Anchor Build, Part Two

In the last post, I talked about how I made the anchor end of the prop. The rest of the weapon design called for a long pole covered in overlapping scales,  intersected at one end by a circle with a long chain attached to one side, and a decorative finial on the other end.



I looked at my reference again, and decided to go with two two-foot sections of 2″ diameter PVC pipe, connected in the middle with an internal PVC coupler. The internal coupler is more expensive, but it means you end up with a smooth transition between the two sections of pipe.

Once I had that worked out, I started on how to do the overlapping scales. I had some plastic scalemail lying around, so I took one of those, and traced it out on paper, and then used that to cut several test pieces out of 2mm craft foam (the kind you can find in most hobby stores). I tacked those in place around the pipe using some double-stick tape. I got pretty lucky, 5 of the scales fit perfectly around the outside perimeter of my pipe. The scales were 2″ long, and overlapping them 50% made a nice pattern. So that gave me 5 scales per one inch of length. Doing a little math, that came out to 240 scales to cover my 48 inches of PVC pipe.

That would be a lot of cutting by hand! My original plan was to get large sheets of 2mm foam laser cut instead. So I took my pattern, scanned it, and then used Inkscape to build an svg file that could be run in a laser cutter. 


Template for Cutting the Scales

In the end, the scales ended up being cut on a Silhouette cutter instead. There were some minor imperfections using this method, but because the scales were thin foam, it was easy to trim them up if the shape was a little off.

Before I started gluing on the scales, I needed to drill holes on one end to create the circle the chain attaches to. There are probably several ways to do this, but I have a drill press, so I just used a forstner bit the same diameter as the flexible PVC pipe I was using. I drilled a top and bottom hole on either side, then ran the flexible pipe in a loop through them and adjusted it until it looked good. Tension mostly holds it in place, with the cut ends inside the pipe. I just used some hot glue around the inside edges of the hole for extra security.

And then it was time to glue the scales on. I did this using contact cement. The first row of scales was completely glued flat to one end of the pole, leaving a little room on the end where the anchor would slide on using the external coupler, as detailed last post, with the points facing towards that end. For each subsequent row, however, only the wide part of the scale was glued down, with the points overlapping the previous row by 50%, and offset by one scale, so that the seams between them are covered. Each layer lifts the points of the layer that follows it, giving it a three dimensional look. When I came to the part were the flexible PVC pipe intersects the main body of the pole, I used a craft knife to carefully trim the scales to fit.

I reversed the direction of scales on the second piece of PVC pipe, because they change direction half-way down the length. Where the two ends meet, there’s a row that hangs off the end. When the two pieces are put together, it overlaps the first row on the second piece and disguises the join.


Overlapping Scales Hide the Seam Between the Parts

It took about 8 hours (and a lot of episodes of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure)  to glue all the scales down.

The last things to make were the pyramid shaped fob for the end of the chain, and the gold finial piece for the end of the pole. The fob was patterned out using paper, then cut out of 4mm foam with beveled edges and glued together. I stuffed the inside cavity with some poly fiberfill just to make it more crush resistant, and glued a link from a store-bought plastic chain meant for Halloween into the top. These links were hollow plastic and the links snapped apart, so it was easy to hook one end to the anchor and the other to the fob.

The final end piece was made from a pre-cut wood circle and a wooden egg. I drilled a hole through both the circle and  the egg, shoved a piece of wire in there, and then glued the two together. Once that was dry, I filled in the crack between the two with sandable wood filler. To fit the piece into the end of the PVC pipe, I glued a double thickness of foam a little larger than the inside diameter of the pipe into the bottom. This just pressure fits into place.


At this point, all that was left  for this build was painting! All of the foam parts were coated in several layers of Plastidip. Once that was done, the main body of the anchor was painted in bright silver Angelus leather paints because they flex rather than crack, which is a good property for something painted on EVA foam. The scales were left with a black base, and then dry brushed with a darker platinum color. The wooden parts were coated in a primer and sanded. These were then sprayed with a metallic spray paint. The sculpted parts that connect the body of the anchor to the pole were painted with some model paints and clear coated.

The only tricky part was the flexible PVC pipe. Paint won’t bond to it properly, so I ended up wrapping it in black electrical tape, and then dry brushing some of the same platinum paint I used on the scales onto it. It’s not a perfect solution, but I think it looks better than it has any right to, considering.


And that was it! I don’t have an exact weight for the finished build, but it probably isn’t more than 20lbs all together. I was able to carry it around for hours without any real problems. Here are some shots of the finished prop:



Anchor Build, Part One

I’ve been spending a lot of time watching other people build large props for costumes, so when it came to picking something for Dragon*Con this year, I decided to get in on the action, and build a weapon for Motochika Chosokabe from the Sengoku Basara videogame series.

The first step for this was gathering references. First and foremost, I had to scale things, because the character is tall and I… am not.


Scaling a Prop


Now, the way I did this wasn’t ideal. I didn’t have an image where the character was actually standing straight (he just… doesn’t) and the image has some serious perspective going on. But I picked what I thought was pretty close, and measured it (A). Then I measured the length of the weapon (B). It doesn’t matter how big the image is, since we’re just making a ratio of the two numbers. For the sake of the example, let’s say A was 6″ and B was 7.5″.  I divided B by A, and got a ratio ( 1.25) and then multiplied my height by that ratio (in this case 62″ x 1.25) .  Doing that tells me the prop should be 77.5″ to be the same scale compared to my height. I did the same thing with measurement C, which gave me an idea of how wide it should be. Of course, if you don’t want to do all that math, I suggest using this scaling tool to do all the hard work for you.

The next thing I needed was a blueprint for the head of the anchor. I could have tried drawing it myself, but that’s a lot of work. So I looked around until I could find a good side view, and used that, instead. I actually ended up using a picture of an action figure, because it was fairly accurate and had the view I needed.


This will be the blueprint!

I could have spent a lot of time tracing it out in Inkscape to get a really clean copy, but instead I just resized it in an image editor to the width I’d calculated, and then threw in MS Paint, because Paint lets you print a large image across multiple pages easily. You could also get it printed at a copycenter on a large-format printer, but this was cheap.



I decided the first version was too spindly looking, so I actually went back and reprinted it about 20% bigger. Better to be a little oversized with this sort of thing. Once I had this printed, I patterned the center portions out, as well as one of the ‘arms’ on separate paper so I didn’t have to deal with the taped-together printer paper.

Because this was meant to be a convention prop, I wanted it to be both lightweight and safe,  because cons get crowded, and I was going to have limited visibility when hauling this thing around. For that reason, the business end was made out of EVA foam.

I don’t actually have a lot of photos of the in-progress build for this, because I was on a deadline. But most of the parts were constructed out of two pieces 6mm EVA each, one front and one back. The edges were beveled at a 45 degree angle to make the sharp outer edges.

Each ‘arm’ had a v-shaped trench cut down the midline to form a ridge, and inside, sculpture armature wire was glued in with E6000 glue.


Gluing in the Wire

This was to help prevent too much wobble – I wanted it to be safe, but not droopy, because that would ruin the illusion. Then I glued the beveled edges together using contact cement. On the very ends, I cut extra material out of the inside, and used a heat gun to help form the domed parts. This was my first time working large-scale with EVA, and I could definitely improve on my cutting skills, because there were a few places where I couldn’t quite get the edges to match up. But over all, it’s not too bad.

I made the center of the anchor head much the same way, but this part also had a small diameter PVC pipe glued into it, since it needed to support the rest of the anchor, and attach to the pole later on.


PVC Pipe for Structural integrity

At this point, I had to figure out how to assemble the pieces, but still make it transportable. To do this, I added a chunk of foam into the end of each arm pieces, setting it back about 1/4″ from the edge. The foam had two rare earth magnets embedded into it. On the center section, I made corresponding diamonds of foam that fit into either end, also with magnets, being sure to flip the polarity, so that the two pieces would attract each other. I also added a foam ‘bracket’ to help support the arms.


Inside of one ‘Arm’


Pieces Fitted into Place


The end piece is just two pieces of foam with more trenches cut in them for shaping and glued together. Each side has velcro that sticks down onto the rest of the anchor. This covers the end of the PVC pipe, and is constructed in a way that’s easy to replace if it gets damaged.

The last part of this half of the build involved taking an external and an internal PVC coupler (sized for 2″ pipe) covering them in Smooth-On’s Freeform Air to make the decorative fixtures on this part of the anchor.


Holding Things Together

Once the Freeform Air dried, I glued the two pieces together, and then glued the center part of the anchor head into the internal coupler. The foam made a pretty snug fit, and glue means it’s not coming apart any time soon. I also left the small diameter PVC pipe a little long, so that when the whole thing is assembled, that end will be inside the pole a little bit to help make the joint more secure.

In the next post, I’ll talk about how I did the pole part of the anchor, and how I finished everything.