How to Make a Boff Weapon
First, assemble the following supplies:
3/4 inch PVC pipe (it's sold at hardware stores in 10' lengths.)
PVC insulating pipefoam (it's green, and comes in packs of four 3' lengths)
Squishy Foam (the kind used in foam pillows and cushions. If you don't have any
old pillows around that you can cannibilize you can get the foam at a
fabric or craft store, and you generally want the 2" to 3" thick foam.)
2 or more rolls of 3/4 inch Strapping Tape/Fiber Tape
2 or more rolls of Duct Tape of the colors that you want your weapon to be. It
should be the 2" wide Duct tape (The 3M Normal and Black Tartan tapes
sold at Serv-U's are excellent.)
2 or more rolls of Electrical or Plastic Tape. (Electrical tape only comes in black,
but is more stretchy and thus easier to use on certain parts of the weapon
than Plastic tape, which comes in various colors but isn't as easy to stretch
and pull tight.)
An Exacto Knife, Pen Knife, or other small but sharp cutting instrument
A pair of Scissors
2 pennies for every weapon you are going to make
A Measuring Tape
A black pen or marker, or soft lead pencil
Now that you have your supplies, we'll go over how to make a standard Short Sword. Additional requirements of making longer weapons follows at the end.
A standard Short Sword measures 3' in length. However, 4 inches of that length near the tip of the weapon is just foam without any pipe. Thus the pipe for a short sword is 4 inches shorter than the total weapon length (this is true for all weapons). Also, 2/3rds of all weapons must be foamed. That will give you a 1' hilt on the Short Sword.
Get the PVC pipe. Measure 32 inches (that's 3' minus 4 inches) from one of the pipe ends. Mark the 32 inch point on the pipe. Use the Hacksaw to cut off the 32 inch section of pipe.
Take the pair of scissors, open them, and hold them so that you can run the edge of one arm of the scissors against another object. Do this to the end of the PVC pipe where you cut it with the hacksaw. This is to get rid of any filings and to just generally smooth out the end of the pipe.
Once the cut end of the pipe is clean, get the strapping tape. Pull off about a fingers length of tape, but don't cut it off yet. Place it IN one end of the pipe, and use your small finger or the back of a pencil to make sure it adheres to the inside of the pipe. Then pull the strapping tape own the length of the pipe past the other end and cut it a little long. Place this end of the length of tape in the other end of the pipe just as you did the first. Repeat this process on the side of the pipe directly opposite from the first length of tape.
Get 2 pennies. Cut about a 6 inch long piece of strapping tape. Place one penny in the exact center of the adhesive side of the tape. Now, center the penny over the hole of one end of the PVC pipe, and flatten the ends of the strapping tape along the sides of the pipe to keep the penny in place.
Cut another piece of tape and lay it over the penny and tape perpendicular to the first piece of tape (so that the two pieces of tape over the penny form an X). Repeat the process for the other end of the pipe with the other penny.
Get your pipe insulation foam. From one of the lengths, cut a piece with your exacto knife that will be your crossguard. Generally, the crossguard is 5 to 7 inches long. This will also leave enough foam from the length that you cut to foam the rest of the shortsword. Once you have your piece of crossguard foam, look for the seam in the foam. There is a seam that runs the length of the foam, and can be found by looking for a line and gently pulling the foam on either side. Once you've found the seam, get your strapping tape. Cut a piece of tape about 4 to 6 inches longer than the crossguard. Put one end inside one end of the pipe foam right over the seam, adhere it along the seam along the outside of the foam, and into the other hole at the other end of the foam (just like you taped the PVC pipe). Once the seam is taped, hold the crossguard against one end of the PVC pipe, and use your marker to mark a circle on the crossguard in its center, lengthwise (make sure that when you do this the seam of the crossguard is not directly under where you are marking the circle, as you don't want to accidentally cut the seam tape in a later step). Get your exacto knife and cut out the marked circle. Slide the PVC pipe through the new hole, and by feeling the outside of the crossguard, find where the pipe hits the other wall of the pipefoam. Mark that place with your pen. Take the PVC pipe out. Cut a hole as wide as the pipe in the second place that you've marked on the crossguard. Now, slide the PVC pipe through both of the holes which you have cut in the crossguard. Slide the crossguard up the length of the pipe until the side of the crossguard closest to the end of the pipe that you slid it on is about 1' from that end. Get the strapping tape. Tape the crossguard to the PVC pipe, both above and below the crosguard. Tape from the long sides of the crossguard onto the pipe, and also across it from the pipe, over the crossguard, and back to the pipe. Then wrap some strapping tape around the PVC pipe just above and just below the crossguard to make it secure.
Go back and get the piece of pipe insulation foam that you cut the crossguard from. It should be about 2 and a half feet long now. Hold the pipe foam against the longer part of the pipe, above the crossguard, with the pipe foam touching the crossguard. Mark a point on the foam about 2 and a half inches beyond where the PVC pipe reaches. Cut the foam at that mark. You should now have a piece of pipe foam that when held against the long part of the pipe above the crossguard is just 2 and a half inches longer than that section of the pipe. To insure that everything is in the proper fit, slide your middle finger in the top of the pipefoam. You should be able to touch the penny tip of the PVC pipe by only inserting your finger to the 2nd knuckle. If you can't touch the penny tip, cut off pipefoam from the end until you can. If you can touch the tip without inserting your middle finger to the second knuckle, then you have overcut. Cut a piece of foam from the scraps that is about as wide as needed to allow you to add it to the pipefoam so that you will be able to touch the penny tip properly. Place this additional piece of foam on the pipe against the crossguard and tape it into place. You will slide the rest of the pipefoam over it to get the proper length. Now, just like you did with the crossguard, find the seam of the pipefoam, and strapping tape it. Do this gently, as you do not want to make the foam curved. Once this is done, choose which end of the pipefoam will be placed against the crossguard. Once chosen, use your exacto knife to cut a shallow curve into the wall of the pipefoam on either side of the seam. It should look like a very shallow C when viewed from the side, but there should be two 'arms' of foam that still go to full length. This will let the pipefoam of what will be the blade rest snugly against the crossguard. Once this cut has been made, slide the insulation foam over the long end of the PVC pipe until the C-cut end is snug against the crossguard. Use strapping tape to securely tape the C-cut end to the crossguard and lower end of pipe. Take any scrap pipe foam left over from what you've used and cut it with scissors or exacto knife into small chunks. Stuff these chunks tightly into the holes at the ends of the crossguard and the hole at the end of the 'blade' foam. Each of these holes must be fully packed with foam. If you do not have enough scrap to do it, cut some off another one of the pipefoam lengths. Once the holes have been packed, put strapping tape over them to keep the packing in.
Get your squishy foam. Get a piece of pipefoam, hold it end first against the squishy foam and mark the circle where it touches with a marker. Cut out the squishy foam cylinder. Take the squishy foam tip and place it on the end of your sword at the end of the foam 'blade'. With strapping tape, carefully tape the squishy tip to the sword. DO NOT COMPRESS THE SQUISHY FOAM. The best way is to cut your strapping tape first, and lay it over the squishy foam, and only press it against the pipefoam where it touches the 'blade'. The strapping tape should form an X over the top of the squishy foam. Wrap a piece of strapping tape around the blade where the squish foam and the pipefoam meet to help make it sturdy.
Get your Duct Tape of the color that you want your blade to be. Cut about a 1' long strip. Gently, lay it along the pipefoam, up and over the squish foam tip and back to the pipefoam, being careful not to compress or curve the squish tip. Make the duct tape lay flat against all surfaces (where the duct tape bends from one surface to another, make small incisions with scissors near the corners which stick out, and overlap them so that they are flat). Cut two more 1/2 foot sections of duct tape, and lay them on the uncovered squish tip sides down to the pipefoam. The tip of your sword should be completely covered in duct tape. Try to make sure that there are no gaps in the duct tape on the tip where foam shows through. Cut lengths of duct tape and lay them on the blade and crosguard so that no pipefoam shows through.
If you want a pommel (a small ball-like grip at the bas of your hilt), find a piece of scrap pipefoam about 3/4 inch thick. Break the seam of this piece, and slide it over the end of the pipe that will be your hilt so that it looks like Pac-Man trying to eat the end of the pipe. Use strapping tape to secure the pipefoam to the pipe end.
Get your electrical/plastic tape. Starting just under the crossguard, place the end of the tape to the pipe, and begin to wrap it around the pipe in a spiral, pulling tightly the whole time so that the tape remains taught. Continue until the entire hilt and the pommel (if you have one) are covered in electrical/plastic tape.
The final step. Get your exacto knife or pen knife. Begin poking a lot of holes in the tape over the squishy tip of your sword. This allows the squish foam to 'breathe', making it much softer when it hits.
You have just made your first Boff Weapon. Your short sword is done. Take it outside and have fun.
If you want to make a bigger weapon, here are some additional requirments.
For weapons over 3', when you are laying the strapping tape along the pipe before you penny the ends, bend the pipe slightly away from the tape. Repeat the process for the tape on the other side. This helps make the pipe more srurdy and less likely to whip. If the weapon is over 4'6" long, do the above but on four sides rather than just two.
For weapons over 4'6", before you penny them but after you strapping tape them lengthwise, run strapping tape around the entire pipe in a spiral from one end to the other.
To make weapons like axes or maces, simply make a sword, and when done, make an axe blade or mace head of squishy foam, tape it to the sword, duct tape the squish blade, and poke holes in it as if it were a squishy tip of a sword.
NEVER MAKE A WEAPON OVER 6' IN LENGTH. ANYTHING BEYOND 6' CAN BE VERY DANGEROUS, SINCE THE PIPE HAS A TENDENCY TO SNAP AND CAN CAUSE SERIOUS INJURIES.
NEVER THROW A WEAPON THAT HAS A HILT, AS IT MAY HURT SOMEONE. To make a throwing weapon, make it entirely out of pipefoam and squishy foam, and always poke holes in the tape over squishy foam.
The smallest weapon that can be made that is controllable and safe is a dagger, which measures 18". Never make weapons shorter than this as they are difficult to control as weapons, and are likely to accidentally end in the user delivering a punch to the target instead of a safe weapon strike.
That's the basics. Have fun. Don't hurt anyone. And if a weapon seems to be getting old, bruised, or the foam is starting to wear away, all you have to do is use an exacto knife to cut off the old foam 'blade', make a new one, slide it on, tape it up, and your sword is as good as new.