The fantastic Arlena Fae partnered with us for her Blood Moon Katarina build, using Worbla’s Black Art, insulation foam and EVA foam to create a pair of fantastic lightweight but durable swords! If you need to make swords or daggers for your next costume, check out her video below!
We teamed up with Gillian of All Tomorrow’s Patterns (GillianConahan on IG) for a tutorial on building a sword with her preferred stabilizer – cardboard or cardstock instead of foam! This allows a lighter, sharper finish, which can be excellent for bladed weapons and large builds!
– Thin cardboard or book board (about 1.2mm thickness, solid all the way through and smooth on both sides) – carbon kite rod or other thin, rigid support core – Worbla’s Kobracast Art for internal support on the blade – Worbla’s Black Art for the hilt and detailing – twine to wrap the hilt for bulk – light-bodied acrylic gesso or your preferred primer – light-bodied acrylic paints in your preferred metallic shades plus black – glass cabochons for gems – leather scrap and heavy linen thread for hilt wrap, plus a scrap of felt for padding.
I like to use cardboard as a base for sword props, especially the blade portion, because it’s lightweight, can be cut with just a craft knife, and it creates flat, smooth surfaces and edges with relatively little effort. You can also crease it to create added structure and rigidity, which I used to my advantage for this large unusually-shaped blade. The cardboard is solid all the way through, smooth and uncoated on both sides and about 1.2–1.5mm thick. I got a large sheet from an art store, but also stole the cardboard off the backs of several notebooks to cut smaller pieces. (I’ve used thinner oak tag for other projects, but found that it wasn’t rigid enough for this wide blade and tended to curl and lose its shape.)
For this build, which is based on the Dawn Court Warlord’s battle gear from volume 5 of Monstress, I started by drawing the pattern out by hand on tracing paper. I find it easiest to work full size for large props, as it gives a more intuitive sense of the proportions.
Transfer the blade design to the cardboard by rubbing a soft pencil on the back of the pattern and using a hard pencil or ball-point stylus to go over the outline from the front. Draw in the crease lines down the center of the blade and around each of the curved edge bevels, then score them with an awl so they bend cleanly. This gives the blade almost enough dimension to hold its shape even before adding the support.
Next, rough cut Worbla’s Kobracast Art to fit each half of the blade. Kobracast has a pronounced texture that can require a lot of finishing if you use it on a surface face, so I like to use it on the inside of the cardboard and use the smoother, sandable paper as the outside. Kobracast is very lightweight and can warp and flutter unpredictably as it heats, so it helps to leave a little extra and trim it off later. It’s also important to heat it evenly all the way across the piece so that the stiff cold areas don’t pull the softened areas out of shape. Weight one end to prevent it from shifting and start heating from the other end, sweeping slowly back and forth across the blade while moving along its length. The material is very sticky and just needs to be pressed down lightly to adhere it to the cardboard. Once the piece is smoothly covered, trim away the excess and make sure all areas are firmly adhered, reheating and pressing down as necessary.
The large projection on one side of this blade turned out to need a little extra support, so I cut an additional piece of cardboard that I just stuck to the inside of the Kobracast, making sure to keep it a little way from the edges so there’d still be enough adhesive to hold the two halves of the sword together. This is also a good time to insert the core support for the sword, in this case a 12mm pultruded carbon tube that I ordered from a kite shop and cut to length with a hand saw. Kobracast is very sticky when activated, so usually nothing special is needed to keep the support rod in place. If you have a thin rod or thicker blade and need to pad the support to keep it centered, you can roll up your Kobracast trimmings into sticky ‘snakes’ that will cradle the rod and hold it in place.
Next, heat both halves of the blade evenly around the edges and carefully match them up, adjusting the creases so they meet perfectly around the edges. If there are points where the curves are a little sharper and the edges don’t want to stay together, you can roll up more Kobracast scraps and insert them between the layers like an adhesive putty. After everything is well adhered and cool, use a craft knife to smooth the edges and bevel away a little of the cardboard thickness so the edge is thinner and more bladelike – though obviously for safety reasons you don’t want to go TOO sharp. Fine-grit sandpaper also works well for smoothing and getting rid of paper fuzzies.
I cut out and scored the wedge-shaped detail for the base of the blade in the same way, but beveled the underside of the cardboard before adding the Kobracast to make the join a little smoother. To attach pieces like this, simply heat the edges to activate the adhesive and press in place. (9) Low-relief details like the flame shape on this blade can be cut from cardstock and adhered with a glue stick, but you may wish to test your paper with the primer you’ll be using later as some types will warp and ripple when moistened.
Hilt and Pommel
Next is building up the hilt of the sword, as it’s easier to wrap and smooth before the cross guard is in place. Start by roughly sculpting a stopper on the end of the support rod, using a scrap of Kobracast for the stickiness covered with Worbla’s Black Art for the main shape. To get an easy disc shape, cut a narrow strip of Black Art and wind it around the support rod in a spiral to the desired radius.
Kite rods are too thin to make a comfortable hilt, so bulk it up with twine to achieve your desired thickness. First, wrap a scrap of Kobracast around the support rod, which helps to secure the twine and prevent it from rotating around the rod. For a more oval-shaped hilt, first cut scraps into strips and lay them along each side to create a wider, flatter profile. (This is a great place to use up your very ugliest scraps – these were from a failed experiment and still have paper shreds stuck in them.)
Secure the end of the twine and start wrapping, heating as you go so that the first layer is solidly adhered to the hilt, although I try not to heat the bare support rod too long or too directly to avoid any chance of warping it or potentially releasing harmful fumes (depending on the composition of the support material.) Continue wrapping the twine until the hilt is nearly large enough, then tie off the end and made sure it’s well stuck in the Kobracast. Measure the circumference and cut a strip of Black Art just large enough to cover it. Some bumpiness is likely depending on the smoothness of your twine wrap, and you can either leave it for an interesting grippy texture or go back in and smooth it by hand with sculpting tools. I planned to finish my hilt with a leather wrap, so I just did a cursory smoothing pass.
Sculpt the pommel by shaping Worbla’s Black Art around the stopper you already built. There’s no real trick to this – I started by rough cutting a stack of scraps for each side of the pommel and squishing them together around the end of the support rod, then progressively smoothed and sharpened the details on one side at a time. I do almost everything with one basic wooden sculpting tool, which I’ve rubbed with olive oil to prevent it from sticking to the Worbla. To avoid inadvertently squishing parts you’re not actively working on, try to heat only a small area at a time and allow it to cool and firm up before moving on to another area.
When working with a solid mass of Worbla like this, I try to time the heating/cooling cycle depending on what kind of sculpting I need to do. Blending edges and smoothing wrinkles is best done right after heating, when the outermost layer of Worbla is as hot and soft as it’s going to get but the interior is still firm. As the heat distributes through the whole thickness of material, large-scale reshaping becomes possible. Finally, sharp edges and fine details are easiest to achieve as the surface cools and begins to firm up again, when it’s just on the edge of being too hard to work with.
Once the hilt is wrapped, you can start building the crossguard on top of it. For complex designs, you may need to build this up in layers, looking at which components are thicker or overlap other components. In this case, I identified three distinct segments: the cat’s eye shape that holds an inset gem, lower prongs, and upper prongs. Each would be patterned individually and then assembled around the hilt.
I’ve gotten great results from a ‘sandwich’ method using Kobracast on the inside and Black Art on the outside, as the extremely sticky Kobracast is helpful for joining pieces and the Black Art is great for sculpting surface detail.
Joining up the crossguard can get a little tricky because it needs to wrap around the widest part of the blade and hilt but still meet at the edges of the prongs. Unless you’re an outstanding patternmaker or do a ton of trial and error, you’re likely to have some gaps where the pieces are supposed to meet at the edges. You can compensate for this by adding a rolled-up Kobracast scrap to each side to increase the contact area when the pieces were squished together, then sculpting Black Art scraps across the edges to smooth and refine them. If you need more material to work with in any particular spot, like I did when sculpting the bevels, you can lay down scraps wherever they’re needed and blend them into the surface with a sculpting tool.
Gems and Detail Sculpting
My favorite way to do custom gems is with clear glass cabochons, which can be ordered inexpensively in lots of different sizes and shapes. Paint the back of the stone with metallic paints, using a soft brush and several thin coats to get smooth coverage, or place metallic paper in the Worbla setting behind the stone, and the result is a very clear, shiny stone with a surprising amount of depth. You can also basically ignore them when painting the prop, as any stray smudges of acrylic can be scratched off the glass without damage using your fingernails or a wood or plastic tool.
To create the relief design, roll small pieces of Black Art into snakes and shape them into tapered bevels by hand. For repeated elements like the symmetrical designs in front and back, make sure they’re all the same size by cutting half-inch strips of material from your scraps and measuring off the same length for each element of a set. Keep a copy of the detailing pattern handy so you can check the shapes as you go.
To set the gem in, first level the area by cutting away overlays and building up layers of Black Art around it as needed. Place your prepared stone and lay doubled strips of Black Art over the edges to hold it in place, then use sculpting tools to shape them into your desired bezel shape. The glass stone retains heat, so it helps the surrounding area to stay soft longer and makes it very easy to sculpt. Once the gem is secured, heat both the surface of the hilt and your additional embellishment pieces and gently press them in place. Finally, go back over the details with a tool to sharpen them up. Make sure the piece is fully cool and hardened before flipping it over to repeat for the other side of the hilt.
Here you can see the finished sword base, ready to prime and paint.
Primer and painting
As soon as the blade is done, even before you finish sculpting the hilt and crossguard, you can start applying coats of primer to help seal and protect the paper surface. I like using acrylic gesso for the exposed cardboard blade, because it’s relatively dry for a brush-on water-based sealer and it dries to a semi-flexible sandable finish. Although the gesso needs multiple coats with up to a day to cure before sanding, this is an easy step to do on a weeknight when you might not have the time or energy for sculpting. If you’re impatient like I am, you may want to also work on other parts of the costume so you’re not tempted to rush the dry time. Black Art tends to acquire a very smooth, hard surface after sculpting, so you may need to sand it lightly to help the primer adhere. Apply several thin coats, being careful to avoid drips as they can cause the primer to chip or peel when sanded.
Make sure to use breathing protection when sanding. I use a fine grit sandpaper and sand until the surface has a smooth, papery texture, as more than that is probably overkill for brush painting. If airbrushing or using another spray finish you may wish to go smoother. The water-based primer does not respond especially well to wet sanding, but you can use a slightly damp cloth to wipe away any dust once you’re finished. Follow with a base coat of acrylic – black works well for most metallics, or you can try red for warm golds. I paint with light-bodied flexible acrylics to minimize brush strokes and cracking. I often find gold and bronze metallic acrylics to be too warm-toned for my taste, but I’ve noticed that metallics tend to get muddier and less saturated when mixed so I dull the too-brassy golds down by mixing with silver or black metallics. In addition to the main colors for the hilt and blade, select or mix at least one highlight and shadow color for each. Put down your base layer of mid-tone metallic, then look at where the shadows and highlights fall naturally on the surface and follow those lines to exaggerate the effect. For example, the weight balance of this blade means that it naturally orients itself in a particular direction when held, so the same side always faces down. This allowed me to paint the lower face of the blade a darker color to emphasize the shadow, and be confident that it will look natural in most lighting. Finish off by dry-brushing black into the corners and crevices, where grime and patina would naturally accumulate and not be removed by polishing. You can also add more highlights to corners and edges that would be likely to be rubbed smooth by wear.
To finish off the hilt, you can sculpt and paint like the rest of the sword, wrap the handle with strips of fabric or decoratively patterned cord, or make a stitched wrap with leather or fabric. For a leather wrap, cut a piece of leather to fit around the hilt, with enough extra around the edges to tuck them to the inside for a neat finish. Fold in the edges and hand or machine stitch, then glue a piece of felt to the inside to smooth and pad the grip. Spread glue on the inside of the wrap to hold it in place while you stitch it closed, then stitch the two sides together around the hilt, positioning the seam on the downward side of the handle to keep it unobtrusive. You can also embellish the wrap however you like before stitching – details like cording, studs, or embroidery are all great options for adding texture and grip.
There you have it! A lightweight sword with a core of cardboard, some Kobracast Art, and details made from Worbla’s Black Art.
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!
Materials/Tools: Worbla Plywood, foam board, or Balsa wood Insulation foam Heat gun X-acto, craft knives Clay roller (optional) Paper Spray adhesive or tape Writing utensils Scissors Rulers, yard sticks, etc. Square Dremel with sanding wheel Palm Sander (if you work with wood) Sand paper 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!
Valkyrie Studios created this tutorial for round three of our TranspART competition.
I crafted Felo’melorn for the third and final round of the TranspArt Competition put on by Worbla.com.
For the final round we were able to build anything we liked using the materials sent to us, and then make a tutorial about our process. My entry for the previous round– The Sword of Fire and Ice– was surprisingly popular, and I received a lot of questions about how I made it. In particular, people were interested in the hollow blades, and how I made my project glow.
Because of this I wanted to make a project in a similar vein. Since I’m very invested in Blizzard cosplay, and so many of their weapons have a glowy magical blades, I decided to go with something from the World of Warcraft Universe. In honor of Legion — the new expansion that releases in August — I wanted to craft one of the new, super powerful, Artifact Weapons.
I may not have a Mage in game, but I fell in love with Felo’melorn, Pride of the Sunstriders the minute I saw its design. For my build I decided on the blue and gold version (since it comes in several colors).
WE WERE GIVEN:
1 Medium Sheet of TranspArt
1 Medium Sheet of Worbla‘s Finest Art
1 Pair of Heat resistant gloves
A set of silicone fingertips
A set of Earth Magnets
1 small bottle of Flexbond (I promptly misplaced this, but I had been planning on trying it out anyways, so I bought a medium bottle.)
I ALSO USED:
Adafruit Neopixel Strip (1/2 a foot)
Adafruit 3V Trinket Pro
A Soldering Iron
1″ PVC Pipe
Airbrush & Airbrush Paint
REFERENCE & BLUEPRINTING One of the really nice things about crafting things from World of Warcraft is that there’s a 3D model viewer for every item on Wowhead.com. This allowed me to get some nice screenshots of the sword from a few angles.
I then took the screen shots into Adobe Illustrator to make vector blueprints (Inkscape is a free alternative). This allows me to scale it, and print it out as templates for my foam and transpArt shapes.
MAKING THE BLADE I made a video tutorial showcasing my method of making hollow TranspArt blades using a soldering iron to ‘weld’ the edges together.
You can also fill these blades with resin, colorful fabric, or cover them in more TranspArt to look like fire; such as I did with my Sword of Fire and Ice.
There are all sorts of possibilities, and super cool projects you can make with this method!
ELECTRONICS I use a pretty similar electronics set up for my builds like this. I plan on making a more exhaustive post about arduinos and neopixels and such, but I’ve been so busy that it keeps getting put off. (Soon™)
Anyways I hope that a little of what I show here can help out.
So this is the blade after it was heat welded together. I generally like to run my strip of Neopixels (programmable LEDs in a chain) down the spine of my blade so that it points down into the more interesting areas. Then I superglue it down so it doesn’t move around.
This is my basic setup: an Adafruit 3V Pro Trinket (my arduino), and a JST switch that gets connected to my battery. The switch input (+) from the JST switch goes into the 3V pin on the Pro Trinket as well as connects to the wire (colored red) that will get soldered the positive pad on your Neopixel Strip. The ground (-) from the JST switch goes into the G pin (ground) on the Pro Trinket as well as connects to the wire (colored black) that will get soldered the negative pad on the Neopixels. The third wire comes out of pin 6 on the Pro Trinket, and will be soldered into the Data In pad on the Neopixels.
This is your Neopixel strip. You want to solder to the end that has the arrows going away from you because that is the direction of data flow. In this photo the top pad is 5V (+) — it works with 3V, but is dimmer. The middle pad is the Data In pad which carries the signal that tells your lights to do things. The bottom pad is Ground (-).
This is what it looks like running the basic Strand Test that is available in the Adafruit Arduino IDE. I tried diffusing the light with some fabric, but it didn’t work as well as I wanted.
After I airbrushed the blade blue the LEDs diffused pretty nicely, so I was happy with how it turned out.
The electronics and battery were hidden on the inside of the PVC handle, and the pommel pulls off so I can get at them.
The final effect looks really good!
CRAFTING THE SWORD Ok. So now we have a glowy blade, now we have to make it into a sword.
I used superglue and hot glue to stick each half to the blade. The worbla ‘wings’ were then heated up and squished together around the sides of the transpArt blade.
The reference has the blade and handle float separately, but gravity doesn’t work that way in the real world unfortunately. I tried making a clear piece out of transpArt to connect the two halves, but it wasn’t quite strong enough (and floppy blades are not what I’m after). So I just used regular worbla. This also got wrapped around the PVC handle.
I made the decorative hilt the same way as the wings, using my soldering iron to burn designs into the foam. ((*Worbla.com note: Please make sure you work in a well ventilated area if soldering or otherwise burning foam, as the fumes released can make you ill and kill small pets.))
This also was wrapped in worbla, and I used a tool to press the lines back in.
Here’s what it looked like all put together with the detail pieces, and the connecting piece is strong enough to hold the blade.
I wasn’t entirely happy with the seams where the wings came together, so I mixed up some Apoxie Sculpt and smoothed them over. It’s an easy way to get a seamless effect without having to dremel the edges– which can get sort of messy.
One of my favorite aspects of the design of this sword is the eagle wings that wrap around the blade. Using my blueprint I cut them out of EVA foam floor mat. I used my soldering iron (you can also use a hot knife) to burn in the decorative channel.
I then covered this with worbla, electing to use the fold-over method to save material since you woudn’t see the underside anyway. You can use sculpting tools to press designs into the worbla, but it works better if the foam already has indents to start with.
PRIMING & PAINTING Naked props never look as good as you want them to, but the paint job is what makes the magic come to life!
Normally I use 6+ coats of wood glue to seal my WFA projects, but since I had been given Flexbond, I decided to try that out instead since I heard it can make worbla smooth in two or three.
The Flexbond worked pretty well, but unlike wood glue, it isn’t self leveling, so brush strokes were evident even if you were being careful (which becomes an issue with metallic things, oops). I ended up using three coats, but I probably should have gone to four to make things extra smooth.
After everything had dried, I base-coated everything with either blue, black, or a yellow gold using my airbrush. From here I like to build up shadows and highlights.
My next step was to add rose gold accents that would add depth– since yellow gold looks super fake and plastic-y by itself.
Since the blade was already painted and I didn’t want to get gold on it I like to use scraps of worbla or cardboard to prevent overspray. It’s faster than using masking tape, but I recommend that if you use this method you should be experienced with your airbrush.
To add even more depth as well as some weathering, I mixed up an almost black burnt sienna color, and sprayed areas I wanted to have more shadow. I also applied this as a wash to the channels that I cut earlier with my soldering iron.
The final step is to hit the edges and raised areas with a gold paint pen. They can be fickle though, so be careful that it not spurt ink all over your project!
For silvery metals I like to sponge on gunmetal and aluminum colored paint using a paper towel or sponge to get a more steel-like appearance.
As with the gold areas, I highlight the edges with a silver paint pen, to add some weathering, and also to make the details pop.
The handle was wrapped with leather to hide the PVC pipe, and some details were painted on. And now you’re finished!
All in all, I’m very happy with how my project tuned out, and I hope you find this useful to make glowing or transparent blades for other projects!
Rinkujutsu shared this tutorial explaining the build of the base of their fantastic Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess Master Sword.
Reinforced Balsa Wood Blade with Worbla
This tutorial is for creating a lightweight but sturdy prop sword blade from reinforced balsa wood covered with Worbla. I have only tried this with a four foot long blade, so I don’t know how it would work with longer lengths. Note: This is for creating just the blade and is NOT a full step-by-step Master Sword tutorial.
Materials and tools needed:
– Balsa Wood sheets, at least 3/16” thick. (If the blade you are making is under three feet long, you only need two sheets. If it is over three, you need three sheets. For the Master Sword, I used three balsa wood sheets with the dimensions of 3/16”x4”x36”)
– Flat rectangular metal steel rod with the dimensions 1/2”x1/8”x48”
– Wood Glue
– Worbla, about 1/4 of a jumbo sheet or more depending on the width of your sword blade.
– Xacto blades: standard tip and 1/2 wide chisel type tip.
– Paint brush
– Clamps for gluing.
Step 1: Note, if your blade is going to be under three feet long, skip to step 7.
Take one of the balsa wood boards and draw a line in the center going across the width of the sheet. Draw another line through this center line with a 45 degree angle
Step 2: Cut the sheet in half through the diagonal line of your Xacto knife.
Step 3: Grab your last two balsa sheets and draw a 45 degree angle line on one end of each of them.
Step 4: Cut off the little end triangles on the diagonal line.
Step 5: Take one of the longer sections and pair it up with one of the shorter sections to create what looks like a longer plank with a seam. You will have two groups of these.
Step 6: Use a strip of tape to temporarily hold the seam in place. It will be strong enough to hold until you glue it.
You should now have two layers of balsa wood sheets. We will be inserting a metal rod between them and laminating them together. When picking the balsa wood sheets, select ones that are as flat as possible so that they will fit snugly together.
Step 7: Get your flat metal rod out since it’s time to cut a slot for it.
Step 8: Draw a centered line lengthwise on each of your balsa wood sheets. Draw another lengthwise line on either side of the center line 1/4″ away from it. (Ignore the doubled lines in the picture; the only reason why they are there is because I messed up the alignment the first time)
Step 9: Use your Xacto knife to gently score each of the lines that are 1/4″ away from the center. Be careful to only cut no more than halfway through the balsa. It’s very easy to by accident cut through the entire plank.
Step 10: Use the 1/2″ Xacto knife chisel tip to cut a groove between the two lines about 1/16″ deep. Do this on both blanks. you’ll know it’s deep enough when the metal rod fits in it snugly without too much extra room.
Note: Don’t cut the groove all the way from end to end. Start several inches in from the end so that the tip of the sword won’t have an empty hole in it. I forgot about this and it posed some problems once I started carving the tip of the sword.
Step 11: Use your brush to slap on a layer of wood glue on both blanks on the side that has the groove for the metal rod. Insert the metal rod and press both layers together. Clamp it to a table top with a flat wood blank on top to prevent the clamps from marring the balsa wood. You can also clamp it between two wooden planks. Let it dry overnight.
Step 12: You will now have a reinforced and laminated balsa wood plank to use for your sword blade! Get out your sword blade patterns, trace them on, and cut out and carve the blade with your Xacto knife. Balsa is extremely easy to carve; it only took me about 20-30 minutes to shape the Master Sword blade. For the engraved sections like the triforce on the blade, just press hard with a blunt tool on the design and it will easily leave an impression in the balsa wood.
Step 13: Sandwich your entire blade in Worbla! Balsa is too weak on its own, so this step is necessary. I didn’t take pictures of this step since it is no different than sandwiching craft foam pieces in Worbla. I suggest working from the tip of the sword to the bottom, heating only a few inches at a time, and sandwiching that section before moving on another few inches. for the engraved sections, just press the Worbla down into the impressions to create an embossed effect. You’ll notice that my trimmed edges are rough. I fixed this by taping sandpaper to a flat board and sanding the edges down until they were flat.
That’s it for this tutorial! Go ahead and build the rest of your awesome sword and show it to me when you are done :D ! I am not able to make a step-by-step tutorial on my TP Master Sword because of my lack of progress picture, but I will be doing tutorials on the other techniques that I used to make it. I hope this tutorial was helpful and let me know what other tutorials you would like to see!
With many thanks to Rinkujutsu for sharing this with us!
Orolan03 aka Craft Dad used Worba and foam to craft a sword, and made a series of videos documenting the process. We have parts 7, 8 and 9 documenting the process of adding Worbla to the foam base. If you’d like to see how the base was built, you can see the full playlist here.