Building Cosplay from Wood: Material Guide

Every material has its place in cosplay. Some raw materials like EVA and thermoplastics tend to be the shining stars of many cosplays and props, others serve a more niche or supporting role. While your go-to materials will always depend on your skills and preferences, some cosplayers rarely find a use for wood in their builds. What you might not know is that wood can make a great base material thanks to its rigid strength, and it’s not quite as advanced to work with as you might think.

Whether you’ve used woodworking elements in your cosplay before or you’re totally new to building with it, wood can add a lot to your projects if you use it the right way. In this post, we’ll give you an introduction to building cosplay from wood as well as discuss the pros and cons of working in the medium.

When to Use Wood for Cosplay



Wood is almost always used in cosplay to make weapons and props. Because of its rigidity, wood makes a strong base for large or small weapons that hold their shape and don’t flop over. Wood can be a great choice for both metal weapons like swords and even guns or weapons that are traditionally made of wood anyway, like bows or martial arts training weapons.  Most of the time, wood is too brittle and restrictive to actually wear on the body, but those same features make it great for building solid props that look realistic and hold up against both wear and gravity.

Woods like plywood and balsa can be cut down to the shape of any weapon or prop you want to make. Even if your character carries a sword that’s longer than their own body, it’s possible to join multiple planks together to create oversized props. It takes a good bit of careful design to get it right, but with reference and exact measurements, you can certainly make it work with wood.

At the same time, wood also makes a great base to build on top of using a different material. With wood at the core, a prop covered with foam or thermoplastic, for example, will be reinforced by the wood but take on the look of the secondary elements you add over the top. With a base made of wood, you can add on details like sword hilts, handles, vines, or other decorative details. If you choose, you can also completely cover the wood with something like thermoplastic.

Wooden dowels also make great starting points when you need a thin handle for your weapon. If you’re making a staff or axe, for example, you can build your larger elements on top of a dowel rod instead of trying to build everything all in one piece.

The Benefits of Building with Wood

Wood makes a great base for your cosplay props and weapons thanks to a few of its physical properties. Here are a few of the advantages of working with wood as a cosplayer.

  • Wood is a rigid material that gives the core of your prop or weapon a strong base that holds its shape.
  • When covered, painted, or finished, wood will give your prop an extremely realistic look.
  • Building with wood can give your prop a decent weight without being too heavy in most circumstances. This weight can make your prop seem higher in quality and can help make your prop more durable against wear and tear.
  • Wood can be relatively inexpensive if you stick to lighter craft woods like balsa or plywood.
  • It’s possible to stack wood planks in layers to make thicker weapons.
  • You can carve wood in a few different ways, depending on your experience level and the tools you have available to you. While some cosplayers stick to sawing and sanding, others can carve with heat or a lathe.


Wood Cosplay Challenges

Working with wood, just like every other cosplay material, can also come with its own set of unique challenges. Here are a few of the challenges you might encounter when cosplaying with wood.

  • Wood is generally considered a more advanced cosplay material because it requires some techniques that are unique to the medium and require a certain level of craftsmanship that comes with repeated practice.
  • Working with wood can also require a more advanced and wide ranging set of tools, depending on what you’re trying to build and how. If you normally craft from foam or thermoplastic, for example, you might not own a bandsaw, circular saw, or even a belt sander. These tools can be expensive to invest in if you don’t have access to someone else’s, especially if you don’t plan to use them on a regular basis.
  • Working with wood is messy and requires more safety equipment and precautions than many other materials do.
  • Woodworking also requires a high level of precision, from drawing and designing the prop to carving and shaping the wood.
  • Finally, using wood for cosplay can result in a longer, slower building process because of intermittent sanding, carving, and shaping.

Woodworking and Cosplay

Archer cosplay posing in the woods with a wooden bow and arrowIn the cosplay community, there are two major camps when it comes to using wood: there are cosplayers who put their woodworking skills to use as often as they can, while many others would avoid building with wood as much as they can. While there is certainly overlap, wood is somewhat of an underdog compared to the popularity of materials like foam and thermoplastics. However, while woodworking is a more advanced material to work with, it’s not out of your reach if you just get started. Check out tutorials and practice your skills, and you might be surprised how woodworking can enhance your future builds, perhaps even more than you’d expect.