The Elder Scrolls V, Skyrim: Dwarven Greatsword

While I am not crazy about the Dwarven Armor, or the design of the axe or mace from the same collection, the various Dwarven swords are my favorite weapons from The Elder Scrolls V, Skyrim.

I spent several months procrastinating this, and then finished half the work in a matter of a few days, but I love the results. This prop was composed of wood and craft foam, coated in a few layers of wood glue, then sealed with paint and polyurethane.

First, some work in progress images, so anyone who might be interested in following my process can get the general idea of what I did. The core is oak, cross and grip are poplar, and the detail work is all craft foam.

Being the first time I’d made a sword this large, or of this style, I wasn’t originally sure how to proceed beyond this point. Though, cutting matching wood pieces was easy once I screwed/stapled the pieces together. This way, cutting and sanding was done on both pieces as one, and once I had the shape I wanted, I just separated the two halves.
I got around ~20 pieces of balsa wood, 36″x3″x1/8″, for $10 at Foremost Sales, and used one strip on this sword for the long straight raised bits along each side of the blade. Balsa wood is fairly expensive (around ten times what I got them for), and also does not cut easily unless along the grain. I first cut the 3″ wide piece of balsa into 4 strips, much wider than I wanted them to be (two for each side of the blade). I then carefully sanded these on the belt sander. If you ever try this, you have to be extremely gentle, since the balsa wood will easily shatter. After sanding the the tapered thickness I wanted, I laid them over the sword and a drawing (shown above) and cut the edge along the point of the blade.
Since the detail work was predominantly straight angled cuts, I marked the points by poking a pin through a drawing and into the foam, then marked the cutting lines with a pen. This made cutting matching pieces very quick and easy. I followed the same process for the other details, like those on the cross and pommel.
Cutting these foam details (and those on the hilt) was the most tedious part, but thanks to my pin-point connect-the-dot method, shown and described above, it wasn’t really that bad.
Here’s the completed detail work, coated in the first of three layers of glue, which help to prevent the foam details from getting damaged. The balsa wood became quite hard after it’s spongy fibers absorbed the glue. If balsa wasn’t normally so expensive, and wasn’t so hard to cut against the grain with an exacto-knife, then I would use it regularly for the considerable durability it bears over craft foam (once sealed with glue).

After letting the glue dry overnight under a fan, I coated the sword fully in reflective gold paint (I’ve got photos of the clean coat on Google, and should add those at some point). Once that had properly set, I smudged/dry-brushed the entire sword over with watered down mixture of black and gold acrylic paint (more gold than black) soaked into a mechanics towel (white ones are better, since the red ones can bleed dye onto your prop work!). The gold acrylic was not as bright as the spray paint and took away from the fresh shine, and the black mixed in gave it that iconic dirty tone that any Skyrim adventurer would recognize from the ancient Dwemer ruins where these sorts of Dwarven relics are to be found. To bring the brights back out, I gently rubbed the detail-work and exposed edges of the sword with a wet rag. I went through applying tarnish, and removing a bit here and there a few more times, until I had achieved a fairly balanced appearance on both sides, and across the whole sword. Finally, I sealed it with my usual 3x polyurethane to give it that reflective sheen you get when using Direct X 9 shader effects, like those in TES4 & 5, Oblivion and Skyrim.
I plan to use mirrors like this to give a better look at my work in the future.

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