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Plastic Space Guys

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Thursday, November 04th, 2010
10:30 AM
Now that the nerf guns pretty much done, I think it's time to take a look at what progress I've made with the body armor.

The first part of this project was research.  I had absolutely no idea where to even begin, so I turned to that all-mighty resource in the sky - the internet.  I happened across a number of helpful online guides and posts, which all turned out to be written by the same person.  Online, she goes by the username AmythestAngel and mantains a blog here among a few other websites.

Eventually I found a series of books she sells (down by the sea shore?) and decided to purchase 'Volume Two - Armormaking.'  In truth, I probably could have done without it (not to say the book isn't super useful and worth the price), but I like to support people when they take the effort to help people earnestly (non of her advice is really hidden behind a pay-wall or anything, the books just go into far more detail than her online guides).

Following her advice, I started off by enlisting the help of my wonderful girlfriend, Catherine, in making a tape dress-form.  For those who aren't tailors, a dress form is basically a body stand-in that allows you to fit a garment without doing it right on the subject (which is obviously impossible if you're making something for yourself).

Just a note before I go into WiP stuff, I'm not going to duplicate AmythestAngel's steps in detail here (if you really want to see them, I highly suggest buying her guides).

We basically started off with me in a cheap, sacrificial t-shirt.  Catherine than began wrapping me in layers of gummed paper tape.  This tape is usually used for sealing shipping packages and requires it be wet with a sponge or moist towel.

...About 2 hours later

That's me after about 4 or 5 layers of the packing tape (be sure to leave some in the roll as you'll need it to finish the form when it's removed from the body).  At this point it was still fairly wet.  We also were having trouble getting the edges of tape to stay attached and flush.  Eventually it dried to a point where Catherine could cut me out of it (cutting through the T-shirt as well as the tape).  I quickly hung it on to a simple PVC stand I had built before starting this.

The PVC stand needed a little improvising, hence the duct tape.

Unfortunately, when I first hung it on the stand, I had only used 1 pvc pipe as the shoulders.  This proved to be far too narrow and the still wet form started to flatten out.  I quickly grabbed a spare section of PVC and some batting and bulked out the shoulders and neck area.

I also cut off the sleeves of the T-shirt, sealed the back seem (where I'd been extracted) and finished the neck / bottom edges by folding tape strips over the edges.  Finally I sealed the whole thing with a nice, thick coat of clear acrylic (Future Floor polish).  The acrylic layer really helped keep the edges of the final layer of tape stuck down, and basically made the whole thing self-sealing when you pin things to it.

The next step was to start with newspaper and make a template for the chest and back plates.

All I've really done here is drape pieces of news paper over the dress form, free hand some lines onto it to get the general idea of the form on it, then cut them out.

However, I am not the greatest free hand artist in the world, so the resulting patterns were not very symmetrical.  So I made some adjustments to them, then traced one side onto another piece of newspaper, folded that one in half, and cut out the neck hole, arm holes, and bottom edge.

These (now symmetrical) newspaper patterns were then transferred to tack board and again... cut out.

I've drawn some panel lines to get a better idea of how it will look.

Here you can see the tack board prototype of the chest plate.  The arm holes have been expanded significantly, and the whole thing lengthened (perhaps a tad too much?).  The masking tape is serving in as a stand in for adjustable straps that will be on the actual completed armor.

I do the strangest things.

And here we have me trying the tack board prototype on (pre-arm hole expansion, to be specific).

This has taken me about 3 weeks, working off and on on it.  Next up is transferring the tack board patterns to art foam, then laminating that foam in plastic sheets, then detailing, then painting and finishing.  So still plenty of work to be done...

And miles to go before I sleep...