Living inside a video game may not be possible for us in reality, but in Reki Kawahara's Sword Art Online, the protagonist of the anime, named Kirito, does just that. Stuck living in a virtual reality game where the fight for survival meant the difference between life and death in reality, Kirito becomes an iconic hero who is known for his black sword. Bringing one of Kirito's two iconic swords into reality was a step in bringing Kirito's world into ours.
"You can go anywhere you want in this world with a single blade"
Creating Kirito's iconic Elucidator sword was a dream come true. This single blade was the product that came from utilizing many different prototyping techniques including sculpting, foamcore modeling, 3D modeling/printing, silicone molding, resin casting, and finishing. Like Kirito mentions in the quote above, this single blade sent me even deeper into new prototyping techniques that I can carry to develop new projects of greater detail.
Creating a Master Model
This sword began its life as a master model for mold making. This master model was created on a foamcore base, onto which details were added in styrene and epoxy clay. Also serving as a lesson in sculpting, epoxy clay was sculpted to chamfer blade details, allowing for tunable symmetry and detailing. Research was done on the original anime art and the entire blade was made at a 1:1 scale. The finished master model was then prepped to be moved to the molding phase of the project.
Playing with Rubber: Silicone Mold Making
Since the master model of the Elucidator sword was not paintable or durable as it was made on a foamcore base, the sword needed to be molded. A two part silicone box mold was created using thinned silicone rubber from Smooth-On and when the silicone cured, copies of the master model could be made. A two part box mold made of a platinum cure silicone was chosen as the molding method for this project due to the sword shape and mold longevity goals.
Liquid to Solid: Casting the Elucidator Sword
With the silicone mold finished, the master model was removed and the mold was ready to start producing casts. The sword was cast into the mold using Smooth Cast 300 resin with a thin threaded rod running from the handle down the blade for durability and weight. Several casts were made with different resins to test resin durability and flex. The final cast was then trimmed of mold flashing, sanded, and prepped for paint/finishing.
Wrapping it Up
With the sword cast in resin and sanded of any imperfections from the molding process, the sword was hit with lacquer paints to give the sword it's distinctive black and silver appearance. The handle of the sword also got special attention with a custom leather wrap to bring the piece to life. The wrap is spiral wound and based on real sword wrapping techniques to further bring the sword from the fictional world into reality.