It's my first time trying to build a prop for my cosplay of Shirou Emiya. I'm trying to build his swords Kanshou and Bakuya. Do you have any tips for what material to use and how to go about it?
For reference of followers who aren’t fans of the Fate series, here’s Shirou with his swords, and an image of the same swords from Archer’s R.A.H. figure:
Regardless of what material you use, you’ll want to start by designing a blueprint/pattern for your prop. We typically do vectoring with Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop by tracing over a reference image of the prop, scaling it to the proportions we need, printing it out, taping the pieces together, then cutting those pieces out.
^ A printed copy of the vectored blueprint Shazz made for my Brave Lance.
Vectoring isn’t absolutely necessary; my Madoka bow was drafted from scratch by measuring out a miniature bow from her Good Smile figure, and figuring out how to scale those measurements against my height to get the proportions right.
Scale is pretty important when creating props. For example, I could tell you that your swords should be “x” inches long and “y” inches wide, but depending on how tall you are, those measurements could be vastly oversized or undersized. Study your most consistent reference images - scale figures can be useful for this - and compare the length of Shirou’s swords to Shirou himself (e.g. if a weapon is 1/3 of the character’s height and you’re 5′8″ (68″), the weapon should be around 22 5/8"). You can learn more about creating blueprints by reading this excellent tutorial by Studio Creations.
As for the materials you can use, these will vary depending on your budget, skill level, and available tools. Beginners may want to start with foam; it’s cheap and low-tech, so it’s ideal for those who haven’t started building a collection of tools. Thinner foam (usually called “craft foam”) can be found in multi-sheet packages at Wal-Mart, Michael’s, and other craft departments or stores. These are ideal for low-relief detail work. Building up the body of a foam piece can be done with thicker foam, usually called “EVA foam;” look for puzzle-shaped floor mats at Wal-Mart, or long sheets in the automobile department (see below):
Beyond that, tools you may want to acquire for foam work would be a heat gun, an X-acto knife, a utility knife, a cutting board, and a blade sharpener. Cutting foam can dull your knife blades, so sharpeners like this or this are invaluable.
For more on foam prop-making and painting, particularly for short swords or daggers like Shirou’s, I highly recommend watching this tutorial by Bill Doran of Punished Props. The video description has links to all of the tools and materials he uses.
As for the hex-grid designs, you could create a stencil and use it either as a guide for painting the designs on the surface, or for doing shallow engraved designs, depending on what floats your boat aesthetically.