About a year ago, a couple of fresh and excited LARPers came to a conclusion that the level of boffer quality in their local LARPing community could use a boost. Tube-shaped swords are easy to make, cheap, and certainly get the job done. The problem is that they just don't really look like swords! After researching and hashing out prototypes, Those two LARPers managed to establish a method for boffer-building that was easy enough to make with simple tools with an end result that looks somewhat weaponlike.
We apologize for the poor image quality in some of these pictures. Everything was taken with a cellphone camera.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
For tools you will need:
- Utility knives + extra blades (we are going to go through a lot of blades, best to buy in bulk)
- Along ruler like a t-square or meter stick
- a saw to cut your PVC
- measuring tape
- a sharp object like a tack or sewing needle
- Cutting mat, not a necessity, but sure is nice to have
For materials you will need:
- Closed-cell foam, AKA Camp mat, roughly ⅜” thick, available at Canadian tire, wal-mart, etc.
- Open-cell foam, like the kind found in couches or mattresses
- PVC core - 1/2" PVC for small weapons ≤ 24", 3/4" PVC for weapons up to 48", and 1"CPVC for large weapons
- Double-sided carpet tape, Duck brand has a very strong hold.
- Coloured duct tapes for decorating. Duck brand.
- Celophane wrap or a plastic shopping bag
Step 2: Cut Your Core
When you cut your cpvc make sure to cut it 5-6 inches shorter than you want your actual total weapon length to be. This particular sword is going to be around 36” long, so we have a 30” core. This is because extra foam and thrust tip add 4 inches to the top of the blade, and a good pommel adds 2 inches to the bottom of your weapon. This ensures that everyone's eyes are safe, and that nobody has to leave LARP with a mad owie from pvc extrusion.
Make sure the edges of your pvc are smooth and clean.
Step 3: Cutting Your Camp Mat
Measure out the foam you are going to use. For this build, we are going to have foam going straight down the length of the sword, then cut the sword out of it. REMEMBER, the foam must extend 2 inches on either side from the core. We are cutting out 6 long rectangles of foam. Four 1 ½” wide, for the blades and two 2 ½” wide, for the sides. They are 34” long. You can adjust these numbers to make a thinner or fatter blade, but we are making a nice, big overbuilt sword here for extra safety factor. When you are finished, you should be left with 4 blade halves, and 2 sides.
Step 4: Carpet Tape
Carpet tape is extremely sticky and strong, and it doesn’t require a drying time, unlike spray adhesive. You do not need to cover the entire surface for sticking the foam layers together. it is not recommended, as that will waste tape, and carpet tape is hard to cut through. Stick your thinner “blade” pieces together in pairs. Ensure that they have the same side facing towards each other to compensate for the curl of the foam. Tape the larger blade pieces on both sides leaving on untaped strip in center.
Step 5: Installing Your Foam
This part is tricky. First, you will want to cover the entire length of the core with tape. Do not scrimp on your tape here! You want to have the highest adhesion possible here, to ensure that your boffer is strong. once you have covered your edge and ends with a strip of tape, carefully line up your blade, making sure that it comes 2” out from either end. Perhaps get a second pair of hands for this. Take your time to ensure that the blade is as straight as possible and lined up nicely along the core. if you are using ¾” PVC, the blade should be roughly the same width.
Repeat for the second blade, ensure that it is aligned with the first.
Next, install the sides, centering them along the core, then press everything together nicely.
Then fill the holes in the ends with scrap foam. hold it in with a small piece of carpet tape
Step 6: Shaping Your Sword
Draw out a pattern for the shape of your sword. Using a sharp blade, carve it out. you may be cutting through carpet tape at this point, take note that cutting through tape of any kind dulls your blades faster than anything else in boffer making. Trim down the handle until you like the feel. Get creative with your pommel, but dont take too much away from it.
Using a fresh blade, bevel the edges down. this will add a lot to the look of the sword. this requires a steady hand. The sharper your knife, the easier it will be. Use a few blades. dont be shy.
We made a crossguard for this sword as well, using some extra layers of foam, as seen in the above pictures.
Step 7: The Thrust Tip
The Thrust Tip is essential to safely stabbing your foes. We use super-soft open cell foam for this. Open cell foam is a huge pain to cut without a very fresh knife, so we strongly recommend grabbing a fresh blade unless you want to crudely hack out your thrust tip. Measure out your dimensions using the end of your boffer, then measure 2” out. Cut the shape out with your sharp knife.
Use a strip of carpet tape to apply the tip. An optional thing to do to make your thrust tip look more cohesive is to bevel it down along the same lines as your blade, as illustrated above. draw the bevel lines on with your marker, then gently cut out the waste.
Use a piece of celophane or plastic bag, cover the thrust tip. Doing this ensures that the tape wont stick to it and hold it down. It is essential for the tip to bounce back from compression. stick down with a bit of tape, and form it to your tip. (we prefer celophane because it forms to the tip more evenly). Now we can begin the next step….
Step 8: Taping!
Using all that lovely duct tape you bought, it’s time to tape that boffer. the best way to do this is to tape lengthwise down the blade. This method is the strongest, safest, and leaves the least seams. Careful not to overlap too much, too many layers will harder the blade and add extra weight to it. make sure to make relief cuts in your tape when taping around corners for a neater look.
When you are done decorating, use your pointed object to pierce small holes in the thrust tip to allow for airflow. This allows better compression and de-compression.
Step 9: Finished!
Now you’re done! Time to take your sword into battle.