Final Fantasy VIII - Squall's Gunblade
Okay, before I begin - a lot of people have been asking me rudimentary questions about my propmaking methods, where I get my styrene, etc. You'll find my armormaking tutorial with all that info at http://www.amethyst-angel.com/armormaking.html
This next project tutorial is a replica of Squall's Gunblade. The first thing you'll need are some long strips of basswood or balsawood (available at most craft stores.) For the blade part itself, you'll want a piece that's at least 5 inches wide (or as wide as you can get it) and 30 inches long. You'll also need some .020 styrene and some 3mm craft foam sheets.
To measure out the length of the blade, I used the barrel part of the gun as a reference (I figured the blade itself was about as long as 4-1/2 barrels placed end to end.) Keeping that length in mind, I traced out the shape of the gunblade onto a sheet of styrene (eyeballing the shape, although if I wanted to be more precise, I could have gotten an image of the blade, blown it up in Photoshop and printed it out to use as a template. I'm not nearly that anal retentive though...
Once I cut out the shape, I placed it onto another sheet of styrene and cut out a matching shape:
I then took one of the plastic shapes, placed it over a length of balsawood, traced out the shape and then cut it. So now I had this:
The blade needed to be a little thicker than the balsawood I bought, so I hotglued a layer of craft foam to one side of it, like so:
Here's what it looked like with the foam glued on and the excess foam trimmed away:
(I forgot to mention this before, but the styrene pieces should be hotglued to both sides of the blade piece, -- you were probably able to figure that out on your own, right?)
The next step, to create the bevelled edge around the gunblade. Start by cutting a long strip of thick craft foam and hotglue it to the top edge of the blade (stopping when you get to the part where it curves.) Cut the foam in such a way that it's triangular (a long, triangular tube, basically, with the flat part glued to the edge and the pointy part sticking up.)
Next, take a long strip of craft foam and bend it in half lengthwise, like so:
Hotglue it over the craft foam bevel, taking care to make the edge as straight and clean as possible.
The bottom bevelled edge of the blade is a lot thicker than the top edge - for this one cut two long strips of 6mm craft foam and glue them together. Then take a 2" wide length of styrene and bend it in half. Hot glue the foam layers to the interior of the styrene so you have a long, thick triangular tube.
The next step, of course, is to hotglue the tube to the bottom edge of the gunblade. (Stopping short where the blade starts to curve.)
What do you do about the part of the blade that curves? Well, you cut out some curved pieces of 3mm craft foam and hotglue them around the edge (trying to make them as bevelled-looking as possible. The picture below should hopefully give you SOME idea of what to do...)
Next step: hotglue some styrene plastic over that (taking care to make sure the edges of the plastic meet together exactly around the edges.)
Now you want to clean up the edges and cover up the seam where the straight and curved parts of the plastic meet. Do this by hotgluing a looooong strip of plastic around the outer bevelled edge of the gunblade. (Do it to both sides of the bevel, taking extra special care that the plastic edges touch each other and look straight- you don't want your blade's edge looking warped.)
If you have translucent styrene, you can trace out another gunblade shape, cut it out, and then hotglue it over the blade to hide/clean up the edges of the bevel. If you DON'T have translucent styrene and can't see the blade underneath to trace its shape, you should probably cut 4 styrene blade shapes in the initial steps instead of 2. (Lay down 2 (one on each side) before you add the bevels and 2 afterwards.)
In any case, once you're finished with the construction of the blade, here's what you should have:
Now comes the time to make the gun portion of the project.
I started by tracing out the shape of the revolver box on a sheet of styrene which I placed next to the blade...
I cut 2 of the shapes out of styrene and then hotglued pieces of balsawood to the inside edges of both pieces, like so:
Okay, tough part - I placed some balsa wood next to the revolver box and traced out the shape of the handle. I then cut out the shape, placed it over another piece of balsawood and cut out another shape (so I had a handle piece made of two layers of balsawood glued together.) I made the handle piece so it would have an extension that ran through the revolver box and which touched the blade portion of the gun. (This I did for the sake of sturdiness. In retrospect, I probably should have just cut the blade and handle portions as a single piece so I wouldn't have had to worry about how to attach them together. Oh well. Next time...)
Oh, and don't glue the handle and revolver portions together yet. First, you have to create the little dowel thing in the blade of the gun. I made mine out of styrene tubing with a wooden dowel hotglued to the inside of it. I made the dowel so that it would extend to the inside of the revolver box (which would hopefully add stability to that whole area.)
This, of course, creates a problem, as the dowel now cuts into the handle piece. I solved this by cutting out a section of the handle piece, (the yellow line indicates the area that has been cut away.) I hotglued the handle, revolver and blade portions together (adding extra layers of craft foam in between to thicken the revolver box a little and fill in space gaps on the side. It's up to you how you want to do that step, as it's purely an aesthetic thing.) I dribbled hotglue over the dowel and handle piece to connect them together.
That done, I took sheets of thick .030 plastic and hotglued them into the rectangular "window" of the revolver box, covering everything inside (and making it more stable.)
The next step involves covering the sides of the revolver box with styrene.
Then I cover all the surfaces of the handle with styrene...
I then add another layer to the handle (this one consisting of 3mm craft foam covered with styrene. Note the notch I cut where the handle-grips are. Also, note the little bead of craft glue I left on the handle to serve as a screw...)
Next I create the revolver barrel. (Obviously, this barrel won't be able to move or spin. In future versions of the gunblade, if I'm ever called upon to make any, I may try to make it do so but for now, I just create a little half-cylinder with notches in it. (Try not to make it an exact half-cylinder -otherwise when you glue both halves into the gun they'll stick out too far because of all the stuff in between them and look wrong.)
The next step is to hotglue the barrel into the little window in the revolver portion. That finished, I then took some styrene tubing and made the little tubes that are attached to the revolver (and which are presumably where the bullets come out.)
Now is the time to add the hammer and other little add-ons. (Regretfully, I didn't have the time to figure out how to get the things to move-maybe next time...)
To make the trigger, I first cut out 2 trigger-shaped shapes from 6mm craft foam and hotglued them together. I then covered the entire trigger with styrene.
I then did the same thing with the (okay, gun experts, help me out here...) little bracket thingy which goes under the gun. (I wanted extra stability in this piece since I figured it would get hit/scuffed a lot, so I used balsawood instead of craft foam...)
I then made the trigger and the little dealy thing which goes on the top of the gun (boy, I'm getting technical now...) The diagram below shows where I attached them. The little pink lines show where I embedded wires into the pieces so that when I attached them to the gun they had less of a chance of falling off. (The little yellow dotted lines show the places where I carved away a thin layer of the plastic to create --aw hell, I should just give up trying to think of the names for these things, shouldn't I?)
I have the gun all put together. Now it's time to engrave the lion design onto the blade (I'm assuming it's on both sides of the blade, --it certainly appears to be in the reference pictures.)
I made the lion design by importing a reference picture with a clear view of the lion design into Illustrator. I then made a vector image of it.
(As a special bonus, I have a vector file of the image here.
It's an Illustrator file, and is easily scalable to any size (although you may have to adjust line thickness if you radically change the size.)
I also have a large jpeg of the file here.
You MAY HAVE to adjust the size and resolution of the image to print out at the size you want. (All computers and printers are different, and I'm guessing the sizes of the gunblades you make may vary too. Hopefully you won't have to change the file size TOO much...)
Anyway, I adjusted the size of the lion, cut and paste another lion next to it and reversed it, so that I could print out both sides of the blade engravings at the same time. I then rubbed a pencil onto the back of the paper and used a stylus (a dull pencil) to trace the design of the lions onto both sides of the gunblade:
I then took a marker and retraced the lions to make them more visible...
Okay, the next step will require you to buy or borrow something you may not have on hand. It's a Creative Versa-Tool Pen and it costs about 25 dollars. I highly recommend investing in one, as it allows you to carve or burn designs into various materials. (It's a heated pen, like what you'd find in a woodburning kit.) I use the pointy stylus for my fine engraving. (It takes practice to get the pen to move smoothly, so I would recommend tracing a few designs onto some scrap pieces of styrene for practice. (Make sure you have at least 2 or more layers of styrene glued together for your practice runs, otherwise the pen will go through the plastic and burn whatever's below it.)
WARNING: STYRENE FUMES ARE DANGEROUS. MAKE SURE YOU DO ALL YOUR "ENGRAVING" IN A WELL VENTILATED AREA, PREFERABLY OUTDOORS. TRY NOT TO BREATHE ANY FUMES IN WHILE YOU'RE WORKING. ALSO, BE CAREFUL NOT TO BURN YOURSELF.
Okay, the construction is finished and the lions are engraved, here's what I've got so far...
And here's what I've got after a single coat of silver spray-paint (which I applied outdoors...)
Finishing and painting the gunblade...
Start by taking some hobby sandpaper (not REGULAR sandpaper, as that's too harsh and will scratch up your prop) and sand the surface of the prop. (You should really do this before spraypainting, but I would recommend doing it again afterwards, as sometimes the spraypaint highlights little bits of dirt and gluestrings that you may have missed.)
As far as the lion engraving goes, I would recommend filling all the lines with silver paint. You can, when painting an engraved surface, opt to paint the lines black and highlight the surface with silver for an antiqued look, but that's going to be hard to do in this case. (Also, I saw no black lines in the engraving in the gunblade reference pictures, so I just opted to paint everything silver.)
For the rest of the blade, I recommend long strokes going the width of the blade (to give the appearance of polished metal). Practice with different brushstrokes and finishes until you come up with something that looks good to you. In the end, this was what I wound up with:
The only thing missing is the chain and lion pendant which hang from the handle, and the person I made this for opted to add that on his own. (You can find loads of Squall lion pendants on ebay; it's probably a lot easier than trying to sculpt one yourself, although you're welcome to try if you're some sort of do-it-yourself prop purist.)
Welp, I've got a LOT of e-mail to answer, so I'll be signing off now. Hope you found this tutorial to be of SOME help...
Questions? Comments? Leave 'em below or e-mail me at dietzt@REMOVEMEcloudnet.com
(Address is spambot-protected. Remember to remove the "REMOVEME" before you send it.)