Friday, October 29, 2010

Yo Dawg, I Heard You Like To Make Weapons

So I put this post up so you can read about making weapons while you're making weapons.

It's been a while since I made my last weapon, but I'll be making a pair of shortswords for someone who was coveting one of mine at the last NCN event. I figured, while I do this, I might as well drop some hints and include you all in the process.

Today, we're talking about materials.

There's a lot of different ways to make a weapon, which includes a lot of variants on materials. I'm going to try and include everything I can. Before I start, I can't stress that a good looking weapons means nothing (or at least very little) if you don't meet the minimum safety requirements for your game. Foam thickness, weight (if appropriate) and length are the big three, while some games also have some additional requirements for covers.

There's a few different variants of core that can be used in weapons.

CPVC - CPVC is usually the core used by a person making their first weapon. There's nothing wrong with that. It has amazing availability, is easy to work with, and is cheap. Unfortunately, 1/2" pipe tends to whip over 38", and 3/4" is often too heavy to make a proper weapon. I don't suggest this for weapons longer than 36"-38", like Jugger Cudgels.

Kitespar - Kitespar is the opposite of CPVC. It's difficult to find without ordering it online, it's expensive (compared to the alternatives), but other than that it's got practically everything going for it. It's very light weight and rigid, works well on weapons up to about 60", and is not too difficult to work with.

Fiberglass - Fiberglass poles are pretty good for weapons between about 6' and 8', but I wouldn't suggest them elsewhere, as they're expensive and a little bit of trouble to work with. For smaller weapons, you can use fiberglass driveway stakes but you have to build them up a bit to fit the foam.

Bamboo - Bamboo is actually a grass, not a wood, which makes it legal for a lot of games. The weapons made out of bamboo have amazing strength and tend to bend before they break, which makes them extremely durable. However, it's tough to find the right bamboo, and using the wrong bamboo could cause the weapon to be unusable. Do your homework.

There are a few things that you can use for the foam on the weapon, each with pros and cons.

Pipe Insulation - This is the standard for NERO, but may not be enough for other games. In general, you will want 5/8" wall thickness, but 3/4" wall thickness isn't a lot more weight and the padding will make a difference. If you want the 5/8" wall thickness, you might need to order it online.

Pool Noodle - Seems like a joke, but pool noodle is actually amazing for weapons. The wall thickness is about 1", so you'll be able to wail on your friends with no pain whatsoever. It is also extremely easy to carve, due to the wall thickness, so you can actually make your swords look like blades. These also have better protection from water than common pipe insulation. Just remember though, not all pool noodles are created equal. If you buy dollar store noodles, you might get mis-aligned center holes and the weapon may break down faster.

Camp Foam - This #2 foam is called camp foam, because it's normally used in camping pads for you to sleep on. These make it easy to form an actual blade shape and to design some nice intricate forms on your weapons. The downside is that you need to use adhesives that take a while to set, and if you do it wrong, the weapon can end up very hard. Definitely worth giving it a shot, especially for thrown weapons.

Every weapon needs tape, even if you plan on using a cloth cover. Surprisingly, there are more options than duct tape.

Duct Tape - If you don't know what Duct Tape is, just buy a weapon. But seriously, one thing you should know about making weapons with Duct tape - buy the CHEAP stuff. There are several grades of Duct Tape, starting with Utility (sealing boxes, etc) and going up to industrial grade (taping concrete slabs to a chandelier). You want utility grade, as it has less adhesive and is only 7-8 mils thick, which means a much lighter and softer weapon.

Gaffer's Tape - Gaffer's tape is a cloth tape that can be used to make weapons look much better than duct tape. While it is significantly thicker, it has a lot less adhesive which makes it lighter. The matte look and the shaping abilities of the gaffer's tape make it superior in appearance, but it is more expensive and takes a while to set.

Packing Tape - Some people go with the cloth covers for their weapons. Even if you want that, you will want to tape up the foam to make it last longer. The best thing to do for this is clear packing tape. It's extremely light and thin, so you won't even notice the weight. Just take your time when applying it, because poorly applied packing tape can make a crinkle sound every time you hit someone. I know that drives me mad.

As I progress with the weapon I'm building, I'll add some pictures and some step by step directions.


  1. where can someone order Kitespar? I have looked a fair bit and cant find any requirements on making ultralight weapons and what size they require nor have I found many places that sell it

  2. My suggestion would be to visit Warlord Sports ( if you're just looking to build a few weapons. They've got the right kitespar for making weapons so you don't really have to do research to find out what works.

    If you're looking to make a ton of weapons, I would contact the guys at Goodwinds (, as they've got pretty much every kind of pipe under the sun.

  3. what type of foam is best for ultralights as well? I know it has to be 5/8 wall but what inner should I look for?

  4. 1/2" ID is about the smallest it comes. You will still have to build it up with tape to have the foam fit snugly.

  5. You didn't mention PVC cores or Kite Tape. Do you not like those options, or was that incidental?

    I've used 3/4" Schedule 21 PVC for 38-46" weapons and it's both lightweight (relative to 3/4" CPVC) and stiff enough to not bend. It's also the easiest to bend with a heat gun, if you're looking for a curved blade or want a bow.

    Kite Tape is light weight, comes in a variety of colors, but is pretty expensive. I was barely able to cover a long sword with half of a 24' roll (which cost me $9 from