We partnered with Duoqcosplay to bring you this tutorial making Sally Whitemane’s staff from World of Warcraft, using EVA foam and Worbla’s Black Art. If you need to make a staff for your own costume, the process below can be a great guide from start to finish! Final images by CMC Photography.
- Cutting tools: Snap off utility knife, Exacto knife hot knife, scissors.
- Worbla: For this project I used 2 medium sheets of Worbla Black Art
- Eva foam: 10mm, 5mm, 3mm widths
I also used some foam clay on this project.
- Paper: This will be used for pattern making anything works
- Markers: Silver and Black permanent markers work best.
- Brushes: For painting these are really personal preferences.
- Silicone Brushes: For spreading contact cement
- Adhesives: Contact cement is what I used for this project along with wood glue. Tape is handy too.
- Power Tools: Hand Dremel tool, heat gun.
- Core pieces: For my prop core I used some PVC pipe and a titanium rod.
- Gems: For my staff I used custom resin casted gems.
- Sandpaper: An assortment of grits for hand sanding
- Reference Images: Having images from numerous angles/lighting
- Paints: whatever paints you like best are fine.
After collecting reference images and materials I find it helpful to start by breaking down the reference image into its most simple shapes for a pattern. This pattern will be used to cut the foam pieces that make up the inside base of the prop. I used a bucket for the middle circle and I looked for the shapes in the prop reference images and tried to copy it as best I can.
To ensure each is cut the same and save some time in sanding, having patterns on paper is helpful. Once I’ve fiddled with it a bit and I am happy with how it looks compared to the reference images I cut out the paper. To ensure symmetry fold the pieces in half and cut away any misaligned parts.
Continue this process for the rest of the prop pieces, to ensure my prop was in scale with the resin gems I created I used one of my gems to help with drawing my paper pattern.
For this project I decided to use EVA foam as my core since it is lightweight and easy to work with. Each layer will need to be cut into the same shape and glued together to build up the size and shape of the prop. These paper patterns will be used to trace each layer of the foam.
During the cutting process I also used my PVC pipe and metal rod to measure the channels needed through the foam to become the handle. I also wanted the top part of the staff to be removable for easier transport and storage. The top part of the staff would slide on and off the PVC pipe through the middle layer in the foam.
Foam Core: Gluing
After all the foam is cut out and the channels for the PVC pipe and metal support rod have been cut the foam layers are ready to be glued. Make sure the layer with the channels cut is in the middle layer so the prop will be centered on the handle of the staff.
I prefer to use contact cement but technically other adhesives would work for this step because the foam will be eventually wrapped in worbla. I love using these silicone brushes when I’m using contact cement. They are so easy to clean and they don’t get ruined from the contact cement.
This step of the process is relatively easy, each layer of foam gets a coat of contact cement. The internal layers for extra security I contact cement on both sides of the foam.
When the contact cement has set you should have a foam stack for each part of the prop, if things aren’t looking perfect here no need to worry during the sanding process you can clean up any imperfections.
Foam Core: Sanding
I highly recommend using a dremel for you sanding one with a handheld portion is great for small detail work. I hold the dremel tool using the sanding drum attachment at a 45 degree angle while sanding to get the curved edges to create a beveled edge.
I used this same technique to put together the pyramid shape for the point of the staff . The most important part of this step is getting as smooth of a surface as possible on the edges of your foam. The inside is filled with foam clay. My foam stack for the top of the staff before sanding. You can see where some of my cuttings were a little sloppy and they didn’t end up being all the exact same size.
After sanding. The foam is going to be the base shape for your prop, the worbla wrapping just strengthens the foam core and smooths some imperfections but For the most part you want your pieces to look as shape accurate as possible to your reference images.
Foam Core: Details
Before wrapping the foam in worbla I wanted to add some more three dimensional aspects, you can purchase foam bevels premade now if you want to save some time but I like making my own from foam scraps to not waste any foam.
To create a bevel I use pretty thick EVA foam and cut it into long strips. Once I have a few strips of foam cut I draw a line down the middle of the strips. This line will be where the high point of the bevel will be, the top of the triangle shape.
The sanding technique is holding the dremel tool at an angle and sanding away the square corners of the strips down the length. Adding three dimensional details can really make a prop look more realistic. Without extra three dimensional details sometimes props after you wrap them in worbla and paint them can look a little flat and plain.
I made more than I needed for the staff top so I would have some bevels to wrap the staff handle with and for hiding the joint where the top of the staff would slide onto the PVC pipe.
To prepare the worbla for wrapping the foam I spread the roll as flat as I can and do a light pass with the heat gun just heating it enough so it lays flat. Using scissors I cut the general shape of the foam out of the worbla giving extra room for the sides. The shiny side of the worbla is the sticky side so that part needs to be touching your foam for it to adhere properly. I highly recommend wearing heat proof gloves for this step.
For this prop we will be using the sandwich method. There will be a layer of worbla on the top and bottom encasing the foam core inside. Once both layers of worbla have been cut its time to heat form the worbla to the foam. The worbla needs to be hot enough that it changes color slightly and becomes completely malleable. While the worbla is still hot use your fingers to push the worbla around the foam.
In some areas with finer details I like to use the blunt backside of an exacto knife or a popsicle stick to push the worbla into the crevices of the foam to not lose any details. Along the edges of the prop there will be some left over worbla in spots. Trim any excess worbla along the edges of the prop be sure to leave enough that the foam is sealed inside and not poking out, you can see in the image the ridge where excess worbla has been trimmed away but the two layers are still touching. Heat the edges with
your heat gun and push the ridge down as flat as possible so the seam is almost invisible.
Worbla: Detailing and Fixing Mistakes
Worbla is an incredibly forgiving material for the most part. To fix a mistake you simply reheat the worbla and place things how you want them to be. For example on the bottom left you will see where my worbla “sandwich” didn’t quite wrap all the way around my stack of foam and there is a gap.
I heated the worbla up again and tried to close the gap as much as I could, folding the worbla trying to get it to lay as flat as possible. I then heated up a scrap of worbla to patch the hole where the foam could be seen. Any seams can be sanded down to be smooth later.
For some detailing on the upper part of the staff I noticed in my reference images that the bottom part of the staff looks like it’s been carved in versus the top part looks like it’s three dimensional. I used a soldering iron to carve the line in.
Worbla being able to stick to itself is really helpful for adding details simply cut out or shape your details when the worbla is still hot and stick it to the worbla on your prop. Any mistakes you make can mostly be fixed by heating the worbla up again which is really nice.
The sanding step for the worbla is pretty straight forward. I start with sanding with my dremel tool and then move on to different higher grits of sandpaper by hand to get a smooth finish. You mostly are wanting to smooth out all the seams from wrapping the worbla and any lumps in the worbla. If you want a really smooth paint job that looks like metal for example then this step of the process is very important.
After sanding and getting a smooth finish that you are happy with it’s time to move onto sealing the worbla for painting. Worbla black arts doesn’t require as much sealing and sanding as classic worbla does but I still like to do four layers or so of wood glue just to remove the texture of the worbla as much as possible and give a nice base for the painting step next (right photo). Gesso or other surface primers would work for this step fine but I just like to use wood glue since it is cheap and easy to find at most hardware stores.
Before moving onto painting I wanted to finish the handle so everything could be painted at once. PVC pipe has a smooth plastic finish to prep my PVC pipe I used rough grit sandpaper and hand sanded it to rough up the smooth finish and create a surface for the contact cement to adhere to better.
For the top and bottom part of the staff I used 5mm EVA foam sheets and one of the thick foam bevels I made earlier to help the foam curve around the PVC pipe I used my heat gun to heat the foam up first.
The middle part of the staff looks like a thick leather fabric wrapped around the handle I knew finding the fabric I needed would be difficult so I decided to use strips of leftover worbla to wrap the staff.
With the worbla heated up and malleable it wrapped much like fabric does and contact cement was not necessary since the worbla sticks to itself pretty strongly. To keep a fabric-like texture on the middle of the staff I did not seal the worbla with wood glue but did do a few coats on the EVA foam sections.
Some other details I wanted to create before painting were some gem casings for my resin gems that will go on the bottom of the staff and on the ribbon that hangs from the staff. I used 5mm foam and traced the gem shape and cut out.
After cutting the shape out I sanded the squared corners of the foam so they were more rounded with my dremel. Sanding details like this just make things look a little more polished. Once I was happy with the sanding I heat sealed the foam.
For backing I used a really thin EVA foam that the gems can be glued to after painting the casings. I glued the casing using contact cement to the backing and made sure the gems would fit well before letting the contact cement set in place. For the larger gem casings there is a front and back side.
Once I was happy with how everything was looking sanding wise, the foam had been heat sealed and the contact cement was set, I did a few coats of wood glue to finish the casings for painting.
As a base coat layer just to cover everything I used gold hammered textured metallic paint on the majority of the staff except for the middle “fabric” portion I painted satin red. I wanted my prop to match my armor so for the top coat I used the same acrylic paints on the prop that I used on my armor.
To add some more detail and dimension to my prop I added some blackwash and weathering with watered down black acrylic paint. I find these sponge brushes handy for giving a subtle black gradient to the edges and the crevices of the prop to add shadows and highlights. First I apply some of the black paint in the crevice and then dab the sponge.
After Everything is spray painted and black washed it’s time to glue the gems in. I glued my gems down to the staff with contact cement. Here is a side by side picture of before and after adding my blackwash shadows. I did some blackwash/ageing along the whole prop. I really wanted it to look used and aged and not like it was just made brand new.
Putting it all Together
One of the final touches for the staff is the red fabric the gems hang from on the top part of the staff. I purchased some 4in. wide satin ribbon at the craft store using a dab of contact cement I folded the ribbon edge in to create the pointed shape the gems would attach to. I did not measure the exact length I just tried wrapping a few times before cutting the ribbon how I liked it best.
With the ribbon cut and all the paint dry on the staff I glued my gems and casings onto the ribbon and the bottom of the staff with contact cement. I did go back over these with a little bit more blackwash painting just so they would appear more melded with the prop and not like I just glued them on top of the prop.
Finally it is time to put all the pieces together! The ribbon can be wrapped around the top of the staff and the pyramid shape can be put on the top of the metal support rod to hide the top.
Here is the PVC pipe (I painted the tip of it to camouflage it even more with the gold of the staff) sliding into the channel of the top part of the staff.