As usual, there’s a lot of collaboration between Fé and I when we make costumes. For the elaborately ornamented belt buckle that the Elf wears in Dragon’s Crown, we ended up making the buckle from craft foam and Worbla. Fé drew the belt with simplified designs to scale and painted the finished product while I did the rest. It was a pretty easy technique that required no heavy duty tools and the end result was nice and sturdy!
- Craft foam
- School glue
- Thin cord
- Heat gun
- Contact glue (I recommend E6000)
- Wire hanger
- Wire cutter
- Spackling paste
- Fine grit and medium grit sandpaper
- Wood glue
- Black spray paint
- Silver Leaf Rub N Buff
- Black acrylic paint
- Fine paint brush
Using school glue, glue together several layers of craft foam to achieve the desired thickness of your belt buckle (I used 4 layers). Don’t forget that the Worbla will add some thickness to it in the end. Let dry overnight.
Once dry, trace the outline of your belt buckle design and cut it using scissors or an x-acto blade. You can then use fine grit sand paper to smooth out any irregularities.
Trace your design for the raised details on a sheet of paper. Then, glue cord on the paper over the design you drew. I used E6000 for this (a contact adhesive) but you can use the glue of your choice. I put leftover pieces of craft foam from step 1 under my paper so I could stick sewing pins through the cord to make sure it would stay in place while the glue dries.
Once dry, remove the pins and cut the paper around the cord. I didn’t bother cutting the paper on the inside of my designs since it didn’t really matter.
Glue all the pieces of paper with the cord on your craft foam belt buckle using contact glue. I added cord all around the buckle hole and some half pearls as well.
Worbla will harden the belt buckle, but to make sure the thin bar of the buckle won’t warp while wearing it, we’ll strengthen it some more. Let’s not take any chances since Worbla has been known to soften when the weather is especially hot. Cut a piece of wire hanger and attach it on the reverse side of the buckle with contact glue. Let dry overnight.
Cut 2 pieces of Worbla large enough to cover your belt buckle. I cut mine larger than needed, but make sure you have a bit of extra Worbla around your piece once you’re finished. Using a heat gun, soften the Worbla and push it into the cracks and holes of the designs. An embossing stylus with a round tip works really well for this task.
Trim the excess Worbla around your buckle, but leave a border all around it to create the bevel in the next step.
Use spackling paste to create the beveled edge. You can use a small putty knife to help smooth the surface of the paste. Try not to get paste inside the creases and holes on top of the belt buckle.
Sand smooth once it’s dry. You may have to add another layer of spackling paste to fill some spots. Don’t hesitate to continue adding paste and sanding until you get a nice smooth shape.
Now’s the time to smooth your Worbla. I’m not an expert on the subject so I’m not going to go into much detail, but I used spray gesso and wood glue for this project. Because of all the raised details I had a hard time sanding inside all the little holes but I think wood glue did a decent job at leveling the surface. If you’re not sure how to proceed, there’s a bunch of tutorials online for that. After you’re done smoothing the Worbla, prime and add a layer of black paint.
Painting was a bit of trial and error since at first we wanted to use Rub N Buff. This product is a pigmented wax with metallic powder and pigments and is made to give objects a nice dull metallic luster. The belt buckle seemed like the perfect project to use it for. Since the paint is wax based, it needs to be warmed up and rubbed in for some time before it becomes the right texture (it’s not called Rub N Buff for no reason…) Because of the design of the buckle it was impossible to properly rub the paint in the holes and creases. We loved the finish of the Silver Leaf Rub N Buff since it had a realistic metallic luster, more so than Liquitex silver acrylic. However, the best way to do the shading was with black acrylic. Using a very fine paint brush you can easily work on the shading in all the little creases.
As you may have noticed, doing the raised details on the belt buckle the way showed in this tutorial gave me a bit of trouble when smoothing the Worbla. Rose from Aurum Cosplay recently made a custom belt buckle as well, but she used 3D paint instead for the raised details and the result is lovely! If you decide to go that route, you can skip steps 2, 3 and 4 then create your designs with the 3D paint after you’re done smoothing the Worbla in step 10.