Monday, February 22, 2010

How to Build Codex's Staff Pt. 2

Thanks for coming back! It’s definitely worth seeing Felicia wrestle with that Dremel! Part 2 goes through a great deal of the steps, bringing the Codex staff close to completion. As you will see, Felicia and I were still having a fun time, even though we had been working for about 6 hours at that point.

I hope you are enjoying the videos. Speaking of videos, have you gotten your copy of The Guild Season 3 yet? It has the full season, plus lots of amazing special features, including “Making Vork’s Sword”. You are only a few videos away from having your own Guild arsenal!

The Codex Staff part 2 involves the construction of a few key elements, such as the rings, the base, and the Orb. Building the “Orb” is probably the most complicated part of the staff.

Here are a few pointers I couldn’t fit into the video blog without it becoming a made for television mini series event!

*Make sure the two hemispheres that make up the inner orb (as seen in part 1) are thoroughly glued together. Any spaces or pinholes in the seam will allow the clear resin to seep into it, which will defeat the purpose of having it there in the first place. Plus, it will cause you to use a lot more resin, which is expensive!

*Don’t cheat and paint the outside of the inner orb. Remember when Felicia sprayed the lower half and painted her face green? Yeah, well, don’t do that either! But the reason we painted the inside of each hemisphere, then glued the halves together, is because the polyester resin that gets poured into the outer orb will eat through the paint if it contacts it. If you paint the outside surface of the inner orb, the resin will lift, streak, or dissolve the color away completely, and your finished orb will look hollow.

*We didn’t need this for the Avatar music video, but it might be fun to wire a light inside the inner orb with a switch on the winged ring. Just sayin’!

*Keep the pour hole that you notch out of the side of the outer hemisphere as small as possible. You will need about a ¼ inch to get the resin in and still allow air out as u pour, but any larger and you will see it in the final staff.

*Don’t over catalyze the resin! It will shrink and crack, which sometimes will yield cool effects (like in the case of the original prop for the Avatar video) but often will just look messy. It’s always good to do a few tests with new materials to understand how they work before applying them to a project you have already invested a lot of work into.

*Make sure that the outer orb is securely fastened to the staff before you pour the resin. If it breaks loose mid-process, it could end up getting really messy!

*Don’t spin the resin filled orb too much, or the light and dark resin will over blend, and you will lose any cool swirling effect that might happen. Make sure you re-fasten the staff to a sturdy object, like a chair or stool, so it won’t fall over and leak while the resin is curing, which could take hours!

*Oh, and after you spin it and secure it back down, remove the clay from the pour hole and fill the air bubble up with more resin! You may need to do this a few times as its curing, since air will find its way out and drop the level of resin away from the hole.

*The tape trick is usually pretty reliable when it comes to cutting tubes. Of course, you need to make sure the end you are starting with is already square! Try to always start with a factory edge. I had a few questions about why I do all my work with hand tools, and honestly, I cut the original prop’s PVC with a chop saw to make it fast and perfect. But I thought it would be good to show techniques that utilize more accessible tools so people just starting out can jump right in. But if you have a garage full of hardware, by all means use the best tool for the job! The easier it is to get through the steps, the more time you can spend finessing the final product!

*Also with the tape technique, don’t try to cut through the pipe straight through from one side. Take a few strokes, rotate the pipe, line your saw along the tape, and repeat until you wrap around to your original cut. This will prevent the blade from straying at an angle, and the shallow groove you cut will actually act as a guide for the blade as it cuts deeper into the pipe.

*I.D. vs. O.D.: I’ve called out the diameter of the many various tubes we used to make the different staff parts, but just know that I am usually referring to the I.D., or inner diameter dimension. When you buy a piece of PVC pipe, the size printed on the side refers to the diameter of the INSIDE of the pipe! So in truth, the actual width of a 2” pipe will be around 2-3/8”. Different states and counties have different building codes, too, so some areas may have thinner or thicker walled PVC. You can also get stock acrylic or styrene tubes from hobby or sign shops, so just keep all that in mind when you are plotting out your materials for this segment.

*Putting the Magic Sculpt in the oven is one of the best tricks ever! It really does make it cure solid in 10 minutes or less! But don’t over heat the oven, or the epoxy will bubble and burn. And, I know the dogs already mentioned this, but DO NOT leave the parts in too long, or the plastic will warp and melt.

*Lastly, for the most fun you can possible have building props, invite Felicia Day over to use power tools! It seriously never gets old!

Okay, so in addition to all the pieces you built last week, here are the materials you will need to do the steps in this installment:

Magic Sculpt Epoxy Putty

Clear casting resin

Resin catalyst

Polyester resin dyes (green and red)

Paper cups

Stir sticks

Two 1-1/2” clear plastic hemispheres

2” PVC pipe

1-1/2” PVC pipe

Cyanoacrylate glue and kicker

Sand paper grits 80, 100, 120, 320, 400

8”x8” piece of 1/8” Sintra plastic

1-1/8” inner diameter plastic tube

Hot glue

Modeling clay

Paper tape, 1”, 1-1/2”, and 2”.

Evergreen styrene stock, various sizes

Primer spray paint

And these are the tools required:

Dremel (Don’t panic, Felicia!)

Dremel bits, preferably sanding drums

Hot glue gun

Fine tooth hobby saw

Xacto with #11 blades

Circle template

Band saw

Rough files (flat and half-round)


Small right angle ruler

Sharpie marker

Okay, so I think that covers everything. I really appreciate all the comments, and I look forward to reading more! I’m excited that so many of you have started or are planning on starting your own Codex staff! Send me pictures at when you are done, and I will post them on this blog. Oh, and I did get a few mentions that the video wasn’t working. We’ve investigated this several times, and can’t seem to find anything wrong. I would just recommend refreshing the browser a few times. But let me know if it keeps happening!

Special thanks again to Felicia, who makes this video worth watching! And to the crew, editor Brad Allen Wilde, cameramen Pax S. Franchot, Brad Allen Wilde, Mike Houghton, Seamus Donahoe, art department Bryan Fulk, Brock Potter, and still photographer Marissa Cuevas.

Some great music in this segment!

The score is excerpts from my movie LABOU, composed by Nathan Wang.

“So Much to Gain” by Guy Harrington, from the LABOU soundtrack.

“Take me Under” by Fallbrooke. You may recall that video…

And of course, “Do You Want to Date My Avatar?” by Felicia Day and Jed Whedon.

Thanks for coming back, and make sure you check out the final installment next week. We will also post the info on how you can have the chance to own Codex’s staff made by Felicia Day herself!


  1. Felicia's 'D-Face' is a damn sight more normal than mine.... :( I tend to 'gurn' a LOT, and seriously look like Zed from the Police Academy movies (complete with the sounds)....

  2. Is there going to be a part 3? feels like the end got cut off there. Felicias such a funny girl and so cheery every time i see here in something, its great.

  3. oh felicia, even when you have no clue what you're doing, you're f'cking adorable.

  4. Haha dont hate me for my not very relevant to your blog comment. But you are really hot! (Greg!) And you do amazing work :p And Felecia you rock!

  5. So entertaining, you guys kick it! Looking forward to the third, and final *sob* installment. Thanks!

  6. I'm disappointed that the Christmas commercials aren't on the dvd of the Guild Season 3. It is your mastery of the subliminal message that compelled me to buy Seasons 1&2. After that, I absolutely needed to buy Season 3. ....Okay, okay, perhaps master of the subliminal message is a bit of hyperbole. (But only a bit) The commercials are clutch and after watching them several times, I bought all three Seasons of The Guild.

  7. OMG, this is SO funny!
    All the "how to make The Guild weapons" guide are awesome, Greg! Thanks for posting! (not that I think I have the tiniest chance of making one myself, haha)

  8. Fire breathing dragons, no proablem. Blood thirsty orcs, no proablem.
    goblins, minataurs, demons, and warewolves, no proablem.
    a 110 volt Dremel tool? Forget it! lol.
    But it sure makes for good entertainment!
    Loved this video, Thank you for this and thanks to Felicia for
    being willing to try something new, no matter how far out of your normal line of work it might be. I'm looking forward to the next clip.

  9. Hehehe.
    I love the d face ;p

  10. Hurrah - something else to use my Dremel on! Of course, since I am entirely lacking in resin, PVC, and epoxy putty of any sort, I'd have to shell out a bit to make a staff but I have variants perking in my brain and with a Tap less than two miles away, I may not be able to resist. I think I'll go with silver or coppery spheres instead of green, though, since I DO have spray paint in those colors from other projects.

    Small inclusions, like mica flakes, shouldn't interfere with drying resin, right? Larger things would sink or could cause cracking but small amounts of fine particles seem like they'd be okay.

  11. Hey, Ariel,

    The beauty of Tap's casting resin is that it is designed for putting foreign particles in it. You can use the mica flakes, glitter, dry sand, pennies, what ever you want to mix into the clear resin. Just make sure there is no moisture, like damp wood or wet clay. That will interfere with the curing. And yes, larger objects will sink, but if you pour the resin in layers, setting objects on top of curing layers as you pour the next, the large objects will appear to "float" in the body of resin when you are done.

    Sounds like you have your Codex Staff variation all planned out. I can't wait to see it!

  12. That's what I recalled about casting from the Time Life crafting series but at 11, I was too impatient to do a layered casting :D

    And butterflies float to the top...

    I think my folks still have that thing somewhere.

  13. That was Great you're very talented and what an imagination!

  14. Nice vids, i was always wondering how all those items were created in the Avatar music vid. Never realized that it took so much time and effort to make 1 staff really. Keep up the good work!

  15. I haven't been able to find 1 1/8" ID PVC or plastic tubes anywhere I go. Apparently that's not a standard size. Is there an alternate way to make the rings?

  16. Hey, Natalie! Plastructs makes 1 1/8 ID styrene tube. You can order it from Or, you can wrap a strip of .060 sheet styrene around your dowel and glue it over itself to make a tube. All it really needs to do is give you a base for the magic sculpt that fits tightly to the dowel.

  17. The parts for the base, any lengths on those? The 2" and the 1 1/2" that fit into each other...

    1. Hey, Darryl,

      I made mine 1 3/4 inches deep. Just remember to make the 1 1/2" dia. pipe shorter, so you can create the bevel! I recommend at least a 1/4" on each side, so your 1 1/2" inner pipe would be cut to around 1 1/4" in length.

    2. Thanks Greg! I'm about to make the base so I can epoxy putty everything at once. Kinda wish I had some silicon though, I'd prefer to make 1 ring and cast it. Some of the parts are hard to get a hold of here in Australia so I plan to make a video showing mine off once I finish and explain how I did certain bits. Your videos have been an incredible resource and I'd like to thank you for the effort you put into them.

    3. Also, did you use the same green dye just less of it for the 'lighter green' in the main ball?