Making a LARP Weapon

How to make a LARP Sword 

So you've heard about Live Action Roleplaying, and you want to make a sword? Here are the basics of Making a decent "boffer" sword. This particular style is legal for most Live Action Roleplaying games, but especially for all Maine Adventure Society games. The basic idea is that you will create a "core" of pvc pipe, under a layer of pipe insulation, with a squishy tip of pillow foam, all covered in duct tape.

Fancy a little magic and want to make "Spell Packets?" Click HERE

REMEMBER - Mystwood will gladly provide you with weapons for your first few events, so don't let lack of sword stop you from coming to one of our games.

First, Tools:


You will need: A Hacksaw or Pipe Cutter to cut the core, scissors, ruler, marker, and assorted knives. I like to use a steak knife because its serrated edge cuts foam very well and because you can cut your duct tape with it. Cutting duct tape with scissors ruins them.

Next, Materials:

 

You will need: A Core of PVC or CPVC pipe (any hardware store, and they will also cut it to the right length for you usually), duct tape (ditto- pick a brand that is not the cheapest, but not super heavy weight), pillow foam (raid an old couch or get it from an upholstery store - they sell scraps, and you don't need much, or buy a "pillow insert" in the sewing section), and Pipe foam insulation. A piece of foam from a camping pad is strongly recommended (the blue square) as well.

Of these, Pipe foam is the hardest to get. Unfortunately, few hardware stores sell the right kind now due to changes in plumbing codes. The big box stores especially sell only "thin wall" pipe insulation that does not provide enough padding. Here are some examples:


Of These, only the Tan one is safe for the parts of your sword you will hit people with.

To be sure you have the right thing, measure the thickness of your pipe foam's wall like so:

It must measure at least 5/8" thick.

This, for instance, is only 3/8" thick and will be painful.

What to do if your local hardware store does not have the 5/8" wall pipe insulation? Pool noodle is the same thing, and great from a safety perspective, as it is much thicker. It does make your sword rather large and a bit silly looking however (though still good for practice). You might try asking your local hardware store to get it for you, or you can also order foam online - mcmaster.com has a good variety. Consult the table below for the part # you need. If you are ordering online, you may also want to buy an "ultralight", also called "Kite pole" core. These cost more, but let you make a lighter, longer, more realistic looking sword.

Kite pole can be found here at kitebuilder.com You will also need Kite Pole if you are giong to make a two handed weapon. PVC and CPVC are too flexible ("whippy") to make very long weapons.

If you are buying CPVC try to find "Schedule 20" pipe, which is lighter. PVC is a little heavier and thicker than CPVC and generally not as good.

Here are some Cores (the curved one is created by heating and bending the pipe using hot water or a heat gun - careful, the fumes are Toxic! and some have cord grips already on them.)

Once you have your core, cut it to the proper length - about 4 inches shorter than you want the overall sword to be. I will demonstrate making a short sword today.

Then, cut a piece of pipe insulation to make the blade. If you have the right size it will fit on perfectly, if not you may have to cut a slit out of it to make it smaller like so:

Its a good idea to take a few pieces of tape and fold them over to make "double sided tape" and put them on the core before sliding the foam on. This helps keep the padding from breaking loose and sliding off in battle. If you had to cut the padding, tape it closed neatly before sliding it on. You will also want to leave about 1/2 inch of padding sticking out past the core at the tip of the sword. Stick a little foam in whole and cover it with tape.

You should also firmly tape the base of the padding to the handle of the sword like so:

This the most common place for a sword to break, so don't scrimp. And use double sided tape on the core as described above (sorry I don't have a picture of that)

Now you need to make the thrusting tip. Cut a circle of the camping pad the same size as the blade, and a cylinder of open cell ("pillow") foam 2-3 inches long. This is the "thrusting tip" - it should be nice and squishy, but not so long it folds over. Put them on the blade (Blue camping foam taped on first, then open cell) thus:

Now carefully tape the thrusting tip on by looping tape over the top. Don't compress it, it should have plenty of give.


Now add a crossguard (if desired - you may make it out of any kind of foam), and sculpt a pommel. These can be made any way you like, but the only part of your sword without padding should be handle. Everything else should have at least a little padding in case of an accidental hit. Don't use materials PVC or wood for crossguards, don't make pommels out of ball bearings, that sort of thing. Some people like to balance their swords by putting weights inside the handles - that is fine, just make sure they won't come loose and they are INSIDE the core.

Here is a basic sword laid out.

Here is a close up showing how to slit foam on the side to make the crossguard.

Now it is time to tape your sword. Run strips of tape as neatly as possible lengthwise down the blade, and carefully tape the handle, crossguard, and pommel. DO NOT SPIRAL WRAP THE TAPE!!!

Once that is done it is time to add finishing touches. I like to wrap the handles in cord - others prefer leather or grip tape. Some add fashion gems to the handle, or tassles, or decorative patterns cut out of other colors of tape. Over time you may will able to make more realistic (or fantastic!) swords or other items like axes, spears, and staves. The same basic principles apply, but I advise starting with a basic sword.

THE FINISHED SWORD