Sunday, February 19, 2012

Clare's Armor, Claymore

As part of another joint costume adventure between myself and my friend Cathy over at God Save the Queen Fashions (some readers may recall her work on the Daft Punk leather ensemble) I was drafted to create the sword and armor for Clare, the protagonist in the series Claymore. My experience with armormaking are pretty minimal at best, so this was all one big learning lesson for me!

While not fully encased in a suit of armor, the Claymores do have many parts that make up their outfit. All told, there are 2 sets of shoulder pauldrons, a chest clasp, a sword carrier/backpack piece, a plate skirt, wrist cuffs, handplates and greaves.

After collecting a lot of reference images from the series, I set about putting together a few sets of blueprints.

This print shows some of the test patterns I used to make the skirt. These were printed out on a plotter and trimmed at full scale to check which size would be best for the final parts. Mockups like these were essential in order to get the scale of the armor parts just right.

The middle blueprint above shows some dome-shaped parts. These were profile and front views used to pattern out the shapes of the shoulder armor and the backpack dome. Much in the same way my Daft Punk Thomas helmet took shape, the mold masters for these parts started out as MDF spines outlining the outer edges of the shapes.

The cavities in these blocks were filled with pink foam, sanded to shape, then skimmed over with bondo to smooth out the entire buck.

These parts were placed on my vacuumformer and pulled out of .10" styrene

The upper and lower pauldrons were pulled twice per side - each shape has an inner and an outer layer of .10" styrene to add thickness and rigidity to the shape.

Small machine screws were embedded along the inside of the larger pauldron, and the smaller ones affix to the inside with nuts. This allows them to pivot slightly and helps to increase movement.

After a guide coat of primer, it was decided to add some damage to the armor. Clare is the "lowest ranked" Claymore in terms of her abilities, and in the anime series, she gets her ass kicked a lot. It only made sense her armor would take some pretty severe hits during her trials.

The dome part of the "backpack" thing was pulled in the same .10" styrene as the pauldrons. This was placed over a sheet of 1/4" sintra trimmed to the shape of the backpack perimeter. Since the weight of the cape would be hanging off the spiky wing sections on the backpack, it made sense to have the backing plate be one solid piece in order to be as rigid as possible.

The wing sections were also cut from sintra, and started out as 1" thick parts. These were cut first on my bandsaw to give them a rough shape, then bisected along their center line.

After cutting the center line out, I added a thin styrene sheet between the halves to act as a guide for cutting the profile shape of the wings. After this was added, the two halves were glued back together around this part.

The sintra was rough sculpted into shape with a dremel tool using the center spine as a guide.

More sintra was used to make the sword carrier sections. While the actual Claymore blade I made won't fit in these recesses (damn you anime designers!) I do have plans to make a sword "blank" to fill this cavity in the future.

Lots and lots of filler and sanding later, we have a smooth pretty backpack. This got the same scars and scrapes as the pauldrons, don't worry! I don't have any pics of it handy, butt here are also 4 blind nuts embedded into the back plate in order to mount this to the costume later on.

The "battle skirt" (as I came to call it) was made out of 1/4" sintra sheets. These were first trimmed to shape, then the edges were beveled by hand with a dremel tool.

Sintra is a foamed sheet of PVC plastic, and it doesn't really like to take compound curves very well. A lot of work went into heating specific parts of the material, bending them to shape, re-heating, and repeating. There were several test fits to make sure the curve of each piece worked well with the parts next to it. The shot below shows the parts about halfway done with this process

After the curves were finalized, each piece was sanded to remove the texture of the sintra, then given a coat of primer and light filler where needed. These parts got a lot of damage and weathering, done mostly with a dremel tool and engraving chisel. The small holes at the top of the plates are for stitching into the Claymore top shirt part later.

Here's where we get into somewhat unfamiliar territory where I've just decided to wing it. If you've never seen a process like this before, its probably because I had no clue what I was doing and just felt like making it up as I went along. There are better ways to do things like the below, I'm sure, but since the project budget couldn't include pricier materials to do proper lifecasting, this seemed like a pretty good budget minded alternative.

Claymores have 2-part greaves which cover their calf, shin, ankle and the upper part of their foot. I started off by making a set of packing tape molds of Cathy's legs. These started out as trashbags wrapped around the area to be molded, then wrapped tightly with tape and cut along a seam when finished.

After taping the seam back together, these were filled with 2-part expanding foam to make a rigid copy of the leg forms.

After removing the tape, I skimmed the outer sections of the foam with bondo to make a smooth surface the same shape as the greaves.

There's a large cuff at the top of each of the greaves, which has a long spike leading up to it. In order to make sure I had a uniform shape and thickness around the entire perimeter of the leg, I cut strips of sintra out and glued them to the bondo around a mark on the upper part of the calf. The gaps between the strips were blended in with bondo.

The upper bevel of the cuff was added with apoxie sculpt, and the long pointed accent on the shin and calf was put in with apoxie as well.

These parts were cut in half on a bandsaw, then glued to 1/2" MDF risers in order to make vacuumforming bucks. In the shot below, you can see a proof-of-theory pull from some thin sheet I had laying around.

The completed master, next to a part pulled from .10" styrene!

The last task for my vacformer was to make the wrist cuff. This was lathed out of some laminated sheets of MDF then pulled in .10" styrene and glued into one part. Shockingly, Cathy's hand fits through this tiny part with room to spare!

At some point I started to get behind on deadlines, and my documentation suffered a bit as a consequence. These clasp parts over the chest are an assemblage of styrene sheet and half round styrene bar stock. Aside from this, I don't have any shots of their creation. Sorry!

After everything was primed and prepped (my preferred method is going over the primer with a 320 grit sanding sponge and diluted surface cleaner like windex) each part got a topcoat of silver before weathering.

Weathering these parts made a huge difference in their realism! I used airbrushed acrylics, then topcoated each part with gloss clear in order to seal in the "grit and grime."

The two shots below show the difference between a fresh coat of paint and a weathered surface. The differences in parts like the greaves are subtle, but it really helps the overall look, in my opinion.

The greave and boot parts on one of the shoes for a mockup. After I gave these parts to Cathy, they got a velcro strip along the inside edge to keep them together and hide the side seam a little better than in this pic.

The final bit of weathering was the spattering of Yoma blood on a few various parts of armor. The blood itself is done in acrylics, and like the rest of the weathering, sealed under a coat of gloss clear.

The final pieces all assembled with Cathy's lovely costume work (see more of her stuff at God Save The Queen Fashions!) and shot by our friend and awesome photographer, Dan Almasy:



Really wish I'd gotten a shot of this part being made. Another vacformed part - the hand armor!

Along with the weathering on the armor, I also helped out Cathy by adding some blood spattering and weathered grime to her cape. Remember: dirt adds realism.

My favorite shot from the whole shoot, Cathy looks like a badass here.

More pics of the process available (and in higher resolution!) on my Flickr. As always, thanks for reading!

Clare's Sword, Claymore

As part of another joint costume adventure between myself and my friend Cathy over at God Save the Queen Fashions (some readers may recall her work on the Daft Punk leather ensemble) I was drafted to create the sword and armor for Clare, the protagonist in the series Claymore. Aptly named, the Claymores carry giant swords almost as tall as their wielders which they're able to fling around one-handed with ease. I needed to make something as lightweight as possible, but still able to handle the rigors of convention use.

There are a lot of variations of these blades around. Specifically, the difference between the swords the collectable figures hold (lower two) and those more accurate to scenes from the series (top) I didn't check the manga; chances are there's a myriad of other variants there as well. Cathy and I decided to go with the top option.

The first part of this build started with the hilt "wings." These started as a piece of styrene patterned to the same dimension as the profile of one wing.

I added styrene "dams" to this, and used these sections to mark off where the upper ridges should be. By filling the areas in with apoxie sculpt and sanding to shape, I knew exactly where the lines on the part should peak.

A little bit of sanding later, and this part was put under silicone rubber to mold and make an identical copy. The silicone used here is Smooth-On's Oomoo rubber. I only needed a couple pulls, so mold longevity wasn't an issue.

While this was setting up, I started work on the giant blade portion. I needed things to be light, but still rigid enough to be handled for several hours. The central spine and handle of the entire piece is a PVC pipe with an oak dowel embedded down its entire length.

This spine was extended to the width of the blade by cutting a set of 1/4" thick oak boards to act as lateral reinforcement. These were first zip tied to the blade to glue them into place...

...and after the glue dried, the board was fiberglassed onto the center wooden dowel using 2 layers of glass fiber cloth and polyester resin. I also beveled the edge in order to get this center spine to fit better around the blade "sleeve" which I created in the next step.

For the exterior of the blade, I trimmed two long sheets of foamcore into wedges and shaved a V-shaped notch into their center, as well as tapering the outer edges. This will make more sense shortly, I promise.

After taping up the seams and slipping the foamcoare blade sleeve over the wooden spine, the basic form starts to take shape!

This was affixed to the wooden spine by slush casting Smooth Cast 300 into the cavity at the back of the sword. At this point, the whole assembly weighs about 2.5lbs.

To strengthen this outer skin, I brushed polyester resin over the foamcore shell. In retrospect, epoxy resin would have been a better idea, since the polyester soaked through the paper outer section on the foamcore and dissolved the foam underneath, necessitating cleanup later on in the project. Live and learn...

The tip of the blade was an exercise in weird technique. I knew this had to be very robust part of the sword, since the most likely pose with a 5-foot-tall blade will be holding it upright with the tip set on the ground. I made a small box out of cardboard, set it around the blade end, and filled it with Smooth Cast 300 resin.

It took a long time to get from there to here, spent mostly on my belt sander, but the end result was a solid resin tip. Rigid and definitely the strongest part of the blade.

The open edges at the back were covered with styrene plates

To make the pointed tip that leads up to the cross guard, I lathed a bullet shape out of a poplar dowel, then vacuumformed a couple of copies in styrene.

Getting these in place required a bit of hackery to the shaped outer blade section in order to get them to fit....

But after adding a bit of epoxy resin as filler (learned my lesson from the polyester from before!) The shape was blended back into place.

The cross guard and pommel sections were lathed from blocks of urethane casting resin. Blanks were created by filling cardboard tubes and allowing them to cure.

After some time with the lathe, the following parts emerged: Pommel...

...and cross guard sleeve.

Quick mock-up before primer

Clare's insignia was carved into the blade with a dremel tool. Since this cut into the foam a bit, the cavity was carved deeper then filled in with urethane resin to make an even and level recess.

After a coat of primer, the shape is nearly ready for paint.

The wing sections on the crossguard are affixed to the blade handle with an ABS dowel that passes through the entire center spine. I wanted to make sure these were as stable as possible, as they might take a random hit now and again since they sit so far outside the width of the blade.

Finally, paint! The blade was coated with Krylon silver, and the hilt/crossguard was done with testor's enamel. Lots of gloss clearcoat went over the weathering in order to keep the layer of grime and dirt intact.

The final detail was a smattering of Yoma blood on the first 1/3 of the sword. If you've seen the anime, there's a TON of blood flying around.

A few shots of the final piece, out in the elements, taken by my friend Dan Almasy. The leather handle wrap was done by Cathy after the sword was finished.

If you're interested in the rest of the process behind the build on Clare's armor, check out my write up on that project here.

More shots of the process are available on my Flickr stream for those interested in a little more background behind the build.

Thanks for reading!