Intro: Making the Blue Sword
The Blue Sword is heavily featured in two books that have long been among my favorites, The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley, and I've wanted to make it for a while. The Blue Sword is also a magic sword, and occasionally will do things like rain blue fire down upon your enemies. Making any sword wouldn't do; I needed this sword to glow blue.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
- 3/4"x6" board
- 1" copper pipe
- Foam floor mats
- Mold putty-I used Alumilite Amazing Mold Putty
- Resin- I used Alumilite Amazing Clear Cast
- Acrylic paint
- Leather or faux leather
- Lots of sandpaper. I used from 60 grit all the way to 1000 grit.
- Individual LED party lights
- 6 feet of EL wire
- A EL driver
I bought my EL wire from coolneon.com. I got the high bright standard size EL wire in blue, and the DAA1-D2 driver.
- Xacto knife
- Heat gun
- Dremel with cutting blade
- Table saw
- Miter saw
- Hot glue gun
Step 2: The Handle
A major limiting factor in this project was the need to get the battery pack for the EL wire into the handle. I wanted the sword to be self-contained, so the battery pack had to be concealed in the sword itself. I chose the smallest possible battery pack for the length of EL wire I was using, and then heavily modified it.
To make a handle the battery pack could fit inside, I used a piece of 1" copper pipe which I then smashed with a mallet to get an oblong shape. I then modifed the battery pack by removing the cover and a substantial portion of the battery side with a utility knife, taking care not to mess with the contacts. I also shaved off the corners on the driver side of the pack, until I got something that could actually fit into the handle. At this point, I had to cut out a piece of the copper pipe in order to make the on/off switch accessible from the outside of the handle. To do this, I marked out where I wanted the cut made, and used a Dremel with the cutting blade to rough out the cut, cleaning it up with files so it wasn't stabby.
At this point, I wasn't completely sure on the length I wanted my handle to be, so I left it until I figure out other things, which meant that I had to (get someone else to) use a grinder to cut my pipe to size. It ended up being 6", and a smarter approach would have been figuring out the length needed prior to smashing the pipe and just using a nice, non-terrifying pipe cutter on it. Ce la vie.
Step 3: Making the Gem: Mold
The Blue Sword is described in the books as a plain sword, with a blue stone in the pommel, so this is clearly a critical step for replicating the sword.
First I needed to make a mold for the gems. These are pretty big stones that I wanted (look, it's a fantasy sword, alright, I wanted a little ridiculousness!) In the end they measure 2" in diameter. I tried to find something to use as a mold, but no luck. I ended up buying mold putty to make the mold, which worked very well.
Making the mold was a three(ish) step process
1) Mix up the putty according to instructions, and place around a round object of the right size and curvature--in this case, I used a wooden egg I had laying around for some reason. A ball would work as well. Let cure.
2) Because I wanted a straight side to the mold, I then used a cardboard mailing tube, stood that upright in the mold, and pressed putty around it to get a straight side and let cure.
3) This left an uneven line between the two rounds of forming the mold, so I mixed a very small amount of putty and did my best to smooth things out.
A little rough, but it's effective.
Step 4: Making the Gem: Resin Casting and Sanding
Casting the Gem:
1) Shred some cellophane into small pieces
2) Mix the resin together according to the manufacturer's instructions. To figure out how much you need, fill your mold with water, and then pour out the water into a measuring cup. If it's a 1:1 two part resin, you need half as much for each part.
2) Once the two parts are mixed, but before pouring it in the mold, use a toothpick to mix a little bit of acrylic paint into the resin to color. I used a metallic periwinkle I had lying around. You can see in the image, not much paint is needed, just a little on the tip of the toothpick.
4) Pour about half of the resin into the mold.
5) Sprinkle the cellophane bits artistically into the resin
6) Pour in the rest of the resin.
7) Pop any bubbles that you can, and let it cure.
After curing the gems needed to be sanded to get a smooth surface. I started with a coarse 180 grit sandpaper to smooth out the surface, and then used finer and finer grits until finished with 1000 grit sandpaper. I then sealed the surface of the gems with a clear varnish to make them glossier.
Step 5: Making the Pommel
My making the pommel of the sword was complicated by two factors. It needed to fit the gems I had made, and it also needed to be removable. Being able to remove the pommel is critical so that I can access the battery pack and replace the battery when it inevitably runs out. So it needs to be removable, but snug enough that it won't go flying off if I need to brandish my sword at some brigands.
I tried a few different things, including forming aluminum, but ultimately settled on using foam floor mats. Another material I hadn't worked with before, but suitable for my needs.
1) Cut out a piece of foam with a very sharp utility knife to 1.5" by 9".
2) Cut a 'step' out of the edge of the foam, for the gem to sit in (see the second picture)
3) Use a heat gun to soften the foam and form in into a circle shape (easiest done around the gems) and hold in place until it cools and holds the form.
4) Cut easements into the thick inner foam to allow it to take a circular shape more easily.
5) Apply contact cement to the ends of the foam piece, let the glue set for a few minutes until just tacky, and then carefully align the ends and glue them together.
Step 6: Attaching the Pommel
To solve the issue of attaching the pommel, we used a small flexible pipe coupling which just fit into the handle of the sword with a tight, friction fit. A piece of flexible hose would work just as well.
A hole was cut out in the pommel for the small end of the coupling which was then glued in securely. This method of attachment also allowed us to store the excess wires in the pommel, since there wasn't space inside the handle.
Step 7: Making the Blade
This is the step where all the power tools languishing in dusty corners of the garage get to come out to play.
1) Use a table saw to rip your board down to 2" wide. Use a miter saw to shorten your blade to the desired length + extra length for the tang of the blade.
2) Use a router and a small bit (mine was 1/4") to cut a groove down the center of your blade on both sides. To do this you have to create a guide for the edge of the router to sit against so that when you are routing you can push the straight edge of the router against that and get a perfectly centered, straight line down your board.
3) Adjust the blade on the table saw so it is at a 45 degree angle. This is how we're getting an edge on the blade. Position the blade 2" + 1/2 the thickness of the board away from the edge of the saw. Pass the board through the table saw, carefully, flipping over and turning so that four cuts are made, beveling the straight edge of the sword.
4) Using the miter saw, rotate the saw so it will make a 45 degree angled cut in the wood but is still perpendicular with the ground. Cut the end of the sword blade to a point.
5) This is the trickiest part. Adjust the miter saw so that it makes a 45 degree angle with the ground, and is still making a 45 degree angle to the straight edge of the wood. Carefully position the saw and make the four cuts to bevel the tip of the sword. This is not something that can be done with precision and measurement, so eyeball it and accept that it won't end up absolutely perfect.
6) Mark out how long the sword blade is going to be, and where the tang of the blade will be located. We used a table saw to cut out the lengths of the tang (parallel to the length of the sword) and a jigsaw to cut out the short sides of the tang, sizing the tang so it'd just fit into the handle of the sword.
7) Using leftover pieces, cut out square prisms the same thickness as the blade and 3" long to attach as the crossguard of the sword. Use a nail gun to attach the pieces for the crossguard.
Step 8: Sanding the Blade
Lots and lots and lots of sanding. I went from 80 grit to smooth out irregularities, all the way to 400 grit to get my blade as smooth and silky as possible to prep it for painting.
I used the 80 grit sandpaper to rough out the crossguard to make a more curved, smooth form, and then sanded these smooth as well.
I also used putty to smooth out the cracks and nail-gun holes around the crossguard and get everything as smooth and joint-less as possible.
Step 9: Painting
I used Rustoleum spray paint in metallic silver to paint the sword blade (and hey, my sword won't rust!). Apply in many light coats in a well-ventilated area, letting dry before applying additional coats for the smoothest finish.
To paint the pommel, I sealed the foam with Plasti-dip by spraying the plasti-dip on in a few, thicker coats and then painted it with a silver metallic acrylic paint.
I also messily slapped some of the acrylic onto the rubber connector, just so that the tiny bit that's a little visible when the sword is assembled doesn't stand out
Step 10: Soldering and Lighting
I'm not providing instructions for the soldering portion, because this is literally the first time I have ever soldered anything. Instead, I recommend checking out Cool Neon's Ultimate Beginner's Guide which is very helpful and got me though the process without any difficulty. It was easier than I expected! If you're buying your EL wire from Cool Neon and don't want to solder it yourself you can also have them solder it for you fairly inexpensively.
For the pommel, I ordered these self contained LED lights, and slipped them inside nice and easy. The fit on the pommel around the resin gems is snug enough that I don't have to glue the gems in, which means that I can pop the gems out and have easy access to the interior to turn the lights on and off when needed.
Step 11: Covering the Handle
To cover the handle, I cut out a scrap piece of leather to fit around it, and then cut it in half lengthwise. I then used an awl to pierce holes in the sides of the leather and sewed back up where I had just cut in order to add some visual interest to the handle. This side went opposite of the part of the handle where the switch for the battery pack it. On that side, I cut out a piece of the leather so the switch can be accessed and the EL lights turned on or off easily, and then sewed it up around the handle. When holding the sword, the switch is hidden by my hand.
Step 12: Assembly
To attach the EL wire to the sword, I just used hot glue. Although not the most secure of attachments, I wanted the EL wire to be removable in the future in case I wanted to use it in future projects, so I just arranged the wire how I wanted it around the sword and then glued it in place.
For assembly and disassembly, the pommel easily pops off the handle, the battery pack comes out of the handle, and the handle comes off of the tang of the sword blade. Originally, I had planned to screw the handle onto the tang, but the fit is snug enough that it is very secure without screws.
Step 13: The Final Result!
Nearly every step in this project required doing this I had never done before--mold making, casting resin, soldering, working with foam--so this was a wonderful project for me to expand my skills and explore new kinds of making. I'm already scheming for more lighted projects in my future!