Costume shoulder armor tends to a stumbling point for many people. It seems scary and over the top for anyone to attempt to make. The following method was created from both a need for low cost and high durability.
We start off with an idea of what we want to make. In this case it’s a commission for a World of Warcraft armor set. Priest Tier 10 Sanctified Crimson Acolyte’s Regalia.
I started out by finding good source reference for the shoulder. I used WoW Model Viewer to get the best photos I could. For some of you, you may be working off a single image and that’s ok too.
The three major measurements needed for this type of armor are:
From front of the shoulder to the back of the shoulder under the armpit, how deep you want the shoulder to sit on your shoulder, and how wide your shoulder is from the top of your shoulder straight out.
I took these numbers and with a little bit of estimation I picked a good set of dimensions and moved on with the shoulders. First I went to Home Depot and picked up 2 sheets of extruded polystyrene foam insulation. They only had the 3/4″ thickness in stock. 2″ is preferred when you can get it, becouse it reduces the amount of cutting you will have to do.
This foam has a layer of plastic sheeting on it to help prevent damage during instillation and transport. Go ahead and remove it from both sides.
Once the foam is clean we start measuring the layers that will form our shoulders. My shoulders are going to be 12″ wide, 10″ tall, and 16″ long. The width will be based on number of sheets. In this case 3/4″ per sheet = 4 sheets per 3 inches. Total number per shoulder = 16 layers.
Carefully measure out the layers. I was lucky due to the fact the foam is 48″ wide so I got 3 widths per sheet
Foam has a few different ways it can be cut. Razor blades work very well but can tear the foam more than cut if they are not new. A hot knife also works very well but is much slower than other methods.
You can also snap foam which is how I did this set. Start by scoring the foam (a cut about half the thickness of the material) and placing it on the edge of the table, with a quick push down while holding the rest of the foam you can snap the desired piece clean along the score lines.
Next we need one piece to carve, so this means glue! Although you can used white glue or even hot glue (on a low melt setting), we need something that wont interfere with our carving but still has great holding strength.
I used 3M #77 general adhesive. On its label it states that it will melt polystyrene foam, but this only seems to be true when used in large amount in one spot. I start by laying the foam sheets out on a drop cloth. You will notice there are only 7 sheets. This is because I was doing groups of 8 at a time and the last sheet was an outside layer.
Following directions on the can for extra strength hold, I sprayed all the sheets at once and allowed 30-45 seconds to elapse before stacking the layers into one brick. I followed this by setting some weight on it to help ensure a good adhesion between all layers.
The ammo crate weighs about 35 pounds. Cure time is in minutes but I took a lunch break so it had about an hour for set time.
At this point its time to get started carving, I start by drawing the design out on the foam for both a size reference and a cut guide.
If you cant tell by now, there’s a lot of carving to be done. Most people will remove about half of the foam by the time they are done. Carving can be done with lots of different tools and there is no right way to do this. I use 3 primary tools. A vibratory multi-tool, hot knifeand sanding blocks.
This is where I go from having a good step by step guide to saying, Welcome to the Art side of the hobby. I can’t really give any pointers on how to shape your desired design from a square block of foam. I’m pretty sure one of the old masters is quoted as saying “to carve a statue all you have to do is chip away all the parts that doesn’t look like a statue”
Take it slow, but keep in mind should you screw up very badly to the point of no return. Learn from your mistakes and a new foam sheet is about $14 bucks so when it comes to the cosplay hobby…. not that bad of a mistake.
This ends part 1 of the guide. You should be able to take it from here and carry on with carving. If you start to get frustrated, take a 10 min breather. If you get lost, ask some one for an opinion. (the less they know of the item being made the better they are) Ask for advice on what to do based on your reference photos only.
Part 2 will carry on with finishing detailing and prep for paint. I will get in to covering and coatings in this section.