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maandag 14 augustus 2017

Flanged Mace

My last melee weapon, Tiff's Axe, was designed with a specific character in mind. This weapon, however, is a completely random design. I wanted to try out a new technique for making blades out of EVA foam, here's how it turned out.

  • EVA foam floor mats
  • 2mm thick EVA foam
  • 3mm MDF
  • Contact cement
  • Hot glue
  • PVC glue
  • 32 mm diameter thick walled PVC pipe
  • PVC coupler for pipe
  • Foam primer (book binding glue + acrylic gesso)
  • Acrylic paints
  • Oil paint
  • Matte varnish
The design
Okay, so what's this new technique I mentioned? First of all, the design of the weapon. I did a lot of sketching and came up with a hexagonal central shaft, and six blades arranged around it to form the mace head. It's the blades I wanted to try something new with.
If you want to make a blade out of foam, you need to sandwich a few layers together, and if you use floor mats, this means you'll have to remove the texture from one side. This is a tedious and very messy process. Even with a shop vacuum hooked up to my bench sander, it still makes a lot of dust.
Except very small blades (such as daggers), you usually need some sort of core to add some support, or else you end up with a floppy blade. For Tiff's Axe, this wasn't necessary because it consisted of four layers of foam, but my first Battle Axe has an MDF core. This gave me an idea.
Instead of sanding away the texture, I wanted to try glueing it with the textured side to an MDF core. For the blade edge, instead of sanding away foam, I made some beveled cuts and used strips of foam to create the edge. A band saw is a must have for this!
I did some sketching and doodling before I got started. I almost never let anyone look in my sketchbook, because there's so much ridiculous, stupid crap in it, but for this once, I'm giving you a peak inside. The notes are in Dutch, so there's a good chance you won't understand it.

My first attempt was polyurethane wood glue. This stuff expands a bit as it cures, and I hoped it would fill up the texture of the floor mats. Too bad, it didn't work out, the glue hardly binds to the foam. I tried a hot glue gun instead, this worked much better. It only needs to be glued down in a few places to keep the core in place.

The blades
For the blades, I made six MDF cores. They have the same shape as the blades themselves, but I also made a tenon on the side that will be attached to the central shaft. In the shaft, I'll cut a groove so it will form a strong connection.

For each blade, I cut two large pieces of foam, wich were glued to the MDF core, and strips for the edges. This requires some care with the angles of the cuts to make it all fit nicely together. Like I said, a bandsaw with a mitre gauge is a must have for this.

Turned out quite ok! I rounded the tips a bit with my Dremel, because otherwise they would get damaged too easily. The result is a light, rigid blade with a cutting edge without any sanding!

The central shaft
The central shaft consists of six strips of foam, glued together around a piece of PVC pipe to form a hexagon. On one end, I glued a PVC coupler to the pipe, for attaching it to the handle.

The ends of the shaft are made by sandwiching a few layers of foam, cutting into shape, and in the case of the lower end, cutting a hole for the handle.

Next, I cut slots in the handle for attaching the blades, a bit like a tenon-and-mortise joint in woodworking. The blades were glued on with more contact cement.

And finally, some decorations with thin, colourful craft foam!

The handle
For the handle, I used a piece of thick walled, 32 mm white PVC pipe. These come in several wall thicknesses, mine is 3 mm thick. I wanted to make it look like wood (part of it), for that I used a very simple technique. All it takes is sandpaper, a wood rasp and oil paint. The pipe has to be white for this to work!
First, I sanded the entire pipe with #80 grit sandpaper, and then I used a wood rasp to carve a wood grain into it. Just some random, deep scratches. After that, I sanded again with #80 grit sandpaper, and then worked my way up to #400 grit.

To achieve the wood color, I put some dark brown oil paint on a sponge and rubbed it on. I used this technique before, but with acrylic paint. The downside of acrylic is that it dries too fast for this. You have to spread the paint really thin, and acrylic almost dries instantly when you do that. Oil paint stays wet much longer, so you have plenty of time to get it right.

It took about three days for the paint to fully dry. After that, I made some foam decorations on the handle. One half of the handle will be wood, the lower part (where you hold it) will be wrapped in leather. But first, painting!

Painting and finishing
The paintjob started, as usual, with my foam primer, a mixture of acrylic gesso and book binding glue. I added a bit of black to the mixture to get a grey base coat. The mace head and foam decorations on the handle were treated with this.

As for the painting itself, I didn't take much pictures of that. Most of it was done at a local arts faire, and I already had more than enough stuff to drag along, I didn't want to bring a big heavy camera. I did take a picture with my phone, so forgive me the crappy quality.

So, basically, here's how it went. After the primer, I sprayed on a gray base color with a spraycan. Next, a black wash (that's what's going on on the picture above), followed by white drybrushing. The drybrushing made all the edges and ridges really pop. It already looked like metal without any metallic paint!
I sealed this with matte spray varnish, and then drybrushed a very thin coat of silver. I put the metallic paint on top of the clearcoat, because with my battle axe and 12-sided mace, the clearcoat kind of ruined the metallic effect. Here's how it turned out:

For the handle, I cut a 5 cm wide strip of vinyl leather, put on contact cement and folded about 5 mm on one side, to hide the edge where I cut it. It then got wrapped around the lower part of the handle, the final bit got glued on with super glue. All that was left then was put the head and the handle together!

It turned out quite good, but my wife had a few ideas for improvement. First of all, the wood color is too bright, next time I should use a more grayish color. Second, the weapon looks too new and unused. It should have some cracks and dents in it, so it looks like it has seen some action. I'll keep it in mind for next time!

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