Buster Sword: Lightning Returns

posted in: Prop | 3

One of Final Fantasy’s most iconic weapons, and not for no reason! This build weighs in at 5.5lbs and the blade is 4′ alone. Assembled and next to me the Buster Sword stands at about 5’5″.


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Lightning Farron has been a character I’ve always loved paying homage to through  cosplay, so it took very little time for me to collect some supplies for the release of the new game in early 2014. While the Miqo’te Schemata would certainly take more time to sew, I went in to SOLDIER knowing it would be the armor and sword that demanded careful attention.

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While I was still relatively new to making props when I sat down to pattern out this beast, I will say my engineering methods used for Tezcatlipoca certainly came in handy considering I needed to make this sword travel-safe. All five foot five inches of it.

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I started off of a proportional print-out of the blade’s length and design, and then transferred those over to layers of PVC foam by saturating the paper with black Sharpie. I found a plastics warehouse off the highway thanks to some archived forum advice for someone else, so I was able to get some 4′ by 6′ sheets of 3mm Sintra for a relatively cheap price! (I still have a ton leftover, too.) Google is your friend!

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To keep things symmetrical on both sides, I carefully taped two layers together while I cut through them with a hot knife. If you’ve ever tried using a plain old box cutter on more than 3mm of PVC foam, you’ll know how difficult it is to get a clean cut, if you even manage to make a cut at all.

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Once that was done, I started drawing up the bulk of the blade itself onto more PVC foam, as well as pink insulation foam for filler to keep the thing light. So, y’know, I could actually wield it.

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A various mixture of glues were used to adhere the Sintra to the insulation foam, and a ruler was used to create even spacing of the raised design. Loctite super glue was used for any sintra-to-sintra contact pieces.

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A 1.5″ PVC pipe served as the hilt, while I lucked out to find some wood crafts at the store to supplement the ornamental ends. It was by chance that they actually fit the pipe! The wooden dowel on the right was inserted and secured using expanding foam inside of the PVC pipe. This rod would help ease the leverage on the blade.

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Wood glue was used to secure the finishing pieces to each other.

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More Loctite was used to keep everything in place. I had some leftover textured pleather for the rest of the hilt. You can also see the bolt attachment at the top of the handle which would allow me to fasten and unfasten it from the rest of the blade so I could travel with it. There is a copper pip insert within the body of the blade stabilized with expanding foam that a wooden dowel from the handle fits into. A bolt connector was also tucked inside of the wooden ornaments on the handle.

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About to sand off the edges of the foam as well as insert the supporting rod to alleviate the strain on the blade while being wielded. A copper rod will run lengthwise from the hilt about 2′ into the blade, creating a housing for the handle’s wooden dowel and lessening the surface tension.

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I needed to find a way to secure the female support rod inside the blade so that it wouldn’t wear down on the insulation foam core. I did a couple tests of expanding foam to see just how rigid it would become under pressure, and results yielded it would do the job.

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The end of the rod was closed off and the top/bottom coated in glue to hold it in place against the sintra. I had carved out a channel to allow space for the expanding foam to fill, as well as to create a more secure contact surface for the copper rod. From here, the nozzle for the foam was inserted as deeply as possible before filling up the gap and pressing it closed.

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Checking how everything holds up as well as the height. The excess insulation foam had yet to be sanded down and covered with Sintra to create the blade edge. This was also a test for the bolt and nut connectors at the hilt base.

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While the blade itself had been assembled, there was still the hilt left to put together, one of the few parts of this build that required a heat gun to create a fold for it to wrap around. The hilt will also hide the bolt connection.

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 Securing the middle piece that sits flush on top of the blade. The inner part is supposed to be open, but in order to engineer this sword sturdily, the rod required to run down the middle intersected this area. Therefore, I chose to paint them black.

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I drew out the design on the base of the hilt before using paper clay to sculpt on top of it. All that was left was to wait for it to dry before priming and painting!

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Scrap insulation foam was used to create a makeshift holder while I painted the gold pieces of the hilt.

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I had debated using aerosol paint for this job, but I decided I wanted a bit of a brushed-metal look. I mixed a 1:1 ratio of Martha Stewart “Stormcloud” silver finishing paint with some dollar store metallic silver acrylics to get a thicker consistency, and used a bristled 3″ paintbrush in several layers to get the desired look. I painted from base to tip to maintain that brushed metal look.

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 I used Rustoleum gray aerosol primer for everything. Very little sanding was required on the clay prior to this. In order to keep the tip from becoming damaged, I ended up sanding it down and heating some Worbla around it since it takes impact better.

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I’m completely blocking the blade behind me, but if you look closely you can see the silver part masked out with craft paper and painter’s tape while I work on the hilt. It took several layers of gold finishing paint mixed 1:1 with metallic gold acrylics, but I wanted to stick to hand painting the entire piece.

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All in all this build took me about 3 days from start to finish, excluding future touch ups and varnish. The final prop weighs in at 5.5lbs.

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Freshly varnished and ready to pack!

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This was actually a tricky thing to figure out, but I found the safest and most reliable way to pack my props would be in a snowboard bag. However, they would require something to protect them from the rough impacts that all luggage endures on a flight. So, using more Sintra, sponge foam, and a frame built from PVC pipes, connectors and duct tape, I built a folding case to rest my lengthier blades inside. Works like a charm and was simple to check as oversized luggage.

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The case was ordered off of Amazon and has continued to do a fantastic job of transporting my oversize (albeit flat) props.


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