Riot Graves costume construction: fin

Alrighty then, Dragon*Con is a month beyond us now, and I feel like I’ve caught up on a lot of things in terms of writing, processing pictures, more writing, and simply getting back into the swing of things. That being said, I realized that I never followed through with my promises to myself and to my seven readers that I’d do my best to chronicle the construction of the Riot Graves gun for the costume I wore at Dragon*Con, and subsequently the other costume components.

So, unlike the LeBlanc staff process that I compartmentalized into many small posts, screw that, I’m just going to go straight into covering everything I possibly can, as detailed as I can, as it came to the construction of the Riot Graves gun, as well as the armor pieces and other doodads necessary to put together the Riot Graves costume.

Admittedly, there aren’t going to be nearly as many photos as I hoped there would be, because frankly there were points during the construction where there simply wasn’t time. Either I would be against the clock against chemical pot life and cure times, or after my haphazard minor league baseball trip, I was against the clock with Dragon*Con quickly approaching. I suppose inquiring minds will have to settle with my intrepid writing abilities instead at certain points.

Photo courtesy of Joseph Chi Lin Photography

In my last post, I talked about how I felt more confident going into this gun build, based on all of the experience I accumulated when making the Mafia Graves gun from the year prior. How I knew how to plan ahead for screws and bolts, and planned accordingly to accommodate for attachment points, and where I could take shortcuts and compensate for things that weren’t going to be necessarily seen.

Now all that is true and valid, that I felt more confident and experienced going into this gun build, but I’d be lying like a politician if I said that everything went smoothly and cleanly throughout the entire process. It had its flaws and bad moments, and even one point where my gun fell, a critical area shattered, and I screamed “FFFUUUUCKK” louder than Darth Vader saying “Do not want.”

There is no end to the things you’ll learn, and nothing is ever easy. But it just makes the completion and success that much more rewarding in the end.

Like take for example, using E6000 on insulation foam. I couldn’t find the hot glue gun, and I didn’t want to use expensive and limited epoxy to bond a 1” piece to a 2” piece, so I went with this tube of E6000 I had laying around in the garage. After I bonded the pieces together, as I was sanding it down, I began to notice these odd dark spots. Upon further examination, I realized that they weren’t spots, but were actual holes. Perplexed, I didn’t remember seeing any odd holes when I put them together, but then I noticed this stretchy, plasticky residue that was running along the edges of these holes, and it occurred to me that it was the E6000, and how it was LITRALLY. Corroding the foam in some bizarre chemical reaction.

Regardless, apparently enough corroded areas managed to adhere to parts of E6000 that wasn’t causing destrucity, so the blocks held together fine. And, it would end up getting Shell Shocked together, so it wasn’t a big deal.

In fact, ironically, the corrosion that happened on the interior of this particular block ended up inadvertently working in my favor. I ended up filling up the holes with Shell Shock when it came to screw and bolt pieces together, and with screws and bolts going directly into wet Shell Shock, when it hardened and cured, it was a super-strong bond that held everything together just fine.

So, here’s an example of some of the screw points used. The screws would go through pre-drilled holes, and into either the PVC pipe, or the block shown above. In some cases, they would go directly into wet Shell Shock in the procedure just described, or if it were going through the PVC pipe, I would put a nut on the backside to secure them in place.

The “clip” of the gun was probably the most nerve-wracking part of the entire build, because of a variety of factors. It’s overall weight, difficulty in making it look cohesive, and then attaching everything together to it. It’s probably also the part of the build where more photos would have helped, but I simply couldn’t find the opportunities to take them while I was racing against the clock of cure times and the necessity to hold things together physically while things bonded and cured.

Anyway, the clip was made from two inch-thick circles of insulation foam, and seven PVC pipe extensions. The base was an even longer PVC pipe that served to be the eventual barrel of the gun itself, that built directly into the clip component itself.

A ton of measuring was necessary to find the correct circumference of the diameter of the clip to accommodate as many “shells” necessary to maintain a circular pattern as well as minimize gaps in between. Once that was established, I had hoped that I could simply bore and press down on the pipe extenders to leave indentations in the foam, so I could have precise marks of where I needed to bore out grooves for the pipe pieces to fit into. But insulation foam is supremely dense, and no amount of force (seriously, I stood on a pipe, and I weigh 188 lbs.) leaves more than a cursory mark in the foam. So I had to arduously trace all the circles for place holders of where to bore out grooves.

Using a Dremel, I bored out about 1/4” in both faces of the clip, for the pipe pieces and the base to sit in. Once everything was bored and fitted correctly, epoxy was put into the grooves to adhere the pipe to the foam faces. The picture on the right is the finished product of this stage of the build.

The picture on the left shows the barrel pipe, and how it fit into the clip. Also, notice the nuts protruding from foam; epoxy is a wonderful adhesive, but given the sheer amount of weight expected of this gun as a whole, I wasn’t comfortable with just epoxy holding things together. That being said, I decided to use some 5” bolts to go through both faces of the clip within each pipe extension, with washers and nuts on the opposite ends to reinforce the bond together. That way, if the epoxy gave out for any reason at any point, the bolts would be present to maintain the adhesion of the clip as a whole.

Eventually, I decided that I didn’t want nuts and bolt tips protruding from the clip itself, so I used a grinder bit on the Dremel to cut off about a half inch off of every bolt, and bored a half inch to both faces of the clip itself, so that both ends of the bolt would be ultimately embedded into the foam itself and hidden, when Shell Shocked over. The picture on the right shows where the bolts went into their little grooves in the foam itself, before it was covered up in Shell Shock.

Also, the rear of the gun was attached to the clip by two 1/4“ thick bolts embedded into the base block of the rear gun, with Shell Shock to reinforce and the bolts in place within the block.

Jumping ahead somewhat, this is the gun at about 90% completion. Between the previous set of photos to where this is now, there was a lot of Bondo used to patch up cracks and imperfections, and a whole lot of sanding done, to smooth things out and clean up Bondo patches. In fact, on the right side of the gun on the stock, you can actually see some un-sanded bondo on the rear.

As for the barrel of the gun, cabinet handles were used to act as the handles on the barrel itself, and the black stuff to add some depth embellishments is Eva foam, wrapped around the pipe. The tan circles are little wooden pegs found at an arts and crafts store to mimic the look of oversized rivets on the barrel.

Unseen in this picture is that staring into the 4” diameter of the barrel of the gun, is a pipe full of jagged screws and bolts with nuts attached to them. That, along with not wanting to waste paint on the interior of a pipe, about three inches into the pipe, I stuffed a circular piece of Eva foam mat into the pipe to act as a visual buffer between the unsightly interior of the pipe and what can be seen.

So that pretty much wraps up the construction of the gun. What isn’t pictured is the whole painting process (which was done with spray paint), and the tragedy of the drop of the gun, that resulted in some momentary insanity rage, but was ultimately repaired via patchwork with a shit ton of Bondo, and the weathering process (lots of black paint, water and paper towels).

The end result was an 18 pound monstrosity that was a real bitch to have to carry, but I’m very much overall pleased with how it turned out, given certain circumstances.

But now I’ll move onto other costume components, for record’s sake.

Riot Graves wears a helmet with an odd yellow visor. I’m not entirely sure why it had to be yellow, and really wish it weren’t, considering the difficulty in finding a solution for it. But anyway, I purchased a tactical SWAT helmet off of Amazon (figures), that ran me about $114, so it was admittedly an expensive costume prop. Unseen was the intricate tape job used in order to get a fairly perfect silver stripe across the entire top of the helmet, which I was very proud of in the end.

Anyway, the visor on my helmet naturally came clear, but in order to be accurate, it had to become yellow. Since it also needed to be translucent, typical paint was out of the question. I was about a click away from ordering this particular glass paint, but Jen had mentioned acetate, and then it dawned on me that vellum sheets came available in yellow.

I will say though, cutting a stencil around a curve is about one of the biggest pains in the asses ever. I actually failed my first time around, and had to end up going back to Utrect to get a second sheet of yellow so I could try again, so there was some monetary and materialistic waste that occurred in this process, but the end result was somewhat satisfactory, and I could easily remove the yellow film if I ever needed this helmet for absolutely anything else.

The armor. Initially, I thought about using a whole lot of Wonderflex, because it was easy to shape, fairly lightweight, and could be sanded and manipulated somewhat after it was shaped. But in the end, I was introduced to going with Eva foam, because it was cheap, easy to manipulate, and far easier to detail in the end.

In order of pieces, left to right: green and blue, shoulder pads. Black and white, knee, shin and instep pieces. The colors on the border are also thinner Eva foam sheets that gave the pads added depth, as well as a keen color-coding system to prevent any mix-up of components.

The really good thing about Eva foam is how easily it holds together and bonds to one another with nothing more than hot glue. Except hot glue itself can be pretty hazardous if you’re a retard like me that tries to prioritize protecting my Pergo floors by wiping off piping-hot hot glue off the floor with my bare finger.

Seriously, the remnant of this burn blister is still on my right index finger now.

Once the pads were curved and shaped, using a heat gun to heat the foam, prior to bending, came detailing. Using a heat-knife, I tried my best to match the “battle scars” from the original artwork, that was a variety of slashes, stab wounds and what appeared to be bullet holes. Oh, League of Legends.

Pictured above is the stencil I created that would be spray painted onto the front cushion of Riot Graves’ chest pad. Jen did the sewing portion of the pad for me in exchange for some sanding and detailing work on her Vi armor ultimately. If I could go back in time, this is one of the few things that I would try to improve upon, but I would have spray painted the emblem on before any of the sewing commenced. I’m okay with how it turned out, since it’s supposed to look a little weathered down and kind of worn, but I do think it could have been better.

And this is the last picture I have, before time constraints and the rush of getting everything finished put me into a shut-up-and-work mode as opposed to leisurely trying to photographically document every step of the way. But it’s a somewhat compilation of the parts that make up the costume portion of the overall costume.

Combat boots, because what’s more versatile than combat boots? The pads are in sequence, and the grenades are toys that I purchased off of Amazon, but I really wish that they were more like tear gas canisters instead explosive grenades, but apparently it’s impossible to find toy replicas of those. The belt pouches were also purchased on Amazon, as were the gloves, and then we have the finished chest and back cushions, as well as the helmet which in this picture is still unpainted.

All of these things went over navy blue work pants, and a navy blue workout shirt. The moustache is yet another detail I purchased on Amazon, and had to trim in the hotel room after putting it on.

As a whole, I’m pleased with how my costume turned out, and even more pleased to how generally well it was received by fellow LoL fans that saw me at Dragon*Con. Usually us dudes get overlooked by all of the pretty girls in our LoL groups, but I felt somewhat satisfied that I was still recognizable.

It was a lot of fun being a different variant of Graves yet again, but unless some fascinating new skin for him comes out next year, it looks like I’m going to have to switch gears and pick another character to be. I’ve already got an idea, and I’m looking forward to proceeding to start hopefully earlier than I did the previous two years.

Photo courtesy of Ruis Johnson

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