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12 Apr 2009 - 15:3312783
Materials FAQ v1.0
Xae's materials FAQ V1.0



Greetings. If you're looking at this page, you've either come to the wrong place, or you're after some hot tips on materials.

For now, i will be concentrating primarily on "prop" materials, but as my knowledge about fabric grows, i'll add to it. The purpose of this thread is to help people to become "unstuck" when they are trying to tackle a problem.

once i have this FAQ out the way, i'll do a techniques FAQ. due to personal life time constraints, it will be completed over a short period of time (probably 1 chapter at a time)

Hope you find this all helpful

This FAQ will be laid out in this manner:


chapt. 1 solid materials [status:in progress]
chapt. 2 liquid materials [status:not started]
chapt. 3 adhesives [status:not started]
chapt. 4 paints [status:not started]
app. 1 glossary [status:not started]
app. 2 index [status:not started]



Chapter 1.

Solid materials.

Just about anything you find day to day has a "use" when it comes to prop building. When i'm trying to reproduce something, i usually tackle the problem from the angle of "what does that look like" rather than "how can i make that out of this material".

Base materials are fairly simple and straight forward. The following list contains the "stock" materials i frequently use.



1.1 Plastazote.

Plastazote is a godsend to almost anyone making almost anything. it can be used to make everything from top hats to armoured suits. Swords, guns, shoes, even things like guitars. it really is that versatile!

when buying Plastazote, you usually find you have 3 thickness options. 3mm, 6mm, and 12mm. i don't think i've ever used 12mm in all the time i've built props and armours. 6mm is my "normal" thickness, and i tend to use 3mm as a "fine detail" thickness.

Unlike a lot of other foams, plastazote cuts VERY neatly with a sharp blabe, or even scissors if you're not too fussed about a "perfect" edge. it will happily hold it's shape when fixed in place, and can be very easily heatformed with a heatgun, or even a simple hairdryer.

Plastazote can be glued with hot melt glue, but for a strong and durable bond, i would recomend impact adhesive. impact adhesive won't melt the plastazote, but you're more likely to rip the 'zote than seperate the glue bond.

don't be tempted to buy in "the right colour", as you're far better off coating plastazote in latex and painting it afterwards. more details on that in the latex and pros aide sections.


1.2 Beach sandles.

That's right, you heard me. Beach sandles are an amazingly useful base material for making shoes. The armoured shoes i made for Al and the witch king, and Briareos's tactical boots are all based on very cheap beach sandles (the sort that has velcro straps.

the foam base is easily glued with impact adhesive, and can usually be screwed into with wood tapping screws (remember to drill your guide hole!)

i usually buy a sandle that's just big enough for my foot to fit it, but not so small that any part of my foot becomes uncomfortable, or overhangs.


1.3 Fiberglass rods.

The standard base to all the swords/rigid props i make. very little to say about them other than remember to use the correct safety gear when sawing. dustmask and goggles, and keep it outside/in the shed. FG dust is carcinogenic, and NOT FUN.


1.4 Fiberglass "GRP".

a lot of people i talk to have made the mistake of thinking Fiberglass is easy, or the "best answer". i'll tell you this:

it's not.

I consider GRP to be one of the few things i use only when i have to. it's very nasty to work with, it's very difficult to work with, the final product will never look as good as you were hoping, unless you've had years of experience.

all that being said, if you can use it, it can produce amazing results, and if you want to use it, buy a little, practice IN A WELL VENTILATED AREA AWAY FROM PETS WITH THE CORRECT SAFETY GEAR as GRP is highly carcinogenic, and get good at it. not a material i recomend tho!


1.5 Hot glue

i had to decide where to put this, either in liquids or solids. but since it starts out solid, and ends solid, i've put it here.

Hot glue is the most amazing versatile stuff imaginable. if you only use it for sticking stuff together, you're tapping about 5% of it's potential. It can be used in moulds to form casts, it can be used as a support/stiffening material, it can be used to make interior support frames for cast latex props, the sky is the limit.


1.6 Resin

resin and I have an understanding. when i want to make a cast of a model i've moulded, or some jewlery, we're friends. for props however, resin is far less usefull at making anything bigger than jewlery. when dry, it becomes VERY brittle, and will shatter if you look at it wrong. it's also fairly heavy.

there are safety issues too, similar to GRP. highly toxic catalyst agents, and some resins have a natural toxic vapor.


1.7 Paper mache

while i never use the stuff personally, there's nothing wrong with using it at all. really safe, easy to do. remember you can always reverse cast paper mache too, so if you wanted something with a lot of detail, you could sculpt it in clay, make a plaster mould, spray the inside of the mould with gloss paint so the paper mache won't stick, the paper mache the inside of the mould. easy!


1.8 Plaster

don't do it. plaster has it's uses during production, but never in final pieces. i've seen so many people break plaster props. it's heart breaking, and you don't want it to happen.


1.9 Fimo

i have to admit... i'm not a fan of using sculpted fimo as a medium. there's far better and often cheaper options available. even the reverse cast paper mache method above it theoretically cheaper and better than fimo.

however. easy to use, fairly safe unless you have a knack of burning yourself in the oven, non toxic, easy to paint afterwards.


1.10 Epoxy putties

Milliput, "green stuff" and other epoxies are realllllyyyyyy usefull. annoying little gap in a prop? putty. tiny little detail that needs adding? putty. gem needs setting in place? putty.

most epoxy putties have a natural "stickyness" that goes when dry, which can be utilised as a way of holding small components in place if you want to avoid using adhesives (great way to avoid superglue blooming)


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Last edited by xaerael (12 Apr 2009 - 16:16)
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