Props for Shepherdesses

I seem to remember after making Excalibur last year (by modifying a NERF sword with fun foam, cardboard, hot glue, and paint) I said, “Never again.” Well, it’s happening again. I’ve been working on yet another difficult, labor intensive prop project for a cosplay!

It all starts with a shofar and a bell... and a Smirnoff, for good measure.

This time around, I’m working on Nora’s shepherd staff. And so far (and at least it’s almost done at this point), it is the most dangerous prop I’ve ever made. Not the prop itself, I mean. But more like the process of actually making it. Between tools that can maim, stains that will only come off when your skin does, and a heat gun… yes, it’s been fun.

But it’s also been highly effective! And I think that this is going to be the most convincing staff for a Nora cosplay I’ve ever seen. Granted, “Nora cosplay” on Google doesn’t yield much in the way of results (Ok! She’s a secondary character and only appears in maybe three episodes! I get it!) But I still wanted it to be as accurate as possible.

Because of the difficulty involved in bending wood, my dad and I (No, I didn’t use all those tools myself, thank goodness. I had help!) decided to use PVC pipe for the staff itself. This is the kind of pipe that you would use in pumbing, and I believe it’s about 1″-1.25″ wide. We started by capping off the end with PVC and glue, and then we went to work with a heat gun to bend the top of the staff into four consecutive 4″ sections. This did help to bend the PVC, but the heat also made it collapse in on itself. So we did our best to just keep everything as even as possible. The last bend went downwards to form the handle of the staff. Then, we cut it off to my height.

Since putting the bends in the top of the staff created exaggerated indents, we wanted to fill them. To do this, we used automotive Bondo filler to fill in the gaps. After we filled it in the first time, my dad used a radial wire brush attached to our compressed air line to sand it down. Then, after using the Bondo again, we let the project dry overnight.

Today was my turn at it. I wanted to continue to use the wire brush to create grooves in the PVC which would mimic the grain of wood when the staff was painted. I can’t handle loud noises, so I had to use earplugs to keep from cringing too much. And since PVC likes to fly everywhere when you hit it with a wire brush powered by compressed air (including in my face, my hair, my eyes, etc.) I had to wear goggles. I looked silly, but better safe than sorry. It was a long, slow process of creating the grain–and probably bugging my neighbors. I also had to be careful to not hit myself with that brush, too, because you can imagine the “mess” it would make to me when it so easily bit into hard PVC…

Finally, crisis averted, it was time to stain the project… using some really nasty chemicals which are probably best avoided coming in contact with skin. The stain was actually a commercial grade cherry red stain which ate right into the PVC (in a good way). Unfortunately, it won’t come off of skin with soap and water, or even acetone. So afterwards I got to clean myself off with a “paint thinner” which will probably be banned from the market soon for its potency, and then I took a nice shower with plenty of bath scrubby action. Fun!

At present, the staff is drying in the garage, and I will probably be giving it another coat of stain either tomorrow or the next day and then waiting for it to dry before I attach the bell. But I’m really excited to see how this is going to turn out ^.^

By the way, this is what I’m going for…

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