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 In part 1 (link) we went through building up the blank-core for the weapon and a general shaped foam-blank for the body.

Originally, this was a dark-ages style bearded axe, and I hadn't really wanted to remake the head so I’d left that as it was. I do however want to make is more suitable for a post-apocalyptic wasteland role, so I want to gruff it up and make it looks more like it’s been ‘improved’ for combat. I'm thinking a bit of a basic hand-guard for the main hand, some reinforcement for the shaft and maybe ‘welding’ some big nuts onto the back of the blade to make it look a bit heavier and like it has maybe been modified to act a bit like an axe-mace cross-over.

 

Materials & Equipment:

Nothing new at this stage, only re-using things already used during part 1.

 

 

Tip: A note on cutting. I’ve listed Stanley knife-blades but not handles. Typically, I only use the blade on its own. I find this gives me much better control over the cut and lets me get in to work on little details whilst giving me as much blade to cut with in one go.

I also find that this means I tend to cut myself quite a lot when I'm working, as I'm just holding a blade that’s sharp at both ends in my hand.

If I’m being sensible I wrap the end of the blade I'm not using in a bit of gaffa tape so my hand is protected, but I don’t want to apply too much, as I’ll want to take the tape off fairly quickly and start cutting with the other end once the end I’m using becomes blunt.

 

Stage 2.1

Right, before I start doing some cool customisations, I need to finish off making the basic axe body.

Using 6mm foam I'm going to build up a ‘sandwich’ either side of the foam handle piece I've already attached.

 

Rough up an area of foam just larger than the axe handle using course sand paper (or whatever this thing is).

As before, the roughed up surface allows the glue to permeate the foam and give a stronger bond. Make sure both mating faces of the foam are roughed up.

Then use contact adhesive to glue the foam onto the handle. Push it down evenly with moderate force in an ordered pattern (this helps the foam to distribute evenly). Ensure that the foam is stuck down and level all over.

Once it has had a little time to build up strength in the bond (apx 15mins), use your blade to trim the new foam to match the central foam handle shape. Once done, that’s one half of the sandwich finished.

Then repeat with the other side.

Push the foam down to ensure a good bond is formed.

When cutting the foam away at this stage you’ll likely start to see the benefit of not using the knife handle. You want to cut the foam-sandwich as flush as possible to avoid steps between the foam layers. If there are, it’s not a problem as they can be sorted later, but it’s better not having to worry about it.

Cut around the handle profile.
Tidy up any areas that aren't flush.

There we go, now we have a rough handle shape.

 

Remember: Some foam sheet has a solid-shiny surface on some edges, this surface doesn't glue well so should be trimmed off at the start. Or forget to trim it off then have to trim it off during the build – both are options, the former is the better choice.

This hard surface of the foam should have been trimmed off.
Trim it off before continuing.

 

Stage 2.2 Building up the axe-head 

Using 8mm foam, we’re going to wrap a rectangle around from one side of the head to the other. This could be done as two pieces, but doing it this way gives a nice round back to the head and it is stronger. We use 8mm foam because the difference in thickness from the 6mm we used on the sides of the handle will give us an upstand on the head, which is just like a real axe.

The easiest way of doing this is measuring the width of your axe head and then x2 that dimension and add some additional length for going around the back of the head, so maybe 75mm to be safe (12mm core x2 + 50mm to go around the back). If in doubt, it can be worth using a foam offcut (you’ll end up with loads) to test that the length you’ve calculated reaches all the way from the blade of the axe on one-side to the same point on the other side of the blade. For both the height and width it is worth having some additional material rather than not having enough.

Checking the size of foam required

You don’t want to pull the foam too tight as it goes around the back of the blade. otherwise it will be too hard to be safe and it will also look shit.

As with any other glued joint, make sure to rough-up the mating faces with some course sandpaper. When roughing-up pieces already attached to the core, take care not to damage any existing joints/glue-lines in the process.

It can be worth gluing the foam in two phases, first one side of the head then the other, if you’re not confident in the process. However, I find it can be done without having any problems in one go. As with the shaft, be sure to press firmly over the head to ensure it is all fully bonded.

The finished stage will look like a folded over foam sandwich.

 

Stage 2.3 Shaping the axe-head

Once the axe-head is built up, trim the new foam to match the shape of the central foam section. As before, it can be easier to do this on one-side before gluing the other, but typically it isn’t hard to do this after the foam is folded over and glued.

When cutting a complete sandwich, in some places is it fine to trim both sides in a single cut, but often where there are tight corners, like on the underside of this head, it’s best to cut one side at a time.

Finished! The layer of foam at the sides should be as flush as possible with the centre section. This can be tidied up with some subsequent work, but if they are flush now, it will make life much easier down the road.

Ready for the next stage.

 

Stage 2.4 Shaping the handle

Now you want to give the handle some shape by trimming some chamfers along it. There are two ways of doing this in my experience:

Lay the weapon down on a flat surface and trim along resting your hand on the side of the handle, holding the blade at the desired angle.

Holding the handle out away from you cut down the length to give the edges of the handle a chamfer/bevel on all long edges.

In this case, I went for the former. Work your way along all four edges of the handle (two sides, two edges per side). You might want to do multiple chamfer cuts at different angles to give the handle a nice eclipse cross-section.

REMEMBER: don’t take off too much foam or your weapon will fail safety-checking.

How neat a job you do will depend on the later stages -if you don’t plan to use some kind of sanding to smooth the handle down, you’ll want to make a nice job of the cutting. If you do plan to sand it afterwards the cuts can be a lot rougher.

I plan to sand this weapon down, so my cuts are fairly rough and are pretty much a single 45 degree cut per edge. If I wasn't going to sand the weapon, I would probably do two bevels per edge of 30° and 60°, to give a more rounded profile.

Trim a chamfer along the handle.

Remember: in most places the shape of the handle is purely aesthetic, but at the point where your hand will rest ensure a comfortable shape to grip.

Now with the handle looking like it has a bit more of an oval profile, we can do the same for the head and give it some shape…

 

Stage 2.5 Shaping the axe-head

During this stage you can mark out the lines you want to cut along. For the cutting edge, you might want to mark the centre-line for the foam sandwich and then another line following the profile 13mm in from the edge. Then cutting at an angle between these lines allows you to ensure a constant angle to your chamfer. It can be useful for when you’re cutting what would be a hard metal finish rather than a soft natural finish, like on the handle. I don’t always bother to mark my cut lines and, as this is a weapon that’s survived the apocalypse, I figured I definitely wouldn't need to.

I started on the non-cutting-blade edge of the head and trimmed around a 3-5mm chamfer and left it with quite a hard finish, this is a metal axe-head after all.

Finally, I moved to put on what would be the cutting-blade edge. If this was a real weapon, there can be a bit of preference of how shallow a chamfer you put on to the blade at this stage. This can be a matter of aesthetic, but I find that very-fine edges get damaged more easily, so in this case I'm going to go for a fairly blunt 45° a side, though I probably wouldn't ever do a cutting edge any blunter than this.

The cutting-edge is trimmed onto the blade.

For hard-mechanical edges, typically metal blades etc, you want your cut to be as smooth and fluid as possible. Holding the knife-blade a bit like a pen you want to start a 45° cut from the centre of the thickness the foam-sandwich, then sweep along the edge in one go.

Tip: When cutting foam don’t use a sawing motion, keep the blade ‘still’ in your hand and move it along the edge you want chamfer in a single smooth motion. If your blade doesn't easily cut the foam like this, then it is too blunt – get a fresh knife-blade. If I was making a sword or similar long weapon where I wanted a very clean edge I would use a new blade for every side of the weapon (reversing the blade in my hand so each chamfer is cut with a fresh section of knife-blade).

With both sides of the head chamfered in the same way, then that should be the core shape of the weapon done.

Finally, I cut an elliptical disc out from 10mm foam and glued it to the top of the axe where the shaft would normally emerge from the axe-head. Not only does this mean that the weapon looks more believable (commercially manufactured axes have very little to no up-stand. but as it is worn and battered weapon, I went for quite a large up-stand), but also from a safety point of view it ensures the edge of the core-protecting pod gaffa-tape is safely encased in foam. 

If you were after a basic no-frills weapon you could skip the next stage and go straight to painting/finishing.

But no-one wants a boring weapon, so next Part 3 - Decoration.