Roman Legionaire "ish" Homemade Body Armor

A buddy of mine and I decided to try to make some Roman "ish" armor out of tin. This whole project was worked cold (no forge/torch required) and everything you need can be purchased at Wal-Mart and Home Depot for around a total of 15-20 dollars. We completed the project in one evening (about 5 hours for two people working). I thought it was high time someone put up a simple way to make really impressive armor on here. Obviously, this armor is made of very thin sheet metal and should not be expected to stop ANYTHING that would otherwise harm you if you weren't wearing it. Also, cut tin and the holes drilled can be very sharp and we cut ourselves more than once so wearing gloves might not be a bad idea. Also, safety goggles never hurt.


Step 1: Materials + Tools

Here's a list of all the materials and tools used, where they were purchased, and the approximate cost:

2'x3' 30 gauge tin sheet ("tin" is zinc plated or "galvanized" steel) - Home Depot 8$
Thin Leather Strap - Wal-mart craft section - 3$
Brass (other colors could be used) 7/16 inch eyelets - Wal-mart fabric section -Two boxes at 3$ per box
Eyelet setter tool - 3$

18 inch or longer 2x4 with a good sharp edge (or an anvil with a good edge)
Drill press or hand drill (drill press is MUCH better)
1/4th inch drill bit
1/2 inch drill bit
Pretty much any hammer will work
Kitchen shears - best possible tool to use to cut thin sheet metal. we used the ones from Wal-mart
Duct tape
Tape Measure
Needle nose pliers (useful for getting metal burrs off)
Carpenter's Square (optional)
Safety Glasses
Gloves (optional but recommended)

Step 2: Mark Out and Cut Sheet Metal

First you need to figure out how wide your torso is. For the armor in the first picture we cut our pieces 18 inches long x 8 inches wide for the two top pieces and 18x4 inches for the lower eight. You will also need another two 18x4 pieces for the shoulder straps. It is important to not make the pieces too wide and to mark them all out on the sheet before you cut in order to make sure you have enough sheet metal. I would probably not go over 20 inches wide for most anyone. It is easy to cut once you have the pieces marked out. We used a square to mark everything, but a ruler will work just as well if your careful to keep things square. Use the kitchen shears to cut out all your pieces at once.

Step 3: Fold Over All the Edges

Some may say this step is unnecessary, but I feel it gives the project a much more "professional" look. It also dulls some of the sharp edges. Take the piece and put it on top of the 2x4 (or anvil) and hammer about 1/4th+ inch to ninety degrees as in the picture. (We just eyeballed it) Then flip it over and hammer it flat. It is better to do the long sides before the ends that fold over them. This needs to be done for every side of every piece of metal.

Step 4: Fold Over the Arm Angles

This next step takes the top pieces and folds over the sides again to make holes for the arms. We measured 3 inches from the top corner towards the middle and made a line to the bottom corner. Fold these over in a similar way to the previous folds. Do this for the front and back (larger) pieces.

Step 5: Fold Over Top Small Piece Ange, Lay Out and Tape

Each of the pieces will overlap some to accommodate the holes for the leather straps. About a half inch works but just make sure you have enough room for the drill holes. You can see in the picture that the top piece has it's corners folded so the angle from the top is continued to the first piece. Duct tape the pieces where you want them and mark where you want to drill. By the way, do not try to bend the pieces around your body until you absolutely have to. It is tempting, but don't do it because it's easier to work with it while it's flat.

Step 6: Drill

I recommend drilling all the holes at once and keeping everything taped together until you strap it up. The holes for the leather strap are 1/4th inch. You will eventually need holes to mount the eyelets. These holes will go in the center of each of the small pieces on the side so drill 1/2 inch holes through each side of the four smaller pieces.

Step 7: Mount Eyelets and Strap the Sides

Eyelets are pretty simple to set. put the large piece through the 1/2 inch hole, put the back on the small round "anvil" tool and the front on the small piece. Hammer it together and your good to go. There may be more explicit instructions on eyelets on the eyelet packaging. We sent the leather strapping through the holes twice and double knotted them in the back.

Step 8: Shoulders

The shoulders can be a little tricky to get the right length. We held up the two halves of the armor to the body, and positioned two more 18x4 inch (folded like the others) strips evenly between the two and marked them with a sharpie. The two pieces are held together by duct tape and another 1/2 inch hole is drilled. The pieces of metal are then held together by another eyelet. This is done for both sides as is seen in the picture. Just make sure you can get your head through between the two shoulder straps. The eyelets act as rivets to keep the shoulder straps attached. When they are attached they will give you a little play, but you should definitely be able to put your head through without forcing it.

Step 9: Lacing the Sides

This is easiest to do if you have someone do it for you while you wear the armor. It is laced down the side through the eyelets with leather strap like shoe laces. It is also tied like shoes. This way you can tighten and loosen the sides to help you get in and out of it without having to take out all the laces. Do this for both sides and your done! Of course you will want to get all the duct tape and sharpie marks off at some point too. Good Luck and tell me what you think!



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    80 Discussions


    Reply 1 year ago

    Probably, But test it on something like a mannequin first. Also make sure you use some good steel.

    c j r pwiggins8472

    Reply 3 years ago

    Just wondering how flexible the arm our is

    Okay, But can it defend against a bite from a dog or human? That is, if the human couldn't feel pain, and would just continuously chew.

    Call me messed up, call me a geek, but seeing as this is in your spirit I guess I can say that i want to make full arm armour (I already have chainmail gloves)
    because in every zombie movie, someone sticks their arm in a hole and they get bitten, Not me, I'm sure I'll save some people's lives this way =D
    Hehehe, Kinda JK,


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    i made a breastplate from solid aluminium sheet metal. i used a ball pien hammer to make abs and breast depressions in the armor. the doming dramatically increases the armor's strength. i took it to school one day and let people unleash on me with punches, kicks, chairs, drumsticks, etc. the only thing that almost hurt was a kick from a strong junior, but it stopped it and it make a noticable dent. all i had to do was just hammer out teh dents and i reinforced the main area of the breastplate with 2 more sheets. took it to school again a few days later, not even the kick would hurt (though i stumbled a few steps back) and it didnt even dent it. i fired an arrow from the 10 pounder and it didnt pierce. tried stabbing with a knife, didnt pierce, shot it with an air rifle, didnt pierce and a small dent. the only thing that would pass through it would be a pickaxe or a bullet


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    what was the thickness of the aluminium? That doesn't sound like aluminium.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    umm maybe 1 millimeter sheet. one layer of it is pretty weak, but 3 layers is pretty decent. the arrow will penetrate anywhere where all 3 layers are touching, but the ab and breast areas it wont. it's pretty solid because of the doming.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    well the fact that this is very thin metal it probably wouldnt. I shot from a bow with a sharp arrowhead can peice 1/2 in. cardboard, pierce sheet aluminium, and with a large arrowhead pirce through 3/8 plywood.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah, but, a 10-pound bow? I've had toys with suc-cup arrows stronger than that. And it isn't a very realistic test, since any bow reasonably expected to kill anything larger than a dog would be, like, at least 50. But I like how your breastplate sounds (if only I had some aluminum).

    Coincidentally, you mentioned being hit with drumsticks. I feel obligated to tell everyone that *PERCUSSION OWNS* and to ask whether or not you yourself are a member of our elite....percusserhood.


    2 years ago

    Nice dude. I've got some old road signs I'm gonna do this with for homecoming next week.

    Kitchen shears... Ever hear of tin snips?


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, I'm loving this instructable and I'm looking to make it my first project from this site. =]

    I have a couple of questions, though. What sorts of places might I go looking for the tin sheet, if not Home Depot? I went to the one closest to me, and they told me they have little sheet metal selection in any of their locations. I'm having trouble finding places online at the moment but I'm still looking.

    As well, the "tin" also being galvanized steel? I didn't know this, and none of the sales associates in Home Depot, Rona nor Canadian Tire told me that they were the same thing when I asked for tin compared to galvanized. If this is the case, I may actually know where to look [if I can find the 30 gauge]. Can I just look for 30g galvanized steel [to make life easier asking people]?

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Just get any thin steel metal. Doesn't particularly matter what it is as long as it's steel.


    3 years ago

    This is awesome!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Romans called this type of armor lorica segmentata. Great job!