What self respecting nerd wouldn't want to be a character out of Team Fortress 2 for Halloween? There are plenty of options, but given my physique (or lack thereof) I decided I'd try my hand at the Heavy.
The costume itself is fairly straight forward, but to be convincing it requires two things that aren't likely to be ready at hand: a mini-gun and a bandoleer of extremely large bullets. A simple google search will turn up plenty of other people's attempts at the same thing, but they all seem to lack something... craftsmanship!
Seeing that I decided, as any good instructables junkie would, to make the best effort possible and document the process for anyone else who wanted to do the same.
All together the costume will probably cost about $75, assuming you have all the tools but none of the parts, and take about 20-25 hours to assemble. Time consuming, sure, but totally worth it.
The first step, before even looking for materials, was to spend an hour or so looking at all the best source images I could find and sketching out my design. Even if you plan to follow my design to the letter I'd recommend doing something similar, I find it helps immensely to have a really good mental picture of the problem at hand before starting.
Step 1: Parts List
I won't lie to you, there are quite a number of things that go into making this costume, but the fun things in life are rarely easy.
3" PVC pipe x 3 ft (approx)
1 1/4" PVC pipe x 12.5 ft
1" PVC pipe x 10 ft (approx)
1/2" PVC pipe x 5 ft (approx)
4" PVC pipe joiner x 2
4" to 3" PVC coupler
3" PVC endcap x2
3" PVC flange
1" PVC extender
1" PVC flange
1/2" 90 degree PVC elbow joint x 3
1/2" PVC endcap x2
1/2" PVC screw in end cap
1 1/2" thick Extruded Polystyrene (EPS) foam
1/8" thick 2" wide steel x 12 inches
5/16" threaded rod x 1 foot
5/16" handle nut x2
Flat large head steel screw x 6
Plastic bucket (fairly large)
Metal plates (ideally with holes) x4
Round surplus aluminum pipe
90 degree stovepipe elbow bend
Paper mache supplies
PVC Pipe Cement
Various bolts, screws, and nuts
Step 2: Safety Precautions
There's nothing particularly dangerous involved in making these props, but a few basic safety concerns should be mentioned.
First: Read the instructions, especially on the PVC pipe cement, and when it says "Use in a well ventilated area" that does not mean a small basement room. I'm not saying I accidentally got high on pipe dope fumes, but I am saying I didn't think to use it outside until after the first time.
Second: Epoxy putty is wonderful stuff, but it tastes terrible. Don't forget to wash your hands after you use it. I'm fairly sure its non-toxic, but if I'm not dead in a few days we'll know for sure.
Third: Wear a respirator or facemask if you're going to use a rotary cutting tool to get through the PVC or EPS foam. You really don't want this stuff in your lungs (and it, also, doesn't taste very good).
Step 3: Barrel Assembly
The basic barrel is made up of five lengths of 1 1/4" PVC pipe held in place on one end by a 4" PVC pipe joiner and on the other by a 4" to 3" PVC couple.
Although the gun in game actually has six barrels five was the only way I could get it to work with the real world limitation of available parts. As you can see in the picture five 1 1/4" pipes fit perfectly into a 4" pipe joiner, the next size up (a 6" joiner) had far too much extra room with six 1 1/4" pipes and going larger increased the cost more than I was willing to deal with.
I'm not too concerned about most people's first reactions on seeing it being, "Hey, you only have five barrels!" either, so it should work out fine. If in building your own you find a non-cost prohibitive way to get six barrels to work then congratulations, but if you follow my plan here you'll still end up with a nice looking prop gun.
Step 4: Barrel Assembly Step 1
First cut yourself five 2' 6" lengths of the 1 1/4" PVC pipe. Test the fit with the 4" pipe joiner to make sure they fit nicely.
After removing the pipe joiner press it fairly hard against the EPS foam to mark it and cut out the resulting circle. Fit that into the pipe joiner and put the cut pipes in over it, pressing them hard into the foam to mark it once again. Remove the foam and cut out the marked circles.
Re-insert the cut pipes into the joiner and fit the newly cut out pieces of EPS foam into the gaps to create one solid looking front as seen in the picture. You now have barrels and a complete flash suppressor.
Next take the second 4" pipe joiner and cut three rings from it, two 1/2" wide rings and one 1-1 1/2" wide ring. These will be the stabilizing rings for the barrels, they don't play much of a structural role, that is handled more by the two end caps, but they are aesthetically important so make sure they're clean cuts.
With the barrels still inserted in the joiner with the EPS foam thread on the three newly cut rings, the two thinner rings first, and cap the whole assembly with the 4" to 3" coupler.
Now take it all outside or into a well ventilated area and cement it all into place. Make sure you read the directions on the cement first to ensure a good connection will be made.
Step 5: Barrel Assembly Step 2
After the cement dries and, ideally, has finished curing (which should take about two hours) cut a length of 3" PVC pipe and cement it into the 3" end of the coupler. Then cement the 3" cap onto the remaining end of the 3" pipe.
The 3" pipe's length is fairly subjective, I made mine around two feet, but I made that decision based on overall height. With the barrel assembly sitting flash suppressor side down on the floor I wanted the back of the entire thing to be at about armpit level which for me was 49". Depending on how high you want it to be relative to yourself you may want to shorten or lengthen the 3" pipe, although if you change it too much you may also want to change the lengths of the 1 1/4" barrels so it doesn't look out of proportion.
Now your barrel is, essentially, complete. You should cut pieces of EPS foam to fill the gaps between the barrels and the stabilizer rings like we already did for the flash suppressor, but you can do that later if you'd like or not at all if you don't mind the way it looks with the gaps.
A note on cutting the EPS foam: I used a sharp knife and a jigsaw, the real tool for doing it is a hot wire cutter but I don't have one and didn't want to buy/make one. If you have one that's great, working with the EPS foam will be a lot faster and easier, not to mention less messy. If you don't you can get by, you just need to be more careful with cutting it so you get clean-ish edges and realize it will take more time and be the biggest headache involved in the entire project.
Step 6: Ammo Barrel
I'm not quite sure what to call this part of the gun, although in my head and the conversations I've had about it it has always been the ammo barrel to me. The way I figure is it's what holds the massive ammo belt. Anyway, whatever it is it's not too difficult to make.
It all starts with a bucket. I used the biggest cheapest plastic bucket I could find at one of my local hardware superstores, but if you happen to have one that you think would work well enough already or find one that's only a little more but looks better feel free to use it.
My originally estimated dimensions for it were 1.5ft in diameter and 2ft long. The actual bucket I found worked out to being maybe 1.5ft long and 1ft in diameter, so a little smaller than the hoped for amount but I think it still looks okay. As you can see that length has also been bolstered by an extra chunk of EPS foam.
The big thing with this is disguising the fact that it's just a plastic bucket, a mini-gun's barrels are just a bunch of pipes so a cluster of PVC pipes doesn't really need any disguising. This, however, should not look like a bucket you dragged out of a janitor's closet somewhere.
Step 7: Ammo Barrel Step 1
The first step is to press the bottom of the bucket against the EPS foam to mark it and then cut the resulting circle out. Glue the circle in place on the bottom of the bucket (I used copious amounts of wood glue and it seemed to hold, but be sure to press it firmly into place and put a weight on top of it while it dries) and then sand off the sharp edges to produce a rounded look.
Use epoxy putty to create a smooth transition from the body of the bucket to the EPS foam.
Next drill a hole through the 1" flange that the 1/2" PVC pipe will fit through. Remember the 1/2" is the internal diameter of the pipe, on mine the external diameter was more like 3/4".
Put the 1/2" pipe through the hole in the flange and then put the screw on end cap on one end. Position the pipe so the end cap looks like it is in the right place and mark where the pipe needs to be cut so it goes an inch or two below the bottom of the bucket. This will vary based on what bucket was used so I can't give you an exact measurement.
After cutting the 1/2" pipe to the right length cut another piece long enough that it will run all the way along the bottom of the bucket. It's easier to shorten it later than to cut an entirely new piece so err on the side of caution and make it extra long.
Now press the 1" pipe extender against the center of the EPS foam on the bottom of the bucket to mark it and, using a sharp knife, cut 1/2" into the foam around the inside and outside of the marked ring. Scoop out the ring and make sure the extender fits snugly into it.
Cement the flange into the 1" pipe extender.
Step 8: Ammo Barrel Step 2
Find the point on the side of the bucket where the spent ammo chute should go. It should point more or less straight down and ideally be slightly above the middle of the bucket when viewed head on.
Cut a hole sufficient to snugly accept whatever you have found to use for a spent ammo chute and insert it now.
To produce a smoother, more easily painted surface you need to apply something to the EPS foam (which will also protect it from the paint). You also need to further disguise the fact that it's a bucket by covering up some of its more obviously bucket-like features. You can kill two birds with one stone by using paper mache for this.
Paper mache recipes are pretty simple, there are many on instructables, but they basically consist of one part flour to two parts water and a healthy dose of salt. Mix that together, dip thin torn paper strips of some kind in it (newsprint works well), and stick it to whatever you're covering.
What exactly you have to do to your bucket depends on what you find to use, but you can get some ideas from the images below.
To disguise the fact that the back of the bucket is... well... the back of a bucket I used a very similar process to the front. Press the back of the bucket into the EPS foam to mark an outline, cut along that outline, and glue it in place. To protect it from paint and add a smoother finish I also coated it with paper mache.
Step 9: Ammo Barrel Step 3
The last major component the ammo barrel needs is, for lack of a better term, a big box hanging off the bottom.
This is where the pipe that runs along the bottom of the ammo barrel will connect, as it is a decorative piece it doesn't need to be structural, so I decided to make it out of more EPS foam.
You could, also, use an electrical wall box of some kind, but they were too expensive for such a minor piece that most people will rarely see so I decided to approximate my own with a few piece of foam.
Take two squares of EPS foam, roughly equal in size and approximately 1/4 to 1/3 the width of your ammo barrel. Glue them together so they form a double tall box and carefully whittle out a small curve in the middle of the bottom piece of EPS foam. This will help the foam sit more flush against your barrel.
Glue the box to the middle of the bottom of the ammo barrel. Ideally it should go as close to the back of the barrel as possible, but due to constraints with the bucket I was using it had to go in line with the spent ammo chute.
Finally, to help it adhere better and protect the foam from its eventual painting, cover it with paper mache. When everything has dried very very carefully drill a 7/8" hole where the pipe will intersect the box. The hole only needs to go roughly halfway through the box itself, and the pipe should be cut to match this length before being glued in place (post painting).
Step 10: Handle and Hanger
If you look closely at good source images of the Heavy's mini-gun you'll see that the front handle assembly directly over the barrels is set up as a three sided metal shape that the barrel actually hangs from on an axle, as if you could adjust the angle it hangs at if you so desired.
This is also what the front connection point of the ammo barrel ties in to, and the point to which the rear hand grip (which is where the trigger is) connects. So it's fairly important.
The other attempts I've seen usually use wood for this, what looks like 3/4" plywood, but I thought that came off looking kind of silly. I, unfortunately, have neither the equipment nor expertise for serious metal fabrication or welding of any kind so I was afraid I wouldn't be able to manage this the way I wanted to but then I found some fun little metal pieces lurking in forgotten bins of my hardware superstore and I came up with a plan.
I think they were called wood joiners or wood joint repair braces or something like that, they should be somewhere near the hinges and angle irons, but if you can't find them ask someone. They may not know the name but if you can describe what you want well enough (a thin plate of metal with holes in it) they'll point you in a few directions and you'll find gold eventually. The store I went to carried both 5" and 7" long varieties, the 5" were about $.45 and the 7" were about $.59 so I thought what the heck and splurged on four 7" plates. I could always trim them down after all.
I also picked up some bolts and nuts to fasten them all together, I think the bolts were size 6-32 but depending on the size of the holes in whatever you find to use you may need something different. Just make sure they fit through the holes before you buy them.
Step 11: Handle and Hanger Step 1
The first step is to bend two of the wood joiners. When bent a single 7" plate was not enough to completely cross the top of the gun so I had to bolt two together. I put the plate in a vice so I could just see the second line of holes then bent it to a 90 degree angle. After bending both plates I used four bolts to securely fasten them together.
Next bolt another wood joiner to each side of the bent plates to form a very square looking letter C.
Now set the hanger aside and go back to the gun. You need to drill a 5/16" hole through the 4" portion of the 4" to 3" PVC adapter. Be very careful that it goes straight through since this is what the hanger will be attaching to.
When I did this I couldn't find a 5/16" drill bit lying around, although I did manage to find a very long 1/4" drill bit. Comparing the size of the bit to the 5/16" threaded rod made me think it would work, the threads would bite into the hole but the hole should be big enough to let the main body of the rod pass without problem.
I was right... but it was also incredibly difficult to get the rod through the hole. It took me about 45 minutes of very hard work with a vice grip and cordless drill to force the rod all the way through. It's in there extremely solidly now, though, and it is never going anywhere again. It may not be a bad idea to do it the way I did, but just realize you're in for a lot of work if you decide to although you will end up with a more secure axle to work with in the end.
Step 12: Handle and Hanger Step 2
Now hold the hanger against the body of the gun, roughly in position, to find where you will need to attach it. I chose the third from the bottom set of holes as my guide, but where you put it is subjective, just put it where you think it looks right.
I used one of the small existing holes as a pilot hole and drilled two 1/4" holes then dremeled them out to the right size.
Next thread one 5/16" nut onto either side of the 5/16" rod before slipping the hanger over the rod. Adjust the hanger so it is centered and then move the nuts so they press against the inner edges of either side of the hanger.
Mark a point roughly half an inch out from the hanger on either side of the rod and cut it off there. Then put a handle nut on both sides of the rod and tighten them down.
You now have a complete and fully attached hanger!
Step 13: Handle and Hanger Step 3
Next comes the handle. I made mine from more of the 1/2" PVC pipe and two 1/2" 90 degree elbow bends.
Cut a piece of the 1/2" PVC pipe to a length that is both comfortable for your hand and still short enough to not extend beyond the width of the hanger. Then measure the distance you want the handle itself to be above the hanger plate and cut two such lengths of 1/2" PVC pipe.
Now take the two 1/2" end caps and drill holes through the bottom of them as well as the top of the hanger at the point where the handle will come in contact with it. Pass a bolt up through the plate and end cap and, using a suitably sized washer to distribute the load across the entire cap, tighten it in place with a nut.
Cement all of the joints in the handle as well as the handle to the end caps now attached to the hanger.
I personally don't trust the cement to hold the full weight of this so I also drilled holes in the handle to add bolts for added stability. My primary concern was with the vertical joins, so I put a bolt through each end cap and the pipe inside as well as the bottom of each of the 90 degree elbow joints. This is optional, though, and the cement may be enough to hold it all on its own.
Step 14: Joining the Barrel Assembly and Ammo Barrel Step 1
Now all the minigun needs is its rear handle and to be put together.
Putting it all together is actually simpler than it sounds. The ammo barrel and the gun barrel just need to be bolted together.
Start by cutting a length of the 1/8" steel, I would say around six inches or so. Drill a 5/16" hole near one end (and yes, I would buy a bit for this, I did in the end, dremeling out a 1/4" hole to 5/16" in steel plate is not fun) and put it on the right side of the 5/16" threaded rod that the handle assembly attaches to.
Bolt it in place and position the ammo barrel where you want it to go. Keep in mind that at least some of it needs to be in a straight line under the middle of the barrel (for the rear connection point of the rear handle) and it needs to be far back enough that the third connection point between the barrel assembly and the ammo barrel can be made, however it should still be slightly off center to the right of the barrel assembly. The description is a bit awkward but the pictures of my build and the source images you should have studied will hopefully help it make more sense.
Mark on the ammo barrel where the piece of steel intersects with it and, using a dremel, cut a slot for the steel. Slide the barrel down on the steel until it is the proper distance from the barrel assembly, this is also fairly subjective but mine is around 2 1/2" beneath the barrel assembly.
Mark the point at which the steel meets the barrel then drill a hole on either side, fit the steel back into the barrel and put a bolt through both holes to hold the barrel in place.
Step 15: Joining the Barrel Assembly and Ammo Barrel Step 2
Now cut a second piece of steel, measured to fit from the left side of the 5/16" threaded rod to the left side of the ammo barrel. Drill a 5/16" hole near one end of the cut piece and thread it onto the rod, you'll need to bend the steel to make it touch against the side of the ammo barrel.
It isn't quite as hard as it sounds, just clamp it into a vice just above the hole you drilled and give it a pull until it is bent to the right angle. You'll need to take it out and check a few times to get the angle right.
After it has been bent to the right angle bolt it onto the 5/16" threaded rod and drill two holes through the other end and the ammo barrel, then bolt it in place.
Two connection points down, one to go!
Step 16: Joining the Barrel Assembly and Ammo Barrel Step 3
The third connection takes a little more than just cutting some metal. First put the 3" PVC endcap and 3" PVC flange together loosely and fit it in between the barrel assembly and ammo barrel. In my case to get them to lay together smoothly I had to cut away a bit of the reinforcing ring around the top of the ammo barrel.
Mark the points where the end cap intersects with the ammo barrel and gun barrel, then drill through the bucket and end cap before bolting them together. With the end cap bolted in place drill through it and the gun barrel then screw it in place with wood screws.
One deviation here that might make things easier is if you didn't previously cement the 3" PVC cap on the end of the barrel assembly, you can then bolt both sides instead of having to screw one side in place. Just a consideration that, with hindsight, I probably should have done.
Step 17: Rear Handle
The rear handle of the gun needs to connect in two places: to the hanger assembly on the main barrel and to the rear of the ammo barrel. This will give you four total connection points between the barrels and the ammo barrel, resulting in a very stable gun.
For this step I used some random, pre-bent, black painted bits of round hollow metal tubing I happened to find in the "bargain barn" at the back of my local hardware/random surplus store. If you aren't lucky enough to have such a place available to you, or can't find something suitable, you can always recycle the tubes which make up the body of old lawn chairs or resort to PVC.
This step is, actually, very simple. You simply measure the length you need, cut the tubing, then smash one end flat with a vice. On the other end you drill holes through the side of the ammo barrel and the tubing itself and then bolt it all in place. There you go!
Step 18: Bullets and Bandoleer
In many of the Heavy costumes I have seen online the bandoleer with its comically oversized bullets (they almost look like grenade launcher shells) is either overlooked completely or is just a re-purposed actual bandoleer full of rifle shells.
I think that not only is this a vital part of the costume, it's also vital that it remain true to the cartoon styled almost satirical nature of the game. The only option, then, is to make your own.
Many parts of this process have been difficult, whether because they were physically difficult as with the threading the 5/16" rod through the 1/4" hole or mentally difficult as with figuring out how to do basically every part of this. The bullets, though, were the only part that actually got tedious.
In the game the heavy wears a bandoleer that is absolutely crammed full of these bullets, both front and back. I estimated their size, relative to me, to be roughly 1" wide and 6" long. When it came to actually making them I modified that estimation to about 4" long because the full six just looked strange.
Measuring myself for the bandoleer and taking as an estimate that each bullet was 1" wide I found that I would need about 40 to fill it both front and back.
I, however, got lazy halfway through and decided for the sake of my own sanity and time I would only fill the front of the bandoleer, which took 24 bullets. I would recommend considering this as sitting down with a back covered in PVC pipe bullets is very uncomfortable, if you only cover the front it's far easier to lounge around in the costume.
Step 19: Bullets and Bandoleer Step 1
Armed with this (modified for your own needs, since you may need more or less depending on the size of your bandoleer and desire to stay true to the actual appearance) we begin:
Cut however many 2 1/2" lengths of the 1" PVC pipe you will need to make your bullets. Press these pieces against the EPS foam to mark it and cut a square around each marked circle.
Using a knife cut between 1/2" and 1/4" into the foam around the inside of the marked circle, then shave away roughly 1/4" to 1/2" of the foam leaving a cylinder of foam that should fit snugly inside the 1" PVC pipe.
Put the foam together with the pipe and set the proto-bullet foam side down. Run a sharp knife down along the side of the pipe and through the foam, this should leave you with a piece of pipe with a roughly octagonal piece of EPS foam sticking out of the top of it.
Using a fine grit sand paper round out the foam and add a roughly rounded contour to the top to create the appearance of a bullet sticking out of a casing.
Using epoxy putty affix the foam to the PVC pipe.
Step 20: Bullets and Bandoleer Step 2
At this point you need to consider how to seal the foam so you can paint it. EPS foam will dissolve when it meets spray paint. My first idea was to dip the bullets in plaster, but the EPS foam seemed to melt a little under the plaster too, leaving you with a thin air layer between the plaster and the foam which proved to be very delicate. This can work, but is extremely fragile, and will be destroyed if anyone touches them roughly... or they bump into anything... or you look at them too forcefully.
My second idea was to use paper mache, which seemed to work much better. Two layers of paper mache should be durable enough, but more (time allowing) will only make it stronger.
You will also need to form the bottom of the bullets, originally I repeated the same process as with the bullets, but these melted when painted (how I originally discovered the problem EPS foam has with spray paint) and I really didn't feel like remaking them. So I just covered the bottoms with paper mache too.
There you have it, your very own TF2 ammo dump. The bullets, as you can see from the pictures, are not at all uniform and are sometimes kind of funny looking. I plan to hide the worst looking ones away on the less immediately noticed portions of the bandoleer, but honestly, after a while of making these you just stop caring. Its so mind numbing and repetitive.
You could make one carefully and perfectly then make a mold from it and cast all of your bullets, but the supplies for that can be kind of expensive and that would probably be even more time consuming than doing it this way. It's up to you, though. Tedium or greater expense, sloppiness or uniformity.
Step 21: Painting
Ah, painting. That means we're almost done!
The color scheme is fairly simple, black, gray, and dirty white. The bullets are gray and yellow. That's that.
What, you want more? Well, okay.
The entire barrel and handle assembly should be black. The back half or so of the ammo barrel and spent cartridge chute should also be black.
The front half of the ammo barrel should be dirty white and the fastening point for the ammo barrel's supporting pipe should be gray. The pipe itself should be black.
Other than that the only other advice I have is that with this much plastic using some sort of paint designed specifically to adhere to plastic is a good idea. It will make your life much simpler and will make the paint job much nicer looking.
After the rough painting is done a few specific details may be added, if you feel so inclined. There is a black line (probably a metal seam) that runs along the side of the ammo barrel with five large headed steel screws above it.
While this bit of detail is unecessary it can be useful to add to the illusion of a heavy come to life.
Step 22: The Rest of the Costume
The rest of the costume is, comparatively, simple. Black army-ish boots, green pants with a black belt worn beneath your paunch (or a pillow in your shirt if you're a svelter person than I am), either a red or blue shirt depending on which team you want to be, and a green vest over it all.
The vest is the one thing that may be harder to come by, luckily I have friends who can sew and I got mine made for me, but if you aren't that lucky a thin fleece pullover of the right color could be cut down and made to work.
If you really want to go all out, and you know you do, you can add the proper team's logo to your arms. For a heavy they should go at about the mid point of each sleeve.
You can manage this by finding yourself some inkjet to cloth transfer paper, printing the image (mirrored, as per package instructions), then ironing it onto the arms.
And for source images, I have: High res. red logo, high res. blue logo.
A few additional details that you may want to add to really finish off the look: a square-ish protruding black pouch on the left side of your belt, fingerless black gloves, and (if you really want to go all out) a russian style bomber hat with a soviet army insignia on the front.
Step 23: Putting It All Together
The final assembly!
Bolt it all together, just like I'm sure you did a few times before it was painted, put on the costume, and have a nerdy good time.
For an added bonus carry a sandwich around with you, occasionally taking bites out of it, standing still, and saying "OM NOM NOM". Just watch out for scouts, if you do.
Participated in the