Friday, October 28, 2011

DIY Spartan Hoplite Costume

This year's Halloween costume is a re-vamp of my previous 300 costume.  This time I made a helmet, better spear, and armor (and managed to lose my cape somewhere...)  It's divided into different sections, so click the links below to check them out!  (The black long underwear and socks are recommended if you live somewhere that it might snow on Halloween).

Shield  (Aspis, or Hoplon)

Spear (Dory)

Body Amour (Linothorax)


For the original 300 costume, click here

For all costumes click here. For the Batman costume, click here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

DIY Spartan Hoplite Costume: How to make a faux-leather Linothorax, inspired by Gladiator costume, no sewing required!

For all the Hoplite Costume posts click here!

So I knew I needed some sort of chest armor for my hoplite costume, but had no idea where even to begin.  Then I saw one of Russel Crowe's costumes in Gladiator where he is wearing a leather chest plate that is made by multiple leather straps rather than one continuous piece.  This seemed plausible to make, as I have no idea how to forge an actual bronze chest plate or even a solid piece fake leather one.  So with that inspiration, I set to work.

I made this as easily as possible because I really can't sew.  The only things I did to make this was cutting the fabric and tying a few laces in knots.  It's that simple.  The design is a little complicated, but hopefully I will describe it adequately here for you! There are many diagrams I made which should make it easier.

The only supplies are a single piece of faux-leather (for costumes), a scissors, and a reel of faux-leather lace (for tying things together).

I started with 2 1/2 yards of a faux-leather halloween costume fabric (standard fabric roll wide, about 3 feet I think?).  The entire costume is made by cutting away at this.  There are two things to think about when starting out, which are how long the costume needs to be (knees to shoulders, over shoulders, and back down to knees) and how wide (the main body of the armor is as wide as your stomach/chest, the 'belt' goes around your back once and layers twice over your stomach).  That said, I made my basic 't' shaped design.  The main body of the armor is the long part, and the belt is the extensions out left and right on what will be the back side.  The ends (front and back) of the armor will eventually be free-hanging straps.  I measured my chest (measure to the base of your shoulder, not the ends of your shoulders) to determine how wide I needed to keep the fabric, and then my waist to see how long each side of the belt should stick out, then I started cutting.
Once I had my 't' shape, I made the central slit down the middle (where my head will go) so I could put the costume on and see how my measurements added up.  I determined one thing right away: do not measure out your full shoulders.  This ended up giving me a giant costume that had huge flaps around the stomach.  Rather, the chest piece needs to be as wide as your stomach/chest without shoulders so that it stays closer to your body.  I trimmed the armor accordingly and also shortened my belt pieces to the correct lengths, then continued on.
The armor is made up of 4 long straps that go front to back, and I wanted to re-create that but without actually using 4 individual pieces of fabric, so I cut from the shoulders down (front and back) to make the four straps, but did NOT continue them through the belt region,  This gave me the look of having 4 straps and the belt will later cover the part where I did not cut.  Keeping the entire piece solid like this means much less hassle later on and fewer knots to tie.
Now with 4 straps, I tried on the suit.  Unfortunately, having no specific head hole means that when I put the armor on, it all bends outwards.  To remedy this, I cut a diamond shape where my head needed to go (a triangle cut into both of the middle straps).  This worked much better.  To finish the chest/back, I added faux leather laces to tie together the straps.  I simply cut short slices into each strap adjacent to each other and used the lace to tie them together.  I made these ties on top of each shoulder and one in the center near my sternum.  I also made one long continuous strap that united the front and back pieces.  I made cuts in all 8 (4 front and back) straps and ran one long lace around the entire suit.  This lace goes UNDER my arms, and keeps the belly region together.

Now done with the top of the armor, I moved onto the belt.  The belt is fairly simple: The two flaps coming off the back of the armor are wrapped around to the front and tied down (using the same technique as the shoulder ties, just make two slits in the belt piece and also the piece you are tying it into and run the lace through).  Once you've tied down the first belt piece in front, bring the second belt piece from the back have it overlap the first, then tie it down as well.  I made the second belt piece into 3 straps by cutting it long-wise (and made one tie for each strap) and also made each end into a triangle.  I thought it looked neater.  The photos show the first belt tied in (left) and the second belt tied in (right).   

Finally, with chest and belt finished, it was time to finish the bottom pieces.  I didn't do a lot for these, just cut them into 4 straps (mirroring the chest piece) and made each end in a triangle. 
All done!

For all the Hoplite Costume articles click here!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

DIY Spartan Hoplite Costume: How to make a Shield (Aspis, or Hoplon)

My Hoplite costume of course needs a shield, and I lucked out that when I first made my 300 costume a friend let me have their saucer sled which was exactly the size I needed for my shield.  It was the easiest build ever: Take plastic saucer sled (about $10), drill 4 holes (two per side, to put in laces for holding shield on inside), spray paint brown, then lightly add gold spray paint to make a bronze-ish final color.  I also added a spray on varnish to keep the paint from chipping too much.  I used brown shoelaces tied through the holes to fit my arm and hand.  Done!
For all the Hoplite Costume Articles, Click Here

Sunday, October 16, 2011

DIY Spartan Hoplite Costume: How to Make Greaves

See all the Spartan Hoplite Costume articles here!

I wanted to make better greaves (shin-guards, more or less) this year, and I decided to try out Paper Mache.  I haven't tried this much before, so I thought it would be interesting to see what the medium can handle.  I used a very simple recipe for the paper mache: half glue (white) and half warm water.  The final result isn't too bad.  The two greaves aren't very symmetrical (probably could improve on that if I did it over again), but they are surprisingly strong and I believe will hold up well.  Here's how I did it:

First, I wrapped my legs in plastic garbage bags so I would have something to build the paper mache off of.  Hoplite greaves should be custom-fit, so this way I would make them as accurate as possible.

I mixed my paper mache (half warm water, half white glue), mixed it well, and cut up newspapers into inch-wide strips.  I dipped the newspaper in the glue mix, used my fingers to wipe off excess liquid, and started laying the newspaper onto my shins.  I paper mache'd from my ankles to the tops of my knees, and around the sides of my calves.  I made the paper mache about 4 layers thick.  Once I had my 4 layers, I waited about half an hour so the paper mache could dry enough to stay in the shape of my leg.  Then I cut the garbage bags at the back of my leg and removed the greaves.  I let them dry completely overnight by putting them over the backs of chairs.

The next day I reinforced the greaves by putting a layer of duct tape over most of the greaves (but not the entire surface; I wanted to make sure the next layer of paper mache could fuse to the previous layer).  Then I added another 4-layer round of paper mache.

I repeated this a few more times, before I was finally satisfied with how thick and solid the greaves were.  I then cut off the excess garbage bags and trimmed the greaves into the proper shape.  It turned out I had made one of them too short, so I used duct tape to build a top (knee cap) and then put one final layer of paper mache over that (and also around the edges where I had cut the greaves out).

Once the paper mache was dry, it was time to paint the greaves.  I used an Xacto knife to make 6 holes in each greave for straps.  I used spray paint to paint the greaves brown, then a light layer of gold over that for a final bronze-ish appearance.

I made the straps out of fake leather laces, and tied double knots one one side so they wouldn't slide through the holes I had made.

Finally the greaves were finished! They aren't perfectly smooth, or shaped, but they are decently strong and were super cheap and easy to make.  It was also nice to experiment with a new medium and see how strong paper mache can be made to be if you layer it enough.

See all the Spartan Hoplite Costume articles here!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

DIY Spartan Hoplite Costume: How to Make a Spear (Dory)

 See all the Spartan Hoplite Costume articles here!
One of my favorite parts of the new Hoplite costume is a much improved spear.  Last time I made a spear out of PVC pipe and a poorly crafted wooden point, and the whole thing was painted vaguely bronze-ish.  This time I made a far prettier and sort of accurate looking spear.  The Dory is supposed to be 6-9 feet long, roughly, but it is really a pain to try to walk through doorways with a 9ft spear so I went for the shorter end of things (also Menards' materials were appropriate for a 6ft spear only).  I originally was planning on buying pre-finished hand-rail wood for the spear, but it was much more expensive than a simple wooden dowel and I determined I did not want a 9ft spear.  The dowels are very cheap, the right length for a shorter spear, and it is easy to make them look finished.  A standard Dory has a butt-spike in the back to counter the weight of the spear point, and while I did not wish to have a double bladed spear, I did want some sort of counter-balance for the spear.  I ended up using the pipe fittings because they are heavy but appropriately sized and easy to fit onto the dowel. 

6ft wooden dowel (1 inch diameter) (about $3)
Thick balsa wood (I used some left over scraps)
1inch diameter steel (possibly iron) threaded pipe joiner and 1inch diameter steel pipe cap (about $3 for both)
sand paper, duct tape, painters tape
wood stain
brown and gold spray paint

To start, I carved a piece of balsa wood into a spear point.  I used a leaf shape and made it about 7 inches long (the size of my piece of left-over balsa wood).  I sanded the edges to make it 'sharp' and more importantly to hide the ugly cutting job I did with the Xacto knife. 
I then sawed a knotch two inches into the dowel on one side to make a place to slip the balsa spear tip into (see pictures).  This required sawing into the dowel once, and then making a second cut as close to the first one as possible and removing the excess material in between (the saw blade itself was too thin to fit the balsa wood into a single cut).  I used Goop to secure the spear tip in place, and wrapped duct tape around the base of the spear tip to make a fake hilt.

Now I had to attach the counter-weight at the end of the spear.  The pipe fittings are for a 1inch pipe, which should be perfect for a 1 inch diameter spear, but that does not take into account the thickness of the metal of the pipe, so the fittings are actually just a hair too wide.  To fix this, I put a layer of duct tape around the end of the spear and then slid the fittings over.  I think I ended up with 2 layers of duct tape to make it a really tight fit.  I also used Goop to secure the pipe fittings.  Once the linker pipe fitting was set around the spear end, I threaded the cap fitting onto it to make sure it was all as secure and tight as possible.

Now that the spear tip and butt were finished, I had to paint them.  I followed my paint scheme I had used previously for fake bronze and painted both the front and end of the spear a matte brown and then applied a light coat of gold over the top of that (spray paint).  I used blue painters tape to keep the shaft from getting painted.  Once again I am quite happy with how this effect worked.

Once painted, I had only to finish the shaft of the spear.  For this I sanded the shaft, then applied a layer of wood stain.  I let it dry, sanded the shaft, then added another layer and repeated.  All done!
I'm extremely happy with how the spear turned out.  The balance is about a foot and a half to two feet from the base of the spear, which means when you hold it the spear sticks out farther without straining your arm! The Greeks were some clever folks.
See all the Spartan Hoplite Costume articles here!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

DIY Spartan Hoplite Costume: How to Make a Helmet

See all the Spartan Hoplite Costume articles here!

This year I'm re-vamping my old 300 costume and making it better and shinier!  First off, a new helmet!
Any good Spartan needs a helmet, but unfortunately I am not a metal-smith.  So I made mine out of items I had around.

Materials Used:
Heavy Gold Poster Paper (JoAnn Fabrics, about $2)
Pink Foam Board
Duct Tape
Gold Paint
Fake Feathers (black) Trim (JoAnn Fabrics, $2 with coupon)
Thin Plastic Helmet (party favor from Party America, $1)
wire (I use 14 Gauge Cerro Wire; rubber coated wires, same as from my batman costume)

Step 1) Find scaffold for helmet:  I knew I needed something to build my helmet around, and didn't want to go the same route as the batman costume (where I made a duct tape mold of my head).  So I went to Party America to try to find a cheap hat of some sort that would have enough structure to be able to build on it but not cost much.  I was fortunate to find pretty much exactly what I was looking for in the form of a $1 party favor military helmet.  It is made out of super thin plastic, but fit my head (many other options were too small) and was crazy cheap.

Step 2) Make crest:  I used Pink Foam Board to carve a crest for the helmet.  I set the helmet next to the board to get an idea of the general curve of the helmet, then cut out the foam accordingly.  It took a few alterations to get the final cut right, but since I knew I was going to cover the base with duct tape it didn't matter if it wasn't too pretty.  I glued the foam board down, then added duct tape to make sure it stayed there!

Step 3) Make Face Mask:  I used the single piece of gold poster paper for this, and actually only used half of it.  The basic idea was to first wrap the helmet entirely around with the paper to get an idea of how wide it needed to be, then cut the shape. At this time I also had to trim the edges of the plastic helmet (they made a tiny brim).  The schematic drawn here is the best explanation, but I'll also try with words alone.  To get the right fit, wrap the paper around the helmet tight enough so that the helmet stays in one place but does not bend/collapse (do not connect the two yet though).  From the inside, duct tape the paper together so that it keeps its cylindrical form.  Now flatten it, so that the seam of the paper is on one end and the front/nose of the helmet is on the other end.  Cut out the rough shape of the helmet while it is flat so that each side cuts the same (do small cuts, then put the paper back around the helmet to see how it is going).  Once you have the right shape, put the helmet and mask on to figure out where the eye holes go.  TAKE THE HELMET AND MASK OFF, then cut out small eye holes.  Test to make sure they are in the right place, then expand them.  Once you have the eye holes correct, duct tape the mask to the helmet (from the inside).  Now you can cut from the bottom of the face of the mask to the eyes (along the nose) to open the mask.  This will cause the mask cheeks to flare out, so duct tape wire to the inside of the cheeks (see schematic) and bend them back into place.

Step 4) Paint the helmet and crest.  I used a gold paint from Menards that is used to paint frames/vases/etc to make them look fancy.  The small sample jar was plenty for me to paint everything I needed (about $3).  The helmet I used was shiny plastic, so it took a lot of thick paint to cover.  Once I painted the helmet I also painted some details onto the gold paper (note: do not use too much paint or it will warp the paper).

Step 5) Now to add the feathers.  Technically I should have used horsehair, but fake feathers were much easier and cheaper.  I bought them as trim so that they were already all lined up and I wouldn't have to put them in individually.  I cut a groove into the top of the foam board crest from the back to the front and then back again (the trim is too thin if it's a single layer thick).  It took a little extra digging to make it wide enough for the trim, but once it was fitted I glued it in.  You may need to then touch up the gold paint on the crest depending on how much you have to cut. 

All done! More coming soon!  For my original DIY 300 Spartan costume, click here.  For all costume related items, click here.
See all the Spartan Hoplite Costume articles here!