The first event I attended at NELCO 2014 was the “Latex LARP Weapon Making” presentation in the board room. Two artists from Monster Camp (and online store that sells latex masks and props of their own design and make) brought in a bunch of examples of their work, a few examples from other makers, partially made weapons in various stages of completion, various tools, and samples of materials used in making weapons, along with a short print-out that included the history of latex weapons in LARP and other relevant information for people interested in making latex weapons and props. Obviously, they knew their stuff and the presentation was very well prepped. I’m so excited to see more boffer focused events at NELCO to make it a more rounded conference over all.
They talked for a bit about the various materials they’d tried and their current favorites, comparing and contrasting their benefits and drawbacks. They currently prefer plastazote and evazote for weapons — the former is much easier to work with, the latter softer and more durable. (They use evaform for pommels and cross-guards.) They also showed us two different types of cores, so that we could feel their respective weights for ourselves.
The presenters also brought along a few unfinished weapons to show us what not to do. One unpainted ax had an artistic handle and blade, but the glue used between the layers of foam was the wrong sort — it had hardened so much that squeezing the ax felt like squeezing thin layers of glass between layers of foam. It may wind up as decoration but certainly not as a combat weapon.
The presenters walked us through the stages of making a basic latex weapon, passing around the examples of each stage,and showing us what tools were used and what the results of each were. For example, we saw a partially painted weapon, with different sections painted with different tools. (Using an extra piece of foam to paint with can reduce the appearance of brush strokes,)
The audience for the presentation varied a lot in experience — some of us had never even used latex weapons in a LARP, much less tried to make one for ourselves, and others had made them before and were looking to improve their technique. The presentation was well suited for the variety of experience levels — from beginners to veterans — but most of the information about buying tools and materials while being as cost-effective as possible was more geared towards making weapons in bulk.
Personally, it is unlikely I’ll be making my own latex weapon any time soon — none of the LARPs I currently play allow them, but I am planning to replace the wind-up key prop I wear on my back for my Cottington Woods costume as soon as possible (ideally before the September weekend event), and some of the methods and materials I learned from “Latex LARP Weapon Making” at NELCO will definitely be helpful. The old cardboard key is creased and curved and the gold paint is wearing off. I hate the idea of throwing it out (I develop sentimental attachment to costuming pieces for some reason) but I do love the idea of replacing it with a nice latex version.
The presenters also showed us some latex masks they had made and described the process for designing and crafting them. I particularly liked how the masks were designed with LARP in mind — for example, the eye holes and mouth holes were made nice and big so that an NPC’s peripheral vision and ability to demand PCs surrender won’t be compromised. There was a neat water elemental mask that I got to try on.
I sent an email to the presenters asking for a link to he write-up they handed out. If they get back to me, I will post it here on this blog. In the mean time, here are some of the websites they buy their materials from:
For cores: http://www.goodwinds.com . They recommend the Sky Shark 8P Long (Carbon Fiber.)
For foam (for striking surfaces of weapons): http://www.bioquip.com. They recommend LD5- Plastazote. (For the evazote foam, which is not recommended for beginners, they order from http://www.algeos.us.)
For liquid latex: http://www.monstermakers.com. They recommended thinning it out with water or ammonia, but latex goes bad, so don’t order more than you can use in 6 months.
For glue: buy DAP contact cement from Lowes (www.lowes.com)
For EVA Foam (for pommels and crossguards): http://www.harborfreight.com. It’s also sometimes available for lower prices at Costco.
And don’t forget to check out their website: Monster Camp.
EDIT: Just received a copy of their write-out. You should definitely check it out if you plan to make your own latex weapon sometime soon. One disclaimer: their views on the latex vs. boffer debate are not my own.
LARP Weapon Making by E. Trinkl, M. Spaulding and J. Slowick