Saturday, October 15, 2011

DIY Spartan Hoplite Costume: How to Make a Spear (Dory)

 See all the Spartan Hoplite Costume articles here!
One of my favorite parts of the new Hoplite costume is a much improved spear.  Last time I made a spear out of PVC pipe and a poorly crafted wooden point, and the whole thing was painted vaguely bronze-ish.  This time I made a far prettier and sort of accurate looking spear.  The Dory is supposed to be 6-9 feet long, roughly, but it is really a pain to try to walk through doorways with a 9ft spear so I went for the shorter end of things (also Menards' materials were appropriate for a 6ft spear only).  I originally was planning on buying pre-finished hand-rail wood for the spear, but it was much more expensive than a simple wooden dowel and I determined I did not want a 9ft spear.  The dowels are very cheap, the right length for a shorter spear, and it is easy to make them look finished.  A standard Dory has a butt-spike in the back to counter the weight of the spear point, and while I did not wish to have a double bladed spear, I did want some sort of counter-balance for the spear.  I ended up using the pipe fittings because they are heavy but appropriately sized and easy to fit onto the dowel. 

6ft wooden dowel (1 inch diameter) (about $3)
Thick balsa wood (I used some left over scraps)
1inch diameter steel (possibly iron) threaded pipe joiner and 1inch diameter steel pipe cap (about $3 for both)
sand paper, duct tape, painters tape
wood stain
brown and gold spray paint

To start, I carved a piece of balsa wood into a spear point.  I used a leaf shape and made it about 7 inches long (the size of my piece of left-over balsa wood).  I sanded the edges to make it 'sharp' and more importantly to hide the ugly cutting job I did with the Xacto knife. 
I then sawed a knotch two inches into the dowel on one side to make a place to slip the balsa spear tip into (see pictures).  This required sawing into the dowel once, and then making a second cut as close to the first one as possible and removing the excess material in between (the saw blade itself was too thin to fit the balsa wood into a single cut).  I used Goop to secure the spear tip in place, and wrapped duct tape around the base of the spear tip to make a fake hilt.

Now I had to attach the counter-weight at the end of the spear.  The pipe fittings are for a 1inch pipe, which should be perfect for a 1 inch diameter spear, but that does not take into account the thickness of the metal of the pipe, so the fittings are actually just a hair too wide.  To fix this, I put a layer of duct tape around the end of the spear and then slid the fittings over.  I think I ended up with 2 layers of duct tape to make it a really tight fit.  I also used Goop to secure the pipe fittings.  Once the linker pipe fitting was set around the spear end, I threaded the cap fitting onto it to make sure it was all as secure and tight as possible.

Now that the spear tip and butt were finished, I had to paint them.  I followed my paint scheme I had used previously for fake bronze and painted both the front and end of the spear a matte brown and then applied a light coat of gold over the top of that (spray paint).  I used blue painters tape to keep the shaft from getting painted.  Once again I am quite happy with how this effect worked.

Once painted, I had only to finish the shaft of the spear.  For this I sanded the shaft, then applied a layer of wood stain.  I let it dry, sanded the shaft, then added another layer and repeated.  All done!
I'm extremely happy with how the spear turned out.  The balance is about a foot and a half to two feet from the base of the spear, which means when you hold it the spear sticks out farther without straining your arm! The Greeks were some clever folks.
See all the Spartan Hoplite Costume articles here!


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