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zondag 20 april 2014

Warlock Staff

During the Easter weekend, Elf Fantasy Fair takes place in Haarzuilen, The Netherlands. I will go dressed as a warlock. I already had a costume that will do fine (a black hooded monk robe I bought for Halloween), but a warlock needs an evil looking staff! I already made a dragon skull a while ago, this will go on top of the staff. The staff itself will have screaming faces embedded in it (captured souls!), eyes and evil runes. Let's get started!


  • Wooden stick
  • Clay
  • Wood glue
  • Paint
  • Gesso
  • Varnish
  • Plaster
  • Short piece of 40 mm PVC tube
  • A piece of scrap leather
  • Epoxy glue and resin
For the staff, I had two options. One, I could go searching in the woods for a large branch. It would look irregular and natural, but I didn't want to spend an entire day searching for one, only to find out it was rotten. Second, buy a replacement handle for a shovel. This would look less authentic, but much easier to work with and much more reliable. I didn't want to end up with a boring, straight staff, so I sculpted a few screaming faces on the staff using air drying clay. Also, I made two eyes, complete with eyelids.

After the clay had dried, I applied some diluted wood glue over the sculpture itself and the surrounding wood. This would form a thin but very tough plastic-like layer over the clay and the wood, making sure it stays on.

Here comes the hardest part! I had a wooden staff with white clay ornaments on it. Somehow, this had to look like solid wood. I had searched some tutorials about creating faux wood effects, but none of them were of any use. There are special wood graining tools for creating very convincing wood grains, the only problem is that they are intended for flat surfaces. So I decided to just try out stuff and see what would happen!
First, a base color. I mixed some plain white gesso with a bit of gray and some yellow ochre, for a brownish-gray base color. The entire staff was painted with this stuff. It did cover up the clay and wood so it looked like a single solid piece, but of course it didn't look like actual wood at all. The next step, however, had a very surprising effect!

I diluted some burnt umber to a watery consistency and started painting the entire staff using a wide, flat brush. The color was very transparent, and painting over it several times almost automatically produced some nice stripes! I was quite baffled by it, but it looked very wood-like! I gave it a layer of varnish, and voila, a great looking wooden staff!

Originally, I wanted to use a wood burning tool to decorate the staff. However, with all the paint on it, I didn't want to risk ruining it, so I painted some stuff on instead. Nothing too complicated, just some lines. And also some demonic runes! The set I used is designed by Marvealle. Looks really cool! The text says: "Drain you of your sanity, face the thing that should not be", a Metallica reference. It's from their song "The thing that should not be" from Master of Puppets. And the eyes, of course.

Mounting the skull
The dragon skull I made a while ago will be used to top this staff. I didn't want to glue or screw it on permanently, so I could take it apart for storage. I attached a short piece of PVC tube inside the skull, wich would slide over the staff. I didn't take pictures of every step, so I'll try to explain it as well as possible. I put the skull upside down on the table and poured a bit of plaster in it. I then took a short piece of PVC tube and inserted it in the plaster, at the angle I had in mind. The plaster sets quite fast, so after about 15 minutes the tube was firmly in place. Two days later, when the plaster had hardened and dried enough, I wrapped the tube with a piece of scrap leather and poured a layer of epoxy resin on top of the plaster.

The tube easily slides over the staff. To make sure it fits snugly, I wrapped some paper around the staff first and then pushed the skull in place. It stayed in place nicely, but still comes off easily for storage.

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