August 4, 2011

Way to the Dawn Keyblade

Difficulty: Hard
Time: 21 hours
Price: $20

Eight days before Otakon, I decided I needed to make the Way to the Dawn keyblade to complete my Riku costume because my Kingdom Key just wasn't good enough. Was this a realistic idea? I did finish. Was it a good idea? I don't know. The keyblade turned out AMAZING, but I only got 3 hours of sleep Thursday night because I had to finish it and also the other costume I was going to wear.

Here's a rundown of how to make it and the timeline I used. It doesn't require any specialty tools to make - just a boxcutter, hot glue gun and paintbrushes!

8 Days Until Otakon: Shopping~!
All the materials I used:
-PVC pipe, two short sections
-Dowel rod
-Craft foam, thin sheets
-Paper Mache
-Acrylic paints - red, blue, black, white, brown, and tons of brushes
-Waterproof sealer
-Electric Tape
-3D paint, red
-Pokemon damage counters
-More hot glue than you can POSSIBLY IMAGINE. Actually, only about 10 sticks.

As a result of the materials I used, the keyblade turned out to be really light (about a pound and a half) and is not terribly unbalanced. However, I would consider it quite fragile.

6 Days Until Otakon: Create the base of the keyblade.

I started the keyblade by scaling it up to 41" long and printing a picture out so I would have something to go reference and use as a pattern for the entire process.

I wanted it to be structural, so the first part of the base I made was a PVC and dowel backbone for the handle and blade. Because I placed more value on making something that wouldn't fall apart than making an exact replica, I shifted how the blade was attached so that it ran parallel to the handle.

And this is the backbone laid on top of the keyblade.

Next step - trace the keyblade onto cardboard and cut it out!

To inlay the backbone in the cardboard, I cut the shape of it out of the cardboard and glued them together! It's starting to look like something already!

And because this horrid thing is textured, I used craft foam to build up the base of the texturing. The first step was to smooth over the backbone.

Then I built up the veins and claws or whatever the textural elements actually are. This is the almost finished state, aka, where I got really tired and needed to sleep.

Five Days Until Otakon: Prep for paper mache.
No pictures of this. After finishing the last of the foam texturing, I coated the foam in 2 or 3 layers of 50% elmers glue solution to create a surface the paper mache would stick to. I attached a clip to the handle and hung it from the ceiling so I could work on both sides at once for maximum rush efficiency!

Four Days Until Otakon: Sooooo much paper mache.

With the keyblade still hanging from the ceiling, I used a glue-based paper mache to cover the entire thing.

The paper mache preserved and smoothed out the textured elements! I was amused because the newspapers were leftover from around the holidays, so there was all this Christmas stuff. It made me happy.
And, pro tip. Do not use woodglue for paper mache. It makes you look like you have both jaundice and some horrible peeling skin disease. Having done a semester of research developing and testing nontoxic adhesives, I can tell you for a fact that there is little to no difference in the strength of woodglue and elmers glue (after you cure them), so I don't know why I decided to use the 'stronger' glue for a non-structural application. Luckily, the yellow did wash out enough not to show in the con photos.

Three Days Until Otakon: Watching paint paper mache dry.
I didn't want to risk the quality of the paper mache, so I let it dry for a full 24 hours + some.

Two Days Until Otakon: Startin' the paintin'
First, I sanded down the paper mache with 220 sandpaper. I wanted it to be smoother. I wish I had done more of this - if you look carefully at the finished keyblade, you can see some folds and edges of papers.

Then, it was gesso primer time. I used two or three coats depending on how lightly or darkly I was painting the different parts of the keyblade. After each step, I sanded when it had dried for smoothness. Don't skip the gesso step, I've learned from experience that acrylic is sometimes not happy sticking to what it's supposed to without the primer in place. Also, you need it to cover up the colors in the newsprint, especially for parts you are painting white or light.

After the Gesso, I painted a color primer layer to help me block off color areas. From this step forward, you have something that's quite functional.

Now I went color by color, section by section painting in the detail, arbitrarily starting with the blue. Mixing the correct colors of paint was quite fun. However, I found that acrylic doesn't blend well once you start painting with it. To try to get it to mix, I used a damp brush and blurred the color borders as best I could.

Here's a closeup of the some of the blues - you be the judge about the blending.

And the demon wing was my favorite part to paint.

One Day Until Otakon: Crunch time! Paint all the things! You can do it!

Painting the red, painting the red. Here I had to be careful about lining up the dark parts on both sides along the inside edge. And this kinda demanded blending colors more than any other part of the project.

The angel wing! It's not a replica of the original, but it's the same general idea. I was running out of time, so I didn't do any shading. It really wasn't necessary, though. It's cleaner this way.

And the HORRID ANGEL WING KEYTOOTH THING. GYAHDHJSGHSKDJGH AYW! This thing was the bane of my existence. This is it in progress. I didn't do any blending. I drew the outlines in and then colored in with the blues.

After the blue was in, I went over the black lines again to make everything crisp and perfect. Since I didn't feel like I had the skillz to make all the feather cutouts in the wing, I used the black paint to create the illusion of a cutout. This doesn't work as well on light backgrounds, but I was satisfied.

And now that you are done painting, wait for it to dry and coat it with some kind of waterproof sealant. I recommend something matte and spray on. Because the last thing you want to do is paint more stuff.

Random finishing details. The eye - it's a light blue pokemon cards damage counter. First paint the black stripe and then paint the entire back piece white. Aquarium marbles would work for this, too, for those who are younger or older than the Pokemon phase.

The keychain a bunch of pillaged keyrings from around the house. The heartless symbol is black craft foam with red 3D opaque fabric paint on the border. It's attached with hot glue and electric tape.

The handle is black and red electric tape wrapped around the PVC for the finishing touch!

Hooray! Now get some good rest! That was a lot of work!

0 Days Until Otakon: Also known as AT Otakon.

Time to slay some heartless! Some absurdly CUTE heartless! And incredibly well made!

And now to pose with the more emo version of myself. His keyblade was a bit more intense than mine.
Also, please excuse our REALLY RED faces. We were both overheating. It was 100 degrees out.

Closeups of some of the details: