Introduction: 2001 a Space Odyssey Clavius Suit

About: I am a maker, DIY'er, Dad, Engineer, and all around life Long Learner. My mission is to try new things, attempt to do more by learning from others and share my experiences with others for enjoyable experience…

If you look at some of my other Instructables, you'll see I am a big fan of arguably the most significant and influential science fiction movie of all time - "2001 - A Space Odyssey" by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubric. Released in 1968, it was critically acclaimed as a technically accurate movie albeit an aggressive look at technological advancements by the year 2001. To pay homage to it and to meet the request of some of my followers, I decided to make a complete, screen accurate (as possible), Clavius suit.

I was able to get a much better representation of the Clavius suit (as compared to my Discovery suit) because there was an actual "film used" suit at auction several years ago. Those photographs in the auction catalogue show significant detail to the suit and environmental equipment and thus captured much more detail than anything available for Discovery suits. Additionally, there was a tour of all of Stanley Kubric's work shown around the world which had a commissioned replica suit used on the tour. Coupled together, these references resulted in a highly accurate model here. The Discover suit, jet pack, and chest box details were much harder to find and thus have some liberties taken where no accurate references exist.

The project brings together the following skills: screen accurate reference searches and verification, scaling from photos, CAD, 3D printing software, gluing / finishing / painting, hardware fabrication and assembly, expert sewing and lastly, electronics.

This is a large endeavor but it is essentially a collection of a number of smaller projects that sum up to one large and significant result. If you take your time, and complete each portion with diligence you will have a awe inspiring project for a long time to come.


3D STL Print Files: If you want to make this exact suit you can get the STL files at the link below, or design a suit for yourself from your favorite SciFi movie. It just takes time on CAD and scaling from screenshots which I get into later in this instructable.

2001 A Space Odyssey files - Get HERE !

This file set is for the entire suit. It includes the Helmet, Back Pack, Chest Box, and Space Suit fittings.

General: Epoxy Glue, CA Glue, 12 AWG copper wire (4 ft), White & Clear Custom (Jet Printer) Decal Sheets, Epoxy Car Bondo, 3M Green Car Glazing Putty, Sandpaper (80, 150, 200, 400, 600 grit), Rustoleum Sandable Primer with Filler, Rustoleum Finish Paints,

Helmet: ~ 2.5 rolls PLA, 0.080" Acrylic sheet (18x24"), Brass wire (1/16"), Black Duct Tape, 5 vdc fans, Push on/off switch, Aluminum flashing Sheet, 3" 8-32 brass screws (2), Thumb screw nuts (2), 20mm niobium magnets (4). black silicone caulk, custom made decals.

Back Pack: ~ 2.5 Rolls PLA. 2" x 1/8" x 36" aluminum bar, 4-20 threaded inserts (4), 1/8" thick black plexiglass 8x 18", 1.5" wide black webbing 4', Webbing Clips (4), 3mm leds Assorted colors (20), Arduino Mega, Push on/off switch, USB Battery pack, velcro strips (3"), custom decals.

Chest Box: ~ 1 Roll PLA, 4-20 threaded inserts (4), Aluminum swivels (use mater listed above for Jet pack), 1.5" wide black webbing 4', Push on/off switch, USB Battery pack or 2 - AA battery rack.

Suit: Simplicity Pattern #9983 ~ Adult Animal Costumes, Silver Lame' Fabric, "Kona" Cotton Fabric (Silver/Light Gray), Quilt batting, Silver thread, Heavy duty zipper 48", Silver Velcro, Silver Ribbon. Yardages dependent upon the size of the suit you make (see pattern and add 25% more for mistakes).

Some notes/personal preferences on the materials...

I use Rustoleum paints and always use the sandable primer with filler. The paints are formulated to work well with the primer and finish paint for best bonding. Mixing brands may invite peeling issues. Rustoleum is slightly more expensive but is super durable and covers well. I use a semi gloss or even a satin as glossy shows paint runs and surface imperfections way too easily.

Use emery boards or small needle files to speed up the finishing process and to get into the details / corners of sanding down the bondo / excess glue oozes.

The 3M GREEN glazing Spot putty performs way better than the rust colored Bondo brand glazing putty. It sticks better, sands better but is about 2-3x the cost. I used the cheaper stuff and regretted it (more time and question the durability long term).

I use PLA filament versus PETG / ABS in spite of the sandability issues. PETG is too hard to dial in for smooth prints and ABS shrinkage can lead to internal stresses and layer cracks long after you pulled it off the build plate. Yes you can smooth it with acetone, but I still believe the stresses are internal and not as strong layer to layer.

Helmet fans: Optional... I wanted to ensure there would be no fogging up on the visor and it worked well with my Discovery helmet. Be sure to specify 5vdc fans to run off the USB battery as that is what they put out. 3D filament fans look similar but run on 12 and 24 vdc.

Step 1: Research and Design

I dug and dug around the internet to find as many photos as possible for what I was about to design on my CAD software (SketchUp). The more the merrier as many times you might think you see exactly what is in one picture but another angle shows a completely different dimension. This is especially true if your reference photos are dark or poorly lit from all sides. Search for movie stills of the object you wish to model. Many of those are done in good lighting. When all else fails you might just have to go with taking photos off your TV screen on paused frames of the movie.

Once you have the photos, look for the best STRAIGHT ON shots to flat planar surfaces (or almost straight on as possible). This minimizes scaling errors due to perspective. Ideally these pics will have something of a known dimension in the same photo and in the same foreground plane as the object you wish to scale. For example... On the back Pack I looked for a full on SIDE view and looked for measurement reference points - Shoulders - center of Lumbar - Hips, etc. I assume the actor is standing 6 ft tall and then scaled the length of the Back Pack with respect to his shoulders and Lumbar. I then checked this scaled dimension to my frame it was right on. Also you should think in terms of who built the original Back Pack (built in an English studio) so they must have used metric dimensions. When scaled I got an overall length of say 346 mm. Well, Since that is a major dimension of the back pack, I'm sure they would have designed to 350 mm and not some oddball number. Once I had the length established at 350 mm, I checked it against my body and then used that to ratio other dimensions off the photo and the overall dimensions (L x W X H) came in to exact nice numbers. From there, it is easy then to ratio out the enhancements on the Back Pack - knobs etc.

Step 2: CAD & 3D Print

CAD: I have two CAD software options to choose from to do this project - SketchUp and Solidworks. While Solidworks is way more powerful and SketchUp has some shortcomings, I ended up going with SketchUp. It all comes down to your personal familiarity with the software you choose to get the results you want. While SketchUp requires less detailed knowledge of the software to use it, it can be problematic creating details like the ribs on the back pack. It often did not close the surfaces so I had to inspect every little corner and fix the drawing to make it "water tight" as they say so no 3D holes existed in the model. A hole will give the 3D printer issues.

Because I used a Creality CR-10 which has a bed of 300 x 300 x 400 mm high, I had to split the helmet, and back pack into parts that required mating them back up and gluing them together. I picked design lines to hide the glue seams as much as possible. This makes the finishing easier if a seam can be sanded flush to a design line or if not possible at least hidden as much as possible to not be easily detected. See photos where I did this, especially along the seam for the back pack vertical halves.

Some features were not included into the CAD model for allowing me to perform a more accurate placement of key components like the fan and switch holes on the rear of the helmet. Sometimes looking at a CAD screen can deceive your eye as being correct and then it just doesn't look right when in 3D printed out. The helmet modules are very hard to get them aligned (a rectangle on a multiple curved surface) to the helmet. Hence I located them, and cut the fan and switch holes by hand to get it perfect.

See the photos for more tips.

Step 3: Glue Up the Seams

I use to spend a lot of time making alignment pins and mating holes to match up 3D printed parts. The thinking was for perfect alignment of the seams and strength of dowel pins to hold the seam together under use. However, while I still do this to SOME degree, I have found that slight 3D printing warpage (especially on tall / large prints) creates some pin /hole alignment issues and actually can create worse issues.

The better method is to first glue the pieces together with epoxy glue as close to matched seam as possible. Let it cure. However that alone is not sufficiently strong enough. Epoxy can chip off smooth plastic surfaces, especially if torqued or put into shear stresses. To address that we need to add some reinforcement.

I since switched over to a "rebar" method of heating up heavy copper wire (12 or 14 AWG) and pushing them into the plastic to act as a staple of sorts. I bend the wire into a clip shaped to match the curvature of the pieces being seamed and heat them with a propane torch until red hot. Them I just press the clip into the interior layer of the 3D print and it stays put. I then back fill the clip with more filament (3D pen) and then melt it into the piece with a soldering iron. Or if not available, you can just put a skim coat of car bondo or more epoxy over the "staple".

See photos where this was done.

Step 4: Body Finish the Printed Components

Once glued up and reinforced, now it is time to finish the components into paintable pieces. There are many examples on how to do this here on instructables and in my collection of instructables as well.

Basic tips are:

1. Fewer thinner coats are easier to finish off than one thick coat that takes forever to sand down.

2. Be willing to sand far enough down and come back and rebuild it up to get the purest smoothest surface.

3. Use a sandable car filler auto primer. It is VERY hard to see surface imperfections when the surface is mottled / camouflaged. Spray primer on to see the imperfections and then address those spots.

4. Alternate Smoothing Method (Resin wash) - Is very good method but can be a bit messy and pricey. A quick procedure is to use the cheapest resin you can get and brush it all over your 3D print. Cure it by placing it outside in bright sun or via a UV flashlight , UV light source box. Once hard, sand off the sticky skin and sand to dimension / smoothness you want. Repeat the steps if necessary. BE CAREFUL to note that the brush on method tends to collect into corners and rounds them off like a fillet weld. If not desired, it is advisable to try and not get resin into the corners or cracks. Here I used that method on the FRONT CHEST BOX. See Pictures.

Step 5: Finish Painting

Once all smoothed out and sanded, it is time for finish painting.


Do not buy a primer and finish paint all in one. They simply are cutting corners that will come back to look bad after a while. No use in rushing the project now!

Primer's main functions are to stick extremely well to the substrate and to provide a "tooth" for the finish pain in which to grab and not flake or strip off. Primer also makes the finish coat tougher from chipping.

After primer, then paint all the parts with LIGHT coats as possible. Many light coats will out perform a heavy single or two coats. There will be no runs and the finish will be more uniform. Follow the spray can instructions for recoat, full dry times, humidity and temperature in applying the paint. Let the paint fully dry before handling.

Graphics: Once the finish coats have been applied, it is time for detail painting. Study the photos of the object you are replicating and look for every minute detail. Often in movies components are "PAINTED ON" the item to look real ON CAMERA but is just an optical fake illusion in reality. This was done on the original parts for the movie and I reproduced them here. The chest box in particular has a number of painted on shadows, effects to look different on camera. I sprayed my detailing painted areas with an airbrush. Be sure however to tape things off carefully to apply paint only where you want it. Paint spray is notorious for finding its way around masking tape and destroying your finish coat.

Step 6: Helmet Details

I cut the visor from 0.080" acrylic sheet by tracing a template made from manila folder pieces all taperd together to form the prefect fit to the visor frame. I then fitted the visor into the frame and glued it into place into the helmet. I used plenty The fan holes were cut out by use of a Dremel tool and carefully cut out with the patience of taking small bites the fit check, repeat, etc, until it fit perfectly.

The three switches in the rear of the helmet are 1 each for each fan, and one for the led lights up front. They in turn get their power from a cell phone usb battery pack and a cable that runs up from my pants pocket to the rear of the helmet.

Step 7: Chest Box / Back Pack Straps / Harware

The strap connectors were hand cut out of a 2" x 1/8" aluminum bar. Then they were stacked together and filed down to become a matched set around their profile shape. Their slots were cut in using a dremel disk and then filed again by hand. While the slots are not 100% perfectly cloned to each other the webbing does a great job concealing any noticeable flaws between the brackets.

When sewing the straps to the hardware, use multiple passes and go slow to not break the needle on the heavy strap material.

They were then fastened to the boxes via a 1/4 - 20 bolts threaded into threaded inserts that were sunk onto the 3D printed boxes.

Step 8: Arduino Add Ons...

The LED lighting is optional as this is not seen in the movie. I added it for more realism / interest. This can be done in a variety of ways but what I did was to use a surplus arduino mega (overkill) I had laying around. Just keep in mind that the easiest most reliable way to light up LEDs is to use a 220 ohm resistor on each LED to be lit off the arduino. If you try to pair up LEDs off single resistors, one LED will draw more current than the other and lead to different levels of light output. By using the Arduino, you can also pulse the leds and get a special effect as if the back pack is actually functioning.

I have the arduino program here.

For the chest box I just installed two LEDs run off a switch and a battery pack ( no arduino).

Step 9: Sewing the Suit

To make the suit as close to a replica as possible, one will need to heavily modify the paatern mentioned in the supplies section. Advanced sewing skills are needed to make this suit shown here. It can be done, just take your time and enroll a person skilled in sewing if at all possible, or be willing to do rework to get it right.

Some key points...

1. The silver Lame' fabric is 50% metal thread, 50% polyester, so you need a VERY sharp needle and be willing to change it out about 4 x during this project. A dull needle will grab and "run" your fabric.

2. The suit is really a sandwich or quilt. Lame' on top, Batting in the middle, and Kona Cotton on the inside. You will make large sections of sandwiched material (some quilted in rows, some just plain/un-quited rows), and then the pattern sections are cut out from that quilted "stock" (see photo).

3. The pattern uses a raglan sleeve to match tht in the movie. This means the seam goes from the armpit up to the adam's apple. This will allow for the fabric banding of the 3 stripes to replicate the movie suit.

4. The pattern needs modifications in 3 areas: Center zipper from the belly button, down and up through to the neck, The legs and arms need vertical seams for row quilted or plain sections, and the neck ring band must be patterned from scratch.


Layout your pattern for the size you need on a table to see how it will be sewn together. Then make a NEW pattern from the legs and sleeves to allow for the seams between the row quilted and plain sections. Adjust for a seam allowance. Make new tissue paper patterns for these sections of the legs and arms.

Cut out all the pieces from the respective quilted stock (row quilted or plain quilted).

Sew the suit together following the instructions from Simplicity pattern. Be sure that the circumference of the sleeves and the legs exactly match that of the inside suit rings. This will insure a tight fit of the rings to the suit when glued in.

Open the seams in the legs and sleeves for the stripes material to be added. Sew them down to the leg / sleeve. See photos.

Pattern a neck band to match the circumference of the inner groove of the neck ring. Remember to put a casing in the last band of the neck ring for the hay wire to pull the neck into the ring. Sew the neck band onto the suit.

Pattern and sew on a back pack Pad onto the rear of the suit. Allow for the harness belt to pass through the pad on the sewn / hinge side.

The harness belt is 1.5 " webbing that has hook material on the very ends of it. The belt threads through the back loop and pad. The belt then comes over the hips to the front, then threaded under the inseam back to the rear and up to re-attach with velcro to the belt center via a "loop" section sewn on the belt.

Attaching the rings:

Slide the OUTER rings onto each sleeve and leg with the wide end open to the bottom of the leg and cuffs. Smooth a thin coat of Gorilla construction adhesive onto the inner rings where the legs and cuffs will slide over them.

The suit material is glued between the inner and outer rings.

Hold the leg/cuff onto the inner rings with a large rubber band until cured.

Now place a thin coat of adhesive on the material just where the inner ring is glued to the fabric and slide the outer ring over the glue. Let cure. See photos.

Step 10: Conclusion...

The motivation to finish a lengthy and detailed project like this is all in the passion for the subject and enjoying the journey in creating it! I didn't know how I was going to complete all the elements of this project when I started it, but talking to resources in sewing sure made this suit more exact that I ever expected.

Leverage the people you know to see where a project can take your skills to a new level, but just stick with it. It really is a collection of smaller projects and the learning and completing a hard part is just as satisfying as seeing the entire end result.

But the best part comes when I combine this passion with a favorite charity of mine - the annual Halloween benefit party for Children's Hospital of WI. In the end, it is a win win for all.

Space Contest

Participated in the
Space Contest