So where do I begin? I guess the beginning works. My name is Mike of PS2J, I’m also Mike of Foam Forge Props. Bear in mind, I’m a fairly rook cosplay/prop maker who does this as strictly as a hobby. It can’t occupy a ton of my time normally, thanks to a full time job along with other commitments. I may only do this for about an hour a day, even then I take weekends or other time to my self.
This all started when I decided I wanted to make a suit of armor for the Halo 5 Midnight Launch Party, put on by my local games retailer. Obviously if you’re going to make a suit for a Midnight Launch, you’re gonna go big and make the man himself. No. Not Locke, the Chief aka Master. But how to start this undertaking? A crazy dream is only that until you start, and I started this one in the same spot I started when I chased the crazy right into making an ODST, this one though, took me about 10 months.
Of course a write up is not complete without images. Just a note, the images will be built pieces and won’t detail how I cut or worked with the foam.As a note there will be images, though they will be of built pieces and I will not detail how to cut and work with foam in this write up. This is not an official WIP of how I did everything, more a review of what I did. If you want to work with foam and want tips and tricks I can can offer some basic advise. There are also many many youtube videos to help you get that skill down pat, but I recommend honestly just getting your feet wet. I will include what I used to make my suit though just below here.
First up, all the stuff I used for the build! This will cover about 90% of it as I may have forgotten some stuff along the way.
Pen Knife With #11 Hobby Blades.(angled like a scalpel)
9mm Olfa Hobby Knife.
45 Degree Angle Cutting Knife.
Actual Razor Blades.
Hot Glue Gun
Small Craft Scissors.
Cheap Paint brushes.
Nice Paint brushes.
Bondo Rubber applicators.
Lepage Contact Cement.
DAP Acrylic Caulking (this stuff can be sanded… kind of)
Tacky Glue (fabric grade white glue)
Dupli Colour Gap filling Gray Primer
Krylon Ultra Flat Olive
Bolt Gun Metal Citadel Paint
Purity Seal Matte Acrylic Clear Coat
12mm floor mats
6mm floor mats
2mm craft foam
110lb card stock
Pepakura Designer (free)
Web Sites For Resources
https://www.facebook.com/groups/528738863837600/ (Halo Props)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/PepakuraLibrary/ (Pepakura Library)
Now that all that is out of the way, on to the actual project.
As I said up top, I started out on this build the same way I did with my ODST. I could have made my own templates, and started from scratch, but I have the luck of being average size and shape. Halo has a massive and diverse costuming community and along the way numerous people have already created files for exactly what I’m doing. So I decided to seek out their work, available for use by the community at large and posted on line. Setting out to the 405th.com, Halo Props on facebook, Pepakura Library on facebook, and so on I began to trawl for files.
Downloading not one but three full sets of armor I weighed my options and chose to try a foam build. I selected the files I deemed best to work with, separating the chaff from the wheat by looking for those most accurate. I named the folder in front of me; Foam Chief Project. With that out of the way the thought hit me that I had no clue what I was doing.
Luckily for me, Iron Man along with some gauntlets allowed me to practice before tackling the MC. Smashing out those quick foam builds, I learned the ins and outs of working with foam. So I took my first steps into the real build. I will try and explain how I did in depth. But this bit of running around was what lead up to the actual building. It’s going to go quick so brace yourselves… that’s a joke because I started with the, you know what. Never mind.
DECEMBER 2014 (Late) – The journey of a thousand armor parts…
Sitting down at my desk I learned how to handle cut and even bevel foam edges. Using a naked gauntlet file and some custom templates made by yours truly I was able to whip up some fore arms. Learning what to cut, what to score, and how to hide seams with these was a big help. I also learned that regular blade snapping with the olfa knife and swapping on my detail cutting #11 was a necessity.
As you can see with some of the images there are parts here glued on angles, for this I used my 45 degree angle knife and made sure to line up the parts and test all fits before finalizing and gluing. This was a necessity. By the time it was all said and done I had made six gauntlets. Four ended up in the garbage due to bad seam work, exposed cuts, and at times breaks in the foam. The two that I deemed salvageable were what eventually became the arms of my chief. This only required some basic cutting, scoring for bending and gluing. Later on I would learn to better hide my seam work.
Ta-DA! I used lepage cement to join the cut edges of the foam and then on the inside I added hot glue along the seams to increase the strength of the join. This would be time consuming but worth it in the end. It would allow my suit some much needed durability.
From here some serious real life junk happens and my suit goes on hold. I basically only spent this month learning foam and ended up with some okay pieces. The next moth would start yielding results.
JANUARY 2015 – The real building begins.
From there I moved up my arms. Biceps and shoulders were up next with files provided by Evakura armor to the 405/ Halo Props. Love this guys work, and the advice and tips he gave me. Were it not for him I probably would have thrown in the towel early on, due to some issues fitting a certain body part. Namely the torso. However, back on track. With the bicep pieces and shoulders there was some difficulty.
On the 405 there are instructions provided by Evakura for building his files as they were only templates and not full fledged pep files. They required some work with the heat gun to create compound curves. This is when a surface has 2 distinct curvatures that cut across 2 axis of a plane. That sounds like a mouth full but picture the top of a ball. If you were to draw a + on it you would see that it has 2 lines of curve. The shoulders have this feature. To get it, I used my heat gun and got my cut base shape to be nice and super malleable, and then from there I bent it very harshly on one axis, then the I repeated it bending it along the other axis. This gave the pauldron its rounded shape. I unfortunately do not have an image of them in progress. Good times.
Testing it out, sans shoulders at this point. I did not want to glue them down as they would need to be glued down. I waited until it was ready to paint to do that.
Nearing the end of the month I scaled (Incorrectly, unbeknownst to me) the torso file that I had based on some posts.
FEBRUARY – Picking up speed!
Plugging away on the torso file it rapidly began to assemble. Testing the fit at some stages things seemed to be moving quickly and my excitement for the project began to grow, as did my foam cutting and gluing skills. Using a method of scoring a trench in the back of the armor to help bend and shape corners. With skill this in hand I was able to rapidly hit the following brick wall.
Using the wrong side of your shoulders. This sounds like something that isn’t that big a deal, measuring across your back from shoulder to shoulder, as opposed to your collar bones. If you do it though, you end up with 2 radically different measurements as the shape and bone structure of your trapezius and deltoid muscle region and your pectoral muscle region causes a difference in a few cm. That doesn’t sound like a big deal. But if you check the image above, it goes drastically wrong. The reason I tried scaling like this is on the RPF I found a couple of Work In progress threads to check how some other people had scaled their suit parts. I followed suit not understanding which part to check when their simple diagram said measure your shoulders.
I had burned a lot of time on this piece. Over half a month. That might not seem like a lot but my job is seasonal and the summer is now rapidly approaching. I also had other projects on the go so this was a costly error.
During this time with the help of one of the PS2J Trio, Josh, I would hammer out a quick gift for a friend. This cost me some time, but it was worth it to get to finally hand this baby off to it’s rightful owner. This would consume the remainder of February however.
MARCH – The month of new beginnings.
Using my new found experience, and advice from Evakura (Cannot thank this guy enough) I would take the next 2 weeks to get back to here. In total on the torso I had now burned about a month just starting and restarting. I know this because this photo on my phone is dated for March the 10th.
The issue with this, is that I also had other work to do along side chief. Namely getting my ODST back up and running for the Calgary Comic Expo that was approaching in April. I made a knife holder and added better lights to the interior of my helmet. Quick pics below.
I also would wear the suit to my first ever Edmonton Cosplay Photo shoot meet up and from here I would meet some amazing and talented people. Photographers and cosplayers alike. It’s almost like I’m crazy busy all the time…. The rest of March and half of April was basically a wash for work. I hate to say that I did too much stuff, but I did too much stuff and ended up back benching my project.
APRIL – Cosplay Cosplay Cosplay!
Well the first chunk of this month was prep and set for Calgary Expo. I met some of the most awesome people and something truly amazing. Quick pic here of Purple Rogue Cosplay, Spartan Longshot and a couple other gents whose facebook names I don’t want to post, as they are their personal profiles. PS2J Even did a day around the hall. Our album is on our face book page.
However! Back to the project, no time for nostalgia. That stuff can really kill you.
Still working on the torso. The white lines that you see are DAP. It comes in a tube, you just apply it along the seam. Keeping your finger damp with water, you run it along the seam to help smooth it over. This is good for hiding your joins and seam work and can be sanded so long as you’re careful about it. I know it looks like a bit of a mess but this is what allowed me to save my gauntlets.
I applied DAP to all completed parts thus far but my focus then was finishing up this little guy. I left the middle section blank as I would need to make a filler plate and I would debate how to do that for a little while.
This would occupy the remainder of my April.
MAY Summer is coming.
During this month about the second week in I would see a drastic increase in hours at work. My normally seven hour days all too soon became nine and ten hours long. I also began to hit the Gym, something I would do all summer until an injury in September. Then my hours would do the old fall dip and the gym would take a back seat. By the end of May I would have my torso section done and fitted. This would take a while. This is everything fitted so far.
You can see me using more DAP and once again. I really didn’t want to show my seam work.
JUNE – The month that barely was.
During the month of June our ramp up was in full effect but I was not deterred. Needing to strike a good work/life/hobby balance I began to take time to simply relax. I also attended a small expo called EEK fest and got an honorable mention in a cosplay contest. Not a win, but for my ODST being my first ever suit It made my weekend. Picture of my dumb face included.
Jumping into my project I was able to build the butt plate and the cod piece. This cod piece though due to a lack of in game accuracy would be scrapped a few months later. I held on to it as a fall back in case I couldn’t get the replacement done. Looking back, I’m so glad I slagged this.
By the end of the month I was really stepping it up in regards to assembly.
On the thigh piece above you can see a mix of different foams. The black/gray is all 6mm, the red and yellow is 12, and the blue that you see for detail parts is 2mm craft foam. A lot of time was lost on these parts as many sections required I make more of my own templates. Custom geometry doesn’t sound like that big of a deal but when you have to do it for everything it gets to be a pain. Both thigh plates would be done by months end.
Also, if it’s leg armor, why does it fit my head so well? Space pope. Am I rite?
JULY- Shins and stuff.
This month would bring about some serious trouble. I would spend the greater portion of the month doing just this.
That’s right. Making the shins. You might think I’m joking but for some reason these parts are the bane, of my cosplay career. Seven shin builds on my ODST before I found the right ones. I still wear these to this day. I scaled them four times, made four of them just to find the size that fit right. Wore numbers four and five. Hated them, and redid them. Numbers six and seven are my current shins and I love them. For chief? It took three tries. More garbage and such but these things fit. They actually fit.
The difficult part of this is that there are compound curves attaching at odd angles to other compound curves. This would be the large green section attaching to the blue side walls. I over came this through sheer force of determination and using some scrap foam to practice doing this insane procedure. My patience would be tested time and again.
Success. The knee plates? They just kind of magically flew together so quickly this is my only image.
July would also see a family emergency. I returned home and lost some drive after this. Tough times. Production became spotty until later. Another big hit to my build morale.
AUGUST- Difficult decisions, accelerating work.
Faced with a tough choice of either a fancy under suit or not having to build a helmet I chose the former. This meant I would need to build a helmet. Crap. Time to knuckle down. Work hours here began to ease so I could invest more time on this. I found a file that while missing some important stuff would not be too time consuming or draining to build. I would still need to make custom geometry but it would not be as stressful, and since I’ve done pepakura helmets before this was a breeze.
Beginnings. When all your cosplay dreams are ashes you then have my permission to cry.
Done. Testing to make sure it’s not too small and still jives with the torso.
Done the pep build after about one and a half weeks. I took my time to remain as accurate as possible. I also had to add cardboard extras to the front and sides to really make the helmet as bang on as I could.
While I was making the helmet I was coating parts of my suit in coats of modge podge. Each piece would get 5 coats exterior and 3 interior to stop the aerosol accelerant from eating it when sprayed. This would take a couple of weeks in and of it self.. While doing this I was also priming and preparing other stuff, sanding down the uneven bits and hating it. Pro tip, if you start to go bonkers doing this, eventually you need to step up and move forward. It will change your out look. Below are some primed pieces I’m sanding.
I also during this period took some quick videos on how I harden a helmet and how I apply bondo to it.
Would love to call them tutorial videos but it’s really more of a quick answer to a question.
I Unfortunately did not take any images of the boot parts being built, but rest assured it was a lot of heat gun work. They will show up later on with more work on them. From there I did the resin work on the helmet. You can tell because it has that strange sort of yellow brown too it.
Lastly, a quick video of my bucket. The slush casting is done.
SEPTEMBER- Work like you’ve never worked before.
It’s around this time that my work was falling back to sane and easily charted hours. In the evenings I would knuckle down hard as with the fall now approaching falling temperatures would begin to stifle my build efforts. I made my new and current cod piece and ab plate. I also bought a vacuum formed visor from a gent on the Halo Props page, and I began bondo work like an addict on my chief helmet. Weekend time would start to shift here to focusing on getting this build done. I had skirted my personal responsibility to myself enough. It was time to kick it in to high gear. Edmonton expo was approaching fast and I knew I would lose some serious time there.
Testing the fit and weight. You’ll have noticed by this point I test and fit stuff a lot. Armor is complex in how it all comes together and works in unison. Ill fitted pieces do not jive and damage each other, as well as reduce flexibility and range of motion.
During this time I also did up a couple of quick props for an agent 47 build as I went as him first day. Good ol silver ballers. Large image to see all the details on them.
I spent the last 10 days prepping and attending the Edmonton Expo. It was beyond awesome. We have an album for this baby up on our face book page as well!
The suit thus far. You can see the shoulders still aren’t attached to the bicep pieces, and the old cod piece is still there.
OCTOBER – The Wire
Due date for armor, October 27th. Kicking it into over drive. If I wasn’t sleeping, eating, or taking care of hygiene stuff. I was suit work. The building was all but done. I purchased some hand plates a couple weeks back (Still waiting Canada post) and I began to paint everything. I also finished up the fine details on my helmet and cranked out a hex patterned visor. This is where the flood of images start back up, super exciting! As a note these steps all sort of happen at once and are in no real particular order. So some of the break downs. The primed and detailed helmet as seen below.
The painting was done by reapplying the base layer of gray gap filler primer. This smooths out the colour and makes for a nice flat base to paint on. The flat armor all resembled the helmet seen above, as well as this shot of the torso.
The next step was to base green all my parts. Which as you can see, there are a lot of them.
The next step was to wash all the green with a mix of black and water. This heavily dilutes the paint and lets it settle in odd patterns and low spots to create shading and low lighting. I then misted green back over it gently. Also I may mess around while some of this is drying. I took more images here as I began conversing with a fellow Halo cosplayer named Phil. We kept in touch as we were going to meet up for the midnight launch for Halo 5.
I painted the base black on to a bunch of the armor parts and let that sit. Once it was dry I mixed up some deep gray colored paint and did a dry brushing technique to all the black parts to bring them back to life. In real life flat black is not something we see unless the item is brand new. Chiefs armor is not brand new.
I may or may not have messed around while this was drying. it also allowed me to test fit the shoulders after I attached them to the bicep pieces. It was starting to feel really good at this point. After the parts had the green and base black down I dry brushed all the black with a dark gray. This added further grit and brought the black back to life as it was far too flat. Lastly I used a silver sharpie to do edge highlighting and minor wear and tear. I also fit everything some more as it came together to show what it looks like. I was starting to really feel it.
To make the visor have the signature hex pattern that chief has I took to the computer yet again. I whipped up an easily repeating properly scaled hexagon pattern and sent this to a decal cutter. They made itty bitty vinyl stickers that I painstakingly applied to the visor over the course of about three hours in total over two days. One at a time. Then after spraying it with three coats of sealer to kill the chrome shine between all the hexes, I peeled them off, one at a time. The result was phenomenal.
You can see the matte green helmet with gap filling around the visor cut out next to this last one. I reiterate, no particular order.
I also during this period added the final details to the helmet. I made a small mold of some sockets to make the bolts in chief helmet, and I also drilled out and glued in all the missing bits. And then painted it up.
Little more messing around. I mean fitting. Yeah. That’s what I mean.
All done the fabrication. This is after I attached the visor and added padding. Electronics will come later.
Torso central piece was done by printing a scaled up version of my pattern and then scoring it out in 6mm foam. Using my heat gun I hit the foam until it pulled away from itself revealing the hex pattern. (This piece changed for halo 5…and I was so proud.) and I then sealed and painted it all black. I then dry brushed it gray and glued it into place with hot glue to keep it secure. I cut some slits in it to accommodate my talky box. On the back of it I made a small pocket to fit my speaker into. Good stuff.
For the boots which in the end got a teeny tiny bit. completely destroyed I used a metric ton of hot glue to secure everything, save for the part over the laces, for that I secured magnets to the shoes and then magnetized everything. I will be tweaking the parts and fit over the winter a little. Should have used plasti dip on these as it would have been more flexible. Ah well.
For all the straps and fitting I made a waist belt, putting snaps on the front and magnets in the back I attached the same pieces to the cod and butt plate so I could do things like use the washroom. I then made side straps to hold my thigh plates up. This belt suspender mechanism is how I did my ODST stuff.
From there I put velcro on my knees of my under suit and an elastic around the knee pad. Holds the knees in place. I also attached some velcro around where my shin pieces fit to help hold it all together. The cod piece was later tuned to sit better against the belt but not before I tried it all on. First images of the preliminary fitting! Still needing some tuning at this point but it’s almost there!
Going back and adding electronics to the bucket there was nothing that could stop me now.
Last pieces, the hand plates. They never arrived in time, nor did the under suit unfortunately. But I was undeterred. I raced through a set of hand plates from template to final fit. I finished it all on the 25th at about 3pm.
The next evening, I was Dressed to the nines and rolling with my pod cast to what would be an amazing evening. So, there it is. 10 months of solid work, learning and creating. Now pardon me while I jam out this sweet guitar riff.
Cosplayers above are Phil and Ethan, not seen here is Tom. He’s the other green guy. Full album here!