I was asked to make a fantasy sword for a photo shoot. They asked if it could have a 'fancy' handle.
Step 1: Materials and Tools Used
I got a cheap kids plastic sword in the pound shop (thrift store). It was nasty soft grey plastic and hollow. The handle and blade were a simple push fit. The handle had some nice pattern on it, and the top of the blade had some 'filigree' style pattern too. I decided that it would make a good donor starting point.
I cut the filigree work off the top of the blade, retained the handle and discarded the rest.
The new blade was cut from 1/8" hardboard, I looked around for a pleasing pattern on the net, and adjusted it to suit. The strengthener for the blade is a 4 mm fibreglass rod sold as net curtain support very cheaply on ebay.
The only actual fit requirements were that the blade needed a tang that would slide into the handle. The rest of the shape could be anything you like. I cut mine to about 1 meter long. I cut it using a jigsaw.
The first job was to bond the fibreglass rod to each side of the blade down the centre line using two part epoxy resin. Make sure that the rod goes well onto the tang so that it will end up inside the handle. I left about 4 inches of the blade tip free of the rod to allow for sanding and shaping
In addition you will need some car body filler, some car body resin and some paints. A Dremel with some sanding drums will make light work of any sanding required.
Step 2: Preparing the Blade and Handle
Once the fibreglass rods have fully cured check the blade for symmetry and looks. Make any corrections or adjustments at this stage. Once you are happy test fit the handle by sliding the tang into the handle. Make any required adjustments to the length of the tang so that it fits easily, is not too loose and it buts correctly against the hilt of the blade. Also check the moulding of the cheap plastic handle, make sure that there are no holes in the moulding, especially around the pommel or you will suffer at the next stage. If there are any holes at all you'll need to fill / block them up using some of the car body filler mixed up to the manufacturers instructions.
The next bit is fiddly and can be messy - so be advised! Next we need to fill the handle cavity with a resin mix. This will make it all feel more substantial as well as bonding the handle to the blade. We could just use the car body resin on it's own but it is very runny and when cured it is brittle. I prefer to use a mix of the filler (a putty) with the resin (a liquid) in a ratio of 1 part putty to 1 part resin. Here in the UK I use 'Davids Fast Glass' resin and 'Isopon P38' putty. They are essentially the same material and use the same hardener. In the US I believe that 'Bondo' make both a resin and a putty that can be mixed. The resulting mix has the consistency of double cream and is known as 'Rondo'. - Support the sword with the blade upright and as perpendicular as you can possibly get. I place the handle into a thick plastic pint glass in case of spills. CAREFULLY make up your mix, add the hardener as required and then SLOWLY and carefully pour the mixture into the handle through the small gap between the handle opening and the blade. Try to fill it as near to the brim as you can without it spilling all over the blade. Leave it to fully cure.
The handle and blade are now bonded.
Step 3: Finalising the Blade
Once everything had cured I added the two pieces of the original blade with their filigree work to either side of the hilt using two part epoxy.
Next I mixed up a batch of the filler (putty) and using the plastic spreader provided I added the blade profile to each side allowing the fibreglass rod to give the high point key. I can only apologise that I didn't get images of this stage :-(
You build up the profile using the putty, sand back, add another layer and sand back and so on. You can create any profile you like, I went for a hollow ground look, but a straight to edge profile would look just as pleasing. I bevelled the cutting edge using the Dremel as well. Continue with this stage until you are happy with the look and feel of the blade. If you are intending using the sword outdoors I suggest you give any areas of exposed hardboard a quick brush over with some resin to seal out the elements.
Step 4: Painting and Finishing
First the entire sword was given two coats of grey automotive matt primer.
Next the blade was sprayed silver, the handle and the hilt were sprayed matt black and then parts of the blade were masked off and some black shadow detail sprayed on.
The upper hilt and the hand guard were given a steel metallic finish and the handle a bronze metallic finish. Then the whole thing was given a coat of clear matt lacquer
Step 5: Complted
The completed sword