Black Widow, Part 5: Not Lightsabers!

In this part, I’ll cover the baton weapons I made. Once I had the parts, these were very easy and quick to build. The second one only took about 2 hours and I definitely wasn’t trying to rush making it.

I’m not a Marvel lore expert by any means, but based on what appears in the films and what I have read somewhere, the batons were something that Tony Stark built for Natasha Romanoff some time after the Avengers and before Age of Ultron. I think the native Filipino term for them would be baston and the martial art they are typically used in would be eskrima, of which arnis is one sub-type (again, not an expert, so do your own research if you want to be sure). Whatever the case, those weapons look cool and at the same time lethal in the right hands. Check out this video on Youtube for basic instructions and a good show of high arnis skill. I made these for the Avengers (2012) costume because I wanted to focus less on the guns.

The versions I made look a lot like the Civil War concept art. I used mostly artwork based on Age of Ultron while planning it. My original plan was a bit more ambitious than what I ended up making: I wanted to have LEDs along the rod in the black segments and at the tip to make the light more even. This would have required some wiring and also structures to support the LEDs. I already had some clear/silver wire for it, but I decided to test a build with a small mirror at the tip and a flashlight like structure at the handle end. It worked beautifully, so I didn’t bother with the additional LEDs. I also considered embedding a microcontroller, but more on that later…

Ready for action!

Ready for action!


The bastons I made weigh 175 grams each without batteries (almost exactly the same as an iPhone 6+), and 215 grams with a battery pack. Here’s what I used to make two of these:

  1. Two 500 mm (20″) “Perspex” plexiglass acrylic tubes. Inner diameter 26 mm (~1″), outer diameter 30 mm
  2. Two inexpensive 9 LED flashlights with AAA batteries in aluminum bodies
  3. About 3 champagne bottle corks (real cork)
  4. Two laser-cut round 25mm diameter mosaic mirrors from a local online crafts store
  5. Twelve bright blue LEDs, 3V, 20 mA (get some spares in case you lose or break some – I used clear cap blue LEDs from this box)
  6. Twelve 100Ω resistors (again, get some spares in case you break some)
  7. less than 1 meter of Ø35 heat shrink tube
  8. Solder and maybe some solder wick to clean up bad joints if you need to.
  9. Insulated wire
  10. Epoxy glue
  11. Plastic wrap like Saran wrap (I used a heavy duty version)

The plexiglass tubes cost about 32€ including precision-cutting to measure, shipping, and tax. The minimum order was two meters, so now I also have an extra 1 meter long segment that could be used to make two more baston or maybe a short-ish light sabre. The flashlights cost about 5€ each, so the total cost was well under 50€ (the Euro and USD are roughly equal at the moment, in case you are wondering).

Recommended Tools

  • Soldering iron (a cheap 15W with a sharp tip will work fine)
  • Digital multimeter (optional, but very useful)
  • Small Dremel-like drill and some drill bits
  • Small wire cutters
  • Sharp knife

I used the drill for one hole in each flashlight casing and some holes in the cork that holds the resistors and LEDs. If you don’t have a drill, I’m sure you can work around not having one. The negative pole of the flashlight battery pack is connected to the body of the flashlight. I stripped enough wire to make a loop around the threaded part of the flashlight that will go into the plexiglass tube. Feed the stripped wire from inside the flashlight to the outside and solder the loop so that it is secure. The other end of the wire will go through the cork, so make sure the wire is long enough for now and cut it to size once you know how much loose wire you need.

Remove the black O-ring and drill a hole under where it was for the negative lead.

Remove the black O-ring and drill a hole under where it was for the negative lead.

LED Module

I mounted the LEDs and resistors on and inside a piece of cork. I took a sharp knife and cut a segment from the cork that I then trimmed down to a size that would fit securely inside the plexiglass tube. Cut the cork to a length that allows at least the bulbous part of the resistor to fit inside. You can use any number of LEDs you like, but I chose to use six on each baston, so I made six holes in a circle directly through the cork and made sure they were just large enough to hold a resistor each. One more hole is needed for a negative lead from the flashlight body. The seventh hole is on the same circle as the LED/resistor mounting holes. I used a black marker to make sure I knew which hole was for that lead.

Note that one of the LED leads is longer than the other. The lead that has to plug to the positive lead from the power source is longer. This is easy to remember if you remember that the two lines that form a plus sign put together are longer than the single line in a minus sign. Each LED needs to be soldered to a resistor. Some cheap flashlights skip this and use just one resistor for a whole bunch of LEDs and they can usually get away with this, but if you are building something yourself, you might as well do it right? The LED will work with the resistor on either side, but for this particular build, you have to attach the resistor to the longer (positive) lead of the LED. This is because the negative lead from the power pack goes through the cork to the same side as the LEDs and the positive pushes against the base of the cork on the other side.

In order to pick a suitable resistance, you need to know the maximum voltage of your power source and the voltage drop across the LED. In my case, the maximum voltage from three AAA alkaline batteries can be up to 3 x 1.65V = 4.95V. The voltage will quickly drop to about 4.5V, but it’s better to design for the maximum. If I chose to use NiMH rechargeables only, I would calculate the resistor for 3 x 1.3 = 3.9V instead. The resistor is there in order to limit the current to the LED. If the resistor value is too low, the LED will burn brighter, but it might also burn out completely. If the resistance is higher, the LED will be dimmer and will use less power as well.

If you make a test circuit with a power source, some resistor (say 300-500Ω) and a 5V power supply, you can use a multimeter to measure the actual voltage across the LED. In my case, the voltage drop was 3.0V. The voltage drop across the resistor is 4.95V – 3.0V = 1.95V. Resistance is the voltage divided by the current. We want the current to be 20mA (0.02A), so the resistance is 1.95V / 0.02A = 97.5Ω, which is 100Ω when you round it up to a size that you can actually buy.

I came up with a little trick for soldering resistors to LEDs that makes the job a whole lot easier and doesn’t require super steady hands or special tools other than a pin or small paper clip. Starting from around the middle of the bare lead on one side of the resistor, wrap it tightly into a coil around the pin and then carefully bend it a bit so that the spiral is a natural extension of the resistor (see photo). Push the long (positive) lead from the LED through the coil and make a 90° bend on the short (negative) lead away from the positive lead. Use the soldering to apply a bit of solder on the spiral and you should have an extremely solid solder joint as a result. You can test the LEDs at this point by connecting them to a 5V power source – just remember to get the polarity right. Once you start soldering them all together, it’s harder to replace an individual broken LED.

The resistor goes in the tunnel through the cork and the negative lead points towards the circle of LEDs and meets the other negative leads right in the middle. Feel free to cut the negative lead to a suitable length or simply make another bend to form a neat little crown in the middle. The crown is where you also solder the wire that will be soldered to the body of the flashlight and that goes through the seventh hole in the cork.

First LED in place along with negative lead. Holes for 5 more LEDs.

First LED in place along with negative lead. Holes for 5 more LEDs.

On the hilt side of the cork, the lead from the resistor is also bent towards the center on that side. If the lead is really long and goes way past the middle, it can be trimmed a bit shorter than then pushed inside the cork with a 90° bend. Once all the positive leads from the resistors are neatly in the middle, apply a bit of solder to connect them all and make a small bump that acts as a contact point with the positive pole from the battery pack.

View from the battery compartment side, showing the leads from the LEDs meeting in the middle and the negative wire passing through the cork.

View from the battery compartment side, showing the leads from the LEDs meeting in the middle and the negative wire passing through the cork.

At this point, you can test the LEDs by pushing the cork against the flashlight body. Remember that the flashlight has a toggle switch at the butt, so you may have to turn that on if it was off.

Finishing Touches

The end cap at the tip of the weapon is also cork. I cut the cork to a size that makes a nice end cap and used double sided tape to attach the small mirror it. I added some epoxy later on when I had epoxy mixed to glue the hilt to the “blade”. I covered the plexiglass tube with a couple of layers of plastic wrap to make the surface look a bit more textured. I then cut three 7 cm segments (about 3″) of heat shrink tube and one 4 cm segment (1.6″). I perforated two of the longer segments a bit to decorate them a little. The two segments in the middle are not glued down, so they are easy to replace. (January 16th update: I ordered a 3D printer, so one application would be to make 3D-printed versions with detailed graphics.) Heat shrink tube is commonly used in electronics to insulate or wrap cables neatly. In this case, the rather large 35mm diameter tube fits nicely over the tube. I used an incandescent spotlight (60W, I think) to heat the tube, but you can use a hair dryer or the soldering iron or anything else that allows you to controllably warm the tube to over 125°C.

I mixed a bit of epoxy glue. The glue was first used to secure the mirror to the end cap and the end cap to the tube. Then, the LED module and the wire from the hilt to the module were glued in place. Last, the hilt and blade parts are glued together. They fit very neatly together and the threads on the flashlight ensure that the glue will hold really well. I then quickly applied the heat shrink tube over the tip and the joint between the hilt and blade. I used 5 minute epoxy, so all this needs to be done rather quickly. It’s probably better to work on one baston at a time.

AAA alkaline batteries have a typical capacity of 860-1200 mAh. Driving 6 LEDs at 20mA each is a total of 120mA, so battery life with alkalines is 7-10 hours of continuous use and that’s about how long my first set of batteries lasted. The LEDs will dim somewhat towards the end as the voltage drops and then at some point  they will not light up at all.

Batons with power off.

Batons with power off.

Batons with power on.

Batons with power on.

Even though this was a relatively simple and quick build, these props were very popular among my friends at the Halloween party. Possible improvements would be a brightness control and a sound output of some kind. The tube is large enough to fit an Adafruit trinket and the 3.3V version would work well with three batteries in the flashlight. Unlike with the Widow’s Bites though, I would probably prefer to drive the LEDs using transistors rather than directly from the microcontroller. This is because you want the weapon to glow rather brightly and the I/O ports only output up to 20mA per port.

Speaking of the Widow’s Bites: stay tuned for the next part of this series…

Halloween version of my costume. Flash photos tend to wash out the glow a lot unless you use a long exposure. This photo was taken without flash.

Halloween version of my costume. Flash photos tend to wash out the glow a lot unless a long exposure time is used. This photo was taken without flash.


Black Widow, Part 4: The Gunslinger

In this part, I’ll cover the guns, tactical belt, holsters and related items. I thought this part would be easy to write about, but because I didn’t put much effort into this part of the costume for Halloween, I did a lot of research while writing and upgraded pretty much everything in the process. I’m hoping this article didn’t suffer too much from the extensive editing.


In Avengers Natasha Romanoff is equipped with two Glock 26 guns. Most airsoft guns look very much like real guns and they are relatively inexpensive, but they can fire plastic pellets, so they usually need to be deactivated for conventions etc. I was going to use the costume at a night club and they wouldn’t allow a real-looking gun prop at the party, so I just made a quick foam & duct tape gun in half an hour before the party started. This was a big reason why I put much more effort into the Widow’s Bites and baton weapons – the gun that I had at the party just didn’t look all that great.

Glock has apparently been waging a bit of a war with replica makers, so I had difficulty finding an airsoft Glock 26. At least in Europe though, the Cyma P.698 is still widely available and luckily it’s dirt cheap too. I found some on It needs a bit of black paint to look right, but the shape and size are about right. I used heat shrink tubing to cover the orange tip, so if I need it to be orange, I just pull off the cap and it’s there. I also filled the barrel with epoxy glue. It’s a plastic barrel and a bit of testing revealed that the Cyma isn’t particularly accurate.

Aside from the foam gun I made for Halloween, I had an airsoft Walther P990 that I used as a part of a costume at a 007-themed party over ten years ago. I’m not much of a gun fanatic, but I can appreciate great industrial design when I see it and I think the P99 is a good example of that. The Halloween costume had just one holster and I used the P990 in photos that I took before the party.

Airsoft P990, quick & dirty foam gun and a pair of Cyma P.698 guns painted black.

Airsoft P990, quick & dirty foam gun and a pair of Cyma P.698 guns painted black.

Conventions and Rules

I’m going to go to Wizard World in Oregon in Februrary 2016 and possibly to London in late May. I found a nice, quick overview of US convention rules for weapon props on Youtube. The Cymas have been converted into convention-safe non-firing props, but making foam guns are also an option. I’ll travel through O’Hare airport, so I may also need to check to see if the extra strict rules in Chicago are a problem even when staying well outside of the city for a few days and keeping non-firing props packed up in my luggage. London shouldn’t be a problem.


The drop leg gun holsters in the films are Blackhawk SERPA holsters. I couldn’t find a cheap SERPA holster for the P99, but DealExtreme had a H&K USP Compact holster for $15, so I took a chance and bought one. It was initially a very tight fit, but after the P990 had been in the holster for about an hour, it turned out to fit really well. I ended up buying a genuine left hand Blackhawk SERPA Sportster holster from Ebay. I didn’t actually notice that the DX holster was for the USP Compact than until the genuine on arrived. There are definite differences in the design, but both holsters work well with the Walther and the Cymas.

H&K USP Holsters work well enough for Cosplay

H&K USP Holsters work well enough for Cosplay

You can save a bit of money and trouble by going for an Age of Ultron configuration where she only has the left side holster and one gun.

There was one extremely entertaining puzzle related to the holsters though. The DX holster camewith two different mounting platforms. One of them is a rounded paddle that slots at the top of your pants and the other one is a belt loop platform. For the costume though, you want to drop the holster down to the leg. You can get drop leg versions of the Blackhawk SERPAs, but they are a little bit more expensive. I spent probably two hours just trying to get the standard platforms securely mounted down on the leg, but the gun was just top heavy and wouldn’t stay nice and flat. Then I came up with a crazy idea and it turned out it worked perfectly.

The idea was to ignore the third mounting screw completely and flip the belt loop platform upside down. That way it is mounted much closer to the pistol grip. Also, the slot where the third screw went is now all the way up and is perfect for attaching the straps that comes down from the belt. Obviously this isn’t the way you are supposed to use the mounting platform and you are ignoring one screw, so there’s no guarantee this would be a safe configuration for a real gun. For cosplay with props, it’s fine. Note that the Blackhawk Sportster holster only comes with the paddle platform and it’s a dark gray rather than a black. I used just a bit of matte black spray paint on it and found a belt loop platform for $6 on Ebay.

Upside down belt loops used as drop leg platforms.

Upside down belt loops used as drop leg platforms.

I took belts and buckles from two worn down waist packs. The straps are heavy duty cotton, so they look nice and didn’t cost a thing. In the Halloween costume, both straps as used for the single holster, but converting the costume to double holsters, I made new straps to go around the legs and used 2cm elastic for them. I think the holster is much more likely to slip a bit if the straps do not stretch at all.

I have seen photos of many Black Widow costumes that use the velcro/cordura cloth holsters. I bought one from DealExtreme for about $10 just to make sure I had at least some kind of holster in time for Halloween. In terms of holding any type of gun and maybe a bit of lipstick etc, there’s nothing wrong with them, but be aware that they are far bulkier than the SERPAs. In terms of looks, the SERPA wins hands down.

Belt & Buckles

I bought a guard belt from a local military supply store. One thing to note is that tactical belts have a velcro surface on the inside and part of it is left uncovered. The belt that I got has the hook side, so in order to reduce wear on the suit under it, I bought some more 5cm wide velcro and used it to cover the rough part. If you want the belt to stay exactly in place without slipping at all, you could sew the inner velcro to your suit. I can see how that might be necessary for actual combat duty and when you have some more weight attached to the belt. The belt buckle in the Avengers movie is an AustriAlpin Cobra. In photos, the tactical belt is narrower than the logo belt, which implied that it’s a 38mm belt (1.5″).

In January 2016, I bought 1.5″ security guard belt from Ebay for $4 and the 38mm Cobra buckle. The single side adjustable 38 mm buckle is an exact match for the belt buckle in Avengers. In the film, the buckle is reversed, so the text on it isn’t visible and the shape looks slightly different from most online photos, which show the other side.

The leg drop holster straps in the film costume have three more Cobra buckles – two on the left and one on the right. A lower cost 25mm “fashion buckle” exists, but it’s probably not 100% accurate for the holster straps. There’s a 25-28mm buckle that was used for Dredd that looks about right. Buying all four buckles from the UK including shipping would be about 77£ (106€). You can get generic plastic buckles that work just fine for a fraction of the price. How important is accuracy? How much is it worth to you? I think it really comes down to what your priorities are: if you are interested in crafting an accurate costume, then buying a the exact right buckle can’t really be considered crafting or challenging (except maybe for your credit card).

One more option for the buckles is that you could 3D print fake buckles and use those. I found a Black Widow kit on Thingiverse that includes 3D model for a full size belt buckle. I printed a some of these buckles out at 50% size at a local library. At that size they fit 20mm straps. The model isn’t 100% accurate for the leg/gun straps, but they look pretty nice anyway. The cost for all three was 40 cents. The buckles will not open and are probably fragile, so they are just for show: the straps open & close with velcro. I think I found a good compromising between authentic and inexpensive.

I exchanged some emails with Dave Wildford from Concact Left. His expert opinion based on reference photos was that the tactical belt buckle is the 38mm FC38KVF (adjustable female, fixed male) and the holster buckles are 25mm FC25MFF-B (male & female fixed). He didn’t have the 25mm buckles on stock, so they were not listed on the website when I was writing this, but he ordered some, so they might be there now. I still think the 25-28mm looks right to me, but I’m just basing that on photos, so Dave probably knows better.

Dummy 3D-printed buckles

Dummy 3D-printed buckles

Utility Pouches

I have seen some nicely made utility packs and I was considering making pouches out of craft foam, but at the same time I knew it might not be possible due to my tight schedule. So while I was on a business trip in Chicago, I wandered off to Menards one evening just to see if I could find anything useful for the costume. I found a set of three Toughbuilt Cliptech Hubs at Menards for $5. They fit perfectly and securely on the guard belt. I used a black permanent marker on the yellow parts to make them black and then used them like that. I didn’t have time to improve on these for Halloween.

The Black Widow kit on Thingiverse also includes a version of the pouch. It’s pretty nice and fits directly on a belt, but I wanted to learn Blender, so over Christmas holidays I made my own version that fits over the Thoughbuilt hubs. If I had a 3D printer of my own, I would iterate a bit on the design, making it even more accurate, since I’m using a public printer, I was happy enough with the first print and made two more at slightly higher resolution. The first one I printed was done using draft settings, but surprisingly it snapped perfectly onto the belt hub without any modification at all. The high resolution print was a bit tight and needed sanding, so the third print used a slightly updated model. If there’s interest, I could probably write an article on how the 3D-printed pouches were made and share the model files. The design could be more accurate, so I might revise it now that I know Blender a bit better.

3D-printed utility pouches, including draft version & showing the Cliptech slot on the reverse side.

3D-printed utility pouches, including draft version & showing the Cliptech slot on the reverse side.

Black Widow, Part 3: Accessorize

Logo Belt

The second  item I created was the logo belt buckle (reference photos). I hadn’t really made a firm decision to make a whole costume at that point and I was just wanted something simple to build to have something to show and talk about at the presentation I was preparing. I tried different materials I happened to have at home and ended up making the buckle entirely out of vinyl flooring. It’s pretty easy to cut with sharp knife, spray-paints very easily and it was soft and thin enough so that I could use my sewing machine to attach the lowest layer of the buckle to the belt. The belt is 5 cm (2″) wide elastic from a local crafts shop with velcro sewn for closing it. In the film, the belt is made of the same material as the jumpsuit. With a bit more effort, the belt could be made to look a lot more “professional”.

The buckle just covers the velcro and doesn’t open up. It would be interesting to try to design a functional buckle with this design – maybe some day. The silver base of the buckle consists of layers of vinyl, initially attached with double sided carpet tape and secured later on with a bit of epoxy glue at the corners. The red and black parts are individual pieces cut from a single layer of vinyl. I spent quite a bit of time getting the tapers on the red part as clean as possible. I had silver and red spray paint already and used a wide black permanent marker to paint the small center part black.

Everything from early draft versions to the hand-crafted belt to the 3D-modeled and printed version.

Everything from early draft versions to the hand-crafted belt to the 3D-modeled and printed version.


  • 5 cm / 2″ wide knit elastic band
  • 5 cm / 2″ wide velcro (note that you can get elastic loop side velcro in this size)
  • Left-over vinyl flooring from a dumpster
  • Double-sided carpet tape (optional)
  • Epoxy glue
  • Silver, red and black paint

The belt buckle is a nice confidence-builder: it’s an important part of the costume, but it’s also quite easy to make one that looks practically identical to the one in the film. If you happen to have the needed materials and some simple tools (mostly just a marker pen and a sharp knife), you can potentially make the belt buckle in one evening (just give the paint a chance to dry properly and apply multiple coats if necessary).

There are a number of 3D models for this buckle on Thingiverse. Most of them are not very accurate, but one is pretty close. My buckle was the first thing I made, so looking at it now and comparing it with photos from the film, I could see where it could be improved.

One evening in January, I used Blender to model a more accurate belt buckle and then a few days later printed it at the public library. Here’s a zip archive with the Blender file and STL exports. I used a lot of constructive solid geometry for this model, which means that I took basic shapes like boxes and cylinders and used “addition” and “subtraction” to describe the 3D model. CSG sometimes causes problems in the mesh exports, but those can be (and were) cleaned up using NetFabb Free. The hourglass cut-outs all use the same size cylinder, except the one for the red part is skewed. The geometry is also mirrored on two axes. Printing the looped version of the silver colored part will probably require adding some removable support material. I enabled that option in Cura and it was pretty easy to fut off the excess with a sharp knife.

The buckle is modeled as three different parts that still need to be glued together. I did this so that the two flat outward faces could be printed against the glass bottom of the printer and the beveled red part with the bevel up. Flat surfaces printed right on the glass look a lot better than flat surfaces printed at the top of the model. If you print this, make sure the parts are oriented with the largest flat surfaces down on the printer floor.

The timeglass buckle is a relatively quick and easy item to print and the first version didn’t have loops for the belt to pass through, so I changed the design slightly and printed another. The one in the photo above is the first version without the belt loops. I had some difficulties with the red paint – my can of red paint is probably already past its prime. The second print was made using red filament and just I deepened the red color a bit by coloring with a permanent marker.


I compromised quite a bit on the boots. I found inexpensive wedge heel boots with just one strap and the zipper on the side instead of in the front. I figured I could add some straps for show later on, if I had time. As often happens, I just didn’t have time to improve the boots at all before Halloween. They were very comfortable and easy to move in, but something a bit sleeker around the legs and with more straps would have been more accurate. As far as I know, the boots that were used in the film were custom-made, so they are not available anywhere.

In December, I found and bought some boots that are closer to the right length, with a higher wedge heel and about the right length too. Closer, but of course not perfect. The first pair of boots have a seam running along the front, so I’m also considering having them modified to be as accurate as possible. Having found a replacement, trying to modify the previous the boots wouldn’t risk the outfit. I think I would need to talk to a shoemaker: my sewing machine isn’t suitable for this task and I don’t think I want to try hand-sewing a zipper onto the boots. Alternatively, I could leave out the front zipper and just change the straps on the new boots to look more like the Avengers boots.


The gloves I used are men’s weightlifting gloves: Harbinger 143 Pro. Inexpensive and with quite a bit of leather, they are not a perfect match, but a very good one for the price. The logo is fairly inconspicuous, so I just left it there. In the completed costume, there’s a hidden micro-switch inside the palm of the glove to control the computer on the Widow’s Bite bracers. Other than adding a velcro patch inside the glove to attach the switch, I didn’t modify the gloves in any way. The switch part of the Widow’s Bites, so I’ll describe it in a later article in this series.

Up Next…

The next article will cover the tactical belt and gun holsters, which were also mostly off-the-shelf items that I only adapted slightly for use with the costume. After that though, this series should get more interesting with more parts that were built pretty much from scratch.

Black Widow, Part 2: Suit Up!

In this part, I’ll discuss where and how I got the logo belt, suit, shoulder patches and gloves. I wanted to get the costume ready for Halloween, so I only had about a month and half and out of that time, I was away on a business trip for nine days. There was no way I could make everything from scratch.


While I own a sewing machine, my experience using it is mostly for making small pouches, various of straps and belts and repairing stuff. I’m interested in learning sewing for making costumes, but it just had to wait. I didn’t have time to improve my sewing enough, get patterns and materials and get other parts of the costume done. Instead of trying to make a jumpsuit, I did some online shopping to find something suitable.

I wanted a body-hugging material suit with long sleeves and with a slightly textured surface that wasn’t too shiny or matte. I knew 1 mm neoprene with a lycra cloth surface would look nice, but long sleeve full suits are generally way too hot to wear indoors. Luckily, I found the Rip Curl G-Bomb ladies long sleeve springsuit. It’s available in various colors, among them a pure black suit. It has a nice front zip that goes just far enough down to work with this costume. The zip locks in place securely in any position, making it easy to adjust the amount of visible cleavage. I found the wetsuit for under $50 (+ shipping and taxes) – I knew I could use it without ruining its function as a wetsuit, so I felt it was a good deal.

On the negative side though, there is a silvery Rip Curl logo on the chest and another left arm near the shoulder. The ridge around the logo peeled off pretty easily and I covered the logo with the black marker, but it is still visible in photos. I tried removing the logo with acetone, but I didn’t want to ruin the neoprene, so I gave up when the silver color didn’t seem to come off easily. Neoprene is somewhat resistant to acetone, but I was worried about damaging the suit.

The arm logo is a bit lower on the arm than the shoulder patch on the Black Widow uniform, but putting the S.H.I.E.L.D. patch on top of it was clearly the best way to hide it neatly. I bought some fabric arm patches on Ebay and then later noticed that they were negatives of the ones in the Avengers costume. I found and bought another set of patches before Halloween, but ended up liking the first set better anyway and used them despite the black/white reversion. The first patches have a hooked velcro back. This meant that I could easily remove the S.H.I.E.L.D. logos from the wetsuit when it wasn’t used for cosplay. Still, the patches weren’t exactly accurate in terms of material & looks. I used Liquisole to attach the loop side velcro patches to the suit. Liquisole is quite good for gluing something like that (very strong), but it takes overnight to cure, so make sure you have time, if you want to use it.

There’s a shirt and a bodysuit version of the springsuit. I bought the bodysuit because I knew it wouldn’t ride up under any conditions and it would be more useful as a wetsuit as well. The crotch doesn’t snap open, so going to the bathroom is complicated and not really advisable. I suspect bathroom complications are a common problem for cosplayers…

For the legs, I tried to look for neoprene leggings, but found compression tights instead. The material isn’t neoprene, but the surface texture and color are actually very close. I guess the lycra is quite similar. 2XU Women’s compression tights are available with black on black graphics. The price was a bit high for my Halloween budget, but this was also something that could still be used elsewhere. Even though the black on black logo is visible in photos, it doesn’t look out of place in the costume. Together with the tactical belt, the top and bottom can be made to look like a seamless jumpsuit. As far as my Halloween costume was concerned, I was happy with what I had.

For winter/spring 2016, I have started researching materials and patterns in order to make my own suit from scratch. It’s still too early to say much about this, but the sample swatch of black spacer mesh I got from Moodfabrics might be the right fabric. I’ll write another article about this once I have something more concrete to show.

Spacer Mesh and some 12mm fold-over elastic

Spacer Mesh and some 12mm fold-over elastic.

Improved Insignia

For Halloween, the shoulder patches were from Ebay and didn’t look quite right. Writing this series, I started upgrading pieces of the Halloween costume with improved versions. For the shoulder patches, one plan was to 3D print a S.H.I.E.L.D. logo stencil or mold and then make my own patches. Before I had a chance to get start 3D-printing stuff, I came up with a way to make the patches with common and easy materials. The prototypes were promising, but the first two patches looked a bit messy because I used too much glue. The third patch turned out almost perfect, but I made a slight layout mistake with the pieces and had to redo that one as well. The process works, but requires precision to get the best possible results. If the patches do not need to be super durable, you can get some rubber or foam sheets with adhesive already on one side and skip all the nasty parts that involve rubber glue and long drying times.

Here’s what I used:

  1. A bicycle inner tube, 1.75″
  2. Some rubber glue (Liquisole)
  3. I wanted a velcro back, so I used two slices of 5 cm (2″) wide velcro, but this is optional
  4. A printer and some paper
  5. Water-soluble glue stick
  6. Silver spray paint
  7. Wax (baking) paper

I used Autodesk Graphic (formerly known as iDraw) to draw the logo. I started with a photo reference in a background layer and set up guidelines for drawing. Three concentric circles for the black perimeter and the wing + tail edges and then the straight lines in the logo. Once I had the guidelines in place, I converted the inner parts into polygons or bezier curves. I then reduced the logo to the size I wanted and labeled the parts so that they would be easier to recognize and place on the patch once they were cut out. I duplicated the patch and mirrored the body to turn the head of the eagle the other way for the other shoulder. I then duplicated these two patches three times on a sheet. I printed out the patches on paper, making sure I had plenty of spares. I was new at this, so I had a hunch I would end up making more than two shoulder patches before I got it right.


I cut a segment from the rubber inner tube and then cut it lengthwise to make a square. The rubber square needs to be large enough to cover the whole logo and then some. I washed and dried the rubber square and (optionally) sanded the side with ridges on it. The smooth side is then covered completely with glue stick and a printed logo is applied over the glue. At this point, it’s good to let the glue dry properly so that it doesn’t come loose while you are doing the next steps. I placed a flat weight over the rubber/paper composite to keep it from curling while it was drying. Patience is king.

Once the paper glue had set, I cut the gray logo pieces. I found it best to start cutting inside the white area above the eagle’s head and cut out the circle around the patch along the inner line. A good pair of scissors works really well here. I used two pieces of 5 cm wide velcro as the backing. The patch is wider than 5cm, so the two pieces are used to form one larger piece about 10cm × 10cm in size. Another bit of velcro held the two sides together until the glue had dried and the patch was ready. I squeezed some glue directly on the velcro and made sure all of it was really well “wetted”. It’s OK to use a little bit of excess glue. Next, I used the glue on the velcro to wet all the rubber bits needed for the patch. I moved the bits to a piece of baking paper with the glue side down and slid them around like slugs, leaving a trail of glue behind. This got rid of excess glue and to made sure the glue is applied evenly. Then, I applied some baking paper on the velcro and use it to smooth and squeeze out all excess glue from the velcro. I used pressure to really work it into the velcro. Excess glue will stick to the baking paper. The thinner the film of glue, the faster and better it will cure.

Fortunately the logo is an easy shape to cut

Fortunately the logo is an easy shape to cut.

For best results, the glue needs to settle for at least a few minutes before laying out the pieces onto the backing. I started out with the outer circle, then the tail (B), body (A) and wings (CDE & FGH). At this point, it’s really important to use an uncut version of the logo as reference. I thought I was familiar with the logo and skipped it on the third patch I made, only noticing my mistake the next day when it was way too late to do anything about it. Can you spot my mistake? The patch looks nice enough, but it’s just wrong, so I let out a deep sigh and I decided to redo it one more time…

The parts are glued down. Can you spot my mistake? Always use a reference drawing/photo when making something.

The parts are glued down. Can you spot my mistake? Always use a reference drawing/photo when making something.

These were the last two I made. The logo pieces are correctly positioned & glued down with just enough glue.

These were the last two I made.

I enveloped the patch in baking paper. The paper is nice because it’s translucent, so you can see if anything has moved out of place without actually lifting it. I placed some stone tiles on the patch for weight and then applied a bit of pressure. I went back to check the result about 20 minutes later and made some fine adjustments to positions. At that point, it’s still possible to move the pieces slightly. After that, the baking paper and weights go back on and the whole thing is left to cure overnight.

The whole patch painted. The parts covered with paper are still black underneath. I used too much glue, so I scraped some off and left some nasty scars on the patch.

The whole patch painted. The parts covered with paper are still black underneath. This is the first prototype. I used too much glue and tried to remove some of it, leaving nasty marks.

The next day, I used a pin to mark the outer border of the patch with tiny holes in the paper. I used spray paint on the patch before cutting the round outline, so painting over the paper will hide the print, but the pinholes are clearly visible and work well as a reference for cutting the patch out once the paint has dried. Once the paint is completely dry, the whole patch can be soaked in water for a while. This will soften the paper glue and allow the paper to be peeled off cleanly, leaving a clean black rubber surface.

Home-made shoulder patches completed

Home-made shoulder patches completed.

 Until Next Time…

The next article will cover the logo belt, boots and gloves.

Black Widow costume on January 1st, 2016.

Black Widow costume on January 1st, 2016.

Black Widow, Part 1: Cosplay Project Overview

Why I Did a Cosplay

Over the years, I saw cosplay on the big screen (Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope) and on online streams such as the Blizzcon virtual ticket. I was impressed by how great some costumes were and how ambitious some of the plans were. I arranged for a club that I’m a member of to have a cosplay presentation at this year’s fall weekend retreat, but due to scheduling problems, I ended preparing and presenting the whole thing myself, despite having no actual experience in cosplay.

So, in order to learn enough about cosplay to talk about it in front of a (small) audience, I did as much online research as I had time for. Mind you, I learned that I would be the one doing the presentation only about two weeks before the event, so I had very limited time. Having watched a number of documentaries on YouTube, I became aware that a major part of the activity is in actually designing and building the costumes. Sure, most of the costumes are derivative works of the original designs of the characters, but even if you go for a super-accurate superhero costume, you have to figure out how to create the costume. It’s like getting a sketch from a designer and then as the engineer getting the freedom to implement and modify that as you like.

My grandfather had a workshop in his basement and he was always tinkering with stuff and also building things for us kids. I don’t have a workshop like that, but over the years I have collected small tools here and there, so I actually already had most of the tools I needed to make a costume. Shows like Tested and a number of do-it-yourself videos on YouTube inspired me to take a step and actually do something instead of just dreaming of doing. Having essentially quit playing WoW also left a sort of time vacuum that could be filled. There’s a busy community on TheRPF, but I was already weeks into making my costume before I found my way there. Frankly, if you are just starting out, that place could potentially feel a little intimidating, but it is a great resource if you are looking for information on almost any costume or prop.

Character Choice

So, one night just after I had started working on the cosplay presentation, I was watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier on Netflix and noticed the brown leather jacket that Natasha Romanoff wears in it. I had a jacket almost like it… and I happened to have an old wig that was a reasonably close match to her hair in the Avengers movie. I determined that I had just enough time to piece together a costume that would be good enough to use as a demo in the presentation. At the same time, I realised that the Black Widow in civilian clothes wouldn’t really mean much to someone who wasn’t a rabid fan of the films, so I also started working on a design and some props for an actual superhero Black Widow costume.

Of all her costumes up to that point, I felt that the best one was in The Avengers (2012). A logo belt with a separate tactical belt looked better than one combined belt, as it did a better job of accentuating the waistline. And as I mentioned, the wig I already had was a decent match for her hair in the Avengers movies. I’m hesitant to link or include copyrighted movie art here without permission, so if you want to see some of the reference photos I used, you can use a search engine to look for them…

What Are Little Black Widows Made of?

I think the first actual prop that I made was for the Captain America WS costume and it was the arrow-shaped necklace. I shaped a bit of solder wick into an arrow and covered it with soldering tin. I did the arrow one evening, then bought a lock and chain and installed them the next. Easy and fun – I was hooked. In the limited time I had, I worked out an idea of how to make the shuttle-shaped (think of loom shuttles) pods on the Widow’s Bite bracers and I had made the logo belt. Technically the necklace isn’t part of the costume, but I ended up wearing it anyway – it’s not really noticeable unless specifically mentioned, but it is supposed to be a gift from Hawkeye to Natasha, so technically she should still have been wearing it in the time span between Avengers and Winter Soldier.

The first thing I made was this simple necklace

The first thing I made was this crude necklace.

There was no way I could get her combat outfit done in two weeks, so I decided to try to get a costume done for Halloween. I knew I wouldn’t have time to make everything from scratch, but I didn’t want to buy anything that was only made for a Black Widow costume. The costume was to be a combination of re-purposed items that I either already had or bought and a few things that I would concentrate on making as well as I could.

Here’s a rough list of “parts” that I wanted to have for the costume:

  1. Suit (with patches)
  2. Boots
  3. Gloves
  4. Logo belt
  5. Tactical belt
  6. Holster(s) & gun(s)
  7. Baton weapons
  8. Widow’s bites (bracers)
  9. Wigs etc.

This blog series will document how I obtained or made the parts and how it all worked out. Even for the parts which I didn’t make myself, I think documenting my costume may be entertaining or useful to someone else. Who knows, maybe this series will encourage someone else to start their first costume project?

I don’t think Black Widow had her batons in Avengers yet, but I suspected carrying even a realistic prop gun at the Halloween party would be frowned upon, so I decided to try to make the batons and focus my effort on the bracers. Of all the parts, the Widow’s Bites were by far the most work as I designed and built them from scratch. The bracers are the “crown jewel” of this costume and have three blog posts dedicated to document the design and build.

Black Widow costume on January 1st, 2016.

Black Widow costume on January 1st, 2016.

Here We Go!

It has been a while since the first post, but I assure you, I haven’t been idle. In fact, I have prepared a series of posts, which will start appearing on this site soon. The current plan is to post new articles on Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, so at that rate it would take over two weeks to post the whole series.

I found it really difficult to pick a name for the blog. In the end, I just chose to try to be a bit funny & witty and not focus too much on what the content is going to be. I picked the Tiga nickname on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) in 1993 and since then have also used it among certain groups of friends, on BatMUD and World of Warcraft and other games. There’s no connection with the Canadian DJ. I just needed a nickname really quickly and it was the brand name of a windsurfing board I had at the time, so I went with that. I think the windsurfing brand got it from the name of an island in New Caledonia. I kind of like what the urban dictionary says about it.

Then there’s the song of course… I watched the video on Youtube and oh boy did it look dated now. The song is still pretty cool though and a definite classic.

Anyway, welcome to the blog…we’ll start with the series on putting together a cosplay costume, but there’s no telling where this will lead. Let’s think of this as an adventure of some sort…