Foam Board Dragonbone Dagger

Recently I came across Will from stormthecastle.com‘s youtube channel epicfantasy. He has many, many video tutorials on making props, usually swords and other weapons, with foam board. I was fascinated by the level of quality he was able to achieve with such a cheap material. I wanted to try using foam board as a material for myself and I knew that I wanted make another Skyrim prop to go along with my Windhelm guard’s shield. Because I had never worked with foam board before, I chose a small project, the dragonbone dagger. I didn’t take the same number of progress photos as I usually do for my props because Will’s tutorial is excellent and shows in detail all the various steps.

IMG_0931

Smoothed and sealed foam board.

I knew going in that foam board is a flimsy material which cuts easily, but cannot be refined (smoothed out or sanded) to any great degree. One thing which I disliked about Will’s prop was that the seams between the layers of foam were raw. In order to blend the layers of foam board and to fill in the gaps, I used extra hot glue which I smoothed out with my finger, ouchie ouchie! This didn’t quite give me the effect which I wanted so I used silicon to get a more accurate effect. Silicon isn’t really a good choice, but it was what I had available. I would have preferred to use some sort of putty or clay for this. To stop the silicon from peeling and to even out the seams even more, I coated the entire dagger in 5 coats of modge podge. I followed Will’s tutorial for the paint job, then sealed the project with 2 more layers of modge podge.

Over all, I greatly enjoyed making this prop even though I couldn’t get the same level of control over the material as I could with others. I can’t help but think that balsa wood shares all of the workable properties of foam board with fewer limitations. I would love to try another of Will’s tutorials using balsa wood and wood filler.

My Thoughts on Working with Foam Board

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Very easy to cut to shape
  • Works well for layered props

Cons

  • It is very weak and any single layer bends flimsily
  • Cannot be accurately sanded
  • Raw edges are easily damaged
  • Incredibly lightweight (this could be seen as a pro but it makes the props feel overly delicate)
  • Foam and paper react differently to being painted and sealed. I had to restart after one primer made the paper bulge off the foam core.
  • Low longevity

Foam board may have many limitations, but it is a very useful material when used correctly. I am sure that many of the materials drawbacks can be overcome with practice. Will’s creations are a great example. Ultimately, foam board is perfect for creating cheap props meant to be seen at a distance which will see only moderate use.

Will’s Tutorial: Make the DragonBone Dagger from Skyrim

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