I'm working on a Link costume from The Legend of Zelda, and that costume isn't complete without the shield. With contact cement adhesive and EVA foam you can make a durable prop.
This is for a child's costume, so it's scaled down to 18" tall and made from foam which is a safer material than wood or resin.
• Shield pattern, I've provided the pattern but it is scaled to a child size
• EVA foam floor mats
• (1) pack craft foam
• contact cement
• plasti-dip, 1 can
• spray paint, 1 can each - silver, blue, gold, and red. I used Rustoleum
• hobby knife and blades
• belt sander
• dremel with grinding bit
• heat gun
• drill with hole saw bit
• painter's tape
• $45 for materials. The only thing I need to buy was silver and gold paint. So my cost was only $8.
• Hobby blades are very sharp.
• Use a cutting mat. It will protect work surfaces and blades.
• A heat gun gets very hot and can cause burns, be wary.
• Paint in a well ventilated area and wear a respirator
Step 1: Build the Shield
I drew the patterns in Sketchup, using images of the shield as reference. To determine the height of the shield I used Link a a reference, noting where the bottom of the shield was in relation to his knees and the top in relation to his shoulders and head. I scaled this to an 18" height, which is in proportion to the costume wearer. An adult would need a larger shield.
Cutting the Base:
I then printed out the template and traced it to the foam. I buy anti-fatigue mats from Harbor Freight as they have the best price. I cut it out with a hobby knife. I used the dremel to smooth out rough edges. The beveled bit is less
likely to cut a line into the foam when compared to a straight cylinder bit. If you keep your blade sharp by replacing often the cuts should be crisp.
The base of the shield is a floor mat with the texture on the back. The front edging is another floor mat with the texture sanded off. The back edging in craft foam. I split the front edging into three separate pieces. The triforce and filigree are floor mats cut at an angle. I tried to keep my hand at a consistent angle as I cut. You absolutely need a fresh blade for the small details. The sharper the blade, the easier it slices through the foam. The phoenix is craft foam.
Glue and Details:
Contact cement attaches the details to the shield. With contact cement, apply it to both surfaces, then let it dry for ten minutes. You only get one shot at placement, most of the time, so get it right. If you wait for less than ten minutes while the contact cement is still wet it won't be as sticky which will let you stick the foam and get a second chance. The foam likes to soak up the contact cement, so I apply two coats, doing the second coat immediately after the first.
The filigree was difficult to cut out and I had a few gouges and rough cuts. I used acrylic caulk to try and smooth it and fill it in. While you can see in the image, I just spot applied it, I should have applied the caulk to the entire filigree PRIOR to gluing the filigree in place. The caulk is a different finish texture than the foam so my filigree looks splotchy after paint.
I heated the shield to give it the curved shape before gluing the edging, hoping this would help retain the shape. I heated the shield a few times to get the curve right. As it cools, the curve decreases so I kept heating and shaping until it was right. The curve also makes the edging have a bit of an angle where I cut the joints which looks like the reference material.
The half dome bolts/rivets are craft foam heat formed to shape with a 3/4" diameter rubber ball. I didn't try to free hand it as that hasn't worked out for me in the past. I heated the foam, then pushed the ball into it. With the craft foam being so thin, it's easy to burn all the way through it. I cut a base for the dome since it is hollow. I don't want it to depress too far though it did return to shape during initial testing. I made more domes than needed as some I stretched too far and others not enough.
I used the floor mats to create a base for the dome. I didn't have a hole saw bit the right size, so I made 1" holes and cut to fit. I would have been better off to just draw a 3/4" circle and cut it out by hand, but it all worked out in the end. I mounted the base to a bolt through the center to smooth the edges on the belt sander. I glued the bases in place, then glued the domes over top. In this case, don't let the contact cement dry, pull the dome over the base while it's still wet. This allows you to adjust the position.
On the back of the shield I glued craft foam edging, a floor mat handle and then a craft foam wrist strap with craft foam to look like handle brackets. I left the texture of the floor mat on the back which provides a nice texture contrast. Contact cement glues everything down.
Once everything is glued in place, use a heat gun to close the pores of the foam before plasti-dip. The foam will darken slightly and acquire a sheen. This step doesn't take long, so don't burn the foam. You don't have to heat it, but this closes the pores so that the foam doesn't absorb so much paint.
I plasti-dipped the entire shield once assembled. I used a piece of wire looped around the handle so I could paint the entire shield in one turn. I didn't paint over the back, leaving it black plasti-dip. I painted it blue first, then I taped off to paint the various parts. I waited a day in between different colors. I wanted to give the shield a dark wash for a more realistic and used look, but the costume wearer refused =).
To do that, I would have thinned black and/or brown acrylic paint with water and then wiped it into the crevices, corners, and edges. I would then wipe the paint off with a towel lightly. This would leave the dark color in the edges, providing contrast and a used look. You could create smears and streaks as desire, dry brushing paint around the rivets which is where grime would accumulate.
Even after Halloween and lots of play, it's held up fine. Contact cement is much more durable than hot glue. Not a single piece of foam has even thought about coming unattached. The paint has been scuffed in a few places, but that just adds intrigue. It's lightweight and durable, perfect for kids.