Sunday, 15 June 2014

The gauntlets are thrown down

The first template I chose to turn into reality was (deliberately) the easiest: the gauntlets. I soon resized the paper templates*, using the measuring guide supplied by the wonderful online source that no longer exists. Then it was simply a matter of printing out the paper template, cutting it out and taping it together with masking tape, and placing it on the awaiting tumbler mat.

I quickly discovered two things when cutting foam:

1) Paper isn't a very good template; it's easier to either mount it on card, or to use it to trace a pen outline
2) EVA foam destroys scalpel blades in record time.

It took two blades to get the gauntlets cut out with a decent edge; my blades quickly became dull, which led to tearing and uneven cuts. One advantage of the tumbler mats, though, was that one side was ridged and bumpy. This meant that I could have textured armour, rather than baby-smooth; a look that was closer to my Shepardic dream.

I quickly finished up the cuts, and was left with a flat piece of foam. Flipping the template over, I quickly created two mirror-image foam pieces: a left and a right arm. This is really important; for some reason I missed doing this for the arm pads, leaving me with two 'right' arms; this wasn't a disaster as the pieces are more or less identical, but proved to be an important lesson going forward.

Now, here's the clever part: I had to make it bend around the meathooks I call my arms. 

The first stage was to make some cuts, so the piece would fold, and to replicate the grooves in Shepard's armour. I decided to use a soldering iron for this. Although the foam melted easily (and stank), the iron created a textured trough of burned rubber, rather than a smooth groove. However, it did at a pinch, and I figured I could always sort out the roughness later.

A slightly bigger problem was the cuts to make the three-piece shape (the flat of my arm, and the two sides). These came perilously close to going straight through the foam and cutting it into three pieces. Gaffer tape proved to be the perfect solution to sure up the edges and make sure the costume didn't break apart.

The gauntlets and arm pads, following spraying; note the gaffer tape showing on the far right

Then it was time to spray. This was really easy: point and click. That said, it took a few spray-dry-spray cycles to get all the little bits, as the foam was uneven (particularly in the soldered grooves). I used masking tape to get the signature white-red-white stripes. I then messed it up a little with a few streaks of metallic paint, particularly around the edges, to make it look battle-worn.This technique proved particularly useful for covering up bumps and scrapes that revealed the brightly coloured tumbler mat foam underneath.

Finally, it was time to attach it to the arm. My initial plan was to use Velcro straps, although on experimentation these proved to be annoyingly loose. Rather than let the armour fall off, I decided to reserve the Velcro for other parts of the project, and order some straps from Amazon, which I could then glue-gun to the armour at the final stage of the build.

* This is a lie. It took me a lot of faffing to work out exactly how to use GIMP to resize, and then even more faffing to work out that I needed to crop the image, save it as a new file, then export it as a PDF that I could then print. But let's assume my techno-whiz skills are proficient enough to have done the templates more or less instantly.

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