The where what and how of cosplay – Part 3: Tools

Wow, how is it February already? I mean, don’t get me wrong I’m eternally grateful for that Janu-worry paycheck, but we only just started 2020! That said, if one of your new year’s resolutions is to finally start cosplaying like you always say you would, then you’ve come to the right place. Although this is the final part of this series, with each one in hand I’m certain that you’ll be able to pull off those cosplays you’ve been dreaming about for years.

These tools tend to all be relatively easy to find, not too expensive and will stay with you for many projects to come. Unless you’re someone that misplaces things very easily.

Note: Unlike the previous two posts, this is just a list of tools that you will most likely need at some point in your cosplay journey. Most can be sourced from any hardware/online store. I will only be providing item names, not the cost of them. I am not PriceCheck.

Sanders

No, not this one.

Unless you’re a surgeon with impeccable fine motor skills, everything you cut while making a cosplay will have rough edges. Either two parts of the same prop just don’t line up right, or maybe your straight line came out more like a trigonometric function. Luckily there are multiple tools available to solve this issue!

Handheld sanders: Rotary Tools, Orbital Sanders, Sanding Blocks, Detail sanders.
Stationary Sanders: Belt Sanders, Disc Sanders.

The benefit of using a smaller device like a rotary tool commonly referred to as a Dremel (which is a popular brand), is that there are a large number of attachments that can be used with it. So instead of just a sander, it can cut details, smooth and buff surfaces, and even drill holes. So you get more bang for your buck!

Heat guns

Probably not this one either.

You’ve obviously heard of freeze rays, and now there are heat guns. They are extremely useful in the world of cosplay, and equally dangerous. Ask any person in the community how many times they not only burnt themselves to blisters, or destroyed their paintwork by heating it up a bit too much. You’ll be regaled with many a sad and painful-sounding tale.

The most common heat gun you’ll encounter in your local hardware store would be the one with only two settings; hot summer’s day in Dubai, and the surface of Satan’s butt. These two will get you where you need to go if your destination is melting thermoplastic and sealing foam until all the bubbles collapse in on themselves. For any other uses, like drying paint, I suggest using a hair-dryer. Using a heat gun for this is how you ruin a paint job!

Knives

I’m not talking about your favourite butcher’s cleaver here, so please put the kitchen knives away. The knives I’m talking about is more commonly known as craft knives or box cutters. They come with replaceable blades and can be found in any hardware or craft store like Builder’s Warehouse or CNA.

While both of them do practically the same thing, they very much differ in execution and comfort when it comes to certain tasks. Craft knives are more for your precision cutting, and smaller details, while box cutters/utility knives are more for your heavy-duty, broad-stroke type of cutting needs. While you can interchange them, I don’t recommend trying to cut through 1 cm thick foam with a tiny scalpel. I mean, it’s doable, your hand is just going to hate you for it.

I also suggest grabbing yourself a self-healing cutting mat to use. Don’t go messing up your mom’s nice dining room table!

Hot glue guns

You know how duct tape is used to hold everything together in DIY home improvement projects? Hot glue is the same for the cosplay world. You will hear quite a few cosplayers shamefully boasting that a large portion of their outfits is being held together with hot glue, including the parts that look sewn. They have innumerable uses, so every craft room should have at least one and a million glue sticks all hidden in obscure nooks and crannies.

Hairstyling equipment

While I know some of the boys will scroll past this one, it’s a rather important category so pay attention. In cosplay we use these things called wigs. Yes, that’s right, we cosplayers don’t posses the super-human ability to change our hair to different lengths and colours at will. We use synthetic fibre wigs for that, and to get them looking character-accurate you need to style them.

This means owning either a straightener, a blow-dryer, a curling wand, or all of the above. I’ve actually seen some wig makers use handheld steamers on their wigs, then letting them dry upside-down to give the wig natural volume. Another, less moist, way of adding volume is by teasing so be sure to grab a thin-toothed comb, and a wig head to style it all on.

Soldering iron

Smouldering iron? Too much of a stretch?

A somewhat less common piece of equipment, but yet another one that is surprisingly dangerous. A soldering iron, or wood-burning tool, can be used to add some amazing and unique textures to any cosplay.

Just like with heat guns, you basically get two types of soldering/burning irons; one that just heats up and goes, the other that has a temperature control mechanism. The latter will obviously set you back a few pennies more, but the choice is entirely yours.

Airbrush

What, no picture of a hairbrush here?

It’s fancy, it makes weird noises when you use it, and it lets out gusts of pressurised air on command. It’s an art student? No, it’s an airbrush! Luckily, these handy pieces of equipment have become so commercialised that they now fall into the “affordable” range. Buying one will last you for years to come, and save you a lot of time and effort.

Just make sure you read up on what kind of airbrush you want. There are different ways they feed paint to the nozzle, and it’s important to know what you’ll be using for which purposes!

Sewing machines and overlockers

While some of us use alternative methods like using hot glue to keep our garments together, most of us bite the bobbin and use a sewing machine. They tend to look more a lot more intimidating than what they actually are, except the idea of working on an overlocker scares the lint out of me. The only real thing I find challenging is everything leading up to the actual sewing. Patterns can be a real test of intelligence, and patience, sometimes.

Overlockers are mostly used for hems, seams and edging since the machine cuts off excess fabric as it sews, and they create strong and durable stitches.
Sewing machines are more versatile since they can do what overlockers do but offer the option to add decorative bits to your garments. They also allow you to sew with a zigzag stitch, which helps for stretchy material!

Both types of machine come in a variety of sizes, and experience levels but they all do basically the same thing. If you’re wary of spending a lot of money on one of these, you can always ask a friend to go sew at their house or maybe visit a charity store for someone’s second-hand machine.

Also I’d like to point out that I could have made an Afrikaans joke at any time for this heading, but I didn’t because I’m obviously a professional. 

Left to Right: Polar Eskimo, Kinpatsu, and Foam Fox Cosplay.

There you have it! That’s most of the items we cosplayers have haphazardly floating around our controlled-chaos hoarder’s nests we call our homes. There are some that would like to add to this list, and if that’s you please feel free to add in the comment section!

If you have any questions, or if you need some advice, ask away here or find me on social media and I’ll be happy to help. That’s what I’m here for. Happy crafting, everyone!

I obviously don't know anything about games. I'm just here for the free food, and to push my feminist agenda.

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