Building a foam weapon: Part 1

First of all: This is going to be a tutorial on how to build a foam weapon. It will not be very in depth, but rather a step by step. I will at some point write an article that goes into more detail and finer points of foam weapon building for techniques and tips and tricks. I am not an expert on building foam weapons, only an inspired hobbyist. Also, this is only the way I have learned to build foam weapons, and as I learn and progress my techniques might change. Also, if you build your own foam weapons for larps, make sure to check with the organizer what kind of safety criteria they have for their larp. Moving on:

So today as I got home from work I decided to start building a new foam weapon. I have been wanting a messer for quite some time and thought I would give it ago. After all I already had all the material sitting around (except for latex which I will be ordering soon). I live in an apartment building but I’m lucky to have a hobby room in the basement so that’s where I work when I do any crafting including woodworking and other messy things.

This first part is going to be about designing your weapon, cutting out the core and foam, and gluing everything together. Part two will be on cutting out the shape of the weapon, and part three will deal with applying latex. As I don’t have latex at this point, it will probably be a month or so until I can post that part of the tutorial as I’ll have to order from abroad (unless I manage to get my hands on some by accident).

Boffer1

Here are the things you will need:

  • Pencil and paper to draw your design
  • Some reference pictures of sketches of what you are going for
  • Ruler, preferably a long, sturdy one
  • Scissors
  • Fabric (e.g. cotton twill)
  • Core (I am using a glass fiber core)
  • A saw for cutting the core to the right length
  • Gloves to protect your hands (you do not want glass fiber splinters in your hands, seriously)
  • Foam
  • Utility knives and extra blades (trust me, you’ll need them)
  • Glue (somthing durable which makes a soft seam)
  • Something to apply your glue with (I used a cheap synthetic brush that I threw away after using it)
  • Protection for you work surface

1. Start by deciding on a design for your weapon. I did a Google search for messer and made a quick minisketch of what I wanted to make. I then decided the finished length of the weapon which for me will be around 75 cm. Draw your weapon to be onto paper ( I combined 3 A4 printer papers) in the size it will be once it’s finished. Mark out the placement of the core, the crossguard, handle, pommel etc. Remember to leave enough space at both ends of the core to make the weapon safe (you don’t want that core to ruin your weapon by leaving too little space for it). I always leave a minimum of 10 cm between the tip of the weapon and the core. On my drawing I also marked where the sharpened edges of the weapon will be, as well as where I would place fabric strips to secure the stability of the blade.

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2. Cut some 10*10 cm or bigger pieces of fabric, the size can always be trimmed down later on. I use a sturdy cotton twill, the same kind I use for corsets. These pieces will be glued onto your core to ensure stability of the blade, and to make both ends of the weapon safe so the core does not ruin your weapon or end up hurting someone.

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3. Also cut rectangular pieces out of your foam. Cut them slightly wider and longer than your actual blade will be. Also cut pieces for you crossguard and pommel. For this messer I will be using 3 layers of foam for the blade and crossguard, and f layers for the pommel (just to give me a bit more room for sculpting). How many layers you will need depends a lot on what kind of foam you use and how thick it is.

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4. Now apply glue to you fabric pieces and to the parts of the core where they will go. Wait until the glue is dry to the touch and press the pieces into their places. Make sure they stick securely. Once the glue is dry you can trim them carefully, but make sure to leave a couple of centimeters around the core.

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5. Mark out the placement of the core on one of your rectangular blade pieces and cut it out. Do the same with one of the pommel and crossguard pieces.

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6. Apply glue to one side of the middle foam piece,the core and one side of the fabric strips. Make sure to get glue on the inside of the cutout you just made. Wait until dry to the touch and attach and press. Repeat with the center pommel piece. Here is what you’ll get:

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7. Keep gluing one piece at a time. Don’t use too much glue. I used a bit too much because I had trouble applying it evenly as can bee seen in the picture. For future project I will switch to spray on glue. It’s a bit more expensive but gives a better finish.

Once you have all three layers in place for the blade you can start with the crossguard.

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8. As I (fool as I am to try something curved) wanted to make a curved design to the crossguard I cut my crossguard foam rectangles into a bit more shape to make the cutting out that comes later on easier. Then just repeat the process of gluing everything in place and you will get this:

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9. Yay, all done! Just kidding. At this stage this doesn’t look like much. But before we can start cutting out the shape of the weapon we need to press it and let the glue dry completely. You can use clamps and a board to press of just a board and some weights.

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All in all this took me about 2 hours to make. I could probably have worked faster, but the waiting for the glue to dry ate a lot of time. I suggest you stack up some snacks, something to drink and some nice music to listen to while you work. Or why not work on two projects at once and use all the waiting time to apply glue to the other weapon?

Anyway. that’s it for this tutorial. Stay tuned for part two where we give our foam weapon some shape.

If you want to share your methods for making foam weapons or if you have any questions, please leave a comment.

Ta ta for now!

/Jo

 

The cost of costumes

So let’s face it: larping is a hobby that can be quite costly. A larp might have a fee or it might be free of charge, but even if there is no fee for attending that larp it will still cost money. There is travel costs, food and of course the clothes and props we choose to wear and bring with us. And larp costumes can become very expensive.

I usually make the clothes I will need for specific larps, but over time I’ve built a wardrobe of some basics and some specifics. Some time ago I had to get rid of some things because they were too small (the things I wore as a teen don’t fit a woman’s body), or too used up. I also got rid of things I had not used in a while and that I deemed I would not be using. As I moved to a smaller apartment I didn’t have room to store everything. Some things I have swapped and some I have donated. I’m not going into detail about what should be in a basic larp wardrobe as that depends so much on the types of larps one frequents. I might make a post about my basic larp wardrobe at some point.

What I am going to talk about is how to get costumes for larps and how to do it as cost-efficiently as possible. Some items you can get for nothing, some items will inevitably cost more. Making a whole new set of larp clothes plus props will always be more expensive than building a well stocked wardrobe over time. Here are some tips for keeping costs down:

  1. Borrow from friends and other larpers. If you need a certain piece of clothing or a certain prop you might be able to borrow it from someone.
  2. Renting might be an option for things you will only use once and that are too expensive or time consuming to make yourself.
  3. Swapping is a good option if you have something you don’t need anymore or that you feel it is time to pass on to someone else. Why not host a swapping party?
  4. Thrift stores and flee markets are great places to find little odds and ends that might be useful to you. The best things I’ve found so far include an old military rucksack and a wooden hat bag. Shoes, cups and containers are other things I usually find often, as well as jewelry and other things that can be taken apart to be used as materials.
  5. Reuse and repurpose things that you already own, or mod them to suit the larp you are going to. There are tons of options for this and only your imagination sets the limit.
  6. Make things instead of buying them ready made. If you have the skill for this or are willing to learn then making things yourself will always be cheaper (albeit more time consuming) than readily made merchandise. This will also assure you have a unique object.
  7. If you need to order items online, check with friends if you could place a shared order. That will keep the shipping a bit cheaper.
  8. Plan your costume in as much detail as possible before buying anything. This will help you to buy only what you need and not end up with a dozen items you won’t use.
  9. Keep an inventory of your larp items, or go through them from time to time to check what you might want to get rid of and what might need maintenance.
  10. Take good care of your clothes and props. Needless to say, they will last longer if you show them a little love.

So that’s it for today. The list can also be found under the page “Wardrobe” and that is also where I’ll update it if/when I come up with something new or one of you readers has any ideas that should be added.

 

/Jo

Concept: Courtesan

These past few days I’ve been fiddling with a possible outfit for a character I might (that is if I get the specific week off of work) play at a Swedish larp this summer. The character is still very much on the drawing desk at the moment but one aspect of her would be the courtesan/companion. I’ve managed to conjure up a dream image of something resembling a belly dancers outfit and tried my best to draw it. Here you go:

Courtesan

I imagine this would be a lovely dark midnight blue silk and chiffon creation with lots of flowing layers. The shawl might be an other color. I didn’t care about adding a lot of jewelry to the drawing since there is already a lot going on in the picture, but it will of course be included in the finished outfit. I’m playing with the thought of wearing some kind of showy headdress to accompany the ensemble. Footwear is something I have not yet thought of, but I imagine some kind of sandals with lacing going up the legs might work.

For cooler nights I would probably wear a warmer skirt over this and a warmer shawl and cloak. I’ll keep working on the design ideas and get back with more detail later. Right now I estimate that the shawl would require 2 meters of chiffon and the rest of the outfit 3-4 meters. I have a piece of silk fabric in my storage that I will probably use as well (unless I decide to go for leather). As for a pattern I think I will end up making most of this outfit without one, simply draping the fabric as I go along. If I manage to take any pictures of the process I’ll make sure to post them along the way.

 

Ta, ta!

/Jo