Sunday, November 2, 2014

Foam Knight Helmet & Body Armor Test

A few years back I made some Sci-fi Body Armor out of foam interlocking floor tiles.

You can see my original build here.

It was a fun little project, but I eventually disassembled it to create other things, like scifi weapons...

my Iron Ram helmet...

Hellboy's Samaritan....

and Shredder helmet.

Then one day my girlfriend and I went to the Game of Thrones exhibit in NYC and saw a lot of great costumes and props from the show.

My favorite piece was The Hound's Helm, but that might be a difficult build for me right now.

But I think I might want to make some new body armor.  So I researched some cool armor, both from Game of Thrones and what other people have made using foam.

I'm amazed by some of the work that people do - especially using foam.  One thing that people have used with making foam armor and helmets is a stuff called Plasti-dip.  (Plasti-dip is a multi-purpose, air dry, specialty rubber coating). 

Faithful followers of my blog have also suggested I use it for my foam projects, so I decided to try it out.  But before I build some armor and possibly ruin it without testing Plasti-dip for myself, I decided to make a simple knight helmet to try out this miracle stuff.

This helmet is made entirely of crafting foam.  It took about 45 minutes to cut and glue all the pieces together.

I used no pattern for making this one.  I took foam sheets and hot glued them into a cylinder.  I then cut out the eye hole, and glued on a top.  I shaped the foam with scissors and glued on plenty of leftover foam strips.  

Then I added about 60 furniture tacks to make it look like bolts.

Then came the first coats of Plasti-dip.

After 2 coats, the porous surface of the foam had successfully been filled with Plasti-dip and the whole helmet feels rubbery.

For fun I dry brushed some silver spray paint onto the helmet to make it look like a worn, scratched up old helmet.

When the paint dried I awed at it's awesomeness.  The only other thing I did was add some more silver detail with a silver paint marker...

Once everything dried, it looked great, especially when photographed in natural light.

I don't know what else to do to the helmet at this point.  I think it's great as is.  So I started on some body armor.  I used my original Sci-fi armor plans as a template.

I printed out one half of the shape to use as a template.

I did the same thing for the back.

With templates for both the chest and back, I'm ready to begin, but I need to buy some foam floor mats first.

While I waited to go to the store, I started working on some pauldrons (shoulder armor) using crafting foam I had.  I made a shape out of card stock which will make up both sides of each pauldron.

I used the template on the foam and cut it out.

Then I glued both sides to a middle piece.

A little bending and I have a basic shape.

Then I added some more pieces of foam to spruce up the look....

followed by some more furniture tacks.

When I finally went out, I picked up some foam floor mats.

I also sorted through my collection of nuts & bolts - I'll need these for the armor.

I traced the front template on the foam mat.

And I cut it out with a very sharp X-acto knife.

I repeated the process for the back.

Then using some nuts and bolts, I attached the pauldrons to the front...

...and back.

It looks cool....

...but the thinner crafting foam is not strong enough to hold these pieces together.  I added the thicker mat foam to the bottom sides to try and stabilize it better, but it didn't help much.

So I created some simple pauldrons using more foam mat material.

I took off the older ones and replaced them with the new pauldrons.

I decided to use the old pauldrons as parts of the breastplate.

I put the helmet on top and it looks cool, but I want to add more to the body armor.

I added a second set of pauldrons...

...and a whole bunch of other pieces of foam, glued and screwed on.

Furniture tacks were added as well as a third set of pauldrons.

Now it's looking good.

I kept the back simple.

Next I sprayed on the Plasti-dip.

Once the plasti-dip dried, I brushed on more silver spray paint.  I used the same method as I did for the helmet.

Now it looks awesome.

I placed the helmet on top and it looks even better.

Lastly, I added some elastic to the insides to make it fit a little more better.

I'm often embarrased by selfies of me wearing my props, but whatever!  It's fun!  I think this was a pretty successful test run of using plasti-dip for the first time.  The stuff works pretty well.

The T-shirt and shorts don't convey how menacing this actually looks in person.

But for now I think it looks great and I'm quite pleased.

I called it in for the night.  The next day I decided to start working on the armor for the arms.  Once again I used foam floor mats which I shaped from bending it around my arms and cutting.  I made such armor for my upper arms....

...and lower arms.

At first I used some elastic to hold it together.  I figured that the elastic would keep it cuffed around my arm, but I found it made no difference.

So I used crafting foam pieces to bind both ends.

I did the same thing for the lower arms.

I joined the upper and lower parts with a strip of crafting foam.

I used glue and nuts/bolts to hold them on place.

Next I made armor pieces for the elbow.

And I used crafting foam to make a thin cuff at the end of the lower arm.

I put on everything to test the new armor.

Everything stays in place nicely, but I am not happy that my upper arms/shoulders are showing through.

So I decided to make an upper upper arm piece.  A large one.  

I bolted the new piece to the top of the arms.

The great thing about all this armor is that most of the pieces are held together with nuts and bolts.  This means you can easily remove parts - such as the second and third pauldrons I originally made.

I also quickly added more elastic to the inside for a better fit.

With the extra pauldrons removed, the arm armor fits nicely, and fully covers my arms and shoulders.

I kept the removed pauldrons and I'll probably use them for other parts of this knight's armor.

Since this whole piece is using a lot of foam, I'm starting to run out.  I decided to use some of the interlocking parts of the foam mats as decor for the shoulder armor.

Then I applied many coats of plasti-dip, each time moving the armor in different poses to assure full coverage.

When that dried I brushed on some silver.

I also added some elastic to make sure the new pauldrons stay upright.

And I added a small piece of foam to the corner so no one can see up my 'sleeve'.

This thing looks incredible!

Of course, I needed to take another picture of we wearing it.

Next I took those old pauldrons and decided to turn them into part of the leg armor.

But first I needed a belt of sorts.  Running low on material, I used some of the interlocking parts of the mats and turned them into a belt, with elastic attached.

I also made a codpiece, or crotch plate with other leftover foam.

The belt was cut in the back, but held together by the elastic.

Worst picture ever, but shows that the belt works.

I put it aside for the time being to start on the actual leg armor.

The thigh armor was once again made from a piece of foam mat that I shaped while wrapped around my own leg.

I used the first shape as a template for the other leg.

I bound each side with some more foam.

Then I started making the armor for the knees.

These were attached with bolts so that the leg and ankle armor could move freely.

The image above reminds me of the knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Using more leftover foam, I added decor to the legs.

Then I began to fashion a 'chain mail' skirt for the belt.

Looking good...and funny.

At this point I was out of material, so I decided to paint the pieces I have.  The legs and belt/skirts received some plasti-dip.

When it all dried I brushed on more silver.

I also added small leftover pieces to the sides of the chest to fill in some spaces.  I also painted these pieces.

Aside from my furniture builds, this has to be the largest piece I've built to date.

  While waiting to buy more foam floor mats, I made some paper templates for the lower legs.

I couldn't find the normal floor mats I used for the rest of the build, but I found a slightly thinner mat that may work.

I used the paper template to cut out the 2 shapes for both legs.

I binded the legs with more foam strips and decorated with furniture tacks.

Fits reasonably well!

When I wore the new piece with the rest of the leg armor, there was a good amount of space between the pieces.

So I added more to the lower leg armor with more pieces of foam mat.

I then attached the lower armor to the knee armor with nuts & bolts.

One leg done!

Now when I wear it, the armor covers my leg completely.

I then completed the other leg.

Followed by Plasti-dip...

Then silver paint.

While that dried I started work on armored boots.  For this, I traced one of my sneakers onto the foam mat.

I cut it out and flipped it over onto another piece of foam to make the shape for the other foot.

I cut a triangular shape for the front, but didn't attach it yet.

Instead I built up the sides of the boot using strips of the foam mat.

I then attached the triangular front, and added crafting foam and furniture tacks to complete the look.

The top and back of the boot has slits to make it easier to fit my shoe inside.

Using more foam I attached a tall heel.

The heel was attached with bolts so that it can swing around the back of the boot to make it easier to insert and remove my shoes.

I placed one leg in the shoe to see how it looks.  So far it's ok, but I'm going to need another piece of armor at the top somewhere.

Before I made that top armor, I created the second boot.

The top armor was simply made with another piece of foam attached with hinges.  Since this is around my ankle, I need a good amount of movement.

Both boots with leg armor.

Much better looking!

I propped the whole thing up against one of my work tables.

This took quite a long time to do.

I feel the boots match the rest of the armor pretty well.

The whole thing fell apart several times...

I'll need to build a stand soon.

Next I sprayed the boots with plasti-dip and then applied silver.

It almost looks seamless when the legs are inserted into the boots.

For the most part I am done with the armor!  But all these pieces also take up valuable real estate in my garage.  I needed a stand to fit it all together and display it!  I decided to assemble a stand quickly - nothing too pretty but functional.

I used a 6-foot tall piece of 3x1 and attached it to a plywood base with pocket holes and screws.

Then I placed the legs/boot armor so I could line up where the waist would be.

I then screwed on some thin plywood.

I draped the belt armor on and added another piece of plywood for the shoulders.

The new piece of plywood was too large to fit the chest armor on, so I had to trim away each end a bit.

The arms were propped on, as well as the helmet.

And I am done for now!

This thing is awesome!

Now I have a guardian for the garage!

Thank you to those who have given me suggestions, like using Plasti-dip!  I truly enjoy the interactions from you, the readers.  I'm happy to have inspired some of you, just as I have been inspired by others.

Thanks again for reading!

Update:  I started making this whole piece a few weeks before Halloween 2014.  It was the day before Halloween when I decided I better make some mid-evil weapon for this guy should I actually get invited to a Halloween party.  A sword would take too long to make, so I decided to whip up a mace.

All the foam floor mats I buy to make these helmets have these little interlocking strips leftover.  I'm going to try and use some of these.

I'm also going to use a dowel I had hanging around.

To start, I traced circles onto some leftover foam using a roll of tape as a template.

I cut out 4 circles.

Then I centered the dowel on each circle and traced a smaller circle...

...which I cut out.  Then I put the circles onto the dowel.

To cover those circles I used another strip of foam mat.

...which I glued onto the circles and wrapped around the whole thing.

Next, I used some of those interlocking pieces and glued them to the sides.

I cut the interlocking parts to make them look barbed.

Not too bad.  Now I need a handle.

For the handle I simply glued on another strip of foam.

I then used a new technique I saw online to make bolts.  To do this I used a rotary sanding bit on my dremel and pressed it head on into the foam for a second.  This makes a nice circular indentation that looks like a bolt.

Next I sprayed on some plasti-dip.

Followed by a brushing of silver paint.

At first I thought this looked great, but next to the armor it looks a bit puny.

So I began adding more pieces of leftover foam.

And more interlocking pieces.

After a few more bolts, this thing was ready for more plasti-dip.

And more brushed on silver.

Now it looks intimidating!

When Halloween came along, I popped on the armor.

Unfortunately, 84 degrees is too hot to be wearing foam armor.  Plus, a few pieces broke while I was prancing around in it.

So sadly I fixed it up.

And used it as a cool lawn decoration.

And come nightfall it was definitely spooky!

Thanks for reading!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! You've been a great supporter through that build!


  3. Thanks!! That means a lot coming from someone as creative and talented as yourself!