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I have built a stack of LARP quality (at least that was the goal) EVA foam weapons for the first time for a theatre production with a large number of fight scenes. Quite a number of videos I watched to learn how to make the weapons said to use PlastiDip to coat them after hitting the finished weapons with a heat gun.

Now, on this, I only ended up giving them 3 layers because the number of weapons I had to make resulted in $200 worth of PlastiDip already. I did, however, also test putting 6 layers on two of the swords. Alas, in all cases, if I hit the swords together, the PlastiDip wrinkles.

Ex: sword damage

My original plan was to paint with acrylic paint and then hit the weapons with a clear PlastiDip coat, but seeing this wrinkling, I am concerned the weapons will look terrible after just one fight, never mind one full show. I also spent the time and money to make them this way to be able to use them in future productions.

What can I do that will not blow through another $200 and can also be done in a reasonable time frame (I have 26 weapons and my production is in less than a month away, while I also have other prop and set work to do among other things)? Do I need some latex? Does literally any liquid latex work? As in cheap costume stuff I can get on Amazon for $20? If so, what do I need to know about mixing and using latex? How many layers do I need on top of the 3 layers of PlastiDip already there?

And should I use PlastiDip for the final coating or something else? I read silicone spray (lubricant?) is a good top coat, or is that on top of something else (my weapons are currently tacky for sure)?

Note: I am in Canada, so if people could suggest products I can actually get my hands on, that would be extra helpful.

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    \$\begingroup\$ These wrinkles don't seem to be a product of the latex, but a product of the foam failing to bounce back fully to its original shape. Maybe you're using the wrong kind of foam? \$\endgroup\$
    – Paul Z
    Apr 4 at 15:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't have a lot of expertise here, but I wonder something about the references you're working from. I suspect there are lots of LARP people who make forceful hits with their weapons, and don't care if they look pretty; and lots of theater people who want their weapons to look pretty, but avoid making full-force hits with them. (And theater people who want both, but use rigid weapons that are only safely suitable for hitting other weapons, not for hitting people.) I don't know if "soft foam weapon that remains visually attractive through multiple solid hits" is a common angle. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 4 at 22:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ The soft LARP weapons I'm accustomed to have an outer layer of soft closed-cell foam, typically polyethylene ("pool noodles"). They don't have a further decorative covering outside of that. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 4 at 22:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ The typical theater weapon in a proper stageplay in the opera house uses blunt steel because in the hands of a trained actor with a well-trained choreography that is much safer than any foam. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Apr 4 at 23:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ This question might be a better fit for Arts & Crafts SE \$\endgroup\$
    – Elmy
    Apr 5 at 12:59

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I can't speak to what products are available in Canada, I'm afraid, but I have worked as a LARP weapon maker, both for a small but respected UK LARP weapon maker, and taken private commissions myself.

In the UK, the standard for most LARP weapons is: -

  • Fibreglass or Carbon Fibre core
  • LD45 "Plastazote" foam (a type of closed cell polyethylene foam).
  • Liquid latex coloured with black acrylic paint as a base layer.
  • Acrylic paints mixed with a small (5% ish) amount of latex to do the colours.
  • Isoflex clear special roofing primer as a top "varnish" coat.*
  • Silicone ("pure" silicone, the kind used for shining latex clothing) at the end to stop the incredibly sticky end product sticking to other weapons.

Some smaller makers have experimented with using FlexPaint, PlastiDip, and other similar products instead of the above, but in terms of durability the products I mention are more or less an industry standard.

As a general rule I would stay away from EVA foam precisely because it creases, dents, and tears so easily. I believe cosplayers restore their prop weapons with a hairdryer after events, but that doesn't seem practical for 26 weapons each performance.

Any liquid latex can work in a pinch. The stuff from Amazon will probably do. We do between 7 - 10 layers per weapon, so you might look at ordering in larger bulk from somewhere like eBay, or a dedicated supplier. "Mould-making latex" is usually a good search term. For extra durability of the latex in sticking to your foam, it's possible to "prime" the bare foam with some spray contact adhesive before painting your latex on (allow to get "tacky" but not completely dry to the touch like you would before gluing).

Some key points for working with latex: -

  • Buy some cheap brushes, and don't expect them to last.
  • Despite the above, keep the brush submerged in latex between coats, to minimise "bobbling" and formation of gross little clots of hardened latex that will get all over your weapons.
  • Find a system that works so you don't have to touch the parts you're latexing. Most people either have all their weapons hung from quickly-made metal wire hooks, and hold the un-latexed grip area of a sword, for example.
  • Latex mixed with acrylic paint will look clear and milky, but as the latex dries transparent the colour comes out stronger.
  • Let each layer dry completely between coats. This varies markedly depending on the temperature! On a sunny day, that can be 10 minutes, but in the winter it can be hours between coats. We tended to work in batches of 50 so it wasn't lots of wasted time.
  • Dried latex is super sticky and will stick to other latex with what seems like inseparable strength. If this happens (it will) don't panic, and do not pull them apart - you will ruin all your previous layers this way. Instead, either take a clean paintbrush dipped in water, and wiggle it into the seam of the join while gently pulling them apart, or you can sometimes strike the weapon with your palm in such a way it will vibrate free.
  • Don't use any copper- or bronze-coloured metallic paint, since it may contain copper powder, which corrodes latex very quickly. The quest for a "true bronze" colour is a bit of a UK LARP in-joke, and most makers have their own secret recipe (some variant on silver paint + brown).

As a very broad rule of thumb, material cost (not time cost!) for a sword works out at somewhere between £15 and £20 - most one-handed UK LARP swords are sold for between £50 and £70.

If your budget is exhausted, you might have to just accept that they're not going to be perfect!

Best of luck!

(* If you do end up using this stuff, please be careful. It's very smelly, and has a long list of health warnings on the can.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I have a feeling this answer falls outside of some of the rpg.stackexchange guidelines, but I am more than happy to give you more/further advice if you need it. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 4 at 6:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ So I should just blast them with a heat gun at the end of each show and they'll be fine? I can deal with that. That will work then to paint them as is and put on a sealer? I think I'll avoid the extreme health warning stuff at this time. Can I just finish with silicone spray then? The heat gun will still fix the wrinkles? Basically I need cheap and fast options at this point. I don't know why ALL the videos I watched just used EVA foam, plastidip, acrylic paint, and some sort of sealer. \$\endgroup\$
    – LKinneyX23
    Apr 5 at 7:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm afraid I'm not 100% certain, but the things I read seemed to suggest that's what people who use EVA are doing. Maybe make/finish one of your swords and give it a test? Silicone spray will stop things sticking together, and friction from tearing your final layer/sealer. Best of luck! \$\endgroup\$ Apr 5 at 7:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaniO'Shea Any guideline that would object to this answer is simply wrong. This is exactly the kind of answer that this site exists for—it’s fantastic, straight expertise from someone with the right background. This is what every answer should aspire to. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 6 at 0:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Okay, so hit the sword with a heat gun and it removed the wrinkles, so I just need to do that after each show. Thanks! I think any other issues is because I haven't done the top coat yet, which everywhere does say to have on there. I've seen two suggestions that people said keeps their stuff long term and I don't know if this is an either/or or a both thing: UV spray and silicone spray. And is silicone spray lubricant? That's all that comes up when I search for "silicone spray". Thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – LKinneyX23
    Apr 6 at 21:46

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