Experimental Flat-Foam Weapon Making Guide: by Renee & Derek Booke (Kindrianna & Hygar)

With the Voraniss forges up and running we’ve been able to produce some really neat LARPing weapons as of late. Sure they lack the beauty of latex that a portion of the Realms community desires, but they do look more realistic than our traditional rounded boffers. We’ve had a lot of inquiries about our process, and even requests for commissions, so we thought we’d bring the info directly to you do it yourselfer types in the hopes that maybe a compromise can be struck in our community as we continue to create and innovate.

For this project you will need the following: Blue camp foam, driveway makers, sandpaper, Dap contact cement, super glue, Gorilla Glue, duct tape, and strapping tape. For tools, you will need a sharp knife (an X-acto knife will suffice for this), a saw, measuring tape and some scissors. Pretty much all of these materials can be found at your local Walmart. The driveway markers are also available at Home Depot and Lowes if you’d prefer to shop there. Once you’ve got everything you need you’ll be ready to start!

 

Step One: Cutting the “Pipe”

For these weapons we’ve been using the fiberglass driveway markers for cores. They aren’t too expensive, and they are readily available at multiple locations as mentioned above. To begin your project you need to decide what length weapon you are going to create, and what type. This matters because you’re going to need to leave room for a thrusting tip; and how much room you need to leave varies on the type of weapon you’re creating. From our experience, if you’re making a hammer, axe, or mace you’ll want to cut your core pipe two inches shorter than your desired length. So if you’re making a 3’8”, your core will be cut at 3’6”. On the other hand, if you want to make a sword or a blade, you should cut the core four inches shorter than your desired length. In the example of a 3’8”, you’d be cutting your core at the 3’4” mark.

Use the saw to cut the core once you’ve decided what you’re making, and use your free hand to keep it steady. The last thing you want is to saw crooked or cut one of your fingers.

While you’re working with the driveway markers, you’ll also want to go ahead and cut two more pieces of fiberglass that are approximately a third of the size of your desired weapon length. In the case of your hypothetical 3’8”, this means you’d be cutting yourself two additional pieces of pipe at the length of 15”.  These are going to be used for the handle of your weapon!

Step Two: Gluing the Handle

After you have your three pieces of fiberglass cut you’re going to super glue them all together. Your longest piece, the core of your weapon, should obviously be in the middle; and the two shorter pieces should be on either side of it.

Wait for the super glue to dry, then take your Gorilla Glue and work on filling in any gaps on the handle with it. This will give your handle some extra security and prevent the pipes you cut from moving around or separating during combat.
Weapon Tutorial 1

Step Three: Cutting the Foam

Next you’ll want to start cutting the blue camp foam. In total you’ll need five pieces as you create a type of foam box for your core to hide away in. The top and bottom pieces of foam, or the “bread” of your core sandwich, will be your widest pieces at 2 ½ inches. They should be long enough to cover the weapon from the top of the handle all the way up to the end of the core, plus another 2-4 inches past that depending on what type of weapon you decided to make. For the purposes of this tutorial, we’ll assume you’re making a sword. That means these pieces should be about 29 inches long. Essentially, they are going to look like long, skinny rectangles.

The next two pieces of foam you’re going to cut are going to be smaller because they are going on the sides of the core and filling in the gaps between the top piece of foam and the bottom one. They are roughly going to come out to be 25” x 1.5” when you are done measuring. We’re just saving you a little bit of time by doing that step for you.

The last piece of foam we’re going to have you cut is the smallest, but no less important. This is going to be the foam that creates a safe thrusting tip for you, so make sure you don’t skip this step. This piece should be about 4” x 2.5”, and will sit at the top end of the weapon. You can use scissors for this, but we prefer to use the knife because it gives us a squarer cutting edge.

Weapon Tutorial 2

Step Four: Gluing the Foam

For this next part, we usually use a piece of scrap foam and dip it into the Dap contact cement. Using the scrap foam as an applicator, you’ll want to carefully rub the Dap all over your bottom piece of foam like you’re buttering a piece of bread. Make sure you have a light, even coating over every inch of the foam. After you do this, go ahead and place the core down in the center of the foam.

Do the sides next. Lather up three sides of these pieces with Dap using the buttering technique. The foam facing the core should get a coating, as well as the sides. The foam facing away from the core does not need anything at this time. The idea is that all foam to foam connections are receiving the Dap.

The smallest piece, the thrusting tip, comes next. Once again, cover each part of this piece that will be touching another piece of foam in Dap. Push down into place above the end of the core. At this point you should also be making sure that all your foam is fitting snugly together so that there are no gaps or wiggle room for your core to move or shift.

Before you glue down the last piece of foam, you’ll want to make a thin line of Gorilla Glue and run it down the length of the core that is getting covered. The purpose of this is extra security again. When it dries it will expand and make sure the core is tightly fastened in place. Safety and security should always be your top priority when crafting weapons for use in a boff heavy LARP!!

Finally you’re ready to DAP up your last piece of foam and place it on top of the core, sandwiching it down onto the rest. As it dries, you’ll want to be squeezing it and making sure everything is pressed tight together. Again, there should be no gaps or void areas in your foam. For a hands free experience we typically put a heavy object down upon our weapons while they dry. This is one of the more lengthy steps because you’ll want to wait for the glue to dry before you continue past this point. To be safe, give your weapons a 12 hour resting period to allow the glue ample drying time.
Weapon Tutorial 3

Step Five: Shaving the Foam

With your weapon dry, you’re ready to begin the fun stuff! This is the part where your weapon starts to take shape. Using your knife, cut off the excess foam and trim it down into an actual sword shape.

A word of caution: take care not to make it too pointy, and be doubly sure not to cut too close to the pipe!

The goal with these weapons is to artistically shape the foam and carve the padding into the shape you want. This is how you get the more realistic sword shape, but still out of safe padded foam.

Step Six: The Sanding

Once you have the shape of your blade carved into the foam you’ll need to smooth out the edges. This is where the sandpaper comes into play. A lot of people like to tell us that this step isn’t necessary, but we disagree. You’ll want to LIGHTLY sand and smooth the edges of your weapon if you’re placing duct tape onto it. If you don’t, every single flaw in your foam carving will be seen or detected under the tape. The foam bumps may even cause bumps in your duct tape if you’re not careful.

Step Seven: Optional Crossguard

If you want to really go for the more realistic looking weapon, this would be the time to add the crossguard. Again, you’d be using the blue camp foam to do this. Carve out a design you like, and then Dap both sides and sandwich it around the core.

Unfortunately, if you do this, you’re going to need to wait the recommended 12 hours for this part to dry as well. Do not rush the process! If you do, you risk the pieces moving around on you and not properly setting.

Once it does dry, you’re going to repeat the light sanding steps that you just did for the rest of the weapon, smoothing out the edges of the crossguard you designed.

Weapon Tutorial 4

Step Eight: Reinforcing the Thrusting Tip

Before you start to cover up the foam, we’re going to take one more step to secure everything into place and make sure your weapon is safe. Take some strapping tape and encircle the blade with it in the area where the foam of your thrusting tip meets the rest of the foam.

We do this, because this is the weakest point on a thrusting weapon, and you want to make sure that it remains stable for your weapon to be safe. Every little bit helps.

 

Step Nine: Adding Your Duct Tape/Covering

On this step you get to make more aesthetic choices. Want to use wood grain duct tape on the shaft of your axe? Go for it. Metallic silver blade? Do it up. The possibilities are near endless; and you don’t have to just use duct tape either. There are tons of fabrics out there that could make for really interesting/thematic weapon socks.

If you are working with duct tape, take your time. If you rush your tape can bubble and make your beautiful sword shape look like it has a sloppy tape job. From personally experience, I like to run my thumb along the center of the tape and slowly side my pointer finger outwards towards the edges like I’m getting rid of the air bubbles underneath.

Step Ten: Wrapping the Handle

This is another aesthetic step, so you can use whatever materials you like. People have used a variety of things over the years from electrical tape, grip tape, to rawhide. We prefer the natural look of the rawhide, so that is what we usually go with. The choice is yours! If you are going to use rawhide, use some duct tape on your handle to make a sticky surface for it to adhere to; then wrap it tightly.

Weapon Tutorial 5

Step Eleven: Profit

That’s it! You’re ready to go and wield your weapon proudly! Just don’t forget that in Realms these are still experimental construction techniques as far as the rules are concerned. You’ll need to be responsible and check your weapons in with a marshall at the top of the event before you can use them in combat.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact Hygar or Kindrianna (Derek & Renee Booke) and we would be happy to run through the process with you.

Take care, and happy LARPing!

 

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