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Unread 06-26-2013, 12:36 PM   #1
Starlit Rose
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Unhappy Flexible Armor Solution for a Complex Shape (see notes)

Sorry, this is going to be a long post with lots of explanation. I know no one likes to read posts this long, but I would greatly appreciate it if you could read through it and help me brainstorm what I can do to solve my problem! It's hard to briefly explain this part of my armor over the Internet, so I'm going to do my best to make it clear what exactly I need to be able to do.

So, I'm stuck on a part of my leg armor. Specifically, the black armor that goes on the back of the calves. Reference: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v3...preference.jpg

See the notes in the blue circle for the exact part.

Since I am trying to make my 5'4" body the size of a bulky 6 ft guy, I am compensating for height by using 8 inch heels, and building a shape around them to make the shoes of the costume look like they are low heel. In actuality, my real heels are 8 inches off the ground, which puts my heels inside the lower calf of the costume's leg.

Pictures of my shoes:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v3...alfsupport.jpg (my hand is holding where the velcro is at the heel)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v3.../lowerleg1.jpg
the back: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v3.../lowerleg2.jpg

Here's where it gets difficult to explain, so bear with me. x_x;

Right now, to make the transition from the calf down to the SHOE's heel (the fake heel), I have a piece of EVA foam covered with felt attaching at the upper calf and at the shoe heel with velcro. The bottom of the foam piece (the heel) has an extra extension of felt that extends out past the foam, and the velcro is attached to the felt extension. I did this because the piece needs to be able to hinge just above where the velcro attaches at the heel, and the EVA foam itself will not flex enough without pulling the velcro off the heel. The extra flap of felt (with the velcro) flexes just fine on its own, because it's felt. The EVA foam is meant to just fill out the shape of the calf and cover my real heel, and is meant to be hidden underneath the outer armor. Without it, it looks like an unnaturally skinny leg connecting too far up on the foot. In other words, MY calf is sort of where the shin bones should be on this leg I am trying to build, if that makes sense. (I told you, this is difficult to articulate, lol.)

Now, because this EVA foam piece attaches to the shoe's heel/fake heel, this means that it extends past my real heel. I would love to just wear the EVA foam piece under my bodysuit, but it pokes out past my real heel, so that wouldn't cover it enough.

ONTO MY DILEMMA! I am trying to make the outer armor for the back of the leg (the black part). I tried using craft foam and heat forming it to the shape of the back of the calf. The problem is, I need it to wrap around the back and sides of my leg, not just the back part. Why? As you'll see in the first reference, the black armor goes all the way around to the front, and is seamlessly covered by the white armor on the shin. The top calf area isn't a problem, because it doesn't wrap around the leg much there. It's the lower calf area that is difficult to shape.

I tried melting the craft foam down as much as I could with my heat gun to get it to form into the shape, but had no luck. It seems to be impossible to get it to curve at the heel AND get it to curve in two other directions to go around the fake ankle/lower leg. I tried wrapping some slightly stretchy pleather around the EVA foam piece to see if that could stretch enough to wrap around the front, but that only resulted in the fabric creasing and rippling.

I've thought of using Wonderflex. I think I could achieve the complex shape with that, but the problem is that it isn't flexible, and this piece NEEDS to be able to flex at the bottom. (I need to be able to walk!)

I'm really out of ideas for this part and am not sure what I can do. I'm hoping someone can help me brainstorm this. If any part of this is confusing and needs clarification, please let me know and I'll try my best to make it make sense! Thank you to anyone who takes the time to read this and help me out!!
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Last edited by Starlit Rose : 06-26-2013 at 08:55 PM.
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Unread 06-26-2013, 03:10 PM   #2
verdatum
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...I like reading posts this long...

I feel like I understand the background here. You're trying to create the white shinguard piece, but you can't get your EVA foam to thermoform into the proper shape, right?

What I don't quite follow is exactly what problems you had when you made the attempt. It doesn't appear to be a curve along multiple dimensions (as in a Pringles shape), and I don't see anything that seems to push the limits of the plasticity of the foam. I should think that simply curving the foam around the leg and then snapping or velcroing the two ends together at the back of the fake heel should be enough for the piece to hold its shape, almost without any thermoforming needed at all...

Could you provide a photo of the failed attempt?
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Unread 06-26-2013, 04:50 PM   #3
Starlit Rose
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Quote:
Originally Posted by verdatum View Post
...I like reading posts this long...
You are one of the few, lol. Thank you for read it all and taking a stab at it!

Quote:
I feel like I understand the background here. You're trying to create the white shinguard piece, but you can't get your EVA foam to thermoform into the proper shape, right?
Nooooo no no, I had no problem with the white shin guard. My problem is thermoforming the black calf piece that goes on the back and wraps around to the front (and goes under the white shin guard). This piece needs to have a "Pringles" curve (lol very nice) at the heel, go up, and wrap around the back of the leg and end at the front under the white shin armor. Thing is, I couldn't get the craft foam to do all of that. It was either one curve direction or the other.

Quote:
Could you provide a photo of the failed attempt?
Unfortunately, I don't have the piece anymore, but I think you'll see now the shape I'm having trouble with now that I've clarified which part I'm working on, haha.
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Unread 06-26-2013, 06:06 PM   #4
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Have you tried cutting craft foam into a few pieces and then gluing them together in order to form them into the desired shape? Here's a link to a tutorial on shin guards. I know it's not what you're aiming for, but, I think it could help.
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Unread 06-26-2013, 07:09 PM   #5
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So the problem is that the black craft foam won't conform to the curves of your calf-ankle area, because the radius keeps changing as you go from calf to ankle, right? I assume you're using 4 separate pieces of foam for the knee-to-ankle section; attempting it all in one piece would make it extra difficult. For that lower 'crew sock' black piece, I'd try shaping the foam into a half conical section pointed downwards. Then I'd cut a dart where you want the crew sock to start flaring out again towards the ankle, then filling that dart opening with a triangle of foam. Sure, there will be a triangular seam back there, but the material is black so I don't think it'll be noticeable. The only other ways I know of to create a seamless compound-curve shape like that involve casting.
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Unread 06-26-2013, 07:13 PM   #6
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Nooow I see it. K. I can think of two solutions.

First, you can build a rigid form of a leg of the appropriate dimensions using a hodgepodge of scrapwood and extremely tightly compressed aluminum foil. Like smash it down with a hammer and keep adding more layers until it doesn't wanna squish anymore but still matches your dimensions. You want the surface at least sorta smooth so the foam doesn't pick up any weird bumps during thermoforming. Wrap the foam all the way around the leg and pin it together at the seamline going down the front of the shin. Orient the thing so that the bottom of the foot is perpendicular to the ground and the toe is pointing down, so gravity can work in your favor. Then blast it with your heatgun until the part that isn't conforming starts to sag under its own weight. As this happens, pull the pinned seam away from the leg so the front of the piece takes up the slack. repin as you go. If you prefer, you can go with a basting stitch with needle & thread instead of pinning. Finally heat up the remaining surfaces of the foam to heatset the whole shape.

The second option is to cut a dart down the back of the leg. A dart is an upside-down v-shape cut out of the sheet so you can get a garment varying radii. You can sorta work out how much of a slope your dart should have by pinching the excess at the center of the back. mark it, make sure it is nice and symmetrical down the center line and cut it out. Make sure the cuts are at good right angles to the surface. Then glue the freshly exposed edges together in a butt-joint. Reinforce this by sewing up a quick baseball-stitch, though you can cheat and just apply really good tape to the inside. If you want to get cute, you can sew an invisible-stitch by running a fine curved needle in and out along those inside square edges and cinching tight as you go...but I wouldn't bother, despite my perfectionism. There will be a seam going down the calf, and visible stitching, but no one will care, and it'll look like it belongs there.
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Unread 06-26-2013, 09:19 PM   #7
Starlit Rose
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SunakoChan View Post
Have you tried cutting craft foam into a few pieces and then gluing them together in order to form them into the desired shape?
Quote:
Originally Posted by astillar View Post
So the problem is that the black craft foam won't conform to the curves of your calf-ankle area, because the radius keeps changing as you go from calf to ankle, right? I assume you're using 4 separate pieces of foam for the knee-to-ankle section; attempting it all in one piece would make it extra difficult.
I wanted to first see if anyone knew of any ideas that I hadn't thought of yet before putting a seam in the piece, but if I can't get anything else to work, I'll have to sacrifice accuracy and make a seam. D: But thank you for the link, SunakoChan. If I have to make a seam, I would do something similar to that example.

Quote:
Originally Posted by verdatum View Post
Nooow I see it. K. I can think of two solutions.

First, you can build a rigid form of a leg of the appropriate dimensions using a hodgepodge of scrapwood and extremely tightly compressed aluminum foil. Like smash it down with a hammer and keep adding more layers until it doesn't wanna squish anymore but still matches your dimensions. You want the surface at least sorta smooth so the foam doesn't pick up any weird bumps during thermoforming. Wrap the foam all the way around the leg and pin it together at the seamline going down the front of the shin. Orient the thing so that the bottom of the foot is perpendicular to the ground and the toe is pointing down, so gravity can work in your favor. Then blast it with your heatgun until the part that isn't conforming starts to sag under its own weight. As this happens, pull the pinned seam away from the leg so the front of the piece takes up the slack. repin as you go. If you prefer, you can go with a basting stitch with needle & thread instead of pinning. Finally heat up the remaining surfaces of the foam to heatset the whole shape.

The second option is to cut a dart down the back of the leg. A dart is an upside-down v-shape cut out of the sheet so you can get a garment varying radii. You can sorta work out how much of a slope your dart should have by pinching the excess at the center of the back. mark it, make sure it is nice and symmetrical down the center line and cut it out. Make sure the cuts are at good right angles to the surface. Then glue the freshly exposed edges together in a butt-joint. Reinforce this by sewing up a quick baseball-stitch, though you can cheat and just apply really good tape to the inside. If you want to get cute, you can sew an invisible-stitch by running a fine curved needle in and out along those inside square edges and cinching tight as you go...but I wouldn't bother, despite my perfectionism. There will be a seam going down the calf, and visible stitching, but no one will care, and it'll look like it belongs there.
Having gravity in my favor may help...despite how frustrating it was trying to heat form the foam before, I am curious enough to try that and see if it helps. I was perplexed by the difficulty of thermoforming the foam when I had read that you can use craft foam to vacuum form with. I thought if it gets hot enough, it can take on just about any shape, but no matter how long I pointed my heat gun at it, it wouldn't give. But perhaps if I can get gravity to help get it going in the right direction, it might help. I'll give it a shot and see. If not, I'll just have to put some kind of seam down the middle, be it with a dart or a full seam.

Thanks for the responses! I'm glad to see there are at least a few people who were patient enough to read this.
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