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Originally Published: 20 April 2016 (re-written from drafts)

I've had this base for a LRP-axe kicking around for years. Originally, it was for a historic dark-ages setting, but I figure, these days, I'll get more use out of it if I turn it into a wasteland-warrior's trusty mutant stopper.

 

As it currently stands, it's in pretty good nick. The glue has perished slightly around the taped ends (safety tips/pods), but that's easily repaired. If it was a bit more damaged, I might change the shape of the head for something a bit more modern, but as it's still pretty sturdy, it can stay as a bearded-axe. 

There are a few initial steps to making a LRP weapon that were done when I first made the blank up, but I'll go through the basics here. However, I don't have pictures to demonstrate them.

 

Disclaimer: Making things involves sharp object, chemicals and other hazards. Follow all safety advice for the specific products and items you are using. We cannot be held responsible for any injury, death etc caused by following this tutorial. All information is provided in good faith, but is not a replacement for suitable knowledge or training.

Materials and equipment

Materials:

  • Core – for a medium sized weapon, I use rectangular section 12x8mm fibreglass bar
  • Foam – though some people use camping mat, I strongly recommend using LD45 plastazote for its resilience and toughness whilst still being soft enough to be safe in LRP-combat. Typically, you want a range of thicknesses. For this project I use 6mm, 8mm and 10mm, though I could have gotten away without using the 10mm if I had to.
  • Contact Adhesive – I use Evostick 528, but the Evostik Impact Adhesive does a good job too, so long as you don’t get the solvent-free/low-solvent version, because that doesn’t glue for shit. Where I mention ‘glue’ through-out this tutorial, I mean contact adhesive unless stated otherwise.
  • Gaffa-tape – any decent gaffa/duct tape
  • Thin-leather/thick fabric – only an off-cut is needed, see later sections for sizing information

 

Equipment:

  • Stanley knife blades – I use genuine Stanley brand blades rather than cheaper versions as I find they hold their edge for much longer.
  • Saw – fine-toothed for trimming cores down. I use a hacksaw
  • Medium grit sandpaper
  • Course grit sandpaper
  • Marker Pen – useful for marking foam, even on black foam, a Sharpie pen is visible enough for what we need.
  • Steel-ruler – I’ll occasionally use one if I need to guarantee a straight edge cut
  • Spreader(s) – an old table knife works well for getting glue out of tins and onto what you are gluing. To spread the glue on the foam, I normally use the table-knife again or an old gift or store card, it depends on the size of the area I’m working on.
  • Cutting board – I recommend a sheet of MDF of ply to cut and glue on. If you are like me and glue on your proper cutting board you will find that the glue melts off the top layer and shags your board (sadface).
  • PPE – make sure you wear it. I don’t list items here as you should follow the advice of the products you are using, but I’ve fucked my eyes up enough to always wear safety-glasses as a minimum (grazing your eyeball is really, really, irritating).

Some of these things may have different names over-seas, but I’m fairly sure they will be reasonably available all over regardless of what they are called. There are some reasons for why I do certain things and use certain tools, but I’ll save that discussion for a separate article.

 

Stage 1.1 – Design

First off, you need to plan out what your final weapon is going to look like -this drives your core selection and foams you are going to use. Normally, I sketch things out until I have a concept I’m happy with. If I’m doing a really complicated build, I’ll sometimes turn my sketch into a 1:1 paper template so I can check the details all work and help sizing down the road. Additionally, I make sure I’ve looked over a load of references, ideally as physical objects.

For this tutorial, I’m using 12x8mm fibreglass bar and 6mm, 8mm and a little bit of 10mm foam. The 8mm thick foam matches the thickness of the core and the 6mm is a bit thinner to give me some choice to work with.

The first thing to decide is the length of the finished weapon -in this case it’s 915mm. Once that’s decided, you can work out your core length. You want to have a core somewhat shorter than the overall length so you can build foam around it. I take off 10mm from the top for shaping and 15mm from the other end for the same reason, then finally I remover 20mm from both ends to allow for a ‘safety-pod’ – that gives me a total of 65mm, so my core will be 850mm long.

 

Stage 1.2 – Core

Cut the core to length with a hacksaw or similar. I find it pays to do a slight cut all the way around the core before doing the final cut all the way through. This helps stop glass fibres pulling out of the core when finishing the cut. It helps to have a vice to cut in, but you don’t need one if you have a good surface to rest on.

Remember: Always take care when handling fibre-glass. Getting the fibres in your skins itches for bloody ages, so wear gloves and/or don’t rub your hands along fibreglass rods. Although, contrary to what I’ve read in some places online, the fibres don’t enter your bloodstream and make your heart explode (probably). It goes without saying that breathing in fibre-glass dust is probably very bad for you (every other dust seems to be).

Once the core is cut to length, tidy up the tips with the medium sand-paper -you don’t want to round the tip off fully, but you don’t want any hard corners remaining.

Once that’s done, give the entire length of the core a quick rub-down with medium sandpaper just to remove and loose fibres and take off some of the smooth factory finish, this will make the glue bond better when assembling the weapon.

 

Stage 1.3 Pods

Before anything else, we need to add some pods to protect people from the ends of the core during combat. They will be encased in more foam, but weapon tips and ends are the most common failure point of most LRP weapons so it pays to reinforce them.

Cut two piece of foam 20x12x8mmand  glue one to each end of core -the 12x8mm face of the foam to the 12x8mm end of the core. Once the glue has had time to develop some strength (15 mins), take the gaffa-tape and wrap it about the join between the core and foam. 6-8 turns are probably enough but, depending on the tape, you may need a little more or less. The aim is to ensure the transition between the foam and core isn’t too apparent and stiffen the overall pod. However, at the same time, you don’t want to increase the overall dimensions of the core + tape by anything more than 1mm.

If your tape is 50mm wide, like mine, you’ll end up with 30mm on the core and 20mm over the foam. If the gaffa-tape overhangs the end of the foam just trim it flush once the wrapping is done.

Now you should have a core-blank, including a small foam & gaffa-tape pod on each end. This is the type of blank to make most weapons from.

 

Stage 1.4 Handle

After the core-blank is finished, you want to start thinking about making it look more like a weapon. From your concept sketches, you hopefully know the shape of the weapon you’re going for. If not, decide it now.

The core is going to make up the centre of the weapon; some of it will be inside the axe-head, some inside the handle. Mark on the core how much space the head will take up -for a regular axe it will probably be the last 100-150mm, the rest of the core will be handle. Then position the core onto your 8mm foam sheet with the mark for the axe head resting on the edge (with the length of the head not on the foam). Make sure you have enough space all around the core to be able cut a handle shape. As my core is asymmetric, I want the widest face lying parallel to the top of the foam.

Take your marker pen and trace the core onto the foam. Doing it this way rather than marking a shape out with a ruler allows you to capture any increase in dimensions from the pod at the end of the core.

Put the core to one side and, using the core-outline you’ve just marked on to the foam, draw out the shape of the handle you want your axe to have.

Remember: Ensure you have sufficient depth of foam from the core to the safety checking specifics of your LRP group. In the UK, you’re normally okay with 15-20mm (but check).

Once you have an outline you are happy with it, cut it out. Once you have a cut out handle profile, you’ll want to attach it to the core. Cut out the core outline that should still be marked at the centre of your handle shaped foam. Once done you should have something that looks like a very elongated U shape, the central cut-out is a channel for the core to sit into.

Tip: Cutting along the inside of the marking line should ensure you have a close representation of the core shape. Also, while cutting, ensure your cuts don’t over run when changing direction -any defects may be the cause of an early failure in use.

It’s easier to cut the core-shape out from the foam once it has been cut from the main sheet, rather than cutting out the core outline then cutting out the foam handle outline.

Now glue the core into the channel in the foam. Use course-sandpaper to rough up the inside surfaces of the foam channel (where it will contact the core). It doesn’t need to be completely roughened but the surface should be slightly broken up. This allows the glue into the structure of the foam slightly and allows for a stronger bond.

Apply the glue as per the product you are using’s instructions. With contact adhesive you get one go (maybe one point five goes if you’re lucky) at putting your foam down in the right place. If you don’t have a lot of experience weapon making, it might be worth practicing the next stage without any glue involved.

I find the best way to attach central sections of weapons to cores is to take the core and hold vertically with my knees or a vice, the end you are attaching to tip upwards. Then take the elongated U shaped piece of foam and place the belly of the U onto the tip of the core, whilst holding the arms of the U out to either side. Once the top is in position ‘roll’ one arm down onto the core followed by the other. Rolling the foam down means making it contact in one area before contacting in an adjacent place, rather than trying to make it stick in the correct place everywhere at once.

Once the foam is glued to the core, make sure you push the foam firmly against the core for its entire length. You don’t want any voids or weak contacts.

If the handle end isn’t level on either side of the core, trim the foam so it is.

 

Stage 1.5 Axe-head

From your sketches, you know what shape of axe head you want to make. You also have a length of core (and safety pod) that isn’t covered in handle foam.

Take this measurement, and it is worth re-measuring it, as it is very easy to change the planned distance and not have distance you expect by stretching or compressing the handle foam when gluing it to the core. Then mark it on a straight edge of 8mm foam. From this marked length, you can draw out the shape of the blade you want. Once you’re happy with it, cut it out.

As before, rough up all foam surfaces that are about to be glued – including the connection between handle foam and axe-head foam.

Glue the head to the core and handle in one go. Make sure the head joins well to the handle and there is a good snug joint.

Not every builder does this next step, but I find it really adds to the longevity of the weapon.

Reinforce the head. Take a rectangle of soft, thin leather (or heavy fabric) and ensure that it is long enough to cover the first 1/3 of the head nearest the core, on both sides. The width of the rectangle should be small enough so that it is, in all areas, >10mm away from the exposed edges of the head. Once you have the right sized rectangle, glue it on and press the reinforcement down firmly all over.

Axe head reinforcement

Once done, leave it to one side for a night to allow the glue to cure and gain strength. After it has had time to cure, check the weapon for weak points or areas were the bond hasn’t occurred.

Because this blank has been sitting around for a while some of the glue has failed. I repaired these spots with a hot-melt glue gun, but you can do a similar repair with contact adhesive, if you hold the gap open, add glue then leave it to set for twice as long as recommended by the product before pushing it closed.

Hot melt repair

 

All done! A basic foam-blank. Ready for Part 2