Things to Do in Salem, Massachusetts Part 2

Salem, Massachusetts is a great place to visit year-round, but during the Halloween season, in the fall, its a spectacular place to visit, and its a relatively inexpensive place to find entertainment. If you are halfway across the country, outside the country, or just a few miles away and you have never been, its a great idea. Summer is coming, and from Summer to fall, tis the season to visit the home of The Salem Witch Trials!

Salem, Massachusetts is a great place to visit year-round, but during the Halloween season, in the fall, its a spectacular place to visit, and its a relatively inexpensive place to find entertainment.  If you are halfway across the country, outside the country, or just a few miles away and you have never been, its a great idea.  Summer is coming, and from Summer to fall, tis the season to visit the home of The Salem Witch Trials!

My first piece of advice to you if you are booking hotel accommodations is not to stay in Salem.  You want to book a room in Beverly, Danvers, or Peabody.  You will save at least $50 - $100.  Just because you are staying in Salem, you will get charged an arm and a leg and have nowhere to park!  Its like a zoo, especially during September and October!  Hotel prices are jacked up sky high at that time of year.  If you stayed at Motel 6 in Danvers, Massachusetts, which is about six miles from The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, you would save over $100 a night if you were staying for about a week in Massachusetts as opposed to paying at the very least for scant accommodations $200 a night in downtown Salem.  I checked out rates and this would be for two adults and their children.  Its about $60 a night at Motel 6 in Danvers during the summer months.  Beverly, which is even closer to Salem seems to have ludicrous hotel and motel rates, also.  The funny part of all of this is that Danvers was the real site of The Salem Witch Trials.  Danvers in 1692 was part of Salem.  It was called Olde Salem Village. 

Another good idea for accommodations is just to camp at Winter Island.  A Marine Recreational Park is located at 50 Winter Island Road in Salem, Massachusetts.  You can make reservations for the 2012 camping season by phone or in person.  Recreational vehicle and tent camping is allowed May 1- Nov 1.  You will find a public beach there equipped with a lifeguard, and public boats that are open year round.  Its close to all the happening attractions in Salem!  You can ferry into the city instead of driving and you can walk to all the attractions since they are so close together!

History Alive! / Cry Innocent involves the professional actors of the Gordon College Department of Theater. Cry Innocent is performed at the Old Town Hall in Salem, Massachusetts.  The production is about Bridget Bishop, an accused witch.  Its partially interactive.  You, who are an audience member sit on The Puritan jury while historically accurate testimony and an actual Puritan trial goes on.  The actors remain in character each and every time you speak to them.  Old Town Hall is located at 32 Derby Square in Salem, Massachusetts.  It costs $10 for a ticket for adults, $9 for adults who are sixty-five and over and students who are thirteen and over with a student ID, and its $8 for kids who are between six and twelve.  The production is free for kids under six.  Group and private shows can be arranged.  Guests get a dollar off their ticket if they attend a tour of Pioneer Village.  The 2012 season begins in July!

The Witch's Cottage - is located at 7 Lynde Street in Salem.  The lobby of The Witch's Cottage has historical photographs of Salem Witch Trial "victims", potions about the fireplace in the "witch's kitchen", and its quite scenic.  It has a theater, where you watch historical films in the dark.  They have a 4D live witchcraft and ghost show!  You watch a film about witchcraft, ghosts, history, and the supernatural.  There will be a 45 minute theatrical program discussing The Salem Witch Trails of 1692 and how it relates to Arthur Miller's "The Crucible".  It will show scenes from the actual Arthur Miller play.  It will discuss John Proctor, Abigail Williams and Judge Hawthorne.  This is a pretty "adult" event, and might be a bad idea for little kids.  There is a question and answer period after the film has concluded.  The film is a group event available from April to October.  The Witch's Cottage is open Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 10 - 6pm.  Shows happen about every half hour.  The final show starts at 5:30 pm.  Monday through Thursday at 7 pm, The Dark Times show can be viewed.  On Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, The Witch's Cottage is open from 10 am - 8:45 pm.  Tickets are redeemable for all shows happening from 6 pm - 8:45 pm.  Daytime tickets can't be used for night shows, and night tickets can't be used for day shows either.  There are no reservations available.  The Dark Times Show is at 7 pm, Monday through Thursday.  They hold a Summon The Dead Seance Saturday nights at 9:15 pm.

Salem has become a haven for real practitioners of the peaceful, white magic practice and study of the modern day witchcraft-based nature religion known as Wicca, which means wise woman.  You can purchase tour tickets at The Crow's Haven Corner for a magical tour, where you can learn a little bit about witchcraft, spells, and some of the folklore behind white witchcraft that happens to be true.  Its $13 to take this tour.  Every guest gets a mojo bag and a crystal that is blessed by a genuine witch.  Crow's Haven Corner is at 125 Essex Street.  Hex, at 246 Essex Street sells them, too.  Lorelei, who is a famous Salem clairvoyant does readings at The Crow's Haven Corner.  She does tarot card readings, also.  The Crow's Haven Corner has many herbs, gems, and other supplies witch's and those into herbal folk medicine might have difficulty finding elsewhere.  For readings, they accept walk-ins as well as appointments. 

Derby Square tours meets outside The Salem Visitor Center on New Liberty Street on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday mornings at 9:30 May 14 - November 1.  They don't tour on Memorial Day, July 4th, or Labor Day.  No reservations are needed.  It costs $10 for an adult tour, and $3 for kids seven to seventeen.  Kids under seven tour free.  They only take cash payment.  Jim, the tour-guide, has been doing these tours since 1983, and will talk about the history of Salem and show you all the relevant sites to the city's history!  Apparently, Jim has been on television discussing Salem quite a few times. 

I can't even begin to tell you how many delicious places there are to eat in Salem.  Quite seriously, just pick one and dig in!  Shops line the corners of the city for you to purchase trinkets to take home with you, and almost every museum and attraction has a shop you can purchase souvenirs at.  A cute idea to take home is some gravestone rubbings!  Get your charcoal pencil and some tissue paper and take it with you to the cemeteries and you will have a forever keepsake to remind you of your spooky trip to the historic City of Salem! 

If you are visiting in October, definitely look at Groupon and places similar to get deals on tickets for events.  Google away for some of these event and places websites online.  This will most likely get you discounts if you buy tickets in advance and combination tickets.  There are lots of inexpensive ideas during what Salem calls "Haunted Happenings" in October.


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Costuming How-To 101: Fantasy Armor Created from Recycled Plastic Chemical Barrels

Build your own Stormtrooper fantasy wearable space armor from high density (HDPE) plastic rain barrels. The armor created is suitable for Halloween, costume parties, science fiction conventions etc.


Build Wearable Stormtrooper Body Armor

Beginning with a 55-gallon HDPE ("high density polyethylene") plastic barrel (of the type often used as rainwater collection barrels,) I will show you how to create rugged wearable chest armor. Suitable for costumes, science fiction/fantasy conventions or role-playing, these are wearable and durable.

From this basic how-to do it yourself tutorial you can extrapolate other designs and concepts as will be demonstrated in images at the end of this series of articles.

A 55-Gallon Non-Deposit Rain-barrel Chemical Barrel

a blue 55-gallon chemical barrel

What Can We Make From This Rain barrel?

Here below is an example of a 'space theme' character chest armor that I made a few years ago for a friend in Hamilton, Ontario CANADA, using a 55-gallon chemical barrel just like the one shown here.

(image source)

The assembled sky blue armor is spray-painted with primer then with bone-white spray paint, but can receive any color the wearer desires.

The buckles on each side unsnap and the chest cage expands several inches on a spring-like resistance, similar to the way a clam shell opens.  The wearer can comfortably and easily crawl up inside of this and re-attach the snaps for a adjustable snug fit.

The snap-locks are a very effective, rugged system and the chest armor is surprisingly comfortable to wear. The material actually seems to draw body heat away from the wearer.

Created Space Armor built using a 55-gallon plastic chemical barrel

(armor image by author)

So, -are you excited yet? Are you ready to learn some basics how to build armor like this and more? Let's begin!

Procure One or Two 55-gallon Barrels - But from Where?

Typically, these are 55-gallon chemical barrels are non-deposit because they are non-refillable.

Food-grade products such as phosphoric acid (usually white barrels for food-grade) are what we're after here. "Food grade” barrels cannot be reliably cleaned of potentially dangerous contents and by law, are non-refillable.

Black barrels are usually for industrial-grade chemicals such as concentrated phosphoric acid typically used for rust removal, and for even harsher chemicals. Special care is needed to thoroughly rinse these barrels before use in our costuming project.

Blue barrels are usually slated for 'cleaning agent/alkaline products,' such as bulk ammonia-based cleansers for commercial use. Again, use these highly-caustic barrels suitable for use only after thoroughly rinsing them inside-out with water.

The black barrels being non-food grade products are refillable and thus, typically incur a distributor's deposit of at least $55.00. Removing these barrels from a facility, if allowed, requires that you pay the deposit. We'll just work with the FREE white or blue barrels for now.

You can also buy any of these new & unused barrels (in an assortment of different colors) for around $55.00-$75.00 each, or more. A quick search the internet (Google "55-gallon plastic barrels for sale") and you will be rewarded with dozens of sites that sell and ship barrels to you the buyer, in quantities that will suit your needs.

I got mine for free at a dairy-foods manufacturer. Any consumer foods facility (bakery, meat-packing, dairy foods, etc.) uses products delivered in these barrels. Usually FREE for the asking, you are doing them a favor by asking to take these.

Some 'yard and farm' stores may even have a short renewable supply of these for industrial farm use even if they are not prominently displayed on the sales floor. Any boat marina probably uses 55-gallon barrels for their floating docks. Ask yourself, -ask them: where did they get them?

I have heard this over and over again, "I looked, I really did, -but I can't find any barrels!" and seriously, I don't believe them.

Sure, maybe the first acquisition is a little difficult but after that, it is just another barrel. Once you 'find' or 'acquire' one or two and get to know the source of these chemical barrels, it gets easier and easier to acquire them. You will start to see these barrels everywhere!

At any one time in the late '90s and early 2000s I had a rotating stockpile of over 35 of these barrels in my back yard! THIRTY FIVE! That is not including the dozen+ that I had stored at my dad's barn and the several dozen or more that over the course of a year I had previously given away to friends with farms, given horse enthusiasts for their rodeo events, etc.

I even swapped two 55-gallon barrels to a family-owned pizzeria (they wanted these for garbage collection out back) for two free slices of pepperoni pizza! The barrels were FREE for me so I profited by the cost of two slices of pizza and the investment of several minutes of my time.

Every time I brought home one or two more barrels I would give away an equal number that I had previously amassed, thus maintaining my inventory for my crafts and for emergency requests.

At the behest of my landlord to 'clean-up my backyard,' I sold all the barrels I had for $5.00 each to a private garbage collection company. They use these barrels for recyclables separation (glass, plastics, small white metals, etc.) for their rural-route customers and told me that they would take as many more of these as I could get.

They were buying them elsewhere at auction (new, I assume?) in lots for upwards of $30.00 each, so my price of $5.00 each was a serious savings for them. Enough of procurement. Let's now assume that you have a barrel or two. Let's begin with making a reusable template.

Make A Template for the Fantasy Chest Armor

trace the T-shirt onto paper

(Image by author)

Using one of your T-shirts as in Figure A, lay it upon large WHITE poster-board card stock. I stress 'white' because once I used black card stock for a ‘black’ armor I was making and I really missed the convenience of being able to leave pencil notes and remarks directly upon the card stock. Notes like "front" or “back”, "inside/outside," "left arm” or “right arm" and more specific details like “add 1-inch here” or “trim this,” and to do math calculations, etc. Trust me, take the easy shortcut suggestions.

Sketch the basic design you see in Figure B above, with generous ‘excess’ tails which will be trimmed away later.

This is your basic template design shown below. Cut this template with scissors, and save it for re-use.

cardstock paper template

(Image by author)

Lay this template (above-right) onto the barrel lengthwise (repeat, “lengthwise”) as this will aid in forming the general ‘shape’ of your torso. You are going to be wearing this so anything to help with the proper fit / intended shape should be considered.

Trace the Outline Onto the Barrel, Lengthwise

Trace the design onto the barrel using a ‘Sharpie’ magic marker. You want to trace TWO of these templates for the front and back of your armor.

Using a portable electric jigsaw, cut out the two templates. Because we sketched this template to have excess material, a cut-on-the-lines exactness is not a big concern.

electric jig saw

(image by author)

Below: Here is what the Carapaces for your Armor Will Look Like

(in this image, the carapaces have already been partially heated and formed, which is explained in the next step)

armor cut-outs

(Image by author)

Using a serrated steak knife like a draw-shave, peel away the pebbly edges where the saw made the cut. This will help to keep your work area cleaner as these pebbly beads will slough off on their own and they get into everything; your clothes, your rug, furniture, your hair, etc.

Work cleanly and smartly else you (or your wife) will be finding these pebblies in the washing machine, in the clothes dryer, in the sink, the bathroom carpet, etc. all because they were attached to your work clothes.

Plastic Carapace in Hand: Think About How Your Shoulders and Midriff Are Shaped

(Image by author)

Examine this image, notice that your shoulders slope slightly ‘downwards’ and your midriff slopes slightly ‘narrower’ towards your hips. The next step will need to incorporate these slopes in the bends that we are about to make.

Torches, Tools and Bath Tubs

I used the bath tub filled with COLD water, but any large container of water that is large enough to fully and conveniently immerse the armor is suitable. Be aware that this is plastic and that you are using a propane torch. HDPE plastic emits noxious and potentially dangerous-to-breathe fumes when super-heated, so ventilation is required. Working outdoors when use the torch and plastics is best.

Heat the Plastic at the Bend Points

The template pieces, I call them “carapaces” at this juncture, have a soft marbled exterior texture and a glass-smooth interior surface. Which side do you want to be the exterior of your armor? Either is okay, but I prefer the exterior surface of the barrel as the exterior of my armor, but I have done it both ways.

Heat Points, One Section at a Time and Cool it in Water

(Image by author)

Noting which side is to be the front and which is to be the back, heat the plastic at approximately the points shown by the ovals, one section at a time. Move the torch flame around often and on both side (front and back.)

Avoid over-heating any one section too intensely or too rapidly. You want the plastic to be pliable, soft but not so hot that it appears ‘shiny’ and begins to bubble-up and melt. If the plastic becomes shiny or clear-opaque, almost see-through, it is over-heated. Stop! Move the torch away and do NOT touch that area. Allow the temperature to dissipate on its own; it will quickly spread to the surrounding area and the plastic will return to a usable state.

Do NOT touch the plastic with your fingers or any tool to ‘test’ the softness. The plastic will be very hot, very tacky and if touched by bare skin it will adhere; you will receive an intense and nasty burn.

HDPE plastic retains heat very well so there is no hurry to perform any of this. Speed cause mistakes. Slow and precise is the key!

You can heat the plastic slowly over several minutes with this method and still be within desirable workability. In fact, waiting a minute might even-out the hot-spots and make the bend-site more homogeneous. There is no rush to get to the bend, hold and water-cool step.

When the corner that you are working on is hot and pliable, almost limp and very flexible, turn the propane torch off and allow the heat within the plastic to propagate evenly.

Gently bend the plastic to form the general shape, angle and contour of your shoulder, noting which is the left versus the right shoulder and in relation to the exterior/interior surface of the carapace. You want the 'marbled texture' of the barrel to be the exterior surface.

Holding the bendable extension securely in the desired position, slowly immerse the entire carapace into the cold water as shown in the image above. The plastic will harden immediately, often with an audible gurgle of steam.

A ‘tap’ or ‘jerk’ will often be felt directly in your hands as well. This is okay and very desirable. It means that the ‘memory’ of the plastic has been successfully re-written. If you must apply any notable force at all to bending the hot plastic it is not hot enough. It should bend similarly to say, the flat cardboard of a pizza box or nasal tissue box.

If you note that there is not a ‘gurgle’ and/or ‘snap’ feel when dipped in the cold water, the plastic may over time slowly relax back to its former shape. The ‘memory’ was not fully rewritten. For some bends that will be riveted or bolted into position, this can be acceptable but for most bends you really want to re-write the plastic’s memory.

Do the four bends on each of the two carapaces each in turn, noting that they will mate to each other to form a single unit with excesses to be trimmed away later. Do not be concerned that the complimentary sections of carapace #1 and #2 may not line-up exactly perfect. They only need to be close. There will be ample opportunity to trim any excess or overlapping material later.

Two Fantasy Armor Carapaces Ready to Assemble

(Image by author)

So pat yourself on the back. You have learned a lot today. It has got to be Beer-thirty somewhere so let's take a break from this tutorial.

I will resume in Part 2 (and link these articles together) and we will examine assembling these two halves, fitting for comfort and symmetry, and what comes next.

PART II of "How to Build Wearable Fantasy/Sci-Fi Armor" is now available.

Costuming 101: Creating Wearable Body Armor / Upper Leg Protection

Creating DIY wearable Stormtrooper costume armor using 55-gallon plastic chemical barrels; Halloween, events, etc. Part III of the How-to make HDPE armor tutorials...

Halloween is Coming! Stormtrooper Costumes to the Ready!

There is nothing more fun than going out on Halloween dressed in costume. Whether you buy or make your own, everyone wants something unique, something that nobody else has. You can make your own wearable costumes, specifically wearable body armor, from discarded 55-gallon chemical barrels.

In Costuming 101: Stormtrooper/Fantasy Armor Created from Recycled Plastic Chemical Barrels we learned some basic of how to create poster-board templates that 'fit' the intended wearer. Traced upon a smooth-sided 55-gallon HDPE plastic chemical barrel and cut-out using an electric jig saw, we were left with the front and the back of the chest armor.

In the second installment ./Assembling the Fantasy/Sci-Fi Armor we learned how to attach the front and back section using all stainless steel pop-rivets. We also learned how to 'dress' the armor to make the head-hole and arm-hole accessible. More on this aspect of the armor is in the works, but what about the rest of the body armor? Can other body armor parts be created for the legs? Yes!

Create a Template for the Upper Leg

upper leg covers for the plastic body armor

This is an approximation of the shape of the desired upper leg template. Traced onto white poster-board, it must be several inches taller than the distance between the intended wearer's outer knee and the height of the belt at their outer hip. Note the rounded 'crown' at the top. This part is important to create for this part shall be at the wearer's sides, at approximately the top inseam of their jeans or pants.

(Image "A") Your template will likely be wider than this graphic image, which is for demonstration purposes only. Wrapping around your leg with several inches of overlap is an absolute necessity.

Be sure that the template is symmetrical. If folded in half lengthwise it must be the same. Otherwise you will have to consider making a FRONT and a REVERSE pattern and cutting the plastic out that way. This is because the 'pebbly' surface of a 55-gallon barrel is on the exterior, which is the surface what we want, you must all your cut-out carapaces the have the same 'exterior' surface.

The interior of any chemical barrel is far smoother than the exterior surface, almost glass-like. While this might be desirable for some armor costumes, generally this texture detracts from the whole.

Not to mention that long-term contact of the inside of the barrel with whatever chemicals were present will very much affect how well this 'interior surface' will accept any spray paint. Often the chemicals these barrels were originally used for will cause most spray paints to 'bubble up' and peel. The exterior sides does not do this.

Heat and Roll the Upper Leg Carapace into a Megaphone Tube

(Image "B") Using the propane torch heating and bath-tub cooling methods we learned in the first tutorial, we have created one rolled cone that is sized for the intended wearer.

Before riveting (note the RED dots: these are suggested rivet points) it may be advantageous to test-fit this cone onto the wearer BEFORE drilling and installing the rivets.

Be Aware of the Knee

  • Be especially mindful of the narrow end of this Upper Leg Cover: It MUST be able to easily slide over the clothed knee with little or no squeezing, pulling or yanking. You should be able to freely insert the fingers of your hand up the narrow end armor from the bottom while wearing it, else it is going to be too tight and can cause chaffing and pinching.

By gently squeezing the cone around the wearer's leg and marking the straight-line position with a magic marker, you will have a guide-line to align to prior to riveting.

In an more advanced build, I created a fan-tail delta design and installed a draw-hasp to tightened/release this narrow end. This 'friction fitting' method worked quite well but it is an necessary extra. As with all things, subsequent builds become more complex as specific needs are identified and added detailing extras are desired.

This fit must be LOOSE. Test-fitting is only to assure that it will not be riveted too tight and not permit entry of the leg. When worn on the body, it will be hanging from a strap attached to the wearer's belt and thus, will be surprisingly secure and stable.

Make TWO of these upper leg covers using the FRONT and REVERSE pattern template

Make two of these carapaces for the upper leg covers, heat and roll and rivet each. The number of rivets used is up to you, but use enough to hold the pieces flat to each other.

A very big time-saver tip here is to use a several inches long DRYWALL SCREW to reach through both pieces as they overlap and draw them snugly together so you can effectively rivet them permanently. You may then place a rivet near the drywall screw. Then, extract the DRYWALL SCREW and using the resulting hole it created for the next pop-rivet. Repeat this process. The drywall-screw hole may require a sizing-ream with the 1/8th drill, but that is just a formality.

By leapfrogging the drywall screw several inches ahead of your intended pop-rivet sites you can speed the build and save yourself needless MUCH toil and grief!

I can only relay the facts of this drywall screw tip but not fully convey the spirit of this innovation; certain complex riveting connections that in the past used to take me over an HOUR to perform can be done in mere minutes using this drywall screw and riveting swap. This is one of the time-saving discoveries that I learned and why it took me nearly three years to create my first Serpent Guard Armor and just over one month to create the second one. To say that there was a learning curve involved is a gross understatement.

(Image "C") Upon riveting a straight line down what will be the inseam of the upper leg armor, you can snap a straight line and with the Dremel cut-off tool, trim any ragged surplus or non-straight protuberances. The sanding drum attachment on the Rotary Tool is a great aid to 'smooth-out' and sharp points and edges.

A few quick passes of the propane torch to 'round-out' the angular cut edges makes them very sleek and comfortable.

Standing the two pieces side-by-side you should now have two Upper Leg Covers similar to what is shown in the image here. These are expected to be taller than necessary, so that they can be custom cut-to-fit in later steps when sized.

Attach Anchor Points for Adjustable Pet Collar Straps

Attach two flat HDPE 'garbage can lid handle' strap several inches down the inside of the highest point of the two leg covers. These are the anchor points for the straps that hold the leg armor to the belt of the wearer

Using a inch wide by several inches long strip of HDPE plastic that is formed to be like a garbage can lid handle, pop-rivet these horizontally and on the inside of each leg cover below the highest point.

These are the anchor to which you will attach an adjustable pet collar. These pet collars are typically woven nylon construction with a plastic snap-hasp for quick un-hooking. Each strap is looped through the wearer's belt and its function is for holding the upper leg cover in place.

The reason the attach point is several inches down on the inside is to allow the 'high point' of the upper leg cover to rest a few inches away from the wearer's hip at the inseam. This looks very 'classic' armor, -and it also serves a purpose. It allows the wearer the ability to unhook the armor themselves if necessary, and there is some (albeit limited) access to the pants pockets. The wearer just may be able to access a room key, pocket watch or a few coins of the realm for the purchase of cold drink while still remaining 'in character.'

How It Is Worn: The Pet Collar Straps are Adjustable, and the Wearer's Belt is Flexible

How the Upper Leg Covers are attached to the leather belt of the wearer using adjustable nylon pet collars.

(Image "E")

With sneakers or shoes off, the wearer slides the Upper Leg Covers upon onto each leg (left and right to wearer facing forward) with the respective pet collar straps (in red) facing outward.

The nylon straps (depicted in red) are looped through the wearer's belt at the outer inseam at the hips, and latched. Because the attach point to the upper leg cover is several inches down on the inside of this megaphone tube, the armor itself is carried tipping slightly outward at the top (as shown in the diagram.) This allows for comfort and surprisingly enough, some limited access to the hip pockets!

This accessibility of the hip pocket can be very handy for carrying a room key, a timepiece or procuring some coins to buy a cold beverage while still remaining completely in character and not removing your costume.

A 'hinged cage' that covers the wearer's waist, hips and groin area will be our next build. Created in conjunction with these upper leg covers, neither interferes severely with the other and the wearer can even comfortably sit down in this armor!

And brutal honesty here; considerations for the ease of use of toilet facilities was thought of and built into the functionality of this armor.

Building the Waist-Cage section will have to be in the next installment of How to Create Wearable Armor: Waist Cover Armor by author...

(all images and graphics by author)

Update: Images of the actual Upper Leg Covers and close-up detail of the nylon pet collar straps used to attach to wearer's belt.

close-up view of the completed upper leg cover and attach points for the nylon straps (inexpensive dog collars)

Update for our partners and users: For those requesting information, we are in litigation against former employees Mark P. Mazza and Patrick M. Williams, and their company PromoCodeWatch, LLC.

Costuming 101: Assembling the Fantasy/Sci-Fi Armor

Part II of 'Costuming 101: Building Fantasy Armor Using Discarded 55-Gallon Chemical Barrels.' We assemble the armor using pop-rivets...


Fantasy, Science Fiction and Medieval Armor Costume Construction

Part II, cont. from Costuming How-to 101: Fantasy Armor Created from a Plastic Chemical Barrel

This will be difficult to explain and provide graphic representations for. Assuming the reader has no prior knowledge or concept of how to do it, it would be equally difficult for me to explain and show by graphic images how to tie one's shoelaces or how to knot a dress tie while standing in front of a mirror.

The information on how to assemble the armor will be here. In the attempt to perform these steps the reader and hobbyist shall glean the spirit of the construct and likely come to understand the intention if not the exact method provided.

In the first installment of Costuming How-to 101: Fantasy Armor~, we learned some basics about procuring the required used 55-gallon chemical barrels and making a poster board template that is sized to the intended wearer.

Upon tracing the paper template onto a suitable cleaned and dry barrel, the two main carapaces are cut out using an electric jig saw. It is preferred to use an electric jig saw but these armor carapaces can be cut-out using a hand-held key-hole saw if necessary. In my first construct that is exactly the tools I used; a hand-held keyhole saw and several hacksaw blades. It took much longer and I receives numerous blisters and cuts for my efforts. Mainly, It just takes much longer and it is not as accurate as a power tool can produce.

With the carapaces cut out and using a serrated steak knife, all edges of the carapaces are draw-shave scraped to remove any ragged 'flash' plastic pebbles that the saw blade has created. Just a quick run on both side and both pieces is adequate. These will be finished much smoother later. For the most part, removing this flash with the serrated knife is just for keeping your work area clean of debris.

Using the propane torch for selectively heating and bending the carapaces in the required places and immersion in cool water to 'set' the bend permanently (as per the first installment of this series,) you should end up with two armor carapaces like the sketch below.

two halves of the HDPE armor, cut from a 55-gallon plastic chemical barrel

Two Carapace Halves

When all these steps are performed as per the Part I of this series, it brings to where we begin again; assemblage of the two carapaces.

This will form what I call 'chest cage' and shall refer to the joined carapaces as such in the future references.

In this Part II we will be using the Dremel or Black & Decker Rotary tool, and shall be introducing the use of a Pop Rivet Tool, along with stainless steel pop rivets and aluminum pop-rivet backing plates.

Required materials/tools:

  • Electric Drill, jig saw and Rotary Tool (and eye protection)
  • Several 1/8th drill bits. (keep several on-hand, they break sometimes)
  • 1/2-inch long, 1/8th diameter/gauge ALL STAINLESS STEEL pop-rivets (box of 500 recommended for price and value)
  • 1/8th dia. backing plates (Aluminum, available wherever pop-rivets are sold. Acquire several 25 count boxes)
  • Pop-rivet tool (also called 'pop-rivet gun') Avoid the 'cheap' models; expect to pay $30.00 - 50.00 for a good model. You won't regret buying quality.
  • Ball-peen hammer (claw hammer will suffice) and a thick heavy METAL surface to pound upon (an anvil is ideal, but a quarter-inch thick iron plate is fine)

Pop Rivets

Pop rivets come in a variety of sizes, lengths and finishes. Ranging from pop rivets made for use on computer cases and for specialty 'computer case modding' to general automotive restoration to a countersunk type for kitchen appliances, pop rivets are a builder's best friend when it comes to quick, sturdy and reliable attaching of two materials or dissimilar flat surfaces.

I use, recommend and highly advocate the use of aluminum 'back-up plates' on ALL riveted junctures for these constructs. A backing (or back-up) plate is nothing more than an aluminum washer that provides additional strength to the riveted joint. It prevents the flared end of the rivet from possibly pulling-through the softer HDPE plastic, even if subjected to great load or pulling force. These back-up plates are cheap. At around $3.00 for a small box of 25, you should have several boxes available along with the required 1/2-inch long 1/8th in. diameter pop rivets.

There are multiple sizes, materials and gauges of pop rivets but for our armor construction we shall limit ourselves to 1/8th diameter STAINLESS STEEL pop rivets that are 1/2 inch long.

My favorite type are the ALL STAINLESS STEEL pop rivets; not only is the break-away shaft stainless steel but so is the head. There are varieties that use a STAINLESS STEEL shaft but employ an ALUMINUM body. These are acceptable for use. But at all costs, avoid the use of the 'ALL ALUMINUM' pop rivet. These are intended for softer materials that do not experience great sheer-forces. They are inferior for our requirements and will break apart too easily.

This 1/2-inch length will allow us to adjoin two or more layers (thicknesses) of the basic 55-gallon barrel. While barrel thickness can vary greatly between makes, models and even within the same barrel, the half-inch length of our rivets shall prove to be more than adequate. There will be excessive 'tang' protruding through all riveted joints, but these can (with the use of those aluminum back-up plates) be pounded acceptably flat. Pounding-flat a excessively long pop rivet that does not have a 'backing plate' will damage the plastic and likely cause the rivet to punch-through the material. Use backing plate for all pop-rivets. It is cheap, effective insurance.

We are now ready to assemble the two halves and begin making the joined carapaces into a wearable unit that I call a 'chest-cage.'

NOTE: All graphics are NOT to scale and may not depict actual results. I have no actual images for many aspects of this armor construction. Your actual results will likely be superior to the graphics provided.

Two HDPE carapaces cut and bent to form the front and the back of the armor

Align the two halves of the carapaces to face each other, as shown here. The 'shoulder hooks' face each other, and one will over-clasp the other unit.

For clarity, these two halves are color-coded. "Blue" and "Yellow" are interchangeably considered to be 'Front' or 'Back' at this juncture. One carapace will always be smaller than the other, pretty much guaranteed. Proof? Try to make two carapaces exactly the same size! I have made several units and despite my best attempts no two carapaces are ever exactly the same width and girth. Made at the same time from the same template, one will always snugly fit inside of the other.

This is however, totally to our advantage. The LARGER one will over-lay the smaller one, as seen in this image below. Be sure however that BOTH shoulder straps of either color are either both on TOP or both UNDERNEATH. That is to say, both yellow are top or bottom, or both blue are on the bottom or on the top. So no 'co-mixing' of these union points as this create an undesirable 'twist' to the vertical alignment. This will make sense when aligning the carapaces together and it is difficult if not impossible to do it wrong, but it is worth mentioning.

Join the Two Halves so that one set of opposing but respective Shoulder Straps are Parallel and overlapping. Clamp firmly on either side of the dot-dashed lines labeled Rivet Corridor using two Vice Grips, or C-Clamps. For clarity in this image, over-lapping areas of carapaces depicted in GREEN.

Align One Set of Opposing Shoulder Straps and Clamp in Place

Join the two carapaces so that one set of mated should straps are parallel. Clamp in place

Looking down from the top of the two carapace halves, note that the shoulder strap of one aligns parallel to the shoulder strap of the counterpart. This will often cause an 'angular offset' to occur. The head-hole will appear to be too small for the wearer as well. Disregard this observation. This are acceptable and corrected in a later step.

Mainly, be thinking about the 'thickness' or 'spinal depth' of the chest-cage (your chest to spine thickness) while aligning the shoulder straps prior to riveting. If the chest cage looks too narrow-of-depth, it might actually be so and thus you have to 'open up' or lengthen the distance of the clamped shoulder straps.

If the chest cavity appears that it will be too large, slide the shoulder straps slightly closer together before riveting the first straps in place. Slightly larger than 'perfect body-tight fit' is optimal however. Remember' the wearer will likely be wearing clothes (shirt, sweater, chainmail, etc.) under this armor so slightly larger than optimal is better.

Clamp one or both sides of the shoulder straps union tightly using Vice Grips or C-clamps. Note the dot-dashed line marked "RIVET CORRIDOR." Drill and rivet only within the confines of this narrow corridor, at or near the apex of the union.

One hole at a time, drill a 1/8th hole and install a pop-rivet from the top side, using a backing-plate on the underside (toward the wearer.) Apply the rivet using the Pop Rivet Gun until the rivet 'pops' and releases the shaft.

Repeat this procedure until you have at least FOUR (or more, it's up to you) rivets applied. For your armor it may be desirable to counter-sink the drilled rivet holes before installing the rivet. This will make hiding the visible rivet head easier at the final stages. But if these rivets are desired to be visible such as in the suggestion of wrought iron-work, do not counter-sink the rivet holes. The exposed rivet heads (esp. when the whole armor is spray-painted!) provide a veritable 'iron-clad battleship' effect which is in itself, highly desirable for this genre of costume.

Perhaps careful consideration as to their spatial location (and patterning?) on the opposite shoulder to correlate with the first shoulder will suggest a more orderly Crusader-like appearance. It will appear to be professionally constructed (at least, by medieval iron-works standards.) The choices are endless for whatever effects you desire. Don't just through rivets in helter-skelter and patternless. Making each side match the other is the sign of a truly well thought-out construction process. I spent many hours upon completion, trying to 'hide' or 'relocate' rivets that were non-symmetric to the mirror side... Learn from my mistakes.

For the shoulder straps you MUST however remember to keep all the rivets within an imaginary Rivet Corridor (approximately as shown.) Note the CORRECT and the WRONG inset images for placement of these four (or more) rivets (depicted by RED DOTS.) It is important to keep your rivets within this narrower corridor. This allows for easier 'sizing' of the head-hole and shoulders straps later on. Saving time and resources are the major goal here. Re-doing previously-done work to correct for mistakes and make revisions for visual appeal only wastes time and materials.

On one very complicated armor build I spent nearly three years building and re-building it, allowing for the learning curve, mistakes made and of course, my do-overs. The second armor of that genre (scaled 1/3rd smaller for the intended wearer) only took one month to build on mainly an hour a few times a week, and intense weekend sessions! Such was the ease of not doing 'mistakes' and 'do-overs.'

Adjoin the Opposite Shoulder Strap of Your Armor

With one set of opposing shoulder straps riveted securely, pull the carapaces apart to align the second set of shoulder straps, and clamp securely. One hole at a time, drill and rivet this union together in FOUR places, using 1/8th inch aluminum backing-plates for added strength

With one set of opposing shoulder straps riveted securely, forcibly pull the two carapaces apart like a clamshell until the second set of shoulder straps align. Clamp securely using Vice Grips or other clamps, and one hole at a time drill and pop-rivet this union, again in FOUR places. Again, be mindful of the imaginary 'RIVET CORRIDOR' and stay within this area.

You should now have what I call a working 'chestcage.' Before it can be tried on, it must have several modifications made to it to allow for the wearer to get his or her head into the 'head hole,' arm-holes need to be sized and the four 'wings' around the left and right lumbar regions need to be trimmed to a useful and unobtrusive size.

Break-out the Rotary Cut-off Tool, Jig Saw and the Sharpie Markers!

For this next part we trim and size various aspects to make the chestcage wearable. Use a standard cut-off wheel (either metal or composite material) and trim-away the excess 'tails' of the shoulder straps. The top carapace (blue) shall be trimmed from the top or outside of the chestcage and the shoulder strap tails of the yellow carapace are trimmed-away from the inside. This does not have to be perfectly smooth. The Rotary tool is a blunt-force cutting tool; it does not leave smooth edges. These ragged edges will be re-visited later, making them smooth and comfortable. For now, removing the excess tails is for weight reduction, comfort, and to prevent clothing of the wearer from becoming snagged.

The excess tail material from both sets of shoulder straps are trimmed away using the Rotary Tool and cut-off wheel, and the slightly too small head-hole is sketched using a black marker and cut-out using the electric jig saw

Notice in the image above (and to the left) that the head hole is too small, and rather 'football shaped.' A person cannot possibly get their head into such a hole.

Using a sharp-tip magic marker pen, sketch a symmetrically pleasing oval around this irregularly-shaped head-hole as depicted by the red/black oval. Begin small. Cut out the sketched oval using the Rotary Tool and smooth it using the serrated steak knife to remove the pebbly flash material.

By holding the armor upside-down over the intended wearer's head, attempt to slide their head into the created hole. It will be necessary for the wearer to turn their head sideways to fit through this oval hole. This is how the armor fits. Otherwise, the hole we are making would extend too far down the chest and expose too much 'throat' area. The lowest part of the oval should ultimately be an inch or so below the 'V' at the front and base of the wearer's throat.

If the hole is still too small (and likely it will be on the first fitting,) continue tracing incrementally larger ovals, adjusting for a custom fit, and trimming the material off using the jig saw. Removing the 'flash' material with the serrated steak knife each time you make a jig-saw cut will make the job easier and less messy.

Repeat this sketch-cut-&-test fit procedure until the wearer can EASILY insert their head into and out of the hole. It should not be a tight fit or a struggle to get into or out of the head hole. Let's be real here; you do not want this to be too tight around your or the intended the wearer's throat. This is a costume armor; it should not be dangerous to wear. Treat and consider it as such, a safe to wear costume.

Using pre-marked lines, square-off the left and right lumbar tails, allowing the FRONT to overlap the BACK tail slightly, and make the arm-holes larger, oval-shaped and comfortable

Once the head-hole is large enough for the intended wearer to easily get their head into and out of the armor, the excess 'tails' that overlap the left and right lumbar regions need to be trimmed.

Both armholes also require some beautification and enlargement as well. This will require several try-ons and trimmings to get it just right for both sides. The arm-hole should allow the wearer to move their arms freely without great restriction. It must be a painless and comfortable fit.

Before trying it on however, the last section of overlap needs to be trimmed the sections on the wearer's left and right lower lumbar region.

You want the FRONT (shown is BLUE) to overlap the BACK (YELLOW) flaps. This overlap only needs to be an inch or so.

The rivet tails now need to be pounded flat. By positioning the armor so that the rivet's HEAD is against a solid iron surface (an anvil or steel plate, etc.) carefully pound the pointy-end of the rivet TAIL with a ball-peen (or claw) hammer until it is flattened. The aluminum back-up plate will keep the rivet's integrity while the rivet-tail will be flattened.

Once each rivet is suitably pounded flat (to some degree,) this task is complete. The pounded rivet-tails can later be smeared-over with a strong multi-purpose rubber bonding agent such as the adhesive "SHOO-GOO." The interior contact surface can thus be made to be even flatter. I find that this is often unnecessary, but a good thick smearing of SHOO-GOO over the riveted seams inside and covered with a patch of trimmed denim makes an excellent 'shoulder padding' from the potential irritant of the flat-pounded metallic rivet tail.

After using the serrated steak knife to 'draw-shave' the pebbly flash away, a propane torch can be used to GENTLY sweep the edges of the armor. The plastic at the edges will recede slightly from the flame, 'mound-up' ever so slightly and become shiny for several seconds as it cools.

DO NOT TOUCH THIS SURFACE until it is cool (usually under a minute.) The plastic will stick your fingers and burn horribly. Any tool that comes into contact with this when hot will 'pull' the hot molten plastic into hairs and strings.

Do try this torch-smoothing method on the cut, draw-shaved edges though. Within just a minute or two of performing this you shall become an expert in the technique. It is really easy and exceedingly fun to watch the plastic predictably and artistically behave this way, creating a very smooth and snag-free leading edge. This is one of the easiest things to do with HDPE-pastic armor.

Test the Fit of the Chest Armor: Make Adjustments as Necessary

The joined Front and Back carapaces now form the CHESTCAGE, which with a few trimming removed, can be test-fitted to the wearer

The armor should now be test-wearable. By gently expanding the base like an inverted clam-shell, the wearer can 'crawl up inside' of the chestcage, usually without the aid of an assistant or helper.

Here is where repeated measures and trims are required. It may also be required that the sides of armor (from the under-arms down) be slightly re-heated in strategic places using the propane torch and forcibly 'squeezed' into its counterpart half (maybe held in place using a stretchy belt or bungy cord) and quick-dunked in the cold bath water as per the first tutorial How to Build Fantasy/Sci-Fi Armor. This is 'ultra-fine tuning' to attain an exact shape.

What we have at this point is a basic 'chest cage armor.' There are many more features that can be added to your chest-cage to suggest surface details, seams, and intense battle damage.

These follow-up details can come in the next installment of

'How to Build Fantasy/Sci-Fi Armor PART III'

(all images and graphics by author)

NEW: Creating Leg Covers for the HDPE Armor by author.

The Best Halloween Party Game

Play a Live Clue game at your Halloween Party. Adult of Kids parties can play variations of this game

My Brothers and I have hosted Halloween parties for several years. They are big events with lots of guests. Sometimes upwards of a hundred people will show up for one of these parties. We go all out, decorating the front and back yards as well as inside the house. We rotate who hosts the party each year and all pitch in to decorate for the party.

The first few parties we held seemed to be missing something and were not as successful as we had hoped. Sure, a lot of people would show up for the Halloween party. But, some were my friends and some were my brother’s friends, which mostly didn’t know each either. The problem with this was that guests would tend to gather in small groups of people that knew each other. Save a very few of the more outgoing people, most of our guests just didn’t feel comfortable striking up conversations with others that they didn’t know. As a result, many of our guests would hang for awhile, then head off to some other party that was going on that night.

When it came time to host the party at my house, my wife and I were determined to change all this and make this party the one nobody wanted to leave, as well as forcing our guests to engage in conversations with one another. After much thought and planning, we came up with what I think is the best Halloween party game ever.

The game we came up with was a live version of the board game CLUE. This version of the game makes people talk to each other, allows people to play the game while still being able to continue to party and kept everyone at the party until the end of the night.

If you have never played Clue, the object of the game is, by process of elimination, determine who committed a murder, where the murder was committed and with what weapon. In our game, The “Who”, the “Where” and the “What” are all around the guests. They must be good at sleuthing to find all the clues and get the right answer.

This game will take a little prep time before the party starts. The very first thing to do is to determine the answer to the game, such as “ The Mummy did it in the Ball Room, with the Lead Pipe”, or something like that.

Now you need to prepare the “Who did it” part of the game. Go online and print images of famous horror characters like Frankenstein, Count Dracula and so on. Depending on the size you expect your party to be, you should print off 6 to 10 characters. Now, take these images and place them into picture frames you already have hanging on walls or sitting on shelves. Because these are photos that normally hold family photos, guests will have to pay close attention to spot them. Don’t print an image of the real murderer though because you won’t need it.

Next, decide on the weapons that might have been used. Make sure your guests are safe. Don’t use any weapons that could injure someone. If one of your weapons is a gun of some sort, DO NOT use a real gun! Paint a squirt gun to represent any firearms. Each weapon should be unique and only used once. So, if you use a lead pipe as a weapon, don’t include any other pipes in your list. Use the same number of weapons as you have photos of suspected killers. Now, place these murder weapons in discreet locations so that they can be found but are not obvious or place them in locations that require a guest to visit, such as a backyard Halloween set. Don’t place the actual murder weapon out with the rest of the weapons.

Now, make a list of room names to use in the game. There should be the same number of rooms as there are murder suspects and weapons. Room names could include the Ball Room, the Dungeon, the Bell Tower or anything else. Don’t include the room where the murder was committed in this list.

Now, create a playing sheet that your guests will use to play the game. On it, include all of the suspects, weapons and rooms, including the ones that are the answer. Make sure to leave spaces for guests to mark on the sheet. Here is an example:

At the top of each sheet, write the name of a room you have on your list (not the murder room). You may use the same room name more than once. This is going to be the scorecard.

Now, here is how it all comes together. As guests arrive, they are given one of your scorecards, a pencil and a brief explanation of the game. Guests must keep an eye open for weapons and suspects, which you have strategically placed throughout your home. As they spot a weapon or a photo of a suspect, the guest can check that off on their scorecard.

In order to check off rooms on their scorecard, guests must talk to one another to ask, “What room are you?”, referencing the room name that was printed on each guests scorecard before the game started.

What your guest should be left with when completed is a scorecard that has everything checked off except 1 suspect, 1 weapon and 1 room, which by process of elimination should reveal the answer to the game. Have your guests bring the finished scorecard to you so you can write their name and the time they finished on the scorecard, then keep them for the reveal later.

The winner of the game is the person to get all the correct answers the soonest.

We made it interesting by offering a bottle of CR to the winner. What we failed to mention was it was the single shot sized bottle. Also, we always designate someone as bartender for the party. This was the person the scorecards went to.

We found this to be a fun but un-intrusive game that everyone could play without interrupting the party. It also forced our guests to talk to each other, which meant that guests mingled and conversed and new friendships were made.

I hope you enjoy this game as much as we did!

Costuming 101: Constructing Waist Armor

Another edition of how to create wearable Stormtrooper, other, body armor using recycled HDPE plastic chemical barrels.


Costume Armor Protection for the Waist

We learned how to make a basic 'chest-cage' in the first tutorial Fantasy Armor Created from Recycled Plastic Chemical Barrels and the follow-up Creating Wearable Armor / Upper Leg Protection. Methods learned in these lessons included the use of an electric jig saw, a propane torch for heating and bending of the plastic carapaces, and use of the pop-rivet tool. These tools and methods of assembly will be used in this build and it is assumed that the builder understands their use.

In this edition we shall make a locking and removable covering for the waist and groin area. We will also size it to work in conjunction with the Upper Leg Covers created in the previous article.

This Waist Cage as I have named it shall be a hinged 'clam shell' design that is comfortable and easily removed by the wearer to make getting dressed or undressed easier. Making the waist covering is probably the easiest part of creating HDPE armor as it allows for the greatest leniency of design.

To build the armor that will fit around the wearer's waist we begin tracing a pair of the wearer's underwear laid flat onto white poster-board. This undergarment has the approximate what that we require.

We extend and expand the crotch several additional inches to provide excess, as well as extending and flaring the left and right hips slightly both as depicted by the red dotted lines (refer to image.)

Create Waist Cage Template: Cut out two of these in HDPE Plastic

The basic shape of the armor for the hips and waist; traced underwear on poster-board with extensions at the crotch, and at both sides at the hips

Holding the cut-out poster-board pattern to the wearer, we test-fit the template for size. It should cover or at least meet the top of the horizontal belt-line, extend slightly below the top inseam (crotch) and the side 'wings' over the hips should wrap around the waist slightly covering the topmost outer-seam of the wearer's pants. There is excess template (and thus, carapace material) that will be trimmed off later.

It is easier to make an over-sized carapace smaller and it is impossible to make an under-sized carapace larger so it is generally a good approach to always plan the template and cut-out carapaces have overlap regions, excess plastic that can be trimmed to size and symmetry later.

Although the FRONT waist cage and the REVERSE waist cage halves will be cut and worn differently, we use the same pattern to draw and cut-out TWO of these from our 55-gallon HDPE plastic chemical barrel.One of these carapaces shall be lightly trimmed to size while the other shall be more grossly cut-down to size. For what it is worth, I usually saved any 'trimming' that was the size of my palm-&-finger spread or larger for possible future needs. You never know when or for what you will require a 4 or 5-inch square chunk of this HDPE plastic when constructing these types of armor.

Heat and Bend Hip Wings to Form Waist Cage Halves

Using the propane torch and a tub of cold water, heat each of these yellow oval areas one at a time and bend to form a curvature. The two bends should wrap tight around the wearers waist.

In this overly-simplified sketch, with the propane torch and a cold water basin (bath tub, etc.,) heat approximately the yellow oval areas one at a time and bend to form the curvature of the wearer's waist. Immerse in cold water to 'set' the desired bend. Repeat on the opposite side. Repeat this process again on the second carapace half.

Little or no real 'on-body' measuring is require for these while heating-&-bending as ultimately the halves will be torsioned to fit. You want to make each of these two halves be a 'snug fit' when they test-fitted to the wearer's waist. When both halves of the waist cage are hinged to each other in later steps with an adjustable snap strap, they will be a snug and perfect fit.

This may look daunting but making these waist cage halves are some of the easiest carapaces to make in wearable body armor. While HDPE does not readily lend itself to 'cold bending' to form a circle or curvature, a bent-curvature can be 'relaxed' to a large, rounder oval fairly easily. Since these two halves shall be measure to fit together, the main 'adjustment' when wearing is dictated by the position of the snap buckles.

Heat and Bend the Crotch Extensions of your Armor

Heat the yellow oval regions, bend & hold while immersing in cool water to set the plastic in the shape depicted.

Heating the yellow areas with the propane torch until pliable, gently bend the crotch extensions as shown and immerse in cool water. The exact shape and sizes vary, but if the plastic carapace is tall enough the correct height can be compensated for by trimming the top edge of the plastic at the belt-line.

While these two carapace sections are identical, the FRONT shall be larger to cover the groin region and the REVERSE half shall be trimmed somewhat to just reach the base of the spine. This suggests the appearance of protective armor and yet will allow for comfort in both wearing and sitting position.

I continue to stress the importance of 'comfort and easily removable by the wearer' in all my armor constructs.

Attaching a Hinge and Locking Buckle to the Waist Cage

Sizing for fit, attach a small door hinge to one side of the waist cage and a locking plastic belt-buckle to the other side. When worn and clasped, the waist cage should be snug and not slide down off of the hips

By carefully cutting-off length of the 'tails' at the hip level, the two carapaces are roughly paired to form the 'waist cage.' You want the hinged section to meet close at the top outer inseam of the wearer's jeans, and the locking snap belt buckle on the other side should have an overlap or under-lap when drawn one over the other.

The waist cage is now wearable, but additional 'size fitting' may be in order. The top-most edge probably needs to be cut to be horizontally true, and be just above the intended wearer's belt-line. Some sizing around both the crotch and rump area for comfort and modesty are a certainty.

Next we have to make this compliant with the Upper Leg Covers that we made earlier, for likely the Waist Cage will now interfere with the top-edge of the leg covers.

Rock, Paper, Scissors?

What happens now when we try the basic Waist Cage on with the Upper Leg Covers that we made in the previous tutorial? Very likely there will be an overlap as shown in part "B" below.

By trimming the Upper Leg Covers as shown in image part "C", we end up with an arrangement as shown in the last image, "D" so that there is no overlap or impingement.

The upper leg covers that we previously made need to be sized to not interfere with the waist cage unit, as depicted.

When you get the Upper Leg Covers and Waist Cage sized, trimmed and symmetrical, it can be 'decorated' with add-ons to suggest various components. Some of those 'palm-sized' sections of saved HDPE plastic can be riveted to the exterior to suggest thicker armor plating, access port or similar trim effects.

At this stage I shall just try to find actual images to give you ideas and inspiration of what can be done. What you do with your armor and how you decorate it is up to you. The armor can be spray-painted with paint made for plastics. Any visible magic marker lines should be removed first using an ammonia cleanser spray, washed with soap and allowed to thoroughly dry. Chemical in the magic marker will cause any spray paint that comes into contact to warp, bubble-up and peel over time.

the opened waist cage. Note the hinge in the middle and the plastic snap-latch buckle on either end that when worn, closes the waist cage around the wearer

While this inside views of the opened-up Waist Cage does not look like much here, when worn around the waist in conjunction with the rest of the armor it achieves the effect desired.

As you can clearly see from the image of the actual waist covering unit, it really does look much like a pair of personal briefs albeit cast in hard HDPE plastic.

I am still searching for suitable pictures of the actual armor as it looks when worn upon the body.

Easy Katy Perry Costume for Halloween - How to Get Katy Perry's Look for Halloween

Get the Katy Perry costume look easy for Halloween. You have some items in your closet already!

It's easy to get a Katy Perry costume look for Halloween. Learn her how you can get Katy Perry's look from just a few items you may even already have in your closet.  You may need to add to the available items you have, but no need to go out and get everything to start!

Basically, how you build a Katy Perry costume easily is by getting something from your closet and pumping it up. Think cutesy clothes, fun accessories, and super sexy shoes. With the right tools, you can get creative and have that Katy Perry look in time for Halloween.

Easy Katy Perry Costume Ideas - Narrow Down Style

Katy Perry has a classic look reflecting the 40's or 50's with a modern twist. Do you have a long, black wig from other costumes you've made for Halloween? If so, just make a good set of bangs on them. Otherwise, get a Betty Page-style wig.

Here's another Halloween idea - go for polka-dotted dresses, shoes, lace trim bras, sequined high-waisted shorts, ruffle trim vintage dresses, and those form fitting satin dresses with bows. Mix and match and it's sure to be nothing but a Katy Perry costume made just for you.

Check out Ultimate Katy Perry Wigs for Costume Look

You likely have at least one of the above clothing articles in your closet somewhere.  Haven't wore it in a while?  Now's the time...pump it up with some other ideas listed below!

How to Get Katy Perry's Costume Look for Halloween - How Sexy Are You Going For?

Most famous right now is the costume Katy wore on her controversial Sesame Street episode that was canceled. Katy wore a low cut yellow dress with a white veil, topped with yellow and white fake flowers on her head. Mimic that and go for "controversial" sexy with that type of costume.

A week after her Sesame Street public saga, Perry appeared on Saturday Night Live. Her costume consisted of a red Elmo shirt with a matching short red plaid skirt. Tie the easy Halloween look together with heavy rimmed glasses and it's a done deal.

You could go for a two-piece swimsuit that has wild colors and covers more than today's actual two-piece bikinis!  Katy Perry tends to stick mostly with the vintage bikini look with high-waisted bottoms and old-fashioned type tops.  What really pulls off the Katy Perry look in a bikini?  A large set of shades!  Get big sunglasses, preferably white-rimmed and there's a sexy costume for Halloween.  Just be sure it's warm wherever you are!

How to Get Katy Perry's Costume Look - Shoes 

Last, but certainly not least - Katy's style of shoes. She wears peep-toe heels, thigh-high boots, and anything cutesy. Katy has that "candy girl" look that is so appealing.  Stick an extra bow on a pair of high heeled shoes if you want. 

Katy Perry's Costume Done Easily

Just think of creating a Katy Perry costume for Halloween as easy, because it is.  We all have clothes that seem worthless to us now, but with some tweaking you can get a super sexy look fast and look just like this rising pop star.

Katy Perry Wigs: Ultimate Wigs for Katy Perry Costume Look

Ultimate wigs for Katy Perry costume look. See where you can buy the best Katy Perry wigs.

Katy Perry wigs are a hot search to complete the costume look of this big recording artist. Katy Perry dons a number of stylish wigs in her music videos as well as on stage.  One of her most amazing looks is in the "California Gurls" video with her long, lavender wig and bangs. Katy also rocks the shorter, bob style with her many stage costumes as well. She has a look that fits just about everyone.

Where do you get these Katy Perry wigs ideal for your costume look? Click on the links described in this article and it will take you to a specific page to order wigs which offer the ultimate Katy Perry look.  Depending on your budget, any of these wigs would be a great addition to your Katy Perry costume.

"California Gurls" Katy Perry wigs: lavender wig for $37 at or this one HERE for $57.95.

Katy Perry has the classic long black hair with bangs in a lot of her videos and stage appearances.  If you're opting for a costume look with Katy's longer hair, the wig HERE is another great choice at a cost of $28.95.

"Teenage Dream" Katy Perry wig: another colorful wig worn by Katy for her "Teenage Dream" single. Check out the wig HERE for a price of $53.95. They appropriately refer to the hairpiece as "Risque."

Look at the platinum blonde wig HERE for the long synthetic look Katy is also known to wear. The price of this piece is $38.95.

In a report by The Guardian, Katy Perry was photographed in a burgundy wig. If you want a totally original look of the pop singer, go for this look. Click HERE to purchase the bob style for $49.95.

For more costume ideas to get the Katy Perry look easily, read Easy Katy Perry Costume for Halloween. has the wigs listed on this page after involved research. The site also has several tips and provides the best sources where you can buy costume accessories to pull of Katy's look. Whether you're seeking her many corset pieces, cupcake, or cotton candy styles, this site caters to the ultimate Kay Perry fan. Other links on the site include details such as makeup and shoes. Almost any Katy style is possible for your perfect costume look.


How to Make a Beard to Complete Your Halloween Costume

Making a beard to complete your Halloween costume is simple and easy and very inexpensive.

With Halloween fast approaching, most people are looking for some great costume ideas. Costumes that you make yourself are fun, and easy. Sometimes, though, the costumes you make or even buy do not have quite everything you need to complete the outfit.

Beards are one thing that seem to always either be missing or look really shabby, or are simply too expensive to buy. Here is a simple and cheap way to make your own beard whether it is for a wizard, a lumber jack, Noah, or anyone else whose outfit requires a beard. The cost of making it is cheap and it looks terrific!

What you will need:

A piece of self-adhesive felt in the color you want the beard to me

A skein of yarn in the same color as the felt



Without removing the paper from the back of the felt, cut the the felt in the shape and length desired for your beard. If you also want a mustache, cut out a mouth hole, leaving a strip of felt that will fit under the nose and above the mouth. (You many want to cut a small v shape to go around the nostrils.)

Cut your yarn into small pieces 3 to 4 inches.

Remove the paper from felt, and lay felt on the table, sticky-side up. Then start at the bottom of the beard shape and press yarn to the sticky side of the felt. Work your way up until the entire beard is covered.

Run a long section of yarn at each side of the beard, so you can tie the beard at the back of the head, or use wig glue to attach beard in the proper place.

That is all it takes to make a really handsome beard.

If you want to make the costume featured in the picture, all you need is one or two old sheets and some old Christmas garland.

For this costume I simply cut a sheet in half, used one half for the gown (sewed up the sides leaving arm holes and cut out a head hole.)

The cape is the other half the sheet. I hemmed the top and ran a long piece of yarn through it to create a puckered look and draw the cape around the neck to give it shape. I then sewed on an old pillow case cut down to form a hood. Trimmed it all with garland and it was ready to go.

This costume was used as a Grandfather Christmas costume and later I took off the garland and used the same costume for another child for a Sunday School play when he was Noah. The beard was used for many costumes and even put in my little ones dress up box. It lasted for years.

Criss Angel Halloween Costumes

Criss Angel Halloween costumes

Lately Criss Angel has been a huge subject of talk, ever since they showed the episode of Criss walking on water. No matter if Criss Angel is doing magic or disappearing, he always has funky styles of clothing to go with him that are quite inspiring. Criss Angel wears almost anything. He wears baggy pants, tight jeans, leather pants, lots of necklaces, tee shirts, bracelets, denim vests, hoodies, and even tight dress shirts. This would be a very easy Halloween costume to make for any fan of Criss Angel or anyone looking for an easy homemade Halloween costume.

Criss Angel is a great Halloween costume for toddlers, teens, and adults. If you love magic, rock, jewelry, and funky hairstyles this costume will suit you well. For the Criss Angel Halloween costume, you can be Criss with or without the beard.

How to make a Criss Angel Halloween costume without beard:

You will need a short, shaggy, black-hair wig (with blonde highlights) Make sure the bangs are long and cover your eyes.

Huge fake or real diamond earring, smaller earrings to go up the rest of the ear (optional)

3-4 silver necklaces to give a layered look (crosses or a necklace with a huge A on it like shown in Mindfreak)

A pair of faded, ripped jeans and a tee shirt (Make sure the shirt has a print on it, Criss loves designs)

Pair of black boots

Big silver rings, bracelets, and a watch

Clean-shaven face

How to put together the Criss Angel Halloween costume

The only thing you really need to work on for this costume is the hair. You can choose from Criss Angel’s long or short hair. For the long hair, you will need a long brown shaggy layered wig that reaches the top of your shoulders. Make sure the bangs are covering one eye. Criss Angel’s long hairstyle reminds me of Joe Perry from Aerosmith. Therefore, to get a better image on how to style your hair like Criss Angel just look up pictures of Joe Perry from Aerosmith.

Another option for Criss Angel’s long hair is to buy a long black waist-long wig and become Criss Angel the Gothic for Halloween.

Criss Angel’s short hairstyles include an awesome razor cut style with bold honey highlights, or a razor cut with cherry-red highlights. Make sure the top length of the hair comes to the middle of each ear. Then make an off center part and allow the strands in the front to be much longer. The two strands of hair should reach the corner of your lip. Allow 2-3 inches of length in the back, but make sure it is really layered, choppy and uneven. To add the highlights use food coloring, hair dye, Kool-Aid, or semi-permanent color.

How to make a Gothic Criss Angel Halloween costume:

For this Halloween costume, you will need a long straight black wig, leather pants, leather jacket, black boots, black belt, black nails, black fishnet shirt with chains, black eyeliner, and a slightly tanned face with dark black eyebrows.

How to make a sexy Criss Angel Halloween costume

Criss Angel loves to show off his chest by wearing leather vests or denim vests with no shirt underneath. Criss Angel has a very sexy appeal to him so I can completely understand why he wants to show his chest off. To make this look work for your costume, you will need a black sleeveless leather vest, lots of long silver necklaces, very faded denim jeans with a torn, distressed look to them, black buckle belt, black suspenders hanging from the jeans, silver bracelets, silver watch, black fedora hat, black boots, and short Criss Angel hair with blonde highlights.

How to make a Criss Angel Halloween costume with the beard

To make this costume everything will be the same as mentioned above except for the face and hat. You will need to add a very full mustache and beard along with a black beanie hat to cover your hair. Of course, you can always grow your beard and mustache a few weeks before Halloween to get Criss Angel’s look. However, remember you cannot shave it. Another option is to find a pirates beard at a Halloween store or online. Can you make your own Halloween beard? Matter of fact you can, but it has to be done with latex, which may cause some people to get irritated skin. Search online by putting “Fake beard tutorials” into the Google search box.

Halloween: History, Traditions and How to Celebrate

Halloween is a popular festival and is celebrated on the 31st of October every year. it is widely celebrated in United Kingdom, North America, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Halloween is celebrated on 31st of October every year. This festival is observed primarily in United Kingdom, North America, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

History of Halloween

The name Halloween in Irish means “All Hallow Eve” or “All Saints Day”. Traditionally, Roman Catholics used to observe Halloween to honour saints in heaven. In 7th century Pope Beniface IV introduce Halloween or “All Saints Day” to replace the old festival of pagans. In the beginning Halloween was observed on the 13th of May every year but later Gregory III changed the date to the 1st November.

Historian Nicholas Rogers go beyond Roman Catholic era and associate it to the Celtic festival of “Samhain”. He argues that Celtics believed that on this very day the border between this world and the world hereafter becomes very thin and so the spirits can easily move into this world. On this day family ancestors were invited home. It was widely believed that ghosts and spirits also visit the house with dead ancestors, so the family members used to wear masks and costumes to ward off spirits and ghosts they believed come with them.

Some historians are of the argument that there is no mention of any such holiday in Anglo-Saxon history thousand years ago. In the medieval period, the 31st October was only mentioned as an “All Saints Day” and the concept of witches, ghosts and spirits increasingly associated with this festival in 19th century.

Halloween Traditions

Trick or Treat is a customary tradition. Children dress up in costumes and scary masks and visit different houses asking for a "Trick or Treat". The treat traditionally is in the form of candies or money. If they don’t get treat from home owner, they threat them by trick, which means performing mischief on home or home owner.

This tradition has evolved from a practice in the middle ages. In those days, poor people used to knock at homes asking for food and those who fed them were given prayers of dead in reward.

 Carving the pumpkin is another famous tradition and has its roots in America. The families who celebrate Halloween in America often carve the pumpkin into a scary face and place in front of their door in nights.

How to celebrate Halloween

Halloween is widely celebrated across Europe, America and Australia. Some decorate their homes by giving it a scary outlook, so as to frighten anyone who walks up their home. Children often put some scary music on when they knock doors yelling tricks and treats.

There are many ways of decorating home for Halloween; some include blood soaked decoration with bloody weapons and dripping brains. A better way of decorating is to use skeletons, coffins, tombstones, owls and cobwebs. This gives the home a look of an old scary, haunted home. It is better to invite kids and guests at home on this special day. You can make your festival memorable by playing Halloween games and making cookies with scary faces of bats, ghosts and witches.

 Special costumes for Halloween are available on all retail outlets close to festival. Children like wearing them when they go out on their “Tick and Treat “adventure. It is good practice to buy dresses earlier as they become really expensive close to Halloween. Infants can also be dressed in Halloween costumes and they look splendid and are more of an enjoyment for adults. There are a variety of costumes designed for infants on this occasion, some popular are Disney costumes, bunny costumes and tinker bell costumes. The Halloween costumes are normally modelled after ghosts, witches, spirits and skeletons.

Halloween is an important event and must be celebrated at its best. However, recent studies have found that objects like dripping brains and blood soaked weapons can leave a long term scary impact on children, so such practices must be avoided.