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.

 Materials Materials Needed:

Optional Materials (for better weapons):

Step 1:

Step 1 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.


Step 2:

Step 2 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.


Step 3:

Step 3 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 some time.


Step 4:

Step 4 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 liking.


Step 5:

Step 5 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.


Step 6:

Step 6 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.


Back to the Atlanta LARP Headquarters