Time is ticking for a LARP I am going to attend in June. While I put the last seams on my garb for the moment, I still need to make a proper set of matching scabbards - or rather three saya (Japanese does not use a plural s for multiples!) - for my blades. It's a full set of tanto, wakizashi, and katana, and I need them to look somewhat matching. The blades have a very slight curve to them, and I need some help with figuring out a way to make a protective scabbard that is not only matching the samurai flair for the character but also allows you to draw them somewhat easily as well as sheathing them. The blades have a fiberglass core with a hard-ish, foamed polyurethane blade that is somewhat smooth to the touch.

Is there a well-known and somewhat easy construction method that does not risk destroying the blades in manufacturing by applying heat and making sure that the inside does not damage the blades if they are sheathed or drawn quickly?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ What kind of blades are you using? Foam with latex covering? Steel? Synthetic material but thin as steel blades? Is it scratch resistant? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Apr 25 at 23:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have no intention to test scratch resistance with metal tools... \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Apr 25 at 23:38
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ But scratch resistance of painted balsa is totally different than that of steel. The latter can work with wooden saya that would destroy the first one. That's why I asked. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Apr 25 at 23:54

2 Answers 2


It's probably a bit late for me to put this up, but from the point of view of a long time weapons checker at a major UK LRP system, I've seen scabbards made for katana made from a number of different things. I've seen them made of plastic plumbing pipe and wrapped in leather or vinyl to match the handle, and made straight out of leather stitched into a tube, and made of Plastazote (the same material the weapons themselves are made of) and either painted or covered to match the weapon.

Plumbing Pipe Method

The plumbing pipe method is normally done by heating the tube and using something to flatten it from circular section to an oval that better fits the profile of the blade - a pair of G-clamps, a pair of 2x4s and a heatgun would give you an even cross section. The problem that you then have is the curve of the blade. The best way to deal with this is to draw around the blade of your weapon for a template, and take the flattened tube, and keeping one end of the tube held in place, apply an even heat up the length of the tube, and curve it to match the template.

Plastazote/Leather Method

For straight blades, the plastazote and leather methods are pretty straightforward - take enough leather or plastazote to wrap around your blade tightly enough not to just fall out but loosely enough to draw, and glue/stitch the ends into a tube. Add decorations and endcaps, and you're pretty much there.

Curved leather ones become slightly more difficult as you'll need to have two pieces - one for either flat side of the blade - that you stitch together into a 3D curve so that it doesn't just collapse flat when the blade is drawn out, making it difficult to sheathe.

Plastazote Method details

My recommendation would be to use more Plastazote to make the scabbards. Make a template of your blade by drawing around it onto a piece of paper or card, and measure the thickness of the blade.

Place your template on a piece of Plastazote long enough to fit it with room to spare around the outside of the template, and draw around it onto the Plastazote.

Mark out from the line you've just drawn by 2 mm plus the thickness of your Plastazote. So if you're using 8 mm Plastazote, mark out 10 mm around that line.

Katana scabards are normally straight at the end - it doesn't curve to match the tip - so extend the 10 mm line so it runs parallel to the top edge of the blade, then cut along that 10 mm line, so you should end up with something like this: Bad drawing of a katana next to a piece of Plastazote that has been cut to form the side faces of a katana scabard.

Apologies for my crap drawings.

The dotted yellow line shows the line you drew around the template.

Make a duplicate of this piece, so you have two matching pieces.

Next cut two strips of Plastazote as long as the longest edge on the pieces you have just cut, and as wide as the thickness of the blade plus 2 mm - so again, if the blade is 18 mm thick, cut the strips 20 mm wide.

Another terrible drawing of a black rectangle, supposedly a piece of Plastazote 20 mm wide and as long as the piece in the previous picture.

Glue these to the two long edges of your first piece, then glue the second piece on top of this, as shown below: A third terrible picture, showing one the two pieces that have just been cut sat vertically and being glued to the top face of one of the piece cut to fit the blade, with the second of those being glued on top of these two vertical pieces.

You should end up with something that has a cross section like this:

A rectangle showing that the two vertical sides to it sit on and inside the top and bottom pieces.

Hopefully, if my instructions have been clear, and the measurements have worked, you should end up with a square section tube that your katana can slide in and out of tightly but easily.

Cut an endcap to glue onto the bottom end of the scabbard.

Another rectangle of Plastazote being glued onto the end of the tube.

Chamfer (round the corners) and sand them so it has a less rectangular and more oval outside cross-section:

Same cross-section as before, with the corners cut off.

Add decorations and paint the outside only to match your weapon. If you paint the inside, the weapon may bind to the latex. I recommend a gentle wipe-down of the blade with silicone spray (don't spray the weapon, spray a cloth, and wipe the blade with the cloth) to stop it from trying to bind in the scabbard anyway.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't quite understand the Plastazote design and if it is helpful for drawing a blade quickly \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Jun 22 at 17:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll try and draw up some plans and add them in. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23 at 8:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Right. Added some images and tried to make the description clearer. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23 at 11:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ I shared what I did and contemplate too, thanks for showing the design via Plastazote! \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Jun 24 at 17:28

After a lot of deliberation, I did ponder the Worbla-method and Linothorax-method fist, before eventually going for 3D-printing the Saya.

Worbla Method

Worbla is a thermoplastic sheet material, which becomes easily moldable by hand if you heat it with a hairdryer or heat gun. This makes it a very liked material in cosplay, and it has been used to make Saya in the german LARP scene before.

The method is simple in the description but harder to execute neatly:

  • Wrap your blade in an isolation material, such as multiple layers of packing paper and rescue blanket.
  • Make sure that you can draw your blade from this "sheath".
  • Heat the Worbla and wrap it around the protected blade, then let it cool.

The tricky part is finding the right temperature you need to work with, as too hot can lead to the worbla sheet tearing, while too cold will lead to wrinkles. Too little protection and you cook your blades while wrapping, too much and the blade will rattle and fall out.

Linothorax Method

The Linothorax is actually a type of Greek fabric armor, made by gluing several layers of fabric over one another. This construction method also is somewhat popular with scabbards in the german LARP community.

  • Start by wrapping the blade in layers of packing paper (to pad it), saran wrap (to protect the blade).
  • Add a last protective layer of gaffer-tape as flat as possible and without gaps
  • cut out pieces of cloth that will wrap around the padded blade.
  • apply water-resistent wood glue, then add a layer of cloth, let it dry, rinse and repeat.

The upside is, that this method does not risk heat damage, but you need to make sure that the tape layer is without wrinkles or divets - you will see those.

Print it.

In the end I opted to make a photo of the sword laying flat on a graduated mat, with a caliper on its central level and from a long distance.

That photo I imported into a CAD suit and scaled it according to the calipers, making sure that the grid showed no or only very little disfigurement from the parallax effect. Tracing the back of the blades (each one separately!) I created a path, and then created a shape that would form the saya when extruded along that path.

The next step was cutting up that shape in a way that would allow gluing the parts together sturdily - which I managed by making actually two of the bodies, cutting them up at different heights, and then merging them to create the actual Saya parts.

Saya interlocking

After having the parts printed and stuck into one another, I added a fabric sleeve on the inside, which was glued to the mouth and end in such a way that it was kept in tension. This fabric sleeve on the inside prevents scratching the blade against the interior of the print, while the outside was sanded, primed, and painted.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .