I put the pictures back on another host, hope they are useful for people. I don't cosplay actively anymore, and haven't been to any cons for over two years, but here you go. First though, a few common questions to address:
Do you do commissions?
Sadly, no. I live in an apartment, and frankly this process is too labor intensive for me to consider doing for what most people are willing to pay for a prop. Sorry!
How did you get the handle in?
A really long drill bit, a bit of patience, and some luck. I suppose there are better ways of doing it, and it appears there are some possible methods in this thread as well. I preferred working with one piece of foam as opposed to two or more, however.
Why didn't you coat the foam with gesso?
Frankly, I didn't know at the time. It's been a proven method that works and keeps the foam in the proper shape, which lets you use less bondo, which leads to a lighter prop. I just didn't do it here. This tutorial is more a picture diary of my project, which I hope will help alot of you.
Will this method work for prop x?
It depends on the size, and complexity of the surfaces. Large, curvy props this will work well on. Small, intricate trinkets? Maybe not so hot. Stuff like body armor? I would assume so. Experiment with it.
What kind of foam should I use?
There's two types, one apparently works better than the other. The stuff I used (dense Owens-Corning pink or blue foam, NOT styrofoam made from the little balls) is probably a bit easier to find locally.
(end edit 8/24/07)
Some of you may remember I put up this tutorial on Cosplay.com about a year and a half ago. Since that time, someone broke my sword, and I have remade it again in a better (more durable) fashion. This technique is somewhat time consuming and messy, but produces pretty good looking (if a bit heavy) results. Your mileage may vary, but for those of us without access to wood shaping tools it's a good start.
One last note, please work in a well-ventilated area when using fiberglass epoxy. It's very toxic and can cause brain damage if inhaled too much. I suggest working outside, or a very well ventilated garage if necessary.
All my old hosting died, so you're gonna have to just keep this gallery open in a separate tab:
Tessaiga Tutorial V. 2.0
Planning and Shaping
First off, before we start anything, we need to plan the shape of our weapon. Take a sheet of paper or several paper grocery bags taped together and draw yourself a pattern to follow. Sketch it in pencil first, then go over the correct lines you want in sharpie. Cut out the pattern.
Next, get your sheet of 2" dense foam insulation. You can buy this at Home Depot or Lowes, or any other home improvement store. The stuff you want is the dense foam, and it is usually a bright blue or pink and comes in 4x8 sheets.
Pin your pattern to the piece of foam, and trace around it.
Using a keyhole saw or some other type of saw (perhaps a jigsaw even, but I just used a small hand saw), cut out the shape of the weapon. Try and save as much foam as possible, as you may need it later if you mess up, or for future projects.
As you can see, I've drawn along this rough blade shape guides where I need to cut. I've marked the center of both the flat part of the blade, and the edge, so I know where to cut. This helps out a ton in the next step - shaping your weapon. The easiest way to do this is to use a handheld saw or knife of some sort. I've found that an electric knife (like one you use to cut a turkey on Thanksgiving) works quite well. In fact, it's what I used for this project. Here is a half of the sword shaped and lightly sanded to even out imperfections:
It takes quite a bit of time to finish this, but try and get the foam as close to the shape of your weapon as possible. It's ok if it is a bit uneven - you can get rid of these imperfections by sanding with a 150 grit or so sandpaper. Here are a few shots of what it should look like when you're done shaping and sanding the foam:
This is a close-up of the edge of Tessaiga. It tapers off and is also an edge at the tip of the sword. Careful planning and an exact idea of how you want it to look makes this kind of thing possible. If you rush, you may have to start all over again!
Planning your Fiberglass coverage
Fiberglass is messy. VERY messy. However, using fiberglass cloth can bring strength to your prop weapon so it will not snap in half should someone, oh, pound it into the floor like someone did with my first Tetsusaiga. This time around, I'm adding the needed strength to the weapon by using fiberglass.
However, it should be noted you can't just randomly slap on cloth and expect it to come out good. Odd shaped props may require several pieces of fiberglass cloth fit together like a puzzle to not look lumpy and odd when finished. The best way to do this is to plan out beforehand how you are going to cover your prop with the cloth. To do this you'll need:
- A yardstick or ruler
- A cloth measuring tape
- A marker
- Lots of ingenuity
As you can see, I've marked the foam with the different pieces of fiberglass cloth I plan to use. This will make it easier for me to put them all together when the time comes to actually fiberglass it.
Here's a better look at how I try and keep track of which pieces go where. Of course, whatever works best for you will do just as well.
Finally, here's a closeup of the edge of the sword. Edges break easily, so you're going to want to make sure you have cloth covering them. Here, I've taped two strips of cloth along the edges so I could cut them to shape at the tip. Doing this will help you get a better idea of how things will go together, especially if you're bad with spatial relations (like myself).
Now that you have everything ready and cut out, you can begin fiberglassing your weapon. Plan to do it on a nice day outside, as it gets messy and there are noxious fumes that come from the epoxy.
To do this, mix up some epoxy according to the instructions on the can, and begin coating the various pieces of cloth with it on a clean flat non-porus surface. I used a sheet of tin foil as it was easy to clean up afterward. Once you have coated the piece of fiberglass cloth, lay it on the foam weapon. Brush out any bubbles in it as you go along until all of it is flat. You will definitely see some of the foam melting and becoming deformed - this is because too much epoxy has been used. The less used the better this time around - once it dries you can always go over it again with more epoxy to fill things out. I made the mistake of using too much epoxy on one side of the sword, so I have to make up for it in the next step - Bondo. However if you're pretty good with it you shouldnt have TOO much of a problem.
Coat half of the weapon and then allow it to dry. It usually takes 2-3 hours in warm weather, but it is best to wait until it is only slightly tacky to the touch to continue. Let it sit overnight. When you're done, you will want to cut off all the parts of fiberglass that are soft or sticking up and put another piece of cloth over the gap left. Once you have finished coating the weapon, it should look something like this:
The above picture show how lumpy this came out. Its due in part to the foam melting. Be careful not to use too much epoxy so this doesnt happen to you!
Once it's all dry and not in the way, you can begin the bondoing process. This gives your prop weapon a finish layer which will look great once it is finished. There are two options you can take when using bondo - normal bondo or fiberglass bondo. The difference is described below. For my first Tetsusaiga, I used fiberglass bondo instead of fiberglassing the foam first. It didnt work too well and ended up snapping when someone hit it against the ground. Using the method above will help prevent accidental breakage of your prop weapon.