Tag Archives: Costume

Level 1-2 : Upgrade Helmet

9 Jul

Subject Delta Helmet

Now that we had a skeleton, a darn good looking skeleton, we needed to fill it in. Daniel’s first idea was to use chicken wire around the cardboard frame in order to get the shape and stability. That idea didn’t last long. The thought of wrestling with pointy wires with a pair of pliers didn’t seem very appealing when we realized that neither of us knew when we’d had our last tetanus shots.

Papier-mâché won the day.

With papier-mâché, the tools and ingredients were easy to come by, didn’t cost a lot and, when applied in enough layers, would give us all the shape and stability we would need. The skill level needed to work with papier-mâché is perfect for beginners and the feeling of peeling dried Elmer’s glue off the fingers is just plain awesome. Don’t pretend that you didn’t “accidentally” get glue on your fingers when you were a kid just so you could try to peel it off in one long piece.

We mixed 8 oz. of Elmer’s Glue-All with 4 oz. of water in a plastic bowl. Depending on how sticky the glue you want to use is, you might need a touch more water. We were working with a 2 : 1 ratio. Don’t feel like you have to be super precise with your measurements here; two bottles of Elmer’s glue is 8 oz. so we just dumped them in the bowl and then filled one of the empty bottles with water. Don’t worry about being exact; it’s just glue.

We cut several Red Eyes into strips. You can use plain-Jane newspapers if you want, but the Blackhawks were in the process of winning the Stanley Cup and our daily free newspaper, the Red Eye, was filled with stories of their victories so we thought it would be fitting to cover our helmet in their awesomeness. Go Hawks!

We then grabbed a couple of foam brushes and went to work.

Daniel: The shape of Subject Delta’s helmet is so unique. We had to always keep the shape in mind and be conscious of where the cylindrical shape of the helmet would meet the arch of the shoulders. It was like trying to papier-mâché two different shapes together but make them look like one solid piece.

We started at the base on the front and the back with thick, shorter horizontal strips and worked our way up. Then, when had to switch to longer, thinner vertical strips and work around the curve of the head.

Working together, at the same time made the process move along very quickly but it made the need for communication even greater. We had to take many breaks where we would step back and map out our next path.Even though the cardboard skeleton gave us a fantastic foundation, we had to be careful to fill in the holes and maintain shape. Take, for instance, the back of the frame.

Reinforced Helmet - Back

There’s not a lot of spaces to help support wet newspaper strips between the middle support bar and those side bars that connected the helmet to the shoulder piece. We found ourselves really wishing that we’d added more support strips just for the purpose of stringing strips of papier-mâché together.

We spent an hour and a half on this step of the process. With the frame filled in, it was beginning to look more and more like Subject Delta and we were getting more and more excited until we were finished.

Daniel got really quiet and then went to the kitchen. He came back with a skewer, which was the only thing we had on hand that was long enough to saw through the layers of cardboard and papier-mâché, and cut out a rough eye hole. Here’s what it looked like.

Front of Helmet

Front of Helmet

Back of Helmet

Back of Helmet

How disappointing. But we thought, maybe it will look better if Daniel puts it on..

1st paper mache3

The shape of the construction helmet was still too pronounced and it gave the helmet a pointed top. There is also a very prominent ring above the eye hole where the helmet meets the first cardboard ring. We also didn’t take into account that, as we mached, the curve would get filled in and be less prominent; we needed to have extended the shoulder pieces further out to account for that. You’ll also see that the front of the breast-plate looks more squared off than it should. Certainly nothing like our reference:

Subject Delta Helmet Reference

Well. Back to the drawing board. At least we have nine whole months to get it right.

Sara: I think it was because we only worked an hour and a half on this step but I wasn’t too upset at all. It definitely sucked but at least we could see where we needed to make changes.  It should be no problem at all to whip up another frame and get it mached and ready to go!

Daniel: As I was cutting the finished frame away from the helmet, I tried not to think too much about it or I would get angry. I knew that it wouldn’t work, that we could do better so I had to get it over with. I knew that the longer I stared at how poorly it came together, the angrier I would be.

Sara: I had no idea you were so upset.

Daniel: I was very upset.

How do you deal when you’ve been working on a process which requires multiple steps only to find out after all your hard work that you need to start over? Why not share in our comments section below?

7 and 1/2 hours in, and we were having to start again from scratch.

Regardless of how upset he was, he posed for this picture, which we will leave you with until next week.

Oh well. Maybe next time!

Oh well. Maybe next time!


Level 1-1 : Acquire Helmet

2 Jul

We knew that we had to start with the helmet for Subject Delta.

Subject Delta Helmet Reference

We could tell just by looking – and also from the scores of frustrated cosplayers out there that we researched – that this would be the most challenging part of the costume to create. Since we didn’t have access to a full shop or a previously stocked up tool chest, we knew that we would have to rely on study, ingenuity and adaptation. We had hoped that, from our research, we could avoid the pitfalls that other’s warned us about from their own experiences and sail right through.

We planned to start with a construction helmet. This would allow for at least some comfort and support for Daniel as he tromps around in the costume. Hopefully some of the pressure would be spread across the helmet’s support system rather than resting on the peak of his head.

I was worried about his comfort and safety. I know that he probably runs the risk of overheating and I didn’t want to compound that with a splitting headache. I had even suggested some sort of support system that would run from the helmet to rest on his shoulders so that he could relax his neck and let the brace do all the work. But Daniel talked me out of it.  – Sara

While I appreciated my wife’s concern, I talked her out of it because we didn’t have the means to construct it in a way that would be as supportive as she wanted it to be. I didn’t want to add more complexities to a project that was already going to be so intricate. – Daniel

We picked up a helmet from one of our local hardware stores – GO LOCAL BUSINESS – then we commenced. Most construction helmets, if they are truly up to code, will have a bill. We looked high and low and couldn’t find something with a shorter bill than this:

Helmet Before Cutting     From other models we had seen, it looked like others that had used a construction helmet as a base had left the bill intact; this resulted in a  porthole that stuck too far out away from the helmet itself.  Which deviated from the over all look. So Daniel cut it.

Taking a drill with a 5/32" size drill bit he prepared it for cutting.

Helmet After the Cutting

Using a 5/32″ drill bit, he drilled holes along the base of the bill. This would allow him to saw through it more easily with a hand saw. Let’s hear it for low tech solutions!

When his Dad gave him that hand drill for Christmas, I had no idea what it would be good for other than taking up closet space. – Sara

Way to go Dad! – Daniel

Next, we planned to do a frame out of cardboard and duct tape. We didn’t have the jumpsuit yet, but we knew that it would add bulk so Daniel put on his bulky, down-filled coat and we got to it on a Thursday evening after work.

We didn’t have a tape measure, but we assumed that we could use ribbon on the spool to mark onto the cardboard where to cut. We could always shape later if the measurements weren’t perfect, right?

We had purchased a cheap X-Acto knife which, in the end worked fine, but the removable blades bent easily. In hindsight, if you don’t have supplies, you should take an extra week of savings to purchase good, quality tools. While you might feel like it’s breaking the bank and delaying the project, you’ll thank yourself when the process is easier to execute.

Our first night totaled 3 hours of work and nothing but a base to show for it. Daniel was sweating and tired and our attempts to link the helmet to the shoulder piece was proving difficult.

End of the 1st NightWe called it a night.

We were confident that, if we just had more uninterrupted time to work, we could nail it.

I felt very scrutinized because I knew that Daniel really wanted to be doing the cutting and the taping but he couldn’t. I really felt a lot of pressure to do it right. I made sure that I expressed this to Daniel as we worked because I knew that it wasn’t his intention to make me nervous but I wanted to avoid any sort of stress-filled outbursts on my part. It’s the curse of being a perfectionist. – Sara

It’s true. I use to tinker around and do stuff like this a lot as a kid growing up so. I wanted to be more actively involved. However, the helmet needed to be built directly onto my frame to get the proportions right. I couldn’t build it on myself. In truth, Sara was doing a phenomenal job. It was coming together quite nicely but she would get frustrated and rush herself. I knew it was important to have a good foundation for the frame so that every layer that followed would stay true to the form. – Daniel

The following Saturday, we slapped the base onto Daniel’s shoulders, he took a seat on a stool and Sara got to snipping, bending and taping. There was some back and forth on the positions of a few support pieces and there was frustration in trying to get the work to stay put on Daniel’s chest and shoulders but, over all, it was smooth sailing and we were very, very pleased with the results. The trickiest part was trying to get the curve from the helmet to where it meets at the shoulders and keeping the rings around Daniel’s face uniform and even, especially since Daniel couldn’t really move.

1st Attempt Side View 1st Attempt Back View

It wasn’t until I got those front and back support strips that linked the head piece to the base harness that I really started to see it. I remember getting really excited and kind of dancing around. Poor Daniel couldn’t see a thing so I had to keep taking pictures and showing it to him. – Sara

The shape of the helmet was starting to look pretty spot on and it had that great slope down the sides of the neck to the shoulders that gives Subject Delta’s helmet that distinct look. It felt really cool when Sara showed me a picture and I could see it coming together so well. – Daniel

We carefully took the helmet off of him and put it on our makeshift stand. A mannequin would have been nice, but since we didn’t have one we made do with a lamp stand. Then Daniel finally got to get his hands dirty – he reinforced everything with more duct tape and he was ready for his photo shoot.

Reinforced Helmet - Back Reinforced Helmet - Front

Helmet Frame

We spent 4 hours on this second building day. So with 6 hours total under our belts we were enthused and confident that we could pull this off. Do you remember how you felt after your first cosplay build? Why not share it with us below in the comment section?

Be sure to check back next week for our next update!