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 Post subject: DIY: an aluminum breastplate and beyond!
PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2014 2:25 pm 
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Hi folks,
so I've dropped a few hints over the last few months, but for my birthday back in March my brother started helping me make a metal breastplate as a present. When we were kids we had these huge dished metal sleds, and I'd noticed he was turning one of them into a shield:

Attachment:
shield.jpg
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I jokingly brought up the idea of turning the other one into a USCM breastplate, and low and behold he did:

Attachment:
breastplate1.jpg
breastplate1.jpg [ 149.68 KiB | Viewed 8920 times ]


Now we're still fine tuning a lot of it. His metal-smithing is more centered around Experimental Archaeology of the 12th-14th centuries, so some of my requests no doubt seemed counter intuitive to him, but we're making some good progress.

We opted to do the "steps" (which he calls Lames) as two pieces that would then be riveted to the breastplate (where the grenade straps would hide the join) and then blended with Bondo or SteelStik.

Attachment:
lames.jpg
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Now this photo shows before I corrected the angles on the lames. It seems pretty common for folks the make the lames both follow the same shape (even Lee got it wrong in the Tech Manual), but really the bottom one is shaped quite differently:

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zhudsonchest_zps4a642c2d.jpg
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It's all academic of course since the belt hides this portion of the armour, but since I'm making a go of it I'm going to try to get the details kinda right. The raised area around the shoulder clip is another bit I need to tackle.

In the end I think it will take a good paint job, the correct neck trim and webbing (thanks Noble!) and the correct sized side release clips (thanks Chef!) to sell the breastplate. I've got faith that I can make this work, and it has been a dream of mine to have metal armour, so we'll see where this adventure leads!

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Last edited by retrogarde on Tue Apr 05, 2016 1:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: DIY: an aluminum breastplate (and beyond?)
PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 12:57 am 
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Is he hammering this thing out the 'old fashioned' way'?

One time I went so far as to look for a rounded anvil and a hammer, but after watching a couple youtube videos on the process I totally wussed out. Man I want some metal armor bad. I dont fear drilling, cutting or welding...but somehow "hammering to form" just seems sooooo daunting.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 1:50 am 
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You can't quite tell from my crappy photo, but the sleds had a good amount of the dishing already done when we got them. But he has clearly done more (check out the hammer marks).

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 15, 2015 3:55 am 
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Time to dust off this old project and make some actual headway.

My brother's attempt was great, but the overall size was wrong, and the cutout on the bottom wasn't centered to the hourglass shape. So, I compared as many photos as I could find of the breastplate and made the following decisions:

Attachment:
CAM02164.jpg
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I've since cut the bottom and the sides and it makes a world of difference. The top of the cutout really needs to be elbow level so that shape of the bottom of the breastplate follows the wearer's ribcage. Any lower and you're inhibiting movement.

I have been planning all along to build up the lames with layers of plate stacked like overlapping shingles, but when I look at how much material was there before the initial cuts it makes me wish I'd at least tried to make them as indentations. oh well, I can't go back now!

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 Post subject: Re: DIY: an aluminum breastplate (and beyond?)
PostPosted: Tue Sep 15, 2015 1:36 pm 
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Awesome! Looking forward to the rest of this.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2015 2:34 am 
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The edges still need to be ground down and leveled a bit, but I wanted to get started on the lames so that I could finish them all off at once instead of dragging out the metal grinder multiple times. So first I made cardboard versions to see how it was looking...

Attachment:
guides.jpg
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Then a test fit to see how it "wears". Now of course without a back or strapping it is very awkward to keep in place to tell how it's going to be, and that's how you end up with a photo like this where I'm holding the breastplate too low:

Attachment:
lowtestfit.jpg
lowtestfit.jpg [ 133.11 KiB | Viewed 8138 times ]


I have an old exit sign that is a thicker gauge that I'm using for the lames. It will really help add some strength the the breastplate. I am going to use the finished edge of the sign for the bottom so that the cutout is the only thing I will need to focus on. By cutting the sign I can then take a section from the other end, flip it over, and have a second finished edge for the bottom lame as well.

Once these pieces are all cut out and have their edges smoothed down I will need to rivet the pieces to the breastplate. While I don't think the rivets will show once it is painted, I'm still planning to hide them behind the grenade straps as much as possible. I hope this weekend I can make some real headway on this!

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 Post subject: Re: DIY: an aluminum breastplate (and beyond?)
PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2015 7:17 pm 
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That looks pretty cool,I'm looking forward to seeing the end result :D

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 18, 2015 2:30 am 
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Thanks Schotti! I knew mine would be the "runt of the litter" next to yours and Bigbisont's, but when it is finished and has all the correct bits from Noble added I think it will look pretty good.

Is it the 30th anniversary that has us pumped enough to be making these or the hope of a new Alien film? Maybe both!

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 18, 2015 8:14 pm 
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Test fitting the lames before riveting them this weekend...

Attachment:
CAM02178-1.jpg
CAM02178-1.jpg [ 827.08 KiB | Viewed 8056 times ]

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 18, 2015 8:40 pm 
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retrogarde wrote:
Thanks Schotti! I knew mine would be the "runt of the litter" next to yours and Bigbisont's, but when it is finished and has all the correct bits from Noble added I think it will look pretty good.

Is it the 30th anniversary that has us pumped enough to be making these or the hope of a new Alien film? Maybe both!


Thanks Retro,but i'm pretty shure that yours is going to Look just as good when it's finished Pal.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:05 am 
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A huge amount of work done on the breastplate this weekend. But each step forward shows how much there still is to do. The edges have all been ground down and the lames have been added to the bottom. The raised guard around the right "shoulder" (where the quick release clip goes) is nearly done, but I see now that the left "shoulder" should have been extended up and not cut off. So, I need to measure and cut an extension, rivet it onto a jump plate and JB Weld the seam. Speaking of which, all the rivets in these photos have been JB'd and sanded down smooth. It's really quite a process but I'm damned happy!

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2015 2:33 am 
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Getting a bit more work done on this. I know it is rough, but in the end it will all be painted in camo anyway so I'm trying to not be down on the fact that it isn't as silver and shiny and Schotti and Bigbisont's awesome builds.

Attachment:
12087658_10205141778319609_7922827071193506734_o.jpg
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I found an aluminum name plate off an old electrical panel that was just the right size. The lettering isn't raised so it'll disappear as soon as I start painting this puppy.

Attachment:
12132612_10205141789079878_6467121566176379307_o.jpg
12132612_10205141789079878_6467121566176379307_o.jpg [ 395.16 KiB | Viewed 7860 times ]


I started working on a pattern for the back piece so hopefully I'll be working on that soon too!

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 29, 2015 2:03 am 
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After working out what I wanted in cardboard...

Attachment:
12187683_10205238689102318_1636522196214971871_n.jpg
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I moved on to aluminum...

Attachment:
12186803_10205238686862262_3366858212788822010_o.jpg
12186803_10205238686862262_3366858212788822010_o.jpg [ 147.38 KiB | Viewed 7675 times ]


and started getting a feel for the shape.

Attachment:
12186360_10205240299702582_8172920625295012195_o.jpg
12186360_10205240299702582_8172920625295012195_o.jpg [ 282.59 KiB | Viewed 7675 times ]


Using the reference photos from this site (and especially Bigbisont's build thread) I'm mapping out where everything needs to go. I need to make the indented areas before I fully shape the back late, so right now it looks pretty funny.

Attachment:
12189040_10205242647481275_5235988887846086645_n.jpg
12189040_10205242647481275_5235988887846086645_n.jpg [ 86.8 KiB | Viewed 7675 times ]

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 Post subject: Re: DIY: an aluminum breastplate (and beyond?)
PostPosted: Fri Oct 30, 2015 6:14 pm 
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Hey mate Thats looking pretty Darn good keep it Up.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 05, 2015 5:02 am 
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Psyching myself up to do the five indentations in the back plate. I'm nervous about messing it up, but this whole project has been a huge learning experience so far already.

Attachment:
12189218_10205264167339258_8795608168448372501_o.jpg
12189218_10205264167339258_8795608168448372501_o.jpg [ 239.35 KiB | Viewed 7544 times ]

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 05, 2015 4:06 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 31, 2015 2:36 am 
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Back at it again!

So first I had to measure and sketch it all out so that everything would be even and balanced. Once I was happy with that I made paper templates of the indentations and gave them to a woodworking friend.

Attachment:
backlayout.jpg
backlayout.jpg [ 91.68 KiB | Viewed 7249 times ]


He turned them into positive and negative wooden block sets.

Attachment:
woodenblocks.jpg
woodenblocks.jpg [ 186.94 KiB | Viewed 7249 times ]


I then put the positive on the front, the negative on the back and sandwiched them in a vice to make the indent. I had my friend leave a 2mm gap the whole way around on the negative, and I'm thinking that was too much as it resulted in a softer edge than I'd expected. I'm going to try to improve it a bit, but even so I'm pretty happy with how it is turning out.

Attachment:
topindent.jpg
topindent.jpg [ 275.45 KiB | Viewed 7249 times ]


The side is proving to be trickier as I can't get my vice in to clamp on it as easily. This is still a good start, but I may have to do some extra anvil work on the sides.

Attachment:
sideindent.jpg
sideindent.jpg [ 95.12 KiB | Viewed 7249 times ]

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 Post subject: Re: DIY: an aluminum breastplate (and beyond?)
PostPosted: Thu Dec 31, 2015 5:26 pm 
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Very interesting approach! I wouldn't worry about the 'soft' edges too much. A sharp edge (anvil) and flat hammer can definitely crisp things up pretty good. Can't wait to see the final product!

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 01, 2016 2:14 am 
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Thanks man! My indented area is entirely uniform which is great. Now I just need to make it look crisp. I can't believe how long this has taken, but knowing that I'll be trooping in metal armour for the 30th anniversary feels awesome.

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 Post subject: Re: DIY: an aluminum breastplate (and beyond?)
PostPosted: Fri Jan 01, 2016 10:27 am 
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Thanks for sharing.
Keeping fingers crossed it will be ready for your next drop.
It’s truly a great way to celebrate the 30th anniversary.

BTW: Happy New Year and good luck with all of your activities! :)

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 6:49 pm 

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I am forever impressed with the gear that gets created on this site.
Turning an old sled into CM armor - that's fantastic!


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2016 2:41 am 
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Well, I abandoned my early approach and just went at it with the hammer and anvil.

Attachment:
backplatejanuary3.jpg
backplatejanuary3.jpg [ 250.43 KiB | Viewed 7064 times ]


Is is rough? Yes.

Is it done? No.

I'm going to see what I can do to even things out. I need another day in the shop, but right now I've got a pair of blisters on my hammerin' hand, so I need to wait. :roll:

Worst case I put a little Bondo on the rough patches, right??

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 09, 2016 3:12 am 
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We had a break in the cold weather so I took the opportunity to do some more parking lot armour building.

Attachment:
backplatejanuary8.jpg
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Attachment:
frontplatejanuary8.jpg
frontplatejanuary8.jpg [ 110.39 KiB | Viewed 6983 times ]


The back is really almost in the right shape. I need to get a few spare hands to help me check the fit and how it interacts with the pauldrons. I left the sides of the back plate intentionally long so that I would have wiggle room on both the fit and the angle. My goal is a to have a nice snug fit where the two halves clamshell together on both sides with no gap.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 17, 2016 6:07 pm 
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Slow and steady...

Attachment:
1-17 armour test1sm.jpg
1-17 armour test1sm.jpg [ 645.95 KiB | Viewed 6892 times ]


I need to trim the edges of the backplate's sides to make them even with where they meet up with the sides of the front plate.

Attachment:
1-17 armour test2sm.jpg
1-17 armour test2sm.jpg [ 1.72 MiB | Viewed 6892 times ]


I still need to add the plate to the bottom of the back, and the lamp brackets. Then paint, trim, weathering... oh, and shoulder bells and tabs!

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 Post subject: Re: DIY: an aluminum breastplate (and beyond?)
PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2016 3:32 pm 
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Looking great! Can't wait to see all the improved parts and paint all finally come together.

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