Introduction: Epic Sauron Costume
Second Prize in the
Halloween Costume Contest 2016
When my son came to me earlier this year and said "I want to be Sauron this year", I wasn't exactly sure how I was going to accomplish that in my rather limited spare time. I started planning for this year's Halloween project in the summer but really didn't get started until the beginning of September. I admit that I didn't plan on making an instructable and I didn't document my steps very well, but nonetheless wanted to share what I have learned with all of you.
Many thanks go out to Evil Ted Smith of the Evil Ted Channel on youtube for sharing all his tips and techniques for fabricating foam armor. There's no way I could have accomplished this without studying his videos. I highly recommend checking him out.
Edited: I just added part one of the official Halloween photoshoot this year. Those are the first four pictures here. A big thank you to Lightwork Photography (my real job) for helping me accomplish that session at the last minute. (Look that sunset is going to be killer! Let's go NOW!)
Step 1: Materials and Tools
This armor is made of EVA foam floor mats and craft foam mainly. Another major ingredient is Barge Cement which held everything together. Here's a list of my materials and tools:
EVA foam interlocking floor tiles - 24 square feet (I didn't use it all for this costume, but my son is small for his age)
9x12 6mm Craft foam sheets (2 10-packs)
12x18 3mm Craft foam sheets (1 6-pack)
9x12 2mm Craft foam sheets (4 10-packs)
Barge All-Purpose Cement (1 quart) (needs proper ventilation in work area)
Dap Kwik-seal caulk
8x10 black leather
3mm flat leather cord
3/4" nylon web straps (5 yds)
3/4" contoured side release buckles (15)
Dremel 911 Aluminum Oxide grinding stone
Dremel 952 Aluminum Oxide grinding stone
Dremel Sanding Drum
sanding sticks (glue sandpaper to paint sticks)
5mm metal eyelets and tool
snap off utility knife
large cutting mat (or something else to protect your work surfaces)
large paper (to make pattern pieces)
chip brushes (12-pack)
Nerf Mace (bought used on ebay - no longer made)
cheap kids cowboy boots
polar fleece mock turtleneck sweatshirt (used)
polar fleece leggings (used)
child's black cotton gloves
elastic braided 3/8" black
elastic no-roll 1" black
velcro 3/4" strips
velcro 2" - 1/2 yd
Crinkle Cotton Gauze fabric (2 yards)
Sargent Art Liquid Metal paint - silver
black acrylic paint
Creature Cast liquid rubber - semi-rigid black (1 gallon jug - only used a fraction of it)
Duct tape - 2-3 rolls (to make custom mannequin)
large dowel rod or broom handle (for mannequin stand)
The One Ring to Rule Them All
Step 2: Gloves
I started on the gloves since that was the first materials to arrive. I used the 2mm craft foam because that was the most flexible. The foam was shaped with a heat gun. The 2mm craft foam doesn't take much to heat up. It can burn if heated too long. Don't be afraid to reheat if you get the shape wrong. It will reshape many times. Don't be afraid to pinch the foam hard either. I made 3 piece fingers jointed with another strip of foam and glued them around the fingers of the cotton gloves. I then layered a couple of pieces of foam on the back of the hand to make the armored effect I wanted. I sewed a strip of braided elastic to the wrist because the cotton was getting stretched out and gapping.
Step 3: The Helm and the Torso
I started on the Helm next. I started with a styrofoam head which was approximately the size of my son's head. It's a bit small if you are attempting an adult costume or older child. My son is small for 10. I used a 6 mm piece shaped and folded with the heat gun for the main shape of the front of the Helm. Note: wear a mask while heating foam. I'm not sure what fumes are released when heating it. Proper ventilation is also a good idea. I layered 2mm and 3mm foam on top of that to give it the armored effect I was going for. The top and back of the helm is layers of 6 mm craft foam. I had to trim some of the foam off the bottom sides of the helm to make it fit onto the torso so my son could see out the eyeholes. In the beginning, it was looking fairly flat and non-dimensional so I took a break on it and revisited it later.
The torso was shaped to fit our custom made mannequin. To make a custom mannequin you start with an old t-shirt and wrap the body with 2 layers of duct tape. To remove it from the body cut it up the back taking care not to cut the person! Adding a strip of paperboard underneath the t-shirt can help with this. I made it a stand with a couple of pieces of scrap wood and a large dowel rod. Staple or screw the mannequin to the dowel rod. Then stuff the form - we used plastic bags. This was immensely helpful to have since a lot of the design process happened while my son was sleeping!
I made a pattern out of paper first then traced the shapes onto the foam. The main body of the torso was made with the EVA floor tiles. I used the heat gun to bend and shape the foam to fit around the mannequin. Pieces of 2mm and 3mm foam were added to the torso to give it dimension. Each piece was also shaped with the heat gun.
Everything was glued together with Barge Cement. This stuff is amazing when used properly. You must have good ventilation (found that out for sure, a couple of headaches later). You coat each side with a thin coat of cement and then let dry for 5-15 minutes. It depends on the relative humidity of your environment, I believe. I was able to speed it up a little with a heat gun on low, but if you do that too much the glue begins to bubble and I was worried about the fumes. Once the cement is dry it will be sticky to the touch. Make sure you get it right the first time because it will not come apart. The foam will rip before the cement will fail!
The torso was left open in the back with enough of a gap to add the buckles and strapping. The straps must be sewn to the buckles and then glued to the foam. Leave enough extra strapping to glue to the foam. It also helps if you rough up the surface of the foam with sanding sticks or a dremel tool before using barge cement to glue them - especially if gluing to the textured side of the foam tiles. I used two sets of buckles and straps to attach the armor.
The shoulders were a main part of the design process. I think those spikes are very important to the overall look. The spikes were made of two sheets of 6mm foam glued together. I made a pattern piece and cut them out. I shaped each spike with the sanding sticks. (These are sand paper glued to paint stir sticks). I worried about the strength of the bond on a small surface area of the bottom of the spikes so I made a slit in each spike and added a sort of flat crescent shaped piece on each shoulder. I slid each spike over that piece. In this case, I did not wait for the Barge cement to dry before sliding the pieces into place (otherwise they would not slide). I added a small cap sleeve shaped piece coming out from under the base of the spikes. I sanded the underside of these pieces with a dremel with a sanding drum on it to make it a little thinner at the edge and so you couldn't see the textured side of the foam tiles showing underneath.
I added a codpiece to the bottom of the torso. I wanted it to be comfortable to sit in so I jointed it with 1" no-roll elastic rather than gluing it in place.
Step 4: Arm Armor
For the main pieces of the arm armor I used the foam tiles. Again, I made pattern pieces from paper and then transferred the pattern to the foam.
A note on transferring patterns and cutting: I used a silver sharpie to transfer my designs. The silver sharpies don't seem to last very long or the foam does something to them that makes them stop working so buy multiple of them. You can also use chalk or chalk pencils that are used in sewing. The foam also dulls the blades of the snap off knife. You need to use the snap off knife for the foam tiles because of how thick they are, but I don't "snap off" the tips of the knife. You can use a blade sharpener on it and keep re-using the same blade for awhile. For this entire costume I only used 2 blades (and one of them was during the learning curve in how to sharpen knives...). For thinner foam and especially shapes with tighter curves, I prefer the xacto knife, but it dulls those blades just as much.
I added thinner foam in overlapping layers to give the armored effect I wanted. When making pattern pieces take into account the thickness of the foam. A paper pattern piece that fits perfectly will likely be too short once it's transferred to the foam. It's easier to trim some off once it's in place than add more foam. I didn't articulate the elbows, but I popped up a little with little wedges of foam to give it some shape. The top arm pieces are attached with buckles and strapping. The forearms were attached by lacing them up. I added pieces of leather to each edge of the foam and added eyelets. I then laced it up with a leather lace. Since that area was going to be seen more than others, I didn't want the buckles to show. Barge cement is used in making leather shoes so it's perfect to attach the leather to the foam.
Step 5: Legs
I made the legs very similarly to the forearm pieces to begin with, but instead of lacing them I added the buckles to attach them. They were also made with paper pattern pieces first and transferred to the foam. The main form is made with foam tiles and then 2mm foam was added in overlapping layers on top. The knees were made of two pieces glued together so they curved more than just what heating could do. They were made of the foam tiles. The leg pieces were made separately and then attached with elastic to joint them. I used 1" no-roll elastic. I sanded the back of the pieces with a dremel before glueing the elastic to the pieces. I left a small gap of elastic not glued between each piece to allow them to stretch while my son is walking around. The spikes on the knees and lower legs were made with 2 pieces of 6mm craft foam glued together then shaped with sanding sticks and the dremel. They are glued on with barge cement. To increase the strength of the bond I roughed the surface of the foam they were glued to.
Step 6: Boots
Covering the cowboy boots was actually one of the harder tasks in this costume for some reason. Originally I was going to add to the top of the boots to make the entire lower leg but the opening of the boots was too wide making them look more like fireman boots. So I picked the foam off, after gluing it, bit by bit (as I said, don't make a mistake with the Barge cement!). I then decided to split the cowboy boots up the back and over lap the edges making them fit tighter around my kid's small legs. I added strips of 3/4" velcro to the boots to close them up again. I used 2mm and 3mm craft foam to cover the boots in overlapping layers to look like armored boots. I made the toes come to even more of a point than the cowboy boots had. I left the heel as is.
Step 7: Hip Armor
Sauron has these pieces of armor on his hips which would make it incredibly difficult to sit. I'm sure that wasn't a concern when he was forging the one ring, but it is when you're a 10 year old kid. I wanted these pieces to be removable for when we needed to ride in the car etc. So I shaped the pieces of foam tile with the heat gun to fit and then glued large strips of 2" velcro to the backs of the hip pieces. I sanded down the foam before glueing to strengthen the bond. Then I sewed the corresponding pieces of velcro (the soft side) to the bottom sides of the polar fleece sweatshirt my son will be wearing underneath. So far so good - they seem to stay in place where we want them to be and are definitely removable when needed. The pieces have thin strips of 2mm craft foam on the hip pieces. I sanded down the edges of these strips so they almost come to a peak, but in some places they just look rounded. I was undecided on whether I liked this detail for awhile, but after I added the texture to the hip pieces the raised lines looked good.
Step 8: Chainmail
Sauron has a small amount of chain mail hanging from his waist in long triangular shaped layers. I decided not to attempt to learn how to make real chainmail, although I was tempted. I knew someone at my first college that knew how to do that. I wish I still had that connection. So I went with the next best thing. Used sweaters from Goodwill! I found 3 potential textures that I liked and my son and I narrowed it down to one. First I cut the sweater into two flat pieces and cut off the arms. I spray painted the material black. This gave it a stiffer texture and the base color we needed. It also helps to keep it from unravelling. I then cut the shapes I wanted and sewed it to a longer strap with a buckle on it making it into a belt. This all fits nicely around his waist under the codpiece.
Step 9: The Mace
We started with a Nerf Mace that was made several years ago. We found it used on Ebay. I didn't want to attempt the weapon from scratch because I knew my son wanted everything to be "playable." I needed the base of the weapon to be strong enough to beat up a bit. However the mace only had 3 blades (or whatever you call those parts of a mace!) Sauron's mace has 6. So I created pattern pieces by tracing the blades of the existing mace. I transferred that to 6mm foam, cut them out and glued them on. Once my son swung it around and hit a couple things, I had even more respect for the Barge cement I've been using because those new blades went nowhere. I then freehanded some pattern pieces based on pictures of Sauron's mace. The shape doesn't line up exactly but I plan to paint some of the areas black and some of them the silver/black/gunmetal color that everything will be. On either side of each blade, I glued two pieces of 2 mm foam using this new pattern piece. The edges of the pieces overlapped the edges of the existing blades. In these places they glued to themselves making a sharper looking edge and points that stuck out. I ground off the raised nerf logo in a couple of places. I added some 2mm craft foam to parts of the handle. I left the original black textured part of the handle as is. I made a raised area in the middle and a rounded stepped shape on the end of the handle. I textured the mace using the dremel to give it the same hammered finish except the original black area and the areas that were to be painted black.
Step 10: Back to the Helm
I finally returned to the Helm after almost completing everything else. I finally felt confident I could make it work the way I wanted it to. The Helm would make or break the costume and had to be perfect. It had to scream Sauron, the Dark Lord. I know we'll still get the questions from those who are unfamiliar with the story, but I wanted to make sure that those who did know it would recognize it. The original sticking point was the flat appearance and the shape of my first spikes. They also looked too flat and didn't stick out to the sides. I finally figured out that instead of bending one piece of foam in a right angle, I needed to use two pieces of foam. This way I could make the pattern pieces the shape of the silhouette of the spike and still turn it into a 3-d shape. I glued the edge of the two pieces together except at the bottom of the spike. I made a triangular shaped piece and wedged it between the two pieces of the spike at the bottom to make the base of the spike. For the middle spike instead of the triangular piece I split the two pieces apart and glued them to the helm. In-between I cut out a ovalish shaped piece from the forehead of Sauron's helm. I curved it the opposite way with a heat gun and inset the piece that was cut. A note on shaping small pieces of foam. Don't hold them with your hand obviously. You'll burn yourself. If you gently stab them with an xacto knife it will hold them up for you nicely. The back spike is made of 3 pieces of foam in a triangular shape. They are all glued to the helm with good-ol' Barge cement. I added a piece of 2mm craft foam to the cheeks to pop out the shape a little and make it less flat. Now I'm happy with it.
Step 11: Texture
The entire costume was textured with the Dremel 911 and 952 Aluminum Oxide grinding stones to look like hammered metal. This was a trial and error process. I went through a lot of test pieces before getting a technique I liked. Note: this makes a huge mess. Keep a vacuum handy. I'm still covered in foam dust and so is my work space. Also you should wear a mask and possibly goggles so not to inhale the particles or get them in your eyes. You'll need to get the dust off before the next step. I used a dust pan brush. The technique I liked the best was when I was "messy" with the grinding. When the texture is too neat it doesn't look real. You want the shapes to be irregular and bumpy. Don't go too deep, but if you don't go deep enough the next step will make them disappear.
Step 12: Sealing and Coating
Once the texture is complete, you need to seal the foam before coating it. You can do this with a heat gun, but I found I like the finish better when I used a torch. Again, mask... ventilation... Light a propane torch and quickly go over the surface of the foam. The thicker foam can take more of the torch than the thinner foam. You don't want to melt or burn the surface just close the cells of the foam. It will look slightly shiny when sealed. This also seems to stiffen up the foam and lock the shape in place. If you heat it too much the texture will melt away or the foam will burn. Be careful and quick.
I coated the whole costume in Creature Cast Liquid Rubber - Semi-rigid black. This stuff was probably the most expensive piece of the costume because you have to buy it by the gallon. I only used a little bit. However, I chose this over some of the alternatives because it is very thin and does not obscure the detail in the texture of the foam. If I was making something that I wanted to be smooth all over I may have chosen something else, but I did not want to go to all the trouble to make the hammered detail just to have the coating make it smooth again.
Some of the other options are liquid balloon latex sprayed through a "critter gun" or a spray paint called plasti-dip. I didn't want to spray my coating because I don't have a good place to do that. The Creature Cast Liquid Rubber can be brushed on and there were no brush strokes visible. I do recommend it, if you can afford it, but do your research and figure out what will work best for your costume.
I used a chip brush for coating the costume so I could just throw it out. I was not too successful in washing it out of the brush so I was glad I didn't buy a nice brush. It's a very thin liquid so make sure you protect your work surface from drips and watch for drips on your foam. Make sure you coat the edges of the foam as well as the outside surface. I even went on the inside for a half inch or so to make sure it wasn't going to peel from the edge. On a couple of occasions it stuck to the work surface while drying and peeled a bit off. I was able to recoat the peeled off bit but the rubber will not accept a second coat. It just beads up. So make sure you thoroughly coat it the first (and only) time. It drys pretty fast in a thin coat. Drips or areas where it gathers dry a little slower. I gave it over night in most cases, but I think it only takes about a half hour to an hour max. It will not come out of fabric so don't wear nice clothes and don't get it on carpet (like I did).
Step 13: Paint!
I used Sargent Art Liquid Metal in silver for the painting. I just used a cheap chip brush. I dry brushed a tiny bit of the silver paint onto the high parts of the surface of the costume. I left the hammered parts black. Make sure to wipe most of the paint off the brush. Almost completely dry. The first time through it seemed a little too silver to my son so I used a tiny bit of black acrylic paint in water and gave it a couple coats of a very thin black wash to darken it up. This also took away the rest of the shine from the Creature Cast Rubber and made the silver look old and dirty like we wanted. I also added silver to the chainmail and then a black wash over it.
Step 14: Cape and Ring
For Sauron's cape I got Crinkle Cotton Gauze fabric in black - 2 yds. Which was perfect for my son to have a 2-layered cape. I sewed the two layers together at the top edge. The bottom layer I cut the edges in a zig-zagged ripped looking way slightly rounding up the corners. The top layer I zig-zagged the bottom and ripped the whole thing into uneven strips. Then I threw the whole thing in the washer and dryer to beat it up. Once I got it untied from the knot it became I saw that it had shredded and frayed the edges nicely and made the fabric crinkle even more. I then gathered the top of the cape with the sewing machine so it would fit across my son's back. I folded the raw edge under and sewed it. I added velcro squares to each end. I put the corresponding velcro on the back of the shoulders of the torso armor. This hides all the buckles and straps along the back of the costume and it looks great. The fabric is nice and lightweight so it should fly nicely when he walks around and it doesn't weigh him down. I was going to add some fabric to the front of the torso on the sides but I'm afraid it will hide too much of the detail and I like it how it is.
The One Ring fits on the finger between the foam and the knuckles. you have to fold the foam a little to get it on so it's not going to fall off. I added some orange glow-in-the-dark/blacklight paint that I got. It's an engraved ring (rather than etched) and the paint fits into the engraving and glows! I wasn't sure it would hold enough of the paint to really glow, but it turned out pretty good.
My son's (and my husband's) question to me is "How are you going to top this one?" And I'm not sure... yet... ;)
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Please be positive and constructive.