It’s a surreal experience having our roles reversed and having me suit up in the armor for once instead of my partner. I now know how it feels to lean around awkwardly as someone else reaches for the buckles and straps to put me inside a foam shell. But alas, it only goes on me now because we designed it this time to fit almost anyone – this whole “build for someone you’ve never met or seen before” thing may not be as daunting as we thought.
A great bulk of this week’s progress actually concerns the feet – we needed them in a rush so we couldn’t depend on our usual wood-working friend to craft them for us.
We figured it wouldn’t be too difficult sourcing some inexpensive wood from Home Depot. The results from the shop don’t look perfect, but that’s what touch-ups are for.
The absolute madman going in with the dremel to bring our blocks in line.
These rectangles will form the “legs” that eventually touch the flat surface of the floor, so to avoid any issues with like the feeling of walking on three-legged chairs, they need to be spec’d very tightly.
Holding them in with screws and wood glue first before additional supports are added.
We went about putting these in fairly properly – drill bits were first used to tap the holes into the wood so that the screws would be able to go in correctly.
First foot taking shape. We aren’t going with anything fancy with this suit like the triangle heels that we fashioned for Quanta this past year – a very standard 4 inch boost to height is enough here.
The “legs” aren’t one continuous piece of wood because…reasons.
I think it was because the wood we were using was too wide, and cutting it laterally was not an option when we already went through hell trying to cut it on the short side. Thus, we ended up with four “legs” per feet.
With the shoes up, it should look something like this. These shoes are also the most inexpensive units we could find to do the job – we wouldn’t actually have our client send us a pair of his own shoes for us to bolt into the armor.
We then realized that it was probably a bad idea to run such a tall wood boost without cross members to make sure the “legs” don’t flex inwards. We weren’t about to return to Home Depot to cut these parts out, so my partner decided it wise to just go in on it with the cutting wheel and dremel (which, make no mistake, isn’t a pleasant experience – aside from a cutting wheel breaking and nearly taking out his eye when it flew under his eye protection, the scent of wood burning and sawdust kicked up by the dremel can’t be healthy).
But it’s all daijoubu, because a few quick cuts and dremel wheels later, we have our cross members.
Should be more than sufficient to keep everything solid during normal use.
Metal brackets also added to the outside to add extra piece of mind – it’s looking very solid now.
Shoes de-laced so we can access the inside to bolt them into the wood.
And as always, E6000 all throughout the underside for good measure, because if screws break, this stuff won’t.
Drilling screws into the heels and toe sections to keep the shoe down while the E6000 secures the bond overnight.
First test-fit with the shoes half-laced. It’s just pure coincidence that our client happens to share my shoe size, so I can wear this around and stress-test it to ensure durability before we send it off.
It’s not as fancy as some of the previous wood block height boosters we’ve used in the past, but it feels especially solid – the tight tolerances we used during construction also means it’s lighter than units we’ve used before.
I’m not used to walking around with a sudden four inches added to my height at the bottom (my partner is), so trying to get around the garage with these for the first time is a jarring experience. I’m already 6’1, so wearing these I literally can’t get out of the garage without bending over.
Meanwhile, the rest of the armor that’s completely done with construction heads into paint. White Plasti-Dip is the first coat as always, which primes and seals the porous foam and gets it ready to accept conventional paint.
Finishing up the lower legs by beveling the pods a bit for a more seamless look.
Gundam or not, our robot’s still going to have the traditional skirt armor that will fill in the gaps between the thighs and torso. Our approach for building these since the beginning was to permanently attach straps to a belt, which was in turn permanently attached to a pair of shorts we’d sacrifice every year to the cause. While this works fine because we always just grab a pair of my partner’s shorts and belt and modify those, it seems like a less than ideal method for a commission suit. So we had to think a bit outside the box this time and come up with something new.
The idea was to basically create an exterior belt that would clamp around the wearer’s waist, supported to their body via suspenders that go over the shoulders. The skirts would then be attached to this, and the thighs would also be suspended off of these to ensure fit.
Making it a removable clamp-belt requires buckles, and thankfully this year we scored gold with a bunch of high-quality inexpensive ones from Amazon.
The “belt” is built to be about the size of the torso, so it should fit the wearer snug, but just in case it’s too small the buckles will have adjustability so they can expand to fit if need be.
Secured. I’m worried now that this piece was built too large, and thus would push the skirts out from the body too much on the final suit, especially given our usual suits are so much more skin-tight and form-fitting. I doubt we would ever use this system for one of our Gundam builds, but the overall proportions of this mecha are significantly larger in every way than our other suits, so the tolerances should be much more forgiving.
As for the skirt designs themselves, we wanted to do something not so Gundam-y for once since this was probably our only chance. Unfortunately, most super robots either don’t run skirts at all (this is a PG-rated armor after all so we couldn’t do that), or had a one-piece diaper look that we tried to replicate and render above.
In end Gundam skirts are still the tried and true fallback.
They’re not difficult to build, but very tedious and not the most exciting things to put together.
It was around this portion of the build that we burned through our second roll of foam – and thus had to break the third one out. The large surface area of this suit means we’re using up a lot more than we normally otherwise would.
The awkward thing about this third roll is that it’s somehow different – the pattern on the back seems to be half-molded; it isn’t as crisp as it normally should be, and the foam itself is a bit softer and thinner. Ironically this isn’t a bad thing for us – the more undefined the patterns are on the backside, the easier it is to cement things together.
Basic shapes of the front skirts done.
Went out of my way to grind down the edges of these pieces with the dremel for a more flush fit for the center skirt.
Building out some original side skirts, since we never rendered them or the back skirts in SketchUp – I figure any free-reign design would do.
Back-skirts – annoying to build if only because they all have to have depth, so it’s just a constant grind of cutting strips of foam and laying it around an edge, then doing it again to attach the other side.
I took inspiration from the Strike’s back-skirt, though my partner was the one who designed and built the center section.
These three units will be glued stationary to the skirt belt, while the front and side skirts will likely be suspended to the belt via straps in order to preserve articulation.
But because my partner took issue with the back-skirts I designed being rounded, he decided to be a sourpuss and cut the corners off so they’d be sharp and follow the design language of the rest of the armor (his reasoning is more sound than mine here – I built them rounded to expedite the cutting process, when really yeah, it should be sharp to match the rest).
Rear assembly cemented onto the back of the belt. I would normally be worried about the skirt positioning being too high or too low (we’ve had those issues before when fitting our own Gundam skirts in the past) but thankfully the adjustability is still there in the form of the suspender straps that will eventually connect to the skirt belt.
Legs and chest getting dipped.
Parts like the back of the torso (which includes the backpack and shoulders all as one piece) take up nearly an entire can of Plasti Dip on its own.
Bigger suit means more foam, which in turn means more dip, which then means more paint. This is partially why we prefer to build our usual suits as small and form-fitting as possible, though that approach is suicidal with a commission build where we don’t have the actual body to test-fit against.
As per our client’s request, most of the suit will sport a pure white color scheme, with bits of gray for some parts that will be added later.
Helmet looks a lot cooler in white. It’ll really come together once we get the tinted visor in.
Adding one more patch of Kwik Seal to that thigh we messed up on before with the extra cut. It’s nearly unnoticeable now, especially once it’s painted.
Partner tackling the feet armor. That’s a huge chunk of foam…
But it’ll be worth it. The feet design are also going to be original for the most part – I think we took some inspiration from traditional Gundams, but it shouldn’t look like the feet of any specific mobile suit.
Laying the assembly of the first foot armor out.
And cloning it all because two feet exist.
My partner decided to go for some extra style points by just barely staggering the upper armor a foam’s thickness inwards. It doesn’t look like much at first glance, but if we hadn’t done this the feet would’ve looked tres generic.
This sort of build style isn’t easily accomplished though – it took two people, one to hold the foam at just the right stagger, while the other went in with the hot glue and welded a bead down to keep the foam together. This wouldn’t have worked as well with contact cement, since there’s actually very little contact surface between the two pieces.
It’s like a foot cross-section.
And done. It’s simple, but I really like it. I think this is the first time we’ve built a foot unit with such a deep heel opening; in the past we’ve “cheated” by just painting the wood underneath black to simulate the appearance of an opening, but this time there’s legitimately a gap thanks to the design of the wooden blocks.
Kwik sealing some gaps, since our contact cement has been acting up lately (we think because of the colder weather) and not bonding foam as well as it should.
Ankle armor built up and attached to the feet. They won’t articulate, but if we built the legs correctly, they won’t need to. And as much as I like the feet units from profile, they do look a bit too long and not wide enough when viewed from 3/4.
As such, I requested that my partner shorten the toes just a bit – this would give us the added benefit of having the feet last longer, since the longer the foam sticks out the more likely it is to get destroyed during normal walking movement.
A lot better, I think.
Now that most of the suit is built out, we can finally get to strapping everything so it’s properly wearable. This is the first armor we’ve built in a few years that doesn’t have a PVC pipe backpack frame – there’s aren’t any crazy weapons, body parts, or shields that need to be hung off the body, so a pipe frame wasn’t needed. The back plate is just layered cardboard and foam, which is sturdy in its own right. Long nylon straps are then run through that plate; we’d normally wrap them around the pipes if they were there.
It’ll still be strapped over the chest in the usual X shape, but this time the straps themselves have near-infinite adjustability, meaning it will be able to strap to my chest just as tightly as it would on my partner. (I’ve tried to put our previous armors on before – my torso is straight up too thick to fit the previous Gundam units on). The mechanisms here with the buckles and straps are identical to how backpack straps are tightened.
The buckles that line the inside of the front and rear chest units will also feature adjustability, just in case it ends up being a tight fit, they can be loosened.
As always, three buckle pairs per side to keep the front of the chest clamped on the body.
Secured with E6000, hot glue, and a final foam plate over every strap unit to make sure it’ll never come apart.
First proper test-fit of the upper body on my body. The “fit” during Part 1 was just me slipping the entire bulk of the upper body on over my head – it’s now on my body the way it was designed to be fitted.
Getting some gnarly splits down the side where the two halves of the body buckle together, but this is mostly because the buckle straps inside aren’t tightened all the way – it should all pull together flush if the straps are pulled taught before suit-up.
This is a new experience for me – up until now I’ve always been the handler suiting up my buddy in the armors, but this time the roles are finally reversed, since this suit is built with maximum adjustability so I can actually fit for once. It seriously makes you feel powerful.
The arms don’t yet have any sort of straps (we plan to use elastic) so they’re falling down thanks to gravity right now.
I think my head is around 24-25 inches in circumference, so the helmet is an extremely tight fit on me since it was built for our client’s 23″ head.
From this test-fit we’ve determined that the shoulders ride too low – it’s hitting the arms when I raise them up, and would overall work with the proportions better if they were boosted an inch or two so it wasn’t just level with the chest. Easy fix to take care of next time.
First order of business next week is to get the skirt belt with the suspender system and thighs/lower legs strapped up so we can test-fit a full suit-up. The idea is if all the adjustable points end up working correctly and fitting on my body, they shouldn’t have any problem working for our client’s body.
Read on the rest of the build: