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(Vandal #3) Eyes, Tongue, and Foaming the Head

I’ve finally made it to an exciting stage: foaming the skeleton! This process took me about 2 weeks of full days work, and I made a few more changes to the skeleton as well.

I started with his head, which required a lot of foam around the back to make it less square and blocky looking. I also started building it up toward the first hair spike. Looking at the 3D models from the Sword and Shield games, its apparent that his head is very smoothly arched up into the hair spikes, whereas my skeleton has a flat top. This is fine since the skeleton was just a base and I anticipated needing to add a lot of foam to it to achieve an accurate shape. I try to keep the skeletons minimal.

Note: I also played around with his ear placement at this point, so one side has an ear pinned on!

The foam was layered, with the upper layer (the grey foam) being sand-able for smoothing around the eyebrow. I also added a layer of thin 1/4″ foam on the side of his head to bring it out slightly, and shore up the area around the hinge where his lower jaw was slightly inset. I also added a layer of headliner around his nose to round it out some and smooth it, as well as the bridge of his nose. The grey felt is there for extra smoothing, and in the case of his nose, to cover the bolt attaching the inner head rods. You can ignore the yellow foam on his neck in the middle picture, this was just for testing smoothness and not official yet 🙂

Now, the first thing that happened in terms of changes was an extra reinforcement I felt the need to add, after noticing that the area was sagging a bit as I was foaming his head. The area in question was the topmost sliding area of the head (where his spine attaches to the back of his head). While the area itself, as well as each side, was reinforced with plastic, or in the case of the hinge itself, a thick piece of PVC, the EVA foam between these areas was not reinforced, and a crease was beginning to show. I took a piece of styrene and covered the entire area, locking it in place with both glue and zip ties. Below are before and after pictures (I had to remove the third hair spike to do this):

This area now still flexes slightly which is great, and the bolt still slides underneath the styrene, so all is now well with the sagging hinge!

Next, I started fleshing out the hair spikes (#1 and #2 only so far, with the others only being center bases), and began filling out his shoulders with thick foam. I also had to shore up the area just after his shoulders because the skeleton curved inward pretty drastically, so I layered a couple pieces of foam into that area to bring it out slightly (the last two pictures show these pieces).

After this, I initially added some pieces of foam from my scrap bin to continue fleshing out the neck, but later decided I didn’t like this setup, for a couple of reasons: one, it was just messy looking, and that also leads into the second reason, which is that I will be adding a zipper into the seam between his hair and the sides of his neck on both sides so I can peel the foam back to do interior work if necessary, so this area will potentially be seen or felt and I decided I’d like to put it together nicer than that. So what I did was use the dark grey foam that is sand-able (it’s not EVA but its similar) and layered them sort of like muscles, sanding down the edges so they will look smoother when the neck is complete.

The first picture below shows what I had prior to the layered grey foam.

You’ll probably also notice the weird looking patch of foam on the shoulders, it almost looks like a patch of buckram. This is reticulated foam and acts as a vent! Or will hopefully, it really depend on how well the fur I’m using ends up breathing. But hopefully it will help with heat dispersion.

I also put down a layer of the grey foam on the chest so the neck tapers a little better into that area and isn’t as abrupt looking at the edges.

I’ll also add real quick what I did to help the cheek fluff/spiky things stand out in the right way, and make them sort of reinforced but still flexible. Instead of just being made of foam (and thin foam at that, 1/4″), I lined the back with a layer of thin EVA foam, and then added two strips of the same EVA to the back of that in a curved arrangement, so the help make the spikes stick out instead of going in toward the neck.

That also reminds me to mention, since you can see it in the above picture, I slightly modified the jaw wiring to be attached in the center of the jaw rather than on either side of the jaw. This alteration was done after I noticed that the wires being on each side of the jaw were actually impacting the movement of the head from side to side, as they would begin rubbing up against the inside of the first neck rib and impede further movement. By moving the wires into a ^ shape, similar to the rods in the head, they no longer come close to either side of the inside of the ribs.

As a small alteration note related to the above, I also added two loops of elastic that hang from the top of the neck, attached by two zip ties that slide along the plastic bar near the end of the neck (the one that also helps to reinforce the neck sides). Through those loops, the metal bars going from the sides of my head to the inside area of Vandal’s head (attached at the nose, if you recall) and help a lot with relaxation and jaw movement. While not impacting the movement itself, these elastic loops allow me to open the jaw by tilting my head down instead of needing to open my mouth. I must open my jaw, however, when his head is up, since the loops then no longer support the rods. This option though allows me to walk around with his mouth open so I can see forward without needing to have my own mouth open at all times. Obviously this is much preferable! It also helps open the mouth a little more than I can naturally open it with my own jaw, when I open the mouth all the way and tilt my head down, his jaw opens quite wide!

From here, I continued to flesh out the hair spikes one by one, smoothing them over with a layer of thin foam over the top of the chunks I was laying down from my scrap bin.

I carved some of the thin foam more as I went along, hence the ugly looking seam there in the middle, which won’t show after I add fur.

You’ll probably recall that, since the head moves, the spikes had to be very carefully constructed so that this movement wouldn’t be impacted. So, the inside of the second spike (initially I was to make it the first spike but on second consideration looking at the 3D models, its the second spikes that collapses into the third) is carved away to fit the curvature of the third spike, and only the outside edges of the second spike exist to make it appear as though its a complete hair spike. I’ll continue with this illusion when I go to fur this area, adding a strip of fur with a slit down the center of it, to the back of the second spike to cover up the carved out area and for the third spike to partially disappear into.

Around this time I also started to add foam in the gap between where the head moves around the base of the neck (you can see the thin foam behind his ear in the pictures above). This foam has a layer of styrene underneath so ensure it slides over the fur smoothly and easily.

To keep the foam and plastic piece as close to the neck as possible to help hide a seam for movement, I looped some elastic from the head base to the plastic/foam piece. This pulls the piece inward so it rests on the neck instead of sticking out, and because of the smooth styrene backing, it still moves very smoothly and hides the seam well even with just the foam (again, I have a piece of foam on the neck for movement and seam testing).

A did a similar thing to the throat area which you can also see starting behind the fluff under his ear.

Before I go to add more foam to the neck and fully encase the skeleton (also severely restricting my vision, since I don’t have the diamonds on his neck to see out of yet; that will come later), I want to install the eyes, while I still have access to inside the head. I cut out the roof of his mouth as well to help with this, and for maintenance purposes I will be making this a removable piece (via Velcro), with some of his teeth also attached to this and thus will be removable so I can safely stick my hand inside to either alter the eyes or fix anything with the metal rods inside his head.

I started working with the eyes first by making a paper mockup to find the basic size and placement for the pupil to achieve the following effect. The right-most image shows the EVA cutout of the pupil. The paper eye pattern is slightly larger than his eyesocket so I can glue the final EL panel onto the inside of head. The paper border around it is the actual eye area.

While not having this on the model in-game, I decided to add the little white eye gleam to this character; it seemed to make it pop more and just in general looked a lot better. Artistic liberty!

The first step to finally installing the eye was gluing the border in first. I lined the eye with thin EVA first and then added a layer of styrene on top of that.

After painting, I’m ready to put in the EL panel, and after that was glued in, I glued on the pupil, and voila:

(I should also mention that the white dot on his pupil is painted directly onto the EVA and sealed). The plastic around the eye is also sealed after painting and installing the panel.

After completing the eyes, its time to finish those hair spikes!

I completed these with the grey sand-able foam (slightly more flexible than my similar thickness EVA foam) and filled them with Poly-fil so they’re not totally hollow.

Next up was lining the inside of the chest harness and arm hole areas with foam for comfort and sweat absorbancy. For this I used more reticulated foam, which is highly porous, dries quickly, and is antimicrobial (aka it won’t rot due to yucky stuff). I removed the current padding I had and decided against (for now at least) making a new pocket for a cooling pack, instead layering a single piece of 1″ foam in here. I may revisit that pocket in the future but for now this will be fine.

After installing the foam, I broke out my hand-dandy new serging machine and lined it all, since reticulated foam isn’t the most comfy stuff in the world, and doesn’t slide over most materials very well.

I’d also like to mention here that I slightly altered the arm hole area in a couple of ways. For one, I didn’t like how cramped my head felt inside the neck, so I padded above the shoulders so the whole thing would ride higher on my shoulders. This of course made the helmet, which was attached to the spine via elastic, a little too far up, so I snipped the elastic. It is SO much more comfortable now! I had to remove some of the plastic from below the armhole though now that everything sits higher, because it was cutting into my armpit a little. To make up for that removal, I added a bit more around my chest area. This whole rig doesn’t weigh very much (around 5lbs) but if I still decide on adding the full body harness, this will give me more to attach it to.

Now comes the time I must finish up and complete the neck, forfeiting my visibility for a while. It took me a lot of tinkering, adding of styrene and shaving down to get the neck in some areas to not show evidence of the ribbing, but I finally did it!

You can see the styrene through the foam 😛 but its pretty darn smooth, and I even layered a test piece of fur over it to ensure it was smooth. It very much is!

You can also see a few edits I made to the second hair spike in the second picture, a layer of headliner for smoothing and some styrene for gliding across the fur.

So at this point, his head base is completed! Yay! The next step will be patterning for fur and cutting out the diamonds for visibility. But before I go there, I wanted to add a fun thing: his tongue!

His tongue was fairly simple, but really fun in the end. I used minky fabric for this, and added some magnets to the inside so the tongue can fold up in his mouth and be out of the way. It’s also only attached with a piece of elastic to the bottom jaw, so if someone (inevitably) pulls on it, it will not break the rest of the suit, just pull on the elastic and put some stress on the lower jaw, which is fine.

And that’s just about it for this stage of the project! It sure was A LOT of work, but it was a fun process. Time to start on other things! I already have a bit of playing around done with his hands and feet so I’ll probably tackle those next.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below!

(Vandal #2b) Neck Revisions/Foam Prep

A short log post this time just to cover a few alterations and updates I’ve made after my bit of hiatus from this project (a lot going on in my life lately…)

First things first, I reinforced a lot of areas with simple cable ties, and in one area, a plastic screwpost, because I noticed the hot glue doesn’t always hold too well to the plastic pieces. The clear rivet-looking things are the screw posts. I also added some HI styrene sheets to certain mild stress areas (around the harness where it moves slightly upon getting in and out of the suit) and both glued and cable tied them to the EVA foam. This way the glued EVA seams won’t come apart, ever. This will all be lined in the future so it won’t look as ugly!

Cable ties are something a lot of people just think of as temporary solutions, but for things like this they work very well. I will mention however, that I do not recommend them for areas that move excessively and hold weight/stretch regularly. They’re very difficult to break or stretch in general, but the more tension or weight you put on them, the easier they’ll eventually snap or stretch. The areas I’ve placed them here are infrequent (or none at all) stress areas, but with the plastic sheeting and the fact that they’re not actually supposed to stretch or move, rather to ensure the areas DON’T move, the usage will be fine. I’ve very rarely had a cable tie snap, and I use them frequently for both permanent and temporary solutions.

Near the end of the neck, I also added a piece of EVA layered with PVC board for a bit of added horizontal crush reinforcement.

I also installed a removable fan (removable via Velcro) that, because its attached to the bars along the sides of the interior helmet, moves with me as I move my head around. The battery box will be hidden inside the mohawk later on. The fan itself is far up enough to where it does not effect my vision through the mouth, and it’s very quiet.

One of the major things I altered in preparation for foaming is alteration of the area just behind where the head pivots. I removed the last ring of the neck and replaced it with a triangular piece that is curved slightly inward. This curvature allows for the head to still move smoothly and slightly overlap when turned left or right. The main reason I did this was because I started noticing how that last ring was actually being impacted by the sides of the head when it would turn, and I knew this would affect the foaming process and likely look weird when complete.

Also in prep for foaming, and now that there was a huge gap in the throat from removing that last ring and only replacing the top with the triangle, I added a single piece of EVA foam in the throat area that is curved up. This will be to attach the foam to and ensure everything stays flexible around that area, since it will need to overlap smoothly. I may or may not also add some mesh here, depending on how the visibility situation goes.

The final thing I did (besides add the start of the mohawk, which I’ll include in the foaming process) is revise the head shape some by cutting some excess foam and sanding it smooth or thinning it out in certain areas, such as behind his eyes where I thought it stuck out far too much upon revisiting this project. I also shaved down the eyebrow area, end of the muzzle, and part of the mouth to make it more straight instead of curved as much into a smile (it still looks like he’s smiling though :D)

As a side note, yes I sometimes work in my Star Wars pajamas 😛

Next journal entry will be on adding the foam, which I’ve already started on at the time of writing this. Remember to join my Discord server or follow me on Ko-fi for exclusive WIP photos even before I release the next log entry!

(Vandal #2) Neck & Head Skeleton

The conversion from the prototype to the final piece took far longer than I thought it would, and I took a lot of breaks working on it, but it’s finally done!

I had to do a lot of reworking as I went along; I realized I wasn’t happy with some of the design (such as thinking maybe the neck was a little too thick, as I still need to put a thing layer of foam over the whole thing), and some of it wasn’t quite working as well I wanted it.

The Neck

The issues I had were due to some of the design around where my head sat in the back of his neck. The arches I made, while structurally necessary to keep the whole thing sturdy, were too close to the interior helmet design I have to wear on the inside, resulting in restricted movement, so I had to redesign some of that (a few different times in some places, oof). Picture below is the original design, and then afterward is the edited (final) design.

Below is a gallery of my initial design.
Note: The first couple of pictures were before I placed the coloured plastic bits over the EVA, just to show the progress and that they are in fact EVA strips, just with plastic reinforcement added on top.

I’ll get to what those weird white railings are in a little bit.

The red part (his “spine”) and the blue pieces coming off of it from the back are what needed to be altered, and I also was forced to remove the two vertical braces near the head connection area. This was because the interior rods connected to the helmet bumped into them (I failed to consider just how far those rods needed to move left and right for his head to move enough to be noticeable).

While I was messing with this, I also cut the rings from the top and brought them in a little more; you won’t be able to really see this alteration, all it did was make the neck a little thinner but the seams are hidden underneath the spine.

I also took the time to play around a lot more with the movement mechanisms, which are those little white plastic pieces on the side and top of the neck. I actually removed these at one point and tried a lot more things, from elastic, to simple EVA rods, to an actual multi-hinge setup using screw posts for extra pivoting points. None of them worked the way I wanted so I returned to the PVC railing I had made first.

I went with the head-only pivot design (no neck movement) for the main reason of Obstagoon’s actual design in-game. At one point I added railings along the sides of the rings so that the rings themselves actually compressed and stretched so the entire neck moved, not just the head. This was a cool result, but Obstagoon isn’t actually shown as having this kind of movement; instead, his head pivots on the end of his neck. It may not be 100% realistic, but it’s generally how a creature like this would move (there would of course still be some neck movement on a real animal but the head movement would be much more noticeable) so I went with it.

I also slightly modified the front of the chest area to alter how it sat on my shoulders a bit. I felt the neck was a little too far forward and down, so when I hunched over even slightly it was pointed sorta toward the ground. It didn’t take much, but it seems to fit a little nicer now and the neck sits in a good position. The interior padding I will add later will help move it up and out a little bit as well.

After all of the editing and reconstruction, the final neck build looks like this (without lining and other finishing details):

The Head

Next was his head, which started out as very basic EVA foam shapes glued together (I made a pattern based on my cardboard mockup). It fit together kinda haphazardly near the side there, my oopsies, but I filled it in with putty later so all is well!

Basic EVA headbase

This piece also went through a lot of small edits, such as the back of the head where it attaches to the neck. But once all that was worked out, I reinforced important areas with plastic (the hinge area with PVC for strength and the general foam with the styrene). I also realized after the fact that I should have cut the eyes out initially but somehow I forgot :’D I managed though. Yay box cutters!
After I was done with the basic shape and reinforcing some specific parts for durability, I sanded some edges to make it smoother and filled in some cracks with foam putty. That last part doesn’t matter much but it makes me feel better not having weird gaps in-between places I needed edit.
This is the final result for the headbase (no ears yet):


The wires and metal bars coming out of the back will make sense very shortly! There are also a few very minor asymmetries, but these will be fixed/unnoticeable when I go to add detail foam over this ‘skull’.

As for the other weird things you may notice, the white railing on the top of his head was leftover from my experimenting with hinges. I left it because it added some structural integrity to the back of the head. The final hinge is underneath it and is glued (with Barge and hot glue) and zip-tied to the head. The hinge itself has a hinge, too, for extra movement! This was done with a loose fitting screw post so the head can turn left and right and up and down from that point as well as the sides of the neck. Here’s a closeup picture of that area so it’s (hopefully) a little more clear.

This area is reinforced on both sides via that railing on the top and some plastic on the inside. It’s zip-tied to a piece of plastic I used to fill in part of the railing. The hinge itself is also zip-tied which is again left over from my experimentation. At an earlier point that EVA piece in the center of the sandwiched PVC pieces moved up and down but I decided to make that part static and instead went with the two-piece hinge idea for added rotation.
The rest of the PVC board you’re seeing in the head is just for integrity. He is all over very sturdy!

The Interior Headpiece

I constructed this much different from my initial design because what I had didn’t quite work the way I wanted, at least for the jaw. The jaw had a lot of unwanted movement to it and when moving my head up or down, the jaw did not respond adequately.
It took me a lot of trial and error to get all of this work, but eventually I got it all up and running as I wanted it. It’s constructed as a basic helmet with a moving jawpiece that has two tiers set into it (visible in the gallery). One is for my jaw to sit on, and the other is slightly higher and presses against my chin. This is because the jaw is a push/pull mechanism; there is no elastic!

You’ll notice the wires coming out of the jaw. These hook directly into those weird loops at the back of Vandal’s jaw. Both ends are able to rotate where they’re connected, which was a very important piece, and that’s how the smooth jaw movement works (video at the end!). When I close my mouth, the jaw returns to being closed because that piece in front of my chin is pressed and pulls the helmet jaw back up, which in turn pushes Vandal’s jaw back into place.

The last important piece is the metal triangle set just above my forehead. These two metal pieces meet at the end, are zip-tied together, and both glued and zip-tied to a piece of PVC board, which is bolted (with a slightly longer than necessary screw post for more free movement) at the top end of Vandal’s muzzle. It can move up and down and left and right, and because of it’s specific placement at the end of the muzzle, it helps the head actually rotate on the hinge at the back of the head. It’s a little hard to explain without going into a bunch of mechanical jargon, so I’m just going to leave it at that, but I may make a technical video in the future to better illustrate some of the stuff going on inside this suit.

And finally, here’s a video that showcases the movement of this piece in it’s completion! (I also go over a few main points of the build for newcomers to the project via YouTube).
If you’re wondering about placing foam and fur over this skeleton and still having it move, I will be leaving a seam around the head and neck with sections of fur that will overlap and slide smoothly over each other to maintain the movement this has. Obviously covering this with a single piece of foam and/or fur would hinder the movement almost completely, and since I’m not using the strength of servos to move the head and am not using stretching NFT fur, I have to compromise by having this seam. I’ll do my best to make it as hidden as possible. I imagine it won’t be too difficult as his ears and cheek tufts cover up a lot of where the seam would be, but we’ll see when I get there. Until then, enjoy this video and I hope you like the results so far!

And with that, I think that just about covers all these pieces. If you have any additional questions, feel free to comment below.