I recently upgraded my skills in SketchUp, as well as in my understanding of how 3D printers work, and how well their materials perform. I also learned how to measure when I’m trying to recreate something! Using these amazing, newfound skills, I have created some seriously great metal Captain America TFA buckles. I know, that’s a lot of patting-on-the-back, but I’ll tell you why.
When I was making this costume, most anything I needed could be found online or made for me. What I could not find, however, were any of the buckles for the costume. In Captain America: The First Avenger (TFA), his costume has a very military look and feel, with the use of combat boots, utility buckle with what looks like ammo pouches, and the parachute harness that looks like it’s sewn into the suit. The buckles for that harness really resemble typical parachute buckles, but with a custom flair of course.
Sure, I was able to find something that would work either online, at REI or an Army surplus store, but never an accurate buckle. That’s when I decided if I wanted accuracy, I’d have to do it myself. Hence Superhero DIY!
With my 1/6 scale Hot Toys Captain America: The First Avenger figure in hand, and of course the blu-ray of the movie, I had everything I needed to recreate the buckles – I just needed to take the time to do it. So, over the last few months, I did it! I’ve been able to create the most accurate buckles that I’ve found anywhere, and Shapeways is able to print these metal Captain America TFA buckles at what I think is a pretty reasonable price – especially in steel!
If you don’t like steel, of course there are the plastic versions. The different plastic materials really do look great – especially the polished versions – but they just aren’t the same. When printed in metal, these metal Captain America TFA buckles have an amazingly realistic look and feel to them. They’ve got a real bit of heft to them, much like the die-cast 1/6 scale Hot Toys Iron Man XLIII figure, due to the metal used. They’re solid, durable, and can withstand some good costume distressing!
Anyway, on to the buckles. The first buckles I worked on were what I call the front strap buckles. These buckles go on the red straps in front. The strap first goes through, then up over the front chest buckle, and back through this very cool-looking metal Captain America buckle. Sounds like an adjustable slide, right? Here’s my original post on them, when I got them printed in plastic (White, Strong and Flexible).
These are actually adjustable slide buckles, but they are very customized. I know because I searched and searched and searched, both online and in-store everywhere but found nothing quite like them! These actually weren’t too hard to do, but needed to be sized correctly. That’s just a bit difficult when working from pictures and a 1/6 scale figure, but hey it worked out!
Next of the metal Captain America TFA buckles on the agenda was the lower back harness buckle. This is the one that connects the strap that runs from the upper harness buckle down to the belt. The buckle resembles a triangular parachute harness buckle, but has some extra detail added as well as a whole separate bar that runs from the top down to the base; something you won’t find on any other buckle. Trust me, I’ve looked! Another specific difference is the circle at the bottom, meant to grab whatever hook is on Cap’s belt to attach to the harness.
This one was a doozy and took some real time and LOTS of watching “How-to do this” and “How-to do that in Sketchup” videos on YouTube. Alas, I was able to get the perfect buckle created in only four iterations! Not bad, really!
Now for the king. The single most important buckle on the costume: the upper back harness buckle. We see very few shots of this buckle in Captain America: The First Avenger, but it is THE buckle that has been in all the iterations of Steve Rogers’ uniform since The First Avenger, although it has changed shape a few times. This harness buckle connects the shoulder/arm straps to the belt, and should be one of the strongest points in the harness. For Cap, this buckle also holds his shield from time-to-time, so has to be strong! Did I happen to mention the metal Captain America TFA buckles are way better than the plastic ones? Yeah — that’s why.
I iterated on this buckle for awhile as well, but since I had already learned a lot about making curved surfaces with the lower back harness buckle, this one was much easier to do accurately. That said, it still took a few days to get right.
They weren’t too technically difficult to make, but what was difficult was determining the proper angle. It’s made especially hard when I don’t know how to leverage a protractor on a tiny buckle (on the 1/6 scale figure) … but it worked out to just eyeball it.
From there I realized that I still didn’t have accurate buckles for the shoulder pauldrons, where they attach to the arm straps. There is one buckle that’s a triangle shape that I (of course) couldn’t find anywhere, and the other is just a small, rectangular buckle. I probably could find the second one if I looked hard enough, but I still haven’t found anything that quite fits the bill and it’s simply easiest to make and 3D print something I know is accurate.
The triangular buckle, of which six are needed to complete the costume, goes on the ends of the shoulder pauldrons on each side of each pauldron and attaches the arm straps – that’s four of them. The other two go on the straps that run down the chest, just above the chest star.
The costume only needs four of these fairly simple rectangular buckles, which go higher up on each side of each pauldron, and attach the arm straps.
Lastly, the front chest buckle. This is the buckle that connects the grey webbing/straps to the red. It’s much simpler than I thought, but has an interesting shape to it – it’s much flatter than expected and only has one opening. It does need to be strong, though, especially if this is going to be carrying the weight of the super-soldier! The suit only needs two of these.
And that does it for the buckles (that I had to make)! The belt buckle, easily enough, came with the UD Replicas Captain America TFA belt that I was able to acquire, so that’s simple enough. I may just decide to make that one as well though, just for the heck of it.
Did I also mention that I’m offering these metal Captain America TFA buckles as printable products on Shapeways? Just check out my store and get them printed if you need them! Shapeways always does an excellent job printing 3D models, and shipping is fast once production is completed in about 2 weeks.
Good luck with your costumes and let me know what you think in the comments!