As a follow up to the RWBY Ruby Rose Costume post, here is the process I went through to create the iconic buckle that appears on Ruby’s belt.
I used the official decal sold by Rooster Teeth as the basis of the design, but the sizing came from watching the first episode of the show. I was able to get a screen capture that had a clear view of the buckle and the belt around Ruby’s waist. The calculations were straightforward once I was able to determine the width of the belt in the show and the ratio between that and the bullet belt I purchased for the costume.
Belt in screen capture = 0.8 inches
Belt in reality = 1.5 inches
Ratio between belt in reality and belt in screen capture = 1.5 inches/0.8 inches = 1.875
Buckle in screen capture = 1.5 inches
Buckle in reality = 1.5 inches * 1.875 = 2.8125 inches
I constructed the first version of the buckle out of craft foam purchased from JoAnn fabrics. I had seen videos and tutorials of realistic-looking armor made from the material but had never worked with it myself. I started by scaling the image of the official sticker down to the size that I wanted the final buckle to be. I then printed it out two copies and cut out the smaller “petal” pieces from one of them. I proceeded to use the uncut copy to cut out the overall shape of the buckle from 1 sheet of 2mm black craft foam and 4mm red craft foam using an Exacto knife and scissors. I used superglue to join those two pieces together. This gave me the final thickness I wanted for the buckle.
I then cut out the petal pieces from a piece of 1mm black craft foam that came with an adhesive backing. Using the adhesive on the sheet made it easier to position the smaller pieces on the main pieces versus using glue. I was able to easily adjust them without leaving any sort of glue residue on the body of the buckle.
As you can see, the buckle is very curvy which made cutting out the pieces difficult. The final product was much rougher than I wanted.
I tried to correct the rough cuts by using a Dremel tool to smooth them down. This worked well for the lower part of the buckle but not as well for the narrow tips and the petal pieces. Even with the smallest bit, I had to be very careful when smoothing the narrow tips at the top of the buckle. The Dremel tool would often catch on the foam and tear it if I wasn’t paying attention. Once the smoothing was completed, I painted the entire buckle with silver spray paint we had left over from a previous project.
I created a DIY paint booth using a pizza box and three drywall screws. The dry wall screws were screwed through the bottom of the box in a small triangle. This triangle created a platform for the buckle to rest on while it was drying. This allowed both the top and the bottom to dry at the same rate — preventing the foam from warping. I think I did 3 coats of paint with several hours of drying in between each coat (foam drinks up paint).
The next step was the application of Silver Rub n’ Buff, a silver waxy paint used on metal and wood, to the surface. I rubbed small amount of the Rub n’ Buff using my fingers until the entire buckle was covered. You can’t tell from the picture very well, but it did give the buckle a nice metal finish compared to the dull silver of the spray paint.
However, the Rub n’ Buff rubbed off on everything me or the buckle touched. This included the buckle itself. It was difficult to retouch patches on the buckle because more of the color would rub off again. I realized that I would have to apply some sort of sealant at the end of this process.
To make the finish look more realistic, I weathered the buckle by dry brushing black acrylic paint into the crevices between the petals. I also applied more Rub n’ Buff to the tops of the petals to make them stand out more. One of the downsides of the weathering was that it made imperfections in my cutting stand out more. You can see some of it around the edges of the petals if you look closely.
Finally, I sealed the entire buckle by applying several coats of Glossy Mod Podge. I watered the Mode Podge down a bit so that I wouldn’t leave brush strokes on the pieces. The outcome of all of my work was OK, but I wasn’t satisfied with the uneven cutting and other imperfections. It looked too much like a costume piece and I didn’t like it.
|Pattern||Rooster Teeth Sticker|
For the second version, I considered 3D printing the buckle as a custom piece.
Thingaverse had a pattern on file that someone made before which made this route significantly easier. I was able to find someone at work with a 3D printer who was willing to print out the buckle as a test piece on his home-built machine.
The machine unfortunately malfunction halfway through the print so I didn’t get a full buckle of it. I was able to tell that 3D printing wasn’t the correct approach for this piece. This particular 3D printer built the buckle bottom-up by stacking thin layers of plastic. It had some difficulty with the tips at the top of the buckle because it had to “jump” between the tips to build up the surface at a constant rate. This caused small tabs of plastic to form wherever a jump occurred.
I could have corrected this by sanding the completed piece carefully before painting it, but since it was incomplete I decided to try a different route entirely.
|Difficulty||Easy (since I didn’t do the printing)|
|Materials||Stuff for 3D printer|
While version 2 was being printed, I completed training for the laser cutter at my local hackerspace. The smooth cut edge of acrylic was the way to go for this project. I once again started with the official sticker of the buckle. I ported the image into Adobe Illustrator and used the “Trace Image” feature to trace the picture into a set of lines. I cleaned up the lines in Illustrator and ported the final outline to Visio (the input format used by the cutter). I set the line thickness of the Visio diagram to 0pt. to ensure that the cutter would cut the acrylic instead of trying to engrave it.
I found two pieces of 1/8” acrylic in the scrap bin which looked large enough for my buckle. Thankfully, someone had saved the power and speed settings for 1/8” acrylic so I didn’t have to spend time calibrating the machine.
I cut 3 different pieces. The first buckle outline and petals out of a single piece of white acrylic and next two were bases for the buckle out of clear acrylic. I was very proud of myself when the cuts came up! They looked beautiful. I’m pretty sure I’m hooked on laser cutting now.
I carefully took the pieces home and set up my second DIY paint booth (cardboard box). I stopped by an auto parts store and picked up some new paint: a matte primer, a glossy black, and a chrome spray paint.
I applied two coats of primer, front and back, to all the pieces I cut out. That was followed with two coats of glossy black one of the base pieces and the petals. The petals were then covered with two coats of the chrome paint which gave them a wonderful finish – much better than the silver I used on the foam version of the buckle.
I assembled the buckle by using the laser cut petal negative as a guide. I taped it to the top of the based and slide each of the petals into place with a little bit of super glue. After a few days of drying (I wasn’t taking any chances), I removed the guide. I completed the buckle by purchasing a 2” circular belt buckle from Ebay and affixing my buckle to it with hot glue. The final product looked amazing and went perfectly with the rest of my costume.
|Pattern||Custom Illustrator file based on Rooster Teeth sticker|
All three versions