This year I decided to opt out from the boring practice of buying standardized Halloween costumes for my kids and instead build costumes myself. This Instructable is for the one I built for my son. I hope it is interesting not only because it is cool and unusual, but also as fun reading about different costume-making technologies.
The costume starts with an idea. I spent quite a while thinking what my 10-year-old boy might love. Star Wars trooper? Alien? Ninja? Well, I can probably make a decent Snow Trooper costume, but admit it: there are hordes of troopers out there on the streets and they are plain boring. I was looking for something that would stand out from the crowd; wild, ridiculous, having as much Halloween spirit as possible, and I was totally failing to come up with something cool. And when you, parents, can’t solve a problem there is only one way to proceed: ask your child.
It appeared that he already had the idea fully baked and polished in his head and the idea was a CYBORG PUMPKIN! What can be more ridiculous and Halloweeny than a Cyborg Pumpkin? I don’t know. I thought it was an awesome idea, so we both proceeded with discussing the implementation details right away.
Time to make your costume more waterproof and robust by covering it with a plastic surface.
The two popular solutions that can help you to cover surfaces with plastic are Bondo and fiberglass resin.
Fiberglass is a liquid with the consistency of corn starch. It is typically applied in combination with fiberglass cloth, but for this costume you can apply it directly on the cardboard. It cures in a few hours and forms a glossy surface that doesn't require sanding. The best way to apply it is to paint it on with a brush.
Bondo has the consistency of putty and cures in 3-5 minutes forming a gray surface that typically requires sanding. The best way to apply it is with a credit-card-sized piece of plastic. I used Bondo for most parts of the costume because it cures faster.
In order to apply the Bondo, take approximately a half-cup of gray substance from the can and mix it with a tablespoon of red oxidizer from the tube.
Keep mixing the two substances together until the mix turns into a uniform pinkish mass.
Quickly apply the mix to the cardboard, trying to make the layer of Bondo as thin and as flat as possible.
You only have 3-4 minutes to apply everything you mix. Once the mix starts curing, throw the excess away; do not try to use it. The picture shows the relatively smooth surface of the backpack – this is what it should look like. The surface on the flap was made with Bondo that had already started curing and it will require a lot of sanding to make it look OK.
If you put the arm armor on and try to bend your arm you will see that the two parts of the armor collide with each other. In order to avoid this, cut triangular sections off both pieces of armor. Check out the photos for details.
Give the armor 1-2 days to cure and dry completely. Cold, wet weather will make this process longer, so you can use a fan and a space heater to speed it up.
Once the armor is ready, sand it to a smooth surface. I initially wanted a mirror-like surface (i.e., absolutely flat), but a partially-flat surface resembling molten steel appeared to look even better.
Sandpaper, sponge and net are great tools for preparing the surface, but an oscillating power tool is probably the best.
Please note that applying, sanding and painting Bondo require a respirator and, preferably, latex gloves and safety goggles.
Once sanding is complete and you have the surface and texture you like, prepare it for spray-painting. Choose a nice warm day or night and a good place outdoors that you can cover with cardboard boxes. Do not paint without a respirator, and do it in a well-ventilated area.
Painting with spray paint is not difficult. Just spray and pray it will look good. :) Apply the paint in multiple thin layers rather than one thick coat. Also, paint the parts of the costume covered with plaster if you still have areas not covered with Bondo.
It takes at least one day for the paint to dry. Do not bring it home until then or the smell will make your life unpleasant.
Once the costume's smell goes away (at least, most of the smell), add the small elements to it.
In the photo you can see that I glued back the collar (it made it very difficult to apply Bondo, so I ripped it off along with other small details), added a PCB on the front and a piece of plastic pumpkin to the back.
Time to weaponize the cyborg. Most of its weapon will be integrated into that elongated section of left arm armor. Lefties will probably want to mirror this design. One way or another it's best to keep at least one hand available for safety reasons.
Cut the front side of the armor diagonally to make it look cooler.
Now, maintaining the same angle of approximately 20 degrees, drill two holes and insert a dowel into the armor like it is shown in the photo.
The dowel will serve as a handle and it is more natural for your hand to hold a handle at an angle rather than vertically.
In order to make the entire weapon system more colorful I used LEDs of different colors. This complicated things a bit because every different type of LED required a different resistance, but in the end the effort paid off.
The main weapon is made from a daylight lamp container tube. I used two bottle caps to install a flashlight inside. The flashlight uses a Cree Q5 LED and produces a ridiculously-bright beam of light.
The red weapon is mounted on the left side of the armor. It uses the same kind of large plastic tube as the main weapon, but this tube was blended with the armor when I was covering everything with Bondo. One part of the tube was masked with tape. I sanded this tape to make it semi-transparent.
On the handle I also mounted 4 buttons. They are not connected to the LEDs directly. Instead, all LEDs and buttons are soldered to one end of a UTB-5 cable that terminates with a regular RJ-45 connector and goes to the central hub located in the backpack.
In order to protect the spectators I bent all the teeth inwards.
In order to protect the precious one wearing this costume, I also installed five pieces of different PCBs. Five pieces were required instead of one to create this curvy shape that would perfectly align with the helmet.
Two holes were drilled in the PCBs to let the wearer see and breathe.
Pretty much as with motorcycle helmets, this helmet requires some padding to fix it on the head. It takes plenty of tests, but in the end a bunch of pieces of foam do the trick.
I have two strips installed against the forehead, two small pieces on the back, two white pieces on the sides and two more pieces to insulate the mouth area from noises. Why? Keep reading and you will find out.
The bottom part of the costume had to be very mobile to let the owner to take a break from carrying 10 pounds of recycled materials on his shoulders.
The solution happened to be a simple one. My son had his Prison Break jumpsuit left over from last Halloween and it perfectly matched the pumpkin's color. We added a few pieces of aluminum and some spiders and the cyborg pants were ready.
The last undecorated piece of the costume was the right hand.
To make it look more mutanty and cyborgy I added a bottle cap, a few pieces of transparent plastic tubing and two LEDs.
I drilled five holes in the cap for the tubing going to the five fingers, plus one larger hole going towards the wrist.
Inside the cap I added aluminum foil to prevent light leaking through the top of the cap and installed two fast-flashing RGB LEDs. One was pointed towards the wrist pipe and the other, diffused, towards the finger pipes.
Finally, I fixed the pipes on the fingers with a bunch of rings made from the flashing.
The final part of the costume is the place where all the wires go.
All of the wires go to the backpack. It contains all the electronics mounted on a single tiny PCB and a power source consisting of three AA rechargeable batteries. Surprisingly, this was enough to drive the costume for more than 2 hours!
All UTP5 cables ended in RJ45 plugs. This is a very convenient solution that allows donning the costume piece by piece. It also greatly simplifies debugging.
I color-coded the ports so that it is easier to find them in the dark.
The suit also contains a bunch of integrated LEDs and all of them terminate in two JST connectors.
I don't have a schematic for the mess on the back side of the board, but you don't need one because every suit will have its own layout of LEDs. Just don't forget the resistors; otherwise, half of your LEDs will burn out very quickly.
There was actually one more completely standalone electrical system in the costume: the voice changer.
I mounted it on the left shoulder with velcro tape. The speaker was glued to the armor near the port where the cables from the helmet enter the main armor. Finally, the microphone was glued into the helmet and its wires were routed along the other cables.
In parallel with the speaker I added an LED to add visual effects to the cyborg's speech.
The board actually carries four JST connectors. Two supply the armor LEDs, one provides power to The Claw and the last one leads to the inverter for the EL wire. The suit has 6m (18ft) of EL wire hot-glued around the main armor.
We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish.