Operation Barbatos: Form 5

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Scraping by the deadline by the skin of our teeth. Worked on the first full test fitment well into the actual morning of the Expo – we only pulled the suit off and worked out the final kinks at around 3am. Dedication, sweat, and tears are required to pull off a project of this magnitude in the time span we had and the resources available to us. We made it though – can’t wait to see the reception at the Expo!

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Like last year, we’ll be suspending the lower legs from the thighs in order to keep them in place and prevent them from falling down and colliding with the ankle armor or feet armor.

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Because we’re cheap and broke college students, we decided to forsake going out and spending any more money on straps – we just used some of our gray fabric that we were going to wrap the abdominal tubes in and attached that to our buckles.

P1180535And because these are meant to be hidden against my partner’s Morphsuit, they had to be spray painted from gray to black. Spray painting fabric usually isn’t the best idea, but in this case we were desperate enough to make it work.

P1180530Partner putting together the feet.

P1180533The wood blocks were provided by our other comrade who put it together for us but made some slight changes to our original spec’d designs in the name of stability.

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The main problem was that the upper front of the wood block came out a bit too far to allow us to build the armor around it correctly, so we had to take a belt sander to it to grind it down.

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Grinding wood down with a belt sander usually isn’t the most exciting experience, but we made it work just enough.

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Because the blocks were built to add four inches to my partner’s height, they actually ended up being too high and not “flat” enough to get the proper look of the Barbatos’ feet. As such, they’re probably going to end up giant and disproportional, but what can ya do.

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The plate at the rear and the bit underneath the hexagonal “toes” were made out of cardboard.

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Testing how the shoes will fit. Same system as always.

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Seams puttied to high hell, because we can now.

P1180554Construction finished, primed up.

P1180580Only took a million coats of white to get it solid.

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Last few hurtles now involve mostly painting and fitting. Just about everything has been painted white first, so that leaves the rest of the colors to be sprayed on after the appropriately white areas have been masked off.

So. Much. Masking. I’m fresh out of building a Virtual-On Temjin model though (and lord knows those kits basically take the cake on masking mania) so it was fairly easy to work with such large surfaces and corners.

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Because I’m literally masking entire legs and arms though, I needed something that could actually cover those entire surfaces – using the tape alone was not an option. Thankfully we had a 3000 square feet roll of plastic food wrap in the kitchen, so I just commandeered that.

P1180540Sometimes it still gets messy though. We’ll be touching up small imperfections like these with some bottled acrylic paint.

P1180539So for the blue on the chest and arms, we originally went with a faded, navy-like blue (named Oxford Blue on the can) because again, we’re cheap so we’re just using whatever leftover colors I happened to have around the house. After seeing it though, we decided that we didn’t really like the washed-out look.

P1180542As such, our only other option swung to the opposite extreme – super bright RX-78-2-style blue.

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We decided to roll with it though – all of our colors will be super bright and super saturated, sort of fitting as this armor is basically a life-sized HG Gunpla kit, since that’s what we built it off of.

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Helmet and chest basically all painted.

P1180555For the first time this year we’ll also be making a complete helmet – that means there will actually be eyes.

HELMS

We’ve always left the eyes open before – or in one case just didn’t build a helmet at all. Given that, we’ve never actually put thought into how to make Gundam eyes that will actually still allow my partner to navigate with the helmet on.

P1180556My comrade did the research though, and we ordered some of this clear acrylic sheeting online way back when we first started the project.

P1180557We then got a roll of this metallic green window tint. Apparently it’s a one-way film that you can peel and attach to windows or any clear surface, so it’ll effectively be green-tinted sunglasses.

P1180558Cutting the eye holes and mask out of a piece of foam.

P1180561Applied the film on a piece of the clear acrylic. The blue sheet shown above was actually blue protective film that covered the sheeting on both sides. This was a super nice touch since it prevented the acrylic from being scratched or damaged before we used it.

P1180562The front side looks metallic green, while the backside looks silver and reflective from far away. But close up?

P1180565This is basically how everything looks. Placed the sheet over the camera lens for a first-person view of how my partner will be seeing the world during the Expo.

P1180566The first test piece was just a proof of concept that this stuff actually works – I later had to make a second one that had less air bubbles. Apparently the trick to applying it smoothly is to coat the clear acrylic with a thin film of soapy water – once done the green film will slide right on with minimal bubbles that can be easily rubbed out.

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From there we just had to bend everything gently and glue it, facemask and all, into the main helmet assembly. The funniest thing is that my partner actually doesn’t have contacts and requires glasses to see well. As such, we made the decision to hot glue a pair of his spare glasses lenses into the helmet, behind the green film piece.

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Can’t see a thing on what’s going on underneath. The reflective film is so cool. It looks kinda SD-like with our giant eyes.

P1180567Trying it on. He can see! We’ll be bringing the cheeks in and narrowing the bottom of the helmet, so it won’t always look so jutted out. The irony now is that no one else can really even wear the helmet, since my partner’s glasses are essentially affixed in there.

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So funny story with the shoulders – we showed last time how we affixed them onto the backpack frame via PVC pipe – they were supposed to already have been glued down permanently.

In hindsight, this move made very little sense – we should’ve waited until painting was done to attach the shoulders since it’s a royal pain in the arse to mask them while we’re only painting the backpack. In addition, having the shoulders attached to the backpack as one unit would also create complications during transportation, as that’s one giant part that could easily be bent or warped during transport. While we were painting the backpack though, the hot glue happened to come loose and the shoulders fell right off. As such, we went about with a new attachment system that would allow us to still remove them for transportation.

P1180572Eventually we settled on a pipe-in-pipe slot-and-pin system. We just needed a pipe that would be thin enough to slide into the PVC pipe that came off the backpack frame. Where would we find one?

P1180575Once again being resourceful college students, we scanned the garage and found the perfect candidate – the metal dustpan handle from Daiso would make the perfect fit. I promptly detached the handle and sawed down the metal until it was the appropriate size.

P1180573Just sliding a pipe that happened to be a snug fit into the PVC pipe wouldn’t be enough though – we needed a way to ensure that the shoulders wouldn’t rotate. Our solution was a pin system – I took the dremel to both the PVC and metal dustpan pipe and drilled holes through all of them.

P1180579Then it became a simple matter of sliding the thing into the thing, lining up the holes, and pinning it right through with a screw I found around the house. It holds! And is secure! And is removable for easy transport! We won on all fronts.

P1180559Meanwhile, my partner got crackin’ on our last major piece – Barbatos’ signature mace used during its anime debut.

We had already acquired the wooden dowel a few weeks ago for use as the main handle – the thing is pretty lightweight and just the right width and length. We searched for quite some time before coming across it at Home Depot – PVC and metal pipes were considered first.

P1180560The “spikes” of the mace would be made out of giant foam sheets, though keep in mind one side of the EVA foam is always textured. This wouldn’t do, since we needed a single piece’s thickness for each “spike.” Our solution was to take the entire face to the belt sander and grind the textured side down until it was (relatively) smooth.

P1180569It’s a Hell of a messy job. Foam dust basically clogged our lungs.

P1180584The first four main “spikes” glued onto the dowel. It looks pretty good, but the sizing was off. As I mentioned in the last post, our new foam sheets were puzzle pieces that were individually only so large. If we had the original giant roll of foam, we could’ve made the mace head as large as we wanted, but unfortunately we were working with limited supplies here.

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Because the head looked too wide and not long enough, we opted to do the insane and actually add foam bits onto the end to bring it out a bit more.

P1180587Filled in like a jigsaw puzzle. But it actually works, surprisingly – the head looks much more proportional now.

P1180588But of course with pieces of foam glued together, we had to putty the living Hell out of it to (kind of) get rid of the nasty gaps and seams.

P1180590Sanded. It still doesn’t look particularly pretty or smooth, but we’re hoping that it’ll mostly be hidden after the dark paint hits it.

P1180591Body of the head built in. It looks pretty proper! Just have to make the spike at the top for the pile driver now.

P1180586We originally weren”t going to build bicep armor since we’ve seen a lot of other cosplayers run without them, but after test fitting the shoulder and chest assembly we deemed that there was too much empty space on the arms, so we ended up constructing them anyway.

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Originally, we were at a loss for how to cut these metal conduit pipes we got from Home Depot. We tried scissors, saws, cutters, nothing worked. So we took it back to Home Depot in hopes that they’d be nice enough to cut it to our desired lengths.

The moment we flagged an employee down and asked him for what we wanted though, he just took the pipe in two hands, bent it into a U, and snapped it straight up. Then he cut the little sliver left holding the stuff together with a clipper. Needless to say we took the rest home and felt only slightly stupid for not realizing how easily we could solve this problem sooner.

P1180597Every year we’ll usually sacrifice a pair of my partner’s shoes to the cause and have it permanently affixed to the Gundam frame. This year is no exception – we glomped the bottom of my comrade’s Nikes in E6000 industrial adhesive and smushed it onto the wood.

P1180599For extra security we also put a few nails into the shoe to make sure it never comes out. This has worked fine in previous years, but in retrospect a screw probably would’ve worked better, since it would be less prone to popping up and out. It’s highly unlikely that the nail would anyway though.

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We had to attach the shoes fairly far forward on the foot assembly to make room behind the heel for a little cardboard receiver that the lower leg pipes will be running into. We couldn’t build the pipes into the lower legs alone because there was no room at the lower ankle.

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Once everything was glued in and had cured, we needed to wrap the shoes in some fabric to cover them up and give the allusion of an actual “inner frame.”

P1180602Hot glued in some plain gray fabric – those shoes are never coming back to life now.

P1180613Masked around the rest of the foot and painted the fabric, shoe, and “inner frame” wood assembly all black.

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The front skirts turned out really wonky – an expected side effect when we were burned out and constructing parts at all hours of the night. As such, we had to adjust for their tiny sizing with some cardboard wizardry.

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The cardboard U-shaped piece was basically added in to push the skirt a bit further out so it sits more flush with the properly sized crotch piece, as well as give it a “blanking plate” up above so it covers up my partner’s belt.

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We also decided that we’d be running the Barbatos’ abdominal pistons into the front skirts.

P1180604I had mentioned the neoprene tubing before, but we’re only now getting around to actually using it. Cut to size and wrapped around half a length of the metal conduit piping we’re using for the rest of the suit.

P1180617These would basically become the “pistons” around the belly area of the Barbatos. To get rid of the ribbed texture of the original metal conduit, we simply covered it with fabric and painted it gunmetal.

P1180606Also slicing up some more of the neoprene for the mace.

P1180607There are three distinct grip-like wraps on the actual model mace, so we chose to recreate them here like so.

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Moving onto fitting the tubing on the lower legs. The painted conduits look so cool. My partner and I actually had a sort of mini-contest when putting these in – we both took different approaches to it and whomever ended up with the more efficient (i.e. less breakable) design would “win.”

P1180610I opted for a more sophisticated system involving a piece of foam that the tubes would plug snugly into, all of which would be glued down and secured within the booster cap of the calves.

P1180609My comrade decided to be a little more primitive and straight up drowned the tubes in all three of our available adhesives (E6000, hot glue, and contact cement) in an attempt to weld it directly to the underside of the leg.

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Finally got around to re-making the rear skirt center. The left is the new accurate piece – the one on the right is the original thing my partner conjured up – in no way is it actually accurate to the suit design.

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For even more accuracy, we also took the dremel to the mace edges and beveled them on single edges, just as it looks on the model kit.

P1180614My partner also really wanted to add a bit more spice to the eyes and helmet, so he placed a last minute order online for some cheap LED strips.

P1180615These little green lights are actually fairly bright, and feature a tiny control box that utilizes two watch batteries.

P1180616Unfortunately, this tech won’t actually make it into the final armor. We tested it inside the helmet and it turned out to be a lot dimmer than we liked – you basically couldn’t note any difference in lighting. What’s worse is that it actually revealed the glasses lens behind the green film, so we decided to just cut our loses and forsook any lighting gimmicks at all.

P1180618Mace painted up in some Oil Rubbed Bronze, just the same as most of the suit’s frame. Unfortunately it looks like the texture and ugliness of the lower head where we jigsaw puzzled it together isn’t going away anytime soon. Despite the near-endless amounts of putty and sanding, there’s only so much you can do.

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At this point it’s already past midnight and we’re still not totally done painting and assembling all our parts. I would’ve liked to take some new stuff more slowly like the back skirt bit here, but we were seriously crunched for time.

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Chest “piston” assembly being glued into the main torso piece.

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Pressure’s real to get everything together in time.

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Both pistons mounted. They’ll drop right into the front skirts I showed earlier.

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Comrade is also donning the morphsuit with shorts and belt combo once again – same old system, but don’t fix what ain’t broke right?

P1180632Beginning the first real full suit-up.

The first step is to fit the skirts onto the belt. These are arguably the most delicate parts, since they all rely on buckle systems that could come apart from their mounts on the armor. We actually had to put everything together as we went since we hadn’t glued them onto my partner’s belt beforehand. I was literally hot gluing fabric onto his belt as he stood half-armored.

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Ran into an early problem with the front skirts. We couldn’t have forseen this issue since we had actually never fitted these parts before now. The skirts are too far apart and being pushed apart by the very roundness of the human body.

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Obviously that didn’t look too fantastic, so while my buddy was fitted I went ahead and hot glued all three front skirt pieces into a single unit. This would allow them to all move together and prevent them from splitting and forming any unsightly gaps.

P1180778Remember that mini-contest with the leg pipes from earlier? Neither design ended up breaking when we mounted the legs, but it turns out my partner’s primitive setup actually bends the pipes too far apart from each other, whereas my setup on the left leg shown above has them running nice and smoothly into the rear foot armor, which is where they simply slot and sit.

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And yet another hiccup – the abdominal “pistons” actually turned out to be mis-sized.  We overestimated the length needed and made both sections of pipe too long.

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Thankfully some quick pipe-snapping and neoprene relocation resulted in workable solutions.

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Fitting the last bits like the arms and gloves.

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Helm’d.

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Seeing it all together for the first time is mind-blowing to say the least. I’ll emphasize again that we had never test-fitted the whole thing until literally the morning of the event. I don’t think either my partner nor I ever expected it to actually look so cool. It actually looks like a Barbatos! For whatever reason it just blows me away that the whole suit is greater than the mere sum of its parts.

There are actually still a few small kinks that we have to work out in the morning when we wake and get ready to actually head out to Anime Expo (the main issue being that we actually forgot to buy extra pipes for the forearms…oops) but that should be taken care of easily. Day 1 here we come.

Read on the rest of the build:

Form 1

Form 2

Form 3

Form 4

 

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