Sintra is a great material for creating a Mandalorian costume cheap. In fact, you’ll probably spend more money on spray paint than on your body armor pieces (excluding the helmet and gauntlets). But a common frustration with females is trying to shape Sintra into compound curves for the chest armor plates.
Different options for creating female chest plates:
- Use 3D printed chest armor plates (needs lots of sanding to remove the visible print lines)
- Create chest pieces with darts as done with sewing patterns (needs Bondo filler and more sanding work)
- Cut chest plates from a plastic mannequin or fencing chest protector (might have paint adhesion issues on this type of plastic) If you do choose to use a store display mannequin, try to find one without nipples, or else you’ll need to cut them out and smooth over with Bondo filler.
- Create a custom chest armor template and layer pieces in sections (not beginner-friendly)
- ABS vac-forming (hard to find vendors and shape might not fit your body well)
- See the video below explaining some of these options
Here I’m going to show you how to create subtle shaping without needing darts or hard-to-find equipment. Note that this method might not work for larger cup sizes. This procedure is similar to “dishing” curves in metal. Instead of hammering a curve, you stretch/shape your Sintra with a round dome or ball.
First, you need to find a suitable ball or dome. You can easily find styrofoam balls in craft stores or dollar stores. Look for a ball around 5-6 inches wide, harder material if preferable. Other options include banister tops, toys, a large soup ladle, or home decor balls. In the photo below I placed my ball on top of a jar to keep it secured in place.
Another method worth trying is using the special “slow-feeder” dog bowl turned upside down. My dog dish was too small and had a small rubber lip that indented the Sintra so it didn’t work for me. But you may have a suitable bowl already in your home that would work. The idea is to use the ball to form the Sintra into the curved bowl.
Making Female Chest Plates With A Styrofoam Ball
Using a styrofoam ball, cut it in half so it lays flat on your table. Also cut a piece of Sintra about letter size. Be careful cutting the ball and your Sintra. Always respect the blade. Trace your chest armor template with a pen/pencil but don’t cut your template yet. Heat it concentrating on the center area. Then grabbing the edges of your rectangular Sintra sheet, push the Sintra over your ball. Wiggle it around, stretch the edges, and depending on the size of your ball spread the pressure to make the cup larger. Try to keep the far edges somewhat flat. Keep heating and forming your Sintra over top of the ball to get a smooth even shape. This works best if one person pushes down the Sintra while a second person keeps the heat on the center area (but you can still do it on your own).
The tricky part is getting it a uniform roundness and getting the two pieces to look symmetrical. I found taking a photo of the two pieces side by side helped to see any areas that were not similar. Once you’re happy that they look similar to each other and have enough cup shape, you can cut them out.
Now we can finish shaping the edges as needed to custom fit your body. Put on your flak vest and notice what areas need a bit more curving. Since you’ll be reheating the edges, I suggest you place some duct tape on your cup-shape (both top and bottom) so that you don’t lose the compound curve you made. Try to keep the heat away from the center and just heat the edges where you need to bend. Curve the edges over your body, bend on a table, or use a large jar.
Again the tricky part is getting the left and right plates to look symmetrical. As long as your patient and keep re-heating and re-shaping as needed, you’ll get there eventually. Lastly, don’t forget to sand your edges.
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