Chainsword Prop – How To Make a 40k Space Marine Sword
If you’re reading this blog you probably want to know how to make a Warhammer 40,000 chainsword prop. Therefore, if you’ve got the attention span of a hyperactive Spaniel, you can probably skip this paragraph. Back in the mid 90’s I discovered two things that have stuck with me my whole life, Fender guitars and Warhammer 40,000. I haven’t played the game in a couple of editions now, but the world that Games Workshop have crafted over the last 3 decades still resonates with me… that and the miniatures are still kickass!
How I Built My Chainsword Prop
After some diligent Google-Fu I found a couple of images of Space Marine chainswords that I liked the look of. There are dozens of fancy varieties out there, but I decided to go for a basic, run of the mill Assault Marine variant. Once I had my reference images I imported them into Adobe Illustrator and created a template for my chainsword prop. Most drawing packages will work for this – the basic premise being to trace over all of the outlines with all the enthusiasm of a pre-school kid on a Nutella high.
If you’re not into Illustrator, or Nutella, you can download my chainsword prop template here.
Scaling your template is super important as the Warhammer 40,000 universe is gloriously inconsistent. Furthermore, Games Workshop’s miniatures are produced to what is known as 28mm “heroic scale”. Essentially this means that all of the models have hilariously large hands, the likes of which Trump could only dream of. I decided to scale my chainsword prop such that it was somewhere between human scale and Space Marine sized.
I chose to make my Warhammer 40,000 chainsword prop from EVA Foam. This is a material that should be familiar to pretty much every Cosplayer and Yoga Mom, but one that I had not used before. Consequently, this was a bit of a learning curve for me. The first step was to trace the main body of the sword onto a foam Yoga mat. I did this three times so I could glue the pieces together to get the desired thickness.
All the foam parts for my chainsword prop project were cut out using a retractable ‘snap off’ utility knife and a metal straight edge. I quickly learned that time spent making sure the cuts were super accurate pay big time, as EVA foam is not a fun material to sand.
Here you can see all three parts of the body, cut out and ready to assemble. I removed a little material from the centre section (you can see the sharpie lines) to make a recess for the chainsword teeth.
I’ve been a big fan of contact cement for a long time and was glad to see that other prop makers that work in foam rubber are also disciples of the Church of Our Lady St.Contactius. To explain, contact cements are generally applied to both sides of a joint, left for 10 minutes or so to dry, and then pressed firmly together. This creates an almost unbreakable bond. Perfect. It was at this point that I noticed my first mistake. As you can see, foam yoga mats have a checkered texture on the back. Consequently, when you glue them back to back, it creates an ugly seam. Now I had seen other prop and costume makers do this before so I assumed it was no big deal, but let me tell you, filling and sanding EVA foam is no fun at all!
Here you can see all three main parts of the body of the chainsword prop assembled. I used Thixofix contact Cement, which along with Evostick is readily available in the UK.
The rest of the chainsword prop build largely follows the same steps. Cut out the template, trace onto the foam, cut out the shape and glue together. This photo shows the cover plate that sits above the handle area of the chainsword.
The teeth were cut out of the EVA foam sheet. By this point I had realised that it is easier to sand the texture off the back of a whole sheet. This of course should have been obvious to begin with, but I think I got a bit carried away with all of the “for the emperor” talk that was running around my head.
The handle of my the chainsword prop was cut from a section of 25mm pipe. I cut this oversized as I wanted to recess it into the body of the sword, and have enough left over to fit it into the pommel. In addition, the handguard was layered up from three pieces of EVA foam. Once this was dry, I drilled the hole right through it with a 25mm hole saw, which worked surprisingly well. It is best to go very slowly when drilling EVA foam, as the bit likes to catch in the foam and you can easily tear the material, destroying the prop along with your dreams of purging heretics.
I used the same hole saw to make a recess in the main sword body to accommodate the handle. As the hole saw leaves the centre section, I decided to leave this in place as this would provide more support to the joint.
Next up was assembly of the main components of the chainsword prop. Because of the instant nature of contact cement bonds, I chose to use hot glue to assemble these parts. This gave me a little more time to position everything correctly.
The main parts of the Chainsword prop assembled. This is a good point to start swinging it around yelling incoherently about “purging heretics” and declaring your devotion to the Emperor.
Earlier on I mentioned that I had made a really obvious, preventable fuckup. Here I present you the evidence of my boneheadedness. This would not stand.
Many of the Cosplay and foam prop aficionados suggest that a product called Kwik Seal is just the ticket for filling in gaps in EVA foam. Apparently it is flexible enough to give slightly and therefore it won’t crack as your foam chainsword prop flexes. Now Kwik Seal isn’t available in the UK, so I ordered a tube from across the pond, as well as a flexible silicone sealant from Amazon. The latter worked really well, producing a very good bond, and super smooth finish. However, like Kwik Seal, you cant sand it. Had I have thought through the implications of this I would have realized that the filled areas have a different texture to the foam, which became much more obvious once I started slapping on some paint. Live and learn.
The chainsword prop was starting to come together by this point. Clearly it’s lacking fine details, but with the addition of the mechanism cover plate and teeth, it’s starting to look nice and lethal.
Now we get to the fun part. I used craft foam to fill out all of the details on the body and handle of the chainsword. This is an amazing material to work with – super quick and forgiving. Craft foam cuts well with scissors too, which is great for cutting curved edges.
In my excitement to get the chainsword prop finished before real life needed to resume I forgot to take any pictures of me carving the skull pommel. The chainsword that I was copying didn’t have a skull, it had a spherical pommel – I had planned on using a ping pong ball. However, the stylised skulls of the Warhammer 40,000 universe are such a defining feature I had to have one on my chainsword. To make the skull I drew the front and side elevations from a reference photo straight onto a block of balsa wood and then went at with a dremel and some needle files. Take a look at my Stormie The Stormtrooper build if you want a little more guidance in this sort of thing.
Finished Chainsword Prop Gallery:
That about wraps things up for the chainsword build. I’ve included a bunch of photos of the painted item in the gallery below. Please check out some of my other tutorials for more details on how to paint props. Until next time, praise the Emperor!
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Prop Builder, Destroyer of Knife Blades & Hex Wrench Collector.
I’ve been making things since I was old enough to pronounce Lego. Consequently my maker life has been spent constructing, kit-bashing and scratch-building anything and everything that has taken my fancy. After dedicating my time to Wargaming, Model Armour & Railways, I stumbled across what has now become an obsession – Prop building.