The motivation behind this project was my seven-year-old nephew.
He has a number of figures from 21st Century and other sources. In an attempt to maintain some level of "uniformity", I have purchased both TUS uniform sets and loose parts from on-line vendors.
However, the supply of any specific item is rather problematic. Given the current high attrition rate my nephew is experiencing, I wanted to see if I could produce a passable Y-Harness to hold up the figure's web belts.
While the goal was to produce items that were primarily toy-like in nature, as opposed to true scale models, some of the techniques might be applicable to more detailed modeling.
Bleached cotton fabric, approximately 3-1/4" x 4" square. This material is dyed Olive Drab using RIT dye. Their recommended formulation, (for liquid dye) is 2 parts Dark Green, no. 35 to 1 part Dark Brown, no. 25. (The liquid dyes are more practical for mixing in small quantities.)
I prefer a mixture containing a higher ratio of brown, more like 0.7 Dark Brown to 1.0 Dark Green. It doesn't exactly match the TUS OD, but it looks more like the color I've seen on real equipment.
The amount of dye and water for a dyeing project this size is hard to specify. The fabric is so absorbent; that it only takes a few minutes before the color almost turns black.
For this project, I used about 3 square feet of fabric. I added 10cc of mixed dye to about 3 quarts of boiling water and salt. I remove the pot from the stove before putting in the fabric so I can monitor it more closely.
After stirring the fabric in the dye solution for 2 minutes, I start checking the color. Once it starts to gets dark, I pull a corner out, (wearing gloves) and rinse it under hot water.
This is the tough part of dyeing. The fabric in the dye solution is one color and very dark. After pulling it from the dye and rinsing under hot water, then hot soapy water, it turns another color. Finally, after it dries, it is a much lighter color. My advice is to over-dye it, this will probably end up drying the correct shade. And if it is too dark, use a VERY dilute solution of RIT Color Remover to gradually lighten it. Also, after you rinse the dye from the fabric, but before you dump the dye solution, cut off a small corner and dry it with an old iron to check the color. If it dries too light, put it back in the dye bath. (Guys, if you use your wife's only iron, wait until she goes shopping.)
I stole that last tip from someone on the Internet, but can't find his name or site to give him proper credit.
- Yoke Webbing:
The "Nylon" webbing on top of the yoke is 3/8", Olive Drab, "Grosgrain Ribbon". If you can't find it locally, order it from "The Ribbon Place", URL: www.ribbonplace.com. They are extremely helpful and will sell this ribbon by the yard, (it was less then $0.20 per yard when I ordered.) I now have a lifetime supply.
Each yoke uses about 4 1/2".
- Yoke Buckles:
The yoke buckles are made from No. 7 mesh black plastic canvas. Get this at a sewing/craft store. Cut two consecutive squares from the mesh, (I like sprue cutters, but an X-Acto knife will do.) then chamfer the corners give it a "rounder" appearance.
These are a little thick for scale buckles, but I like them because they are easier for my nephew to manipulate. They are also flexible, so they are hard to break. I also use these when I am repairing or adding slings in his figure's weapons.
Use 3 per yoke, and one sheet of canvas will last a lifetime.
- Buckle Straps:
The small straps attaching the buckles and the equipment rings are 1/8" satin ribbon. I started with a moss color and dyed it to OD with RIT dye.
About 6" per yoke.
The suspenders are made from 1/8" wide, 70% polyester and 30% rubber, elastic straps. They were originally white, and I dye them OD with (you guessed it) RIT dye.
Dyeing polyester is tricky. Elastic is a little easier, (it might be the rubber component). What I found is that you need a LOT of dye, (compared to cotton materials) and very hot water. The amount of color the material absorbs seems to be more closely related to the concentration of dye than the time it is in the dye bath. If the material won't get darker, no matter how long you simmer it, add more dye.
It also doesn't absorb colors evenly. I use more brown when I dye elastic, at least 1 to 1, Dark Brown to Dark Green, to get Olive Drab.
Approximately 13" per Harness
- Belt buckle:
The belt buckle is a work-in-progress. The harness works with existing TUS web belts, but I wanted to try creating the whole unit from scratch. So far this is the only method I found that creates buckles that are uniform in appearance, rugged and don't require machine tools to make.
The loops are links of brass chain with an opening approximately 3/8" long. These links is a bit small, if you look around, you might find some that are a little larger.
The hook and eye is 0.02 brass wire. Use about 1 3/4" per belt.
- Web belt:
The web belt is 3/8" elastic dyed in the same way as the 1/8" wide straps.
The belt uses 7".
- Belt loop:
The loop for the belt is brass tubing, stretched into elongated loop. I use 5/16" or 11/32" Diameter depending on the thickness of the belt. I started using this to fix purchased belts that had lost their plastic loop. I saw off about a 1/4" piece and debur it down to 3/16".
The yoke pattern, see figure #1, is traced onto the dyed cotton fabric. After cutting out the outline, the fabric is folded along the dashed lines and glued in the sequence labeled by the numbers inside the circles. This gives thickness and a finished edge to the yoke.
I used Beacon's Fabric-Tac adhesive to glue the fabric together. This is an acetone based adhesive. It is pretty potent stuff, so I recommend that it be used with lots of ventilation. I chose it over water based fabric glue because it creates strong bonds and doesn't bleed through thin layers of fabric as readily.
By apply the adhesive to the 3/16" border, away from the fold line, any bleed-through will be in the middle of the yoke and covered by ribbon later.
After the yoke material is folded and glued, the buckles are connected to the top of the yoke with the 1/8" x 7/8" ribbon and glue.
The equipment ring is attached with 1/8" x 7/8 satin ribbon to the 3/8" x 2 5/8" Grosgrain ribbon, about one inch from the front edge. (figure #3). I used a 4mm steel ring, but a small oval chain link would probably look better. (Actually, I think the real ones are square.)
I attached the ribbon with a couple of stitches, but the glue would probably work too.
One end of a piece of 1/8" x 5/8" satin ribbon was then glued to the bottom of the Grosgrain ribbon and passed over the top end of the equipment ring strap. The end is then glued back under the Grosgrain ribbon.
When both ribbons assemblies are completed, they are glued to the top of the yoke. Next, the last piece of Grosgrain is attached over the back of the yoke.
The suspenders are just the 1/8" Elastic, with loops created on the end with a couple of stitches. The top ends are passed through the underside of the buckle and share the top loop with the satin ribbon. Then the end is passed down through the bottom loop of the buckle and adjusted for length.
The web belt buckles were made by separating the brass chain links. Next the hook and eye were created by bending the 0.02 wire as shown in figure #4. This was done before attaching them to the chain links to make it easier to work with the thin wire.
The each chain link was split apart by twisting the ends on either side the seam, and the hook and eye slide over their ends and moved into position.
I used slow drying super glue to hold the 0.02 wire in place.
Initially, I tried to use a single thicker wire to create the hook, but I experienced too many failures at the glue joint, even using slow-clue epoxy. The thin wire tends to flex if it is abused, instead of stressing the glue joint. So far, I've only need to touch-up some chipped paint with this method.
If you're not concerned with ruggedness, or are skilled with soldering metal, a single wire may be the way to go.
The web belt itself is just the 3/8" dyed elastic looped through one ring of the belt buckle and stitched. The other end goes through the brass belt loop, the other buckle and back.
With the cost of commercial harness's running around $2.50 each, you would have to make quite a few of these to justify the effort solely on economic grounds. But if you're having trouble obtaining sufficient numbers of a certain style, (obviously, it only takes a extra buckle and suspender to create a H-harness) or color, this method might be of use.
Outstanding work David! Special thanks for sharing your skills with all of us. Sharp Salute! -- GL