Saturday, November 22, 2014

Armor Details - Really, This is the Last Post on Armor

For today's final post on the costume armor that I made, I took some detailed photos showing how the pieces were connected to each other. This was what I did in the last few days before my trip, bringing together all the little details to make a "working" suit of armor.

Backplate. Note the hanging flap in the middle...

...connected using two small leather straps, riveted to the flap and to the blackplate. Note also how I continued the gold paint around to the back side and in about 1/4 of an inch. This way if someone happens to get a brief glance at the backside, it still looks like brass or gold metal edging wrapped all the way around.

Lower left "ribcage" of the backplate. This leather strap connects to a matching strap (with real buckle) on the breastplate. I used a total of four of these straps to connect the breast- and backplates: one at each shoulder, and one under each at the ribcage.

Breastplate close-up. Note the three rivets holding the three pieces together. Remember the flap attached to the backplate? Here I apparently have two overlapping flaps, attached to the two-piece breastplate above them. It looks pretty complex, but you will see it was a bit simpler than it looks, below.

Lower ribcage end of the breastplate, showing the leather strap with buckle to connect it to the backplate. I used double rivets on some straps, where I was concerned that the stress on the strap might pull out a single rivet or possibly even warp or damage the armor itself. For the straps and buckles, I purchase a bag of 20 buckles and a 20-pack of 30-inch black leather straps. So I had to measure and cut every one of these pieces to length, make holes for rivets and a cut for the "tooth" of the buckle so it could move, and then rivet the buckle into the strap and rivet the strap to the armor. I got to be pretty good at it, but it was still time-consuming.

Inside of the breastplate. Note the three rivets... and that there is just a single piece showing. There actually is only one "flap" in front, and it's the middle piece (take a quick look above to see it again, it has a rivet right in the middle). The most difficult part of this was the rivets, as they are a bit short and can just barely pass through two sheets of Sintra to connect them. Three sheets of Sintra are too thick. So I had to get a bit creative in the placing of the rivets, to make sure they only passed through two sheets at a time. Also, just to be totally honest, I ended up gluing these pieces together between the sheets, as the rivets popped apart on me twice. Since I didn't want that happening at the Fest (or any time in the future), I just glued the pieces together to make it permanent.

Front view of the three-piece greave. I actually did not originally intend to connect all three pieces. My plan was to have the greave as a standalone piece, and then the knee-pieces would be connected as a separate unit. But when I tried wearing them together, the knee pieces kept sliding down over my shin. So, I just decided to rivet them to the greaves so that the whole thing would stay in place, which worked great.

Side view close-up of the connected pieces. More rivets, and the challenges of connecting two pieces of Sintra. The Worbla edging made it difficult, as that made them too thick for the rivets. Thus you see the rivets just inside the edging, in most cases. That top rivet overlapping the Worbla was a real pain.

The rivets permit a certain amount of movement, making this a truly articulated knee joint.

Inside view of the knee joint, showing riveted joints and leather straps, which wrapped around behind my legs and buckled together. In all, I think I used about 18 buckles on the complete set of armor.

Full inside view of the greave and knee pieces. I used three sets of straps and buckles to keep them held to my legs.

Thigh pieces. Even with two buckled straps, they tended to slide down my legs. Fortunately, the knee pieces kept them from sliding down too far, so I just let them slide. In the future I may add a vertical strap from the top center, that would go up and connected like a suspender to my belt ... or something.

Vambraces (forearm protectors). I was going to put one or two straps with buckles on these as well, but they fit so firmly it was not necessary.

Shoulder pauldrons. Note, once again, the rivets. You can't see them here, but each of the overlapping pieces is riveted to the one above it.

Top view of the pauldron. What are those extra pairs of rivets on the left side?

Inside view showing how I used rivets and little leather straps to connect the overlapping pieces. The middle piece was connected to the big piece using three short straps. The lower piece connected to the middle piece directly with rivets. Unfortunately I ran into more rivet-popping issues here, and I ended up just gluing the lower piece to the middle piece, so that it couldn't move (and thus pop out the rivets). I did not get the idea to use those short leather straps until right here, otherwise I would have connected the lower pieces to the middle ones using straps, instead of rivets and glue. Also... note the fuzzy velcro strap in the big piece.

OK, here you can see what those extra pairs of rivets were for. They connect those leather straps at the top. Each of the straps has a small strip of velcro stapled to the end, which you can just see here.

This was how I connected the pauldrons to the breastplate. Those two leather straps with velcro would slide under the shoulder sections of the connected breast and backplate, then come back and stick to the velcro strip which was glued to the inside of the big pauldron piece. I needed my wife to "hang" these on the breastplate while I was wearing it, and get everything connected. It would have been quite impossible for me to do it myself.

And, last but not least, the in-process hip protector flaps. They are conspicuously missing from the photos of me at the Ren Fest, although I think the armor looks pretty good even without them.

So that's about it. I just wanted to give y'all some extra details on the final construction of the armor, in case you were interested. All in all, making this armor was a great experience. I learned a lot about the "tricks" involved in costume making, and got a bunch of great ideas for my next suit of armor (yes, I am that crazy).

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Quickie

I know I promised some additional armor photos later this week, and here it is Friday already. I plan to take more pictures tomorrow, with a nice level of detail so you can see how I riveted and attached the various pieces. So, the promised post will go up this weekend.

Until then, happy Friday!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Final Thoughts on the Armor... For Now

Well, we made it home safely yesterday after a great weekend at the Texas Renaissance Festival. The armor held up quite well, although I should admit that I only wore it on Saturday. On Sunday, I wore the same costume that I did at the Minnesota festival -- that is to say, I wore my old costume with the chainmail shirt added.

It was cold on both days -- not just "cold for Texas", but unseasonably cold due to the whole polar vortex thing, and as you saw from the photos, I was wearing my heavy cape to keep warm. It also kept out the wind and rain quite nicely.

But the reason I didn't wear the armor on Sunday was simply that it is a bit restrictive to my movement. Given that this is the first suit of armor I have ever fabricated, I suppose it's no surprise that such imperfections might become apparent only upon first wearing it. So I don't feel bad about having made an imperfect costume... I simply chose not to wear it on Sunday, so that I could enjoy freedom of movement for a day.

Other than that, I don't have anything really critical to say of the armor. It fits as I designed it to, although it could use some improvements. The paint is as good as I could get it in the time I had, but again it could use some improvements. It held up quite well to the rigors of travel, including being inspected twice by the TSA. I blame the chainmail for that (16 pounds of steel sitting in the bottom of a suitcase), but whatever the cause, it survived being stuffed into a suitcase, then shifted around, pulled out, worn for a day, stuffed back into a suitcase, shifted around for inspection again, and finally removed upon our arrival home. It popped two rivets, one during each trip, which is better than I expected. I had brought my paints and riveting tools with me, plus enough rivets to re-do the entire suit if needed, and I only needed the two rivets. The paint also survived quite nicely, only needing some minor touch-up after travel.

I intend to post a few more pics, close-up to show the various finished pieces, later this week. Other than that, I am starting to turn my mind toward the next Balfrith story, writing down some ideas I've had rattling around in my head for a while. More to come on that later, too.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Houston Renaissance Festival, and the Premier of My New Armor

It's been a busy few days, but we had a great day at the Ren Fest today. The weather was a bit chilly, but at least it didn't rain like they were predicting.

My armor survived being tightly packed into a suitcase for two days. I only had to touch up two small areas where the paint was scratched, and one rivet popped out which I had to replace. Since I brought everything I needed to repair such things, it was a simple matter to fix.

I put the complete suit of armor on for the very first time this morning, just before we left for the festival. Thankfully, everything fit pretty well. Since we knew it was going to be cold, my wife (the famous Geekwif) brought the heavy cloak from my old costume. It kept me nice and warm, and you will see it draped over my shoulders in the pics below.

The Geekwif also has a new costume this year, a sort of Middle-Eastern warrior priestess based on a character from the Pathfinder boxed game. Our close friends Eric and Bonnie are hosting us in the Houston area, and they enjoy wearing costumes and getting into character at least at much as we do, so the four of us have a great time together.

But enough of my idle chatter. You came here for the photos, right? Look below for what you came for...

Me and the Geekwif. The cloak has two layers, gray on the inside and blue outside. I bought a nice two-piece cloakpin set today at the Festival, which you can see holding the two sides together beneath my chin.

I don't recall if I had mentioned this before, but as the time for my trip got closer, I realized I wasn't going to be able to finish the entire set of armor. So, I set aside the hip protectors for the time being. They are partially painted, sitting at home waiting for me to return and finish them. But overall I am pretty happy with the way the armor came out, even with those pieces missing.

Our friends, Eric and Bonnie. Bonnie also had a new costume this year, sort of a barbarian huntress theme. She was looking at recurved bows today, which would go nicely with the outfit and add some depth to the character.

Eric has a pretty nice matched set of leather coat and boots, and he bought the gloves just today. It's a fun costume that he's gotten good use out of over the years.

The four of us together, natch.

So this post doesn't tell you a whole lot, but if you wanted to see some pics of my completed set of armor, these are what I have so far. We're going back to the Fest tomorrow, but I think I'm going to wear a simpler costume, with just a cloth surcoat over the chainmail shirt, and the cloak over that as well. The armor is fun to wear but it can be a bit restrictive, and I think I'd like to just change things up a little bit tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Armor Complete!

The armor is done, but I'm too tired to post anything about it tonight. Tomorrow morning I board an early flight to Houston, so I may not post again until I take some photos at the Renaissance Festival.

Until then... yawn... have a good one!

Armor Assembly - the Countdown Has Begun!

I don't recall if I mentioned this before, but I will be at the Houston Renaissance Festival this weekend, both Saturday and Sunday if the weather is decent. So of course I am now in the final hours of finishing up the armor, to get it ready for packing (I board my flight tomorrow).

The painting is complete at this point, although there are a few points that may need some touch-up. I plan to bring my paints and brushes with me on the trip, so that I can repair anything that gets scraped or scratched in transit, or even while at the Fest.

Most of my evening was spent riveting plastic and leather, along with the application of small amounts of glue where needed. Here are a few photos of the assembly in progress...

The knee protection pieces, riveted together. Kneecap is on the left, upper calf on the right. The joint is a bit tight, but it does move.

Shoulder pauldrons in process. The rivets are so tight that the pieces don't really move, although there is a little bit of flex in the plastic itself.

Shoulder pauldron, assembled. The rivets attach to small leather straps, which are then riveted to the next piece down.

Inside of the shoulder pauldron, showing the leather straps mentioned above.

Breastplate, assembled from three pieces. The clamp on the left is holding those two pieces while the glue dries.

I had to glue these pieces because the Sintra plus Worbla is too thick for the rivets to work well. When it's just two pieces of Sintra, there is no problem. The Worbla is just thick enough to make it too much for the rivets.

 Another shot of the breastplate, with clamps on each side for the glue.

That's all I've got for now. I still have the back-plate to assemble (two pieces), plus attach leather straps and buckles to various pieces so that they will hold in place when worn. I may do one last post tonight, showing those straps, before I pack up the armor for travel.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Armor - Painting - Progress Report

As I mentioned previously, I'm not entirely satisfied with the way the paint is turning out. It's not terrible, but it's not great either. Part of that is my own lack of skill with painting these surfaces using this type of paint. And part of it is that the silver metallic paint just does not look like metal. But, as time is running out, I decided to just move ahead and do my best with what I've got.

Here are a few pics of the work in progress...

Random pieces. The gold paint goes on pretty nicely with one coat, but the silver takes two coats. The pieces here all just have one coat so far.

The knee pieces in the foreground have two coats of the silver, and they look OK. Not as shiny as I might have hoped, but otherwise not too bad.

More pieces, with a mix of one or two coats of silver. The spray can is for the black primer that I've been using.

The trick with the two coats of silver is that the paint does not dry very quickly, so I have had to wait a full day before putting on the second coat. When I tried to just wait a few hours on the same day, the second coat was actually dissolving the first coat and causing it to smear. Definitely not the effect I was hoping for.

I expect to finish all the painting tonight, and then start with the various leather straps and buckles that will be needed to hold everything together and in place. I already made one experimental strap with buckle, and it worked pretty well. So I have some confidence going into that, that it will turn out fine.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Armor Painting - Moving Ahead

Spent some time this week just priming the individual pieces. Everything now looks very flat black. Making good progress, but I need to get all the painting done by the end of this weekend, which isn't a lot of time. May not have time to post anything this weekend, but hopefully will be able to post progress pics next week.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Armor - Testing the Paint, and Rethinking the Plan

For the past few days I've been testing the paint on a piece of scrap Sintra with a bit of Worbla stuck to it, to simulate what an actual piece of the armor would be like.

First, I tested a spray-can type of primer, to see how well it would coat the two different surfaces. That part went pretty well. It took three coats to really cover the Worbla, but that was mostly because the Worbla has a rough-textured surface. I could actually sand the Worbla first, and then prime it. But I wanted to see how well the primer would smooth out that roughness. So yeah, three coats did the trick. And since the primer is black, and the Sintra is black -- and also the Sintra is pretty smooth -- I only need to prime the Worbla areas and I can pretty much ignore (not prime) the Sintra.

The second step was to actually try some paint. This was, in a word... disappointing. I bought a metallic silver paint that someone else had recommended, but it is really thin and doesn't cover very well. After two coats, it still has not completely covered the black Sintra or the primed Worbla. I think a third coat would do it, but I am surprised, and disappointed, that it's taking that much. And after all that, it does not really look very metallic to me anyway.

So, now I am starting to reconsider how I want to paint this armor. And what I am thinking about is actually painting the silver on first, but then painting a coat of some color, maybe something blue, so that it looks like colored metal. This would (hopefully) cover up the fact that the metallic silver doesn't really look like metal, while also (hopefully) add a bit of color to the costume.

Why do I want color? Well, for one thing I have realized that my mail shirt is actually black, rather than plain shiny steel, meaning that having the "metallic" pieces layered over the mail might actually look kind of silly. But if I painted the armor pieces in a darker color, they might blend better with the black chain mail, and give the whole costume a better look.

So yeah, I've got some minor frustrations here but am trying to figure out a good solution to fix the way things are looking now. After I do some more testing with the color, I will post my results. Hopefully later this week. I only have about ten days to get this thing done, so I really need to move fast.