In this instructable I will show you how to make a giant robot costume on a budget. In total, the suit costed roughly 30-50$ and was made almost entirely out of cardboard. It took me over two years of procrastination to finally finish (as you can see from the various hair styles in the pictures). I wore this costume out to Salem, MA on Halloween a couple years back and got a huge response; every person that ran into me on the street wanted a picture with me.
The full description of the costume would be: Small Scientist Controling Giant Robot Suit, but that would make for a rediculous title.
List of materials (may vary):
Lots of cardboard
Great Stuff foam
Black duct tape
Plastic shopping bags
Underarmor longsleeve shirt and pants(should be tight)
Black and white fabric
List of tools:
Hot glue gun
Sharp knife/razor blade
The steps in this instructable are laid out as follows:
Step 1: Legs
Step 2: Arms
Step 3: Scientist
Step 4: Assemble
Each step may be broken down into smaller steps.
Step 1: Legs
The legs are cardboard boxes that are roughly the length of my entire leg, and are just wide enough to fit my foot with a shoe on in comfortably. In the picture you will see me standing on something inside the leg, I will get to that in the next step.
For the robot's "foot", I simpy duct taped a piece of cardboard that was shaped like a robot foot. These are STRICTLY COSMETIC, and do not aid in navigating around, in fact they make it harder sometimes. I made the foot so that it would bend in a natural-looking motion. You can see that motion in action here:
For the top, I had already ripped out the folding flaps, so I had to make new ones and hot-glue them in. I cut sections of styrofoam to the shape of my leg right around where my knee joint is. You can see in the pictures that the leg-holes are set back, this is to aid in balance. In step 4, you will see how these come in handy.
Step 2: Supports
It was obvious to me that I needed something to boost my height in order to fulfill the "giant" requirement. It wasn't so obvious, however, how I could comfortably carry the weight of something that could hold my entire body weight with each leg. I devised these supports eventually, and as you can see in the pictures, are quite strong.
They are basically strips of cardboard that have been notched halfway across several times. This allows them to be set into eachother in a crosshatch pattern that turned out to be very strong yet very light. I stacked four of these with peices of cardboard inbetween each support to aid in structure. The dimensions of these will depend on what "leg" box you are using. I made mine so that four of them stacked would reach the halfway point in the leg. It is important to note, that whatever box you are using for the leg, the supports should stack just high enough so that your knee is right above the top of the box (to allow for proper leg bending).
Each strip should look like this:
(the width of the strip is slightly smaller than the width of the leg box)
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These actually took the longest out of everything in this costume, but an easy way to notch these is to gather a bunch of strips together and secure them with a vise. Use a hacksaw to cut straight through each notch using the front strip as a guide. When you are finished, you should have a bunch of identical strips ready to be put together. I used a total of 64 of these strips in my costume, so the vise/hacksaw trick helped me out a lot.
As you can see from the picture, mine did not come out too perfect, but that didn't really matter when it came time to hold my weight.
Step 3: Foot Holders
At this point, I am standing on a cardboard platform, but I have no way of carrying the leg with me as I walk. To remedy this, I made a mold of my foot inside a box that would later be secured to the inside of the leg box.
The box I used for the legs actually originally stored smaller boxes that stacked inside of it. These smaller boxes fit very nicely inside, so I used them as the structure for the foot holders. I used a pair of shoes that had a lot of ankle support, this will help protect your ankle from anything rubbing against it and makes the "leg" feel like its nice and tight.
To make the mold, I just wrapped my shoe (with my foot in it) with a shoping bag, placed my foot in the center of the box and sprayed Great Stuff around it. If you're not familiar with Great Stuff, it is basically an expanding foam used to seal up cracks and holes in foundations and around pipes etc. I waited until the foam had expanded and dried (which took a bit, it needed multiple layers to fill all the space) and then sliced the box straight down the middle, leaving only the bottom of the box intact to act as a hinge.
Even though the top flaps are not able to close, I left them there. Incidentally I found out that the top flaps will stay flush along side the inside wall of the leg box, and "lock in" underneath the portion of extra cardboard that I mentioned is the first step (the top flaps of the leg box that I had to hot-glue in). You will understand what I mean in the next step.
Step 4: Put the Parts Together
Now time to put all the leg pieces together. Insert the leg supports, then the foot holders, then your foot, and you should be able to walk around!
Heres a short video displaying what I mean by "locking in":
Step 5: Forearms
Now that the legs are finished, it's time to start with the arms. This step quickly details the forearms, which are simply just boxes roughly the length from your elbow to your palm. Set them up as shown in the picture, with a hole cut in to stick your arm through. I had some leftover pole padding that I taped down inside the boxes to give my arm a nice tight fit, since it would be the only thing keeping it from sliding off.
Step 6: Hands
The hands took some inspiration to get working, so I remembered this robot arm toy that I had when I was a kid, and how it worked.
You may notice that some of these parts vary slightly between the left and right version. This is because I used the first one as a test, then used that knowledge to construct its opposite, resulting in two slightly different parts. For the sake of time and lazyness, I just kept the prototype.
So as you can see in the pictures, I started out just cutting out a shape that I figured a folded up hand would look like. I added the first layer of foam to the "pad" of each finger, placed a small piece of drinking straw lengthwise with the finger onto the still wet foam, and then put some more foam onto that. The drinking straws end up being the "channel" for a thick string to run through. This string is mounted at the "fingertip" and at the base of the "hand" onto something that can be manouvered with your own hand. I ended up using a rigid paper tube that can be found on old coathangers.
Once the foam is dried, it will probably be messy and won't allow the "fingers" to close naturally. Just simply trim these up to make a cool angled boxy shape for each pad.
I cut open the back of each hand to allow my hand to grip it. This also allowed room for my fingers to reach out to the bar that the string is attached to. You can watch this video to get a sense of what this should look like:
Step 7: Put the Parts Together
To assemble the arms simply throw on the forearms up to your elbow then grab the hands. In some shots my hand is visible, this could potentially throw off the illusion so wear a pair of black gloves to hide them.
I left the hands free floating to allow for as much free movement as I could get. This comes in handy especially when doing Tony Stark impressions.
Here's an early video showcasing the freedom of movement:
Step 8: Scientist Guy
The major aspect of this illusion is the small scientist man. He is driving this giant robot. It's only fair that he gets his own seat.
Unfortunately, the chest piece of this costume was destroyed in a drunken tackling incident. All that remains is these test pictures so I will do my best to describe it.
I started with a cardboard piece big enough to cover my chest, then cut out "straps" that would wrap around my torso. There were frour straps that would wrap around my sides underneath my arms and two that wrapped around the tops of my shoulders. At the end of these straps were pieces of velcro, so that they would all meet up on my back and secure to eachother.
I then cut styrofoam pieces for the seat and hot-glued them to the chest piece right below my face. Your gonna want a nice cradle for the scientist body to sit, he needs to look comfortable.
The scientist body itself was just a cardboard skeleton wrapped in white fabric to resemble those long coats that scientists always wear. The legs were wrapped in black fabric to show that he was wearing pants. The hands and feet were just more cut up cardboard.
I left extra fabric on the back of the scientist so that it could be wrapped around behind my neck to secure it better. A seperate collar/tie combination was constructed to "tie" it all together (with more velcro).
Step 9: Put It Together
Now the tricky part: put it all on at once.
I was lucky enough to have been able to borrow a pair of underarmor pants (they're not tights!) and an underarmor long-sleeve shirt, which makes me look more like a robot than jeans and a t-shirt would I guess... I just wanted to avoid the classic "dryer vent" arms.
I actually had three of my friends (and three seperate cars) help me carry the entire thing into Salem. The best way I've found out to assemble the whole thing is to find some level solid ground, get completely into the legs, put the chest piece on with your free hands, then have someone push up the forearms onto your arms and toss you the hands.
It's cumbersome and hard to walk around on (especially on cobblestone) but it's well worth it, I even made the local paper! They got my name wrong though and didn't get the entire costume in the shot, but I digress.
Congrats if you decide to embark on this costume, I would really love so see how it comes out and see any improvements made to it.