Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tutorial : Oathkeeper & Oblivion

Lots of people ask questions about how I made my keyblades. First of all, I looked up many tutorials and references before even thinking about attempting to do this. Most of the youtube videos weren't much help other than stating the obvious tools necessary. There was one picture guide [that I conveniently lost the link to now], that was more helpful. But here is a step by step of how I made both keyblades.

Note: This tutorial is meant for many of the more complicated keyblades. Keyblades that are similar to the Kingdom Key [the shaft is made out of a cylinder and does not have a unique shape, as well as a handle] will require a different tutorial completely. Refer to Sarahceratop's tutorial on how to make Kairi's Keyblade.

It wasn't until winter of 2008 over my break did I start working on the keyblades. Sarahceratops and I had planned things out back in summer break, but we didn't really get started on the props. Within the first couple of weeks I convinced my dad to help me out and go supplies shopping.

1. Materials and Tools
  • Plywood - I don't have the exact thickness that we decided to use [I'll get that for you all later], but we went for the strongest, but also light wood we could find. Yes it was expensive because we needed something that would be strong enough for convention use, as well as supporting clay. It also had to be light enough that I could carry them around all day. I bought one large piece and ended up cutting it in half to make the 2 keyblades.
  • Saw or wood cutting tool - this was to cut the main, large shapes of the keyblade. We used an electic saw to cut the plywood in half.
  • Jiggsaw - this is absolutely essential. Though I didn't work with it much myself, my dad used it to carve out the itty-bitty details in the keyblade. There were a lot of details in both Oblivion and Oathkeeper and it wouldn't have been possible without the small, precise blade.
  • Sander and sanding paper - I used a large sander with a handle to really soften the edges of the keyblades once they were cut out. I used sanding paper to sand the really small, hard to reach places. This is very important.
  • Paper Maché clay - I did a lot of research to find a very light, paper-weight clay that wouldn't weigh down the wood on the keyblade. But it also had to be thick and sticky enough to stick to the wood. I ended up finding this paper maché clay mixture [maybe called sculptamold? something like that, I'll update this later]. It comes in a small plastic bag and looks similar to oatmeal. I added very little water because I wanted it really thick. Once I applied it, I had to sand it down to make it smooth.
  • Shower/Tub caulking glue - I used this to fill in the cracks in the clay. It didn't have a smooth enough surface for me so I lightly applied the caulk to smooth the clay out and make it appear to be a similar texture to the wood.
  • Reference pictures / measurements - this was VERY important. I printed out large copies of both keyblades and measured how long I wanted them to be in proportion to my body. Once I figured that out, it took a lot of math to figure everything else out. The keyblades I made are exaclty proportional to the ones in the game.
  • Paint Primer - this is optional in my opinion because I only used it for Oathkeeper and didn't on Oblivion. It was good to really smooth out the difference between the wood and the clay, and made the paint go on more easily.
  • Acrylic or basic paints - I did not use wood paint, and I want to make that clear. I found some basic paints and got a lot of different colors. I did a lot of blending and gradients on the keyblades but that as made through my own experience with paints. I used a giant posterboard on my dorm floor as a protector and a pallet!
  • Acrylic spray gloss - this is very necessary. It is a clear gloss that helped seal the paint into the wood and the clay. Not only that, but it made it waterproof (after many, many layers) and gave the keyblades a nice shine. It was just the right amount so they weren't super reflective in photos.
  • Sculpty - I used this to make the small keychains that hung off the end of the keyblades. I took old, metal keychain rings from my other keychains and screwed them in to the bottom of the keyblades. I painted and spray glossed the keychains and then attached them! Easy as pie.
  • Plastic chain - used this for the middle of oblivion. I spray painted it black (and want to add gloss to it if I use it again). I went to a hardware store and just picked some up. Hard to cut! Beware.
2. Getting Started - The Woodworks
  • I started off by buying all of my supplies first. I wouldn't recommend this. I think you should print out references first and do all of your measurements! I was too excited to do this ahead of time but I believe it is essential. Once you've got the measurements, then go out and purchase your wood. You want to make sure you get the right amount, not too much, and not too little. A bit of extra is always a good plan.
My reference photos. You can see all my measurements.
  • I made reference boxes on my image. I then transfered those boxes on to the wood. I did everything in proportions to make it easier. Once I had done that, I drew lines to show where my centers were in all the boxes. From there, I was able to start sketching the outline and details of the keyblade. I made the lines very bold in pencil so that they wouldn't erase off when we were cutting.
Here I am beginning my drawing. You can see the reference boxes, and the start of my sketch.
  • After that, we used one of my dads larger electric saws to cut the major chunks of the wood out that weren't necessary. Once that was done, we went in with the small jiggsaw and began following the lines. My dad was able to help cut out a lot of the small deatil in both keyblades. Very very careful when using electric tools - I recommend having someone with you at all times, or someone experienced with tools and wood.
Here's a picture of my dad using the jiggsaw to cut out the small pieces. The holes you see are made with a drill, this helps him get the jiggsaw into areas that aren't on the edge.
  • Once both keyblades are completely cut out, you may begin sanding. This is a slow and steady process. I began with a sander with a handle to take off the really sharp edges of the keyblades. With small pieces of sand paper, I sanded all of the inner edges and both surfaces of the keyblades. Most of my pencil lines were gone by this point. But take your time and get all of the splinters that are sticking out. You want this as smooth as possible, but not rounded.
Here's a picture of my friend Carrie posing with the final, sanded keyblades.

3. Building up : The Clay
  • After you are finished sanding both keyblades you may move on to adding the clay. I started off with a tester piece of wood to get the right consistency for the paper maché clay. You want it thick, but thin enough to spread out along the areas. This process took me a very long time. You definitely need patience for this step. Play around with material until you like it enough to add to the keyblades. Keep in mind it will probably be a bit chunky - but should be very light still.
Here is me working with the clay on the keyblade. You have to use the clay in one sitting or it will harden. Make sure you have time to finish! Add it wherever you want depth on the keyblade.
  • After adding the first layer of clay, sand it down. The paper maché clay will sand into a find dust, so do not be alarmed. You want to make it fairly smooth but don't sand too hard or you will cause chunks to fall off. If this happens, remake some clay and patch it up. Once you've sanded it to smooth out the surface for the most part, use some shower caulking to fill in any cracks or holes or gaps. You may have to apply multiple layers of this to really get a smooth finish. I used my fingers but you can experiment with different tools to make a wood like finish if you'd like. Let that dry and then sand that down and smooth as you want once it is dry.
Here's a picture of the keyblade after adding the paper maché clay and sanding it down. This is before adding the caulking. It's smooth and soft but still has cracks and holes.

4. The Fun Stuff : Painting
  • You are finally ready to start painting! For oathkeeper I added a paint primer to some of it to make the white really bold. Otherwise, the wood will absorb most water-based paints, making them seem dull. You'd have to apply many layers to get a nice effect. After primer, begin painting. I recommend reading painting tutorials if you aren't familiar with this traditional medium. Being an artist, I was able to mix and create the gradients required on Oathkeeper.
This is a WIP picture of me painting Oathkeeper. As you can see, I used a posterboard to protect my carpet and to serve as a pallet. Take your time and try to make your colors as game-accurate as possible.
  • After I finished painting it, I added the acrylic gloss once the paint was completely dry. One thing to note - a couple steps back I chose to only do clay on one side of the keyblade. I wanted to keep it as light as possible and I assumed that I would always have one side of the blade facing cameras so there was no point in doing both. In this video, you can see the details of my painting. I also added lines with sharpie to make some of the different details stand out. Don't mind how I look, it was late. ;]

  • After finishing Oathkeeper, I moved on and painted Oblivion. I followed the same steps for the wood, clay and painting as I did with Oathkeeper. The only difference will be the chain that I add in later.
Picture of me painting Oblivion. As you can see, my pallet got messier, and messier.
  • Once both keyblades were finished being painted, I sprayed them many times (5+ sessions) with acrylic gloss. I estimated I used about 1 large can for both of them. This really makes the paint stay in better and makes it a little more water resistant if anything were to happen. Here is what they looked like at this stage:
  • Here is a video of what Oblivion looked like when it was almost complete. All it needed was the chain in the middle and the keychain at the end.

  • Here is another picture of me with both the final, painted Oathkeeper and Oblivion. Still missing keychains and Oblivion chain:
  • Finally, after adding the spray painted chain (hot glued it onto oblivion), the keyblades were complete. I made the two little keychains out of sculpty or Model Magic (Crayola). I painted them, sprayed them with gloss, and the hot glued them to keychains I took off of old keychains. I then hot glued them to the bottom of the keyblades. Here are some final photos of me in cosplay with the keyblades:

Good luck everyone in making your keyblades! If you have any questions, feel free to comment here or e-mail me. I will do my best to answer them! And if you use my guide, I would love to see your final products! Send me pictures. :]


  1. Hey, where did you get those keyblade pictures? Email me at thanks!

  2. @Megaflash102

    I tried emailing you but for some reason it wouldn't go through. But I just googled for "Oathkeeper" and "Oblivion" Keyblades and they both came up. Try finding the largest images you can (and I stuck with game production designs instead of in-game pictures), it will really help. Good luck!

  3. awesomeness!! the picture of u cosplaying as Roxas and holding those custom-made Oblivion and Oathkeeper really made my day. Gonna play KH 2 again! XDDD nice one!

  4. @Mich-sama Thank you so much! I'm glad it made your day! I definitely want to play through KH2 again, it is such a great game. I've got even more updated photos of my Roxas cosplay on the TTCosplay deviantart account, feel free to check it out!

  5. Hey thanks for the Tutorial They really look awesome would you by any chance be able to sell them (I see that Im about a year late butt..)

  6. @Roxy22 Hi Roxy, I am sorry to say that I am not selling these guys. As much as I wish I had time and materials to make keyblades to sell online, it's too much work for me. That said, I'll be holding on to these for personal cosplay use. :] But if you need any advice on making them, feel free to ask me any questions you may have!