Introduction: Shakespeare Sword - Cardboard Prop
Need a sword prop for your Shakespeare production? No brooding Hamlet nor gentlemen of the court should be without one. Goths and emos could probably use one.
Caitlin's English class is taking part in doing a reading of "Midsummer's Night Dream". A couple of the characters do draw swords and someone asked if they could have props. The teacher said it was okay for the kids to go get a couple of play swords from the dollar store to use. Now when Caitlin relayed the tale to me, I envisioned that the others would bring in swashbuckling plastic scimitars or worse yet, pool noodle swords. Any you know me, no - that will not do, we must build them ourselves.
And thus, the gauntlet was thrown, make a prop sword, a few extra for her friends, and a spare for the teacher. A weekend project.
I guess when she takes it to school, if I get a call, the "weapons" were confiscated or they will be used for the play.
CAUTION: These are props but still should be used with care. They are blunt at the end but are hard enough to cause injury when forcibly used to whack, chop, or knight a person.
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Step 1: Ode to a Box...
You could make this out of some wood and end up like Calvin and Hobbes.
You could make this out of dowels or a yardstick and foam.
My weapon of choice, cardboard - because we can.
You will also need:
utility knife of heavy-duty scissors
marker or pencil
aluminum foil tape - found at home centers, used for metal duct work sealing and repair
double-sided carpet tape - found at home centers, really sticky double sided tape
yarn - various colours to wrap the handle
I also used a piece of reflective tape I had lying around to cover the center of the hilt. If you take a picture of it, the flash bounces off of it lighting it up like a jewel encrusted sword.
Step 2: Choose Your Weapon...
Do some quick research into what the sword should look like.
Caitlin's manga-fan friends wanted a katana for Shakespeare. I don't think so.
I envisioned some sort of medieval design. Something a knight or Joan of Arc would carry.
Lay out the basic shape on cardboard. This sword is 36 inches long total. 3.37 inches more and it would be a meter long.
Something wieldable by a middle school kid.
Cut pieces to glue on to shape the handguard crosspiece.
The trick to getting cardboard strong is to alternate the direction of the internal grain or corrugations with each layer that you glue up or laminate.
Once you have the basic shape, mark out the next layer. Cut out and glue.
You can piece up bits of cardboard scraps. Just bridge each gap with the next piece.
Build up to about 4 layers, more if you feel that it is not strong enough.
Build up the handguard more to give it visual depth and form.
Step 3: Papier Mache
Once all of the laminations are done, it is time to papier mache all of the raw edges.
This gives additional strength and gives a smooth overall appearance.
Reach into the recycling bin and grab all of the junk mail envelopes.
Rip out the plastic windows and gluelines which don't glue well.
I just used straight glue on pieces of torn envelopes and started covering all the raw edges and pieces that needed to be transitioned.
Let dry overnight.
Step 4: Forge Ahead...
For the cold hard steel look, apply shiney aluminum duct sealing tape to the blade.
Also, use aluminum tape to cover both ends of the handguard.
Take a marker or pen body to burnish all the sharp edges.
Step 5: To the Hilt...
For the end of the handle, I quickly serged a cover from a piece of felt. You could also apply some aluminum tape but I used up a whole roll for the 4 swords.
You could also just use hot glue to tack on a piece of felt to cover the end.
Place a piece of decorative paper where the handguard crosses the sword. I found it was too hard to cove that part with the yarn winding we will use on the handles.
Wrap the double-sided carpet tape on the exposed part of the handle.
Tie an initial knot with the yarn and start winding from the top to the bottom of the handle.
Keep the thread taut and wind closely. Check as you go so no exposed tape is shown. Just wind over the exposed spots.
Tie some kind of knot at the end of the winding. I tried something that was like the roast-beef knot. It seemed to hold as I pulled it tight enough to snap the yarn off.
Apply double-sided tape to the exposed sides of the handguard. Wind the yarn from one end. Criss-cross in the center and wind around on the top of the blade and the bottom of the handle.
Step 6: En Garde!
So here's to all the aspiring actors out there...