Most of the suit body is already ironed out, and this is only our fourth (ish) day of building, since it’s been two weekends. This makes it seem like we’re making especially good time, but there’s still a lot to be done – fitting the straps will be particularly daunting, and painting takes several days on its own.
Picking up from Part 1, I mentioned that it turned out the wings on the backpack were a misplay after all, so they’ve been torn out. I wasn’t about to attempt to clean up all that ripped surface foam and create a plug perfectly sized to fill in that strip though.
A fresh large panel that acted as a raised detail piece covers everything up just fine.
My partner’s getting the thighs together – instead of the traditional slip-on units that we’ve always built in the past, these will now be two-piece, with the rear thigh plate being removable so the wearer can access the straps that will be integrated inside for tightness adjustment.
When he tries to scribe detail lines onto the thighs but forgets to mirror the design, so now we have a panel line that needs to be filled in with Kwik Seal (mind you, it’s totally possible to get it looking seamless again, it just takes some extra time and is a bit of a pain in the ass).
I’m putting the lower legs together in the meantime.
It’s really off-putting how small they look right now – I think we’re used to building larger calf units, and the size really isn’t there until the knee comes in.
Like the thighs, the rear plate for the lower legs will be removable via Velcro, in order for fitment access.
We could’ve started fitting the Velcro and testing the plate system already, since we got a cheap off-brand roll off of Amazon, but unfortunately I guess it was off-brand and cheap for a reason – this stuff is weak. It’s definitely not going to have the grip to hold vital armor plates together, so we’re going to have to spend a bit more for better stuff later. This is what happens when we’re unfamiliar with the market because we haven’t used Velcro in years.
The helm dimensions and design for the mech have now been officially hashed out – my partner (being the talented artist that he is) drew out 9 rough concept sketches for our client to pick and choose from. We tried to keep them as original as possible, but of course pulled certain design elements from known robots, Gundams, Transformers, and the like. At the end of the day our client opted to go for #3, with the one caveat of omitting the thin antennas.
Transferred into a digital format and the final helmet should look something like this, though it’s going to be a bit of a challenge to take a completely 2D design and make something 3D out of it – we don’t have the luxury of having a physical Gunpla reference for our Gundam suits here.
Instead of using our usual cheap styrofoam head from our local craft store for the head mold, we decided to actually go with something correctly sized. Our wearer’s head is 23″ in diameter, so we got this neat little faceless wig holder head off of Amazon – that is of course, 23″ in diameter.
Comparison with our original helmet helper – the size difference will mean less modifying and cutting the helmet to make things fit.
Wrapped tightly in a layer of aluminum foil and tape in order to create the pattern.
Our new friend is a bit two-faced.
Once the patterns are drawn on the head they’re sliced out – we’re only using one side of the pattern and flipping it in order to get the other side of the head, since it’s most even this way. We’ve done this exact same process for the last two years in order to make our suit helmets, but the original method is of course still learned from the OG Ted Smith.
Almost together, with a total of four parts for this helmet base.
I suspected as I was putting the pieces together that the sizing was off – it seemed way too small to fit even my partner’s head, let alone our client’s. In the end it looks like I messed up by not centering my patterns on our new mannequin helper, meaning we got less than half the original head size when we cut the patterns out.
But this is okay! I’ve dealt with small helmets before – the usual fix is of course to add a strip down the center to widen everything and loosen the load on the front and rear.
Should fit fine now.
Trying to figure out the proper proportions for things like the face and cheeks based off of a drawing isn’t fun.
It fits! It ships!
Sike. It only fit over my partner’s head because he forced the foam and squished it on – with the addition of the front faceplate the opening on the bottom is actually too small to fit most things through, including our 23″ mannequin that models the size of our client’s head.
Thankfully this doesn’t mean I have to remake an entirely new head that will be large enough to fit – cutting the rear lower quarter off will make the opening much larger, and we can always glue a flap or extension back on that’s backed out more to allow for full fitment.
Too bad our new Ben doesn’t have a nose – or eyes and a face for that matter. The most important aspect of having the helm fit around his crown is covered though.
Building out some of the forehead trim. Those curves were totally freehanded – I just cut foam until it worked when it was placed over the head.
Somewhat test-fitting the head-to-body ratio. Our usual armors normally have the heads look too large because we always build our torsos (and everything else where possible) as close to the body as possible. This suit has a radically different design language – the gigantic boxy chest makes the head look more appropriately proportionate than usual.
Paper template cut out first to determine the curve I need for the head mohawk.
Transferred to foam and built out. This design element in particular makes the head unit look very Gundam-y.
Getting to the ears. It took a while to figure out what would look right, since I had originally made them too small, but also didn’t want to oversize them.
Completely arbitrary fitment. But that’s okay, because it still looks kickass.
Unfortunately, these big ‘ol ear flares run a similar problem to the v-fins and similar structures we’ve built for previous helmets – they’re too thin with just one layer of foam. In the past we had attempted to remedy this issue by smushing two foam layers together, though this method has its own problems because it creates a giant seam in the middle and in many cases makes the piece too thick.
The compromise we thought we’d try this time would be cardboard – it’s enough to make the piece much sturdier, it hides the foam texture on the back, it makes the piece just a bit thicker, and the seam between the cardboard and foam isn’t nearly as bad as foam on foam.
I learned my lesson with Quanta’s helmet when I didn’t flare the ears out far enough and it looked dopey. This time I made sure to make the fitment as aggro as possible without having straight-up vertical ears.
The caveat to this is that not all of the ear pieces even sat flush with the sides of the helmet because I flared them out so much – so some small spacers were added to fill in the gaps from the back.
Adding one more strip to each side of the head up top, in order to keep it as faithful as possible to my partner’s original pencil sketch.
Extra lower rear guard also built out – this will make the helmet look full, while also being wide enough to allow heads to fit inside.
Partner going at the legs and filling them out. Clearly some RX-78-2 design elements here.
The original leg designs we had penned in SketchUp included Heavyarms/Zaku II-style missile pods mounted on the sides of the legs. These were just random designs we threw in for fun’s sake, and at the end of the day the pods could really be anything. After going over it with our client, he mentioned that they had no plans to include firing missiles with their mech, so it didn’t make too much sense to just have them if they weren’t going to be used.
Partner cranking out the pods.
For the missiles, we were originally thinking of getting lug nut spikes (the ones you see on tunerz) because they would be just small and inexpensive enough to fit the bill.
But of course, instead of missile pods they have now been converted to vent pods.
I’m somewhat more glad we went for these instead of the missiles, since the latter looked a bit tacky and out of place when the rest of the suit didn’t have any kind of built-in armament.
Finally getting the knees in – thankfully they bring out the size of the lower leg much more – I’m finally less afraid of it being too small compared to the rest of the suit.
When he borks a pod and takes years to bring it back to life.
Now that body construction is closer to finished, we can start getting to painting and fitting during our next session. The thought of making functional adjustable straps and buckles work for the first time is daunting.