Sometimes magic staffs that you need for cosplay are too tall or large to easily transport to an anime convention. In these cases, you’ll need to design your prop in a way that allows you to detach the head, save space and pack your staff properly. You can make the detaching mechanism a design element of the staff so that no one even knows its two pieces.
This tutorial will go over both how to create a standard magic staff and how to easily create a detachable section. You can, of course, adjust the shape and height according to your own cosplay plans, but the principles will still be the same for any type of cosplay prop that uses a long pole as the base.
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- Paper and pencil
- 8mm EVA foam (or thicker)
- A sharp razor
- Contact cement and/or hot glue
- Sandpaper (or a Dremel)
- ½” PVC pipe couplers
- A short ½” PVC pipe
- A long ½” PVC pipe
- Acrylic paint
- Optional: ornament shell
- Optional: clear string
1. Draw your design for the staff
The first thing you need to do for any cosplay prop is drawing the design you want to create. You can use rulers and a pencil and draw this out yourself, or you can print out a large screenshot of your prop and trace the design.
When drawing the design, make sure you consider how the staff head will connect to the staff. In my case, I added a little tab at the bottom that I can insert and glue into the top of the PVC pipe.
It’s always a good idea to cut your prop out in paper and tape it together for an idea of how your final prop will look. This way, you can make any changes to the design, before you put the whole thing together and realize it’s not working how you expect.
2. Cut it out of EVA foam
Now that you have your pattern pieces for the staff head, you want to cut them out of EVA foam. In order for the pieces to stand up on their own, you’ll need to use some pretty sturdy foam. You can cut them out of a very thick slab of EVA foam, but that can be more difficult than expected.
Instead, I recommend using foam that is 8mm to 10mm and gluing multiple layers together to form thicker pieces. You can also use 3-4 layers of thinner sheets of EVA foam if that’s what you have available.
- Never used EVA foam before? Learn the basics of making cosplay props with foam
3. Glue and sand the foam pieces for the staff head
Once you have your pieces cut out, it’s time to glue everything together. Generally, I recommend using contact cement for this, since it tends to give a strong hold, but you can use other types of adhesive as well (such as hot glue or super glue).
To use contact cement, apply the adhesive to both sides that you’re attaching to each other. Wait 5 minutes for the contact cement to get tacky, then press the two pieces together and hold them in place for 30 seconds. Wait a couple of hours before sanding or painting the pieces so you don’t risk causing them to fall apart.
Unless you’ve managed to cut perfectly smooth edges, you’re also going to need to sand the edges of each of your pieces. I recommend waiting until after the layers are glued together so you can sand down any unevenness between them, so they look like one solid piece of EVA foam once they’re painted. You can use regular sandpaper for this, but it will go a lot faster if you use a rotary sanding tool (I use a Dremel Lite).
4. Attach the top of the staff and make it detachable
Now that you’ve got the head of your staff ready, it’s time to glue it to the staff pole. I want to make a tall staff, so I’m adding the staff head to a smaller PVC pipe that will be detachable from the main shaft of the staff. The trick to doing this is using PVC pipe couplers.
- First, I will glue the staff head to the inside of one of the couplers. I just used hot glue for this.
- Then I attached the coupler to a short piece of PVC pipe and added another coupler to the other end of the pipe. Make sure your short pipe is the same diameter as the long PVC pole you plan to use. If necessary, you can glue the couplers in place.
- This short pipe with the staff head attached will now be able to attach and detach from your main pipe.
You want to get pipe couplers that are labeled the same size as your PVC pipe. So if you are purchasing ½ inch PVC pipe sections, you should get ½ inch couplers for them. Technically the pipe couplers will be larger than the pipe, but the PVC pipe should fit snugly inside.
5. Paint the staff
Now it’s time to paint your cosplay staff. In general, I recommend using a primer before you use your regular paint. But, you can use whatever painting process works for you. Regular old acrylic paints are perfectly fine to use with EVA foam.
One thing to note, sometimes PVC pipes and connectors have surfaces that are too smooth for primer or paint to adhere to easily, so the paint keeps beading and sliding off the surface. If this is happening, wipe off the paint or primer. Then take a piece of fine sandpaper and gently scratch the surface of the pipes. This will create some micro scratches that give the paint a chance to adhere to the PVC pipes.
Before painting the long PVC pipe, you also want to take the coupler from the top section into account.
- Connect the staff head to the pole and draw a line at the edge of the coupler.
- Disconnect the top.
- When painting, make sure to only paint up to the line you made. The paint adds a little thickness to the pole. If you paint above the line, it can cause the coupler to no longer fit.
6. Attach any gems or decorations
Of course, after you’ve finished painting your staff, you might want to add on some decorations, such as lace, streamers, gems, or even decorative lights.
I decided to add a ‘gemstone’ hanging in the middle of my staff. I bought a clear Christmas tree ornament and painted the inside with a jewel paint. Then I poked some small holes in the EVA foam staff and used a clear string to hang the ornament in the center.