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Building a Latex Sword Guard on your Dagorhir Sword

This design is not required, but it is a recommended way to dress up your weaponry and significantly increase its longevity. (The large image may take a while to load.)

Special thanks to Magnus of the Lantern Waste, Narnia, for this wonderful contribution, instructions, and the splendid graphics.


Finishing the Crossguard for adding latex     

After the crossguard is cut to shape the edges are going to be rough and a bit uneven, and will make it hard to coat the guard with latex. Thankfully, Plastazote foam is heat moldable and can be given a smooth finish with a simple household iron and some wax paper! I recommend the cheapest iron you can find [6 dollars or less] because it will see a lot of abuse! The best setting for working with foam is low to medium. On most irons this setting is described as “silk” or “synthetics” on the iron’s dial. To get use to working with the iron try working on a few scraps of foam before you start working on an actual guard. If the iron is too hot it will stick to the foam, and when you try to remove the iron it will tear the surface of the foam! This will also happen if you hold the iron in one place for too long; so keep the iron moving!  Simple cover a section of the crossguard with a piece of wax paper, and carefully run the iron over the area until it is smooth. If there are large uneven spots, sand the surface of the foam with sand paper before using the iron.

Latex

Now is the fun part; adding the latex to the finished guard! The primary job of the latex is to form a protective layer over the foam protecting it from the elements and damage. Secondary to that is the cosmetic value the latex adds to the guard. Adding paint to the raw latex allows the guard to take on similar colors to a real sword giving it that highly sought after “realistic” look. As always, the more time you take working with the latex the better the finished product will look. Latex is not a tricky substance to work with and is very similar to working with paint. The most important thing to remember when working with latex is to keep the work area clean! Little bits of dirt, foam scrap, and other garbage will get into the latex and ruin the weapon’s cosmetic appeal. Latex contains ammonia, so it is recommend that you work with latex in a ventilated area [garage, outside, etc.]. Ammonia is very harmful to the eyes so wear safety glasses when working with latex. To get the smoothest finish possible the latex is applied to the guard with foam brushes. When done with the brush clean it in warm water or the latex will ruin it. Apply the latex to the foam in thin, even coats; don’t try to add too much latex too quickly. If the latex is too thick add a few tablespoons of water to the raw latex [to the latex container not the weapon!] to thin it out. Never set the wet latex down! Use clamps and strings to hang the weapon until it dries. Let the latex hang about twenty minutes between coats [or longer if need be]. If you try to rush you will ruin the smooth finish of the weapon! Raw latex is translucent so when you mix color with it the color will seem lighter than normal. When the latex dries, the color will be darker.

Latex and paint

Mixing paint and latex is a fine art that might require some experimenting to get right. Simple colors like brown, black, and non-metallic gray are very easy to work and are readily available. Metallic colors like gold and silver can have a violent reaction with the latex and turn the finished weapon into a sticky mess. I suggest using Games Workshop metallic acrylic paints when mixing metallic colors. No doubt there are other metallic paints that will work just as well, but I have no experience with them. If Games Workshop paints are not available carefully experiment with metallic paints until you find one that works. Weapon builders on a budget might consider using non-metallic gray and browns instead of experimenting with metallic paints.  

1.) Primer layer and raw latex layer

To give the latex a solid anchor to the foam underneath we start with a special coat called the “primer layer”. Coat all exposed foam with a thin layer of neoprene DAP and let it sit until the DAP is tacky to the touch. When the DAP is tacky immediately add a layer of raw latex and let the weapon hang for twenty to thirty minutes.  When the first glue/latex layer is dry, cover the entire weapon with another thin even coat of raw latex and let the weapon hang for an additional twenty minutes. Continue to add layers of raw latex until the weapon has a total of four coats of raw, uncolored latex.

2.) Black latex undercoat

At this point a basic black color is added to the guard to cover up the pink Plastazote foam. Mix a few tablespoons of black acrylic paint to raw latex until it takes on a dark gray to black appearance. Add a little water to thin the entire mix. Coat the entire crossguard in a coat of black latex and let it hang for twenty minutes. When dry, the guard will have a thin translucent or streaky black appearance. When the first coat is dry, add another layer of black latex and let the weapon hang for twenty minutes. When this layer is dry the weapon should be black in color. A few steaks of pink may still be visible, but these can be ignored. At this point the weapon has six coats of latex [4 layers of raw latex, and 2 coats of black]. If for, some reason, the raw foam is not completely covered with black, feel free to add another coat of latex. Try not to exceed three black coats. Gold crossguards require a brown undercoat as opposed to black.

3.) Color coats

Now comes the time to color the guard. Mix a few tablespoons of silver acrylic paint to raw latex until it takes on a light silver color. Add a little water to thin the entire mix. Coat the cross guard with a coat of silver latex and let the weapon hang for twenty minutes. When the first silver coat is dry add a second coat of silver latex to the cross guard and let it hang for twenty minutes. The cross guard should have a dark silver appearance when dry. At this point the cross guard has eight coats of latex [4 layers of raw latex, 2 coats of black, and 2 coats of silver].

Sealant

Even when dry latex is sticky and will adhere to hands, weapons, and everything else it touches. To prevent this, the whole weapon is covered with a clear rubber sealant. The sealant also serves as yet another protective layer for the finished weapon. In the past, talcum powder was used as a sealant for latex weapons but this method is deemed a bit low-tech now. While somewhat effective, talcum powder is a temporary and inefficient sealant and only recommended if no other option is available. If talcum powder is the only option, simply apply a powder coat to the finished weapon. Over a very short period the talcum powder will wear off, and the weapon will require a fresh powder coat. Talcum powder can also be used to dull the finish of weapons that are coated with the rubber sealant.

Working with the sealant

The sealant I use is a clear rubber roof repair compound called “Through the Roof” but any similar product will do. Other products include: LEXEL and DAP brand clear rubber roof sealant. Almost any elastic rubber sealant will work, but I suggest experimenting with the product before applying it to the crossguard. Directly out of the can the sealant is far too thick to apply to the crossguard so it must be thinned with mineral spirits [I recommend odorless]. If the sealant is too thick when applied to the foam it will leave clumps of residue and ruin the cosmetic look of the finished weapon. Coating a crossguard only requires roughly two teaspoons of raw sealant. Add mineral spirits to the sealant until it achieves a consistency roughly equivalent to warm maple syrup. Rubber sealant is extremely messy to work with! Not only does it get everywhere but also it is very hard to clean up. I recommend wearing gloves during this step. As always, wear protective glasses when working with chemicals!

Applying the sealant

Using a foam brush apply a thin, even coat of sealant to the entire crossguard. The best way to apply the sealant is to start with a liberal amount of sealant on one point of the weapon and then spread it until a thin even coat is achieved. Once the entire weapon is covered, hang the weapon to dry for a minimum of eight hours [twenty four hours is best]. Before eight hours has passed the weapon is highly susceptible to sticking to other weapons! If this happens the result is almost always two ruined [cosmetically speaking] weapons. When the sealant is dry the weapon will have a glossy appearance that will dull over time. The sealant will ruin the brushes used to apply it so don’t bother trying to save them.



-Magnus of the Lantern Waste, Narnia