were cut to help shape the side and glued into place. Paper Clay was then applied to the frame and shaped into what you see here. After a few days of drying and hardening, the pommel was sanded to smooth it out.
Step 5: Painting and Finishing Touches
Once the shaping was done for the sword, it was all painted black, along with the pommel. When the paint was dry, the handle was painted with long streaks of dark red and dark brown to imitate wood grain.
DAISNAID: My bad. Sorry. I forgot to take pictures of the handle at this stage. Remember to take pictures at every stage if you plan to do an Instructable! Take lots of pictures. Redundancy is better than absence when it comes to resources.
After the handle was done, it was covered with painter's tape. The guard and pommel were then dry-brushed with silver metallic paint. When these looked good, everything was coated with a clear finish lacquer. When the lacquer was dry, the guard and handle were covered in painter's tape before the blade was spray-painted chrome. After everything was painted, the pommel was hot-glued into place.
The inscription on the guard and blade were painted with matte grey acrylic paint. The effect I was going for was for the inscription to only be visible when light hit the blade at just the right angle, and my approach seems to have worked well.
DAISNAID: I later found out the ink used in calligraphy is available in a variety of colours. I would have opted for ink had I thought about it. Acrylic paint is too thick to paint fine detail, and it would have been easier to control the thickness of the line with ink as I was brushing it on.
Finally, he vine motif on the handle was done using a silver marker.
DAISNAID: The marker I used had a round, flat tip. While it was good enough to draw out the vine, the leaves would have required a finer, pointed tip to look right.
Well, that's it. If there's one more thing I would like to have done, it's to have painted the edges of the blade with blue glow-in-the-dark paint. Unfortunately the art supply store I frequent only had the green stuff so I passed. Maybe if I decide to make another Sting I'll be lucky.