Level 6-1: Assemble Backpack cont.

12 May

When last we left Subject Delta’s backpack and air tanks we had built all of the separate elements. Now it’s time to truly assemble!

We started by securing the tanks to the frame from the backside using screws drilled straight through the frame and into the tanks.  Here’s a great look at the back for the frame to show the screws and how the tanks are attached and a shot of the front to show the overall look.

Backpack frame constructed back Backpack constructed front


Looking pretty good huh!? What’s that in the front view image you ask? Those are the ADAM and EVE tube panel and a lower back support that I built; but we’ll get to those in a bit.

With the tanks attached to the frame it was time to figure out how to strap the whole kit-and-caboodle to my back. You can see by the reference photos that there’s a belt running around Delta’s waist with diving weights attached to it and a sort of harness that goes down through and around the legs to the back of the frame.

delta photo

Since we decided to build the leg straps separately and attach them directly to the suit, a question remained; how is the pack secured to the upper part of the torso or shoulders? In a lot of reference photos it looks like the pack and tanks are attached to the bottom of the helmet, as if the pack and helmet are one piece. This makes sense and would be convenient, but we had decided early on to take a different approach. So, the only other option was to build some sort of shoulder strap.

We decided to use a nylon strap with a plastic, clip buckle for the waist strap and some cannibalized backpack straps from an old backpack.  We attached the straps to the frame using screws drilled directly into the frame.

Backpack shoulder strap test

Because we decided to drill the straps directly to the frame we had to make sure they were adjusted correctly, because once they were screwed in we couldn’t use the slider to adjust the snugness.

With the strapping in place, it was time to makes sure that it would work properly with the helmet. Although we were too frustrated to take a picture, you can see by the above image that the shoulder strapping was an issue. The helmet was too wide at the base to fit snugly in between the straps. Determined to fix the issue we tried a couple of different combinations trying to get the strapping as close to the frame and my body as possible so that it would allow the helmet to fit properly.

Backpack top strap test

But nothing seemed to work. Finally, we decided that the only solution was to do another nylon strap (like the one for the waist) that would run under my arms and across my chest. That way it would be low enough to clear the helmet and still high enough up on the frame to properly support the pack. What do you think?

Backpack straps right Backpack helmet hit


Also, as an added bonus, the strap gets hidden nicely under the helmet so we didn’t have to worry about masking it. Onward and upward!

Now, you’ll notice that the helmet and the pack are finally fitting together as they should! Go Team-Gilbert!!! 

Our secret is the spacer at the base of my back. It pushes the frame out from my back so it was important that it be a cushion against the small of my back. We purchased some Air-Tech High-Density Foam, cut it out into a rectangular pillow, encased it in 2mm craft foam and glued it to a panel of cardboard. 

Foam Cut Out Foam Cut Out 2 Backpack back pad


For the ADAM and EVE tubes panel I also used a cardboard panel, faced it with foam and attached two of the same plastic 90 degree connector like we used for Eleanor’s syringe. I then screwed the spacer and tube panels to the frame.

Backpack with pad back view Backpack constructed front











The pack and tanks are looking great, but they’re missing one last detail — some toppers! For the adornment on the top of the tanks I found a couple of PVC pipe caps with threaded edges. I didn’t want the edges to appear threaded so I hot glued some foam trim around them to make them appear smooth.

Tank Toppers


Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of them attached before painting, but you’ll see how they get affixed in the coming posts.


Back to the straps! Even though the waist strap would have the weights attached to it, I wanted it to look like leather rather than modern nylon. I started by covering the waist strap with some upholstery leather. I cut the leather wider than needed so that I could wrap it around the edges and hot glue it on the backside.

Backpack belt pre leather Backpack post leather







Looks pretty good with the leg straps on the suit.







Now it was time to add the finishing touch; the weights!

I wanted the weights to be light but at the same time appear as if they had substance and since we don’t have a full shop of tools, I decided to use basic wooden trim pieces with curved edges that way they would have a smooth finished look like actual weights. I cut the weight pieces to 3″ x 3″ squares, sanded the cut edges to match the smooth trim edges and attached them to the belt with short screws drilled through the back of the belt. Here you can see the finished product with painted weights and buckle:

Backpack belt weights unpainted IMG_0926







Up next, I’ll take you through the painting and weathering and a pretty awesome rust technique. — TCG

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