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This was posted after a discussion of whether assassins' questions about deadly weapons would be on-topic here.


If I wanted to make a sword, say as a prop for a theatrical production, what would be the best material to use that satisfies the following criteria?

  1. It must be relatively easy to make:

    • can be made at home
    • requiring only materials and tools which are relatively easy to procure
    • shouldn't take too long to make
  2. It should also be realistic:

    • rigid, not bending or flopping about even when it strikes a solid object
    • the same colour and appearance as a real sword would be
    • preferably reasonably heavy, so that it feels as well as looks realistic

How would I go about making such a 'weapon'?


Edit for clarification: the type of sword I'm imagining would probably be classed as a broadsword: not thin and pin-shaped like a rapier, but not a massive greatsword either. Example pictures (randomly picked off the internet - it doesn't have to look exactly like either of these):

enter image description here enter image description here

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    @CreationEdge You mean you don't want the Arts & Crafts site to be a welcoming place for assassins? – Rand al'Thor Jun 17 '16 at 23:55
  • If you ever need a sword that looks good but doesn't necessarily feel like a real one, look into cosplay prop making tutorials. – jackwise Jun 23 '16 at 20:34
7

PVC

Heating PVC with a heat gun will soften it, so you can flatten it between boards with clamps/weight to make the blade. There are a multitude of YouTube videos from folks building cosplay swords out of PVC pipes and fittings. PVC is a bit hardier than wood and can stand up to whacking a bit better. While it won't look completely metallic, you can sand and paint it. Again, YouTube videos abound on this.

Here is one Youtube video that demonstrates making the entire sword from PVC pipe. It's queued to 3:46, where the sword blade is heated and flattened.

screengrab from Youtube video

another Youtube video mentions that if you plan on using it as a training sword and need it to have a more realistic weight, you can just seal the end and fill it with water or sand. It is PVC pipe, after all.

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  • The aluminium tape method referenced in my answer would work here too for a metallic surface finish. – Journeyman Geek Jun 18 '16 at 3:33
  • You just heat up whole pipes? I'm confused on the actual process here. Any vids or tuts you've come across? – user24 Jun 19 '16 at 11:52
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Wood. Adam Savage (whose non mythbuster stuff I love to bits) has a tendancy of making them - see his hellboy sword. He used thin plywood for a base and shaped it with bondo, covering it with aluminum ducting tape. He has another video where he shows process of making a shiny not weathered 'metal' sword from a solid wood sword - the process where he covers the sword in tape starts here, but the whole video is awesome.

There's actually a precedent for this with solid boken, and many modern sword shaping techniques might work with wooden swords.

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6

1/4" lauan plywood from the hardware store. Easily worked with a bandsaw or jigsaw. Sand rough edges, and 'break' any corner. Paint it a black-grey.

Let the "blade" continue past the cross-guard to the end of the grip. Build up the grip with a few strips of plywood, then sand the corners off.

Make the cross guard from plywood... you get the idea. This is probably 10 total pieces to cut out, 6 of which are identical (for the grip).

Avoid the urge to put a point on it, or real edges. The point would simply be an eye-poker. Sharp edges are fragile and will raise splinters.

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If you wanted a good sound on impact, as well as a good weight, the only way to go would be solid metal. I've made them (in the dim and distant past, though slightly more recently than the middle ages) from steel bar stock, bought as close to the right size as possible and shaped on a bench grinder. Even with power tools it was tedious. A wipe over with oil will stop them rusting.

You might get away with aluminium which would be much easier to work and lighter, but wouldn't sound as good. Either way the handle and crossguard should have some strength to them. The crossguard could be wooden with rather large bolts providing a strong core; when we made them the handle was a continuation of the blade with wooden grips wound with string.

Even without an edge on them, they could do some damage if you hit another actor rather than their sword. Detailed rehearsals are both important and intersting.

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