Saturday, October 24, 2015


I plan on being Jon Snow from Game of Thrones this Halloween and I wanted to make a custom Longclaw sword because let’s face it - Most Halloween swords are crap.  Cheap, plastic, and as hollow as a chocolate bunny on Easter.  

You know nothing of hollow bunnies crow...

This is a 44” polypropylene combat “practice sword” which means it’s solid, and got some heft to it.  I guess you’d normally buy this if you had an orc horde problem in your neighborhood, and really need to get some practice swings on before you brought out your real steel in case of emergency.

Starting with this as a solid sword base I wanted to: sculpt a direwolf pommel using polymer clay (Sculpey), paint the sword silver, then add some suede and rope to fill out the handle.

Rather than sculpting the pommel, baking it to harden, then finagling it onto the end of the sword I decided to do a spot application around the existing pommel.  The process is harder, but it makes the sculpture a secured legitimate part of the sword.  And not something I just bolted on afterward.  That way after I have a few drinks, and really start swinging this around I’ll be comforted by the fact that the wolf head won’t go flying off before I get ejected from the party.

I start by making an armature of a basic head shape with aluminium foil.  I add layers, tamper them down with a hammer, and cover it in craft glue if some of the layers won’t stay down.

Look people Valyrian steel is really really hard to come by here so we gotta slum it.

I wanted to keep the shape of the wolf roughly hewn.  The concept of the sword is that the pommel was originally a bear (which is the crest of the original owner Jeor Mormont).  When the sword is passed to Jon they reshaped it from a bear to that of a direwolf which is an animal more aligned to Jon’s (questionable) lineage. To keep it honest I started off with a muzzle more closely resembling a bear then fudged it to look like a wolf.

Behold the rare smudgefaced terrier.


Vaguely canine

Once I'm happy with the sculpt I start blending it out with a q-tip and rubbing alcohol. This process: melts the clay a little, gets rid of my finger prints, and smooths out rough edges.

Final sculpt before baking.  Scary lighting added for dramatic effect.

Now I don't exactly have the option to throw the whole damn sword in an oven for 12 minutes.  Even if I had an oven big enough it's essentially a soft piece of plastic sitting on top of a hard - but also potentially melty plastic.  So it's time to use a heat gun.

Using the heat gun to bake pieces can be tricky.  You need to make sure all spots get hot enough to fully bake evenly.  You also need to make sure you don't scorch the smaller parts of the sculpture while trying to heat up the larger mass of it.  At the end of the day it involves waving a hair dryer on steroids in a circular motion at the sculpture for a good 15 - 20 minutes.

I burned the teeth a little. Luckily Westeros has some great dentists. Unfortunately many do not survive long enough to start their own practice.

Now for some painting.  I abhor metallic spray paints, and only use them when I have a large surface area to cover.  Instead I prefer to use metallic wax pastes/leafing products (Rub n Buff) usually reserved for antiquing picture frames.  Once applied you can generally buff the hell out of it to give it a more reflective surface.

Unless you want to look like you're slowly transforming into the Tinman you're going to need a lot of gloves.

I then touch up my sculpture with a bit of white paint (covering my scorch marks) and give the eyes some red.
Good dogie

Now for the rest of the hilt/handle. First I use some super glue where the direwolf meets the handle just to make absolutely sure it's not going anywhere.  Sit.  Stay.

The Nights Watch often patrol cold-as-hell locations at the ass end of Westeros.  So I wanted to give the handle a more barbaric quality to it than just straight steel.  For that I've taken suede lacing and wrapped it around the length of the handle.  I also added some braided rope at the top to kinda break it up a bit.

If you think this looks tedious that's because it is...

The end result is a decent looking prop that didn't break the budget and adds some flair to my Jon Snow costume.

Now all I need to do is practice my husky voice and  put on my best Jon Snow "staring off into the distance with a blank face" face.

 I mean, if I went 'round saying I was an emperor, just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away!