April 2014 was an interesting month, to say the least. In addition to completing three cosplays, I also made my very first weapon prop, and I was surprisingly happy with the results. I know there are a lot of cosplayers out there that are just like me...terrified to even attempt making a large prop. I spent a week researching everyone else's methods, and I think I've figured out the easiest (and most cost effective) way to make a really great looking weapon prop.

Time: 2 weeks, on and off
Cost: less than $25 (assuming you have none of the required materials)

Materials:

  • Insulation foam board (a 2'x8' piece cost me $10 at Home Depot and is big enough for three of these)
  • 200 grit sand paper ($4 at Home Depot)
  • Mod Podge ($6 at craft supply stores)
  • Spray paint ($5 at Home Depot)
  • Newspaper (free!)

Tools:

  • Utility knife
  • Dremel (optional, but highly recommended if your prop has a lot of angles or divots)

The first thing you want to do is create a pattern for your prop. I was lucky enough to have found Ryuko's scissor blade pattern on deviantArt, so I used this. (The one I used seems to no longer be available, but a Google search could probably find you another one!) In the event you can't find one, you can tape several sheets of computer paper together and draw one out yourself. Make sure you have a few reference photos to look at while you're sketching out your outline. Also be sure you've drawn it out to the size you need. Once you're happy with your pattern, cut it out!

Reserve extra time for this, as it’s the most important part. This is the foundation of your entire prop. Your prop can only be as good as the pattern you make for it!
 
 

Lay your insulation foam down in a place you're comfortable making a really big mess in. If you can go outside, I highly recommend it. Next, lay your pattern down. If you're making several props, you'll want to start near a corner. Don't put your pattern exactly on the edge. You'll want to leave at least an inch on all sides. Trace your pattern directly onto the insulation board with a marker. You can also use a pen, but you'll have to be careful not to press hard enough that you indent the foam.

 
 

You're now ready to cut out your pattern! Using a utility knife with a fresh blade, slowly cut along your pattern. Don't cut exactly on the lines you drew, but just a bit outside of it. The edges you cut will sometimes pinch, so you'll be sanding them down later. Once you have the exterior cut, you can also cut out any holes and details on the inner part of your prop. These pieces can be fairly troublesome to get out. Take your time. I spent 20 minutes gouging out the hole for the handle of my blade.

 
 

Once you've got the base of your prop cut out, it's time to sand down any imperfections using the 120 grit sandpaper. Just go over any rough spots until they're smooth. This can be time consuming. If you have any drastic angles or divots to add, you'll want to add those as well. You'll probably want to use a dremel. The process goes by much faster that way.

 
 

When you're 100% content with how your prop looks, you can add a layer of paper mache. This is where things get really messy! Rip up a newspaper into small strips, around 1" by 4". Get a container (one you're okay with throwing out) for your mixture of 1 part Mod Podge, 1 part water. Dip a strip of newspaper into the mixture and lay it directly onto the prop. Continue to cover the foam piece in a thin layer of paper mache. Once one side is done, let it dry for 2-3 hours before flipping it over to cover the other side. You'll want to have 3-5 layers of paper mache, but it's very important to let each layer dry thoroughly before adding the next one. If you work diligently, this will take you 2-3 days to complete.

 
 

I hope you weren't tired of the huge mess you've already made, because there's more of that up next. You'll notice when the newspaper dried, some of the edges lifted up a bit. That's okay! Take your sandpaper and sand off those edges until everything is perfectly smooth. You can always add more layers if you feel you need it. Once you're content with how the surface looks, it's time to prep it for painting. Coat your prop with a few layers of Mod Podge and let it fully dry. Now we can put down our first layer of paint. I like using a layer of acrylic paint before applying the final color. If your prop is light in color, use white. If it's medium to dark, use black or gray.

 
 

Once your first coat is primed, you can start painting! I just spray painted one side, let it dry, and painted the other side. When the paint is dry, you have a finished prop!