Updated: Sep 4
In November 2018, I got to take a tour of the Calimacil workshop in Sherbrooke, QC. I failed to take very many photos, but here’s a summary explanation of their manufacturing process. They can pump out a lot of weapons, but everything is still pretty much done by hand by a team of artists, and nothing is automated.
Here’s the story of how a Calimacil weapon is born.
First, they showed us the mold library. Since I don’t speak French I can’t tell you exactly what the molds are made of. To make a mold, an artist makes a sculpture out of clay that is then cast into a mold. They cast a hard plastic resin version that is used to make more molds so they have multiples of the same thing. Some parts are created digitally in CAD software and 3D printed, then an artist has to sand and clean up the 3D print to prepare it for molding.
Another worker coats the mold with a layer of special paint that will later bind to the foam latex. He uses an airbrush to lay in a base coat of silver, gold, and other colours that will be visible on the finished blade. Then the mold is passed to the next station.
The next part is the actual casting of the sword pieces in foam latex. They use a secret formula of foam latex that gets mixed up in a vat. No amount of teasing or begging would get the tour guide to reveal the secret recipe. An expert caster dispenses the mixture from the vat into a plastic cup and puts it in a de-gasser for 20 seconds.
This forces all the air bubbles out of the latex. Then he pours it into the 2 halves of a mold. A PVC core is laid into one half and has a pin through the top that rests in registration grooves in the mold. If you inspect your Calimacil weapon, you’ll see a pair of dimples on the sides near the tip of the blade. The pin is removed from the blade after it’s taken out of the mold, and leaves those dimples behind. The pin prevents the core from sinking at an angle and ending up off center during the curing process. He makes sure the tip of the blade is filled, then puts the 2 halves together in a vice machine which angles it with the hilt down.
The machine will squish the mold together while the foam latex expands and cures. When he takes it out, he does a quality control inspection to make sure there are no flaws. Then the blades are all slotted on a cart to push to another station.
A worker uses an xacto knife to clean up the cast parts, cutting away excess foam from the seams and details. Another artist with an airbrush paints on details. Each artist specializes in one area of the weapon; so one is expert at painting blades, and another is an expert at painting hilts and handles. The parts then get passed to yet another artist who does dry brushing and finishing to give it a beautiful hand painted look.
The last stage is assembly, but unfortunately being Saturday the station was vacant. I tried to understand the guide’s description. They have special glue to put all the parts together and then place them upright on a row of shelves to cure and set. Then it’s all packaged up and put in the warehouse ready to ship.