WWWIP 2019-2020: Kyle's Week 5 Progress
Hello fellow winter crafters! Kyle here with our fifth week of progress. Last week I cut out the armor pieces in 10mm Lumin's Workshop Hard-Lite foam, and this week I am going to dremel sand all of the bevel edges into the foam so that they will be ready to assemble next week. If you’ve never used a dremel before, I will cover some basics as I go.
Before starting, make sure that your workspace can contain a mess. The dust created from sanding EVA foam is lightweight so it can easily fly outwards and collect almost anywhere within 5-10 feet of your dremel. A table in a corner or next to an empty wall is ideal, so that it will limit the dust travel. You can also dremel over a trash can, but some dust will still escape onto nearby surfaces. My setup is in the middle of a larger room, so I may end up having to sweep a bit more as a result.
Because of how easily the EVA foam dust travels, you will want to wear safety goggles and a respirator mask. You will absolutely inhale EVA foam dust if your mouth isn’t sufficiently covered. There are a number of horror stories out there for people who have developed breathing problems from sanding without wearing proper safety equipment so PLEASE do yourself a favor and invest in a respirator and goggles if you don’t already own them.
Onto the Dremel itself. A good dremel will likely run you between $50-100 by itself, but for cosplay it is absolutely worth the investment to also buy a flex shaft. The Dremel on its own is bulky, and will wear out your arm very quickly. The flex shaft is an extension for your dremel which gives you a much smaller end piece for your dremel bits to connect to. Since the dremel will vibrate a lot while in use, the best way to use a flex shaft is to hang your dremel off of a stand. Dremel sells its own stands like the one pictured for a reasonable price, but you can probably make your own for cheaper as well.
Here are a couple of standard sanding head options for a dremel. The bigger sander heads have replaceable sandpaper cylinders and are good for sanding the bulk away. The smaller stone grinder points are meant for harder surfaces like metal, but the finer grit and small size makes them good for details. You can buy them in a few different sizes at most hardware stores as well as online.
Once we have our setup ready, let's take a quick look at our armor pieces. I added guidelines to my laser cuts so that I will have an easy reference to where my bevel ends. If you are drawing your patterns onto foam by hand, you can make copies of the pattern pieces used for tracing, draw your bevel lines onto the copies, and then trim away the edge so that you can easily replicate your bevel onto the foam without error. This is especially useful when you have multiples of the same piece. I always recommend making copies of your patterns for these kinds of alterations so that you have an original pattern to fall back to if you need to backtrack or start over.
The first rule of dremelling is to go slow. Always make short, shallow passes away from you. This isn’t as much for safety, but for control. You’ll notice that right as you first put dremel to foam, the spinning of the head will naturally push the dremel outwards away from you. If you try to dremel towards yourself you are fighting that spinning direction, which may cause you to sand off too much. If you need to sand different angles, rotate the piece you are holding so you can maintain your outward sanding motion.
Here’s a look at one of the backplates. Rather than trying right away to dremel the angles into the bottom, I first dull away the edges, slowly taking more and more away until I have more room to carefully use the edge of my dremel for angles.
If you accidentally dremel farther than your guideline or nick your outermost edge, don’t panic. You can usually sand up to a few extra millimeters into your edges without impacting the overall shape or fit of your pattern pieces. Notice that I am demonstrating this on a scrap rather than my actual armor pieces. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, practicing on a scrap is a very good way to build confidence through experience. You can intentionally make mistakes like this and then learn how to fix them without the pressure of failure.
If you are wanting to create weathering or battle damage effects on your armor, you can make imperfections look intentional by exaggerating them into a scar or dent. I recommend saving this decision until after you have finished your initial bevelling. I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to fix an imperfection by sanding the whole edge down to match, and then slipped and put another nick in afterward. It’s easier to decide how you want to proceed in stages as you sand, so that you can either fix multiple imperfections at the same time, or turn them into battle damage at the end.
If you are dremelling edges that you will glue together afterwards, be sure to consistently pause and hold the two pieces together to make sure they still line up nicely. You would be surprised at how quickly and easily one piece will differ from the other while sanding, so the more frequently you check them to each other, the more accurate your finished seam line will be when they are attached.
In a similar vein, keep all of your pieces that overlap in layers close and observe how each bevel looks compared with the others. Individually the bevels may look the same, but when you go to attach your layers you might suddenly discover that one bevel is different than the others and have to go back to fix it. The guidelines will help you a lot with this, but the act of consistently comparing the current piece you’re working on to your others will help you to see the bigger picture and minimize your mistakes. I think I can speak for us all by saying that some of the most mentally draining mistakes made in crafting come from working on pieces separately and then only noticing their incompatibility with each other when you go to assemble your armor at the finish line.
And here’s a look at all of the beveled pieces at the end of my week. Thank you for reading this week’s progress blog! Next week we will begin assembling the armor pieces.