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Armor Assorted Tips and Tutorials by Thel

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Thel Ihveen

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Assorted Tips and Tutorials by Thel
« on: Aug 10, 2017, 11:02 PM »
After a few people asking how I did certain things, I'm deciding I'd like to put up a few tutorials documenting how I make my kit! I'm incredibly grateful to all the people on here who have shared their WIP logs and documented their techniques, and I'd love to pay it forward and help the next person out. I would post how-to's individually, but I've already got at least three of them written and creating threads for each one would clutter up the boards...

I don't have photos taken or pictures drawn for the chest display yet, but here's what I did! I'll try and draw some diagrams soon!


This tutorial is based off the display I made for my kit, which was intended as a placeholder until I got a more expensive set of lights. However, due to my size, I doubt any ready-made panel will fit my plates, plus I really like this thing, so for now it’s going to stay. It cost me about $13 for the EL wire, which was for another project (my visor) but ended up not being used. Everything else I already had laying around.

This display is static, meaning it does not change, which will look as great in pictures as any other display, and looks good in person as well. However, if you have your heart set on a dynamic, changing display, this tutorial won’t do much for you.

You’ll need:
•   Flexible EL wire – the brightest you can get. Costs about $15 at a party store or online.
•   Black electrical tape, and/or very opaque black paint.
•   A very small x-atco knife.
•   A hot glue gun.
•   Regular clear tape or packing tape (clear)
•   A black or dark gray alcohol marker (optional)
•   A cutting board
•   Scissors
•   Industrial sticky Velcro (optional)
•   Rudimentary drawing skills, pencil, and paper
•   A piece of clear, rigid plastic – clear packaging works wonderfully.
•   A nail buffing block – about $1 at most stores
•   Vellum paper or tracing paper, if you’ve got it (optional)
•   Good fine-motor coordination. (required)

Before you start cutting wires, you’ll need to get a good idea what size your display slots are and how you’re going to fill them. Place a small piece of paper behind your slots and trace the insides of them to give you your correct sizing. Next, remove the paper and start doodling what your displays will say. It helps to divide the space into however many digits you want, and then draw as many LCD-style “8”s as you want. Then, erase the cells you want to keep black, leaving only the cells you want to light up. For the top, you can draw small squares or rectangles, as many as you want. Because Boba’s is the only strictly canon display of that type, who knows what other mando’ade have on their chests? Choose whatever looks good to you.

Next, take your electrical tape and tape over the display cutouts on your armor. If your holes are wider than the width of the tape, overlap the strips by about ¼”. Remove the strips and then cover the sticky side with another layer of tape, leaving you with a black opaque rectangle of tape. If you have very dark ink – a paint marker, heavy paint, thick india ink, etc, - you can skip this step.

Now, take your tape rectangle and cut your paper drawings to size – smaller than the black rectangles. Tape them on top of the rectangles, then tape the whole thing down to a cutting board so it doesn’t move. Begin cutting your pieces out where you drew them – press down with the tip of your knife to go through both the paper and all the tape. This is a very finicky process – if you make a mistake, don’t worry! You can fix it with a small piece of tape laid over the problem area. Cut out all the cells and shapes, then make sure you’ve removed all the extra little pieces. This will leave you with a piece of tape that looks like a stencil.

***OPTIONAL PAPER VERSION: If you’re not using electrical tape, and instead using a dark ink/paint/marker, first make sure it will block all light out. Any scratches or thin spots that leak light are a dead giveaway, and ruin the LCD illusion. For this method, find a piece of tracing paper or transparent vellum paper (usually available in the scrapbooking section of your local craft store) and cut it slightly bigger than your design. Make you’re your lights can be seen through it well – if not, it may be too opaque. Tracing paper works great. Take a fine pen and trace around the outside of your “glow” bits – don’t draw where they’ll be. Then, take your black medium of choice and color in everything that won’t be glowing, blacking it out. Go over things a few times to get the right darkness, then cover it a layer of packing tape to keep it rigid. If you want do dull down a few cells with the gray/black marker, do so now instead of later by drawing directly on the paper.

Next, you’ll prepare your plastic cover. This is the diffuser that will make your EL wire look… not like EL wire. Cut the plastic to the right size – larger than your cutouts and your tape – and begin rubbing it with the nail buffer. Start at a finer grit and then work up to a coarser one if you feel it’s not working. This will frost your plastic, making it no longer totally clear. Don’t go too rough with the sanding – you want it to be frosted, not scuffed-looking. ***FOR OPTIONAL PAPER VARIANT: Only frost one side of the plastic. If you’re using vellum or transparent paper that’s already frosted, you can skip the frosting step and only use your plastic as a base to adhere everything to.

Now, take your clear packing tape and lay it across your “stencils”, leaving extra around the edges. Using that extra, tape your stencils down to the frosted plastic, on the smooth side. From here, you can do some interesting techniques – for my upper bar, I chose to partially black out a few of the squares, to look like there was a blip of light moving from one end to another. Using an alcohol marker, you can apply various strokes to the tape, then smear it with your finger. Depending on your tape, the area may need light buffing to get a good grit. Layer these fine strokes quickly until the desired darkness is achieved, then cover the whole thing with another layer of packing tape to lock in the color.

Now, make sure your EL wire is flexible enough to bend in the desired way. Do a few test bends – if it snaps or stops lighting up properly, you may need different wire. Make sure to glue to the rough side of the clear plastic. Starting at the top of the panel, begin laying wire horizontally, using thin layers of hot glue to stick it down as you go. As you go to turn the wire, you can create a circle, like a hairpin’s turn, to ease the pressure on the wire. You want it to be as closely packed as possible. When you’re done laying the wire, cover the whole back with some more glue, smoothing as you go, to keep it all together.

Once you’re satisfied with your display, hot glue it to the inside of your chest plate. The hot glue is easily removable, so no worries if you decide to upgrade further. Cut a small hole underneath your chest plate for the wire - don't worry, it'll be hidden under your plates! You can usually disconnect the battery box from the rest of your wire by using the little clip near the box on your wire set. Thread your wire through the small hole and re-connect to the box. For storage, I like to keep my battery box disconnected, so I can replace the batteries easily (I store them outside the box to keep 'em fresh).

The battery box for your wire should be relatively small – most sets run on smaller batteries like AA or AAA – and you may be able to mount it on the bottom edge of your vest using sticky Velcro, allowing you to reach up the vest to turn the lights on and off. If you’re mounting it using sticky Velcro, make sure to keep the button of the box freely accessible. My box lives directly centered underneath my ab plate. If your vest is too tight, your box too big, or you just don’t want to deal with the thing in your clothing, you can run the cord to your sash/ammo belt to hide there. Be sure to use your electrical tape to wrap all your unused wire so it doesn’t glow through your vest, and back the panel with some tape as well so light doesn’t leak out. If your remaining EL wire is too long (it probably is) zig-zag it back on itself a few times until the desired length is reached, then wrap it in tape to secure it.

There you have it – your very own dirt-cheap chest display! Depending on your EL wire, you may decide to upgrade to a brighter string. I know I’m considering it – some EL wire displays may not show up well in full bright sunlight, though they look great indoors and best in low light. If you decide to change your wire, simply pop your wire off the back of your plastic sheet and glue a new strand on.

Thanks for reading!

« Last Edit: Jan 21, 2018, 03:50 PM by Hik'aari Kelborn » Logged

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