Building Officer Vi gauntlet

Halloween at Umeå Institute of Design is a big thing. The talks of Halloween costumes start a month before the actual event. After all we have all those amazing industrial design students who have amazing skills in making incredible product models, and we also have an amazing workshop that allows us to build those models. And it’s time to use those skills for fun purposes for once!

So now, in the second anniversary of making the costume, here’s how I made it!

I, however, do not study product design, and my knowledge of model-making is… pretty mediocre. So when I took on myself making Vi’s gauntlet it felt equally terrifying as it felt exciting. I’ve been following cosplayers for a few years now, I wanted to make something too, and I had this incredible opportunity of having great working space (the workshop) and the reason (Halloween), and I’ve seen such a great fan art of the Officer Vi skin recently I though I need to make it!

Fanart of Officer Vi by zippo514

First I started with getting a grasp of the scale of this thing. I knew most likely I will need pattern(s). I also gathered some materials I knew I would use – I found a pretty big sheet of pink insulation foam that would serve as the main building material and bought a roll of foam mat since I needed a flexible material that will keel its shape.

Okay, that was easy, but how do I make it 3D and give it volume?? How do I connect parts? I started looking for reference on how other people attacked this daunting task. Pretty useful were tutorials by x and y. I also did a basic reference sketch of what I though it would look like.

Oh yeah, and I also created a Vi gauntlet making playlist to keep me hyped to work on it! (It fulfilled its job perfectly until the end! I couldn’t listen to the songs for almost a year afterwards though, lol)

I started planning how to make it happen, and I had to update my list of materials:

  • pink insulation form
  • flexible foam mat
  • spray paint (silver and black)
  • black foamcore
  • 1.5 cm diameter PVC pipe
  • 2.5 cm diameter PVC pipe

The easiest thing to start with was “the core” – the sleeve I would insert my arm into to wear the gauntlet. I measured my forearm, then I drew it on the foam mat and have it a bit of extra length. I cut the rectangle out and hot-glued the edges making it into a tube. Simple, right? No. Apparently hot-glueing a material that does not want to bend so much is not simple at all! I had to glue it 2cm at a time, making sure nothing comes undone. I also ended up burning myself in the process a couple of times (who knew that hot glue is that hot?). After over 30 min of struggle I finally had it! And secured it with the elastic bands that came together with the mat.

Pretty, isn’t it? But it doesn’t matter since it will be covered, thankfully!

Next step was making the back part that would give it volume (the part closest to the elbow). I chose to laser cut the part out of black foamcore. I measured the diameter of the sleeve, to make sure it will fit and pattered the oval part in Illustrator to be later laser cut. I also laser cut second similar oval – these two parts will hold the bullets. The bullets are 7 cm long, cut out of PVC pipe.

I’m not glueing anything yet, just keeping it together with a tape.

Meanwhile I cut the main top part out of pink insulation foam – I use hot wire cutter for this. (This part is probably least accurate of the entire gauntlet, it’s also use different reference pictures here, mostly this concept art by Zeronis.)

Exploring the art of balancing things. Still so much work to be done >_>

Now I’m gonna go through a few parts. On all the reference pictures 3 particular elements are visible – (1) a pneumatic pipe running at the bottom part of the gauntlet, (2) a slat that runs around the bullet line and (3) a metal piece with arcs that protects the pipes inside.

All the 3 parts were cut out of the flexible foam mat. The bottom pipe was done the same way as the main “sleeve”. As for the arc-y part, I pattered that in Illustrator and laser cut the pattern in paper, and copied the pattern to the foam.

Getting a lot better with hot glue-ing!

Retracing laser cur pattern onto foam mat

One very important thing I learned here is that the flexible foam doesn’t like a utility knives. Since it stretches slightly in the cutting process it left really rough edges… So cut it with scissors, works best! (I didn’t want to redo it, so later I just heated and melted the rough edges, not the best result but at least got rid of the roughness.)

Horrible rough edges after cutting with a knife.

It finally started coming together after adding these parts!

Still not fixing things together permanently, so tape has to do

I want to get all the main parts ready as soon as possible so next step is cutting the arc part on the top of the hand to match the V-shaped part. Again, pattern in Illustrator, laser cut paper pattern, copy to foam and cut the foam using the hot wire cutter.

Cutting the insulation foam with a hot wire

And now sanding and giving it all a shape. By far most boring, annoying and time consuming part of working on the gauntlet. I preferred to do it manually for more control rather than using a sanding belt machine, also I didn’t know how this kind of foam would behave with a sanding machine.

For the top part I had to build a small scale model to understand what the shape should look like and how to make it happen. Working with yellow foam is much much easier.

Real size vs scale model

And here’s me trying not to miss the Worlds games and protecting my laptop from the dust.

This shape was so freaking difficult to work with in the pink foam!

I made the shield out of the yellow foam since like I said it’s easier to work with, it was also easier to cut in a thin layer. To get the shape again I laser cut the pattern and copied it to the foam. I also made super simple screws on the sides.

Yay! It looks pretty cool 😀

Meanwhile I also build all the smaller pipes that will be on the sides of the gauntlet, 2 small PVC pipes on each side and one larger made out of foam mat (by them I’m a master in hot-gluing pipes). Then I spray paint the pipes black and add a bit of silver. Since the mat is gray and the pipes are supposed to be silver I don’t worry too much about having a perfect coat of black. Also painting them silver directly on gray looks way too bright and gray rather than silver, so black coat is needed (ideally it would be dark gray, but I didn’t want to buy another can of spray paint, it’s expensive!)

The side pipes after quick painting

I realized the two foamcore oval parts need updating. Now that I had the pipes, something had to hold them. I measured the diameters and patterned and laser cut new ovals with holes for the pipes and the handle. I also realized I need another one to hold the pipes on the other side, so there don’t move.

Original laser cutter patterns for foamcore

Newly cut oval in action, holding the structure together

Then came the most difficult part – how to connect the fingers and the palm. There’s no good reference for that since none of the artworks that I found shows the gauntlet from the side. So I tried sketching it out for myself and also making another scrappy scale model to help me understand.

Beautiful scale model of how to connect fingers and palm

It did help a bit but not all that much… Figuring that out probably took me most time. I saw on the original splash a kind of hexagonal structure of the palm so I tried replicating it.

Palm building blocks

Here’s a cool shot of all the separate parts I have by that time.

Million tiny parts, as I felt at the time.

Btw, I decided to leave the purple tint on the palm hexagons, they don’t be all that visible, and they also have a bit of different tint on the splash too.

I added the handle to the sleeve so that I had something to hold the gauntlet by. I measured the length of my forearm and I cut small holes in the place where my hand would be and led the PVC pipe through. I left a little bit extra length in case it moves sideways. (I later secured it with rubber bands on both sides)

Since I had pretty much everything painted and prepared, I wanted to also make the bullets. I didn’t want to buy red spray paint just for that and acrylic paint didn’t stick well to PVC pipe so I wrapped the bullets in paper before painting them red and fixed the paper with double-sided tape. Not the best quality solution, but it was quick and cheap.

I didn’t want to risk the yellow part being unevenly painted so I used yellow PVC tape that I happened to have. Also, the bottom part of the bullet would be covered so I didn’t have to worry about covering the entire section with tape.

Finally glue! *terror* No more undo option.

Now that looks like a gun XD

Break over, time to go back to figuring how to do the damn palm and see how things come together. I cut a rectangular part and angled the edges that would be base for the palm.

More art of balancing!

Actually not! Let’s do some other things before the palm (yes, I really dreaded thinking of that). I needed to build a support for the V-shaped part since otherwise it would hang in the air and I needed the gauntlet not too fall apart.

Support for the top part, won’t be visible in the end

You know what? Let’s try fingers first. That should help with knowing what shape the palm should be… hopefully… I don’t knoooooow >_>

Daaamn that looks good!

At this point I’m pretty confident with the base structure so I start fixing the pipes permanently with hot glue.

I managed to find some really weird shape for the palm. There’s no pattern for this one. I needed enough space for the fingers to hold onto something, so it’s purely utility. It won’t be visible anyway.

Then fingers! This part was actually super enjoyable to work on. It took a lot of time, but who wouldn’t want to make gigantic fingers??

I love the feeling of scale of the build here

Each section was cut and sanded separately. First cut with hot wire and smoothened with sanding paper. As you can see some of the sections are a little bit lower – that’s because I run out of the material and couldn’t get more so I had to make do with what I had. But I figured in the end that wouldn’t matter much anyway.

There is also noticeable damage on the surface of the round part – that’s because of I didn’t keep the proper distance while spray painting, and styrofoam dissolves in contact with spray paint.

Once that was done I painted the fingers. I did a coat of dark gray acrylic to avoid the purple tint like on the palm and to protect it from the damage from spray paint. After the base coat dried I spray painted the fingers silver.

Meanwhile waiting for the paint to dry I figured out a way to cover the sides of the palm, there was a lot of pipes that weren’t fully reaching the palm surface and had to somehow be dealt with, so while, again, not best solution, I covered up that part with foam painted black and it was good enough.

Cover for the top of the fist

I decided to redo the paint on the round part and make the dark stripe more prominent.

Assembling the main body

After connecting the palm and a few other parts it started looking really solid! I could barely believe that it finally seems to be coming together for real!

Time to go back to fingers!

I loved how all the reference art had visible joints for the fingers, and I wanted to keep that. So I ran to the hardware store and bought more PVC pipe, this time in slightly larger diameter. I chopped it into smaller pieces and spray painted black. I also laser cut caps (circles) from foamcore for each of those pipe-joints. That’s roughly 15 pipes and 30 caps that had to be glue together. I made small incisions on the sides of the fingers’ sections and painted them black to really make them look like joints.

Caps for all the finger joints

Connecting the fingers and making the hinge look

Finally almost last step – connecting the fingers!

Naturally I started from the middle finger XD

That was a really tricky part since I didn’t have that much contact surface to work with. I put it together piece by piece: joint – finger – joint – finger etc. They wobbled and fell apart so I had to make a lot of sketchy fixes and supports here and there, but holy damn it looked good! (Even with all the overflowing hot glue around the fingers)

All fingers attached!!!!!

Last moment support fixes, because the parts did not match all that well (and stable)

As a little bit of my spin on the gauntlet I added knuckles with the shape of a gear, as that’s a Vi’s theme (she has gear-shaped tattoos). I know they looked differently on reference arts, but I likes it with gears and it was simple. So again, Illustrator and laser cutting in foam core.

Added knuckle gears

There were still a few things like the hexagonal palm pieces that needed a bit of treatment and adding the shield to the top of the gauntlet. I simply fixed most of the mistakes by painting them over with black acrylic paint.

I added the shield with yellow painted paper “frame” and star. (I later updated with a better-fitting “frame” and gold paint, but unfortunately I didn’t take proper pictures from that).

The last part to be added – the shield

The fingers aren’t super evenly fixed, but as I said it was really tricky since there was so little contact surface. I ran into multiple problems with that like for example spray paint sticking to the glue but coming undone from the PVC pipe or people slightly bumping into me during the Halloween party. I actually lost 2 finger sections during the party 🙁

Elevator selfies at 3 AM after finishing, crazy tired by so satisfied!

The success story is that I only had to fix the gauntlet 3 times during the night! The party was pretty crowded and I was carrying it around majority of the time.

The reaction of other people was priceless!

I even got too fight with a Jedi!


Here’s some (still not edited properly) pictures from a bit more serious photo shoot I did a few months later – after fixing it and also repainting the shield to golden color.