Trashcan Legion

This page is all about cosplay armor made out of trashcans. This idea came from this site:


As far as I can see, Trashcan Samurai has posted the what, but not the how. As this page develops, I want to post more “how” stuff, since some interest has been expressed about the pieces I have made and worn to conventions.

I have used the basic idea from the Trashcan Samurai and made a few armor pieces using Ne0-Trashcan Technology. The cool things about this are:

1. Trashcans are easy to customize with knives, tin-snips, a heat gun, and / or a soldering iron

2. Trashcans are cheap compared to other types of armor like Vacuform

3. Trashcans produce pretty durable armor for cosplay (though don’t wear it for LARP or protection!)

4. Trashcans come in all shapes and sizes, so you get lots of cool-looking detailing for free!

Here is a link to the Trashcan Samurai

Props to you! This is truly inspiring work!


Here is Darth Vader: Lord of the Pith

Vader Pith Armor

This is the first thing I have ever tried to make out of trash cans, so it is not as impressive as Mr. Kudzutech’s work, but it did win “Best in Show” at Shore Leave in 2013.

Helmet: I put the helmet together myself from a Halloween store pith helmet and a licensed Darth Vader helmet. I used a toy helmet that I got on eBay because it came with the voice changer and chest plate and it was made of good, hard plastic. Buying movie accurate Vader armor will set you back hundreds of dollars, this helmet was S39.99!

The helmet and the face mask are held together with three machine screws. The screws go through the helmet and into the face mask where they are secured with wing nuts. I had to cut the ends off of the screws with a carbon wheel so that they didn’t poke my head when I put this thing on.

The shemagh is simple camouflage  fabric from Jo-Ann attached to the helmet by drilling holes in it and sewing them together with sinew. You will need a glover’s needle to do this!

The crest on top is a vintage brass doorknob; it’s held to the helmet with a large lag screw.

The cowl at the back of the helmet is just craft foam covered with brown leatherette fabric. It is durable and flexible which allows me to take the helmet on and off with ease.

The Greaves: This is the trashcan part.

– Look carefully at reference photos to get the look you want

– Draw the armor piece you want in small scale, matching important shapes so that your final piece will convey the look of the character. I used graph paper to do my initial drawings. This made scaling much easier.

– Scale the armor piece up to life size, you can use a projector or simply use a ruler to take your drawing from 1:4 to 1:1 scale. Once you have your 1:1 scale drawing, cut it out to make a pattern, like a sewing pattern. You can then take this cut out and hold it up to your body to make sure that the finished piece will fit. This part was really tricky! Make sure to account for armor pieces that will curve around a body part (like an arm or a leg) or taper to fit a specific contour of your body.

– Trim the piece to make a perfect pattern piece that fits you. I had to trim some areas and tape paper on to other areas to get the finished piece to the right size. Make sure to do this part right or the rest of the process will go all screwy.

– Once you have the reference photos and the pattern piece, you are ready to go to the hardware store for your trash can. Take the reference photo and pattern piece to the store with you. Fish at hardware stores until you see a trashcan or other cheap piece of plastic that has features you think you can use in your piece. For these, I saw a trashcan that flared in the middle and had two textures, shiny and matte. I cut across the flared section to get the detailing I wanted for a Vader-type look.

– Lay the pattern piece on the trash can to that you get the look you want. It’s a good idea to do this at the store so that you don’t buy a can that won’t work for your costume.

– Take the trashcan home (after paying for it!) and tape your pattern piece across the section that gives you the look you want. use as little tape as possible, laying the tape perpendicular to the pattern edge. This will ensure that the piece you cut will be the same size as your pattern piece.

– Spray paint over the pattern piece. Let the paint dry. Remove the pattern. You should now have a trash can with the negative of the armor piece painted on it.


– Cut your piece from the trash can. This can be harder than it sounds. A modelling knife will do the job, but I found that if I put enough pressure on it to get it cutting, it would jump forward and cut at unpredictable angles. I wound up using tin snips to get the initial cuts done, then smoothing the edges with the modelling knife and a Dremel with a small sanding wheel on it.


– To make the armor curve, use a heat gun. I always work outside and wear a respirator when heating or melting plastic. I would tie the armor in the shape I wanted, sort of rolling it like a burrito and then keeping the plastic in its rolled shape with parachute cord. I got the shape I wanted by heating the most curved parts of the armor piece, then quenching the heated piece in the sink. I would untie it and try it on to see what I had made, then retie it, reheat it, and quench it again until it got into the shape I wanted.

– The finishing process took at least as long as making the armor itself. I re-used the pattern paper to cut a piece of leather-look vinyl for the brown trim. Once the outline was on the vinyl, I subtracted 3/4 of an inch from the inside and added two inches all around. This means that when I cut the piece it would have a 3/4 inch trim visible on the front and plenty of vinyl (two inches) to wrap around to the inside.

– Place the vinyl carefully around the armor piece, I use a ruler to measure 3/4 of an inch all around the armor, marking the measurement by scratching the armor with a nail then holding it in place with hot glue.

– Wrap the remaining vinyl over the edge so it lays in the inside of the armor. This also can be held in place with hot glue. Fold the vinly over itself and trim away excess to create a flatter surface inside the armor. It’s sort of like wrapping a present: you have to fold the paper back over itself to accommodate corners of the present. This is the same principal. To make the whole thing extra strong, I melted the areas where the vinyl folded over itself with a soldering iron. this makes the overlaps into one solid piece of plastic that can never be unfolded during wear. Sane persons would never do this. It takes forever and caused me to burn myself many times.

– Rivets were a total pain in the behind. Drill holes at regular intervals around the edge or the armor, measuring with a ruler or tape-measure. A flexible tape-measure used for fabric is easier to use than a metal one from the hardware store. For really curved areas, mark inch measures on a piece of string. It’s the only way to go.

– Drill holes that are a good size for your rivets. I really tried to make sure that the rivets also laid over the parts of the trim which laid over each other, further sealing these overlapping areas. sometimes, the drill would catch the vinyl. In these cases, the soldering iron again came in handy. A hot soldering iron will poke through plastic and vinyl very quickly and it leaves a hole with melted edges that seal themselves when they cool down. Again, sane persons would never do this. If you are insane enough to do this, keep your hands wet, wear a respirator, keep your hair away from the hot iron, and wear leather gloves. Seriously. Be careful. You don’t want melted plastic under your fingernails. Trust me.

Go to the last step before finishing the rivet section!

– Finally, set the rivets. you have to make sure that the rivet shafts are long enough to get through the plastic armor and the vinyl trim, even where the vinyl trim is thicker because it is folded over itself. On the other hand, if the shafts are too long, the rivets won’t set right. They will just smash over. I would up buying rivets with really long shafts, and then trimming each shaft to the right height with the clipper on a pair of needle-nosed pliers. Yes, this will crush the shaft of the rivet, and yes, you do have to use the pliers gripping area to pinch it round again. Yes, i did this for every rivet.

– This is the last step. Your armor is going to need straps to hold it onto your body! As you are riveting the trim in place, make sure to leave out the rivets that will hold the straps. I riveted long strips of Velcro to the inside of the armor, then trimmed them to fit once I had tried the armor on. Again, this was just trial and error, trying on the piece, taping straps in place, realizing they were cutting me, moving them somewhere else.

Do all your fitting before you rivet! Measure twice, cut once! Do scale tests and mock ups before finalizing anything! For God’s sake put that down; you don’t know where it’s been! Use the Scientific Method! Hail Mythbusters!  Hail the Galactic Empire! Hail bombastic fits of expostulation.

End Transmission.





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