Alternately titled ‘how I burned off all my finger prints with a hot glue gun.’
This began as an idle thought and a challenge between Jason and myself (I won, by the way). I loved Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I saw it six times in theaters. It’s based on one of my favorite comic runs of all time. Jason and I were actually at San Diego in the panel where they announced it in 2012. Which was surreal because I had just finished Ed Brubaker’s run.
So after the heartbreak over the cancellation of the Winter Soldier ongoing (though they gave him a new one and everything is fine now) and seeing the movie maybe one too many times, this idea took hold. Jason challenged me to a competition over who could make him a better Winter Soldier arm.
I’m convinced this was a ploy to get me to make this costume piece for him as he has yet to construct his own arm out of coffee cans as he had planned.
The first step was research and planning. This involved a lot of looking at pictures and reading a lot of threads on the RPF. I saw some really awesome work. But I thought this Cosplay Walk-Through could be helpful for those with no idea where to start.
I needed a model of Jason’s arm to build on. So I wrapped it in bubble wrap (the large bubble kind) then wrapped that in several layers of duct tape. The bubble wrap gave me some extra room to work with and would allow Jason to slide the actual arm on and off. This meant I wouldn’t need any parts that opened on the finish product.
I carefully cut the duct tape bubble warp combo off of Jason’s arm, then just as carefully taped it back together. For this part, it helps to draw some guidelines before you cut anything so it’s easier to line back up. Then I stuffed the thing full of plastic bags. You can use whatever material you have. Plastic bags were just what I had on hand.
The next step was creating my pattern. I wanted to start with the upper arm, because the elbow joint of the forearm would come up over the bottom of the upper arm. I wrapped that portion of the duct tape arm in plastic wrap, then in masking tape. This would allow me to draw my pattern, then cut it off without running my duct tape arm. Many reference pictures were used, but I came away with a finished pattern. Some people like to make the star part of the pieces, but I felt it looked more painted on, so that’s what I want with.
Once my pattern was carefully cut off the model, I numbered all of the pieces. This will save you a headache later, I promise.
The next step was tracing all those pieces on to my wonderflex. I had a ton of wonderflex left over from my Iron Man hand, so it was nice and readily available. If I were to remake this arm, however, I might try Worbla. While I haven’t used Worbla yet, I had a real problem with crinkles with some parts of the wonderflex. Cutting out the pattern is super tedious, but precision is key. So I felt productive, I started building as I cut. And it also gave my poor hands a break.
For the actual build, after a few attempts and failures, I settled on a t-shirt material for my base. I cut off the sleeve of one of my old sweaters and put it over my duct tape arm. This is what the actual arm will adhere to. The first few attempts also made me realize I need to build up some musculature before I lay down my wonderflex. Since I came to this decision around midnight, I used the materials on hand: Foam and more plastic bags! These were cut and crumpled and reformed until I had a shape I was satisfied with, then taped where I needed them to be. (Sorry, no pictures of this part because it was super later.)
And then the upper arm was done! And there was much rejoicing.
The elbow joint is what I spent the most time thinking about. I came to the conclusion that this needed to be 3 separate pieces: the upper arm, lower arm, and an elbow cap that actually floated under that. This would allow more range of motion without a gap or a weird fabric part.
With the cap in place, I set out to complete the lower arm. I built up both sides with more foam and plastic bags, with round ends that came up over the bottom edge of the upper arm
Now I repeated my plastic wrap masking tape process to make my patter, cut it out of the wonderflex, and placed it on the arm.
NOTE: something we learned after Jason wearing this all day in the Atlanta heat is that the lower arm especially needed some more support. In the future, I would take a long piece wonderflex and run it down either side of the arm. This would allow for more stability. I might even use wooden dowels.
But we have a finished, if ugly looking, arm.
I coated the thing in 2 coats of black Gesso to prime it, but I’m pretty sure I should have done 3. Once that was dry, it was time to spray paint. I lost track of how many coats of that I did, but it was something like 2.5 cans.
Next was the star. I printed out a star that seemed the right size, traced the outline on the arm with a black marker (I used copics, because that’s what I had), then painted inside the lines with model car paint. I actually still had several reds left over from the Iron Man glove.
But you can’t really have an arm without fingers. After several failed attempts using foam and trying to spray paint fabric, I fell back on wonderflex. Jason had purchased some tactical fingerless gloves from Amazon (I think they were these) in an extra-large size. I hacked up a knit glove under it so I just had the fingers and the back of the hand. Then I used wonderflex to do the fingers and the little holes in the back of the glove (the piece on the back of the hand was pre-painted before it was attached. I very carefully used just a bit of hot glue, like the tiniest coat I could get, to cover any visible portion of the knit glove. Then I coated everything that wasn’t leather with a silver paint pen, and the hand was complete. I’m still not super happy with it, but it did its job. This might be the first part I remake. To help hide the seam between the hand and the arm, I cut off the tube part of a black sock and just laid it over. That also helped for a quick off of the hand if we needed to.
And then we started playing with it immediately.
I hope some of you found this cosplay walk-through helpful. I know more than one walk-through has really helped me out, so I’d like to return the favor.
Have questions, thoughts, comments? I’d love to hear them! I’d be more than happy to try and talk someone through this. I’ve also been considering selling pieces like this (though custom made for you, not the gross sweaty ones worn to a con) so if that sounds like something you’d be interested in, drop me a line!