Legolas from The Lord of the Rings Prop & Costume Build (image intensive)

abn

New Member
Hello RPF folks ^-^v I've been a lurker for a few months now, and this is my first time posting a project here.I've been working on the costume of Legolas from The Lord of the Rings since early this year, specifically the version out of Lothlórien. I've finished a fair deal of the entire get-up; hopefully I can wrap up with the smaller details very soon.

For now, I'd like to share one of my favorite builds in this project. One of the things that I had longed to make was the Lothlórien quiver. It posed a pretty big problem, since I was making it from scratch, and it was an extremely detailed piece that had very little exposure in the films — not to mention I have never worked on either a quiver or genuine leather before 6^^;;; But I've also seen a lot of talented people try their hand on this with such marvelous results, so with lots of inspiration from other cosplayers and costumers (most especially Celtic Ruins, Kropserkel, and the wonderful and creative people at LOTR Costume) I just up and gave it a shot.

(I am very sorry; this will be quite a long write-up <(_ _)> And my apologies also for the poor photographs.)
Making the Lothlórien Quiver

The first thing to figure out was the quiver design, which depicted a peacock figure overlaid with gold on its face. With a ton of research (thanks to Google) I was able to reconstruct the design by hand — I have very poor CG skills, so it is always laborious to draw designs and patterns — and customize the size according to the quiver measurements directly proportional to my back.


Working on hand-drawn motif.

Once that was good, it was just the matter of cutting out a template and trace the design on my colored leather. I used tracing paper for my template — very flimsy, but it worked so that was okay; I cut the design out and used white pigment pen to transfer the pattern. The leather that I used is actually black napa leather that I just colored with tan acrylic leather paint (which would explain the weird wood-like coloration.) I was in a great hurry back when I was making the entire costume, and I didn't have the luxury to go buy the proper kind and tint of leather, so I just had to make do with the materials that were at hand.
The next step: engraving. I am aware (with my very scant knowledge of leatherworking) that engraving and carving is normally done on vegetable-tanned leather rather than on the more pliable chrome-tanned ones, so I could imagine the more experienced costumers here shaking their heads when I said "engraving" on napa leather, and on hand-painted napa leather to boot. I myself wasn't sure and not very optimistic about the venture, and was considering on having the design laser-etched initially since I did not have access to a wood burner, and a soldering iron wasn't good enough.

So I was elated when the technique actually worked! It seemed like the acrylic paint layers (the number of which I have lost count in trying to completely cover the original black leather color) stabilized the soft leather surface enough for it to accept a reasonable score depth. I used a rotary tool changing among three different nibs depending on the proximity of the design lines, taking care of the vertical parallel ones most of all.
Above, right: basic design template and design transferred on leather. There were still parts of the design, particularly around the tail feathers that I found troublesome to stencil because of the quills; I just engraved them directly onto the leather. Bottom: engraving WIP. Clockwise: tail feathers; scale-like feathers on breast and neck (free-handed); beginnings of the head.


It took some gruelling hours to engrave the whole design out; very tedious work, and a pain in the behind too.
Remember me saying that the leather was colored? The evidence is all over the design — the engraved lines show the black suede under the painted tanned surface ;) I didn't bother cleaning up the white pigment marks inside the design area since it will be overlaid with gold later. I have to say, whoever drew this design is just amazing to have even conceptualized it.)

Once the "fashion leather" is ready, it's time to make the quiver "shell". (Sorry for the use of weird terms ^^v ) I drew out a draft for the quiver having no experience whatsoever of quivermaking, so the draft ended up looking suspiciously like half a corset pattern with darts here and there to simulate the subtle curves. I transferred it on black pigskin leather (supposed to be used as a lining for the black napa leather), cut it out and used a strong graft adhesive (normally used on leather and shoemaking) to close the main back seam and the darts; the bottom end was handsewn. Then it was just a matter of fitting the "fashion leather" over the quiver "shell".

Left: completed motif engraving. Design area is roughly 6 1/2" x 22".

Left to right: quiver draft; pigskin; formed quiver.
For the pigskin to maintain a more solid form while draping the outer leather on it, I stuffed it full with scrap fabric. Then after applying two layers of graft adhesive on both surfaces, I draped the engraved napa leather on the pigskin quiver, carefully smoothing and stretching over the curves. The top leather is closed at the back of the quiver itself.



Right: fitted quiver beside the sheaths for Legolas's knives. The knife sheaths are a little over 15 inches and are size-relative along with the quiver (and the arrows and the knives and the bow as well), so you have a clear idea of the wearer / maker's stature.



The fun part after all that hand-numbing work is foiling. "Foiling", because I am using gold foil and not gold leaf. Two practical reasons for that is (1) foil is just a fraction of what gold leaf costs but looks just as good, and (2) it keeps nicely and doesn't tarnish like gold leaf. I have also used some PearlEx metallic powders on some areas that dictated colors other than gold. The process takes a bit of time, but it's really rewarding when all those blank spaces get filled in with the pretty shiny overlay. If you are curious what it looks like complete, just scroll down to the end of the post :)

Detail of motif before foiling, and in-progress.

The last parts to create are the collar and the "tail". (I do not know if I am using the proper terms here; please feel free to correct me if necessary ^-^v ) I basically drew these after a Lothlorien quiver replica I found on Google; unfortunately I have forgotten where it is from exactly. (I'll check it later and update this along with the details.)


Scrolling vine pattern on the "tail", front and back respectively; and collar base.

(The scrolling vine pattern for the collar is not shown here, since I had to butcher it along the way to figure out where and how the vines are "flowing" around the draft; but the design will be very visible in the next images.)

For construction I used the stiff type of 2mm EVA foam, cutting without allowances, and then sealed off the edges with cyanoacrylate glue. The raised designs are also 2mm craft foam (the softer type used in scrapbooking and sole insteps) cut into 2 (or 3) millimeter strips, and then applied with graft adhesive.


Quiver "tail" scrolling vine progress. There are plenty of small gaps to fill, but it's okay since the material is very forgiving. The key is to create the larger vine swirls with a single strip: the shorter, straighter vines will be easy to fill from there.


Fitting the tail with complete scrolling vine design, front and back.



Collar view and fitting.

Then all that's left is to foil the entire thing. This is a bit more difficult than the foiling done on the peacock engraving since the surface is uneven; you can see a bit of green craft foam on areas that weren't done properly.


Foiling on "tail" end.

After that, the foil is weathered a bit with a mixture of glue, a bit of water and PearlEx powder in Antique Gold. Once dried, the pieces are adhered to the quiver with graft adhesive.


The finished Lothlórien quiver (with arrows)











As of the moment there are some improvements that I would like to make, especially on the ends. I was planning to make them sturdier with a coating of resin since they are quite bendable, and a fresh coat of foil too. And drill in the holes for the findings to be tied onto the bow holster. But right now, I am just happy to have finished this. ^______^v


Will be happily writing the next segment soonish :D
 
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logan74k

Active Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Really great work - I can't believe this is just getting noticed now. Especially impressive for being the first time you've applied these techniques. Are you still planning to post about the rest of your costume? I hope to see it!
 

abn

New Member
Thank you all kindly! I am glad you folks like my little work ^—^


Really great work - I can't believe this is just getting noticed now. Especially impressive for being the first time you've applied these techniques. Are you still planning to post about the rest of your costume? I hope to see it!

Thanks! There were many nerve-wracking moments making this prop, but I am just happy it turned out somewhat okay. Yes, I am still going to post the rest of the costume elements; still choosing whether to write on the vambraces (related leather stuff again), the Lothlórien bow or the jerkin. I'm just a bit occupied with some costume retouching, but hopefully I can get back soon with a new post.
 
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Johnnyfl

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Wow, I just found your thread and that looks great, well done! Have you made any further progress since your last post?
 

abn

New Member
Wow, I just found your thread and that looks great, well done! Have you made any further progress since your last post?
Thank you! (Overdue reply, sorry! :D ) I've almost forgotten all about the thread in reality *sweatdrops* But the costume is actually already finished, debuted October of last year. I'm just having serious procrastination issues with endless WIP photo editing and writeups (which always end up really long haha) But I WILL continue this, and finishing the writeup entry for the Lothlorien bow. :) I am looking to post it by next week. Thanks again for the interest!
 

abn

New Member
Thanks so far for the nice feedback! ^_^ I totally forgot about this thread over last year >_< So if anyone has been wondering if I were to continue posting stuff about it, here it is: one of the most difficult props I've ever made in my life — the Lothlórien bow of Legolas.

The Lothlórien bow prop that I made is an actual working recurve self bow. Yes, believe it or not, the bow is capable of setting off an arrow at a modest distance — and by "modest distance" I do not mean the capacity of a child's garterized toy bow. The bowstring is not elastic; it's the bow that is flexible. After a lot of sweat and blood (well... just a bit of that really,) and plenty of experiments (and very sore fingers) I've managed to make a base rod that has a pretty neat draw for just a prop weapon. But really, the results are worth it.

I don't rightly recall just how many hours went into this prop. Progress mostly depended on my mood and motivation level: there were days that I worked on it as soon as I got home from work up to dawn; there were times that I only worked on it for an hour or so. I avoided handling the project when I'm preoccupied with stuff other than the hobby, since more often than not I end up ruining things. I do recall that I did on-and-off work on this bow over the course of 6 months, owing to the fact that most of the labour had to be done manually.
Making the Lothlórien Bow
First I start off drafting a scale pattern of the bow in its stringed form that is relative to my height. I found a very good photo of the official replica prop on Google. From tip to tip the pattern measures some 53 inches total along the bowstring side. I only drew half of it, since it has the same measurement from the middle to either end.

I intended to simulate the function of a flexible bowstick, so I needed to alter the stringed bow form pattern. To do this, I traced the length of the bow on some tracing paper, cut the entire thing out and straightened the curves by slashing along the belly side of the bowstick. This way, the outside of the bow becomes straight, while the ends are retained from where the recurve point starts. (It works pretty much like repositioning darts on a bodice sloper.) Unstrung, the bowstick pattern is 56 3/4 inches long, not following the length of the recurve ends. I also made a longitudinal section pattern of the bow to indicate the ideal thickness of the rod in a frontal view.



Right: bow diagram with altered bow pattern. (I like reusing leftover cardboard cutouts — saves money and trees.) Bottom left: cut foam pieces and assembly. Twisted 12 GA wires laminated into 6mm rubber foam. Shown below is the second wire layer before third foam layer is laid over. Each foam 'sandwich' has 3 wires; the structure uses a total of six wires.
Here construction starts. I laminated some hand-twisted 12 GA wires in between 3 layers of stiff 6mm rubber foam slices (cut into corresponding strips following the cross section pattern) with strong graft adhesive. This is a little tricky, especially that the bowstick is thick in the middle but tapers toward the ends, which tend to bend out. The wires also resisted against the foam surface, so I had to literally step (and jump) all over the foam pieces for them to adhere to each other completely. I only did two layers of wire between the rubber foam sheets; this will produce a really solid foam-and-wire laminate that will flex with considerable effort.

The middle of the bowstick requires additional buildup, so in that area the foam layers increase from 3 to 5, with no additional wire required. The foam layers had to be laid in bricked fashion since I used sliced foam and not a full mat. Also, the wires must follow the recurves on either end to support the entire structure, but at the same time should not get in the way of the notch where the bowstring is supposed to sit.


Initial foam block. Note the layer differences at the middle of the bow and towards the ends.
After the layers are done and the adhesive is fully cured, the tedious contouring process begins. I had to switch between sculpting with a craft cutter and manual sanding every now and then, since my rotary tool had low RPM capability and isn't really suited for the job. Despite a couple of scary moments with my craft cutter — a wounded finger, and a close shave right over my wrist (which would explain the protective surgical glove) — manual methods did the job, so it's all good after a week's worth of musclework. ^_^

I have to mention that this is my first time working with a foam prop (minus the stuff on the Lothlorien quiver) so everything is touch-and-go. :p


Manual sculpting and sanding. A sanding disc was handy, especially when going over the belly part.
Once the overall look of the bowstick is achieved, three layers of Modpodge goes over the ends to make sure the surface is prepped for the next step. These need to be reinforced so that the notches won't bend or tear out when the bowstrick is strung, or set on the ground. (But why use a bow like a staff/cane in the first place? @_@ ) Some 2-3 layers of fiberglass is applied to the ends to make them rock-solid. The fiberglass portion is sanded smooth, filled in with resin fillers and then resanded after curing. The ends will be a tad thicker than the original foam base, but considering the pressure it needs to withstand from the bowstring, it's forgivable.


Fiberglassing bow ends and sanding. To protect the notches from potential
tension damage coming from the bowstring, the insides are reinforced as well.
Now that I have the basic bowstick form, I can proceed with the nicest (and most difficult) part — detailing. The Lothlórien bow's vinework decoration is really intricate, but one good thing about its design is that it is basically the same on all sides, with the exception of three front piece details. I only needed to divide the bowstick into quadrants — lengthwise and crosswise — and just figure out the design from any one quadrant. Then it's just a matter of flipping the pattern over and duplicating them, except drawing the design pattern was not very easy on my part. The bowstick is not flat; it's actually rounded, and there are plenty of rising and falling points on the belly. If there's anything I hate at all, it would be drawing on uneven surfaces. Worse, most of the vine detailing wraps around the bowstick. But what really makes it difficult is that everything HAD TO LOOK EXACTLY THE SAME ON ALL SIDES. Any offset on the design application would be really noticable and would look horrid and lopsided — the total opposite of anything Elvish.

(Let me just say here that I am obsessive compulsive. :p)

I resorted to the plastic wrap + masking tape method and drew on the designs as best I could. It wasn't a walk in the park, especially on the belly point where I initially couldn't figure out the detail. Like always, extensive Googling came to my rescue, and ultimately a user from the Sideshow Freaks forum who posted great pics of his/her authentic HCG Lothlórien bow replica. Once I figured the pattern completely, I cut it out, transferred it on some tracing paper and retraced four copies of the pattern on 3mm foam, flipped vertically and horizontally, save the three pieces which will go on the face of the bow. Since the weapon is supposed to be flexible, naturally the designs should be flexible enough to follow its curve as well. Also this way, I would be able to etch in 3D-ish details to make the vinework pop out like woodcarving.

Above: drawing vinework detail and pattern duplication. Below: detail cutouts in foam. Leaf and stem indentations are made on the cut foam using an emptied-out ballpen, sanded and redefined with engraving bits.
Since it would be more difficult to paint the designs once those were adhered to the bow, I decided to do the vinework coloring ahead. (This only applies to the designs apart from the bow ends, since the fiberglassed portion required a coat of plastic primer before any coloring can be applied.)


Vine detail on bow end.
I had pondered on what paint to use for the detailwork; I ended up with my trusty local leather acrylic paints instead of the usual artist-grade acrylic. I like the leather paints better because it went beautifully over the ModPodge finish that I primed the vinework with, and there was very little buildup from the colors too.The paint layer is finished with a dusting of PearlEx Antique Bronze, Sunset Gold and Silver (in that order) which gives a nice metallic sheen without completely covering the acrylic colors.


Above: vine detail coloring.
So now the bowstick is almost done; then follows some Fabric ModPodge to act as a leveller for the remaining surface. I had initially considered PlastiDip, but I heard that it can be peeled off (I'm not 100% sure though, but because I didn't have time for more experiments I didn't want to risk it), so I opted for the former instead. A few layers brushed on with a bit of water eliminated the sanded foam texture. I couldn't get it to a perfect smooth because of time constraints, but it was far better with than without. The ModPodge also eats into the vine design edges for a nice, near-seamless look.

For the final touch of base surface painting I used a combination of Reeves brand and local leather acrylics. To replicate a wooden finish the bowstick is painted with one solid layer of regular sepia acrylic paint, and two rough layers of mixed leather acrylic paint, one a shade lighter than the other. To finish, a protective polyurethane coat is sprayed on the entire bow for scratchproofing.

I made two different types of bowstring according to base material. One is made of 3 lengths of twisted crochet yarn, bathed in a solution of water, brown leather acrylic paint and Fabric ModPodge. The wet string is stretched out to dry. After drying, a piece of imitation gold thread is twisted into it to imitate the Elf-hair as described in the book, and depicted in the actual movie prop. The string is then waxed, before the ends are tied into noose knots to fit the notches on either end of the bowstick. The end result is a very strong and somewhat stiff bowstring; that was what I used on the bow when the costume debuted October of last year (2016).


Painted foam details on bow.



"Wood" painting on bow surface.
What I am showing here, however, is the other type which basically follows the same procedure, but instead of crochet string, it utilizes jute twine. The fiber has a natural light brown color, so the coloring phase is bypassed. However, jute twine as a bowstring snapped twice in my first few trials, so I gave up the idea back then.



Left: comparison between waxed and unwaxed jute twin; right: finished jute twine bowstring with imitation gold thread ‘Elf-hair’.

The idea of waxing the fiber came late — as in a few days ago, when I couldn't find my crochet yarn bowstring for a belated photo session. (I just realized that I didn't have proper photos of my Lothlórien bow prop until I was about to post the writeup the other day. :p ) I only whipped up this jute twine bowstring last night; waxing the material ate up most of my time. It seemed pretty much like the first one, only the fibers sort of unravel despite the waxing. I'm currently remaking the crochet yarn bowstring, since I still couldn't be sure of how strong it will remain after repeated drawing.
The finished Lothlórien Bow







Now that the bow is complete, one question remains: does this thing really work?

If anyone is curious just how far a prop arrow can be launched with this bow, I did a bit of testing. After shooting five prop arrows (the matching arrows for the Lothlórien quiver, all made of wood, fletched and nocked — writeup for that will come later) the farthest flew 40 feet away. Yes, 40 FEET. @____@ My first two experiments using much lighter 18- and 14 gauge wires yielded only 9 to12 feet at best, so it's not too shabby for a working prop. :D I'll try to get outdoors and record a video run of this once time allows.

The draw weight will depend on two things.
1. The thickness of the wire armature used. The general rule here is, the thicker the wire, the heavier the draw weight will be. I used 6 pieces of 12 GA in this project, which is the thickest that I could work with. I actually wanted to use 10 GA, but after checking at the hardware store I found it too hard to handle, let alone cut and twist. But if you can manage to work with those, all the better!

2. The degree of the bow's fixed curvature. Ideally, the bowstick is straight without the bowstring; this ensures the best tension and form when the weapon is strung and drawn. (This is also my preference, though it takes its toll on my arms after a while.) Having a wire armature support allows for the bow's middle to be curved into a fixed draw position. This feature is quite handy if you think that the bow is too unwieldy to draw. Naturally, the greater the fixed curve on the belly, the lesser the draw weight will be, and the easier it will be to draw without too much resistance.​


Just a word of precaution should you want to use this kind of bow build for a photoshoot or a costume event: make sure your grip doesn't slip, else you may end up hurting someone. Even soft-tipped arrows may cause some degree of injury, especially when hit within a short distance of firing — OR misfiring. If you're confident, that's okay; I was able to last some 4 hours in an event repeatedly drawing 1, 2 and 3 arrows all at once without any mishap. But toward the end of the fourth hour my hands and arms were already aching and tired, so I could only manage a double-arrow draw at best. If you have pretty weak musculature like me, it will take some effort to keep drawing steadily (all the more if you get lots of photo requests!)

Comments, suggestions and/or violent reactions welcome :D
 
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Rupert_Angier

Sr Member
Amazing. Simply amazing!

I'm looking forward to seeing more.

Thank you for sharing these images, and your hard work with us.
 
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abn

New Member
Thank you! I still have a ton of stuff to write + pics to edit before I can post follow-ups. :) But I'll keep updating the thread whenever I can. Glad you folks like it!
 
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Invoco

New Member
The detail on these parts is pretty damn amazing - I just took a brief look at your facebook profile and I'm really looking forward to finding out how you created the texture on the knives! Makes the myriad of holes I drilled into the Skyrim Battleaxe look quite pale in comparison :lol
 
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This is an excellent write up, I didn't even know you could make rpf posts look so good XD Your quiver and bow are fantastic, for your first leather project you have set the bar really high.
 
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abn

New Member
The detail on these parts is pretty damn amazing - I just took a brief look at your facebook profile and I'm really looking forward to finding out how you created the texture on the knives! Makes the myriad of holes I drilled into the Skyrim Battleaxe look quite pale in comparison :lol
Thanks! Those knives almost made me cry :lol The write-up for that is in the works, but I may have to delay since I need to repaint the props for better photos. And I may not as well-versed in Skyrim, but your Battle Axe is awesome! (y)thumbsup:thumbsup Makes me want to make an axe for a change!


This is an excellent write up, I didn't even know you could make rpf posts look so good XD Your quiver and bow are fantastic, for your first leather project you have set the bar really high.
Exploiting BBcode for forum posts is a pain in the neck XD Thanks for the appreciation! :) Leather is not a material I know very well, but I did my best.:D
 

Sabs

Active Member
such a shame the pictures don't work on this thread anymore. I was curious to see this project!
 
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