Introduction: Street Sign Apocalypse Armor
Making armor from street sign. Pretty cool, right? Looks flashy and could protect you from all manner of swords and knives and such? Not a bad deal.
This is a project that is by nature highly personalized, but I'll guide you through the steps.
Alone, this took me approximately 4 hours plus a good 1 1/2 hours of planning. Planning should take less time with this to help, and a helping hand could cut the build time in half.
Because the street signs are free, this is a really cheap project. It should be less than $25 in any situation.
1.) The signs. These are the base of the armor, but also cannot be consistently acquired. I found mine discarded behind an old construction zone. One had obviously been run over, so I assume they left them behind as trash. I have found others this way before, so I suggest a doing little bit of scavenging to get yours. Do not steal the signs.
2.) A sturdy jacket. I found mine at a Goodwill for $4. I've included a picture so you get an idea what I was looking for, but don't get hung up on specifics. It needs to be sturdy and tight fitting, but that's all. Keep an open mind to what you can find if you want to build this on a budget.
3.) Rivets and corresponding washers. Approximately $12. I used 3/8 inch diameter, 1/2 inch long pop rivets. You could go shorter, depending on the thickness of the jacket you find.
4.) A little bit of Nylon Strapping. Could be scrap, but if you buy some, $5 would get you way more than you need.
1.) To cut sheet metal. I recommend an angle grinder or jigsaw. I used a table shear, which is much more efficient, but also limits the cuts you can make.
2.) Hand riveter.
3.) Something to bend sheet metal. I used a metal brake, but a vice and hammer do just fine.
Step 1: Designing Your Armor
No two people are the same, and nobody will find the same set of signs. This means that you need to design your own armor based on what you have.
Everybody's chest will have different features. I recommend cutting and testing many different shapes from cardboard to find what fits you best. I would start from your upper chest and work your way down, because your pectorals need to have the greatest range of motion.
I like the basic design shown above. Having two pieces to cover your pecs gives your arms plenty of freedom, and the strip between them protects your sternum. Below your arms, one sheet across will be enough. I also used three vertical segments on the front and back, but two is realistically enough.
Remember to cut each piece larger than you measured it by a couple of inches so that it overlaps with other segments.
Step 2: Organize Your Cuts
Once you have a decent design worked out, mark it onto your signs.
Keep in mind that when a cut has a sharp turn, your cutting tool may need extra space to make a turn.
Step 3: Making the Cuts
I used a bench shear to make my cuts. This worked very quickly and efficiently, but it isn't a common tool. My recommendation is a bench grinder, but whatever you have will probably do just fine.
You'll notice I made a slight change to the design of the lobster plates as I was working. If something comes up and you need to modify your design as you go, that's alright. There's a lot of tolerance in the final product.
Step 4: Bending the Metal
For this, I had a metal brake, which you can see in the pictures above. All you really need is a vice and a hammer.
Hopefully you have an idea of where you want bends from when you were working with the cardboard. If not, just hold each piece up to its proper place on your chest and decide if it feels like it pulls away at any points. You want it to fit fairly snug against you, but never to dig into you. The padding of the jacket will help fill in the spaces, so it doesn't need to be perfect.
Step 5: Putting It Together (Starting With the Back)
This is where the fun begins.
Seriously, this is where it gets hard. Have a friend help you, as the jacket becomes more and more difficult to work with as more metal sheets are attached to it.
First, drill holes in the pieces where you want your rivets to go. Put these along the top edge of each sheet at the corners. Make sure that each different bent face along the upper edge has a hole for a rivet. In my case, I had three faces on each of the main lobster plates.
Start with the back top piece, because the front gets unwieldly really quickly. Mark where the rivet holes will go with a pen or sharpie, then stab through the fabric at each of those points.
Poke the rivet through from the inside of the jacket and through the proper hole in the plate. Make sure it faces outwards. Even though it would look nicer if it faced inwards, it isn't worth the rivet poking into you. Make sure to have a washer on the inside of the jacket to stop the rivet from pulling through the fabric. The pictures above should help show what I mean.
Step 6: Adding the Front Plates
The front will get a bit tricky. Remember, you need to be able to open and close the zipper to take the armor on and off. That means the front pieces can only attach to one side of the jacket. The lobster pieces cross onto both sides, so we need to find a way to keep them from covering the zipper.
The solution is to rivet the sheets onto one side of the jacket only. I chose the left side arbitrarily. The other side will be riveted to straps that are tied onto the jacket. We'll do the straps later. For now, we'll get those metal plates in place.
Put on the pectoral pieces first. I cannot emphasize enough that these are where you need the best fit and the best freedom of motion for your chest and arms. You can put on both the left and right pectoral pieces because they do not cross over the zipper and prevent you from putting on the jacket. Follow the same riveting process you used to put on the back pieces.
The center strip that protects the sternum can be attached in the direct center to the flap that covers the zipper. If the jacket does not have one of these flaps, attach it by two vertical rivets just to the left of the zipper. Both can work.
The lobster plates are tough. Make sure to get at least two rivets attached directly onto the jacket for each, with one of them close to the center line at the zipper.
I propped the jacket up on a stool for the pictures above. I hope it helps you get an idea of how this should go.
Step 7: The Straps
Because of the zipper, you have to attach one side of each front lobster plate to a strap instead of the jacket. I used a short length of 2 inch nylon. Essentially, on each overhanging plate, where it should have attached to the jacket, attach it to the strap instead. A foot long of length should be plenty
Although one rivet should be just fine, it may help to drill an extra hole to put in a second on each strap. I did this, and I think it is best.
Below the right arm, you need to put on straps corresponding to each of the straps on the lobster plates. Try to line them up as best you can, but it doesn't make such a big difference if they're not quite perfect. Two rivets is essential on these. You will need to put a washer on the inside and outside of this rivet, because both sides are fabric. Leave a similar length of nylon as you did last time.
If you really wanted, you could attach buckles to these straps, but that's something you can do on your own time. I prefer to tie them.
Step 8: The Spaulders
At this point, I had thought I would be done, but I realized that something was missing.
That's right baby, we need some shoulder-pads!
I had an extra one of the danger signs lying around. I simply cut it in half for the spaulders. You can use a simple rectangle of metal for each side. You will bend each into a full semi-circle.
I put three rivets in each: one on the very top, one near the inner back corner, and one near the inner front corner.
Remember to keep it a couple inches away from your neck, not right up to the collar. Make sure that the fabric is pressed into the curve and stays flush against the sheet when you mark the spot for your rivet, or else it will be pulled tight and away from the spaulder.
Step 9: Sweet Victory
Keep in mind that this is mostly functional armor, but does not make you invulnerable. It will provide fantastic protection against slashes and it will distribute some blunt force, but it is very weak to thrusting attacks. That's right, don't let your friends stab you just because you're wearing this. Depending on the sign thickness, it will reduce the wound, but don't try it. Even though it could protect you, don't test your luck.
Stay fresh and party on.
Participated in the