The epic costume requires much preparation.
Inspired by the designs from supernatural themed movies these stilts are metal and plastic which makes for a safer and longer wearable appendage.
All of the computer generated templates and drawing files are located in the digi.rar file on the materials page.
I recommend that you download and read this entire instructable before beginning your project.
Build early so you can practice and get used to walking in these stilts. Play safe...
You can download the complete instructions in 2 parts in the materials section of this instructable.
I spent approximately $120 to build these. Expect the cost to be between $100 and $200 depending on your local materials availability.
The stilts shown weigh about 8 pounds each.
The stilts pictured were tested thoroughly bay a person weighing 200 pounds plus carrying an additional 30 pounds of weight.
NOTE!!!! To make up for the lack of video I am offering a 1 year PRO membership to the first person that posts a video of stilts based on my design.!!!
Step 1: Tools and Materials
Basic tools needed:
Measuring ruler that can go up to 24 inches
Fabric tape measure
Hand Hack Saw
Drill bits: 1/4, 19/64, 5/16
Heat Gun (not a hair dryer)
1 Lb hammer
Flat Bastard file
Additional tools (optional):
Jig Saw or Rotary Saw
Sewing Machine (If you are making your own straps)
6mm Sintra (6 square feet)
3/8 X 1.25 inch Aluminum Bar Stock (12 feet)
1/4 X 2 inch Aluminum Bar Stock (24 inches)
1 X 2 inch aluminum Bar Stock(6.5 inches)
1 X 2 Rectangular Steel Tube 1/16 inch wall thickness (4 feet)
1/4 20 by 1 inch Grade 8 bolts (36)
1/4 20 by 0.5 inch Grade 8 bolts (8)
1/4 20 Tee-Nuts (40)
1/4 Steel Fender washers(36)
1/4 Standard Washers(36)
1/4 Standard Nut(8)
1/4 Nylon Fender Washers(12)
1/4 by 1/4 Bolt bushing spacers(32)
5/16 X 1.25 inch bolts(4)
5/16 X 2.0 inch bolts(2)
5/16 by 3.0 inch Grade 8 bolts(4)
5/16 by 5.5 inch Grade 8 bolts(4)
5/16 Steel Fender Washers(2)
5/16 Standard Washers(16)
5/16 Nylon Fender Washers(4)
3/16 aircraft cable (6 feet)
3/16 cable sleeves(4)
5/16 by 9 inch turnbuckle(2) Verify the load limit to be over your weight
1.5 inch Velcro Strapping (12 straps 18 inches long)
1.5 inch nylon webbing (7 feet)
1.5 inch Velcro (6 feet)
1.5 inch Tri-Ring (24)
Red Loctite 271 Thread locker
If you are making your own straps then you will not need the pre-made Velcro strapping listed above. The pre-made straps are available at Home Depot but are weaker and considerably more expensive than making your own. I will cover how to make your own in a later section.
If you are unable to find the 1/4 by 1/4 Bolt bushing spacers then you will have to make your own from 5/16 inch steel or copper tubing. You will need a tubing cutter or hack saw for this. I will show the steps to make your own.
Sintra is available at plastics supply stores like Industrial Plastics & Paints. (ippnet.com) There are other plastics available like nylon and PVC but they are a great deal more difficult to work with. Sintra is foamed PVC which is light weight and has the strength required for this project. It is easy to cut and form.
The metals are available on-line from metalsupermarkets.com. If you go to the store be sure to check for pre-cut and scrap pieces which will be less expensive than the full lengths of bar stock.
Bolts and fasteners are available in specialty stores like calfast.com
Nylon webbing, Velcro and Tri-Ring are available from paccana.com or hudson4supplies.com
Big Box stores like Home Depot may have the materials listed here but the prices will be quite a bit higher than the specialty stores.
Step 2: Measure your leg
You will need to measure your leg in 6 key areas in order to get a proper comfortable fit. If the critical areas like the ankle and leg height are not correct then the entire brace will slide and chafe as you walk. Be sure to record these measurements as you will need them during the materials preparation stage.
Your thigh needs to be measured in 2 places; the first as about 4 inches above your knee and the second is approximately at the mid point.
Your lower leg needs to be measured at approximately 4 inches below your knee and again at about 6 inches below that.
The first critical measurement is your lower leg height. This is measured along the side of your leg from the midpoint of your knee joint or where it bends to the midpoint of your ankle.
The next is measured wearing the shoes that you intend to wear while wearing the stilts. With your shoes on you will need to measure the distance from the floor to the midpoint of your ankle.
These measurements will be used to make the custom fit parts of your stilts.
Step 3: Plastic part preparation
You will have to refer to the parts drawings for the parts patterns.
The plastic pieces for the thighs, lower legs and toe clips are cut from the 6mm Sintra material. The drawings for these are provided but are only half of the piece. You will need to cut out 2 shapes and join them at the straight line marked as the fold line. This will create a butterfly shape and the fold line will be 1/4 of the measured leg point. You may have to add or remove paper between the fold lines of the drawing in order to get to your proper dimensions.
The Sintra material is easily cut with a hand saw but will break if your force the saw sideways to make the corner cuts. You can also use a jigsaw or RotoZip type tool to cut the outline. Try to position the cuts from your material to minimize waste as you will have to get all 4 pieces in addition to two strip of the Sintra material that is about 14 inches long and 2 inches wide for your toe clips.
Use the template pattern and mark and drill the mounting holes. The holes are to be drilled with a 19/64 bit if you are using 1/4 inch Tee-Nuts.
Step 4: Metal parts preparation
The aluminum leg support pieces are made from the 3/8 by 1.25 inch bar stock. This material gives enough support while maximizing lateral stiffness to prevent injury.
Refer to the drawings of the Thigh support and lower leg support. The Thigh Support pieces are drawn to actual scale and can be used as a template if you need to. There are 4 pieces in total that will need to be shaped.
The Thigh support pieces are made as shown in the drawings while the lower leg supports are adjusted in length according to your lower leg measurements.
It is always a good practice to use a scribe and precision measuring ruler to first mark the points where the holes and cuts will be. Any drilled holes should be further marked with a center punch to prevent the drill bit from moving away from the desired hole.
If you have access to a drill press, I would recommend using it for the holes in order to get them perfectly aligned. A hand drill will work but be sure to take care in drilling straight holes.
The mounting holes are drilled first with a 1/4 inch drill bit then drill about 1/4 of an inch deep from the inside with a 19/64 drill bit. This enlarging of the hole is to create a snug fit with the support plastic as the Tee Nut will extend through the Sintra material. Drill all of the way through with the 19/64 bit will create a loose fit for the support bolts and may result in a weak point so therefore it is not recommended.
The knee joint is created by cutting some of the aluminum away with a hack saw. You can overlap the material and not cut it out but this can create chafing point on your knee. The cut out method places the center of the joint in the center of the material.
You will need to remove an area measuring 1/4 inch thick by 1.25 inches long then trimming one corner of the cut area as shown in the drawing. The trimming is accomplished by cutting with a hack saw and using the bastard file to make a nice round radius curve.
The lower leg support knee joint is created in the exact manner as the thigh support pieces. Prepare those pieces now as shown in the drawings.
The length of the lower leg supports is the length of you lower leg as measured plus 1.25 inches for the joints. The support holes are to be placed by measuring from the knee joint and are placed 7.5 inches apart. Again they will be drilled first with the 1/4 inch drill bit then drilled 1/4 of an inch through from the side which faces the leg with the 19/64 drill bit.
The bottom hole is for the ankle joint. This joint is a simple overlap construction due the slight difference in the angles of the leg support and the ankle support which you will be making next. This part is needed in order to place the pivot point at your ankle. This will reduce fatigue and greatly increase comfort when wearing the stilts.
The ankle support is made from 1/4 inch by 2 inch aluminum bar stock. You will need 4 of these. There is only one drawing since all 4 are the same. The holes are all drilled as shown with no over drilling needed. The total length of the piece will depend upon the height of your ankle joint as you measured previously plus 1.5 inches. See the drawing for the details.
You will need to make 4 support blocks from the 1 by 2 inch aluminum bar stock. These are all the same and need to have 2 holes drilled as shown in the drawings. It is critical to have the holes straight as this will affect alignment and make assembly difficult if they are not. Again refer to the drawings for exact dimensions. These blocks control the width of the ankle support and will not need to be adjusted any smaller. If you have wide ankles you may need to make the blocks a little wider in the same direction as the drilled holes. See the drawing for the details.
The foot piece is made from the 1 X 2 X 1/16 inch steel tubing. This material will undergo the most stress of any piece in the stilt. The total length shown here is the lower leg measurement plus 4 inches. This give a proportional look but you can adjust it depending upon your tastes. Just keep in mind the longer it is the more stress is placed on your upper thigh and the taller you will be. There is a limit to the length you can use in this configuration but it varies upon each individual. See the drawing for the details.
The foot is a single cut from an aluminum C-Channel that is 2.5 inches long. The foot is designed to pivot on every movement and as such will require a great deal of balance control. If you desire you can tighten the foot bolt and make the foot almost rigid using the 5/16 through bolt. This will allow you to balance with less effort. The foot is a relatively small profile which can have any number of materials attached to it to provide a larger foot surface.
Step 5: Strap Preparation
You will need 6 straps for each leg.
Velcro makes a loop strap that sell in a pack of two and retails for quite a bit more than the cost of making 12 of your own. If you go that route then you can purchase them through several different retailers. I do not recommend this method.
In order to make your own you will need the materials listed in the materials section. You will be able to produce a strap that is both stronger and less expensive than the readily made item.
For the leg straps you will need to cut sections that are a little longer than half the leg measurements for each section. A rough measurement is 16 inches for the thigh and 10 inches for the lower leg. In addition you will need 10 inch straps for the feet. There are 6 straps needed for each stilt assembly: two for the thigh plus two for the lower leg and another two for the foot.
Begin by cutting the sections of 1.5 inch wide nylon strap material. Melting the ends of the cut material will prevent fraying, this can be done with a hot knife or a cigarette lighter. For most people you will need 4 at 17 inches, and 8 at 11 inches. You can adjust the lengths as needed.
You will loop one end through the strap portion of the tri-guide and sew it as shown.
Then cut at least 5 inches of the hook side of your Velcro material and sew it nearest the tri-guide.
Cut the remainder of the strap length in loop fastener and sew it on the same side as the loop fastener leaving about a half an inch of bare strap at the end.
Repeat this for the remaining 11 straps.
Step 6: Forming the plastic pieces
These are the 4 “butterfly” Shapes and two 2 inch wide strips that you cut from your 6mm thick sheet of Sintra plastic. You will need to be wearing heavy material pants for the forming part. Light work gloves will add to your comfort but are not necessary.
You will need to heat these with a heat gun. It is important to heat these in 3 stages. The middle, then the sides will need to be formed. Sintra will form easily when heated and will keep its shape after it has cooled.
If you notice that the material is bubbling or smoking this is an indication that you have applied to much heat in one spot and you will need to let it cool slightly before proceeding. You will heat the material from the inside or side that will be closest to your body. Using a slow sweeping motion heat an area about 2 inches wide along the narrowest point of the first Sintra butterfly shape. Depending upon you heat gut this should take approximately 1 to 2 minutes. You will notice the material begin to warp but stop heating before it freely sags.
Press the heated side of the Sintra against the part of your leg that this piece will cover. Gripping the far edges of the wide parts, wrap the Sintra around you leg. The piece will only go part way as this is a 3 step process. Hold the piece there until it cools, about 1 to 2 minutes and it will retain the new shape.
Next heat one of the wide sections in the same manner as you just did, this time using the side drilled holes as a center reference. Once the heating is completed again place the material against the same part of your leg and wrap the side piece around towards the back, then hold it until it cools.
Repeat this with the other side of the piece.
The completed piece will now be in the same shape as your leg and will actually clamp to your leg where it was just formed. You will have to drill the holes to make them round again using the 19/64 inch drill bit and a hand drill. Check for fit and label the piece for future reference. The pieces will have to be adjusted for final fit later.
You will need to complete this procedure for the remaining calf brace and thigh brace pieces.
Forming the toe clip pieces.
You will need 1 section of the steel rectangular tube for use as a guide. The measurements for the toe clip are approximate and need to be corrected for the type of footwear that you will be using. I used You will have to adjust the dimensions for your shoe size, Using the dimensions provided will provide a toe clip size for US 10.
Begin by heating one of the 2 inch wide Sintra strips at about 4 inches in and at a 45 degree angle. When the Sintra begins to sag flip the piece over and heat it again, You will have to get this piece quite hot so that it sags freely. Place the heat gun aside and using the steel tube form the Sintra so that the end goes up at 90 degree angle and is bent back at a 45 degree angle as shown.
Next heat the strip at about 1.5 inches closer to the upright end and fold this section the same as the previous step.
Repeat this for the other side at about 4 inches over again until the toe clip looks like the one shown. Check that the clip will fit over your shoe and that your shoe tip is visible along the top front edge of the unfinished clip. If not reheat the folds and shape the plastic to accommodate your shoe.
Next trim the edges with a hand saw and drill the holes as shown in the drawing to accommodate the toe straps and hold down bolts.
Step 7: Assembly
Begin by assembling the leg support pieces. There will be 4 assemblies at the end, 2 left side and 2 right side supports. These are assembled at the knee joints with the lower leg supports facing nearest to the leg and the rounded part of the joint facing the back of the leg.
You will use a 1/4 20 by 1 inch bolt, 2 nylon washers, 2 fender washers and a standard nut for the joining. The threads of the bolt will be sealed with a Loctite sealer as specified in the materials section. This sealer is necessary to prevent the nut from coming off which could lead to injury. The nut is only tightened until it is snug. You need to allow for the joint to pivot around the bolt but not wobble. This is also where the nylon washers come into play. They are used as a bearing surface to prevent binding and wear.
Begin at the outside and place a fender washer on the bolt then the upper thigh piece followed by the 2 fender washers then the lower leg piece and the inner fender washer then finally the standard nut.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The bolts shown are too short and need to be replaced with ones that show at least 1 thread past the end of the nut. You may have to cut the bolt with a hack saw after the assembly is complete. You need the bolts as short as possible to prevent the possible contact with the side of your leg.
Plastic Brace Supports
If you were not able to find 1/4 inch bushings then you will have to make your own by cutting 5/6 inch tubing at 1/4 inch intervals as shown.
If you use a tubing cutter be sure to not cut all the way through he tubing as this will cause the inside of the tubing to protrude and prevent the bolt from being inserted easily. Just cut most of the way through then bend the tubing at the cut and it will come apart.
Next is to install the formed Sintra plastic supports. Begin at the top and position the plastic between the aluminum supports the push the Tee Nuts in the 19/64 holes that were drilled in the plastic from the inside of the plastic. These will seat fully as you tighten the support bolts.
Using the assembly scheme shown below, install the support bots in the supports from the aluminum side. There are 8 bolts total for each leg. The support bolts on the outside of the leg will be used for the base of the support straps that were made in a previous step. The support strap assemblies should be installed on the outside of the leg on each brace; this will make tightening the brace to your leg quite a bit easier.
As mentioned previously the bolt will pull the Tee nut into the Sintra material creating a tight fit. The Tee Nut will also tighten into the aluminum support pieces, locking them into place.
Repeat this procedure for each bolt position. There are 8 in total. The Tee Nut will bite into the Sintra and the bolt will protrude no more than shown. The bolt shown here may create a chafe point if the brace is worn with thin pants. You can cover this with foam tape to prevent injury. Ideally the bolt will not protrude at all. A long bolt can be shortened by adding an additional washer before the outer fender washer.
There should be about 1 inch clearance on either side of your knee. This is checked by placing the assembly on your leg. It should stay in place by the clamping action of the Sintra plastic pieces. If there is not enough space of if there is binding at the knee this will be taken care of when the assembly is in the final fit stage. If you notice that the support pieces contact your ankle bones this is normal and will be corrected in a later step.
Assembling the Foot Pieces
Beginning at the front of the foot assembly, you will install the foot; this is held in place by a single 3 inch 5/16 bolt that goes all the way through. There are also nylon fender washers between the aluminum of the foot and the steel of the foot support. The foot will pivot freely on the foot support and can be “locked” in place by tightening the foot bolt. It is optional but you can drill a hole through the foot bolt nut and lock it in place by using a small bit of wire. This is not necessary but a tighter foot will help you balance better and if the bolt is locked in place it will not loosen over time. You can also cut the protruding bolt off with a hack saw to make it flush with the end of the nut.
Next you will place the ankle support assembly. This is accomplished using two 5.5 inch 5/16 bolts through the ankle support, the ankle support block, the foot support, the other ankle support block and finally the other ankle support. The entire assembly is tightened and the nut is thread locked using Loctite. The ankle support blocks shown in the pictures were from a prototype design and you should use the solid ones shown in the drawings.
The 19/64 inch drilled hole in the ankle supports will be used for the toe strap and should be positioned facing the front of the assembly. You will have to prepare 8 Tee Nuts by flattening the prongs. These will be used for the ankle supports and for the toe strap anchors.
Position the modified Tee Nuts in the lower 19/64 inch hole facing outward in each ankle support. The upper hole is for the ankle pivot bolt and the remaining Tee Nut is placed in the 19/64 inch hole that is the lowest hole in the lower leg support with the flange on the inside of the support.
Assemble the toe clips with Tri Guides using a Tee nuts and bolt assemblies that are similar to the ones used to connect the plastic braces to the metal brace supports. You will not need to use a copper busing here as the Tee Nut will protrude through the Sintra far enough to create a pivot. You will also need to use a shorter (.5 inch long) 1/4 inch bolt.
Position your shoe between the uprights of the ankle support with the toe facing the front of the assembly and your ankle joint directly in line with the ankle pivot point of the ankle support. Place the toe clip snugly over the front of the shoe and mark its position. This is to find the place to drill the hole for the toe clip support. For a US size 10 shoe it is approximately 7.75 inches from the front ankle support bolt. By using the mark that you just made, locate the center of the 2 inch wide foot support steel then mark and drill a hole for a 5/16 inch bolt. This is the fastener for the toe clip. Fasten the toe clip down using a 2 inch 5/16 bolt and a large fender washer with a nut on the bottom.
You will now attach the leg braces and supports to the foot assembly. This is accomplished using a 1/4 inch by 1 inch bolt. You will use a nylon spacer between the ankle support and lower leg support and fender washer between the bolt and the lower leg support.
The last step in the leg brace is the making of the cable support that joins the foot to the thigh. This support cable will allow your upper leg to take your weight and reduce fatigue on your ankle.
The cable used here is a 3/16 inch steel aircraft cable. You will also need to use a 5/16 inch turnbuckle. The turnbuckle should have a weight rating of at least twice your body weight. A standard steel turnbuckle should have a weight rating of around 800 lbs but check to be certain. Begin by placing your completed stilt assembly in a “Z” configuration with the lower leg support in a vertical position along with the thigh support and foot both in a horizontal position. This will give you a nominal cable length needed.
Begin by creating a tight loop in one end of the cable with a cable sleeve. The sleeve is meant to be attached with a special tool but squashing it flat with a hammer will suffice. It is not quite as pretty but it will still work. The cut end of the cable should be just inside of the sleeve which will prevent fraying and possible injury. The loop is approximately 1 inch in diameter.
Attach the loop to one side of the thigh support using a 5/16 bolt with a large washer on the head side of the bolt as shown.
Extend the turnbuckle to its half way point and feed the other end of the cable through one eye of the turnbuckle. Place the other eye of the turnbuckle in the cutout of the foot support as shown and place a 3 inch 5/16 bolt through the assembly to hold it in place. Pull the other end of the cable tight up to the cable support bolt on the other side of the thigh brace and make a 1 inch loop around the bolt at that location. Mark the cable at 1 inch below the bolt towards the loose end of the cable.
You will need to tightly wrap the cable at the desired cut mark with some electrical tape then cut it directly through the electrical tape with a hacksaw. The tape will prevent fraying. Now using another sleeve, make your cable loop and flatten the sleeve. Attach the cable loop to the open thigh support bolt and tighten the bolt.
The turnbuckle can now have its bolt tightened. Adjusting the turnbuckle will allow you to adjust the foot support angle which controls the height of the stilt. You will also be able to adjust any slack as the cable stretches over time.
Step 8: Final fitting
Final fitting will be accomplished using the heat gun to adjust the Sintra plastic pieces. Begin by heating one Sintra piece at a time along the aluminum brace from the outside of the plastic. Be sure to heat only the Sintra, if you apply heat to the nylon straps or Tri Guide pieces they could melt and deform also. After about 1 minute the plastic will become pliable enough to form by hand as before. You will gently fold the piece outward as shown. Hold until it cools, again about 1 minute. This final heating and forming will remove any pinch points from the plastic and allow you to put on the braces a lot easier. This heating of the Sintra will also allow the plastic brace pieces to relax which should take care of any chafe points at the thigh and knee.
Repeat this process for the remaining plastic brace pieces. The toe clip is already formed fully so you will not need to heat this part any further.
Step 9: Final notes
You will have to learn to walk again but this process should be quite a bit shorter than the last time you had to learn. The key here is to find you new balance point. The foot of the stilt will pivot freely if it was not tightened significantly which will make balancing more difficult. It is usually advisable to have someone help you when you initially use the stilts, failing this you can use a taller than normal walking stick as an assistant. You should be able to be walking unassisted within about a half an hour. Be sure to practice walking for many hours before you plan on going out.
Getting into the stilts is fairly simple. Begin by sitting on a bench that is at about your waist height. Place your shoes in the stilts but leave them undone. Remove the heel turnbuckle bolt and swing the turnbuckle and cable out of the way. Place you foot inside of the loop of the cable and slide your foot into your. Press the lower leg support onto your lower leg followed by the thigh support. Tie your shoe and fasten the foot straps over the top of your shoe. Fasten the lower leg straps then replace the turnbuckle and heel bolt. Fasten the thigh support straps and lean forward to stand up.
The braces will limit your movement somewhat but they will allow you to stand upright with greatly reduced fatigue. You will also be around a foot taller than you were before.
The proper way to wear the stilts is shown in the following pictures.