Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Quick Craft: Upgrade Your Dollar Store Swords With Paint & Metal Tape

Helloooo my lovely fellow procrastinators! You're out there, right? Scrambling to put together last-minute Halloween costumes for yourself and/or your Next Generation?


Assuming your last-minute cosplay needs a sword. 

(If not, grab yourself a string of battery-operated lights, an old rotary phone, and go Joyce Byers that shiz. :D)

I'm also here to help with future cosplays and/or nerdy weapon displays, because this metal tape trick (and the painting, of course) has lots of great uses. And full disclosure: while I've used metal tape on things before, I learned this particular application from the man, the myth, Adam Savage. (You *do* watch all of his One Day Builds, right? It's Maker crack, I'm telling ya.)

First, grab yourself a dollar sword from - you guessed it - the dollar store:

Or splurge and get one of the fancier plastic ones from any costume shop.

I like these Dollar Tree ones because they have some gorgeous detailing on both the hilt and the blade:

In fact, the hilt's paint job isn't bad as-is, but that blade? UG. So plastic. Much bad.

Ah, but watch how easy this is. First unscrew the hilt to get that out of the way:

And save the screws on a piece of sticky-side-up tape on your work surface:
(This little trick has saved me many lost screws over the years.)

Now grab a nice long piece of metal tape:
And carefully smooth it over your plastic blade:
See how I'm peeling the paper away a little at a time?

Once the tape's on, trim off the excess & rub the whole blade down with the back side of a spoon. That adds an extra gleam and some great streaky texture to the metal:

And the best part? The metal tape is so thin and flexible you keep almost all of this great detail:

Plus it's so SHINY. It looks like real metal... because it IS real metal.

Now repeat for the other side.

You could stop there, and already you've upgraded your sword 1000%, going from plastic to a metal blade.

I kept going on mine, though, because I wanted my swords to look old and rusty. That means aging, so you know the drill: brush on a heavy coat of brown & black craft paint, then quickly rub it off again with a paper towel. Rub *very lightly* on the blade, though; this metal tape is so slick you're likely to take ALL the paint off if you're not careful.

Once that's done, use a bright orange paint to dab on some rust spots here and there.

Here's a comparison shot after I finished aging the left hilt:

And now with the blades:

I was wearing a red shirt - can you tell? Ha!

I can't stress enough how much you need some bright orange to make your "rust" pop, btw. Check out this difference here, before I added the rust to the right hilt:

See how the left one has more life and dimension to it? And when I say "bright orange," I'm talking traffic cone; the craft paint is semi-translucent, so it will look much darker when you dab it over the black and brown.

I used my swords as part of a wall display with my skull sconces:

They're so light I was able to tack them up to the wall with removable poster putty. They fell down after a day, though, so for a more permanent hanger glue a hook or some string to the backs.


Every time I age some cheap plastic toy or prop it makes me want to age ALL the things. Seriously, how pretty is that?! I especially like the gleam of the metal tape through all the dirt and rust.

There you have it, hope you found these tips helpful! Oh, and if you missed my skull sconce DIY you can check that out here, or skip over to my Craft Page to see all 150+ of my projects and tutorials in one place.

SO... who's breaking out the paints and metal tape tonight? :D

P.S. The magnet sale is TODAY at 3pm EST, with a second batch going up at 10pm EST. Watch my Etsy shop after those times for the listing!


  1. Swords, huh? Looks like I might be convinced to try a Wonder Woman thing someday now that I can use this tutorial to make whatever plastic thingy I buy much more realistic.

    Pinkie Welborne, 17,

    1. And... yep I forgot to thank you for posting the tutorial. Oopsie.
      Thanks for the tutorial! I love them all! :-D

      Pinkie Welborne, 17

  2. I love the dollar store crafts!

  3. I am a huge fan of aluminium tape. I first discovered it years ago when my brother bought some to seal something. I stole the rest of the roll from him.

    I think I'll hold back some on the orange paint, though. Rust on swords makes me sad.

  4. would aluminum foil and glue work? Just because I really want to try it right now but Im too lazy to leave the house in search of metal tape.

    1. You'd be better off with spray adhesive and foil, since I doubt most white glues would grip either the plastic *or* the tape very well, and something like E-6000 or hot glue has too much body to smooth out enough. I used spray adhesive & foil for my Snitch wings and it worked like a charm though, [ha], so I know that combo works!

  5. This is very cool. When I was more involved in Larps, I used nail polish to add details and improve cheap swords. I think I still have one around somewhere because it turned out pretty good. I think that I had a lovely metallic gold nail polish on a black hilt.

  6. Okay, this is cool. Do you think the tape would work for covering a 3D printed item without showing the layers of the print?

    1. Hmm, good question. It would definitely help, but the tape is so thin it could still show those layers. I say try it! If it looks bad you can always peel it back off again. :)

    2. I've tried that.....and the layers still showed some. But I was running.4 layer height. A lower layer height and some initial light sanding might work.

  7. They look fantastic, as all your crafts do, Jen! I knew there was plumbing metal tape, but I've never seen crafts store metal tape... I'll have to investigate... One question - what did you do at the edges of the sword? Fold the tape to the back? Cut it with a razor blade?

    1. i was also curious about the sides / edge...

    2. A little of both! I folded one side over to cover the edge, and then trimmed the second side with a craft blade.

  8. i want to metal tape and age ALL THE THINGS when you post these tutorials. incredible look.
    i missed out on all the magnets and am kinda totally sad for me, but wildly happy for you.

  9. Extra coolamatious! The whole set-up with the swords and sconces looks so perfectly Halloweentastic!

  10. Thanks for the link to the One Day Builds, hadn't seen them before!

  11. A tip for using sticky tack to hang things - small dots in lots of places helps distribute the effects of gravity so that heavier items have a better chance of staying up.

  12. That looks great - your tutorials are always inspiring.

    I find metal tape intriguing; I've just never known what to do with it.

    Now if only we actually had a dollar store. :p

  13. awesome job, they look very real (so real in fact that looking at that rust on a sword makes me wince :D )

  14. Thank you I shouldn't spend the money on the real swords I want...plus in an office setting something could go wrong with a real large pointy weapon available.

  15. I have had the best time making this wall art!!! turned out so good. thank you for sharing!!


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