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 A Tutorial on Working With Darts: Codplate Edition

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Kol Varek

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  • Beanpole (Formerly Kol Var'Das)
  • Awards Award for 25 official invasions. 11+ Invasion Report Appearances Award for 10 official invasions. Clan with the most recorded invasions in 2016/2017 Celebration Orlando 2017
A Tutorial on Working With Darts: Codplate Edition
« on: Jul 28, 2021, 04:42 PM »
I've been dreading the day that I'd have to attempt an armor build involving curved, pointed surfaces for a long time. I'll admit that I dreaded the day when it came time to help a female member with their armor due to my inexperience with working with darts, as well as my disdain for Bondo. For those not familiar, Bondo body filler has virtually zero strength and does not hold up well to abuse at all. So when the time came to bite the bullet and make a better codplate for my mando, needless to say I procrastinated for quite a long time until I finally sucked it up and did it. It's worth noting that this is my SECOND time making this plate since the first one (which was completed) got lost in a move. As much as that sucked, it gave me an opportunity to refine a process I had first attempted on the first codplate I made, as well as give better documentation of the process. Anywho, here's how it goes.

The codplate I'm making is from a Death Watch animated template. Unfortunately, this is the only image I took of the codplate prior to working on the darts.

IMPORTANT NOTE: My armor is made from 6mm sintra, meaning I have a lot of room for sanding material.

Okay, so here's the supply list of everything I used...

....yeah. This is it. I had to run through my process two or three times to make sure, but aside from my bandsaw for initially cutting out the plate, this is everything I used to get my part from raw plastic to formed and finished pre-painted armor. I don't use exotic or expensive parts or tools, I think the priciest bit of hardware I used is the bandsaw which retailed for under $200 new. (I strongly recommend buying a bandsaw if you haven't, they're godsends).

When you heat your armor with the heat gun, you at least want the tabs touching at the ends, coming together as close as physically possible. Once that's done, I apply PVC cement to fuse and bond them together. I've had folks talk about using E6000, epoxies, or other adhesives for sintra and PVC (same thing, really). PVC cement should really be your go-to. PVC cement only costs $6 and will create a strong bond with the plastic, essentially making it one piece.

Once the cement is applied, I start to whittle a small piece of PVC scrap, just like one would whittle wood. I take the shavings and press them into the gaps, almost like railroad spikes. I try to fill as many gaps, big or small, as possible. Once they're wedged in, I apply more PVC cement.

A couple of things to note: I'm not worried about the scraps lining up flush with the plate, nor am I concerned with those two end fangs protruding further forward than the inner tabs. That's all stuff that can be fixed with trimming and sanding.

Once I have my scraps filling as many of the gaps as possible, I trim the tabs with a razor blade from a box cutter, trying to cut as much away as possible without cutting the plate.

Doesn't have to be perfect. This step is all about filling as much empty space as possible, so we use as little filler as possible later. By having plastic adhered inside the gaps, it makes this section much stronger and durable.

The next step was something I didn't try on the first codplate, but experimented with on this one. I took some super glue and applied it to the very thin gaps in between the wedged scraps and the edges of the tabs, including the corners where the tabs branch out from the plate. I fill them one at a time, and then sand over the glue and gaps with 150 grit sandpaper before the glue dries. What I am doing with this process is mixing the super glue with the plastic dust to create more bonded plastic in between the gaps.

Note: If possible, try to minimize how much PVC cement and super glue you get on areas not in the crevices. It'll save you a lot of cleanup time when it comes to sanding and refining later.

The last step is probably the most time and sweat-intensive. I start by taking a dremmel with a sanding bit and hitting the edges flat to eliminate the striations left by my bandsaw blades. I then begin sanding the edges of the plate, eliminating the edges and rounding the edge all the way to the flat surface of the plate. I do this on both the visible side as well as the inside, going over the edges until there are no angled edges, only a smooth, rounded edge. I also carefully hit the raised edges of the darts and shavings, as well as taking the time to carefully grind down those tabs I mentioned earlier so that all the tabs are now flush with one another. Move very slow and careful with this step. My goal is NOT to get everything 100% flush and finished with the dremmel. It's very easy to overdo it, especially if you're either not as experienced with dremmels, working with a thin material like 3mm sintra or 3D printed materials, or both.

Once I finish with the dremmel, then it's time for some elbow grease. 150 grit sandpaper first, going over the plate edges and making sure that the bevel meets flush with the surface, showing no point where one ends and the other begins. The more time you spend refining the edges, the better your finished product will look. It's the attention to little details like this that take a build from good to great. I hit all the edges and sand them as flush as possible, then I rough up the flat surface of the plate by first sanding vertically, then going in circles to remove the vertical striations. I do this to both help make everything look more flush and uniform, as well as remove the protective coating before paint.

Lastly, I go over with 400 and 500 grit sandpaper to make everything nice and smooth like glass. This is a finishing step, so everything should be pretty much where it should be by this point. What's really cool about this process is that only the top two dart gaps are really showing at this point, the other two dart gaps are essentially filled and barely visible.

For further reference to the edge sanding, here is one of those shoulder plates with a completed sanding job on the edges. Soooooo smooth.

And finally, a shot to show the "finished" codplate.

Also worth noting that this process was all completed in a couple hours time. While I WILL still need to apply body filler, it is much less than I would have to use otherwise. At this point, I may be better off using spot putty rather than Bondo, but who knows.

If you insist on wielding a hammer, you better be sure you can correctly identify a nail.

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