Magic Knight Rayearth - Hikaru's Sword
Here is the finished, revised version of this sword:
Some of you may be wondering how I put this sword together. Well, the blade of the sword was pretty standard: a thick dowel coated with styrene on all sides. (I've described how to make such a blade in my books and on this blog.) The hilt and handle of the sword were much harder to accomplish due to their unusual shape and structure.
I started making the hilt and handle by taking a couple of sheets of Wonderflex and using those to build the understructure for the design elements. The Wonderflex sheets were sample sheets sent to me many months ago by Dani's Cosplay Supplies. I regret it's taken me this long to to find a use for them. (BTW, Dani, the sheet marked WFLX-T was the better quality one. Sorry I couldn't get that information to you sooner when it might have actually done you some good.-_-)
I sketched the general shape of the first hilt pieces onto the wonderflex and cut them out. (By the way, I used a little less than 2- 8" x 11" sheets of Wonderflex for this project. I also have no idea if the word "Wonderflex" is always supposed to be capitalized or not. Hunh.)
The first hilt piece would consist of two sickle-like shapes cut identically to each other.
I didn't really have a set pattern to go by-- I pretty much eyeballed the shapes that would make up the hilt and adjusted them as I made them one at a time.
I basically had to make up the pattern as I went along, cutting away and adding bits to the pieces so that they would fit my vision of the item.)
When shaping wonderflex sheeting, you need to use some kind of heat source to make the material pliable. A hot air heat gun will work nicely, (and if you don't have one of those, a hair dryer with a high heat setting will do:)
Earlier, I had cut out two mirrored-shaped pieces from my wonderflex. I now placed those pieces together and heated them along their outer edges, pinching said edges closed and shaping the material with my fingers.
I continued on in this way, creating one shaped piece element after another. I connected the finished piece elements together using scraps of wonderflex
As you can see, these elements look kind of rough and the seams aren't all that neat, but they don't really have to be. The most important thing at this point, is to make sure that the elements align with each other well. (If your pieces are crooked and stick out every which way...well... you'll have problems later on...)
It took a lot of trial, error, building and trimming to come up with the final shape of the sword's hilt structure. (I had to build two matching hilt structures that exactly mirrored each other. These would be placed on either side of the blade.) Neatness and symmetry definitely count here --the final shape of the pieces should hopefully be worked out at this stage.
Now it was time to coat the wonderflex with a material that would give it a hard, smooth surface. In past projects, I've used Friendly Plastic as a means of doing this. Friendly Plastic does have some limitations (And one needs to boil it in hot water in order to make it pliable enough to shape.) For this project, I've decided to use epoxy putty, a type of compound that is mixed and used to fix and seal pipes. (Higher grades of epoxy putty --like Apoxie Sculpt or Magic Sculpt-- are also frequently used by sculptors and dollmakers.) You can buy large quantities of epoxy putty on ebay by running a text search for it. (You'll need a large quantity of the stuff if you're going to coat a large object like a sword.) Epoxy putty does itself have limitations--it's toxic and gives off dangerous fumes, so you want to make sure you're wearing a mask/ respirator and latex gloves if you're working with it (and a dust mask if you're sanding it.) You want to be working with it in a well-ventilated room as well.
You want to only apply a thin coating of epoxy to your work--just enough to cover the texture on the surface of the wonderflex. (About a 1/8" - 1/4" thick coating should do.)
I kept a cup of water close by as I worked. Dipping my fingers into the water and wetting the surface of the epoxy helped me to keep its surface workable and smooth. If you opt to use a knife blade or any kind of tool to help shape your work, you must clean it thoroughly afterwards, as epoxy can be very difficult to remove from a metal surface once it hardens.
You may not be able to coat your entire project in one sitting. (Remember that you have to set the project down to dry somewhere, therefore you may only want to coat one side of your project at a time. ) You can add additional layers of epoxy to a project after it hardens, if you want to smooth out a dimpled area (although take care not to add too much--the more epoxy putty you add to a project, the heavier it gets.) You may also want to embed thick (14 gauge or thicker) wires into the surface of your project to strengthen its structure (especially if your project is made out of several parts that are attached to each other.) The wire can be coated and hidden using successive layers of epoxy putty.
Epoxy Putty takes anywhere from a few hours to a day to harden. The surface should be like a hard plastic that you can sand. (I'd recommend using a fine wood sandpaper if you're going to sand the surface of your work. REMEMBER TO WEAR A DUST MASK WHEN SANDING EPOXY. You can find dust masks at most hardware stores.)
Some people opt to use bondo for projects like this instead of epoxy putty. I myself find bondo miserable to work with--it's too "gloopy". Epoxy putty behaves more like a clay than a coating, thus it's easier to sculpt with.
Here are more finished shots of the sword:
Enamel is a good paint to use over epoxy. (I used Metallic Red coated with Red Metal Flake to achieve a rich, sparkly surface.) I did notice a problem with the sword after I had finished painting it (see earlier entries for details on how said problem was brought to my attention.) I had to break off a piece that stuck out awkwardly and then reattach it using additional epoxy putty and an embedded wire. I managed to hide the break quite well, but it took a lot of effort to do so (and if I had just paid closer attention to the design as I was making it, I wouldn't have had to go through all of the extra trouble.)
Questions? Comments? Leave 'em below or e-mail me at dietzt@REMOVEMEcloudnet.com
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