There comes a time when a man must build his son a suit. Our time had arrived the day my son got to see the Marvel Iron Man movies. At first we only planned to let him run around with a toy helmet and arc reactor on his shirt, and we got a break finding both the Iron Man 2 Mission Helmet and Arc Reactor on Amazon. But then the boy discovered the joys of recycling and crafting on Art Attack, and he made an inevitable conclusion: wouldn't it be cool to recycle all this cardboard and styrofoam and turn it into a suit?
The idea is to tape the printed patterns to your sheet of foam to help you cut out each piece. Next, use a hot glue gun to connect the pieces together as they match up in Pepakura Viewer. Some pieces need to be bent or curved into place to join with the edges they are meant to stick to. As the gloves might be too restrictive for kids' hands if they were made solid, I used craft foam so that they could flex Since the craft foam is thin, it's good to reinforce the joins with extra strips of foam. It took about 3 hours to put together a pair of these gloves.The glove alone has three pages and around 40 pieces. And you have to make a pair of course, and a pair of shoulders, biceps, elbows, forearms. And then there are front and back chest pieces, then shins, boots, the list went on. It was immediately apparent this was not a two-week project, so I had to prioritize.
The glove was one of the easy parts. The back piece, for example, was really complex, ten pages of pieces that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle that you had to bend in three dimensions to fit. This was easy with the gloves since the craft foam I used was just a couple of millimeters thick. For the rest of the suit, I needed to use thicker EVA foam for it to survive an outing with an especially active 5-year-old. Through some googling, I found a post on japinoy.com that mentioned a supplier, E. Estanislao, in Marikina City that sold thick EVA foam in large sheets (2 x 4 feet), used as raw material for yoga mats and flip-flops. What I used was 8-10 mm thick. Since it's foam it is still easy to cut through with a box cutter but much harder to bend into shape. It was also harder to fit together, since the parts are thicker, joining them means it is more important to shape the edges in a way that they will have surfaces that fit. Just cutting out the pieces straight meant more work trimming or filling the gaps that come out once the pieces meet. In hindsight, 4-6 mm foam would have been easier to work with and sturdy enough given how the pieces interlocked.
Sometimes you have to improvise. Since I wanted to drop the Arc Reactor toy into the chest piece, I had to create a foam ring in the back to keep the chest piece fastened with friction. I also added Velcro strips in places so that the chest, shin and forearm pieces could be donned and doffed easily. After some test fittings I also found that the hot glue didn't always keep the pieces together, so I lined the inside of some parts with ever-reliable duct tape.
Before painting, you have to coat the foam pieces with some sort of sealant. One recommendation was easily doable though laborious: 6 coats of craft or wood glue diluted 50%. It worked well enough. I used two coats of automotive paint in metallic red for all of the parts, and an extra clear metallic topcoat. To be more accurate, there are parts that are in gold and silver, for a two-week job that had to meet a deadline, an all-red paintjob was enough.
It took maybe 72 person hours over two weeks to finish building all the parts of my son's suit. And it wasn't a full suit! We were able to do the chest and back pieces, shoulders, forearms, shins and gloves. The last parts were painted on the day of my son's Halloween party, so it was really down the wire, but we made it! Since it wasn't a full suit, and to avoid itching, he also needed to wear a jumpsuit under the armor. Ironically the Iron Man costume jumpsuits could have worked, but they were way too expensive, so we picked up a DC Comics "The Flash" jumpsuit instead, and the armor covered most of it enough, except for the lightning bolts on the sides. Apologies to the fanboys screaming sacrilege now.
The only issues were with the gloves (craft foam made it easy to break) and the toy helmet, it was too heavy in practice to run around in for our 5-year-old and the weight seemed more suited to an older child. Nevertheless, the little boy had a blast, and the suit was comfortable enough for him to play in. The other kids also seemed to have a great time having Iron Man Mini around and couldn't stop poking his Arc Reactor, looking over every detail in the armor, and asking him to wear his helmet. This annoyed the boy a little, but that's the price of fame.
Imagine the kind of attention he would have gotten if he also wore Tony Stark's 'stache and beard!
- Download Pepakura Viewer 3: http://www.tamasoft.co.jp/pepakura-en/download/viewer.html
- Download Darkside501st's Iron Man Mk 7 Template: http://www.therpf.com/f24/darkside501sts-iron-man-mk-vii-pepakura-files-139470/
- E.Estanislao (EVA foam): http://eestanislaogenmdse.redpages.ph/companyprofile.html
Much respect to the copyright owners:
- Marvel for the Iron Man movies
- Black Sabbath for "Iron Man"
- AC/DC for "Shoot to Thrill"
- Jack Urbont for "Iron Man Theme"
- No infringement intended, just enjoyment!