Introduction: Pretty Easy Armor Gauntlets Out of Thermoplastic

About: I am a theatre designer and technical director. I work at Merely Players, a small non-profit theatre group in Southwest Colorado. Check us out on Facebook: Merely Players-Durango. You can also see some of …
I have been thinking about how to make gauntlets out of EVA 1/4" foam for a while.  But the foam just doesn't seem to me to be sturdy enough for the abuse that gauntlets would be put through.  Also, even at 1/4" I think the foam would be too thick.

So I looked at some photos of gauntlets and came up with the idea of using polystyrene thermoplastic for them.  Polystyrene has quite a lot of strength, particularly when it is formed into a three-dimensional shape.  It is also pretty easy to shape with a heat gun.  Instead of the traditional rivets, I also thought that pop rivets would work just dandy. 

It took some patience, but not tons of time and very little monetary output.

Step 1: Materials

polystyrene - 60 mill or thicker - you can get it through Regal Plastics or do a search for high-impact polystyrene sheets
pop rivets - I used short ones with a 1/8" to 1/4" grip range
pop rivet gun - to make them pop
good scissors - I tried the "medic" scissors but ended up using Fiskars mainly
drill -
drill bit - I really liked using a #8 screw setter bit - it doesn't grab the plastic or leather like a twist bit does
hot glue gun-
hot glue - I didn't use much, just for the velcro
velcro -
leather - I had some from a friend who does leather work and had scrap left over
leather gloves - I recommend ones that are soft - you might look at thrift stores
metallic spray paint - I like the hammered look
hammer with a ball on one end - not really totally necessary, but nice for making knuckles
heat resistant leather gloves for forming-
heavy duty waxed thread -
heavy duty sewing needle, curved -

Step 2: The Template

I looked at a lot of templates.  But I really like the Armour Archive site.  I found a really nice gauntlet template by Thor Z.  He has it sized for large hands.  I just downloaded the images and printed them out.  His instructions are clear and he has some nice photos of the finished gauntlets for reference.

Just cut the templates out and place them on the polystyrene.  I punched holes into the paper so I could mark where the holes were to be drilled.

Below you see the pieces for one finger all cut out and ready to form.

Step 3: Forming

I found that using 3/4" and 1/2" pvc pipe for forming the fingers worked just great.  Put on your heat-resistant gloves and lay the polystyrene piece on top of the pvc.  Heat it as evenly as possible.  Don't get the heat gun too close.  I used the lower setting of my two-setting heat gun.  The plastic will start to look glossy, then it will start to curl.  Don't heat it so much that you smell the plastic.  Think gentle and slow. 

Once it gets soft you only have seconds to really form it.  For fingertips I wrapped it around the 3/4" pipe first, then placed that on my glove and heated the end.  Then, when the plastic is soft, I cupped my other gloved hand and formed the end over my fingertip.

For the plate on the back of the hand I cut pvc pieces and screwed them to a scrap board.  Then I heated the piece a section at a time and pushed it onto the pipe pieces, holding it in place for a few seconds.  The angled piece on the side shapes the area to cover the thumb.  This turned out to look pretty nice.

For the little knuckle pieces, I formed them over a 3/4" pvc piece first, then I put the hammer with a rounded end into a vice.  After heating the rounded edge a bit, I cupped my gloved hand over the piece and forced it to conform to the rounded hammer.

The wrist pieces were free formed by very gently heating only the sides that had to bend around the wrist and then bending them to a rounded shape.  If you had some 2" pvc or a cardboard tube that size you could form over that.  Just don't get it too hot or the piece will get floppy and you can't control the bend.

Step 4: Assembly

Drill all of your holes.  Then I followed Thor Z's instructions.  Assemble the fingers first.  Then I spray painted all of the pieces and let them completely dry.

You work from the fingers back to the wrist putting it all together.  I used backing plates with all of the pop rivets so that the ends wouldn't come through the leather later. Don't forget to drill little holes for sewing the leather strips to the glove fingertips.  I didn't sew the part at the base of the finger to the glove.  Instead, I used pieces of black nylon web strap (next to last photo) and had that hold the lower finger.  The last photo on this page shows the strap in place.

Step 5: Assemble the Wrist and Sew

Pop rivet the finger leather ends to the square piece of leather that has been attached to the back of hand plate.  The instructions say to allow the thin knuckle plate to pivot.  I cut a notch into a couple of scrap pieces of polystyrene.  Then I wedged them between the two plastic pieces when I pop riveted them.  After the rivet was set, I pulled out the scrap.  That left a little gap and allowed the knuckle plate to pivot a bit.

There is a strap that goes across where the palm meets the fingers.  The instructions use a small belt.  I used black web strap and velcro.  I hot glued the velcro onto the strap and put in staples with a heavy duty stapler.

Three leather strips hold the back of hand plate to the wrist pieces. 

The last thing I did was sew the finger leathers to the glove fingertips.  I had a really strong waxed linen thread that worked great.

I haven't had a chance to work with the gauntlets much yet.  They may be used in a stage production.  By using the high-impact polystyrene and leather and pop rivets, I believe that they will take a lot of abuse with little damage.
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