If you’ve worked with EVA foam before and are looking for a new way to enclose the foam piece around a body part, this zipper method may be for you.

For Briareos’ lower leg armor, I wanted to maintain an exaggerated beefy hyper-muscular profile (I think I just made that word up), as seen from these images:
BriareosFigurine

MY RESULT:
I am very happy with the way these came out, although I may recommend using a heavy duty zipper instead of an invisible one, especially when you’re using thicker EVA. The invisible zippers were a little sticky on my first run, but they worked well at creating the uniform seam, which is what I wanted.

 

WHY USE A ZIPPER WHEN I HAVE VELCRO, D-RINGS, ETC..?
I thought about using D-rings, or velcro, snaps, buckles.. all of the usual ways to attach armor, but none of those methods seemed like they would give me the result I was looking for. I thought “if only I could use a zipper”.. and here we are.

MATERIALS YOU’LL NEED:

  • EVA foam piece you’d like to attach a zipper to
  • Zipper (I’ll talk more about what kind a little later)
  • Utility knife
  • Sharpie marker
  • Fabric pins (that you don’t mind destroying)
  • Chip brush or other paintbrush
  • Gloves
  • Barge Cement. I get mine from Tandy Leather, but you can also order it from Amazon.
  • Respirator (an actual respirator, not just a painter’s mask)
  • Well-ventilated area that is NOT inside your house or apartment. Outside is best.

Basic shin piece that I want to attach a zipper to, and an invisible zipper.

Barge cement is the best stuff out there. It’s fast and incredibly strong and durable.

STEP 1:
Put on your gloves and respirator!

STEP 2:
Beveling the edges of the EVA foam where the zipper will be placed is a good idea. This allows the zipper (and your fingers) a little bit of room inside the seam. If you’re using really thick EVA foam, you’re going to want beveled edges.

To bevel your edge, use a utility knife and cut at an angle.

STEP 3:
Sand the EVA foam along the edge where the zipper will be glued for better adhesion.

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STEP 4: 
Decide if the zipper will need to open at the bottom or on the top. Measure the zipper to fit and mark it with a sharpie. Allow an inch at the end.

*note: At the time of making this tutorial, I used an invisible zipper, which was probably a little too delicate for such a large and thick piece of EVA. In hindsight I would have used a heavy duty zipper.

Don’t cut the end of the zipper off yet! You need to be sure the length is accurate before trimming.

Before you trim, use hot glue or thread at the end of the zipper to make the zipper stop.

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STEP 5:
Pin the zipper to a scrap piece of long EVA foam to make it easier to apply the barge cement.

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STEP 6:
Apply a thin layer of cement to the zipper, avoiding the zipper teeth. Allow the glue to dry until tacky, and apply a second coat.

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STEP 7:
Apply a thin layer of cement to where the zipper will be placed on the EVA foam. Allow the glue to dry until tacky, and apply a second coat.

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STEP 8:
When the glue on both the zipper and the eva foam is tacky (about 3-4 minutes if using barge), you are ready to press the pieces together.

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STEP 9:
With the zipper CLOSED, align the zipper and the EVA and press firmly together.

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STEP 10:
Continue pressing the zipper to the EVA along the edge to the end of the EVA.

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STEP 11:
When you reach the end of the EVA, press the opposite side of the EVA edge to the zipper firmly.

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STEP 12:
You can now unzip the zipper.

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STEP 13:
Continue pressing the zipper along the edge of the EVA.

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STEP 14:
Allow the glue to completely dry before zipping the piece together.

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STEP 15:
You can now trim off the excess zipper if needed (make sure you don’t cut off the zipper stop).
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Optional: Add a bit of worbla to the zipper pull for better grip
FinalResult-7

FINAL RESULT:

Look how shiny! The zipper line emphasizes the contour of the calf. Ready for paint!

Zipper Final 1


RECAP:

Briareos is a cyborg that possesses incredible strength, yet he has a very human side as well. His overall body shapes were designed with that balance in mind, hence the exaggerated contours of his calves. The zipper allowed me to maintain the contour while adding a seam that looks like it’s been designed into the overall piece. Functional meets fashion.

Briareos and Deunan at Wizard World Portland. Nice calves! Photo by Beverly Downen

Photo by LV Photography

Photo by Beverly Downen

Photo by Beverly Downen

BONUS:
You can download this handy image as a quick reference for later use. Right-click to save to your device.

If you’ve used this method, send me images of your projects and I’ll feature your work on this page!
Email to: thedownens@gmail.com

Image of instructions on how to add a zipper closure to EVA foam.

How to add a zipper closure to EVA foam!

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If you’ve gotten this far, I thank you for your determination and attention!

Have fun with this and send me your images of how you attached your zippers to your project! 

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Beverly
Head Nerd at Downen Creative Studios