We asked Termina Cosplay to craft a tutorial for us using Worbla’s Black Art, and this was her fantastic result! See below for the step-by-step process!
The sword I use for my example is Erza Scarlet’s Flight Armor sword from Fairy Tail, but you can use this method to make any sword you want. The methods and techiniques I describe here are universal and can be used an a wide variety of projects, whether it be a sword, another kind of prop, or even armor!
Plywood, foam board, or Balsa wood
X-acto, craft knives
Clay roller (optional)
Spray adhesive or tape
Rulers, yard sticks, etc.
Dremel with sanding wheel
Palm Sander (if you work with wood)
Other Woodworking tools (if you choose to use wood)
Step 1: Make a Template
The first thing you’ll do is make a full size template for your sword. You’ll need to use this template to cut the base of your sword out. Unless you’re able to find a template already made online, you’ll need to draw one from scratch. I used a large sheet of paper, a pencil, a yard stick, a square, and some reference images to get the job done.
As long as your sword is symmetrical, you only need to draw one side. Draw one half, then fold your paper over at the center, and transfer the lines to the other side by tracing over them. Then, you’ll have a perfectly symmetrical sword template!
Some sword designs may have some extra details that are harder to draw on a flat template. Instead of drawing all these on, I only drew what was most important. This template is going to be a guide to help you build the sword in the proper dimensions, so you don’t necessarily need all the details drawn as long as you know where they’ll go. For example, mine has spikes going around the hilt. I drew one to gauge size, and left the other 7 I would need off the template since I didn’t need to draw them to know where they’d go.
Once you’re happy with your template, you’ll want to make a second one, but this time without the hilt. The first template is simply for reference. This new template will be the one you use to cut the base of your sword out. The base doesn’t need to have the hilt on it, and it will actually make things easier to not include it, so leave it off this time.
To make things easier, get another sheet of paper and trace the second template out. That way you don’t have to start from scratch!
Step 2: Cut Out Your Base
Once you have a template, its time to cut out a base for your sword. You need to use something rigid and somewhat thick that will hold its shape. I used 1/2 inch plywood, but if you don’t have the means to work with plywood, you can easily use another material, such as foam board or balsa wood instead, though you may need to use multiple layers if your material starts out thinner. Whatever you use, just make sure its at least 1/2 inch thick in the end, so you can shape the blade later.
The first thing you’ll do is stick your template down to your choice of base material. I used a spray adhesive. I sprayed a thin layer of glue onto the pattern and then stuck it right to the plywood I was using. This made it very easy to cut the shape out. If you don’t want to use spray adhesive, just tape the template down and trace the shape out.
Next, cut the base out. Since my material of choice was plywood, I used using a jigsaw. If you’re using another material, such as foam board or Balsa wood, you can simply use a craft knife or X-Acto knife to cut it out.
Once you’re done, you’ll have a nice, solid base layer to build your sword off of!
Step 3: Shape the Blade:
Now that you have a base layer, it’s time to shape the blade. This is why it was important to use at least 1/2 inch thick base layer, so you’d have room to bevel the edges of the blade. If you’re using foam board you can use X-Acto or craft knives to carve your blade, and sand paper to clean it up and shape it. With Balsa, its easy to use a sander and sand the edges all the way down. With my Plywood base, I used a large sanding drum and a palm sander to cut the bevel in. Before you start, draw some reference lines for the bevel on the blade to help keep you on track while shaping. To keep the blade from moving, you can clamp it down to your workspace with just a few simple clamps.
Whatever material you’re using, be sure to shape all the way around the base, even on the handle.
After I had the blade shaped as much as I could, I went back in with my smaller Dremel and sand paper to clean it up even further.
Your finished base layer should look something like what you see below, and it should fit right into your first template.
Step 4: Build The Hilt
Next it’s on to the hilt! Start by making a template for the shape of your hilt. Mine needed to be an oval, so I drew the cross in the middle using a ruler and a square first, and then drew the curve around it.
Once you have the shape of your hilt drawn, you’ll need to mark where the base will go through. The hilt should be able to slide right over the base and fit snugly in its spot, so measure out how large your base layer is where the hilt will sit, and draw a rectangle on your hilt template where the base will fit. I used the cross I initially drew as a starting point and drew the rectangle around the center of that.
Next is to cut your hilt out of a material of your choice. I’m using insulation foam because its simple to cut and shape. You could also use EVA foam for this if you wanted, and you’d end up with essentially the same results. Using a marker, I just traced the template, including the base hole in the center, and cut it out using a scroll saw. If you don’t have a scroll saw, a craft knife works just fine.
You’ll need to cut the base hole out too. Its hard to do with a normal X-Acto knife blade, but if you switch a flat “chisel” type blade it makes things a lot easier. All you have to do is poke down into the foam with your blade all along the lines and you’ll have a nice little hole to stick your base layer through. If your blade isn’t long enough to go through the whole piece (like mine was) just flip the piece over, use your template to draw the guide lines on that side, and poke through again.
As you can see below, the hilt fits perfectly on the sword base.
After all that, shape it up! I use a Dremel with a sanding wheel and some sandpaper. Of course, if you’re sanding foam, be sure to wear a mask! You don’t want to breath in those dust particles you’ll be stirring up!
With some patience, you can get a nice, smooth shape like you see below.
Step 5: Apply Worbla to your Base
Finally, it’s on to Worbla! First, you’re going to cover just the blade. Cut a piece out that is at least inch larger on each side than your blade is.
Then, place that piece over your blade and heat it up. Place it right where the hilt will meet the blade, heat it up, and let the Worbla fall into place around the blade. Then, use your fingers to press the Worbla down and around the edges. Do not wrap all the way around, let it stop at the edge of the blade. Be careful though! Worbla can get extremely really hot!
You can also use clay or leather working tools to help you out. Just use a bit of water with them to keep them from stick to the hot Worbla.
Once you’ve formed the entire first side, let it cool off. Once it’s cool, take a craft knife and cut the excess Worbla off, getting as close as you can to a smooth edge as possible.
Next, repeat the same process for the other side. Be sure to seal the edges together! If you need to, you can always reheat the Worbla to help it stick to itself.
Once you’re done, the blade should be left with a nice, smooth edge, as you see below.
If you’re having problems with the edges not sealing shut, you can always heat them back up and use a tool to press them together. This can also help get rid of seam lines.
My favorite way to get rid of seam lines is to use my Dremel. With a sanding wheel on a low setting, I just run the Dremel over the seam line, which sands it down and leaves a nice smooth edge.
Next, cover the hilt. If you’ve used insulation foam like I did, you’ll need to be extra careful here. Insulation foam does not take heat well, and will melt if you hit it with your heat gun. To get around this, heat your Worbla up away from the insulation foam, and then work very quickly and shape it over the foam before it cools off. Be sure you heat it enough so that its easy to work with. It should be floppy and completely bendable and stretchable before trying to form it over the foam.
Remember to work quickly, and try your best to press all the bumps and bubbles out before it cools. We’re only going to cover about half of the hilt with this piece, so no need to try and stretch it all the way around.
Once it cools, find a nice, easy spot to cut the excess Worbla off. With Erza’s Flight Armor Sword, had a nice edge along the center that was the perfect place to end the first layer of Worbla.
Next, repeat the process for the other side. Make sure the second side seals to the first, and then use a pair of sharp scissors to cut the excess Worbla off.
Then, use a Dremel to sand the seam line smooth.
Last, you’ll need to cut the Worbla out of the hole for your sword base I just used my X-Acto knife for this.
Step 6: Add Extra Details
Now is the time to add any extra details you might need. You can do this simply by using up all your Worbla scraps you’ve accumulated during the build! I needed some spikes, so I gathered a bunch of scraps, heated them up, smashed them together, and shaped them until I was happy with how it looked. Don’t forget you can always use tools to help you!
I repeated this process until every spike was complete. I also used my Dremel to clean up the edges and make the edges sharper.
Step 7: Attach the hilt to the base
It’s as easy as it sounds! Just heat up both pieces, slide the hilt onto the base, and press! The Worbla will glue to itself and keep the hilt on.
Step 8: Build up the handle.
Now its time to start building up the handle. How you want your handle to look will determine how you proceed. With mine, I needed a rounded end, so I built the area up with some scraps of Worbla. I just heated them up, pressed them on, and shaped them until they generally looked how I wanted. Then, I covered the whole handle with a piece of Worbla. The shape was a bit lumpy, so I then used my Dremel to smooth it out.
Here’s a tip: If you want to turn your scraps back into a flat sheet, use a clay roller! All you have to do is heat them up, smash them together, and run them through the roller to make a nice, flat sheet. I used this method to make new sheets for the details on my handle.
For the rest of he handle, I needed some “wrapping” so I made a new sheet of Worbla from some scraps, cut it to a 1 inch thick strip, and used it to wrap 1 inch thick pieces all around the handle.
I then used my Dremel to sand away all the seam lines, and then heated it back up and used a flat tool to redefine each section.
I then added a “cap” to the pommel with more scraps.
Step 9: Last Details
You might have some more intricate details that still need to be added. Erza’s Flight Armor sword has some spiky, thorny details that extend off of the hilt around the blade. To make these, I used nothing but scraps! I made the basic shape by rolling some scraps into a noodle, then I shaped it, sanded down any seam lines, and added the little spikes with more scrap material.
Then, to attach them on, I simply heated all points of contact with my heat gun and pressed the pieces together. You don’t want to heat them up so much that they start to become bendable. Instead, heat just enough to make the ends a bit tacky. They just need to be able to grab onto each other to be able to stick. Once it cools, you’ll have a hard time getting them back off!
And with the final details complete, you have a finished sword! All that’s left to do is prime and paint!
The possibilities of building with Worbla are virtually endless! My example might be Erza’s Flight Armor Sword, but you can use these methods to create anything you want! You’re not limited to what you see here!
Here is the finished project, unpainted, below!