Attention new foamsmiths! This is a guide to help you master the fine art of forging foam weapons. With practice these techniques will enable you to build better, longer lasting weapons. Do NOT be discouraged by your first weapon. Everyone's first weapon tends to be a bit dumpy. Also don't worry about what a weapon looks like without tape or a cover. Taping and covering your weapon will dramatically improve its appearance and stability.
This guide is divided into a number of clearly titled sections. I advise browsing all of it before starting to attempt weapon construction then refering to it as needed when you're building your first weapons. Enjoy!
- Always check your core for flexability/whip BEFORE building on it. Take it in two hands and whip it forward. Think to yourself: Could this bend over my knee beyond 45? once padded?
- Rough your core up by scratching it with sandpaper or a file. Do not scratch off all finished surface. Instead, aim for a core with lots of small scratches and grooves evenly spread across where you will glue. This increases surface area for your glue to adhere to.
- Always Read and Follow the Instructions of any kind of glue you're going to use before you use it.
- Always aim for a full even coat of glue across your surface.
- *Tip for using DAP: Find an empty Elmers' wood glue bottle that has a screw off cap with the slit hole & orange cap. Wash out the bottle and fill it with fresh DAP. You can Dap swordblades and long strips of foam very quickly with just a swipe laying down a line of glue, then spreading it with a wood dowel. Also great for travel, repairs & getting DAP in small places. The DAP will stay good in the bottle for months if kept tightly closed and especially if fresh Dap is added now and again. Always shake before using.
- When securing something with duct tape, always use multiple strips either making "X" pattern crosses around the area, or spiraling one way with angled strips of tape, then spiraling back the other way over it.
- Always tape hafts/non-striking surfaces (projectile weapons especially) with cloth tape (athletic/hockey tape). Cloth tape can be purchased in sporting goods stores or from Edhellen Armory.
Measuring & Cutting
- Good weapons have attention to detail in the construction process. Be precise about measuring and cutting and you'll make weapons that are less bulky.
- *Tip for making uniform foam strips: Take sheets of paper and mark across 1 edge of it measurements that you use very commonly, for example you may consistently use 2" shield edges, or 1 3/8" swordblades. You can lay the paper down on your foam every couple of feet lengthwise, marking across in accordance with the marks on your paper, then trace long lines over your marks with a yardstick. You will end up with a row of long foam rectangles traced out. With a sharp pair of scissors, you can shear down the lines without even using a 'snipping' motion, making quick smooth-edged foam strips.
- *Tip for mass production of weapons: Once you get into a uniform system of measurements for your desired weapons, make cardboard templates for them. Examples: Rectangles & circles for standard pommel pieces. Rectangle for foam around a fun noodle flail head. Round shield template with holes where screws and straps go (can thus be used to arrange your preference of straps on any larger type of shield).
- Always reinforce your stiching on covers with a double stich, a zigzag, or both.
- For bag head flails remember that your cover is a functioning part of your weapon so reinforce it MANY times over. At least a triple stich and a zig zag reinforcement.
Increasing Weapon Longevity
- NEVER stick foam together that has wet glue on it. It will not hold.
- Always thoroughly squeeze and hold surfaces that have been glued together. The longer and more varied you squeeze, the more glue particles bond.
- Pommels and sword tips are the first things to fail. Securely tape your pommel on from all angles then tape around it tightly. On sword tips, place an "X" of duct tape over each flat side, and then glue & tape down a rectanle of foam over your core tip point to prevent tip blowout.
- Reinforce seams between foam with duct tape, but avoid putting duct tape on striking surfaces. If you have to reinforce something using tape on a striking surface, use cloth tape or clear duct tape.