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Choice of Metal for Armour? Answered

I have been wanting to make a suit of Armour made out of sheet metal for cosplay. I wanted to know what will be a better choice between Aluminum and stainless steel? I am considering weight, ease of bending/ shaping and creating moveable joints (using rivets maybe?)

3 Replies

randofoBest Answer (author)2017-06-19

In my opinion, aluminum would be easier to work with because it is softer, lighter, and easier to bend and puncture. Neither option is remarkably cheap.

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AndyW63 (author)randofo2017-08-06

Stainless is going to weight about 7 times more than Aluminum for armor pieces, and for cosplay you don't need it's strength (when I make armor for fighting I need to use a lot thicker pieces of Aluminum for the durability in combat so the weight trade off is a lot less).

Right now my metal supply shop has stainless sheet at about $6 a pound and Aluminum at $1.60 a pound so I could make a basic suit of cosplay armor (chest, arms, legs, neck) for around $20 to $30 in aluminum. Also if you have to ship your sheet because you don't have a local supplier and have to buy on line Aluminum is a lot cheaper in that area as well.

The main issue with Aluminum is that as you heavy dishing or complex shapes (typically elbow/knee cops or helmets) the metal may work harden and get brittle. Make sure if you are periodically re-softening the metal (annealing) it. With steel you do this by heating the piece and then letting it air cool, but Aluminum is the exact opposite, you heat it to about 500 degrees F and quench it in water. The easiest way to do the heating is to use an oven, but most people don't have those in their shop space so you can use a torch. The trick to getting the right temp is to put sharpie marks on the piece, heat it with a torch evenly until the marks evaporate, then dunk it into a bucket of water.

Last tip, remember that Aluminum is really soft so make sure your work surfaces stay as clean and smooth as you can get them. If you get a sliver of aluminum imbedded in your hammer or on your work surface it can leave heavy scoring in your piece that may take a lot of sanding (and thinning of your metal) to get out.

Overall Aluminum is a great material to make costume pieces out of and I hope you enjoy working with it. :)

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KennethM45 (author)2017-11-07

The down fall with aluminum is that it won't last long in the joints, especially if you need maximum mobility. Many people on the East Coast (SCA Kingdom of the East) use a heavier gage of AL an make it work for fighting. Having made armour from Al, Fe, Cu, leather, and plastics I have found that a 20 ga light steel is great for show armour. It is easy to manipulate and to make look very good. One piece of very important advice is to put nylon, leather, or any type of insulator between joints at the rivets. If you add a single thickness of the metal you are using and the insulator, you won't sound like a walking foundry. :) Found this out bu listening to a person in a Roman Cuirass trying to sneak through the woods in a war we went to. You could hear him jangling from 30 feet away. :) All the ideas in these responses are good ones, just use what ever you can afford and easily work with.

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