Cosplay Tutorial: Tessaiga
Well I’ve been quiet about it this year, but it appears that I have two new costumes ready for Kitacon this year. One is Crash Bandicoot, which is really just a casual outfit with an Aku Aku mask – and the other is Inuyasha, the protagonist, the half-demon, the one who was bound to a tree. Part of Inuyasha is his easily recognisable Tessaiga, the huge sword he wields in battle (but he doesn’t really carry it around). Granted, I could have gone for the safe small version of the sword, but that just wouldn’t be me, so I’ve made the Tessaiga when Inuyasha is wielding it for battle. But how did I make it? Read on!
- Insulation Foam (XPS) (Polystyrene)
- White Acrylic Gesso
- Pleather (for handle straps)
- Worbla (For strength and a hand guard)*1
- Craft Knives (Extendable blades)
- Sanding Paper (120 grade+)
- Silver and Gold acrylic paints
- Hot glue gun & hot glue sticks
- PVA Glue*2
*1 This is totally optional. You can do this as part of the Polystyrene!
*2 This is for the shine, so you can use something else to make your blade a bit shiny.
Give yourself at least 1 full week to do this, to allow time for Gesso and Acrylic to dry.
Tessaiga is a simple thing to make overall – So I’ll try to keep this article short and sweet.
First of all, you’ll need to get your Insulation Foam and trace out a shape onto it. The great thing is that this stuff will be covered in Gesso and paint later on, so feel free to write and draw all over it. If you draw directly on it, draw on it with a marker pen. The great thing with Polystyrene is that it holds its shape rather well, but please do be careful to not put too much weight onto it. It’s strong enough to hold shape, but it’s not strong enough to swing this around! Mind you, as a cosplay prop, you probably shouldn’t be swinging these things full pelt around the place anyway.
So once it’s all cut out, which can be done with a normal craft knife, you just have to sand it to shape. And this can take hours. And yes, it took hours. Make sure you work somewhere you don’t mind getting dusty with polystyrene dust… Because this stuff gets everywhere regardless of how careful you are.
Now, the next step is optional – I didn’t do this, as I was running out of time, however you can now cover it in papier mache. This will stiffen up the styrofoam quite a bit, so it might be worth doing this over all. I’m not great with papier mache either – I attempted it, but it was taking so long to dry that I went without papier mache in the end. Instead, white Gesso is an amazing first coat. It stiffens the foam up quite a bit and and adds a fair bit of weight to the blade (nothing too much! Just enough that it won’t blow away in a gentle breeze). I did a total of 4 coats of white acrylic Gesso, so it might be worth doing the same amount. It produced a great result!
Next up, once it was coated it in Gesso, I layered on plenty of layers of silver acrylic paint. Just use a large brush and get on with it, because this is going to take a while. Layer on that acrylic and be as careful as you can not to let bubbles appear. Make sure it’s all on smooth! Seriously, I was rushing through this in the end, so it was getting slathered on – So there’s a few bubbles here and there.
Once the acrylic is dry, get some PVA glue and water – mix it all up – and gently coat the blade. This will make the blade shiny, so the more layers you add on, the shinier it’ll get. Worth noting, this will not make it water proof… So please do be careful if you use this technique instead of a slightly more expensive one!
Next up, I heated up some Worbla and quickly shaped it and stuck it to the blade handle area, to act as the hand guard. It’s not important, but it was a good place to put the fur – We’ll talk about that at the end. One thing to note, this was the first time I couldn’t find where I left my heat gun – A hair dryer did the exact same effect pretty effectively!
I took some pleather and made strips out of it. Because this is an old blade, I didn’t pay too much attention to being uniform with the straps. Instead, I wanted them to look a bit withered and old, so I stripped it as much as I could, typically sticking to close to an inch width for each strap – and I glued this all to the handle. Weirdly, I didn’t have to use a strong glue… Just… a Pritt Stick? I don’t know how, or why this worked, but it worked wonders.
Finally, I cut out some fur for the hand guard – All I did for this was measure around the hand guard and then cut out the required width. I could have tried to make it more uniform, but the original picture sort of shows the fur is everywhere, which was great! Once the faux fur material was cut out, hot glue was my best friend, as it went onto the Worbla with no issues what so ever.
As a last but not least bit, I just painted the base of the sword gold and boom – We have Tessaiga.
I’m happy with how it’s turned out for a first ever attempt, but there’s so much that could have been done better, if I had given it the time it deserved. Ultimately, it’s not too far from my vision, but it’s far enough away from it, to where I’ll be trying harder next time. One thing I realised early on is the actual power of paper mache. If I had covered the whole thing in paper mache and smoothed it out, I feel this would have been a much better sword… But I’m really knocking myself too much here. For a first attempt to make something like this, not including the scythe I made a long while back, I feel like it’s done a good enough job. But what do you think? Have you ever made a prop like this? Leave us a comment below, or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit!