When I started thinking about doing a chainsword replica I immediately thought of the THQ chainswords that were made as prizes to promote their new Space Marine video game. It was a gorgeous prop and I really would have loved to have gotten my hands on one but I knew that wasn't going to happen. I though about making my own but wondered if I could make it at least as cool as theirs. If not, was it even worth trying?
In my heart I knew the answer however...YES! Who cares if it wasn't as good as the best one ever made? At least I could have my own chainsword to play with instead of just looking at pictures of one on the internet! And with that decision made it was time to start figuring out how to do it...
As usual I started with a blueprint. In this case I printed out an image of the THQ chainsword scaled to the dimensions I wanted - approximately 3 feet long.
Next I added 1/4" bass wood strips to the blade edge leaving a groove in the middle where the teeth would go. This built up the side making it wider and would also hide the connection points where the teeth were attached. In the end it would be more realistic (the teeth and chain being hidden inside the weapon case) and also a cleaner build (less visible connection points).
Before attaching the wood I cut out a section in the middle of the pink foam for a PVC pipe to fit. My idea was the use the PVC as a handle and cast a resin guard and details around one end, then slip the other end of the pipe up into the blade for extra strength and stability. (That's probably not the clearest explanation but it will make sense soon!)
On any sword the weakest point is where the handle and the blade meet. Knowing my blade would have a lot of weight there would be a lot of stress on that point if anyone swung the sword (and how could you resist the urge to? I mean really!). Running the pipe through the length of the handle and into the blade should prevent any issues. (the PVC is not attached yet in the picture)
With that done I covered the pink foam in .04" styrene plastic sheeting. This had to be done because my intention was to fiber glass the blade but unfortunately you can't apply the fiber glass resin directly to the pink foam as it will melt it while it cures! (Pro time - a cheap way to prepare the foam for fiber glass is to wrap it in tin foil!)
While the glue was drying on the blade I carved a tooth out of pink foam and covered it with wood glue. I would be casting it later and just like fiber glass, pouring mold rubber directly over pink isn't a good idea. In this case it doesn't melt the foam but good luck getting the foam separated from the rubber! (yes, I figured that out the hard way lol). Here's my sexy tooth drying.
And here are some of the first castings I pulled later that day after letting the glue dry and making my mold. You can start to see how the blade would look with them lined up...scary! Just the way an Imperial Chainsword should be! ;)
When the glue was dry on the styrene it was time to fiber glass the blade! I like to use a paint brush and brush on the resin first, then lay down the fiber glass and brush more resin over it until it's all soaked through. I used the resin over the entire blade but only laid fiber glass over the sides and back - not in the groove where the teeth would go. I did that because I actually forgot to account for the fiber glass when determining how deep the groove should be and didn't want to have the teeth sitting higher up than I planned. Doh!
Once the fiber glass was dry I covered it in bondo and sanded the hell out of it until it was nice and smooth, a process which took the better part of an afternoon. With aching shoulders and arms but a perfectly smooth chainsword, I realized how horrible it looked! Not the shape or design, but the actual colors! The fiber glass has a yellowish/brown color while the bondo is pink and wow, what a horrible combination LOL! It did have some cool patterns in it though.
The final major element that needed to be added to the blade was the engine box. I used my blueprint and cut the shape out of 1/4" mdf board. Once it was glued down I realized I didn't like it...it had to be bigger! So I cut some extra pieces to lengthen the engine box and also cut the thinner strips of mdf which would give me the exhaust ports.
Alright! The blade was structurally completed now. I'd have to go back and add all the details to really bring it to life, but for all intents and purposes I had my chainsword blade ready to go!
Which could only mean it was time to work on the handle. Honestly, I'd been dreading this part. I was planning on making the mold of my handle sculpt around a pvc pipe and had no idea of my plan would work. Worst case scenario is not only would it not work but my sculpt would be ruined in the failed molding attempt! Also, should I try and sculpt around the pvc, fit it in later? What to do!?!
Throwing caution to the wind I decided to just start the build and worry about the pipe later. I figured it would only get in the way right now so phooey! I grabbed a piece of pink foam and started roughing out the shape using my blueprint as a guide. Once I had the basic shape cut out of foam I added a shield type thing to the front of it. I figured you'd want something to protect your hand if you ever got into a chainsword fight!
I decided to start detailing the handle first since it was smaller and would need to be molded and cast. While the mold and resins were curing I'd have time to detail the blade. I started by covering the pink foam with styrene again and then broke the wide areas up into smaller sections with more bass wood. I added some resin skulls I had from an earlier project, and added an little inscription using 1/4" stick on vinyl letters. I also sculpted a nice design for the front of the shield using .04", .02", and .01" styrene.
I hadn't covered the inside edge (think where your knuckles would touch if you were holding it) with styrene since I wasn't sure what to do about the PVC pipe yet. With the handle getting close to finished and my concern growing, I took the PVC and filed the end down until it was kind of sharp, then just pushed it through the foam. Can I tell you I was amazed how well it worked! I couldn't have cut better holes for it to fit through with my foam cutter! With that problem solved I still needed to prepare the pink foam for molding. I could have done the wood glue trick again but I was feeling impatient so I just smoothed clay over the foam hehe. Before molding, I stuck the PVC pipe in place and used more clay to fill any gaps when the handle and PVC joined.
It was time for the moment of truth! More like the 2 hours of truth as I prepared the handle and PVC monster for molding. In the end it worked! I had a mold with a cavity for the PVC pipe to fit into to where the resin would get poured around it.
It's a hideous mold, but it worked *happy dance*!
While the rubber was curing I took the time to grab all the teeth I had cast and stick short wooden pegs into them. This would help secure them to the chainsword as opposed to just gluing them on flat. I also primed them and painted them ahead of time. It would have been much harder to paint them nicely when they're sunk into their groove so it was worth doing it first and gluing them in when the painting was done.
So with my teeth finished and my handle curing it was time to start detailing the blade! I began by adding some details running off the engine box. I wanted it to look like it was reinforced against the vibrations and wear of having a running motor in it. Then I added the two bearings where the chain would rotate around, for the sake of realism of course hehe. Then came the wing design on the tip and using 1" stick on vinyl letters I added an inscription along the middle of the blade. This was outlined with some styrene strips so the paint job could separate from the rest and make it stand out more.
Now it's really starting to look like a proper chainsword! Time to put it together and get it ready for painting! I covered the PVC pipe sticking out of the handle with Gorilla glue, a special glue that foams up and expands as it dries. This fill the gaps between the pipe and the foam and ensure it super tight bond. Then I used some bondo to fill the seam where the blade and the handle met to finish off the build!
As far as paint jobs go I knew I wanted it to have an old school look to it, which could only mean hazard stripes!! Hell yeah! The first thing to do was prime the blade white. Then I laid down some 2" wide painters tape where I wanted the yellow stripes to be.
Once I was happy with the placement of the stripes and made sure they were all even I re-primed the entire thing black. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of the paint job as it was coming along so we'll jump right to some finished pics. When I start painting I move quick, as one sections dries I start on another and keep moving around getting work done. I wish I had come up for air and thought "I should take some pictures!" but sadly it never happened :(
Before showing off the finished chainsword there was one last thing to do after the paint had dried! Finish the grip! I wrapped it with a thin sticky back foam that is intended for padding prosthetics and wrapped that in a soft leather. Then to finish it off I took an anodized aluminum wire with a copper appearance and did a wrap over the leather. Finally! It was done!
If you'd like to see more there's a short video on my Facebook page showing it in closer detail from lots of different angles! You can see it here - Steamtech1876 on Facebook
I hope you like the chainsword and enjoyed the build log! As always, I appreciate your comments and am happy to answer any questions you have about this or other builds I've done, or prop building in general.