Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Dynasty Warriors Xing Cai Heavenly Sword : WORKING WITH INSULATION FOAM

^I LOVE RUBBER SHEET a.k.a. EVA FOAM.
But in Japan and most other places out of southeast Asia, this material is not as easily attained...

I decided to try using insulation foam as it was easy to get from my location and was cheap by Japanese standards.

THIS IS NOT A TUTORIAL ON HOW TO MAKE XING CAI'S SWORD.
THIS IS NOT A TUTORIAL ON HOW TO MAKE SWORDS FROM INSULATION FOAM.

THIS IS A POST DOCUMENTING HOW I MADE MY XING CAI SWORD AS WELL AS MY THOUGHTS AND TIPS ON WORKING WITH INSULATION FOAM.
My mistakes and struggles are all included in this post.





This was my first time working with insulation foam and with such a big prop. To be honest, I got excited and jumped right at it.

I first saw insulation-made props from Yuanie, an amazing cosplayers from Singapore.
Fortunately we have common friends so I was able to ask her about working with said material.
I asked about insulation foam maybe 4 years ago? hahahhaha But I only decided to try it now because bae rubber sheet was nearing zero in my supplies and I couldn't wait for someone to buy me rubber sheet and then ship it to me here in Japan.

I do wish I did more research but what better way to learn by actually trying, right?

Working with insulation foam frustrated me immensely and I compared it to rubber sheet so many times during the whole sword making process.
The final product did turn out magnificently and using this material has its merits.

Sometimes, when you get so used to something, all other things become scary, difficult, frustrating or all of the above. But we won't grow and learn new things until we try.
So, I encourage everyone to be more patient and try more things, not just with cosplay related matters but in life as well.

Sage mode OFF!
Let's get to it, then!

Why I chose insulation foam?
1. cheap
2. easily found
3. light weight


Materials and tools used (painting progress excluded):
1. thick paper
2. cardboard / old box
3. hot glue
4. cutters (yes, more than one! about 3 or more would be great! the more the merrier!)
5. a butt ton of spare blades
6. tape
7. cutting mat / something to protect the surface as you cut
8. scissors
9. markers
11. wood putty
12. sand paper
13. wooden dowel / pipe / curtain rod - to serve as base and handle
10. insulation foam
14. old wide paint brush - for dusting later
15. rulers


The process:
1. First step for me is always data gathering.
Save as many reference photos as you can, watch as many videos and plan out the design and stare at it until it is burned to your memory.


2. Then I gathered my materials.



3. I made a template using the thick paper.
With some tape, I put together some pieces of paper so I can make the template up to the size I want the sword to be.
Just the main shape, no details.

Cut it out.



5. Placed the dowel in the center, mark and then cut it out to make a gap in the center.


6. Traced on to sturdier paper, in this case, I traced the template on cardboard. Cut it out again.



7. Secured the dowel by hot gluing it to the cardboard.
Centering is key as this will serve as the "skeleton" of the sword.



8. The insulation foam I bought was about half a meter by half a meter.
To make it easier to manage, I cut it in thin strips and then hot glued on to the "skeleton" sword.
Some parts I used ordinary white glue because I ran out of hot glue sticks and I was too "in the zone" to go out and buy more.
White glue works but it takes longer to dry. I took this time as chance to do nothing and just lie in bed appreciating the good life for about 3 hours XDD
insulation foam sword looking like a giant popsicle XDDD



9. With a cutter, I began to slice away at the insulation foam to make the shape more sword-like.
I had known that when working with any type of foam, I would be needing lots of cutters and spare blades because I watched Kamui's video. But, like the good follower I am, I ignored the fact that I needed to change blades.
Maybe I was trying to save money?
I don't really know why, since cutters and cutter blades are so cheap...

Anyway, after a few slices, the cutter blades would get dull immediately. IMMEDIATELY.
If you want to spend less money and less time trying to clean up and make your prop smooth then cut away properly with sharp blades!

I learned the hard way...
Sharp blades go through like butter. Dull blades are resistant.
Changing blades is an exhausting task. It is much easier to have lots of cutters, instead of having only one cutter, and having to stop to change the blade every single time.

Because I was hard headed... the insulation foam blades looked mangled and uneven...



10. I tried to fix the wide gaps with expanding foam...
which at that time seemed like a good solution... but after you hack away at the excess and wasting about 2 days in the process, it seemed more like a waste of time and effort...


In summary, change cutter blades often.

During this whole process, I also completely forgot that insulation foam CAN BE SANDED.
orz super failllllllllll......

I could have just sanded the uneven parts I sliced off but... I didn't....

Anyway, again TRY TO CUT AS CLEANLY AS POSSIBLE WITH SHARP BLADES.
THEN SAND DOWN WITH SAND PAPER TO EVEN AND SMOOTH OUT THE SHAPE is what I am basically saying here. DON'T BE LIKE ME.


11. Then coat with wood putty to protect and harden the "blade".
Spread THINLY.
Avoid air bubbles.



12. Sand.
Sand. Dust Sand.
Sand. SAND.



Think you're done sanding? No yah ain't. Sand a lot more!
I sanded with different grits and felt like I would no longer want to see sand paper ever again in my life....
And it was still not enough! aurgghhhhhh
That's why you should really be careful in cutting your insulation foam blade and making it nice and smooth!

Had a paint brush on hand to dust off every now and then during sanding.

More sanding!



I spent lots of hours sanding but that was as good as I could get...
Sand, spot air bubbles and gaps, rage, cry, cover again with wood putty, wait to dry, sand.
Three days of this... One tube of wood putty would have sufficed had I been more careful...
I have used and wasted:
- a can of expanding foam
- 2 extra tubes on wood putty
- about 3 days worth of time and energy

13. I eventually decided to just get on with the detailing.
My favorite part!
Making the details were surprisingly fast and easy.
         


the magical state of my room when I am busy working on a cosplay hehehe


14. Attach details on to the sword.



15. Priming! The most boring part of the process!
I honestly don't know any crafter who enjoys this stage hahahahaha

My primer is just white glue mixed with a bit of water.
Cheap and gets the job done.

3 coats of my white glue-water primer.


Of course, gesso is great.
Acrylic emulsion also great.
Plastidip, awesome.
These can all be used as primer but they cost more.


16. Paint all in black. I often use black as my base color because I like the old-looking effect on my stuff.



17. Paint in actual colors thinly.
Let dry. I usually paint and prime in 3 layers.
Lately I have been using acrylic paint in tubes extensively.





18. Lining to make details pop more.


19. Acrylic dries matte, unless you use a color that has some special properties.
So to make the acrylic come alive and to protect the paint job, I cover everything with a coating of clear spray paint.

By this time, dry brushing silver on the blade parts made it look like stone instead of some sort of metal...


I was greatly disappointed...

I should have been finished at this point...

What to do when you are unsure? Ask friends on facebook for feedback! hahahaha.
Thanks to my friend, Ian, who made the suggestion.
I did more sanding hahahahahahhahahahahahhuhuhuhuhuhuhuhuhu /stabs self.

Despite the blade being all covered in paint and sealant, I picked up some sandpaper and started to sand.
Whoop dee doo! So fun, NOT!

By this point I was really cursing sanding and making props with insulation foam and putty.
But I guess patience does pay off because after a few hours of sanding and repainting, the blade looked better.

Whew!
It was definitely more work than I anticipated but my first try turned out really nicely :D
Though I do admit that the sword got a bit heavier after the putty... Maybe I just lathered on too much but still, a success.


I am very proud of my end product.
Thank you so much to Yuanie, Kamui and to Gladzy for the advice.
These ladies really helped me a lot.
To anyone reading this who plans on working with insulation foam; DO MORE RESEARCH. DO NOT BE LIKE ME! And most important of all, DO NOT GO STINGY ON THE CUTTER BLADES!


*******************************
thanks for reading!
 jaa! visit me again, ne!
     arigatou! (*^3^)/~









some additional notes, for your reference.
This is Kamui's video on expanding foam:


Click on to Yuanie, Kamui and Gladzy's names to get to their pages.

0 comments: