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Forging Maelstrom

by Joshua Lormier  |  Jan 22, 2017

Over the past year and half there has been plenty of artistic interpretations of Greaek and his signature weapon. I consider my artistic interpretation more fan art than a canonical piece. That said, I had a ton of fun crafting it and can’t wait to share it with all of you.

Before I get into it, I’d like to make a note on my interpretation of Greaek’s hammer. There are of course some narrative elements to the design, but by no means do I consider this the definitive representation of Maelstrom. Over the past year and half there has been plenty of artistic interpretations of Greaek and his signature weapon. I consider my artistic interpretation more fan art than a canonical piece. That said, I had a ton of fun crafting it and can’t wait to share it with all of you.

Step 1: Original Image / Inspiration

Over four years ago, when Greaek was just a twinkle in my nerdy eye, I found this. I believe it has something to do with Lord of the Rings, but can’t say for certain. I found it searching images on google for a dwarf I was going to play in my first D&D campaign. I felt that this image captured exactly how I felt about dwarves!

  1. Red massive beard.
  2. The most BA hammer!
  3. An expression on that guy’s face that says “I WILL use this thing.”

Fast forward four years and I hear we’re doing this photoshoot for the website, assembling items that represent our characters. The only hitch is, the stuff that most defines Greaek are his beard and his hammer. Since we can’t just have a bunch of red beard hair laying around the photo, I needed to either get or MAKE a hammer. And what better inspiration than the photo that originally inspired Greaek. I know there’s no chance I could replicate it exactly, but I could at least mimic the shape of it.

Step 2: Conceptualize & Research

Next I mocked up what I wanted it to look like. You may notice a symbol in the center of the hammer. That contains a bit of lore that I might touch on further down the process. At this point I had only the faintest idea of how I would pull this off. So I started doing my research. Found an awesome blog www.wmarmory.com by a guy who does a ton of foam fabrication. There’s lots of info there if you want to make armor, but sadly, it didn’t give me much to work on when comes to building a big chunky hammer.

Ultimately, I just decided to make it up as I went. I’m kind of a crafty guy, so I figured I’d build the body of the the Hammer with Foam and use a PVC pipe for the handle.

Step 3: Stencils

The hammer has a pretty straight forward shape. Exactly the same on every side. And in order to make certain the sides were as close in shape/size as possible, I needed a stencil to go off of.

First I made several small paper models of varying depths, specifically for the two ends of the hammer. I designed them in Adobe Illustrator, cut them out, and taped them together. Ultimately I decided to go with number one (far left).

So I blew up the image and printed it out on cardstock, along with the other pieces of the hammer I would need. I used basic foam board you can find at a Lowe’s or Home Depot. I got four squares of it for about $20.

Step 4: Cutting the Foam

To cut the foam I opted for using a hot knife. This particular hot knife is part of a set I got from Hobby Lobby for $30.

Step 5: Adhesing the Pieces

There are lots of expensive and complicated kinds of contact cement out there, but since I don’t plan on actually smashing anything with this particular hammer, I decided to use a good ol’ hot glue gun. Some of the parts need their sides cut at a bit of an angle to help them piece together easier. I just used a simple pair of scissors for that.

Step 6: The Handle

Here’s where I made my first big mistake. I cut a hole on one side, fed my PVC pipe through it until it butted up against the inside of the opposite end. And propped the bottom of the pipe up so it would stay level with the head. WHAT I SHOULD HAVE DONE was punch a hole through the other end and feed it all the way through. If I’d have done that, the handle would have come out much more stable to begin with.

Step 7: Expanding Foam

Now, a hollow hammer would not fly with me. Not to mention it’d be tough to paint if I was worried I’d punch a hole in it, or break off a piece of foam. Super glue is great in a pinch, but gets kinda brittle and can snap off if you’re not careful. On the advice from a friend of mine, I used Expanding Foam. It is both awesome and horrible all at the same time. I just filled it right up from bottom to top.

In retrospect I would have taken this process much slower. I didn’t have what I needed to clean the spout off after one use, so I had to use the entirety of the can in one go. It only took me about one and two thirds of a can to fill the entire hammer. Once it hardened, the PVC held in place like a rock and the overall piece had more heft and solidity to it.

Step 8: The Symbol

With the shape of the hammer pretty well put together, it was time to get some practice at carving the symbol into the foam board. I printed and cut out a couple stencils, then went to work carving with the hot knife.

After two attempts on a spare piece of foam, I felt pretty confident. This is one of those things I feel might have turned out better if I took more time on it, but I’m still happy with the finished product.

So, what does the symbol mean? Well, this is a bit of lore not even Greaek himself knows, but Maelstrom is actually part of a set. There are two sister hammers carved from the same stone: One meant to build, one meant to break, and a third (Maelstrom) made to be the balance of the two. The mark on each side of the hammer symbolizes a single stone (the circle or hexagon) and three hammers carved from it. The image in the center is meant to be three hammers with their handles converging to a point. And that’s your treat for reading this far! Congratulations!

Step 9: Paper Mache

The final foam piece looked alright, but super rough, and there were a ton of imperfections from one piece of foam to another. In order to get a smooth even surface I could paint on, I took a note from fifth grade arts and crafts and decided to paper mache it. All it took was a simple mix of water and flour.

You may also notice that there is a red plastic thing on top of the hammer. Well, I felt that the top of the hammer just seemed way too plain. So I grabbed a lid from an old peanut butter jar and glued it on top. That may have been a bad move, but once it was glued, there was no looking back!

Step 10: Paper Mache Clay

Now it got really messy. I’ve seen prop weapons on Etsy and Youtube that were paper mached and then painted. You can still see the lines of each individual newspaper square. It always looked half done to me. Then I found out about paper mache clay. It’s awesome, and there are a ton of different ways to make it. Some are super complex and expensive, and others are simple and more chunky.

All I did was mix a handful at a time of Pure Paper Pulp (you can find it at Hobby Lobby or any craft store) with enough water to make it squishy, then added a couple globs of white Elmer’s glue and a bit of flour. I mixed it all with my hands and began applying it bit by bit to the hammer. I tried to spread it out thin and even across the entire hammer. After smoothing it with my fingers, I let it dry for about 48 hours. By then, the paper mache clay had stiffened up really hard and the pure paper pulp gave it this rough texture that turned out to really help sell the stone look of the hammer.

NOTE: It was important to me that the hammer was not lying down during this process. That way I could coat each side and let it dry as a whole. In order to do that, I used an old Christmas tree stand and a long thin cardboard box, which turned out to be of great help for the next step.

Step 11: Spraying

First I gave it several coats of Plasti Dip. That seals in the paper and allowed me to paint over it with general ease. You can find Plasti Dip at Wal-Mart or most hardware stores.

Once the Plasti Dip dried, I covered the handle with painter’s tape (which I should have done in the first place) and gave it a couple coats of Krylon’s Stone Texture Spray Paint. This was a simple but awesome add to the look of the hammer. It’s little, but those small bits of texture made it seem so much more authentic to me once I’d finished.

Next I gave the hammer a black matte primer. That gave me a great place to start when painting the final color on.

Lastly, I covered the hammer with plastic bags and spayed the handle with Krylon Hammered Silver Texture.

NOTE: I should also mention that I added a thicker piece of PVC at the end of the handle to give it some shape, then I used a PVC cap to close off the hole at the bottom.

Step 12: Painting the Hammer

First I covered the hammer with a base layer of Acrylic Neutral Gray. I used a wet palette and some Vallejo Thinner to keep the consistency from getting too thick and distorting the details.

Wet Palette: https://youtu.be/96mjmqWTPfM

Once I’d covered it to my satisfaction and the paint dried, I brushed it over with some Army Painter Quick Shade mixed with Citadel Nulin Oil Shade. Ideally I’d suggest using one of the darker Army Painter Quick Shades, but that’s all they had at my hobby store, so I made do. I also made sure to run a paper towel over the top of each area I brushed over to remove some of the Quick Shade from the raised surfaces in the texture.

Lastly, I dry brushed a couple of my gray Citadel paints over the raised areas in the texture to accentuate them. Dry brushing the darker gray over the entire hammer and the lighter gray over all the corners and edges.

And there you have it! That’s how I made a physical version of Greaek’s maul, Maelstrom. All in all it took me a month working on it, with an hour here and an hour there whenever I had the time. While it doesn’t look half as awesome as the hammer in that picture I found, for a first go at making a foam “stone” hammer, I’m pretty happy with it. If you feel inspired to make something from this, please share a picture! I’d love hear about your process. What worked? What didn’t work?

Thanks for reading.

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