Things used in this project
Our family recently watched the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy (directors cut of course). It made quite an impression on all the kids and my 10-year old son decided he wanted to be an Uruk Hai warrior for Halloween. This is the build story of a full set of armor, sword, and under-suit. BTW, the background in cover image is from an excellent Marko Manev poster.
Besides the list of things you are going to need in the parts/components list this project will also require general craft supplies, paint, metal ruler, cutting mat, needle and thread, and a number of odds and ends that I'll call out in the build itself. Also, while a couple of patterns were used as a guide for the armor, since it was built for a child, expect the fitting process to be ad hoc with lots of testing and adjustments.
Let's start at the top:
Glue roll call
Every adhesive has a job and this is the lineup that I use, starting from left to right:
Apoxie Sculpt: Not a glue but it was on the bench when I took the picture so it might as well be covered. It is great for sculpting and darn near bombproof once cured. It can be drilled, filed, painted, and left outside, really tough stuff. I recently used it for may daughters Maleficent light-up staff and a cosplay Hannibal Chau Kaiju ring.
Barge Cement: Workhorse of the armor build and perfect for gluing foam, leather, and most anything else. But it is a broadsword, not a scalpel. I use it for the big jobs.
Lesson learned with this stuff, I had started with the small blue tubes of Barge from a local hardware store and after using up two at $8 each i just bout the big can of it online for $25. I should have done that to begin with as it would have saved me some money.
Elmer's Glue: Good old white PVA. This was used to seal the hair in the helmet.
Mod Podge: Used to seal all the seams of the foam.
Fabri-tac: Dries quick and holds like crazy. I used this mainly on the leggings and to glue the rabbit hide on the pouch.
3M Super 77 spray adhesive: Shot this on the strips of bed fabric that covered the seams. It was great to hold the cloth in place before sealing with Mod Podge.
Bob Smith Industries 5-minute Epoxy: Used to glue the sword scales to the handle. Don't forget the 5-minute cure time begins when you start to mix it, work fast! :)
First, do yourself a favor buy a basic helmet pattern from the Evil Ted store. Starting with a known-good pattern will make the build go A LOT faster and eliminate a ton of trial and error. His stuff is great and check out his videos as well, it's good stuff.
Print out the pattern and note that and since it will be bigger than a single piece of paper, it will need to be tiled back together using clear tape. Registering them back together on a light box or against a window really helps. Take care with getting the patterns as accurate as possible, it will make assembly that much easier.
I'm not going to walk through each discrete step of of the helmet build since there are VERY complete tutorials already available, I recommend this one from Evil Ted himself. I did learn the following along the way:
- Layout the pattern pieces on the foam, with the textured side faces to the "inside" of the helmet;
- To help with tracing accuracy, make liberal use of pins to hold the pattern to the foam. I like the heavy-duty pins with the "T" tops;
- For cutting, make sure you are using a super-sharp blade. Use a sharpener to touch up the blade every other cut of so. It will seem like overkill at first but it makes a HUGE difference;
- Cut on the inside of the sharpie lines so that the foam matches the pattern as closely as possible.
- To help shape the foam, a heat gun is necessary, not a hair dryer;
- Use the heat gun to "seal" the foam prior to caulking and painting. If you give all foam surfaces a pass with the heat gun, it will seal the pores and make it take paint more easily;
- If you can, make a shaping post to push the foam down around. It will help give it a nice round look. Additionally, the post can be used to hold the helmet when the paint is drying.
- In order to follow the helmet profile correctly for the broad "wing" in back, I used a contour duplicator. It was also handy for the shoulder armor.
- You might be tempted to bevel the cuts in anticipation of making the foam take a curved shape. Do not do this as you will end up with a mess like the following:
Helmet build progression:
The armor for the body was fitted as it was made. But to help, I started out with a duct-tape body form so I would be able to work on it without my son standing next to me the entire time. Rather than filling the form with foam, I used the air-packing "pillows" that are often included in Amazon shipments, you can see them peeking out of the neck in the picture below.
Tip: Have the costumee wear an old tee shirt that you don't mind losing before wrapping them in duct tape. Otherwise, you are going to have some 'splaining to do with the wife.
The two body armor halves are held together with some scrap nylon webbing I cut from an old ripped backpack. They are glued to the underside of the armor using Barge Cement.
Sanding external seams: Once foam seams are joined and the contact cement has fully cured, the foam can be sanded to a smooth finish. I found a sanding block works far better than loose sandpaper sheets.
Calking external seams: Once your seams are sanded any gaps can be filled with the quick-drying calk. As you apply caulk, keep a shallow bowl of water close and periodically dip your finger in it and run it along the seam to smooth out and feather the seam. I also found that a wet palette knife is handy for smoothing out the calked seam. Since it is flexible, it follows curved armor quite nicely.
The core design of these came included with the Evil Ted basic helmet pattern. I added the inside risers using the contour duplicator and used scrap foam on the inside of the shoulders.
The shoulder armor is removable from the chest piece. I used nylon straps and snaps so they can pop on and off as needed. The snaps were sewn into the underside of the straps that hold the body armor together.Ha
Tip: Alternate the male and female snaps on the shoulder armor so that they can only be put on one way. That ensures that the left and right sides are always correct:
A note regarding seams
All the seams were sealed with Mod Podge then I laid a strip of cloth over the seam and coated that with mod Podge as well. Not only does it reinforce the seam but it protects the contact cement from sweat, which can weaken the bond.
The sword was made from palette wood, if you ask at your local grocery store, they will often let you take them for free.
We pulled one of the planks off the palette and trimmed it down with a band saw. The scales (handles) were just scraps of the same wood glued to the end of the sword with epoxy. Once the epoxy was dry and the scales shaped and sanded, it was all wrapped with fake leather and glued in place with contact cement.
Final prep before painting, I made sure the pieces were sanded and distressed in a way that they looked like they came from the same set of armor. Note that you CANNOT sand caulked seams, if you try the calk will simply ball up or tear.
I gave the armor a primer coat using Plast-dip. it is flexible and takes paint great. I ended up giving all the armor about three coats using a single can.
I used regular latex house paint over the primer coat, mainly because it is what I had in the garage. But I think any acrylic or latex would work great. It was mainly applied with a sponge, just blotted on.
After the base coating and grey was applied, highlights and shadows were applied using an airbrush. The rust color was applied with a small brush.
This one was super-easy. Grab a mesh laundry bag and spray paint it silver. Once dry it can be trimmed and glued into the underside of the armor. It looks great and moves nicely when the costume is being worn.
The wig I used for the hair was from my daughter's Wildstyle costume that she wore at last year's Planet ComiCon in Kansas City (which is awesome BTW, you should go. Seriously).
To mount the hair in the helmet, I just took a big chunk out of the wig and laid the ends of the strands against a piece of bedsheet coated with spray adhesive. That held the hair in place while it was positioned in the helmet.
Once in place, Mod Podge was used to seal the cloth. Elmer's glue was used to lock it all down where the hair meets the helmet.
The leggings are basically rough cloth gaiters with faux leather and bits of rabbit fur glued to them. There very top has a "V" cut in it and a velcro strap so that they can be pulled snug and held at the top of the calf. Fabri-tac glue was the main tool for attaching the fabric. It sets fast and make for a strong connection.
Here is the basic design:
Here is the finished product:
Belt and pouch
We took an old beat-up belt and cut it up to look jagged. The buckle was painted with dark hammered finish spray paint. The cut edges were colored with a black sharpie and it was weathered with brown paint to look muddy.
The pouch was made from fake leather and scrap rabbit fur left over from the leggings. The size is about 8"x8" square with a simple loop on back. The pouch itself is just sewn on three sides with a leather bootlace to pull it shut.
The side straps on the body armor were from an old belt. The button was applied using a snap-fastener kit.
I connected the straps to the foam armor using 5/8" pop rivets and washers so they Scould pivot a bit. The riveting looks like this:
The straps for the arm armor were scrap fake leather. the snaps were the sew-on type.
- Use a spot of Fabri-tac glue to hold the snaps in place while you sew them. It will keep them from shifting while you use an awl or needle during the sewing;
- Use contact cement to hold non-moving straps in place against the foam and then put in your rivets;
- There is a domed end and a more-pointy end on pop rivets. Make sure the domed (smooth) side is on the body side;
- to hide the exterior of the rivet, dab a little caulk on it. It will soften the shape making it look more like pounded metal and as a nice side benefit, will take paint easily..
Putting it all together
Here is our final fitting before the Kansas City Renaissance Festival:
And the day itself:
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