Tutorial: Kitana's Fan Blades
For the GAAM VS Show in 2016, I was chosen to be Kitana from Mortal Kombat. While I already had the costume, I decided to make her signature fan blades for the shoot and event. Here is a step-by-step process of how I made them!
Balsa Wood: Lightweight and easy to cut through, yet sturdy enough for a prop
Xacto Knife: To cut the Balsa wood
Contact Paper: For the fans (alternative: wax paper)
E6000 glue: To glue the fans and shoestring to the blades
Shoestring: For the handles (alternative: black paint, yarn string, or ribbon)
Spray Paint: Metallic Blue and Chrome Silver (alternative: hand paint with acrylic--be mindful of the wood. I suggest using a sealant)
Sandpaper (Very Fine Grit: 220): For the Balsa wood
Pen/Pencil: To draw the templates onto the wood and contact paper
Mini Wood Dowels: To connect the blades together and make the fans open up
Drill (Hand or electric): To poke a hole through the blades for the dowel
Small Rivet Nickels: To cap off the dowels on either side once they are in the blades
*Most of these materials can be found at craft stores. I bought several items from Michael's.
Time: The first set I made took rouhgly a week in my free time. The second set went by faster due to my familiarity with the process. It varies based on dry times for paint and glue, but an experienced crafter can get these done in a day or so.
Process: Make sure you wear a mask when spray painting to avoid inhaling toxic fumes and gloves so the paint doesn't get on your hands!
Step #1 - Blade pattern & template
First, I found a template for the blades. I simply searched for the version of Kitana’s fan blades that I wanted and then measured out the size I needed before drawing out the shape onto a piece of paper.
Then, I used the template to trace out the blades onto the Balsa wood to cut them out. I tried to squeeze as many blades onto one piece of wood as possible, so I cut out 5 from one and a half pieces. I cut them out over a cardboard box, and I suggest using a cutting board or something underneath your workstation so you do not cut into your table. Alternative materials: foam.
Step #2 - Sanding
Once the blades were cut out, I sanded them down so the grain would not be as visible once I painted them. I sanded all sides, from the flat sides to the thinner ends for an even, smooth look.
"You wish to die first? So be it." – Kitana, Mortal Kombat X
Step #3 - Drilling
In between sanding and painting the blades, I lined them up so they were stacked on top of each other and then drilled a hole through them for the mini dowel to go through.
Step #4 - Painting the blades
Once the blades were cut out and sanded, I spray painted them. I tested the paint on a small piece of wood to make sure it would look the way I wanted. If you hand paint the blades, test your paint on a small area and wait until it dries to determine if it will work.
Always spray paint outside or in a well-ventilated area, like a screened-in porch or garage. To minimize the mess, I placed the blades into a box or bag to paint, and I was able to paint at least two at a time. To save time, you can paint both the blades and fans on the same day.
Step #5 - Fan template
When the blades were done, I started on the fans (you can start with them if you want). First, I tested out the contact paper by cutting out a basic shape and folding it. I wanted to make sure the folds would last. As with the blades, I created a template (with the help of my friend because I suck at Geometry) by measuring out the distance between two blades (when the fan is open) and cutting a curved shape that was wider at the top and narrower at the bottom. Then I cut out enough fans to fit in between the blades (since there were five blades, I cut out four fans). Alternative materials: fabric.
Step #6 - Painting the Fans
For the first set of fans, I folded them before painting. However, it was difficult to get an even coat when they were already folded, so I painted the second set first and then folded the paper once they were dry (I goofed and didn’t fold them as many times as the first set, so be sure to have your first set on hand to ensure they look the same). Once again, spray paint outside (if you are hand painting, you should be fine inside, but wear a mask!)
Step #7 - Glueing the fans & blades
Once the blades and fans were dry, I began gluing them together. Note that E6000 glue is different from normal glue, as you need to put the glue on both objects and then wait a few minutes to connect them. I didn’t realize this for the first set, and so it looks very messy where I was smushing the fans onto the blades. For the second set, I took my time and waited for the glue to harden a bit before putting the two together. Alternative glues: Locktite.
Step #8 - Attaching the fanblades
After gluing the fans to the blades, I placed a dowel through the blades. I had to cut the dowel shorter so the blades weren’t too loose when they were open, but giving enough room to close them slightly (unfortunately, the blades cannot be completely closed with these materials).
I then wrapped the shoestring around each handle, gluing it in place, to give the effect of a hilt (and also something soft for my hand to hold). Remember to wait a few minutes for the glue to harden a bit before connecting the pieces together!
The Final Results
I finished the first fan blade the night before thee promo photoshoot for the GAAM VS Show, but I gave myself more time before the actual event to make the second set. It was an interesting process and I learned a lot about prop making! I also had a lot of help from generous friends and fellow cosplayers. Crafting is always more fun when there are others around, so I recommend participating in/hosting craft parties with friends.