Spacemeat's Guide to Foam Armor

Spacemeat

Member
Hey everyone! Over the years, I've had a lot of people ask me how I do foam and with everyone doing it just a little bit differently from each other, I figured it would be helpful to give my perspective on things. So, I've started a series of videos and I'll be trying to cover building my parts of armor from start to finish:

Video 1: General Overview


Video 2: Pepakura


Video 3: Basic Foam Assembly


Video 4: Reach Chestplate Details

Video 5: Edge and Seam Sealing

Video 6: Plastidip

Video 7: Quickie on Painting

Video 8: Lasercutting



You questions/feedback for the videos are always welcome. I'm sure aside from horrible rambling, I'm also forgetting to cover topics or not giving enough detail on some things.
 
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Benton188

RXO
405th Regiment Officer
Hey Spacemeat. Just want to thank you on making some awesome tutorial videos for foam. Foam work is next in line for me and your videos are answering all my questions =) You even showed me things about the Pep designer I didn't know about lol. Just a quick question though, which'll probably be covered in the next video anyways, but what type of foam do you recommend using? Cause I see places like Home Depot usually have 3-4 different styles and thickness.
 

Spacemeat

Member
Thanks! The next video should actually be me working on foam, I shot these in the lead up to comic-con and I'm finally getting around to editing them now.

As to the foam question, I prefer using the foam from Harbor Freight:

http://www.harborfreight.com/4-piece-anti-fatigue-foam-mat-set-94635.html

It's cheap, has nice surface quality, and it's relatively stiff. They're normally $9.99, but Harbor freight has a 20% off one item coupon pretty much every week in the newspaper and sometimes they have a sale for $6.99 a pack. As to thickness, I'm not sure what it is, I think it's about 1/2".

The only other foam I've tried are the ones from Costco. I don't really recommend those. They feel softer than the Harbor Freight ones, which while great if you're going to stand on them, probably isn't the best when you're constructing armor to wear. Also, I think costco has worse quality control as the surface on half the sheets I got them had a bunch of pits in them that I didn't find acceptable.
 

Benton188

RXO
405th Regiment Officer
Thanks! I'll have to check our local Harbor Freight out then, and we don't have a Costco around here.

Although, I always thought the first time I'd look in the news paper for coupons it would've been for food and not foam lol
 

WandererTJ

Well-Known Member
Hey Spacemeat, since you're back once again, does that mean we are allowed to necro your build threads? :p
Whatever happened with the sword building?
and
What file did you use for your ab piece?


Fyi, the videos are really awesome. I can't wait to see more in the series!!!
 

FWBulldog

New Member
Thanks for the tutorials. Consuming everything I can regarding foam. Really liked the unfolding example on the shoulder pad. Some of those things are obvious once you've done them a couple times, but might not be to somebody new. Thanks for taking the time to put those together.
 

Spacemeat

Member
Hey Spacemeat, since you're back once again, does that mean we are allowed to necro your build threads? :p
Whatever happened with the sword building?
and
What file did you use for your ab piece?


Fyi, the videos are really awesome. I can't wait to see more in the series!!!
Well I had a few more ups and downs with the swords. In the end I was able to produce three more swords, just enough for each one of us:

10449453_10152543887071023_6171624443626827745_n.jpg

The buck is a little worse for wear though and I'm debating between repairing that or scrapping it and making a third generation of the sword based on the lessons learned from the last two. Either way, that's a long term project because I'm planning on starting something else first...

As to the old threads, I looked in on them and shamefully realized I haven't updated it in almost a year! So yes, I think I'll start prepping some updates for that and bring it to completion before starting my new builds

Oh and the file for the abs is the one from JTM1997. I haven't had a chance to check the pep database if it's still there, but I have a copy that I can upload a little later. In fact, I probably should upload the files I've unfolded personally for my foam builds and maybe the lasercut patterns, at least after I'm sure they're not totally screwed up :p

Thanks for the tutorials. Consuming everything I can regarding foam. Really liked the unfolding example on the shoulder pad. Some of those things are obvious once you've done them a couple times, but might not be to somebody new. Thanks for taking the time to put those together.
Thanks! I hope they help you out in your build. Just trying to do my part in sharing the knowledge I've built up over the years.

And finally, I've uploaded Video 3: Basic Foam Assembly; where I finally take a knife to the foam and start building stuff! At least, I go over the techniques and small details for cutting and gluing. I've added the video up at the top.
 

Spacemeat

Member
Hey guys! I posted up another video up top. Video 4 focuses on the Halo Reach chestplate and I go into a little more detail about build techniques for the spine and the magnet strapping system I use to keep the chest plate together.
 

Benton188

RXO
405th Regiment Officer
Hey Spacemeat.
Your videos are bringing me closer and closer to go time for my build. Another question for you sir: What grade of glue gun are you using? For my resin builds I was using a mini-glue gun so the heat wouldn't ruin the paper when I was welding them together, but it's hard to tell if a bigger one is needed for foam. Your suggestion?
 

Spacemeat

Member
Hey Spacemeat.
Your videos are bringing me closer and closer to go time for my build. Another question for you sir: What grade of glue gun are you using? For my resin builds I was using a mini-glue gun so the heat wouldn't ruin the paper when I was welding them together, but it's hard to tell if a bigger one is needed for foam. Your suggestion?
I'm using a mini glue gun that I bought from Michael's a few years ago. I don't think you need a larger sized one, in fact I like the smaller one so It's easier to get the gun into the smaller nooks and crannies while building. The main thing is to not skimp on the amount of hot glue when you're putting it together. I've learned that you can't have too much when it comes to holding it all together.
 

Black0raz0r

New Member
I have some issue with scale and print the helmet right.
Is it the same way to scale the helmet like you did it with the armor part for the leg? If so how do I fix it that single pieces aren't cut off on a A4 paper?
I figure out that many files are for Letter format papers.
 

Spacemeat

Member
I have some issue with scale and print the helmet right.
Is it the same way to scale the helmet like you did it with the armor part for the leg? If so how do I fix it that single pieces aren't cut off on a A4 paper?
I figure out that many files are for Letter format papers.
Yes, the same principles apply to scaling the helmet. But for the helmet I suggest you measure points on the inside to accommodate the length and width of your head and take into account that you'll have padding on the inside as well. Another thing to note, since I encountered this with the Air Assault I use is that the opening at the bottom is generally not designed for a human to normally stick their head through. I would suggest either discarding from of the bottom to allow your head to fit, or as I did in my later helmets, make a section of the helmet detachable so you have a wider opening to put your head in.

For the pieces being cut off issue, if you're going to construct your helmet purely with cardstock/resin, your only recourse is to move and rotate the pieces around the pages until you can get them to fit, don't forget to adjust the margins and see if you can increase the area you have to print with. If it's not going to fit on the paper, you're simply going to have to find a place to cut it using the divide/connect faces tool. If you're going to be building it out of foam, you can have a cheat with that one and if the piece is too big to be contained on a piece of paper, such as the case with a thigh piece, you can split the pattern in pepakura but tape them together as one large piece when you're tracing out the pattern to foam.

Hey Spacemeat do you think you can go over applying plasti dip next?
I actually filmed most the footage for the videos before I left for comic-con, so at this point I'm just trying to find time outside of work and PAX prep time to do some editing and post the videos.

Here's the rough outlines and status for the next few videos:


Planned:

Video 5: Foam Gap filling and Smoothing - filmed - Basically, I show how I fill up all the gaps in my foam armor with drywall spackle and sand them smooth

Video 6: Plastidip Application - filmed - How to apply plastidip!

Video 7: Quick Paint Overview - filmed - Yeah, my sister actually helps with the painting a lot, so this one is like a really quick blurb about the paints I use and some of the tools. That's about it.

Video 8: Putting on the Armor - unfilmed - Showing how I put on the armor from start to finish so you can see how all the strapping and mounting works

Possible ideas for more videos


Lighting and Soldering - I show how I solder up the lights I use for my armor

Helmet Details - basically I give a detailed look at one of my completed foam helmets, give an idea of it's structure and show off features like the removable back plate, visor mounting, and the cooling fans

Sword Details - I give a detailed look at one my completed swords and try to describe how I constructed it from start to finish

Vacuforming - I give an overview of my really ghetto vacuform machine and if my sword buck is repaired by then, I'll try to foam a new sword.

What do you guys think? Anything else you think I missed/should cover? Anything that sounds kinda useless?
 

Black0raz0r

New Member
Yes, the same principles apply to scaling the helmet. But for the helmet I suggest you measure points on the inside to accommodate the length and width of your head and take into account that you'll have padding on the inside as well. Another thing to note, since I encountered this with the Air Assault I use is that the opening at the bottom is generally not designed for a human to normally stick their head through. I would suggest either discarding from of the bottom to allow your head to fit, or as I did in my later helmets, make a section of the helmet detachable so you have a wider opening to put your head in.

For the pieces being cut off issue, if you're going to construct your helmet purely with cardstock/resin, your only recourse is to move and rotate the pieces around the pages until you can get them to fit, don't forget to adjust the margins and see if you can increase the area you have to print with. If it's not going to fit on the paper, you're simply going to have to find a place to cut it using the divide/connect faces tool. If you're going to be building it out of foam, you can have a cheat with that one and if the piece is too big to be contained on a piece of paper, such as the case with a thigh piece, you can split the pattern in pepakura but tape them together as one large piece when you're tracing out the pattern to foam.
....
ah thanks :)
 

DraftyBread

New Member
Awesome thread! I was trying to decide if I should go with foam or pep. You've made up my mind with this how-to! Looking forward to your other vids.

Also a question, have you thought about building a foam helmet over the styrofoam insides of an old motorcycle helmet? It would be plenty rigid, provide a great fit over your head too. The only drawback I can see would be maybe the size being a bit too big. Im thinking about giving that a shot, that way I avoid resin and glassing.
 

Spacemeat

Member
Please do vacuforming! I need to know how!
That one will be a little ways away. My sword buck was damaged when I was producing my last swords so it may be a while before I repair or replace it and try vacuforming again. Also, I'll be the first to admit my setup is rather lame, but I'll still share it with you guys!

Awesome thread! I was trying to decide if I should go with foam or pep. You've made up my mind with this how-to! Looking forward to your other vids.

Also a question, have you thought about building a foam helmet over the styrofoam insides of an old motorcycle helmet? It would be plenty rigid, provide a great fit over your head too. The only drawback I can see would be maybe the size being a bit too big. Im thinking about giving that a shot, that way I avoid resin and glassing.
Hmmm, hadn't considered that. My current helmets are made mostly with foam. Inside them I have two arches made of cheesecloth soaked in resin. The arches help the helmet keep its shape and resist the force of the visor inside the helmet pushing outwards. I'm not familar with the strength of the foam inside of a helmet, so I'm wondering if it would be able to resist the outward force from the visor without the hardplastic shell of the helmet on top. Aside from that you're right about the scaling issues, and I would guess that since helmets are all shaped differently, you'd need to cut or sand the styrofoam of the helmet to a rough shape of the target halo helmet you're making.
 

FWBulldog

New Member
Spacemeat, I've been following the tutorials, just finished watching #4. Right around 32:45 you mention "that pretty much covers chest construction....... Ack..NO! You showed a chest piece that was all EVA foam, and then you pop up the one covered in white with all the LEDs already mounted. You missed some bits in the middle man! :) When you cover the base structure with craft foam (2mm?) do you use the same templates? Or do you just it down and cut it where you need seams? What's the process for covering the substructure with craft foam? Thanks again for the tutorials. Definitely learning. Instead of using craft foam for the torso and thigh seals I'm going to use LilTyran's example of marine vinyl. I should be posting those pics in a day or two.
 
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