Header: The Creation of an Uruk-Hai


I didn't get as many in-progress photos as I would have liked. Much of the costume was made "on-the-fly" as I'd figure it out in my head, make a few sketches and then tackle it for real right away. Now that I'm working on refining a few pieces I'll document it in the "Step-by-Step" section. I didn't use many patterns but would adjust the pieces as they came together. The one exception was the breastplate - I made a template based on the one pictured on Matthew Amt's Uruk-Hai Armor website. It was a big help but even then I ended up making several trial versions (just out of regular box cardboard) first and modifing the size to get a good fit.

Here's a main outline of how I went about it...

Making the Armour

I wanted to have the armour to have more weight and bulk than just poster-board would give it so I used artist's canvas board. It's a heavyweight cardboard about 1/4" thick with primed canvas applied to it. The first image below shows the board with the outlines of the leg greaves before being cut out. The other pieces are the sword arm vambrance that has been cut out and formed to shape as well as spiked armour plates that will be attached to a glove. (I don't have construction photos of all the pieces as I didn't think of it at the time but hopefully you can follow along.) Once I cut the piece out and scored any hard edges, I would gradually bend it over my knee to form it to shape. I found that when bent into extreme curves the cardboard layers would sometimes separate but I forced glue between the layers and clamped it all together to dry. This had the advantage of helping to hold the shape. After that I covered the piece in several layers of modge-podge and ripped newspaper to give it additional strength. Any points, such as the spikes on the shield, were given several additional coats of carpenter's glue to give them some protection against bumps. Once all of that dries details such as rivets are added using thumbtacks. Real rivets will be used to attach the straps and to assemble the armour but that is after the painting.



Artist's canvas board showing the outlines of the leg greaves before being cut out. The other pieces are the sword arm vambrance that has been cut out and formed to shape as well as the spiked armour plates that will be attached to a glove.
Close-up of the spiked armour plates that will be attached to a glove. This is before the application of the newspaper/papier-mâché layers.

And so on to...

Painting the Armour

I experimented first with the sword and the shield to see if I could get satisfactory results from what is just painted cardboard. The painting recipe I came up with I think seems to have worked out well I think. First I paint the formed and modge-podged armour a basic black. I used what I had on hand which was some Floquil enamel paint meant for the model railroad hobby but anything would work as long as it formed a good bond with the armour and won't flake off later. Next I used some of the textured granite spray paint - the type used for faux finishes - to give the surface some texture and to help camouflage the wrinkles in the newspaper from the modge-podge. Another coat of black paint is applied but this time I used a fast drying Krylon super flat black spray paint.

Caution, this stuff has seriously hazardous fumes that linger so spray outside if you can or leave the windows open. A happy accident was that as the spray paint dried, because it was so fast, it shrunk a bit and crackled the surface of the paint. Just paint over any gaps and let dry. All this texture work is to make it look like hammered, fire-darkened and rusted metal. In order to achieve a metallic look I used a pewter-coloured metallic paste similar to Rub n Buff. I made up a jar of this paste thinned quite a bit with mineral spirits or turpentine to create a metallic wash. I would dip my brush in the wash and move it around to stir up the metallic particles. I'd them go over the black painted piece of armour with a heavy wash, re-dipping my brush as necessary. It will dry to a mottled metallic finish. It's amazing the transformation that occurs at this stage where the piece goes from OK looking but definitely just painted cardboard to something that could almost pass as metal. The only thing that is left is weathering and final assembly.


Close up of painting/weathering
Close up of painting/weathering

Weathering the Armour

First I wanted to tone down the shine of the metallic finish so I very lightly over-sprayed with the flat black paint again. I stood farther back to just get an overall light dusting of paint. For most of the weathering I fell back on the techniques I've used in the past for model railroading. Mostly I used the dry-brush technique. This involves using an older, more worn out brush, dipping it in your paint and then on some scrap paper towel, wiping almost all of the paint off the bristles. When you apply it to the armour only a little bit of paint should roughly be applied. If too much is going on, wipe it some more on the towel. In this way I built up layers of rust and grime. I would attach any straps at this time and I would dry brush them too to weather them. I wanted everything to have the look of dirt, grime, rust and blood. Definitely not a pretty site!

All in all I'm pretty happy with how it's turning out. The only thing I would change would be to use something other than pewter for the metallic wash. I didn't want it too shiny which is why I chose pewter but it gave the finished armour a brownish hue. Next time I would pick a silver knowing I could dull it down and weather it so I could get more of a blueish black metallic look. Oh well, I'm not starting over at this point. Working to my advantage was that I wanted it to look like really beat-up distressed metal I don't thing these same techniques would work if you wanted very smooth armour - anime armour for example - certainly not without a lot of filling and sanding.

Here's just few notes on some of the pieces so far...

The Shield & Sword

This was my first piece so I worked out the construction process and painting recipe on it. It is basically all one piece of canvas board, cut to shape and then scored and folded to shape. For the angled flange at the top I made a vertical cut from the point at the top down to the score where meets the bulk of the shield. I them folded it out. Doing this opened up the vertical cut so I cut a scrap piece of canvas board in a triangle shape to fit and glued it in. This held the angle in place. You can just make out the shape of this piece in the back view shown below. Once everything was covered with modge-podge you can't really tell that it's not all one piece. For the spikes at the bottom I cut them out as part of the main body of the shield and then attached identical pieces on top to create the 3-D look of a separate plate. The handle on the back is a Stanley gate handle, padded and wrapped with leather thong. The upper arm support is an old leather belt from the thrift store.

For the sword I downloaded an image of the United Cutlery Uruk-Hai Scimitar and traced it's outline including the hilt. I them scaled up the drawing on a photocopier to 30" in length. For this I cut 2 identical pieces of canvas board and carefully cut an angled bevel along the blade edge of both pieces. I then glued them back to back, smooth side out. The 2 angled cuts created not a bad edge when put together. The hilt was finished off with 2 pieces of wood glued and then carved to shape. After painting, leather straps wrapped around the hilt completed the look.



Front view of both sword and shield
Back view of shield showing handle grip and belt used for upper arm support.


Detail view of the top of the shield and leather-wrapped hilt of the sword. All the rivets are decorative only and made out of thumbtacks.
Detail view of the bottom of the shield showing the how the spikes appear like separate plates. Again all the rivets are cosmetic only with the exception of the large bolt head which is used to attach the handle to the shield.

The Gauntlets

For the gloves I roughly followed some of the images on the 'net and in the design galleries of the TTT extended edition DVD. They are made up 2 layers of gloves. The outer are rough leather work gloves with the fingers cut off and the inner gloves are some cool gardening gloves I found. They have a black vinyl no-slip material covering parts of the thumb and fingers. Once I had finished the gloves I thought that they weren't long enough so I made some cuffs out of scrap leather that fit inside them. The metal plates on the one glove is again made of painted canvas board and then riveted directly to the outer glove.



This shows both gloves in progress with the spiked armour plates yet to be painted and attached. I later made cuffs out of scrap leather to fit inside the gloves and make them look longer.
The shield arm glove in progress. It was made using a leather work glove, dyed black and the fingers cut off.


Here you can clearly see the two types of gloves that make up the inner and outer gloves. Everything has been extensively weathered.but will be further distressed before it is done.
Another view of the glove in progress.


The finished sword arm glove showing both the finished spiked armour plates and the leather cuff. It has all been further distressed and weathered. At bit of red paint for blood splatters is always good.
Another view of the finished glove. Here you see the armour plates have been riveted directly to the outer glove. I built in articulation when attaching the plates so there is a bit of movement when flexing your hand.

The Helmet

This is what I thought would give me the most trouble an I thought about it a lot. In the end it went quite easy. I got the idea of using a baseball batting helmet as the base from costumers Leah & Carolyn doing Sam and Frodo in orc armour (see the "Reference" section for links to their websites). Once I had that to build on the rest just fell into place. I built the basic look of it using poster-board and electrical tape. Then I bent and inserted coat hanger wire to strengthen it and create the flare at the back. Separate pieces of artist's mat-board formed the various plates and the blades where made out of canvas board with a lot of filler to get the curves. The proportions are little off but passable I thought. For now I've attached the wig to the inside back of the helmet as I'm not planning on wearing a mask. I've got a set of Uruk-Hai teeth from Dental Distortions and will use makeup on the lower part of my face and neck but the helmet covers the rest of my head. My thought was that since the costume will be hot and heavy I can take off the helmet and wig to get some fresh air without having a hot prosthetic mask on. I might change this in the future so the wig is attached with screw posts instead of rivets.



Front view of the finished helmet. It is all done in cardboard, newspaper and modge-podge over a baseball helmet shell. It's very strong and surprisingly heavy.
Side view of the helmet. The overall proportions are off due to using the baseball helmet as a base but it greatly simplified construction so it's forgivable.


Back view of the helmet. All the rivets are for appearances only with the exception of the six across the back which are screw posts to hold the wig in place. The screw posts will allow me to remove the wig if at some time in the future I decide to go with a full-face prosthetic, in which case I would want to wear the wig on my head.
View of the completed helmet with makeup. I know most Uruk-Hai in the movies had little if any facial hair (a hold-over from their ancient elven heritage?) I kept my goatee as I was reluctant to shave it off. I think it adds to the look.