Introduction: Using Paper, Resin, and Fiberglass to Be the Master Chief!
Be Master Chief for a day with your own handmade armor! Follow this tutorial to make fiberglass pieces, and you can be a Spartan II to pwn all your friends' costumes.
***********Work in progress. I have yet to finish the chest armor and all left arm/leg pieces.*************
This is my first Instructable, and my entry into the Instructables 2007 Halloween contest. Baseline cost is around 150 bucks for a full suit. Difficulty is moderate.
I've always wanted to make a stormtrooper's costume. But when I saw a homemade suit of Spartan armor straight out of a Halo deathmatch, I knew I just had to make my own. So I hit up google and found the amazing forums at 405th.com . This is a guide to folding paper pieces(pepakura), resining, fiberglassing, and finishing them for paint, along with simple suggestions to complete them. I won't be covering the details for every piece of a suit, I will use simple pieces like the bicep as an example.
Step 1: Tools, Supplies and Materials.
Obviously, if you're reading this instructable, you have a PC. Good to know, cause without one and a working printer you will go nowhere with this. The ground for this suit is printed paper, cut, folded and glued to produce 3D pieces. This is called Pepakura. I'll go over that in the next section but keep this in mind.
The one key part of this suit is Fiberglass and resin. lots of it. So far, I've used 5 quarts of resin, and 3 packs of fiberglass. That was enough to resin-coat all the pieces, and fiberglass the right arm, helmet, chest, crotch, and right leg. So I'm going to guesstimate on total quantity here(marked with * for unsure-ity). Note that this list includes only what you need for making the pieces. I'll get to other detail and accent pieces like the gold visor and such later in this instructable.
Dremel with cutting disc and sanding bit
Hot-glue gun with plenty of sticks
9 quarts of Bondo resin*(two gallons and a quart=70 bucks)
5 packs of Bondo fiberglass cloth(25 dollars)
Bondo Body Filler(not pictured)
about 200 sheets of 110 lb. press cardstock(not pictured)
"Medium Grit" Sandpaper
Primer for sanding aid(not pictured)
Some type of rubber gloves(disposables)
Container for mixed resin(i use the lid from the quart can, and line it with aluminum foil so I can use it again)
Measuring paraphernalia(teaspoons, tablespoons, etc. make sure you'll never need em for food again)
Facemask or respirator for working with resin/fiberglass/sanding
Tape and super glue
Step 2: Download Some Files
To start off, we'll need to download and install Pepakura Designer. You can get it here:
Install it to your PC, and then download the armor .PDO files for the following link (Big kudos to JediFraz for making these):
Store 'em where you can remember 'em.
Step 3: Setting Up and Printing
Ok, now that you've installed Pepakura Designer and downloaded your .pdo files, it's time to open Pepakura Designer. So open it up, go to file, and click Open. Point the file browser to the folder you stashed those .PDO files in. For this step I'll be using the Right-Bicep file. Open up Right-Bicep.pdo and you will see two sub-windows. On the left, you have a 3D model of what you will be making. On the right you'll notice a grid with odd-looking pieces in each cell. What you see is the magic of Pepakura Designer 2. It takes 3D models, and through user-manipulation, creates 2D pieces that can be printed on paper, then cut apart, folded, and glued together to create 3D pieces. I'll get to that in the next step so for now let's focus on getting this to paper.
Once you've opened the .pdo file, you'll want to click on the "BothWindows" tab and uncheck "use materials for faces". this will make the printed pieces while as opposed to gray, saving you ink. Don't mention it.
Now you'll need to specify your paper size. if you're using A4 size paper, then skip to the next step. Otherwise, listen up. Click on "Configuration" in the toolbar, then click on "Print and Paper Configuration". In this example, I will be using Letter size(8.5x11 inches) paper. Select "Letter" from the Size drop-down menu, and adjust both margins to 5 mm. Hit OK and notice that those pieces on the right side of the screen are now jumbled up out of their page boundaries. While you might be compelled to re-arrange them, it is not that time yet.
To make the completed Pepakura piece scaled to fit your body type, you'll need to do a little math. I learned the following formula from the 405th.com forums. Measure your height in inches (I'm 6 foot even, so that's 72 inches). Then add 3 inches to that measurement.(for me, 75 inches). Divide that by 86(75/86=0.872093). Then multiply that number by the scale of the current piece you are working on (Right Bicep's scale is 30.342, so 30.342x0.872093=26.461045). Take that last number(26.461045), go to 2DPatternWindow, then click "scale up/down development by specifying value...". Highlight that current scale and replace it with the one you just calculated.
Now all the pieces have moved again. Aren't you glad you held back from moving pieces the first time? So to finish up, you'll need to get all the pieces into their page squares. To aid this, click "Configuration" and click "Show Only 2DPatternWindow". Now you have a larger screen area to move these pieces in. By scrolling the scroll wheel, you can zoom in and out. Right clicking and dragging the mouse moves the camera view, and left clicking on a piece and dragging moves the piece.
Now, pretend you're 6 years old again. Remember those lines between the sidewalk? You know, the ones that you couldn't touch for some unspecified -yet given- reason? It's the same deal here. You don't want the individual pieces touching the grid lines. So get all the pieces off those lines, and keep them from touching each other. If they do touch the lines, they will be cut into pieces between sheets, meaning you'll have to rejoin em later. It's up to you how many sheets of paper you want these pieces to print out on. If you want one piece per sheet, that's fine, but it takes up extra paper. If you can manage to get two on a sheet, saving one sheet, Greenpeace will love you.
So once you have all your pieces arranged, it's time for one last detail. Click "File", got to "Printer Setup" and change orientation to landscape. Just to make sure you've got this right, check "Print Preview" out. as long as all the pieces look whole, you've done good. Time to print! (If PD2 says "A part of development may not fit into printable area" and asks to scale, click "No")
Step 4: Cutting, Folding and Gluing/Taping Pepakura.
Ok, now that you've printed your Pepakura pieces, it's time to "make sumtin of it". The main image for this step shows the various lines you'll see on the pieces.
The dashed lines indicate you'll need to make a mountain fold along that line. To make a mountain fold: Hold one side of the line in your hand(line facing up), and fold the other side down. from a side view with the line facing up, the fold resembles a mountain peak.
The dot-dash lines indicate a valley fold. Keeping the line face up and one side in your hand, fold the other side down. Again, from the side, this fold resembles a valley, with the line facing up at the bottom of it.
The solid lines show where you need to cut.
I find it's more productive to cut all your pieces out first, and then get to folding and gluing/taping.
To aid folding the pieces, line a ruler's edge up with the line. Then press something dull like a dry pen over it a time or two, to crush the paper in. This makes folds much more exact. If you can't find a dry pen, a working one will do, just make sure you indicate what a line is before you black it out solid. I mark a small "V" pointing at a valley fold line. When folding the pieces, you don't have to fold the pieces really far out, this is more of a creasing process.
So one you have the folds made to all the pieces, you need to join them. Pick up a folded piece, and take note of some of the numbers that are printed on it. Now take a look at the numbers on the other pieces. When you find two of the same numbers, you've found two pieces that need to be joined. This is very simple. One of those numbers will have a folded flap under it. What you will do is take the numbered edge that doesn't have a flap, and slide it up to the fold line of the numbered flap, putting the flap under the other piece. I have a picture to clarify this. To keep em together, put some super glue on the flap or tape both sides of the joint. You'll want to tape both sides to give some strength to the completed piece.
Repeat the process until you have a completed 3D piece. As to how many full pieces you should assemble before resining, it's up to you. Think about how much space you have to store the pieces while they cure. For example, if you only have the space to store two arms, you'd be better off resining them, and moving on to cutting and folding other pieces as the arms cure. You'll develop a feel for this as you work with the costume.
Step 5: Resining the Pepakura
Now comes the messy part. You need to resin the outside, to build up more strength, before resining and fiberglassing the inside. You'll want 30 free minutes for this. In this process, resin is in charge of your time. Once you've mixed it up, you have about 12 minutes to use it before it forms globs.
So to start, find an area that you can stink up with chemicals. A garage or covered outdoor area will work. Follow suit by donning a glove or two and a facemask/respirator. Lay out a few sheets of newspaper(one on top of the other) on your workplace to catch any drips. Make sure your Pepakura piece is fully taped/glued together. Once you've made sure it won't come apart during resining, you can mix up the resin in a container. I use the lid from a quart can of resin, lined with aluminum foil. Follow your resin's instructions for mixing in hardener. I use 6 tablespoons of resin at a time, because I can use it up before it gets useless. Once you have it mixed, dip a 1-inch wide brush(or an old spatula) into the resin and coat the Pepakura. Coat it all over(except the inside), and if you still have some left over, brush it where you started on the first layer. Try not to let any runs or drips form, that makes for extra sanding to do later.
Step 6: Fiberglassing
Now that you've resined the outside of the piece, it's time to fiberglass the inside. This is the most crucial part of the whole process, because the fiberglass, applied to resin will make your pieces very inflexible.
Start off by cutting the fiberglass sheet in half. then cut that in half, giving you 2-square foot pieces. Cut these smaller pieces into strips you can arrange in the bicep(or whatever other piece). If the pieces won't stay on the inside, dab glue on the fiberglass to make it stick to the insides. It's important to try and cover all the paper on the inside. if some of the fiberglass overlaps, it's no problem. overlapped fiberglass will add extra(yet unnecessary) strength to your piece.
I know I said resining the outside would be messy. Looks like I lied. What you'll be doing is spreading resin over these fiberglass pieces, thoroughly saturating them. And in this process, strands of fiberglass will stick to anything, i.e. your gloved fingers, causing them to stick to each other too.
Mix resin as usual, and spread it all over every piece of fiberglass. you'll notice that some of the fiberglass will develop bubbles between it and the paper. Smooth them out as best you can, you'll find they can be a pain when you get to sanding. But in the event you can't get bubbles out before the resin sets up, you can cut out the fiberglass that isn't attached to the paper, and patch it with resin and fiberglass.
You'll notice that as the resin cures, the fiberglass heats up. I'm not sure why, but I think it's a chemical reaction between the fiberglass and resin. That's just something I thought you should keep in mind while working, so you don't find yourself running out the door scared like a little girl.
So once everything is set (you can handle it in a few hours), the end result will look like the main photo. If the fiberglass hangs over the paper, you can cut it out. A Dremel works best for cutting hardened fiberglass. To finish the inside off, cut any strands hanging/sticking out, and trim any fiberglass that isn't touching paper. Don't forget your extremities will be in these pieces, so any protruding fiberglass could quite literally be a thorn in your flesh.
Step 7: Prepping for Paint
So far, you've cut, folded, glued/taped, resined and fiberglassed. If you're here, then you have skills. I'm so proud! :sniff:
So now we need to make your piece look pretty for painting. I'll bet you 100 bucks that the outside of your piece was not smooth after the resin set up. So you're gonna want to sand it down, and thanks to the fiberglass, the piece has the strength to take a good sanding. So here's a little sanding 101. Start by hitting the piece with a coat of primer to highlight the problem areas. You'll want to use medium grit sandpaper with a sanding block. Sand in a circular motion over drips, runs, and anything else that stands out. If you come down to the fiberglass when sanding an area, you might want to stop sanding that spot. Go any further and you'll get a hole. So sand all the areas you can without perforating your piece, aiming to keep it more smooth than flat.
Now wipe/blast all the dust off, mix some resin, and coat the outside again . This will re-coat the exposed fiberglass, and add integrity back to the piece. Once it's cured, prime it. The 2nd resin coat should have fixed most of the irregularities, but if you see problem areas, sand em down. You shouldn't be seeing fiberglass. In case you are, apply bondo to the smaller sanded areas, instead of putting runny resin on it. It's less messier and more direct for smaller areas. But if your piece is still covered in nasty spots, resin it again.
Step 8: Spray-can Action!
Ok, here comes the fun part. If your piece will need extra details, like the vent cuts in a helmet or you need to remove parts to fit your body, it's best to make those cuts now, while you don't have paint to scratch up. So once your piece has all it's holes cut and unneeded pieces removed, it's paint time!
Clean off any dust on the piece and prime it. LET THE PRIMER DRY. if you don't, you could get wrinkles with the next coat. Once it's dried, color it pretty. Remember to keep the spray can at least 8 inches away from the piece at all times. Last thing you'll want as far as you've come is paint running down the piece. If you have to rest a piece on a side while it dries, paint the side that'll be facing up, and paint the other side once the first painting has dried. If you feel a 2nd coat of paint would suit the piece, go ahead and add it.
Step 9: Final Touches
I bet by now you're staring at your painted piece like a newborn baby. Even a boot piece looks so damned cool. But pieces aren't any good if you can't keep em attached to you or if they're missing some details. So I'll give some pointers on individual pieces.
For the feet, you'll want to cut the flat bottom parts out. You can't walk on these, sorry. So cut em out. Now you'll want to attach em to some real footwear. I plan to use 18 dollar mudboots from wal-mart. They're black with steel toes. Use hot glue to attach strips of soft foam or sponge to the inside of the boot pieces. Make sure the strips are thick enough to bring the bottom of the fiberglass toe/heel flush with the top of the sole. Place velcro on the other side of these sponge-foam strips, and then put the other velcro onto the boot.
For the arms, put sponges in both ends to center your arms. If the pieces slip(namely the bicep), use black cord to hold it to the chest armor. The knuckle guard can be held on with a strap. glue one end to each side of the inside, making a loop big enough to hold securely to your palm. Or you can use a sponge/velcro combo as I did.
For the crotch, line it with rubber foam. In case you decide to keep the front and back piece separated, use a piece of a cheap belt to join them at the bottom. Attach belt loops made from cord or straps from a bag on the inside of the back and front plate, then run a belt through it to hold it on.
Legs: Thigh pieces won't stay on without some help. You can keep em on by gluing a small loop of string to one side of the inside, and the end of a 15 inch cord to the other. Run the cord around your thigh and through the loop, tying it off. The calf pieces will need sponge or rubber foam on the inside.
The chest armor will need some kind of padding on the shoulders and back. Attach one end of a cord long enough to go around the front of your chest to the left or right of the inside, at the bottom. Attach a loop to the other side. When you wear the chest armor, run the other end of the cord over your ribs and through the loop. This keeps the armor poking out.
And now, the helmet. To keep your noggin comfy and centered, put a sponge in the top, in the brim (poking out for your forehead) and both sides. If you've ever looked at Master Chief's helmet, you've probably noticed these little pipe-looking things on the sides of the jaw. i was able to recreate that with a drain pipe from a washing machine. Cut a piece that will fit into the area I've highlighted in the main photo, and hot-glue it on. Do the same for the opposite side.
Oh wait, you wanted a visor? Look punk, I run the show here, and to think after all I've shown you, you want more? Where's my slice of thank-you pie? Oh, I ate it. Whoops. So anyways, you're gonna want a visor for this helmet of yours. The best thing you can use would be a motorcycle helmet visor. If you want a gold one, search "HJC Shield" on eBay. But if you need a cheap visor quick, Wal-Mart sells black ones for 13 dollars. You'll more than likely need to cut them to fit em to the helmet. You can attach it with screws, or do like I did and hot-glue it. Also, if you'd like to put LED lights into the highlighted area, use those cheap 1-LED keychain lights, and wire em into a single battery supply. I'll add that step when I do it myself.
So once the armor is strapped up, you'll want to wear black clothing under the armor. I have a black turtleneck and black denim jeans.
I hope this Instructable has been helpful for you. Please leave any thoughts, suggestions, questions and general what-have-yous in the comment section. Instructables FTW!
Step 10: "I Need a Weapon."
What?! You've got a whole suit of armor! Now you want a freaking gun too? Well...
...I'll give you the link to that Instructable when I get there. :D