This year I decided to opt out from boring practice of buying standardized Halloween costumes for my kids and build ones myself. This Instructable is for the one I built for my son. I hope it is interesting not only because it is cool and unusual, but also as a fun reading about different costume-making technologies.
The costume starts with an idea. I spent quite awhile thinking what my 10-year old boy might love. Star wars trooper? Alien? Ninja? Well, I probably can make a not bad snow trooper costume, but admit it: there are hordes of troopers out there on the streets and they are plain boring. I was looking for something standing out of crowd, wild, ridiculous, having as much Halloween spirit as possible and I was totally failing to come up with something cool. And when you, parents, can't solve a problem there is only one way to proceed: ask your child.
It appeared that he already had the idea fully baked and polished in his head and the idea was CYBORG PUMPKIN! What can be more ridiculous and Halloweeny than a Cyborg Pumpkin? I don't know. I think that was an awesome idea, so we both proceeded with discussing the implementation details right away.
In this instructable I'll explain all the steps, successes and mistakes and I hope it will help you to come up with a great costume for the next Halloween. It doesn't have to be Mutant Cyborg Pumpkin™®©:, so start your own project from step 0: Come Up With a Cool Idea.
Step 1: It All Started As a Prototype ...
Here is one important principle I stuck with during this project: always have a working version of the costume. With two kids we had to demo the costumes 5 times and every time these were different costumes. The idea was essentially the same, but after each demo I was adding new cool features.
So always be ready to present your costume and start with something really simple. Like, for instance, a cardboard costume. What could be simpler: knock off the bottom of a cardboard, cut three holes and you got your "FedEx Ground Shipping" costume. It's free, it's simple and I didn't see any "FedEx Ground Shippings" trickortriting on the streets, so it is original too. And if your child will tell you that tomorrow he/she has to show the costume on school parade, you're ready. Not quite awesome, but ready.
The Cyborg Pumpkin costume started exactly this way. And the cardboard box made its way as a part o the costume all the way to the final version and beyond. Why beyond? Because this costume will never be done, it's always work in progress and every few days I plan to add new feature to it. So next year this costume may be still in use but it will look totally different.
Anyway, back to the costume. I started documenting the project too late and can't show you the full-scale "Ground Shipping" Costume, so here is the model.
Even on the model you can notice that this costume must be very difficult to wear, take it off and move around. I realized that bulletproof vests consisting of two shields connected to each other over the shoulders is not just a fashion trend, but also a necessity. So I quickly cut out the sidewalls too and the next version looked like it’s shown on the picture.
It is difficult to realize the potential of this suspiciously-looking piece of cardboard until you see the following picture where I bent the cardboard to form something like thorax (an ancient version of bulletproof vest). Proceed to the next step to see it.
Step 2: Making Things Complicated: Combining the Boxes
Well, the current version of the costume is flat boring not because it is plain simple, but also because it is flat. We can make its shape more sophisticated by adding a few more boxes of various sizes. I took a small box and glued it to the front. It serves not only decorative purpose, but also works as a candy container. Admit it, a Mutant Pumpkin Cyborg with a bag or basket full of candies looks goofy. Also his hands will be busy annihilating everything around him, so keeping that candy container integrated into the armor was one of the best ideas about this costume.
The larger box on the back was chosen to resemble a backpack. On the picture you can see that one of its sides is almost completely cut off and I did that for two reasons:
- Even at this point it was clear that the resulting costume will be heavy (I just didn’t realize how heavy it will be). So everything contributing to the weight had to go. See how part of that box wall still remains in place? That’s to maintain the box integrity.
- I needed a place in the costume to store all the batteries, cables, wires, switches and other electronics. This box is the place.
Finally one more disassembled box was added to the front to cover the belly and the sides. I left the flaps in place so they also work as kind of belt keeping all pieces together.
One part still missing in our armor is something covering arms. I used the flaps previously cut out and bent them in a hexagonal shape. Hexagon seems more sophisticated than round and square shapes and it’s easier to make than 7-, 8- and so on –gonal shape.
A few things to keep in mind while gluing the arm armor are
- You will need to bend your arms. For this reason you need to cut out two triangles from the sections of the hexagonal tube. Check out the pictures to see how this works with straight arm and when it is bent
- I wanted to integrate the weapon system into one arm (to be discussed later). This is why one section was made significantly longer than the other to accommodate extra accessories and electronics
- If you pull the tube all the way up the arm you will notice that the delta muscles are not covered. I added two more pieces of cardboard to these sections. They cover deltas when the arm is relaxed and disappear under the shoulder armor when you bend the arm.
Step 3: Restyling the Bumblebee Way: Making Things Smooth and Sophisticated
Our cool cardboard costume already slightly resembles Bumblebee-Camaro from Transformers. I mean the 1977 Camaro Bumblebee and in this step we will make more 2007 Camaro shape-wize. We will smoothen these angles and add more sophisticated elements.
The first body molding I used was the foam pipe insulator, the one available from Home Deport or Lowes. I glued it around the neck like many types of armor in computer games have. This not only made the shape more sophisticated but also protected owner’s neck from sharp cardboard edges. It also added some colors (ha-ha).
BTW, the last picture revealed on more problem: the flaps can be easily ripped off. So I fortified them a bit with a door screen net.
I must admit that gluing the net to the box is not fun at all. You need to make the hot glue to go thru the net and stick to the cardboard. At the same time you need to keep the net flat so it doesn't form too many bumps on the surface. So its not trivial to glue the net with hot glue. Unfortunately hot glue still seems the best solution for this. The way I found resembles welding. You touch one point of the net, push it down and squeeze a drop of glue that is now forced to bond the cardboard and the net. Then you put another drop and another. When the net is fixed at a few points with glue drops you can start carpet-bombing it with glue.
Now take a look at the shoulder area and the part of the front shield to the right and to the left off the candy container. They do not look good at all. These parts are too square and too rough. There are multiple ways to fix it and maybe the most popular one is using fiber cloth and Bondo. Unfortunately it was raining that day and this solution didn’t work for me, so after some thinking I came up with a less traditional approach.
From one of the previous projects I’ve got some plaster cloth leftovers. I added some padding to the areas where I want the surface to be curvy and bumpy and applied plaster cloth on top. Plaster fixes in just few minutes, doesn’t smell, seems pretty tough after settling, so this solution worked just great. The only caveat is that you need to paint or cover it somehow completely; otherwise it will keep leaving white marks on cloths.
Finally you can make the costume more sophisticated by visiting your recycling bin and adding some of its contents to the costume. Take a look at the photos to see how pieces of styrophoam, yoghurt cups and cookie lids can improve a Halloween costume.
That’s it for this step: we got much smoother and sophisticated costume than before. Keep reading to find out where I totally screwed up in this step ☺
Step 4: How to Turn a Cardboard Costume Into a Plastic Costume
Our costume already looks and works great, still haы one huge problem. It frequently rains in DC area in November. Now can you imagine what will happen to the cardboard and plaster when they will get under rain? And what will happen to cloths of the person wearing all this mess? So the costume needs some waterproofing and turning our cardboard-plaster costume into a plastic costume can do it.
I tried two solutions to the problem. The first one is called Bondo and it is very popular among armor builders and rollerbladers. The solution is indispensable when you need to turn rough or crackled surface such as sidewalk or paper base of the armor into something more smooth and tough.
The other solution I tried is titled fiberglass resin and I started with this one. Basically both chemicals will lead you to similar plastic-like result and the main difference is the thickness and the curing time. Bondo looks like toothpaste and cures in 3-5 minutes. The resin cures in 20-40 minutes and looks like drench.
The resin worked wonderfully. I found that the best way to apply it is using some kind of paintbrush, in several layers. You also need to lay the surface you’re about to treat horizontally flat otherwise the resin will drip. Since it’s less thick than Bondo it cures into a flat surface and there is basically no need to sand it. The only problem is the time this stuff requires to cure considerably well is several hours. Even 4 hours later the surface was slightly sticky and I wasn’t able to turn it upside down and apply resin to the other side of the costume. Maybe adding more oxidizer could solve this, but I was running out of time, stopped my tests and switched to Bondo.
Bondo is much thicker than the resin, so you can apply it to vertical surfaces. It also cures in 3-5 minutes, so can be applied much faster than the resin. That sounded like more fun and I continued with Bondo and finished covering the entire costume in just few hours.
One mistake I made in the previous step you probably noticed by carefully examining the photographs. It appeared extremely difficult to apply Bondo to complex surface with a lot of small details. So I had to rip most elements applied one step earlier off and glue them back when Bondo cured.
One more thing to mention here is that I didn't use neither the resin nor Bondo the way they are intended to be used. The way you use both is using them with fiberglass cloths to create nicely shaped and robust surface. You also need to treat both inside and outside of the surface for additional strength. I decided not to do that in order to save time. All in all the final result was completely satisfactory to me. The only reason I mention this here is to inspire your curiosity, so you do some reasearch and read blogs of professional armor builders who can show better techniques of handling fiberglass.
Step 5: Sanding Job. Painting Job.
Unfortunately both advantages of Bondo turn into disadvantages when you need a smooth surface. Once Bondo is completely cured the sanding time comes and you realize that getting rid of all these bumps will take you whole day or more. After sanding like crazy for 3 hours I only came up with something that looked like moten metal at best. Then I stopped and verified my results with the main Mutant Pumpkin Cyborg expert in the tristate area (my son). And, oh miracle, saving my hours of sanding! It appeared that MCP's armor is actually not mirror-flat, but reminds molten metal – exactly what I've got!
There is not much to say about painting. You just spray and pray the result will look good. Couple advises though:
- Try applying not all paint at once, but rather a lot of thin layers. Lightly spray once. Let it dry. Examine the areas not completely covered with paint. Lightly spray it again. Repeat.
- This is an outdoors work and you still need a respirator and goggles. The paint smell not that bad to some taste but does terrible things to your lungs and body in general.
- Keep it outside until the stuff stops stinking completely. That could be days. Also you can use space heaters and fans to speed up the drying process.
Step 6: Aux Armes Cyborg!
One special part of the armor is the left hand. The cyborg needs something to backup his request for trick or treat and a kind word and a blaster appeared to work much better than a good word alone. I decided to integrate the weapon system into the costume, so part of the left-hand armor should carry all the lasers and phasers.
One important rule here is that the weapon has to be integrated into the left arm, not right. The rule obviously applies to righties only and the reason is quite obvious. The person in this costume needs at least one hand free for safety and candy grabbing reasons.
I started building the weapon system by drilling a hole diagonally thru the armor and inserting a dowel thru it. This formed the handle and its angle repeat the natural angle of human’s fist. Try making a fist and you will see that it’s easier to hold a handle located at an angle, not vertically. Also I cut the end of the armor at the same angle, to keep the fist completely hidden inside and the shape of the armor less trivial.
For the main gun I used a piece of transparent plastic tube Lowes sells to transport daylight lamps. I planned to mount inside the tube the brightest LED I have, but it had problems with heat dissipation. The brightest LEDs are like that. So I switched to the brightest flashlight, which happened to have Cree Q5 LED. That’s one powerful LED that completely blows away any camera you point it to. It also lights the street a few hundred feet away and has all the necessary radiators. I mounted the flashlight with the help of two bottle cups and was very surprised how well they fit inside the pipe. The rear cup had this drinking contraption inside which I installed a bright LED. Also I put all wires that power both LEDs into one of these flexible high-pressure plastic tubing also available from Lowes. The idea was to use it as a light pipe. I can’t say I was very successful, but overall effect was close to desired. After all light pipe costs $5 per foot and the tubing is only $7 for 10ft.
To hide the wires inside the armor I used aluminum bottle cups (aluminum, because they don’t need additional painting) and passed the tubing with wires thru them before entering the armor. The result looks cool, check out the pictures.
Underneath the armor I mounted a smaller caliber weapon. Actually the weapon itself wasn’t fixed, it was inside a plastic tube approximately ¼” in diameter. This allowed this weapon to be retractable. In order to make the full combination of weapons more colorful I made each type use different color. This smaller “laser” is Blue. Varying colors caused a minor problem with necessity to use different resistors for each LED, but overall the result was very impressive. Oh, and I have no clue where I got this thin transparent tube. I think it is packaging for heat shrink I bought on amazon from company called Small Parts, but I’m not sure.
Both the main weapon and the smaller one I mounted on standoffs, one of which is actually the handle dowel. The other ends of the tubes are mounted on small pieces of Styrofoam.
Step 7: Aux Armes Cyborg! (Contd)
On the left side of the armor I mounted a shorter piece of daylight lamp packaging tube and kept it glued even while applying Bondo and painting. I also masked the outer side of the tube with yellow masking tape. The plan was to remove the masking tape after painting is complete and keep one side of the weapon system transparent. But when I mounted a red LED inside this tube and turned it on, the effect was so cool that I decided to keep the tape. The only thing I did is sanding the tape a bit to make light coming thru it more even. Check out the photos to see the effect of red light leaking thru the masking tape.
The biggest gun of the system is the armor itself. In the corners of the hexagon I mounted 6 (obviously) green (again, keeping the colors different for different weapons) ultrabright LEDs.
I wanted to provide a convenient yet covert way to fire the weapons, so I also mounted on the dowel four large push buttons (Sparkfun sells them for $5 for 12 buttons) and covered everything with a sanded piece of plastic cut from a cookie box. The easiest way to trigger the weapon would be embedding a battery inside the armor and using the push buttons to provide power to the LEDs thru different resistors. I decided to use a more complex way and connect all buttons and LEDs from entire costume to a central hub. This way I can commutate them any way I want. Instead of linking all connections one by one I use two UTP5 cables (the ones used to connect your computer to the internet wired way). If you cut this cable you can find 8 wires inside terminated with an RJ-45 connector. Sparkfun sells RJ45 sockets (make sure you buy the simplest ones without magnetics) that allow plugging the cables on the other side of the connection.
I sent these cables thru the upper part of the sleeve and used plastic sleeve (available from RadioShack) to cover the cables. The cables intentionally go outside of the armor to make this look like a part of real Cyborg. The same combination of two bottle cups is used to cover the places where cable enter the armor.
By the way, did you notice that 90% of our cyborg consists of recycled materials. I guess for this reason it can be claimed a piece of green technology. ☺
Step 8: The Claw
Well, the left hand looks cool now, what about the right hand? Yes, it would be nice to keep it mobile, but still it needs some kind of decoration. I was thinking about this from the very beginning of the project and after rejecting a few ideas decided to use a glove with a few lighted elements embedded. The donor glove was obtained from Lowes and basically the only criteria for it was lowest possible price (around $6).
On the top of the glove I put a large bottlecap, drilled 6 holes in it and inserted pieces of transparent tubing. In the cap I mounted two fast flashing RGB LEDs, one pointing toward 5 finger tubes and one pointing toward a thicker tube carrying the wires and disappearing under the arm segment of armor.
It’s interesting to note that if you wire bunch of flashing (“rainbow” is another term for these two-prone RGB LEDs that change their color automatically) LEDs in parallel and turn them on they will start flashing with the same color pattern. However just a few seconds later their timing starts drifting and they generate patterns that looks totally different.
Anyway, the tubing was sticking in different directions and was not flexible enough to just glue it to the glove. Also tubing glued to the glove just won’t let you bend the fingers. To address these problems I use aluminum flashing to create a set of rings that being glued to the tubing kept it in place, while keeping the glove flexible.
When I shut the room lights and turned on the glove lights the result appeared to look much better than I expected. Unfortunately it was hard to capture on camera because LEDs were too bright and didn’t allow to capture the light going thru the tubing. So I put aluminum foil under the cap and around the place where the thick tubing enters the cap to screen the brightest parts. That worked great and I was able to capture the result on camera with both the cap and the tubing bright enough to be recorded.
Step 9: The Pumpkin Head
So far we did a lot of Cyborg work, but not much Pumpkin work. Let’s fix that and build the pumpkin head.
This pumpkin head started its life as a $10 lamp gathering dust on a shelf in Target. If not its price tag the helmet would probably be based on slightly more versatile $22 plastic carveable pumpkin from Michaels.
I started work on the helmet from removing the bulb and cutting the remaining shell almost into two halves, leaving them connected just at the top of the stem. Then I cut out the bottom part almost completely so it is possible to put the pumpkin on head, keep the chin on the small remaining part of the bottom and close it like a clamshell.
Then I started cutting out random pieces of the pumpkin with rotary tool. The rotary tool is somewhat difficult to control when you’re using it to cut curvy lines while keeping everything hanging in the air and that’s perfect because the result is completely random. After cutting out some holes I hot-glued pieces of aluminum foil from inside. The result looked like Terminator of Arnold Schwarzenegger would be a pumpkin. Awesome!
I wanted the costume to be slightly eerie, but the lamp was so happy that had to do some plastic (literally plastic) surgery and took out some parts of the face side. Namely the eyebrows area and happy smile had to go. Poor pumpkin …
I spent some time comparing evil and funny pumpkin carvings and here are a few ideas about how to turn smiley into evil. Reverse them if you need to turn evil into good (I wish it is so simple in real life).
- Smiley eyebrows go from outside-lower corner to inside upper corner pretty much like house roof does. The evil ones go in opposite direction
- Smiley has a few dull teeth. Evil has a lot of sharp teeth. I replaced mine with aluminum so it looks like bugs and decay ate happy smile.
Step 10: The Pumpkin Head With Vengeance.
After cosmetic surgery was complete and all holes patched from inside with foil a la Terminator I continued with orthodontics. I had to replace cut out dull teeth with sharp and pointy ones. I tried 1 mm aluminum sheet and aluminum flashing. The last one was not only cheaper, but also much easier to handle as it can be cut with plain scissors. Ok, I cut the thick aluminum with scissors too, but that was horrible experience.
On the pictures you can see how I cut out the lower jaw. The upper jaw was easier to implement on tooth-by-tooth basis and I used the debris from the lower jaw for this. Note how two upper teeth are much longer creating a vampire-like face if you can call pumpkin a face.
Now I have a set a very pointy and very sharp pieces of metal pointed toward where the eyes should be. Ouch! I also wanted to hide face as much as possible, so I paid a visit to my stash of broken boards (I’m basically broken stuff hoarder as you can see in this box), took a few boards and cut them into 5 segments. After gluing them with electric tape I’ve got a semi-flexible shield that completely covered the mouth area from inside both hiding the face and protecting it from sharp teeth. Two holes for eyes and two pieces of Meccano set completed finished this area assembly.
BTW, the teeth pointed outwards looked much scarier, but that was not an option as it was endangering those people trying to touch the costume: “Oh, wow! How cool! Nice costume mister Tinman/Robot (only a few knew word cyborg)”. The craziest experience of this kind was a girl who tried to FEED the costume and shoving some kind of beef jerky into its mouth (i.e. my son’s eyes). You never know what to expect on Halloween.
Step 11: Pumpkin Head Strickes Back.
From previous Halloween experience I know there is not much air behind this mask, so I also added a fan underneath its nose. It wasn’t necessary this time, but I think I’ll turn it on later.
From the same box of burned computer parts I took the CD Drive head assembly. It has these cool gears and moving laser head. Fortunately a DC motor powered both, so I figured I could use that as a cover for the right eye and even move it with short pulses to the DC motor in the future mods. I mounted this piece on standoffs right over the eye (the pumpkin eye, not human).
For the other pumpkin eye I chose ancient not-working webcamera. It’s spherical design is still used in many modern cameras, so it doesn’t make much difference what model it is as far as it resembled eye. I also glued in a flashlight instead of actual camera, painter it black with red arteries all the way around it. That camera is mounted on servo with the same idea to animate it in the future versions.
Since the head has so many features to control and power a thick cable is required for powering it. It enters the helmet from the bottom-right part of it and I used a bottle cap to make it enter the helmet cool way. This time I actually glued in not just the cap, but also the portion of the bottle it is screwed on. This way I can get better access to the place where all wires are soldered, plug have another cool costume feature. I also noticed for the future projects that this connection makes an excellent waterproof solution for places where you need removable cables to enter dry compartment.
I also added a couple LEDs all the way around the pumpkin to illuminate its features, namely
- All the small holes in the helmet are highlighted with a powerful red LED positioned in the middle of it
- The left eyebrow-scar. I also torn the aluminum foil and put a PCB to cover the hole. All in all that looks like there is pumpkin skin, then a layer of metal and then all the electronics. A multicolored flash LCD nicely highlighted this small detail
- Green and red LEDs behind the CD drive accented one of its two positions. You can see red LED when it’s up and green one when the head is down
- The place where cable enters the helmet uses transparent bottle cap large enough to accommodate a LED highlighting it.
Step 12: The Pumpkin Head: Judgment Day
One intermediary version of the helmet had a huge problem with the helmet size. In fact it had two problems:
- The helmet was too small particularly in depth. As a result either nose or the back were not fitting it well. The original lamp had exact measures I need, but adding extra PCBs in front caused the problem I noticed too late.
- The helmet was too big in width and reminded a wobblehead. It had to be fixed on head somehow.
To solve the first problem I cut out the back of the helmet and replaced it with a PCB on “standoffs”. The standoffs I chose to use are not very usual – just a few rolls of aluminum foil. When you glue it to the PCB and the helmet you can push the entire construction down and squash the foil creating space that doesn’t let the light out (remember there is an LED behind it). I still wanted just a little light to go our anda few awl stabs did the job.
The other problem was solved the way it is solved in motorcycle helmets: by adding padding all the way around. The padding I put inside the helmet included:
- Two soft Styrofoam pads on both sides to fix the head yaw
- Pipe insulation to fix the forehead
- Two small pieces of the insulation two pad the back of the head
- Two halves of insulation to protect the neck from sharp edges of the mask
- Two halves of insulation to create a more or less insulated area around the mouth. You’ll find why I did this later.
Finally the helmet had to be locked in the closed position somehow. My solution was using two pieces of Meccano. I bent them like springs going around the place where the halves of the helmet need to be locked. Two Meccano bolts sticking out the helmet were holding these springs in place. I also added aluminum flashing around the helmet edges so no light can escape it where I cut the original lamp. All in all this was locking the helmet very efficiently, still allowing the person in the costume to lift the spring and remove the helmet without someone else’s help.
Step 13: The Pumpkin Pants
Let me give you a break from this super-complex head thing and explain probably the easiest part of the costume.
Initially I had this idea of full-body armor covering not only arms and body but legs as well, but field tests shown this idea impractical:
- The heavy costume made it necessary to take rest from time to time. It is very difficult to sit in a full-body armor
- As my son pointed out a lot/most homes in the trick-or-treating neighborhood of our choice had stairs to the doors, so he had to run up and down all the time. It is much harder to do in the hard armor
- Still the robot part dominated in the costume, I had to add more pumpkin colors.
So I decided to use regular orange pants with a few mods. Fortunately the Prison Break costume from the last year had exactly the color I need, it was just too small to wear under the pumpkin costume. So my son pulled on just the bottom part of it and used its sleeves as a belt. Simple and practical! We also decorated it with pieces of foil to match the helmet and a few insects “eating pumpkin flesh”. We added the insects to the rest of the costume too.
Step 14: Electronics
We already covered the electronics partially when we were talking about the weapon system and left one question unanswered. Why pull the cables all the way thru the body if we can keep all switches and batteries in single place – the left hand?
Well, I actually pulled the cables from all the parts of the costume into single place – the backpack box. There I put all the electronics and connected all the wires. The benefit of this approach is that I have single place where I can keep all the costume logic.
But first let’s cover one more addition to the costume lighting system: EL wire. I used hot glue to put two 3m stripes of red EL wire all the way around the main piece of the armor with the connected ending their way in the backpack. There I put a small inverter from Sparkfun connected to the main hub. The inverter in its original implementation easily drives one 3m wire. Two wires I connected to it made it make louder noises and kept the two wires a bit duller than one. Actually I did some tests with this little inverter and it happened to be able to drive 12 (36 ft) of EL wire and with some tweak even more. That’s an excellent result for such a small device, though I doubt it will survive in such mode of operation for long.
How much power do you need to power all this illumination? It appeared not that much: just 3x AA batteries can do it for several hours. LED technology is awesome!
And since I already mentioned the hub, here it is in the photos. I won’t go into details about what is connected where, here are just some advises:
- Always connect LEDs via resistors to make them live longer. Stick to the specs. I was not very systematic here, so some resistors are located on the hub and some soldered directly to the LEDs
- All four switches have one end connected to the +3x AA and the other ends go to the corresponding LEDs
- Since I have just four buttons to control everything some buttons turn on different parts of the costume with single click. For instance the “green” weapon also turns on the flashlight in the left eye. I won’t be able to do that without pulling all the wires into single place.
- For interconnections I use wire wrap wire – an awesome product. One of its cool features is that you can solder it without stripping its insulation. Just apply enough heat and it will melt away. Of course more frequent tip cleaning is required in this case
- RJ45 was another success in the cabling the costume. It securely locks in place and allows disconnecting different parts of the costume independently. Actually “securely” is only true until you break that small plastic latch on the jack, but cutting out broken part and installing new jack could solve that.
- The LEDs integrated into the main piece + the EL wire inverter are connected with smaller jacks (don’t ask which ones. I have a JST connected to some other keyed socked, but I was running out of parts at the moment, so it’s a mix of different types of connectors). That probably also a good candidate for merging into another Ethernet cable, but …
- … as mentioned before I used Sparkfun simplest possible RJ45 sockets that cannot be installed on a regular perf board. Fortunately Sparkfun also carries hexagonal boards that can accommodate three sockets. So there was no place for the fourth socket, but I’m still glad I found a way to solder three of them plus bunch of other connectors and wires.
As you can guess I still have plenty of room in the backpack to store even more gadgets in the future versions of the costume :)
Anyway, one more cool feature not mentioned before is a voice changer. I installer the mic insider the helmet and pulled its wiring alone with the UTMP-5 cable terminating it on the right arm armor. There I attached a simple voice changer I built awhile ago. The voice changer is kept inside a shoe polish box and has its own power source – a 9V battery. Nothing too sophisticated, Google for voice changer and you will find either kit or ready-to use device. Amazon sells those for $18, eBay is even cheaper. Oh, and there is a speaker right above the bottle cap where head cables enter the body armor. It also connects to the voice changer.
One problem I had with it is mic picking up sounds from the speaker sometimes. That was creating an awful sound. The padding in the helmet around the mouth areas solved that problem.
Step 15: Maybe the Most Important and Boring Part in This Instructable
I've read a lot of awesome instructables and absolutely most of them leave this impression that everything was smooth and perfect. Like all these costumes and contractions are rock solid and don't fall apart after the phtocamera flash goes off. And like the author perfectly planned everything from the very beginning and flawlessly implemented the plan.
Well, my project was different. I screwed up. A lot! In many aspects. And the resulting costume looks nothing like what I've originally planned. And I think that's cool and this is a part of creation process. And I want to share all my mishaps with you so you don't repeat my mistakes, save your time, resources, money and couple fingers. So here are my biggest and most important mistakes for you not to repeat:
The helmet was too small
Just like with motorcycle helmets this helmet should be much larger than the head. I mean not vertically, but in width and depth too. I explained how I addressed this problem, still I’d buy a larger pumpkin if I knew how much time I will be fixing this.
Adjust the lights
Some lights in the costume appeared to be much brighter than the others. Like the ones mounted on shoulders we absolutely too bright. In fact that worked great on the street, but my not-so-advanced video camera wasn’t able to see all the different lights in the costume when these two were blinding them.
Should I dim them to solve the problem? Not sure, because that would cause another problem to extend:
Night mode only
The costume looks awesome in the night, but during the day time? Well, most its lighting features (except for the brightest ones like the lights on the shoulders) disappear. So I kept all lights at different intensity. This ruins the video quality, but keeps the costume cool during both day and night.
Leave yourself plenty of time.
- The right time to start the Halloween costume is the day after the previous Halloween. Ok, maybe a day earlier. I've built this and the other one costumes in 2.5 weeks and sometimes that was stressful
- You can't rely on weather much. It was raining for a few days before Halloween and sometimes even snowing! (Who would expect snow in DC area in October?). Being forced to keep the costume outdoors because of spray paint smell I made it heavier because the cardboard absorbed some moisture. I dried it later with heater, but I guess that wasn't good for costume.
- You also can't rely on suppliers. One company (not to be named here because I actually like Sparkfun Electronics :)) shipped me an amplifier kit without bunch of capacitors and left the costume without its loudest feature :( I also didn't have time to order missing parts from someone else.
The Costume shouldn't be too heavy
Despite all my efforts to make it as lightweight as possible it still weighs about 10lb. My son spent 1h40m in the costume and got too tired. That was a good physical exercise, but my next costume will be lighter.
The Helmet should not sit loose on the head
The first time we shown the costume in public the helmet so uncomfortably wobbled on the actor's head that he had to remove it. He still got the prize, but the appearance wasn't as great as I hoped
The Helmet should not sit tight on the head
It's difficult to have your head squeezed for longer than a few seconds. So make sure to try the helmet as many times as needed and as to wear it for at least 5 minutes before making appearance in it.
Strive to keep the costume in demoable condition at all times
I already covered that in step 1. Still, despite your best efforts sometimes it is not possible. for instance when epoxy glue or spray paint dries on it for a few days.
Dry it properly
Because of time constraints I had to start painting the suite before the bondo became completely dry. I think this compromised its hardness and maybe kept the costume a bit heavier than it could be. Also power sanding tool appeared to be useless on such surface as it was sticking to the sanding paper.
- For those who don't believe in this annoying slogan I'm publishing a few pictures of cut fingers and burnt skin. Enjoy!
- Make sure the precious one is in the costume can take it off himself/herself
- Sometimes Hot glue drips on your fingers. Don't attempt to wipe it away! You will wipe it altogether with your skin and spend weeks growing new skin on top of your naked meat (Am I coloful enough?). Instead put your affected body part under cold water and let it cool for some time. Then the glue will easily peel off. The burnt skin will hurt for a few hours and when can't resist the pain anymore just put the burnt place in very cold water. Try to keep just the affected skin in the cold water or you can overcool a major piece of your body.
- When using spray paint, bondo and other chemicals always wear a good respirator and safety goggles.
- It fact it's best to wear the safety goggles at all times when you're working on a project where something can get into your eye including superglue, hot glue, metal particles, paint spray etc.
Try it as frequently as possible
This will help you to avoid a lot of mistakes or at least fix them before they become a real problem. For instance I made two upper pieces of arm protection the same. What’s the problem? It appeared that human body is symmetrical, so I actually had to mirror these two parts. I noticed that too late when everything already was Bondoed and painted, so I had to cut additional unnecessary triangle sections from both sides to let both arms bend
Use Good tools
- Dual-temperature non-dripping hot Glue gun accepting standard size glue sticks (not minis available in craft stores)
- Good plastic cutter.The difference between good and bad ones are that the good one can also go thru PCBs and aluminum sheets and survive
- Dremel Stylus and some more powerful corded rotary tool
Don't use bad tools
- Dripping glue guns with mini sticks
- Small dull scissors with the tips not even touching each other
Use right tools for right purposes
- Don't glue pieces of plastic with superglue. Superglue works much better on fingers than on plastics. Hot glue is a better option here
- for cardboard precision cutting use bunh of different knifes. One knife won't solve all the problems, you need small one for small holes, large one for larger ones and tough one for the cardboard fortified with epoxy.
Step 16: Conclusion
So here is my epic Halloween costume, like it or not. I actually love it as well as many people on the street. It definitely was the coolest costume in the neighborhood that night.
By publishing this instructable I’m not inviting you to clone it. In fact you won’t find the complete bill of materials for this project because it makes no sense (each step lists materials used for a particular part individually). Instead, this guide could serve as a good overview of different technologies you can use in your own costume next year. You can use them all or just some and of course add some more and share it with others. But the most important part is being creative!
Lets keep inventing new approaches and new characters and together our army of absolutely unique hand-crafted monsters will turn Halloween streets into a true fun place!