Build of Kurama’s Rose Whip. (For Yoko Kurama cosplay, in my case, but equally applicable to the tame version.)
(photos by OtakuCop)
I have a Yoko Kurama costume, 85% made by my wife and sister-in-law, with a bit of sewing help from me. It’s been popular, so after Fanime 2011, decided to update it, including building a rose whip.
It turned out difficult to plan. I wanted the whip to feel ‘live’ like a vine, not limp like a rope. I also needed thorns that wouldn’t be forbiddingly onerous to make, but completely harmless (for cons). Target length was 15′, 1/3″ – 3/4″ thick. Ideally, I also wanted something I wouldn’t have to paint, since painting a constantly-flexing item is tough.
- Rope, whip, plastic-coated cable: Too limp. A whip is authentic in theory, but the rose whip just doesn’t behave like one. (Irksome.) The cable was something I got at Home Depot once, and it looks cool, but it’s way too thin.
- Wire: Would’ve been possible to get very thick wire, wrap it in something, and pose it. I wanted something I could pose with naturally, though, and wire wouldn’t look right unless I spent an eternity setting up every pose to make it curve right.
- Gymnast ribbon: My wife’s idea. Gymnast ribbon flows beautifully. But it doesn’t look enough like a whip, and I couldn’t figure out a way to make it look like a vine with thorns without making it too heavy to flow.
- Utility hose: At Home Depot, I found utility hose that was thinner-walled than garden hoses. This had the right look to it – correct width and length and even color. However, even though it had more liveness than rope, it was still too limp, and tended to fold at the first bend. It’s also pretty heavy.
- Flexible metal conduit: This stuff is pretty interesting. It bends, but not too much, especially when stuffed with wire. I felt I could use this if I wrapped it correctly.
I decided to take the utility hose, put flexible electrical conduit inside, and then put metal rods of decreasing lengths inside that. All Home Depot materials, and I think it would’ve worked. Too thick, and would’ve weighted a ton, but decent.
Fish tape. It’s a thin, flat piece of metal that comes on a roll. It’s used by electricians to pull wire through finished walls. It’s springy, but flexible, like the dipstick in a car. However, it’s comparatively flimsy — you can’t put much weight on it. Stronger when doubled up, but still flimsy. I considered this a fallback if the first method didn’t work, but it’s cheap ($10 for a 25′ roll), so I grabbed one for experimentation while I worked on the first approach.
I liked how it moved, a lot. But I needed something light to wrap it. On a whim, I tried ‘flexible tubing’ on Amazon. Apparently, Amazon is quite the distributor of industrial materials. I got two 25′ chunks of green flexible tubing: .25″ diameter and .375″ diameter. (One was ~$10, one was ~$2. Prices seem to change randomly from one week to the next.)
When these arrived, I dropped the work on the first approach — this was clearly going to be way better.
The thinner tube fit two thicknesses of the fish tape, the thicker fit three, and a fourth could be jammed in for the first few feet of the whip.
The thinner tubing was lighter, but because it could fit less fish tape, it ended up being less lively when moved. It was also so thin I was worried it wouldn’t show up on camera (a concern with the thicker one, too, but less so). The thicker one had printing (which I could sand off), and was a bit stiffer, but not so much as to be impossible to pose with, so I went with that.
The above planning and experimentation took 2-3 months. Compared to that, the build was ridiculously quick.
I cut the fish tape into pieces of about 15′, 6′, 2.5′, 1.5′, and attached them together with small pieces of electrical tape, alternating the curvatures that come from it living on a roll. Since the metal gets thicker toward the handle, the whip is most rigid there, and looser toward the end. It’s pretty tough to get the pieces to stay together for the taping, but clamping helps:
Shoving the pig through the python:
Getting the last bit was the hardest part. It helps a lot to straighten out the vinyl tubing (I trapped one end under the wheel of my car and pulled it more or less taut). Even then, the last foot was a struggle, and I basically just muscled it in. I tried WD-40 but it just made a mess (your mileage may vary). On the bright side, I don’t think it needs any help staying in there. I left 1/2″ of the metal protruding and wrapped it in a bit of green duct tape I had lying around.
Here’s a clip of how it moves (this is my sister-in law):
I needed soft, easily-made, easily-attachable thorns in large quantities (about 80, for a 15′ length). I also badly wanted them to be green, having dodged the painting bullet once with the nylon tubing. Foamie comes in green, but it’s too flat to look good. I searched Amazon for ‘foam’ hoping for inspiration, and…
At that point, I realized I had some lying around the house, and quickly experimented with some leftover tubing. As I had hoped, they were green all the way through, easy to snip into a ‘thorn’, totally harmless, and attached fairly well with superglue. Awesome.
A week later, I was the proud owner of 320 ear plugs. (Two boxes of 80 pairs each). The 50/50 orange/green packs were the best deal I could find, so if someone wants some orange earplugs, stop by – I have an excess. One box would probably have been enough, but I wanted to be safe (that turned out to be wise, as they sometimes get scraped off / lost). The rest is just menial labor:
Bowl of earplugs with notches cut at the anchor point, and then with thorn shapes cut out, and then with all the remnant pieces sieved out. (Two snips for the first, 3-4 for the second.) I deliberately did not try to make the thorns look alike.
After this, it was just a matter of attaching, which took about an hour. The clamp is holding the ‘vine’ from going all over the place. I used superglue. (Yes, I know superglue is terrible for all sorts of reasons. It’s wonderful for one reason: it’s easy. Ease beats quality, especially when attaching 80 individual items.)
It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damn cool. It definitely has a life of its own (I’ll try to post some clips later). The thorns can get ripped off, but I have plenty of extra. It’s a bit too thin in photos, but not intolerably so. Overall, I’m quite happy with it. The only thing I may change is to double the number of thorns.
Wall-clock time: 2 months.
Planning time (shopping, research, experimentation): ~10 hours
Build-time: ~5 hours.
Beers consumed: ~3.
About two hours to make the body of the whip, two hours to cut out the thorns, an hour to glue them on. $10 for fish tape, $10 for tubing, $20 for earplugs, $10 for misc supplies (glue, tape). Beers consumed during planning and thorn cutting.