Introduction: Cardboard Samurai Armor That Looks Authentic

I have to give credit to a lot of people for this instructable, particularly Atrophius for his award winning instructable, which was my inspiration. I actually wanted to create a whole set out of sintra like he did, but because I'm out of work at the moment, I decided that cardboard was a more economical decision. Also, I didn't have enough time to make many ancillary pieces such as the leg and arm armor, and helmet. So this current piece will only include the body armor (do), and includes the shoulders (sode) and dangly crotch/ butt covers (kusazuri). Next year though, I'm going all out, and hope to post an even more awesome instructable with a top notch suit.

With that note, I did diverged from Atrophius' armor in many ways. The first is that I really wanted this to have an authentic look, and decided to go with a layered scaled Do instead of a stacked flat version.

I apologize for the lack of pictures for the Do and Sode, but I accidentally deleted them off my camera. I don't know how, or why, but oh well, they are no more.

This suit of armor got me many compliments, and I think it was totally worth the time and effort to make everything look good. Many people couldn't believe it was actually made of cardboard. It turned out sturdier, better looking, and funner than I expected!

Step 1: Materials

This was a not a particularly demanding project when it came to materials. All I needed was:
- Lots of cardboard (single corrugated is easier to work with than double, but weaker)
- Lots of yarn
- 2 cans of spray paint (I would use a name brand like Kreylon. I used a no-name brand for one can, and it didn't have quite the shine.)

Tools that I used were:
- Yard stick
- Tailor's measuring tape
- Razor knife/ box cutter
- Clamp vices
- Electric drill with 1/4" bit
- Sharpie

- The time spanned a couple months, but I'd say that if you're handy, it should take two weeks of 2 hours a day during the weekdays, and one day on the weekend (for painting)
- About 30 hours

Resources I used were:
For inspiration
- Atrophius' insutructable
For details
- Sengoku Daimyo
For accurate pictures
- Samurai Store

Step 2: The Do (Chest/ Back Armor)

This is the main piece that really makes the costume. It was the most difficult because of sizing, and screwing up all the time.

Measure twice (or thrice, or more...)

The main measurements you need to take is your chest, stomach, side length, and chest length. I'm 6' tall, 170lbs, 34" waist, 40" chest. You can take your sizings from mine if you're similar.

My suit used 3" tall lames (scales). With a 1 inch overlap for lacing on each side, it was 17" tall total. For your measurements, you want the top to go up to the bottom of your collarbone, and the bottom to sit right about where your belt usually is. Be sure to include the curvature of your girth in your calculations. You equations for number of lames is Lames = (measurement - 1)/2, therefore 8 lames = 17".

The belly portion of the armor should be slightly wider than your girth to account for clothes and comfort. Too much though and it'll shift around a lot while wearing it. My belly is 34", so I made the lames 18". This gave me a 38" circumference (including 2" in lacing on the side). It was perfectly comfortable.


I used 6 sets across the bottom, 4 across the top, each equidistant from the other. They were 1/2" from the edge, and 1/2" square for top holes.This gave a 1" overlap. I used these measurements on all the pieces of armor.

At first I was using a screwdriver to make the holes, but then I started using a drill. Use a drill! It was way easier. I used a 1/4" bit.


I used 6 laces across in a pattern I made up after studying many others' lacings. Traditional armor like the one I made uses a hanging pattern, but cardboard isn't sturdy so I made sure that everything was laced tight everywhere. Less movement = less chance for breaking. For distance, I found that triple the distance needed to be laced is a good measurement.

You can use the pattern in the picture if you like. When lacing, start from the bottom and work your way up. After attaching each new lame tie all laces on the backside. This will tighten it. Make sure your laces are even on both sides of each run. When you've laced it all, start from the bottom again and tighten everything real quick. Your knots will tend to move towards the middle of the back side of each lame. That's good. Then just tie a bow-tie at the top of each run.


For the front I added a little curve by cutting a rounded top to the top 1/2" of each of the lower 4 lames. This gave it a little more rounded shape. If you're bigger, you may want to round both top and bottom. Remember to cut only the top two holes in each column for the bottom most lame.


The back bottom lames were the same size as the front, but I did not add the curve. The back was an extra 2" wide though since mobility in that direction is not as big a deal. That's a fairly traditional thing to do.


The top lame for front and back can be made in several ways. The more traditional way is to have it be kind of curvy. I used the semi-circle-drawn-with-a-cup method. It worked. Punch two holes at the top for the top assembly, and you're done.


I just drilled one hole in each of the four bottom lames for the left side of the armor, and then permanently laced it up. See how much spacing you need first, and then tie it.

For the right side I used frog connectors made of yarn and cardboard. Just tie loops to the front side on each lame, and then tie in 1" strings with little cardboard frogs on them. Put 4 frogs through, and it's on!

Shoulder straps (Katchu)...

In retrospect, I think I should've gone with a permanently attached on the back side shoulder strap. I took this pattern and cut the back off. You can see it in my picture below. Lace the backside up equidistant and uniform, and then lace the front. Put it on, and then tighten the front. If you feel like you want a little more or less spacing the front, then readjust the backs, and then tighten the front. The two holes on the side are for the Sode. I'll talk about them later.

Step 3: Sode

These are the cool shoulder pads.


2" x 9" for the bottom 5 lames. The top connector lame is 3" tall. Take the top 1" though, and bend it at a 90 degree angle up. I found that if you cut the the crease on the top side, and then fold over the top 1" when you give the curve to the Sode, the top 1" will stay at 90 degrees.

I used the traditional 5 columns of lacing. Punch two holes to correlate with the should strap holes.

Step 4: Kusazuri (Dangling Covers)

These were pretty easy, and I actually have pictures of them being cut and so forth. You can use these methods most of the other pieces as well, especially the Sode. When making multiples of the exact same lame or scale, just mark one, and then stack and drill. Warning though, if you get it right, it's awesome. If you screw up during the process, you'll have to re-cut a whole bunch more.

Traditionally, the front has 3 covers, and the back has 4 not so wide covers. They're all 5 lames that are 2" tall. For the front I used 7" wide lames, and for the back 5" lames.

I did 4 columns of lacing for the front ones, and 3 for the back.

Step 5: Misc...

The finishing touches matter, because you don't want to make this ultra cool armor set, and then wear it wearing a t-shirt underneath. On your head, maybe, but not as an under garment.


It took 2 cans of spray paint to do all this. PAINT BEFORE YOU LACE!!! Otherwise you have to undo everything, or just paint over your lacing. And then you don't get it in the overlapped areas, and if your armor shifts at all (which it will), then you'll have cardboard showing. Paint in layers, slowly, let it dry, paint again, etc... I just used black paint with no primer or anything. If I were making a plastic set I would paint a silver layer first, and then black, just for gloss, and in case it scratches, you can get a little shimmer of silver to make it look metal.


I used an old kung-fu outfit for the first layer (black with white sleeve cuffs), and then a Zinbei for the top layer (brown). A Zimbei is a traditional Japanese pajama for men. I got mine years ago as a present from an old Japanese family friend, but you can pick one up at any Japanese supermarket usually. For the belt (Obi), I used the black kung fu sash. I just jammed my sword in through and held it most the night. For my hands I just used old motorcycle gloves.

I didn't have anything for shoes and it really bothered me. I wore black dress socks, and then wore my Nike cross over sandals. It didn't look that great... You can pick up Japanese sandals (Geta) at most Japanese supermarkets.

I didn't have time for the helmet, so I used a black t-shirt for a ninja mask. Just pull the shirt over your head like you're going to wear it, but only pull it down until it sits on your nose. Then pull the back over your forehead. Pull the sleeves back and tie them behind your head. Watch the front though, cause mine drooped, and I didn't notice till it was too late.

If you have any other questions, ask in the comments and I'll be sure to get back to you. And please give me a good score if you think liked it!

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