We've already introduced you to a few cosplayers, this time we're showcasing a slightly different craft: prop making. Meet Martyn of Landstalker Props, who built his own working version of Garrett's main weapon. Martyn's work came to our attention when his bow was part of the winning costume at Eurogamer Expo, and he kindly accepted to give us some insights into his creative process.
Hi Martyn! Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 36 years old and I run Landstalker Props, which I started just over 6 months ago. I live in south west England with my family. I love making things and am an avid gamer. I have made quite a varied selection of props in the last 6 months and I can’t wait to make more. You can find me on Facebook (where you will find all of my photos too), on Twitter and on YouTube.
How did you get into cosplaying/prop making?
I have been making things for as long as I can remember. As a small child, it was Lego, then I moved on to model kits, painting wargaming figures, Ghostbusters proton packs out of cardboard, all sorts. I used to spend several nights a week in the shed with my dad making and fixing things, and I learned most of my basic skills from him. I’ve also been into videogames forever too, so the two have come together to make me what I am today.
What made you decide to tackle Garrett's bow?
A friend asked me to make it for his cosplay and he showed me a video on YouTube of the bow created by Les Forges de Montreal for you guys at Eidos-Montreal. After a little research, I decided that it was a project that I’d love to do. It’s a bow and it extends, so I was sold pretty much straight away.
What kind of planning did you have to do before getting your hands dirty?
This projects starts as most do, LOTS of research. I spent a few nights on the computer taking stills from the video to print out and I used those to draw up some basic blueprints to scale. I knew that a metal bow would be way too heavy and I don’t have access to cutting equipment of that scale so MDF, plastics and some smaller metal parts were the best option.
Walk us through the steps of the fabrication process.
With the plans all ready and lots of ideas in my head I set about cutting out the parts from sheets of MDF.
I also intended the pistons to actually open the bow so I cut these parts from aluminium rods/tubing too. These were spring operated internally but they proved ineffective as there didn’t seem to be enough travel to get them to work properly. So I had to go with plan C. This meant putting springs directly onto the bow limbs and having the pistons for show only - "artistic licence", I think it’s called? With the main parts cut out it was time to make the limbs move. They slide over each other, so I had two big bolts through the riser (the main handle part) and several extra bushings to help guide everything in the right direction.
The copper disc with ‘A’ on it is a 2p coin with resin over the Queen’s face. Sorry, Your Majesty. The smaller aluminium wheel is one of the bushings. With everything sliding correctly, it was time to figure out the release catches and trigger mechanism. The larger limb sections were held shut with a large brass catch, two long brass rods were used to pull them, and I made a rotating plate to operate the whole thing. The square tube piece is what sticks out through the riser and has the trigger attached to it. That was the larger limb sections and release mechanism done. I added the thinner limbs parts to the bow and this is where it all started to actually look like a bow.
This photo shows the rods that hold the thinner limbs to the bow and the springs that operate them. These limb parts are also held by a simple brass hook that gets pushed up to release the limbs as they pass over the riser.
The bow worked and had the basic shape, but it needed the details added. I cut plastic sheet to shape for the sides of the thinner limbs and used thin metal to add details to the larger limbs. These pieces also helped to add strength. The very ends of the limbs which house the pulleys were next. These were cut from 6mm aluminium and roughed up to make them look more handmade. In fact, this was one of the nice things about building the bow. Because Garrett had to make the bow himself it NEEDS to looks a little rough. Sometimes a props needs to be pristine and to look like it has just come out of the factory. There was no need to be so precise and careful here. These sections were then fixed to the limbs. Next, I made four pulleys from plastic sheet/tubing and filler was used to blend the pieces together.
All of the parts were now complete and I set about weathering the whole bow. This used a very technical process which involved throwing them across the patio, hitting them with a chain and attacking them with a file. This was great fun, and after the problems the bow had caused me along the way it was very therapeutic. Time for painting. A primer coat was followed by a base of silver, then I reassembled the bow to check that everything worked.
It didn’t. The thickness of the paint was enough to jam the entire bow, so I had to tweak everything to allow more tolerance. I made the mounting parts for the pulleys from aluminium tube and put the release mechanism back in. This was greased well to avoid any sticking.
I did not document the final stages as it was 2:30am and only a few hours before I had to be up and taking the bow to the Eurogamer Expo. I cut some leather to go around the handle, made the mushroom shaped parts for the back of the riser and attached the string. The trigger, which can be seen in the final photos, was cut from a sheet of brass, heated and bent and fitted over that square bar that pokes through the riser.
What was the most frustrating part of the build?
The hardest part was working with no actual plans and not many screenshots showing the bow close up. Also, game designers don’t have to worry about how materials would join in the real world, they can imagine all sorts of fantastical weapons and armour with no regard for them existing outside of the game. Many parts, if made to the correct scale, would have no structural integrity at all, so a lot of guess work was needed. Having said that, every prop throws up challenges, but it’s overcoming these that is the rewarding part. I’m always learning something new, each day, from every project.
What was the most fun aspect of the project?
Getting the thing to work! A lot of prop makers steer clear of moving parts, and I can see why ha ha. Getting the bow to look right and to actually extend was a great feeling.
Do you have any pro tips for people who want to try making props?
Work out how much time you think you’ll need and double it! You will never plan enough time!
Apart from that, just get stuck in and have a go. People come to me wanting little bits and pieces built that they really could attempt on their own, and I always encourage them to do so. I am always offering my advice to people to and my inbox is always open. One thing I have found since starting this is that the prop making community is VERY helpful. I’ve encountered no resistance to questions about techniques and advice, and other prop makers are always willing to share new ideas and help each other out. It’s a nice community to be part of. So if you are planning on making your own prop, then don’t be afraid to ask me or any other maker for help.
Where have you shown off the bow, and what reactions did you get from fans?
It was used by my friend for his Garrett cosplay at the Eurogamer Expo in London and he won 1st place in the cosplay competition. Everyone that saw it that day was amazed and wanted to pose with it. The reaction was very positive.
What's your next prop making project?
I’ve been commissioned by Ubisoft to make an Assassin’s Creed IV flintlock pistol for their official launch night, so that is being finished in the next few days. I’m also just finishing off a shoulder mounted turret and wrench from Team Fortress 2. I have a couple of Judge Dredd badges to make, some WW2 bombs and a large sniper rifle from Halo. Just a few things on the go!
That was awesome, thanks Martyn! Sweetly, he wanted to thank his wife "for putting up with me being in the workshop all night and then crawling into bed, freezing cold, at gone 2am." So thank you also, Martyn's wife!