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maandag 13 juli 2015

Dwarven Boots

Yay, finally another blog post! It's been quite a while, I know. The past few months, we have been very busy in our new house. My girlfriend and me bought a house and sold our apartment, we now finally have enough space for all our hobbies. With all the painting and moving and unboxing finally (more or less) behind us, I started making some cool stuff again!
Some of my very first projects on this blog were my Dwarven hammer and helmet. Now, I made a pair of matching boots. This is my first project using EVA (ethyl vinyl acetate) foam, a material that's very popular for making all sorts of armour.

  • Pair of rubber boots
  • Cling wrap
  • Duct tape
  • Masking tape 
  • Permanent marker
  • EVA foam (1 cm thick mats, and a few thin sheets)
  • Leather (you can use real leather if you want, I used imitation leather
  • Contact cement
  • Cyano acrylate glue
  • Box cutter
  • Dremel multitool
  • Heat gun
  • Acrylic gesso
  • Acrylic paints
  • Sponge (cheap, disposable one, no need for fancy natural sponges)
  • Paintbrushes
  • Short piece of PVC tube (1 cm diameter)
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
Getting started
I didn't make boots from scratch, of course, I used some cheap rubber rain boots as a base. When using boots like these, make sure to get them one size bigger than your regular shoe size! Putting foam and other stuff on them makes them less flexible and harder to take off.
I wanted to put armour plating on the toe, heel and shin, and coat the rest in leather. The problem with boots is that they flex a lot, and putting EVA foam on those parts is quite difficult. It requires a lot of experimenting, and even then there's a good chance the paint will start cracking and peeling off very soon. So instead, I decided to put foam only on the parts that don't flex and move a lot.
First, I needed to make patterns for the foam parts. I first wrapped one boot in cling wrap, followed by duct tape. Next, I drew the pattern for the foam parts on the tape and cut them out.

The pattern is copied on paper, cut out and transferred on a piece of foam. You'll have to compensate for the thickness of the foam a bit. For example, I made the shin piece a bit wider, because it wraps around the boot. This requires a bit of experimentation, but luckily, EVA foam is cheap.
Most EVA foam mats have some sort of texture on them, wich you need to remove. It doesn't need to be perfectly smooth, but smooth enough so you can glue it. The perfect tool for this would be a bench sander, but I don't have one, so I used my Dremel multitool with a sanding bit. For small parts this works, but don't do this if you want to make a complete Iron Man suit...

The toe cap was a bit more difficult. I had to make a few cuts into it so I could form it into the correct shape (and of course, I forgot to take pictures of it). To do this, gently heat it with a heat gun (and be careful not to burn your fingers) and bend it. The cuts are then glued together with contact cement. It didn't really look perfect, so I smoothed it out a bit with my Dremel, but since there will be another layer of foam on top of it, it's no big deal. The cap was glued on the toe of the boot, with another strip of foam underneath it to conceal the light-coloured sole of the boot.

Here are the boots with the first layer of foam glued on. A second, thin layer will be glued on top of this.

Again, I needed to make patterns for this. Wrapping the entire boot in tape wasn't really an option anymore, so I used masking tape. A real pain in the ass, since it doesn't stick to itself nearly as good as duct tape, and you have to be very, very careful when peeling it off.
The pattern is transferred to thin EVA foam (the stuff you can buy at craft stores), cut out and glued on top of the thick foam.

The same thing was done for the shin and heel piece, and then some final decorations were added. The toe cap and the top part needed some rivets. These were made by glueing two pieces of thin EVA foam together, and then punching discs out of it. I made a punching tool out of a piece of PVC tube. The discs were then sanded into a rivet shape and glued on. For the shin armour, I made a knot-like pattern.

With all the foam in place, I started painting. First, the foam was coated with a layer of gesso primer. I applied it with a sponge. This prevents brush strokes, and it created a very interesting rough texture, wich came in handy later on. The gesso was followed by a layer of grey paint.

Flat grey paint looks too boring, of course, so it was followed by a second layer. I mixed grey with some black to darken it, and a bit of burnt umber to give it a slightly brownish shine. This was applied thinly with a sponge, so the base colour shows through in some places.
The next two steps made a huge difference. First, I applied a wash using thinned black paint. I painted the recessed areas and around the rivets, and then wiped the excess away with a damp cloth. Second, I drybrushed silver over it. This is where the texture created by the sponge really came in handy!

Here's the final result of the paint job. Time for the next step!

The rest of the boots is coated with leather (in my case, imitation leather, real leather is too expensive and imitation leather looks good enough). At first I wanted to make all the pieces of leather match up as seamlessly as possible, but that's an almost impossible task. So instead, I made them overlap slightly.
Like with the foam parts, I started with making patterns using masking tape, and then cut out the leather. While I was at it, I got another idea. I was going to glue the leather on, but if I put on some stitches first, it would look like it was sewn together! I took out the sewing machine I bought my girlfriend for her birthday a few years ago, and started putting stitches around the edges.

The leather was glued on using contact cement. Pretty straightforward, only the leg piece was a bit difficult. I made a single piece that wrapped all around the leg, and it wasn't easy to make it match closely to the shin armour. It would have been better if I split this into several pieces.

The final result
Here's the result of my work! For a first-time project like this, I think it turned out pretty ok. 

I wore the boots for half a day yesterday at Magic Fair, a small outdoor convention, and an ideal test run for Elf Fantasy Fair in September, where I will be wearing them for a full day!
I definitely need to fix one thing. The upper edges were quite painful on my calves, so I need to put some soft material on it to soften them, I'm thinking about a strip of fake fur. Also, the toe cap came loose a bit. It's still firmly attached to the boot, but it loosened a bit on top of my foot, where the boot flexes the most.
The paint held up pretty ok. Some minor flaking near the soles, as I more or less expected, but nothing that can't be fixed. I have a few ideas in mind to strengthen these areas and make it more durable.
I'm also happy to announce I finally managed to convince my girlfriend to dress up as a dwarf as well, so I'll be making some more Dwarven props in the coming weeks!

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