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Unread 10-04-2012, 01:19 PM   #1
icetyrant
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EVA foam hardener

I'm making a Mega Man Mythos Zero cosplay, and am using EVA foam mats (the floor mats) as the base for the armor plates. I have nearly all of the individual plates done, and went to spread an adhesive backed vinyl over them today, and they looked great after I applied it, very professional I think. To my dismay, after putting on some of the pieces I had completed, when I moved and the EVA mats bent, the vinyl creased and really started not looking so hot, and I'm rather frustrated. I can't paint the mats, as I've tried and it just doesn't look that great, so what I'd like to do is apply some kind of hardener to the outside surface.

The parts currently fit me either snuggly or tight (depending on the part), so I don't want to apply anything to the inside surface, just the outside. I'm looking into fiber glass, but it's a crap ton of work and a last resort if I can't find anything else. The parts are all really simple and round shaped for the most part, so what I'd like is a kind of resin or something I can just brush onto the outside and create a hard surface, so I can then apply the vinyl to that and be good. Also, it needs to be super hard, as this is real battle armor (by that I mean I will be sparring in it and taking hits from other foam/plastic weapons), which is the reason I started with foam, as it absorbs impacts very well, and doesn't crack of break under pressure. I'll have pics up later today of my progress so far.

Thanks for any help
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Unread 10-04-2012, 02:53 PM   #2
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Pretty much any resin applied as a thin layer is going to remain slightly flexible, and on their own, each type of resin is going to have pretty similar properties. One exception to this would be resins that have glass fibers premixed. A product is sold under the Bondo label that falls under this category and can be found in some hardware stores. The downside of them is that they are hard to apply in a smooth layer, and they can't really be sanded because the glass tears apart sandpaper. So you have to first apply the glass-bearing resin as best as you can, and then apply another resin overtop that will either self-level or is sandable (since you're dealing with curved pieces, you'd want the later). So yeah, bondo glass putty followed by bondo autobody filler, followed by sanding smooth. These products should be used outside or in an open garage.

If you don't mind spending the money or special ordering, you can use similar products that are in the polyurethane category. Polyurethane is great to work with because it has no fumes, it's safe to use inside, and it cures quickly and strong. Smooth-On plasti-paste II cures nice and rigid, and Smooth-On Shell-Shock gives an excellent smooth surface (with skill, you can apply it so smooth you don't even need to sand it.)

But yeah, since you're talking about functional sparring armor, this is one of the rare situations where I do recommend going with fiberglassing. The above mentioned techniques might not be able to handle the abuse (and in the long-run almost certainly will not).

You should practice applying a small batch or two of resin and fiberglass to some random hunks of foam. This is super important because mistakes can be hard to fix.

If you use the polyester resin that's sold in the hardware stores and such, you need to work outside on a dry day when the temperature is moderate. If you don't mind spending some extra money, you can go to a marine supply place and pick up some epoxy resin. It is much lower odor and can be used safely inside.

If the armor is really just simple curves, then you should be fine with the woven fiberglass fabric, as opposed to the Chopped Strand Matt. The fabric is less messy to work with, but harder to push into fine details.

After applying the layers of cloth (3 layers is best, but 2 is livable), use a plastic scraper and a bit of pressure to scrape off as much excess resin as you can (this is what allows the fiberglass layer to be both strong and thin).

Once the scraped surface as cured to slightly tacky, you want to apply a thicker layer to smooth out that fabric texture. You can either buy expensive gel-coat from a marine supply store, or you can just thicken the resin you already have. You thicken it by stirring in this powdery stuff called Cabosil, aka fumed silica, aka colloidal silica. Wear a dust mask while using this product, because it floats everywhere. If you can't get ahold of that, then talcum powder can be used in a pinch. That can be bought at most pharmacies. You mix the powder in until it reaches a mayonnaise consistency and then add the catalyst. It's difficult to apply thick and smooth in one go; the best way is to apply the first layer with a squeedgy so it settles into the low spots, and then let that cure to slightly tacky and apply a final layer with a wide soft-bristled brush; that, or apply it thick in a single layer with a cheap brush, not caring about the brushstrokes, and once cured, just sand it smooth starting at 60 grit and moving up to 400.

The top layer will remain a little tacky; don't worry about this, just scuff it with a scouring bad (the green ones from the kitchen) and apply your vinyl. If you have the time and want to minimize the chemical smell, let your pieces sit under a sunny window for about a week.

Hope this helps!
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Unread 10-04-2012, 03:26 PM   #3
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Wow, thats a ton of help, thanks! I'm not sure why I need to thicken the resin for the top coat, does that make it alot harder or something? I bought Bondo Brand "Fiberglass Jelly Resin" as well as fiberglass mats just a minute ago to try on a scrap piece, does that need a hardener over it? It's instructions say to apply one coat of the jelly resin, then fiber glass, then more jelly resin, then sand.
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Unread 10-04-2012, 03:48 PM   #4
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Also, would something like this work? It would be so much easier.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?annotat...&v=tucj0OBzVtE
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Unread 10-04-2012, 05:17 PM   #5
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Thanks I found this post helpful too!
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Unread 10-05-2012, 08:49 AM   #6
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So this epoxAmite appears to be just a particular formulation of epoxy resin. So yeah, it works.

I haven't seen the Bondo Jelly resin sold in stores, that should work just fine without needing to thicken it. The reason for thickening the regular resin is so that it will build up more quickly. Otherwise, it tends to self-level into a thinner layer so that you have to apply multiple layers, which can be a pain when you have to mix up every batch separately.
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Unread 10-08-2012, 10:44 PM   #7
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Indeed helpful - good information.
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