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How NOT to build a HUGE sword prop for cosplay

For the first cosplay project I decided to make entirely on my own, I got REALLY ambitious. I had completely fallen in love with Shunya Yamashita's design for THIS figure:

CoCoNa
I lovingly gazed upon this figure and wanted to become this girl in a ridiculously small pink miniskirt, blue gradient hair, and holding a beautiful sword. I figured that the only way to get as close to the design as possible, was to take matters into my own hands, I couldn't trust anyone else's vision of how I wanted it to look.



Of course I had NO clue what I was doing! To save you, future cosplayers, the trouble of running into the same mistakes I did while trying to make this 6 foot sword, I've made this tutorial list of things NOT to do when making large cosplay props!!!

1. DON'T MAKE YOUR HUGE PROP OUT OF WOOD. (Or with a wood base)
Thinking I needed to make my really big sword, very sturdy, I went ahead and got some decently thick oakwood panels from Home Depot. Not only is this material expensive, but considering everything else that I piled on top of the sword, my final prop was rather heavy, weighting around 12 lbs.
That's not that much, you say? Well, then YOU try carrying that around in high heels.
For 6 hours straight.





2. DON'T TRY TO HAND DRAW THE DESIGN. (Even if you have these fancy rulers)
Putting aside the fact that math is not my forte, I went in and tried to replicate the design after confidently "figuring out the measurements."

The result was not completely horrendous, but it was greatly inaccurate. It was unacceptable. If you care about accuracy, DON'T FREEHAND IT!

3. DO GET AS MANY REFERENCES HAS POSSIBLE.
This is one of my favorite parts about cosplay, and also a phase that I waste vast amounts of time in...
I eventually bought the Cocona statue, seeing the sword in 3D was really helpful.

4. DO TRACE THE DESIGN WITH A COMPUTER. 
After my free-handed failure, I turned to one of my strengths: Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator lets you create shapes an images in vector format, which you can resize indefinitely without distortion. I traced the design for the sword and armor pieces, and even better, I was able to break it down into different layers to recreate the beveled design.

5. DON'T FORGET TO PUT MEASUREMENT MARKERS IN YOUR TEMPLATE!
Because I had to print the design on several pieces of paper, and the middle area doesn't have much going on, my sword ended up being TOO long; by the time I realized this, it was too late (even after taking this picture, I did not see it...) One way to do it is to write a string of text in the design, so you connect the letters/sentence and know you are putting the pieces together right. Take pictures at every step of the process!! Here, it would have been ideal if I could wear the same shoes I was planning to use for this cosplay.

6. DON'T USE WOOD. Just don't. Maybe if you're sword is really simple and flat... but don't consider this material unless you're ready to shell out the $$$ because...

7. DON'T RESORT TO INSECURE/UNSAFE METHODS TO MAKE YOUR PROPS!
We didn't have a wood cutting table. We didn't even have a flat surface big enough to hold this piece of wood. The wood panel was clamped to a stone table in my friend's backyard to cut it. It was NOT as firmly secured as it should have been...

8. DON'T USE POWER TOOLS FOR TASKS THEY'RE NOT INTENDED FOR!
That's a dremel. That's not what you're supposed to use it for. I ruined that bit and I almost lost a finger or two a couple times.

9. DON'T USE WOOD. If you don't have the power tools and knowledge for it, you will be in a great deal of suffering and dangerous situations.



10. TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND PAT YOURSELF IN THE BACK.  Once you realize you've taken the first step to doing things the wrong way, but it's somehow working out and it's too late to back down anyways.

11. DO MEASURE THINGS PROPERLY.
You don't want to end up with uneven cut pieces like this one. "Measure twice and cut once."

12. DO WORK OUTDOORS.
You don't want all the dust and crazy fumes in your home.

13. DON'T WORK WITH WOOD.
You have no idea how difficult it was to cut this. It's more trouble that it's worth.

14. DO USE THE RIGHT MATERIALS FOR THE RIGHT TASK.
In this part we're gluing the dowel (handle) to the sword base, since it's wood we simply used Elmer's glue. Having the twine strings ready to tie down the pieces quickly was essential.

15. DON'T USE STYROFOAM. 
Styrofoam is relatively cheap, light, and easy to cut, BUT it has a porous surface and can easily break and get bumps. You CAN'T directly spray paint Styrofoam, it will eat away at the foam; and even if you use acrylics the "pores" will show. Use a high density foam instead.

16. DON'T USE STYROFOAM.
You need to glue Styrofoam to another surface? Good luck with that. I had to use epoxy glue to attach these pieces to the wood. Epoxy is highly toxic, cures rather fast, and it's kind of a pain in the @$$ if it falls on anything that is not supposed to...



 17. DON'T TURN YOUR DINING ROOM INTO YOUR WORKSHOP.
Your parents / roomates will not be happy with the situation. Also, sanding styrofoam? It's gonna be like Christimas in Miami in your home: FAKE SNOW EVERYWHERE.

18. DO USE SCRAPS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.
Become a scrap hoarder, you never know how much you can re-use stuff.

19. DO NUMBER YOUR PATTERN PIECES.
You can barely see it in the picture, but specially for smaller pieces, number / name everything and have your patterns handy.

20. DO USE THE SPORTS PAGE OF THE NEWSPAPER.
As a scrap surface. Cuz nobody cares about sports.

21. DO USE FOAMIES.
Whenever possible!! You can buy foamies for DIRT cheap online, it is an incredibly versatile material! It takes most paints really well, can be shaped with heat, and it's CHEAAAAAAAP.



 22. DON'T FORGET TO TAKE PROGRESS PICTURES.
Like, all the time, take pics of everything. I don't have any pictures of my in between progress from THIS point (99% finished sword) to the previous pic.
Some steps you don't see are: Adding a layer of styrene plastic to the foamies base, adding fiberglass and epoxy resin to the styrofoam, the painting process, and all the suffering that was part of these steps.



23. DON'T GIVE YOUR FRIENDS A RIDE TO THE CONVENTION.
Because you're not going to be able to anyways. All that will fit in your tiny car will be yourself, your huge prop, and your costume. Maybe if you have a tiny friend like Junicorn you can give her a ride to the event, which brings us to...

24. DON'T FORGET TO FIGURE OUT YOUR TRAVEL PLANS!
Some people are really smart and make props that are collapsible or can be assembled on site for easier transport, this should probably be the first stage to your planning. Where are you going with this cosplay? How will you take this 6 foot sword with you?
Once we had to ship one of our props to the hotel. It cost about $150. NEVER AGAIN. PLAN AHEAD!



25. DON'T SKIP YOUR WORKOUTS!
Your prop is going to be heavy (because despite my advice, you made it out of wood), your costume is going to be uncomfortable, the convention is going to be sometime in the smoldering summer, the photoshoot is going to be far away, you're wearing high heels, you don't want anyone to touch or carry your precious baby that you poured 3 month's work of sweat, tears and glue burns into.
Go to the gym. Build up some muscle, endurance, willpower and overall strength, it will make your cosplay sacrifices more bearable and prevent you from getting injured. Also, try to get a good night's sleep before the event!


26. DON'T LET THE PHOTOGRAPHER TAKE CLOSE-UP SHOTS!
That's usually when all your craft-making mistakes show. You're totally going to beat yourself up about it.

27. DO FEEL BAD ASS THAT YOU CREATED A WONDERFUL PIECE OF ART.
You made something out of nothing, you leaned a bunch of things, you stuck through it and made a dream come true! You are now officially an awesomer person. So, go, take lots of photos to commemorate this wonderful moment!


Thank you for reading my post all the way to the end! I hope my suffering can help you in your cosplay adventures!



山下しゅんや 7799220808608705029

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  1. Bravo! 100% agree with everything in this post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. when I saw in my inbox you left me a comment I totally thought you were gonna chastise me for dissing out wood to make cosplay props >_<
      I think what I was trying to get at is: leave it to a professional!! Working with wood in the haphazard way that I did was WAY crazy!

      Delete
  2. love the post and sharing it with my buddies who have pages

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  3. Awesome undertaking and it all came out spectacular. Your whole group did a bang up job with the cosplays.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi...!
    Thank you for the information. Actually i was looking for a blog about Wholesale Wooden Swords here i found your blog you share such a nice information. But i am looking for Cheap Foam Swords

    ReplyDelete

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