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).

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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