Tl;Dr: I have made a lot of Tf2 cosplay props and we plan on making more!
Greetings! Arkan here. In this post I will summarize the history of our Team Fortress 2 cosplay props throughout the span of early 2016 until now May 2021. I will do my best to give an insight on how I did and what we are still looking for while making our props! I will be focusing on the “iconics” we made but I’ll mention the other I do not hold as special in my heart nonetheless!
A bit of History
So I am a huge TF2 fan. It holds a very dear space in my heart and I still play it casually on a weekly basis. It is only logical that once you get a passion (and hundreds of play time’s hours) you decide to make your own personal collection. I’ve been playing ever since I got a discounted physical of The Orange box. Dropped a few items, learned how to play, dropped unusuals, all the good stuff. I got to play through before it became Free to Play and got through the fantastic updates with my friends and my Big Brother.
As soon as I started cosplaying I wanted to make something for myself. being a Medic Main the Bonesaw came in mind pretty quickly. And that was the beginning of what’s now my job and passion.
This was meant as a training. I was fairly new to the whole cosplay bit and skills so I wanted to give a try to more woodworking with my Trusty-Rest-In-Piece Dremel 3000. I grabbed some 10mm and 3mm MDF sheets of MDF (thank you Dad for the ride back then!) and got ahead with the jigsaw. I traced my blueprint on some paper by hand and got to it. Once it was done I posted the listing on Etsy and what do you know my first customer got interested.
The very first Bonesaw was awful. Bad shapes, missed cuts, badly sanded… So I went ahead for this first order with what I learned from my mistakes and made another one. The very first order was the V2 of this prop and was requested to be Festive. The garland is tricky but we will get to it later on.
What keeps improving throughout the years is the overall shape and finishes. We now have 3d printed parts and plan on making the final decisive version of this prop to remove all the wooden parts and replace them with long lasting materials and easier to work with machines.
The Übersaw was the second TF2 Prop I made in late 2016. All the shapes are a copy of the Bonesaw minus the whole blade and cylinders. Still made of MDF that we seal and paint.
The cylinders are the hardest part to get right. They used to work on cheap 5mm 3v LEDs with low light. That meant there were about 8 stacked inside to get some shine for a short amount of time. Now they are brighter and with better radiance’s angle.
The Clear tube is still the same as the first version and 50ish we sold: can’t change what is perfect. The cylinders were glued 25mm MDF carved with dremel bits. The battery holder used to be on the exterior on the right side slightly dangling. That got replace with 3d printed parts so there is a perfect fit and lock for the clear tube and a space to put the battery holder out of sight.
The electronics still run on a single 3v battery. The space does not allow for 3.7v liitium once YET as I’ll make the final decisive version likt the bonesaw later this year.
Festive variants and customization
Very quickly people asked for more options and I could not be happier: fans asking for their dream prop is a huge motivation that keeps me going. First it was the festive version.
The “Christmas garland” were simple cables locked up inside green thermal sheath and soldered to 5mm 3v LEDs in parallel. They were (and still are) running on a 3v button battery. The shine was great but it got improved. Now each garland has the right In-Game bulb and dark green cables rightly placed. The bulbs are hard to get right as they are difficult to get without buying inflated expensive christmas decorations but after some hunting and shaddy websites you get what you need, eventually.
The Metal version we offer was a request that I fell in love with. Having to make the prop look “real” in its own way is exciting and a challenge. You get to learn where the dirty stuff goes for weathering, how a gun is maintained, where water escapes and grime stays. The Bonesaw was the first one to get requested and shortly after there were questions about all our other props.
The bloodied versions are nice as it looks used in the TF2’s way. Nothing more to add: blood is fun to look at props making wise and to apply as well!
The scattergun was shortly 3d modeled once I got my first 3d Printer. There have been about 4 versions of it and I am working for the “last one’ to have moving parts internally. This was in early 2018 and I made bulks of them once uploaded on Etsy. They are my proudest piece sell-wise and the biggest prop I had taken care of back in that time.
Valve’s artists are fantastic and getting all the reference images, videos and models teaches you a lot, even when you know the basics already (been 3d modeling ever since I was 6 or 8!).
The Scattergun was printed rough and smoothed with car filler. The wood parts were done quickly with pine wood. The trickiest part was alignment as I didn’t make any guide for the V1 for the screws and assembly. Something that is now present on the current ones we are making for faster and cleaner assemblies.
The lever was meant to move and it did. It took some time to work on a V2 but my 3d models got cleaner and cleaner with time and practice. Assembling with superglue is nice and all but we switched with epoxy for a stronger and reliable bond between wood and Plastic. It is worth the price.
Once about 20 were made, either classic and metal style, that an Australium Scattergun was requested. This was a huge challenge. It led to paint testing 5 brands and varnishes all together to find the closest and nicest looking.
Laying chrome paint is hard. Your surface has to be perfect: no dust, no imperfection and good primer coats. The clear coat has to be tested before hands and I learned it the hard way. The clear coat will fail if it is not compatible with the paint underneath. My first attempt was met with chipped and cracked paint that had to be sanded down to the plastic, primed again and painted all the way up to another mix.
In the end it was worth it. Learning paint interaction is crucial and getting Volpin Props book on Painting was a wise decision.
Our Australium Scattergun has new paint and rendering as the old paint job was more prone to damages and scuffs. In the end we like the new paint better and it is safer for the prop so we’ll call that a win.
The Medigun was a dream for a Medic’s main. The 3D Model was made within 2017 and waited until early 2019 to get printed and done. The handle moves and the barrel shines the glow you want.
This was done without much car filler and I broke it by dropping it from my highest shelf when sick so I am kind of bummed about it. It is fixable but I can make it better so it just waits for its rework like some of our prop. If you happen to order one you will get the version I never did for myself.
The LEDs are bright 9v 5mm for car blinks. They are very, VERY bright and the diffusion helps not losing sight on both your eyes. The 9v battery is hidden in the body inside space near the lower switch to trigger the light. Something that is worth saying is that the RED Team gets all the success. Making Blue paint jobs and electronics is rare but nice when ordered from time to time!
What is missing at the moment on this Medigun is the link connecting said Medigun to the Backpack. But that is more of a “will someone order it with or without it” issue than anything else.
The Crusader’s Crossbow was a huge 3d Model, the one that got me the most parts to be printed and assembled actually. The sanding is okay as it has a lot of flat faces but the wooden handle was hard to make. In the way that Covid locked all stores nearby and that I had to go with MDF against my will. Fir Wood is used for the new and better version and that is a personal relief.
Our (read “my”, for now!) 3D Models are high poly and this means the sanding and overall smoothing went without much of an issue. If it had been done 2 or 3 years earlier we would have used so much filler to have it right. Now that we know what we are doing, only patches were required to be fixed. There are several parts that need more infill for support but the Crossbow holds its weight and form.
The arrow or ammo thing in the back can be removed and is held with a single pair of magnets. That way it stays in place but can also be removed without worrying about losing 10% of the prop in your room or in a convention.
Painting on round surfaces is always fun and the cross was fun to add. Each piece was painted first then assembled. The color palette of TF2 is fantastic as it is simple but still holds some distinct color. The combination of 2 grey, 1 red and 1 golden yellow gives it a nice pop.
My biggest ambition for the V3 of this prop is to make it shoot foam darts. But that’s not likely to happen as I have not a lot of space or enough of Kao’s patience to harass her all day with it. Self preservation rules fun, sometimes!
The Medic’s Backpack is the first big prop that I allowed myself out of the big paint job work and let kao’s do her magic.
I 3D Modeled it midway into our first lockdown in 2020 and once we moved in the late 2020 in our current home with Kao’s, I decided that it would be made by the first quarter of 2021. I obliged and printed it.
The Main block was two block of 36 hours of print time each so I woke up around 3am one day, started the print, checked for 7 hours the first layers and went to grab some sleep and let Kao’s check every once in a while, then do my day and monitor it for the night and get to sleep around 7am. Kao’s was there to check up on them and they went fine! All the other parts were smaller print ranging from 20 minutes to 16 hours so they were the usual manageable stress.
The sanding is hard on long flat print as they require all the care in the world to be the smoothest possible. We assembled the 2 blocks with a generous layer of polyester resin and filled every imperfection the best we could before getting to the priming.
The 3d Model was made in such a way that we had the fewest seams possible. Next version will have better strapping pieces as the ones I made were exterior to the model glued on safely with a strong glue. It will be a metal rod stuck inside with extrusion in the back of the backpack for the straps to go through securely.
Kao’s took over for the details and red paint so I will speak only from my perspective. She did an amazing job with only references and not having played the game. She trained on the chipped paint effect and got the cross right on the second try. I painted some gray pieces but she overtook all the fixing and final layers. Once they were all done I clear coated the whole with satin finishes and went ahead with the assembly.
Each part was assembled exactly as in-game given a few millimeters. The top rig was fun to get into position and few glue drops were required. The side box and vent was nice to attach to the whole prop. The bottle is the best part to have fixed to it in my opinion!
The most stressful part is to know if your model will withstand the stress and constrain you put it under. It is fine and holds well on the back. The photoshoot’s night put it to the test and it passed without issues.
I made some other props like the Wanga Prick, the Tribalman’s Shiv, Axtinguisher and Scorch Shot. But these are prop that I made from requests or that I wanted to try and make to learn something new, a challenge or something to keep a momentum. I am happy about them though and am proud to say they were made.
A Spy’s Knife was attempted and almost finished but people can get training butterfly knives for cheaper and better so I gave up on it, though the moving and locking mechanism taught me well.
I plant the props and cosplays I want us to make but we make them now as a team. Kao’s took on Bonesaws, Übersaws, Scatterguns and she is very capable and happy to work on them.
The next big props for this year and 2022 are:
- An almost working Flare Gun for the Pyro. I have the 3D Model done and waiting to be printed right after I’m done writing this post. it will have the moving Trigger and Hammer action like in game as well as collapsible barrel and ammo.
- The Detonator. Because adding a front sight and a fake tape around the barrel from our Flare Gun should not be tricky. Should.
- The Stock Flamethrower. The 3D Model is almost done and I will add a custom made smoke machine and more light than anticipated to make a fire effect. That's the big boi coming for next time.
- The Frontier Justice. And the Stock Shortgun for an Engie pack that I have in mind. But there is enough planned already!
And that is all of our Team Fortress 2 Cosplay Prop for now! Expect some more in the near future when we’re not busy with orders and our Original Cyberpunk Designs! Keep safe and until next time!