April 7, 2013

Samurai armor

Yesterday I started making Masamune's samurai style upper arm armor. Of course before starting I looked at a lot of my Masamune references and two of them were these:



Okay, inconsistent references anyone? I looked at most of my references and the color of Masamune's lacing changed from white to brown and I think I saw blue somewhere and in the anime there is none at all. Also the amount of lacing rows and armor plates seemed inconsistent too the more different pictures I looked at... oh come on!

There's just three rows of armor plates on this figure..
So instead of trying to figure out the "real way" Masamune's upper arm armor was supposed to be I decided to take some artistic liberties and just do some free designing inspired by actual samurai armor. Yeah, you could say I thought "to hell with 100% character accuracy" and saved myself more headache from ever-changing references by doing my own take on the armor. Oh, but before that I googled "samurai armor" and got inspired. I payed attention to the different ways the lacing was done.

Samurai armor
(photo found on Google)
When I felt I had an idea on what I was soon to be working on I decided to let it roll!
First thing I did was to make a mini size armor out of paper and draw a lot of dots on it; the dots would be the holes for the lacing.

Paper armor test pattern
I didn't count or plan how many holes I needed in advance. I just marked the holes while I went on and added or changed the spacing if I noticed something didn't look right. When I felt I had something that might work I cut out the paper pattern, cut it in half, took a sewing needle and thread and started to improvice "lacing it" to check if I had enough holes.

My "lacing" test with a sewing needle and thread
I decided three armor plates were enough and four rows of lacing. By the way, my mini paper armor had just two rows, I cut it in half.
   When I thought about it I figured I wouldn't want the threads to start at the showing side of the armor so I made extra holes on the top plate so that the lace would start/end on the inside instead.

Now it's better ~
After experimenting with the mini paper armor test for a while I felt confident enough to start making the real deal. I used polystyrene sheets for the armor and measured and cut out two pieces. I also marked on the inside some faint pencil lines where each plate would start and end.

Cut out armor pieces
With the pieces cut out I went outside to shape them with a heat gun. I wanted a nice bend in the middle, but not a very sharp one. The heat forming succeeded very well.

Shaped armor pieces ~
The reason why I decided to shape the armor while it was still a single piece, instead of cutting it into the three plates and heat forming them individually, was to make sure all three soon-to-be plates would have the same curve to them and fit on top of each other, with a slight overlap, when assembled later.

Next thing I did was that I cut the big piece into three parts along the marked cutting lines on the inside. After cutting the big piece I now had three separate plates and, well, I drew a lot of dots on them. I used my former mini paper armor as a reference for the hole placement.

My three armor plates filled with hole markings..
... and now to make them into, well, holes.

Hello drill ~
I took a scrap piece of polystyrene and drilled two holes in it just to check if it worked. It worked like a charm, no cracks or problems whatsoever and easy to drill through! Yay!

Drill test
I took the scrap piece with me and went inside to find some suitable ribbon or cord for lacing. I didn't find any cords so I set for ribbon instead. I took what we had at home and the best I could find was this 5 mm white glossy ribbon. I tried threading it through the holes to check if the hole was big enough for the ribbon to run through freely but still not too big and well..

.. it was pretty much perfect!
Okay, so I was ready to drill holes. But before I did that I wanted to sand the edges a bit because they were a bit rough from the cutting. Sanding worked pretty okay on polystyrene.

After smoothing the edges a bit
And now.. well.. time to drill! Of course I did the drilling (and sanding) outside.

First armor piece drilled
A lot of drilling and frozen fingers later I had armor plates full of holes. No joke.

So many.. holes...!
That was all the progress I did yesterday. Today when I woke up I went to continue with the armors and well, next up was to paint them. I used the same black semi gloss spray paint as before.. I've used up more than half the bottle already, oops. I gave the showing side a coating first and let them dry for some time on my makeshift working table outside in the "car garage".

Newly sprayed with the first coating
Some time later I returned to paint the inside of the armors after the outside had dried.

Inside sprayed with paint
When the inside was dry I turned all the plate pieces over and noticed that while the showing side had been drying the spray paint had slowly flowed from the sides towards the middle bend. Also some of the paint had gathered at the very sides and left these small build-ups.

Gravity, I hate you sometimes.

This demonstrates the "flowing paint problem" (lighter parts, not full coverage)
and the "spray paint build-up".
Oh well, a second coating easily fixed the first problem.. but the spray paint build-up was still visible underneath because well.. there is more paint there, duh. Oh well, I didn't feel like trying to sand it down or anything and it doesn't bother me so much anyway so whatever.
While the second paint coating was drying I decided to move my makeshift table, with the armors, out in the sunshine so that the paint would dry quicker. It seemed like a great idea... until a random strong gust of wind appeared and blew all my armor pieces into the snow. My face was like:

Yeeeeeah...
Luckily most pieces had already dried enough not to have the snow get stuck everywhere but well, one of the plates got these "snow was here" bubble prints on the surface and it bothered me.. so I sprayed over them.

Oh well, after all plates were dry I took them inside and begun lacing them together with the ribbon. I burned the ends of the ribbon each time I cut it so that it wouldn't unravel. Oh, and about the lacing, I didn't use any "historically accurate" or whatever way to lace it, I just improvised and used some real samurai armor pictures as inspiration/guiding.

Burning ribbon ends
Two rows of lacing done
The lacing process was pretty tedious and took me a few hours. I was very careful with making sure that the ribbon didn't twist itself at any point during the lacing; I wanted it to lay neat and straight. Every time there was any error I undid parts of the lacing until everything was right and the ends I just tied together in the back.

This is what my armor looked like when done:

Finished Masamune samurai armor pieces ~
I must say I'm really happy with how these turned out! I know they are not exact replicas of the ones Masamune wears (and you know that too if you read what I wrote at the beginning of the post) but I like them like this, 20% cooler ~

7 comments:

  1. Ohmai~ They look so cool!! <33 Great job!! 8D

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  2. Wow, these look super cool! Good job ^_^

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  3. Vau, vähänkö on siistit! :D Tosi hienot, hyvin tehdyt!

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  4. Itken suolaisia kyyneleitä miten hyvältä nämä sinun armorit näyttävät... Ihan mahtavaa työtä teet noitten kanssa!

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  5. Whoa, they look so perfectly neat and awesome! :^D Your idea of creating a mini paper armor test first was very clever. Great choice of crafting materials too. Nice job!

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  6. I'd argue that you did not pay attention to the way the lacing is done. X's are not present in any japanese armor. While it is true the laces do cross and make n X, they actually form more of a square. As seen here: http://imgur.com/a/yBIF0#0

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