My son and I decided that this year we were going to make his Halloween costume. After going over several different ideas, we settled on Samurai Plate Armor. I was considering making it out of very light gauge steel, but to keep the weight down and remove the possibility of him getting cut on a sharp edge, we elected to make it from plastic, cut from 5 gallon buckets.
5 Gallon Buckets
Hand Held Whitney Punch
Parachute Cord and a lighter to burn the ends
Fine Tipped Markers
Hammer and Nail Set
Bench Grinder with Wire Wheel or sandpaper
Razor Knife with a fine point
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Step 1: Getting Your Pattern
A quick Google search lead me to a couple Pinterest posts that had what i needed. I saved the images of the patterns and was able to print them out on a large plotter style printer. I made a few different sizes and when I got home, compared them to my son to figure out which size would suit him best. In the pictures, the patterns show way more holes for lacing than I chose to use. I highlighted in red where I planned to put the lacing holes.
Step 2: Perparing the Plastic Buckets
I had some 5 gallon buckets laying around the garage. I cut the bottom off of each of them and then threw the lid and bottom away. That plastic was thicker than the side walls.
Using a heat gun, I stood on the curved plastic and heated it to try and remove the curve. That makes it easier to layout and cut the individual pieces. The memory of the plastic eventually came back. I was hoping to put the inside of the bucket on the outside of the armor for a cleaner finish, but the plastics memory fought me until i gave up. Using the curve actually makes it fit on my son better. But it does leave the labels and marks on the outside. Painting will overcome all of this. If you decide to paint yours, I'd recommend painting before lacing it up. That way the lacing cords contrast against the armor.
Step 3: Laying Out the Templates
With the plastic as flat as i could get it, I labeled each of the pieces of the pattern with a name. F1 through F10 for the front pieces, B1 through B9 for back pieces, etc. I cut the paper pieces out and transferred marks onto the plastic. To make sure my marks didn't rub off I used a wood burning tool to engrave the labeling into each piece. There are around 60 pieces and many of them are very similar.
Step 4: Cutting Out the Parts
Using a scroll saw, I cut out all the pieces. I did not have enough plastic from one bucket. I ended up using 3 buckets. 1 grey and 2 white. I incorporated the colors into the pattern and layout of the armor, using accent pieces in grey and alternating colors around the waist and on the shoulders. The scroll saw left a rough and ragged edge on the pieces.
Step 5: Smoothing the Edges
To remove the rough edges you could use sandpaper, but I have a bench grinder with a wire wheel. With light pressure, I ran the pieces around the wheel to smooth them. If you do this, use light pressure. The wheel will melt the piece if you push too hard.
Step 6: Test Holes
To determine the best placement and spacing I took an old ratty piece of a bucket and used it as a test. I punched holes in different sizes that came with the punch. I also played around with the spacing of the holes. This all comes down to the parachute cord you are using. Size your holes appropriately. The holes would sometimes get a rough edge on them or the punch wouldn't completely remove the plug. In this situation a small razor knife with a fine point did the trick. I'd run it around the hole to smooth it out.
Once I had the size, pattern and spacing figured out, I made a small template from a clear piece of plastic from some packaging in my recycling bin. This way I could ensure the hole spacing would all look uniform in the end
Step 7: Layout the Holes and Punch Them Out
Back to the paper templates and the red highlights I made earlier, I laid out where the holes were going to be punched. With the clear hole template I made marks on the plastic and then with a nail set and hammer I lightly tapped dimples into the plastic. These dimples helped to align the punch. The end of my punch has a small tooth in the center that would click into the dimple.
About 60 pieces = 100s of punched holes.
Step 8: Lacing Up the Armor
Following examples I found online we started lacing up the pieces. There were a couple of mistakes that meant I had to unlace one set of parts to get a piece integrated into the lacing. The armpit pieces were the main culprits. The lacing comprised of smaller sections. First the front and back were laced up and then laced together down one side. The shoulder pieces and the ones around the waist were done and all laced together during the final assembly
Burning the ends of the parachute cord when it is cut will prevent it from unraveling and help feeding the cord through the holes.
Step 9: The Helmet
The pattern I found didn't have anything for a helmet so I improvised. Using an old construction hard hat as a base, I cut off the brim/visor. I turned the headgear suspension inside the helmet around backwards to put a smoother look up front. I then cut out three long strips and bucket plastic and punched them so they would wrap around when laced up. I punched holes along the rim of the hard hat and then corresponding holes in the long strips.
Step 10: Final Assembly
Using short pieces of parachute cord I tied all the components together. There were a couple times when I had to add a couple punched holes to get things to line up. I let the cord run long on most of the assembly process and after getting the knots tied as I would like them I trimmed and burnt the ends to make sure they would unravel.
When putting my son into his costume i used the smallest zip-ties I could find. And I make sure I carry a small pair of nippers in case there is a bathroom emergency or something of the like where I have to get him out of it fast.
I was planning on painting the exterior, but after getting it all together, my son likes it the way it is. He says it gives it a Doomsday/Apocalyptic feel.
I had a great time making this with my son. He keeps asking when I'm going to make a set for myself.
Participated in the
Halloween Contest 2019