Prop making: Scythe
This is being a bit of a stumbling point, so I thought I’d use today’s article as a way to discuss the first big prop that I’ve ever worked on, along with materials and the process that needs to be followed to make it. Big props are pretty expensive to buy for many a reason: Shipping, weight, complexity etc. As such, if you’ve got extra cash and don’t mind splashing out on a high quality prop, don’t be afraid to purchase one off a local cosplay crafter. They know what they’re doing and they’re usually glad to make items, such as weapons, completely custom to your specifications.
I’m a bit of a DIY guy, at least in the cosplay sense, so I thought to myself: How hard can this be? Why do I keep thinking things like this?!
So far, I’ve bought myself 2 meters worth of PVC pipes which were only half an inch thick. I found the cheapest place to buy these were eBay, where I was able to get 2 meters for no more than £6. Of course, you’ll need a special kind of pipe cutter, so go ahead and pick one up. You can usually do so for no more than £5, but mine cost £3. Hurrah for cheap tools! It’s done the job, but you’ll notice with these pipe cutters that you pull them back and nothing seems to happen. You have to yank them really hard and then the blade will come out further. See below for an example of this.
To put the blade of the PVC pipe cutter back away, you’ll have to squeeze it together again, but then you’ll let it go. Generally, they’ll have these little clicky parts, if you see the round, but protruding metal part in the middle. That is where it pushes the blade back away. Thankfully, this is nice and easy.
Once you’ve got your pipes to the size you want, the next step would be to tape them together with something strong, such as Duct Tape, then cover the pipes in Expanding Foam! Yes, my new trusty favourite expanding foam is what we’re going to make the base out of. You see, the foam should be soft enough that if you were to hit someone with it, they’ll only have a minor “ouch!” but please, don’t hit people with your props! Even if they’re flimsy and easy to break, it doesn’t feel nice having a sword poking into your back… You thought I was going to say something else, didn’t you?
Once the expanding foam covers the pipes, you wait for about an hour, perhaps 2 if you want to be extra certain, then begin carving. As it’s a handle for a scythe, it depends what you want to go for. For me, I’d like a withered, ageing looking, so I’m going to carve mine into some warped wood like effects. But we’ve done all this, but not even looked at the head of the scythe yet! Oh woe is us. For this, we’ll use foam board, which can be bought at hobby stores (For me, I went to Hobbycraft, but most hobby stores should have this) quite cheap. Draw your pattern directly onto the board then cut it out with a craft knife (It’s a scythe head, you can make it as detailed or as nondescript as you like).
I’d recommend having something to stick inside of the pipes, which you can attach the scythe blade to. You really don’t need to make the blade too thick, but if you’d like to thicken it up, why not use large sheets of craft foam? It’s cheap and effective. Alternatively, use a really light layer of expanding foam. I’ll just be using more papier mache on the scythe blade, which will then bulk it up, make it look more warped over the years (Though be sure to make this as smooth as possible). If you left the foam board alone, it bends and dents really easily. By adding the papier mache on, it strengthens it up just a bit. It’s all it needs. Finally, spray it or paint it whatever colours you want to and you’re done! Of course, from here on in, it’s down to you to decide what detailing you want with paints.
All together then: The expanding foam was £3, the PVC pipes were £6. The Duct Tape I had lying around, but say £2.50. The foam board was £3, the paints were £4 for the silver and £8 for the brown. This takes the total up to £26.50. Not bad for such a massive prop. I’m going to work with this and see if I can make it so it can break down, as otherwise it’s going to be an incredibly awkward prop to carry around. Papier mache depends on what sort of paper you’re using. If you don’t have any newspaper lying around, either buy yourself loads, or use white paper like I have. I’ve got so much of the stuff that I’ve just not used, that really: This was the only use I could think for it. I got myself a vat of PVA glue ages ago which has lasted for a very long time. This cost me £7 at the time… and it’s lasted me through a good 6 or so projects and is still going.
What did you all think about the thought process behind making a large scythe? I’ve not yet done it, so results will be shown on the website soon. We’re really in the thick of crafting season for me, as it’s only a month and 10 days until Kitacon… Oh my, that’s scarily close isn’t it? As always, comments below, on Facebook or Twitter.