Calgary

Calgary company goes medieval on cosplay world with lightweight, foam chain mail

Ben Eadie, who does special effects and props for movies, was looking for a lightweight material for a work project, but thinking about cosplay costumes. He picked up a piece of flat craft foam and realized it could be used for chain mail.

Foam Armory has unleashed a product that solves a longtime problem in the special effects world

Cosplayers clamour for Calgary company's foam armour

CBC News Calgary

17 days ago
4:20
Foam Armory is trying to keep up with orders for its lighter armour costumes after campaigns go viral. 4:20

It started with one of those lightbulb moments. Calgarian Ben Eadie, who does special effects and props for movies, was looking for a lightweight material for a work project, but thinking about his hobby — cosplay costumes.

He picked up a piece of flat craft foam.

"As a hobby I do cosplay or at least I build cosplay (costumes)," Eadie said. "And I've always found that anything that involved chain mail is a pain in the butt. I saw the stitching pattern and it just happened to be looking at it immediately after I was thinking about chain mail, and it occurred to me that if you knit these two things together, you will get something that looks like chain mail."

Eadie bought some dollar-store craft foam and tried out his idea on a laser cutter. 

It worked.

He and partner Stephanie Chan launched Foam Armory and have not looked back.

These armoured masks and replica of the King Arthur-style Crown are just a few of the designs already making use of Foam Armory's lightweight chainmail. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

"I've slowly developed it over a couple of years, and people seem to like it a lot more than I would have expected," Eadie said, adding that cosplay and costumes involving chain mail are notoriously heavy and awkward.

Some timely publicity didn't hurt, especially an appearance on Adam Savage's show Tested, which highlights innovations in the props industry.

Savage described the foam chain mail as beautiful, extolling its simplicity and lightness.

The foam armour can be shaped into various costumes for cosplay and movie props, such as this viking helmet. (Submitted by Foam Armory)

The orders started pouring in, according to Foam Armory co-founder Stephanie Chan.

"The interest was so intense," she said. "Basically we had 300 orders after that first weekend."

Chan showed off a replica of the Monty Python and the Holy Grail King Arthur crown. 

"This was actually made by our friend Thomas Hanna, and he has taken our product and totally ran with the idea. And so it's super light."

Demand for the product increased further when they started a Kickstarter campaign.

"We asked for our goal to be $5,000 and we ended up going viral again. We were featured on Tested as well as another show called Much Prop Studios," she said. "And after going viral with those two shows, we ended up earning $47,000 in pledges."

After die cutting, the foam chain mail is created by knitting together the loops of lightweight foam. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Chan demonstrated the production method, which evolved from the original laser cutting to a more efficient die cutting. Once the pattern is cut into the foam, Chan loops the pieces together to form a chain mail effect.

She says after all the dust settles, she and Eadie plan to think up some new products. 

"There's other types of foam I've been researching," she said. "And we're also looking into things like leather, maybe even carbon fibre or something like that would be really cool too."

Stephanie Chan, co-founder of Foam Armory, shows off a crown made with lightweight chainmail. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Eadie has had interest from motorcyclists seeking a lightweight protection. 

"A few friends of mine that are into motorbikes, they said that this would make for great leather jacket if we could make it out of leather because it would allow that skidding that they need should they get in an accident," he said. "But it allows it to breathe because there's a bunch of holes."

Eadie said he's done some initial testing and thinks he could develop a leather version of the chain mail armour.

"And I know those are really stretch ideas but, you know, you got to pursue them."

Ben Eadie launched Foam Armory after he developed the idea of using lightweight foam to create chain mail for use in costumes and props. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

With files from Monty Kruger

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