Walkthrough - Budget Prop Making - Zabimaru

Article by Odd-One-Out posted Wednesday 11th June 2008

Hello all! I am sure that some of you do not have access to proper metal or wood tools, and that some of you simply don’t have the money to build props after an exhausting day at Fabric Warehouse. I enjoy constructing things out of cheap or even free materials such as cardboard and newspaper. Never underestimate the power of these materials!

Here I will show you a step by step that will hopefully guide you on how to make an accurate replica of Abarai Renji’s (from the series BLEACH) sword, Zabimaru. It is unfortunately not the extendable whip version, but the connected version because I have time restrictions D:

You will need to gather the following:

    PVA glue
    Cardboard, preferably long without creases
    Bamboo pole/ strong wooden dowel
    Wire coat hanger
    Black spray paint
    Silver spray paint
    1m red ribbon
    Parcel tape/duct tape
    Free space (!)


Draw the rough outline of Zabimaru onto the cardboard – refer to the blueprint (not to scale) if you are unsure of the measurements that I used. Cut this shape out and be careful not to accidentally tear the small spikes along the length of the sword; they can be quite flimsy. After finishing this, you can use this shape to trace out a replica onto the rest of the cardboard. You should now have two identical shapes that should resemble Renji’s sword.

Measure how long you made each small spike. In my case, each small spike measured 11cm long, so I grabbed my wire coat hanger, bent it out into a rather wonky line, and cut out a 25cm section. I bent this into half, so the length was roughly 12.5cm, which is longer than 11cm.

Always make each bent wire piece a little bit longer than the actual spike, so it does a good job of reinforcing it and prevents the spike from flapping around like a helpless bird. I taped this onto each small spike to reinforce the spikes, but make sure it is on the inside!

This means that on the first piece of cardboard, it does not matter which side you tape the wires on, as long as they all are on one side or the other. It does matter which side you tape the wires on for the second cardboard piece, though! It has to be on the opposite side. If you’re finding it hard to understand – even I am – read the next paragraph and it should hopefully make it clear what I mean by ‘taping it on the inside’.

Add a 3D spine on the ‘black’ side of Zabimaru, so that it connects both pieces that you have just cut out. This segment should pretty much be a long and thin strip that runs all the way from the top to the bottom of the sword.

You will notice that it’s now starting to gain 3D-ness! However, if you’ve been following correctly, the spiky side should be flapping open. It would be a good idea to tape that side together without adding a spine so that side would be sharp while the side that you just added the spine to would be blunt. Hold on a second! We still haven’t inserted the bamboo pole/dowel!

The pole should be long enough to reach from the top all the way to the bottom, and stick out of the bottom to form a handle. In proper sword terminology, this would be ‘full-tang’ and guarantees that the handle won’t snap off when you swing a sword around! Lay the pole onto a cardboard side, it doesn’t matter which, and use LOTS and LOTS of strong tape to stick it on! Even though you think it should be enough, slap a few more on for good measure! Once you’ve done this, you can seal up the spiky side with lots of tape too.

The reason why I told you to use lots and lots of tape to stick the pole inside was because if it slips out, you’ll need to cut up several hours’ of work just to fix it. Boo.

That’s the hard work done! I’ll congratulate you if you managed to get this far without losing at least half the hair on your head.


Raid your local newsagent or your local paperboy and tear off squares of newspaper. Pour PVA glue in a bowl and mix it with 60% glue and 40% water for a runny consistency, and papier mache away! After the first layer is dry, do a second layer. I know, it’s tedious, but it’s got to be done if you want to wow the crowd with your ghetto creation.

Onto the spray paints! Use thick card to cover up the sections you don’t want to be sprayed in that colour. Give each colour about 3-4 coats, and make sure you let it dry fully between each coat.

Finishing Touches

Construct a guard out of 2 layers of cardboard covered in 2 layers of papier mache. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were sick of newspaper and glue by now! Cut a hole in the middle of the guard so it can slot through the handle. Paint the guard gold or brown, depends on what your preference are, and leave to dry. You’ll have to excuse my messy bedroom and desktop on the photos D:

Wind lots of brown parcel tape around the handle, and then use the red ribbon and criss cross it around the handle. If you can’t get it to stay in place, a staple gun is your friend :D

If you were TL;DR (if you don’t know what this means, go and Google it up!) here’s the finished product.
Second image shows the size of Zabimaru compared to a volume of Bleach manga.

That looks really good! I'm

That looks really good!
I'm gonna try and make a-small- sword out of cardboard and papier mache!

by ArcherPlusle on Monday, 14 June, 2010 - 19:04
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by LuBin on Sunday, 19 July, 2009 - 02:25
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great tutorial, i'm using it

great tutorial, i'm using it to build a zangetsu for a friend and this is incredibly instructive. thanks for posting it!

by behind_you on Sunday, 22 February, 2009 - 13:44
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LOL nicely done =] im making


nicely done =]

im making a version of this but im trying figure out how to seperate the segments to make the blade seperate and do that attack thing (were he goes "howl Zabimaru!" lol)

its damm tricky tho im trying find reference pictures lol but im thinking the basics are going to be...

holoow inside with shains attatched to the insides (making out of thin ply wood probably) that will give it the movement and ability to seperate, each segment is going to be joined together with a pin (will make it so each section slightly sits inside the one before it and then drill hole through and make wooden pegs)

then all i need to do is find some kind of reference picture of the patern of the insides, when seperated, then i will probably find some cloth, paint it with cloth paints to the style that it looks wen seperated, and then staple them into the hollowed out parts so that they are jsut a little bit longer than the chains cal reach (that way any swinging and such puts pressure on the chains not the cloth)

this SHOULD work if i do it right and reinforce it in the right areas

by SeiferAlmasy on Friday, 19 September, 2008 - 13:31

It's nice to see I'm not the

It's nice to see I'm not the only one who makes their props from cardboard and papier mache! So far, I've made Mugen (from D.Gray-man), a Kingdom Key (from Kingdom Hearts) and Lavi's hammer (from D.gray-man) in miniature... the head of the hammer actually being an old toilet roll tube! Keep it up!

Now I want to make a Zabimaru dammit... :)

by Alanna_Undomiel on Thursday, 10 July, 2008 - 08:33
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Make Zabi, you!

Make Zabi, you!

by Odd-One-Out on Saturday, 30 August, 2008 - 13:23
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wow, i never thought to use

wow, i never thought to use cardboard and papier mache, will definately have to remember this one, great work. love the zabimaru, by the way, would love to see you doing a zangetsu, buster sword or masamune lol :P

by raizersabre on Saturday, 14 June, 2008 - 06:27
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Here you go, Zangetsu (Hollow version for Shirosaki) and I've made Masamune but had to scale it down to fit my friend's bedroom lol! Unfortunayely, no photos of Masamune :(

by Odd-One-Out on Monday, 16 June, 2008 - 15:20
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Nice job! One of the best

Nice job! One of the best cardboard constructions ive seen mate!

Stay In the phazon, MetroidManiac out.

by MetroidManiac on Wednesday, 11 June, 2008 - 07:09
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Thank you sir, it is an

Thank you sir, it is an honour!

by Odd-One-Out on Monday, 16 June, 2008 - 15:21