How to Make a Basic LARP Weapon
By: Chris Sanders
Most LARP's that use boffer-style weapons use a variation of the
style presented here. Because safety is of the utmost importance, weapons
must padded properly. This style of weapon is acceptable in Haven, NERO,
SOLAR, Shattered Isles, etc. IFGS and a few other games have a different
method of making weapons, but most of these will also allow this style.
It is not recommended that other materials are tried until some experience
at weapon-building is gained. Experienced weapon-makers often make weapons
with graphite cores and gaffer's tape with spray paint. Until you are experienced
at making weapons, most anything made with these materials will likely
fail safety tests. This page will hopefully set you off on the right foot
with basic materials, and I've thrown in a few tricks that I've learned
through watching others. These instructions are for a sword, but other
weapons can be made the same way.
Optional Materials (for better weapons):
1/2 in. or 3/4 in. PVC pipe or 3/4 in. CPVC
5/8 in. PVC pipe insulation of the appropriate kind (Thinner foam is
Open cell foam (Like that found in seat cusions or pillows)
Hack saw or pipe cutter
Scissors, knife, or razor
Awl or icepick
Electrical tape, leather, etc. for grip
Cellophane (Makes weapon last much longer)
Pennies, bolts, or other weights for balancing weapon
Thin, flexible air tubing (Like the clear kind, not the steel-reinforced
Begin by cutting the PVC pipe to desired length. Remeber to allow for the
tip foam in Step 2 and the overhanging insulation on both ends.
Most games will accept around 36 inches or so for a sword. Your pipe foam
should be cut so that there is enough room between the pommel piece and
the blade piece for a good grip, and so there is at least 1 inch, but not
more than 2 inches of foam beyond the end of the pipe on both ends. It
is a good idea to put a small piece of duct tape over the end of the PVC
pipe, especially if it was cut with a hack saw, to prevent the pipe from
tearing the insulation. It also helps to twist the foam onto the pipe instead
of just sliding it on. This prevents friction burns on your hands. Not
neccessary, but worth it. The picture shows a cut-away piece of foam with
the pipe inside. Notice that the foam extends around an inch over the end
of the pipe.
Next, cut a tip and back piece for the sword from the open cell, "squishy"
foam. The tip should be 2 inches, and the back at least 1 inch thick.
This can be shaped, if desired, but remember, the cardinal rule for all
protrusions on the weapon is that it must be large enough to prevent going
into an eye socket. Therefore, no sharp points. A bit of a rounded can
look nice, though. For simplicity, you can just make it like the yellow
piece in the picture.
Now, take the duct tape of your choice and tape the insulation to the pipe.
Some people tape the squishy foam down as well at this point, but I've
learned a way to make the tips replaceable and last longer, so for right
now, don't worry about the end foam. Make sure you tape vertically along
the blade and use 4 long strips instead of going around and around with
one long strip. The former way makes the blade function properly, the latter
compresses the foam and makes it too hard, making the weapon fail safety
tests. (It also makes you waste tape.) Also make sure that the tape
extends past the insulation and attaches firmly to the pipe at the grip.
This prevents the foam from coming off after the weapon has been used for
Now comes the special trick. Put a piece of cellophane over the tip foam.
This prevents the tape from sticking directly to the soft foam, and allows
the tips to come quickly back to their original condition after being compressed.
Don't do this step without doing the last step, or air will not get out
at all, and the tip will not compress. If you need to change tips later,
only this part needs to be cut off, and you don't risk ripping the pipe
insulation getting the ends off. This is also a good time to wrap your
grip, either with electrical tape as in the picture, or any other comfortable
material. Foam can also be placed under this to shape your grip to your
Now tape over the cellophane, and be sure to extend the tape down far enough
so that there are no gaps where any foam or cellophane show through. You
may also run a small piece of tape around the juncture to even the edges,
but be sure you don't compress the foam anywhere in this step. It is vital
that the foam be able to expand to it's maximum size once you're done.
Finally, take an awl or some other sharp object and poke some tiny holes
through the tape (and cellophane) on the tips, to make sure the air can
get out easily. Make sure to put them on all sides, so that air can be
released and enter at all times, even if one side of your weapon is pressed
against someone else's body.
That's all there is to it. You can experiment with making cross
guards out of foam and air hose, and weighting your weapon to your liking.
Just remember that all parts of the weapon that even have the remotest
possibility (i.e. all of it) must be able to compress in any
direction. Also, make sure that any weights added cannot be felt through
the foam (and squeeze hard to check this) and that they don't move
around or rattle. If you use gaffer's tape or cloth tape and spray paint,
remember not to spray too much, as paint makes the weapon hard. Contact
paper is sometimes used for the wood look, but foil should never be used.
Finally, to make blunt weapons like maces, use NERF balls and open cell
for the head, and make the shaft like the sword above.
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