Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Malachite's legs tutorial - Steven Universe

Hey guys! I recieve so many questions on a daily basis on how I made my extra legs for my Malachite cosplay, so I think it’s time to make a short tutorial. Let’s get started!

Materials used;
Aluminium metal piece/stick
Thin metal pipes
Aluminium duct
Pipe insulation
2 “locked” wheels (two direction wheels)
Expanding foam
Upholstery cotton
Spandex fabric
Duct tape
Optional: Plastic pipe

Hot glue gun
A good saw (preferrably an industrial saw)
Some good clamps
General tools (drills, hammer, screwdriver etc)

The first thing I did was make a small sketch of what I wanted to build. I had an idea that I needed to make a skeleton for the legs since I wanted them to move and ”walk” and be sturdy enough. So my sketch looked something like this.

After that, I used the plastic pipes and duct tape to build a prototype of the skeleton. This isn’t anything I would use in my final product, but it was actualyl a good idea to build a prototype in full scale to try, because I found a lot of measurements and placements that looked off which I fixed until the prototype looked like I wanted it to.

After that I started building the skeleton. When it was done it looked somewhat like this;

The spine is made out of aluminium, because it’s light weight and very sturdy. I covered it with a thick aluminium duct to make the torso hollow and hence even more light weight. The legs are bade out of metal pipes that I hammered into a bent form. The wheels are detachable for easy transportation. I used fixed wheels which can only move back and forth because it gave the legs a better stability than wheels that can spin 360 degrees.

The torso is loosely attached to the legs with a pair of screw nuts, making the torso able to move left and right.
The torso ends in a curve that follows the small of my back. I’ll come back to this later!

With the skeleton finished, I started working on the body. I used expanding foam for this, because it’s easy to carve into various shapes once it’s dry. Reminder though that expanding foam is very toxic, don’t use it inside and please use proper protection equipment!
I carved out the leg and torso shapes out of the expanding foam to get the general shape. But it’s hard to get a smooth surface with ONLY expanding foam, which is why I decided to cover the legs and torso in upholstery cotton.

This photo looks so macabre, haha. I attached the cotton all over the body using hot glue. This is just to get a smooth surface over the foam and make the legs a bit spongy. I made sure to cover enough for it to look good, but still enabling me to reach the nuts at the end of the spine and the wheels, since I wanted to be able to adjust them if needed.

This is what Malachite’s butt looked like when I stuffed it. /cue laughter

This is the end of the spine, the part that will hold up the legs and attach it to me. I trilled three holes in it, because I wanted to make completely sure that the kidney belt (yes) that was gonna work as fastening would be properly attached, and I have a big distrust for glue.

This is a kidney belt! I got it from my boyfriend’s father. A kidney belt is used in various motor sports to prevent your intestines from wandering about when you’re travelling in high speed. Yes. But I used it like a friendly corset. See, a kidney belt can work like a corset but is ten times more comfortable, safe and easy to attach. I sewed this belt onto the end of the spine. So to attach the legs to me, I simply put on the kidney belt. I had a small hole in my bodysuit where the aluminium spine could enter :D This hole is covered by the black bodice when I wear the full costume. 
After this I simply covered the legs and torso with spandex and sewed on the stripes. The black bodice is snapped closed using velcro and buttons around my waist and legs, the velcro hidden under the yellow diamond at the front :D

Now the feet/hands of the hind legs are made out of upholstery foam/mattess foam which I carved into hands and covered with fabric. I used the same pattern for these hands as I did for the ones I attached to a pair of shoes and wore on my real legs. The feet/hands on the back legs are hollow so the wheel can roll freely inside them.

Now, about the movement. Fastened to my real legs, I have invisible string, so called fishing string, which is insanely strong and almost completely invisible. These lines go from my feet to the fake hind feet, making the legs move as I walk. zbr>
I have a video of this which you can find here here;

And this is how the legs looked when finished!
This was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever created, because the construction of the skeleton was much harder than it sounds. Things such as balance, durability and movement ability are VITAL when making this sort of thing. I had a huge help in having a big workshop to work in, with industrial machines and a big variety of materials. My boyfriend also helped out by animating a digital model of the legs and their movement, which helped a lot.And my boyfriend’s dad helped a lot as well. He’s a master builder and came with MANY smart solutions when we got stuck.

I hope this tutorial answered some of your questions! If you’re interested in more progress photos, I have an entire album over at my facebook page;

Feel free to ask if you have questions! Thanks for reading