Determined to complete my six piece bonus (and finding myself fresh out of blood shards), I have recently set my mind back to the pauldrons to finish what I started. In the meantime, I want to share mistakes I made along the way, with the hope this helps you avoid the same fate. So, let’s dive right in:
What went wrong with the Pauldrons of Akkhan?
I had never tried to make a costume piece this massive before. To keep the pieces in proportion with the art in-game and with my own body, each pauldron had to measure about 14 inches tall, and 16 inches long. Then, to make sure they were wide enough to sit comfortably on my shoulders, they had to span about 9 inches across. Holding the pattern up next to my head was quite literally comical — like something straight out of a comic book. Oh, Blizzard… Why do you do this to us? We hate you. And love you. 💜
During planning, I decided to try crafting the Pauldrons of Akkhan with a material I had never used before. My failure to test this material beforehand left me with an entire day of catch up work after fouling it up. What was this mysterious material you ask? Was it something rare and expensive you just couldn’t see go to waste on a test swatch? Nope. It was good, old-fashioned spray foam. You can get a can at your local home improvement store for about $4 a can. If I had taken the extra day or so to test out the foam before applying it directly to my cardboard pattern, I would have had a better idea how it worked, and how much it weighed. Instead I found out the hard way, and ended up with a misshapen curve in my pattern like so:
The brown line across the center in the photo above is the cardboard pattern I created for applying the expanding foam. The plan was to sculpt the foam around the cardboard pattern, then cut away to reveal the shape underneath. However, the cardboard bowed quite a bit because of the uneven weight of the wet foam. I added foam to one side of the pattern at a time, so the initial application on side “A” forced the cardboard to curve toward side “B.” The distortion was so bad on one of the pauldrons, I wound up removing the foam starting over. Obviously the cardboard bowed again, but I was careful not to apply as much product, and the curve was not as bad as the original. I made up for the remaining gaps in the shape by sculpting around it and applying paperclay to fill in any remaining holes.
Not knowing the weight of your finished product can cause big problems. Blizzard-pauldron-sized problems. Even though I was sure to think ahead about how to attach the Pauldrons of Akkhan to the rest of the costume, I did not realize how heavy each one would be. Each pauldron weighs 2.8 lbs (1.27 kg) without the batteries. Ever try balancing a 14-inch tall, 9-inch wide, top-heavy object on your 4-inch wide shoulders? Me either! I ended up needing to add a lot of foam padding underneath to create a comfortable hole for my shoulder to fit in. Then, I had to consider how to keep them from toppling over in any given direction as I moved. I thought I had this all figured out with nylon straps and Velcro, but soon learned I was wrong.
This balancing act brings me straight in to my final mistake — test fitting. I worked on the Armor of Akkhan straight up through leaving for Dragon Con 2015. I mean I literally worked through the night prior to leaving for Atlanta at 8am the day of my photo shoot. This means I had not actually worn all the pieces of the costume at once until one hour before I had photos taken. Obviously, not the best way to test fit a costume!
With the day I spent recovering from my mistakes back in May, I could have had enough time to test the costume before leaving, and corrected the issue before I left for the convention. You can see in the later test photo I took (below) how the pauldrons hung fairly loose and lopsided on my cuirass. And this photo was taken after trying to make corrections back home!