My big prop last year (literally!) was a mage's staff. After lots of research, the best material choice for me to follow my three tenets of prop making was going to be expanding foam. Two tutorials sold me on the idea:
Each project is different so while these served as good guides for me, I still ran into unique issues I had to battle.
I nailed the first step to create my prop core and outline.
I got a wood pole from Home Depot to serve as the core for the staff and drew a lot on a piece of craft foam until I found the approximate size and shape of the staff head. I would constantly hold the piece up to myself in a mirror to ensure I liked the scale. (Note: There are a lot of tutorials about using a lot of math to scale props online. At the end of the day, I go with what looks right on me.)
I went outside with a tarp to start step 2-- attaching foam to my core.
Expanding foam should be handled with care. Lay down a tarp to protect surfaces and be sure to wear at gloves to protect your skin. Outside application is best for large amounts because you will want the ventilation.
Look Ma! I even made some guides to 1) help give the foam something to attach to and 2) give me a stopping point in carving.
From my handy dandy sketch, I knew I wanted the staff to have an approximately two inch diameter. I cut and hot glued on foam pieces that are two inches. When carving, if I saw green I would know I have gone far enough.
You'll see most people use cardboard in other tutorials. I chose craft foam because it was easier for me to see and glue to my core. I was cutting a lot of pieces out and craft foam is way easier for that than cardboard.
The expanding foam quickly rebelled against me.
You see, it is very sticky when it meets cloth or plastic. It does not like to stick to itself after a certain point. The foam would start to build, then slide off the pole as it settled. After one bottle of foam, I was left with a half-covered mess of a staff.
The solution was more cowbell and more guides. I hot glued craft foam everywhere to create 'V' channels the the foam could rest in.
Now I'm guessing you could also show more patience than me and wait for a smaller amount of foam to dry before applying the next. However, this method totally worked. Sometimes I would jam a piece of craft foam between hunks of expanding foam - no glue needed.
It still took several layers and some patience to create the necessary bulk on the staff.
The good thing about bright green guides is I knew to cover the staff until they were not visible. If I could see them or guess where they are, I would add more foam.
It took between 3-4 bottles of foam to create the staff. Or rather the hunk of foam that would become the staff. Next post will be about the carving and covering process!
Part II is live! Click here to ead the next steps.