In this Instructable, I will be showing you the (fairly) simple method of turning old tyres into post apocalyptic armoured shoulder pads for cosplay. This one was inspired by raider armour from Fallout, I noticed they wear a lot of found materials re-purposed as armour and clothing (be it tyres, road signs, etc.).
As I'm currently working on a Fallout inspired cosplay (more Fallout than the last one) I decided to give this a go. I'm sure it's possible to achieve the same with EVA foam (the benefits being the pads are lighter for walking around 'Con halls) but these are instantly effective and can look weathered with minimal effort. They're also pretty robust (I've tested mine against hammers, knives, etc. and they've held up) so really feel the part. Of course the fact they're recycled is also a plus.
At the moment the 'Ible is only for the shoulder pads, however if I work on any different pieces I'll add them here.
Step 1: Things You'll Need
1. A tyre (obviously)- Look round your local dump and they should have plenty, or go to used tyre shops or garages. I wanted my armour to look a bit bulkier so I went for some kind of 4x4 or tractor tyre
The only disadvantage of bigger tyres is that most have metal cables that run round the inner rim, this added to the extra thickness of the tyre can make the rest of the process more difficult. If you don't feel like struggling with thick rubber or want light armour, go for a standard car tyre.
2. Belts This is what you'll be using to strap on the armour. Look around charity shops for them. Make sure they're big enough to wrap round your waist with room to spare or they won't be long enough to strap on around your chest. 1 belt per shoulder pad. Standard leather belts without fancy buckles work best.
3. Rivets, a pop riveter and washers What you'll use to attach the belts to the tyre. Length depends on what the thickness of your rubber is and width is down to personal preference, I find the smallest diameter works fine
4. Nuts and bolts Bolt length again depends on how thick your tyre is layered one on top of the other. You'll probably need 2" or more in length
5. Dremmel or drill This is to make holes for joining tyre to tyre and belt to tyre.
6. Jig saw or reciprocating saw The least labor-intensive way of cutting through thick rubber and potentially the metal rings in the tyre
7. Optional Outdoor spray paint, printer card, scapel/exacto knife This is for the stencil as shown in the cover photo, I'll explain more in a later step
Step 2: Make Your First Cuts
If you chose the hard way like I did, you'll have to get through those pesky fibres or metal rods on the inner part of the tyre. Because I didn't know what I was doing when I started this, I spent half an hour hacksawing through the inner ring wondering why it was so difficult.
Don't do this, make your life easy and use a reciprocating saw with a metal cutting blade to get through the rim, or make life even easier and drill a hole just above the rim and insert your sawblade, then proceed to cut as normal and completely avoid touching the rim.
You want to use the treads of the tyre for the shoulder pads as they are naturally shaped to be slightly curved. You'll want to leave some edge to the section you cut so it 'cups' your shoulder. Once you've cut along the length of tyre you want, cut downwards and then along again to separate your piece from the main tyre. I made the cuts follow some of the natural shape of the tread, giving a pointy profile to the top side of the pad.
Step 3: Bolting the Pad Together
I used two pieces of tyre overlapped on top of one another for my pads, it gives a bit more height and bulk to them. If you plan to use light armour with only one piece per pad, skip this step, if not, read on.
Align your pads as you want them to look (you may want to experiment with orientations first).
Optional: clamp them together, this makes drilling and bolting a bit easier
Take your drill and attach a drill bit that is slightly larger in diameter than your bolt (the reason for this is that the rubber stretches when you drill through and contracts to smaller than the diameter of the bit and the bolt). Hold the pieces as close together as you can and drill a hole through the top middle so a hole is made in both pieces of rubber. I then repeated this for the sides of the pads. (You'll probably need to look at the photos as this part is a little difficult to describe).
Screw the bolts through the holes you've made, attaching a nut to each to keep the rubber in place. You may wish to add a washer between the nut and the rubber but I didn't see the need to.
Step 4: Step Back and Have a Look
Are you happy with what you've done so far? Take a look at how the pad fits your shoulder and what is the most comfy way to wear it. Give some thought as to where the harness straps will go and how the balance will work.
Step 5: Attach Your Belts
Firstly, fold your belt in half and cut it in the middle. The half with the buckle is the one I used for the back part of the pad (I find it makes buckling easier, but it's up to you).
Position the belt at an angle that will be comfortable when the pad is on (i.e. not straight down but more at 45 degrees). Take your dremmel and drill two holesthrough the tyre and belt simultaneously, side by side, the same diameter as your rivets.
Next thread your rivets through, add washers and use the pop riveter to fix everything in place.
Repeat this for the front side of the pad too, so you have two belt ends that loop round your torso and can be bucked in place.
Step 6: Done! (well Not Quite)
If you want, that is the pad finished. It looks pretty cool as just bare tyre but I thought it needed a bit more for it to really grab attention.
I just gave mine a lick of paint, but you could do other things like glue on fake (foam or plastic to comply with Comicon rules) nails/ spikes to make it look more like raider gear.
Step 7: Paint (part1)
I'm sure there are many more people with tonnes more experience with spray painting than myself, so please feel free to go and research other methods for this. Here is the way I stenciled the insignia onto the pad:
I found my image on google. I felt despite this being for a Fallout cosplay I needed a little nod to one of my favorite movies, Mad Max: Fury Road, so I used the Immortan Joe's insignia. This I made approximately the right size on microsoft word (you can look to scale it exactly but rough works just fine for this).
I printed the image out and made sure it fit onto the area of my pad properly.
Cover the back of your printed page with double-sided sticky tape (only peel off the side to be attached to your paper for now). Find a cutting mat or chopping board and use a very sharp knife to cut out your pattern onto the board. Keep the positives and the negatives of the image so you've got a choice of two to use.
Step 8: Painting (step2)
Peel off the other side of your sticky tape and adhere your stencil to the pad in the position it looks best.I also used Duck-Tape stuck down to give a 'racing stripes' effect
Next, take your can of spray paint (I'd suggest go for outdoor/furniture paint and make sure it's a light colour. dark paint won't show up well on black tyres) and spray lightly over your stencil. Repeat this a few times to give it a good coat.
The advantage of having a worn tyre is that they take paint very well there was no need for primer and they're rough enough that the paint won't just rub/flake off, so there's no need for clearcoat either.
Leave your paint to dry for a few hours (read the can instructions) then peel off your stencils.
Step 9: Finit!
You're done! After (hopefully) not too much hard work you've got yourself a pair of functional post-apo tyre armour pads. Have a play around with stencils, colours, types of tyre, shapes etc. and have some fun. Later on I padded the insides out with foam to make them a bit more comfortable to wear.
You can try integrating the belts into a harness system, but I haven't tried that yet as I've been working on other belt related things and so ran out. (Although I do want to do a 'How to' for belt harnesses so be on the lookout for that).
Strap these bad-boys on to any apocalyptic costume and they should make it look even more the part. I'm quite pleased how simple they are to make.