Project Writeup -- Bioshock Pipe Wrench Foam Prop

I binged on Bioshock. I didn't play the first one until the second one was already out, and I loved it so much I just played them both back to back. I put together a splicer costume last year, and when I wore it to Wizard World Portland I knew I was missing something. Yep... A BLUNT WEAPON. The splicers in the game use pipes and wrenches and whatever else they can find in Rapture. I decided the iconic red wrench would make a fun foam prop build.


I found the 3D model of the wrench in the game files on my PC, brought it into Blender, and made a quick and dirty blueprint. The apparent size of the wrench changes depending on whether it's being held by you (the player) or the enemy. I sized it based on how it looks while held in the hands of the player — large enough to cause some serious injury, but not comically large. My blueprint included a "front" view which I would use for cutting patterns and a "top" or edge-long view which I would use for determining how I would stack up layers of foam to get the correct thickness.


I had a few different thicknesses of foam on hand: 2 mm, 3 mm, 6 mm, and 10 mm. The 10 mm stuff was textured floor mat, which I wanted to avoid if possible. I don't have a belt sander, so getting rid of the texture is sort of a pain. I ended up using the 6 mm foam as the core, with two layers of 2 mm foam on each side, like this: 2 mm - 2 mm - 6 mm - 2 mm - 2 mm. I didn't want a floppy wrench, and I didn't know how rigid this foam sandwich would be, so I carved a trench along the 6 mm foam and added a brass rod that would get sandwiched inside.


The head of the wrench (which would be adjustable on a real wrench, although not in this case) is not as thick as the rest of the wrench, so it is only three layers: 2 mm - 6 mm - 2 mm. Here's a shot showing the entire foam sandwich. It's one continuous piece, except for the teeth.


The handle and the head of the wrench have a lip along the edge. I figured the easiest way to get this would be to wrap some foam along the edge of the sandwich. For the handle, I used 6 mm. For the head, I used a sandwich of 2 mm - 6 mm - 2 mm. Towards the head of the wrench there's a knurled adjustment knob and a piece that wraps around the wrench. For the piece that wraps around, I used another layer of 2 mm foam. The teeth were carved by hand from a block of 6 mm foam using my extending blade — not super precise, but definitely good enough for a foam prop.


To make the adjustment knob, I used three layers of 6 mm foam cut into a little cylinder, with a layer of 2 mm wrapped around it. Before gluing the 2 mm foam in place, I used my blade to score some diagonal lines then used my heat gun to open up the lines a bit. This gave it a knurled texture. I didn't want to carve a hole through the wrench to fit the entire knob, so I cut the knob in half, sliced away some of the inside material, and then glued a piece on each side of the wrench.


After adding the last few foam detail bits (some brackets and rivets along the edges), I put some silicone caulking along the inside corners of the lips along the handle and the top of the head. This gives it a bit of a fillet like you would see on a real wrench. After the silicone had dried, I gave the whole thing a coat of Plastidip spray.


After giving the Plastidip a couple days to cure, I coated it with gray primer followed by a base coat of Rust-Oleum textured spray paint. The textured paint gives it the gritty feel of an old, worn-out hand tool just like grandpa used to have hanging in his shop.


To paint the prop, I used a mix of Angelus leather paints and P3 paints from Privateer Press. Both types are acrylic. The Angelus paints are great for foam props because they are very flexible in their cured state. The P3 are not as flexible, but I already had the red colors on hand that I wanted for the handle. To get the dirty, weathered appearance, I blotted on different shades of color using a sponge. I dry-brushed some metallic paint along the edges where I wanted it to look like it was completely worn down to the metal. And, of course, what Bioshock prop would be complete without a little splattered blood? I like to use Tamiya clear red acrylic paint with a little brown mixed in, dabbed on with a toothpick. It has a bit of gloss to it, so it looks like fresh blood.


Add a fake chain tattoo with some eyeliner, and voila!