June 24, 2013

A plastic hell

Remember how I back in 6th April started working on Masamune's leg armors? Well, I've been slowly working on them over the last few month and now I figured I'll put all the rest of the progress in a single long follow-up post. Here goes!

Way back on 5th April I continued the leg armor work by drawing a pattern for the knee cap part of the armor. I had to make a few versions before I came up with one that seemed right. The early ones had a dent at the middle but I scrapped that idea on the final version.

The final pattern version
 With the pattern at hand I took the polystyrene and cut out two pieces...

... and then came the heat gun treatment to shape the plastic.

After having shaped the knee parts of the armor I took one of the leg pieces and tried the fit against it. I had to go reshape the knee parts a few times to get them to fit as well as possible and without leaving "empty space" where the bent parts of both pieces met.

Testing the fit
Over 5th April and the two following days I was struggling with trying to find some method to glue the pieces together. I tried several different adhesives that we had available at mom's place on scrap pieces but nothing seemed to work and the despair-&-frustration meter was rising fast.

I tried hot glue, construction adhesive (?), pvc glue, epoxy resin and allround glue... and nothing worked. Fuck. :)
I kind of left it at this point for some days in frustration to try and come up with what to try now. On 23rd April I was feeling like going through hell again trying once more. I thought that if I gave the surface a rough treatment with some sand paper maybe it would maybe make a difference at how well the glues would stick. But of course before trying any glues on the actual armor parts. I had to draw some marks where the glue would sit and thus also where to sand.

Edges marked...
... and sanded.
On the same day my stepdad had been cool and bought some kind of glue that claimed it would stick to polystyrene.

Equipped with a glue that gave me hope I decided to tackle the damn plastic again, but this time trying the glue on the actual armor parts and not just scrap pieces as before. So with a helping hand from stepdad we glued the knee caps to the armor pieces at the marked lines and secured them to dry over the night.

You better be stuck together when I return... *glare*
About 24 hours later on the next day (24th April) I returned to check if the glue had done what it claimed it could and low and behold, the pieces didn't separate even after I tried to bend and put some pressure on them!

I could have been happy at this point.. but colored by the reminder of earlier gluing failures and some justified iffyness I decided to be extra-super-duper safe and reinforce the part that attaches the knee cap to the leg armor with some rivets. So on 26th April I marked where to drill the armors.

Holes marked with a pencil. There's 4 holes.
After drilling.
Actually my stepdad did this next part for me, namely inserting the rivets with a hand riveting tool.

Hand riveting tool
First we tried a rivet on scrap pieces just to check that it worked, which it did. Then we put rivets on the actual armor.

Front with rivets (surface paint cracked a bit)
I quickly realized the backside of the rivets would probably get really uncomfortable because they stick out and well, having them pressing against my legs all day in cosplay can't be a very pleasant experience. Stepdad then showed it was possible to cut off parts of the backside of the rivets if you were careful not to hit that thing in the center. He went ahead and trimmed the rivet backsides before I even knew of it some hours later while I was in my former room (this was while I still lived at mom's place) doing something else; he did it without me knowing. xD

A "trimmed" rivet backside
A few days later, on 29th April, I noticed that the paint didn't stick that well to the polystyrene. It was possible to peel it off with your nails or something semi-sharp.

Oh crap...
Again I thought that if I sanded the surface the paint would stick on better. I used some sanding paper with a very high number, super fine grit.

Preparations - sanding papers, armors and a chunk of finnfoam to wrap sanding paper around
Front leg armors front sanded
Back leg armors front sanded
I left them in this sorry state for some time because I moved away from mom's place into my own apartment and thus couldn't work on my Masamune cosplay as often as before. But on 12th May I returned to work a few hours!

Because of the earlier sanding there was dust of the spray spread over the armor surfaces and so, to clean it, I had to use white spirit.

I just used some tissue paper, put some white spirit on it and wiped the surfaces clean of dust. After that I let them dry for around 2 hours outside and then returned to recoat the fronts of all the armor pieces.

Newly sprayed coat of paint on top front sides
I left them to dry over the night because I had to leave for my apartment. It took me until 8th June before I got another chance to work on these again and when I returned mom had told me some things that sounded weird and bad. "The color is flaking everywhere." I had heard and I wasn't sure what she meant until I got there and saw the armor pieces. The fronts which I had treated and recoated earlier were as fine as ever but the backsides -which I had left completely untreated after sanding the surfaces- had pooed black flakes basically everywhere and even the slightest touch let lose a dark cloud of them!

Maximum flaking. Fuck. :)
I tried softly rubbing my finger against the flaking surface and...

... almost all of the (sanded) spray coat fell right off!
And on all the untreated back sides to boot!
Nothing to do but to let lose a few curse words mentally and give the back the same white spirit and recoat treatment I had given the front sides quite long ago.

On 24th June I decided to try them on and crossed my fingers but somehow I had a feeling it wouldn't go well. Guess if I was right? :DD
Before starting I cut out lengths of white cotton ribbon and sat down on the floor and started tying the armors on one of my legs. I started with the backside armor and at first everything seemed alright but when I started with the front armor I noticed things started screwing up. First of the armors wouldn't stay where intended and they would constantly turn to either the right or left and, secondly, the lower ties would slide down if I moved and sometimes if I didn't -.- and thus the armor would "pop out". I guess it slides down because the surface is kinda... plasticy/slippery (there's no grip) and because feet get narrower closer to the ankle. Frustrating to say the least.

Testing. Notice backside armor has "popped out" from the lower tie..
I also noticed that the backside armor had flaked some paint off in strips at the high tension bending point, the middle.

The front armor didn't flake though. I'm pretty annoyed because this means I likely have to come up with something else for the armor and I'm running short on time. I can probably still use the front piece but I would have to replace the backside armors with something with a rougher/uneven/non-slippery surface so that they won't slide around and shit. I guess I will try mutilating a roll mat...


Arawn Elidd said...

What an adventure those leg armor pieces turned out to be. I have experienced that annoying paint chipping problem many times myself. Not cool! Very good idea to add those rivets. Cosplay pieces, especially armor ones, can never be too secure!

I believe you are still on track! You just need to attach your leg armor to a pair of black knee-high combat boots. Because if you look closely at your reference pictures of Masamune Date, you can see that the armor plates are affixed to it, while the white ties are probably for decoration ~ Give it a shot!

Valkoinen Samurai said...

Oh, cool idea! Sad thing is I have no bombat boots. :'D
*checks reference*
I can't see any boots.. for me it seems he's just wearing blue (worn) tabi and some random not-so-waraji shoes. xD

Arawn Elidd said...

Thanks! Alright, the next best thing then is for you to get some black leather or thick vinyl to use for the back side of your lower legs. Just shape it like the top of a boot, then attach the front leg panels to that. :D