This tutorial will be one of several I plan to post on making foam armor. This will focus specifically on the helm, and the rest will come as I am able to complete those projects.
Let's begin with some basic information about the materials and processes we're going to use in this tutorial. The primary material I used was EVA foam (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate). This is a polyethylene and vinyl acetate copolymer that is commonly found as anti-fatigue floor padding in hardware stores, and also craft foam in craft stores. Great things about this material are that it is relatively easy to mold and shape, and it's pretty forgiving if you make mistakes. You can use an oven or a heat gun to efficiently mold the stuff into whatever shapes you want. Cutting it requires a very sharp blade, like a new hobby knife, box cutter or, better yet, a hot knife. It's easy to leave cutting marks on the edges of the foam, but those can be either incorporated into the design or even sanded off with a Dremel tool.
To make something like this, you need a simple mold that will give you all of the curvatures you need. Throughout the project, I used a large, thick cardboard tube that was close to the major diameter of my head. Either way, the cardboard tube served as a mold for just about all of the thick foam components I thermoformed, and I would highly recommend it for getting geometrically attractive results. This technique produced a rather circular helm, but the helm can be squished into more of an oval-shape later on if you want. In the following step, I will cover all of the materials you will need to build a helm similar to mine.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
- 1 4-pack of 2' x 2' EVA foam floor padding. By far the cheapest I've found is at Harbor Freight, about $15 per pack when not on sale. Should be around .5" thick, with a textured side and a non-textured side (we just need the non-textured side)
- 2 11 x 17 sheets of black 3mm craft foam. I found these as "Foamies" brand at Joann Fabrics
- Silver Leaf, Antique Gold and Spanish Copper Rub'n Buff. It's a metallic wax that give the metal look to the final part. (I used patina underneath the silver to brighten the final look, but that may not be necessary)
- Acrylic floor polish. I used Pledge Floor Care Tile and Vinyl Floor finish. This stuff helps to improve the look of the finish and helps protect it.
- Acrylic paint. I used Palmer acrylic, but I imagine any acrylic paint will do. You will need Black, and a mixture of red, orange and brown.
-Mod Podge gloss waterbase sealer and Delta Ceramcoat All-Purpose Sealer. I found both of these at Michael's, and only needed small 2 to 4-ounce bottles. Any water-based sealer should work, even Elmer's glue, but that will need to be thinned out with a little water to hide brush strokes.
- Several sheets of printer paper
- Pair of sheep horns (I found mine for around $10 on amazon, but unfortunately they didn't match very well)
- Some small pieces of leather or fake leather
- Hot glue gun and a lot of glue sticks
- Sharp knife (hobby knife, hot knife (basically soldering iron with hobby knife attachment), or box cutter)
- Oven or heat gun (oven recommended, nicer to have both)
- Thick, rigid cardboard tube, and hacksaw for cutting it
- Scotch tape
- Measuring tape, ruler
- Cutting board
- Permanent Marker and Pencil
- Paint brushes
- Mixing containers (just for water-based paints)
Nice to have:
- Rotary cutting tool (like a pizza cutter, but really really sharp and designed to cut fabric. This would have made my life much easier if I had it earlier during the project)
- Clear acrylic ruler
- "L" bracket (metal or rigid plastic) used to assist with drawing line around cardboard tube to cut off circular piece of even thickness
- Miter saw (negates the "L" bracket and hacksaw entirely, and cuts cardboard tube like nobody's business)
- Microfiber cloth