Introduction: Basic Samurai Armor (no Helmet)

For my project, I am planning on making samurai armor and helmet out of cardboard. I thought it would be a fun project, to see if I could actually make make a suit of armor made out of cardboard. Why samurai armor? Mainly because I think it would be easy to do because of the different pieces. Time consuming, but easy to do with patience.

This does not include the helmet, because there are templates and tutorials already made for that online.

Materials you will need:

  • Cardboard (at least as much as a refrigerator box)

  • Boxcutter

  • Twine

  • Hole Puncher

  • Scissors

  • Velcro strips (5 yards minimum)

  • Ruler

  • Fabric measuring tape

  • Pencil

  • Eraser

  • Hot Glue gun (and plenty of hot glue sticks)

  • Notebook

  • A lot of time and patience

Step 1: Measurements

Use a fabric tape measure to take different measurements for the armor. Below is what measurements you will need for this project, and what pieces they will be used for.

Hand (handguard)

  • Length of middle knuckle to wrist
  • Width of knuckles
  • Width of wrist

Arm (armguards, shoulder straps, shoulder armor):

  • Length of forearm (wrist to elbow)
  • Width of Elbow
  • Length of arm (elbow to shoulder)
  • Width of Shoulder

Chest (cuirass):

  • Shoulder width
  • Length from collar bone to waist


  • Waist to upper thigh

Leg (thigh guards and greaves)

  • Thigh length and width (at upper thigh and knee)
  • Shin length and width (at knee and ankle)
  • Knee length and width

Step 2: Tekko (Handguard)

  1. From the edge of your cardboard, use a ruler to draw a line that is the same measure as the width of your knuckles (top edge). Make a mark to signify where half of the line is.
  2. With the last mark you made, draw line that is the length of your middle knuckle to your wrist.
  3. Calculate the width of your wrist (bottom edge) divided by two. Use these numbers to draw two lines, one on each side of the second line you drew. (It should resemble an I, with the top line longer than the bottom at this point)
  4. Use your box cutter and cut out the entire shape of the handguard, which should look like a trapezoid.
  5. Cut the trapezoid in half to give you two pieces
  6. On each piece, measure about half an inch away from the side (the long side that does not make up the straight line that you just cut) on the bottom edge
  7. Mark the same up on the top edge and connect the marks you made. Make sure the line you made is parallel with the side you measured half an inch away from.
  8. Glue the cut pieces together as if you are making the trapezoid again
  9. Start out with the inner pieces by gluing the edges together and placing it on the back of your hand. Bend the two cardboard pieces carefully so it curves with the back of your hand
  10. Glue the outer pieces on and do the same as the last step so it “molds” to your hand
  11. Repeat steps 1-10 to make a the second handguard
  12. Add velcro (look at the very last step)

Step 3: Kote (Sleeve Armor)

  1. Start out by drawing a long rectangle, using the width of your elbow as the width and the length of your forearm as the length and cutting this out
  2. Use your ruler on either end of the rectangle to figure out how much you have to take from both sides to have the width of your wrist, and mark them. They should be at an equal measurement on each side so the width of your wrist is centered. This is so the sleeve armor will taper to fit your wrist at one end, and be wide enough to fit your elbow at the other
  3. Draw two lines from the marks you made to meet the corner that is on the same side. As a result you should have an elongated trapezoid drawn
  4. Cut off the extra cardboard off to give yourself the basic shape (long trapezoid)
  5. Cut the trapezoid in half lengthwise to have two equal pieces
  6. Hot glue the sides you just cut, and mold the pieces of cardboard to curve a bit on your arm
  7. Repeat Steps 1-6 for second sleeve armor
  8. Add velcro (look at the very last step)

Step 4: Suneate (Greaves)

  1. Draw a long rectangle using the width of the knee at both ends, and the length of the shin as the length of the rectangle
  2. Use steps 2-6 from the Kote (sleeve armor) steps to make the greaves. But instead of having one end taper to the wrists, replace the measurement with the width of the ankles instead
  3. After cutting your pieces in half and gluing them, you will need to cut the pieces lengthwise again so it looks like you put four pieces of cardboard together
  4. Glue the pieces on again, and mold them against your shin to get the general shape of the shin
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 to make the second one
  6. Add velcro (look at the very last step)

Step 5: Haidate (Thigh Guard)

  1. Cut another rectangle, using the length of the thigh and the width of the thigh
  2. Divide the width into thirds and draw three straight lines
  3. Glue the pieces together, use your thigh as a reference to know how far to "bend" the cardboard pieces. Use your thigh as a model if necessary
  4. Repeat steps 1-5 for the second thigh guard
  5. Add velcro (look at the very last step)

Step 6: Do (Chestplate)

  1. Start out by cutting out two panels of cardboard ( torso length (collarbone to waist) x shoulder width )
  2. Divide the width into thirds on each piece to give you 6 equal pieces
  3. Cut all of the 6 rectangles in half to give yourself 12 squares
  4. Grab 4 of the squares, and pair them up so 2 squares will create a rectangle
  5. Glue two of square pieces together, “bend” the cardboard and add more glue if necessary
  6. Glue the other two pieces together, have these curve a little to fit onto your body
  7. Cut all of the other squares into rectangles
  8. Glue two rectangles on one side of the squares to start building the chestplate (for the front you should have used 8 rectangles in total, 4 on the top half and 4 for the bottom)
  9. Once finished, you can start adding the velcro
  10. Cut out about 2 feet of velcro and divide them into six equal sized strips ( I made them 4 inches )
  11. Mark three x's on each side of the two chest plates, all equal distance apart (there should be 6 x's on each piece, 12 x's in total)
  12. Separate the velcro so you have 12 strips, half of them the hooks and the other side the loops
  13. Glue the hooks first on the front piece, with a dab of hot glue that is on the other side of the mark to put your piece of velcro
  14. When gluing, have the hooks facing out and the loops facing in

Making holes for the tassets:

  1. Three sections will have three holes in them on the chestpiece (front and back): Left, center, and right
  2. Divide each section into thirds and make a mark at every third, meaning that there will be nine holes in total on each piece
  3. Use the hole puncher on the marks, so you have holes for the string to attach the tassets

Step 7: Kusazuri (Tassets)

  1. Draw three rectangles, using the length of the waist to the upper thigh and drawing desired width (I did 3.5n on my armor)
  2. Divide each rectangle into four equal pieces
  3. Cut out the pieces to have 12 in total
  4. On each rectangle, draw two lines parallel with the long side to divide it into thirds
  5. Make three marks on each line, as if you were going to divide the rectangle into fourths the other way
  6. Use your hole puncher on the marks, so you can create holes for your thread, in each rectangle you should have six holes in total
  7. Get about a yard of string for the first three holes
  8. Insert the ends into the cardboard
  9. Double knot each piece of string so it doesn't fall out when you tug on it
  10. Start threading the three pieces of string through the first three holes from behind one of the tasset pieces, then push the end into the other hole so it loops
  11. Push this up to the chest piece, but leave a few inches between the tasset and the chest piece (I did about 2 or 3 inches)
  12. Do the same with another piece to continue working on the tasset, pulling that second piece up to the first
  13. Since the pieces do not seem to stay flat against each other, hot glue the bottom half of the first piece (closest to the chest piece) and overlap it with the second piece
  14. Repeat steps 12-13 until four pieces are added and make up one full tasset
  15. Double knot the ends of the string, to prevent the pieces falling off or coming loose
  16. Snip off the extra, and use it for the next section of the tassets
  17. Repeat steps 10-14 to continue working on the tassets until finished with the front and back

Step 8: Sode (Shoulder Armor)

  1. Use the length of your arm (shoulder to elbow) and the width of your shoulder and make a rectangle
  2. Repeat this step to make the second one
  3. Divide each rectangle into three equal and separate pieces to give you six in total
  4. Cut the smaller rectangles into thirds
  5. Hot glue the cut edges and bend to desired shape
  6. Once all pieces are glued and dried, overlap the pieces to the desired size you want (three making up one shoulder armor)
  7. Hot glue these pieces together to give yourself two final pieces
  8. Add velcro (look at the very last step)

Step 9: Watagami (Shoulder Strap)

  1. Draw two rectangles, each one using the length from the measurement of the shoulder (from the front to back) and the width of the shoulder.
  2. Divide each rectangle into four equal squares
  3. Hot glue two of the squares together and bend slightly to make an arch for the shoulders, repeat this step to create the second piece
  4. To the ends of the base of the shoulder strap, add one square to each side and glue those pieces together
  5. Bend a little to mold to the shoulders
  6. Get two velcro (3 inches) strips to the bottoms of the straps at both ends, and see where they fit on your body and the chest piece
  7. Mark these spots and hot glue the strips of velcro onto the shoulder straps and the chest piece

Step 10: Adding Velcro to Your Pieces

This applies to many of the pieces, as almost all of them need to have velcro to be attached. The example this is used for will be for the sleeve armor, but this can be applied on the other pieces, the measurements will just have to be replaced.

  1. Mark four "x"s on where you want to place your velcro (wrist and elbow on both sides)
  2. Use a fabric tape measure to measure the width of your wrist and your arm (elbow)
  3. Cut out velcro that is about half an inch longer than your measurements
  4. Separate the velcro and put a dab of glue on a mark
  5. The scratchy hook side will be glued face down (out and away from your arm) and the fuzzy loop side will be glued face up (in and towards your arm)

Depending on the size of your pieces and what pieces need it, the amount of velcro will vary. Keep in mind you may need more than you think.

Step 11: Finished Project

Here are the finished pieces of the armor laid out, showing how they look. It does look fairly basic, but it can work for a Halloween or a costume party if you need to whip up something without paying a lot of money.

Cardboard, string, velcro, and a lot of hot glue. What else would anyone need for a simple samurai costume?

Cardboard Contest 2017

Participated in the
Cardboard Contest 2017