I thought I'd post to show off three of the most recent packs that have been brought into the world, and also to give major props to Chris of the Lost Wax YouTube channel, a true master of EVA foam. I'm sure most of you here are probably aware of his series of videos on crafting a pack from a floor foam mat and other cheaply, locally sourced/thrifted items, and after having gone through the process not once...not twice...but three times, I can attest to the awesomeness of his plans and tutorials.
I'll spare you the step-by-step of the build, as my process follows Chris' pretty closely. I'd say about 85-90% of the build are straight out of the Lost Wax vids, and the remaining innovations are largely from the fantastic scratch-build thread by Astyanax, with a few ideas here and there from other builds (though now I can't remember what came from where, but chances are if you've ever posted a build thread here, I've poured over it while working on these!)
I also wanted to make this post because while so many of the other pack builds here are stunning, more screen-accurate, and feature a variety of special effects and sounds, it's quite an investment (both time and money) to pull off a build at that level. I think the Lost Wax build is a great foundation for a budget pack builder that also wants to get as close as possible to a realistic looking pack for a fraction of the budget. And if you're a seasoned builder, you'll see all sorts of opportunities where things could be improved, made more sturdy, or elevate the look of the pack, which is what I tried to do where I could.
While I did want to incorporate the cyclotron and power cell lights, I didn't want to go as far as building out the lights in the wand or including sound, since the purpose of these packs is largely for myself and a couple other dads to wear while we're taking our kids around Trick or Treating (and possibly for an office costume contest), and they just need to look cool while we're walking around the neighborhood. I also didn't elect to do any additional texture on these, as the foam did look pretty cool on it's own after a coat of Plasti-Dip, and the thought of masking off all those fins on three packs sounded exhausting, so that saved a lot of time (and a few cans of truck bed liner spray, too).
So here are the finished packs, and I'll also include a few close-ups of various parts as well.
The light kit came from eBay (yeah, that seller in Bulgaria you may have seen!) and they work great (here's a short video), are speed adjustable (I have a small, removable panel that allows you to get in the shell and change it without having to take apart the whole thing), and can run on a single 9V battery. I opted for 6 AA batteries and added my own case and switch to make it easy to access from outside the pack. We can even reach back and flip the packs on and off while we're wearing them, too.
Here are a couple of early process photos, one showing the inside of the (mostly) complete shell,
and one right after the first few coats of Plasti-Dip were applied.
Chris doesn't use it in his build but there was no way I wanted to brush paint three of these, so after heat sealing everything with a heat gun I hit them with the Plasti-Dip so I could use spray paint. I gotta say, that was the real turning point of the project for me, because up until that first coat everything still looked like a bunch of foam bent and glued together (and my foam craft is not nearly as neat and tidy as the tutorial videos) and I wasn't sure if these were gonna look good, or just very "crafternoon-ish". But what a difference the Plasti-Dip makes! I could have gone even further with the Kwik Seal to get all the seams perfect, and then with a coat of texture on top I'd say you could really get a foam shell to look almost as good as anything you'd buy in a kit. But again -- building three at a time, there were many times where "that's good enough" was the operative phrase of the day.
Another key difference in the route I took vs. the Lost Wax videos was adding some reinforcements, notably in the gun mount, and adding a few 1" square dowels for strength and a place to bolt the motherboard to the shell. In the videos, Chris has to cut the shell to go back in to add supports for the v-hook and pack frame -- because, hey, was making a lot of this up as he went along! -- but now that we all have the benefit of his hindsight, building those features in before sealing everything up is a peice of cake. And speaking of the v-hook, his PVC/wood solution for that is fantastic, surprisingly easy to do, and of course dirt-cheap.
Chris also has a rather ingenious method of building a scratch-built PVC Alice frame, but adding the cost of getting a rivet gun and all the straps and padding I'd need, it made more sense to me to just go with some Army surplus frames. Amazingly, Quartermaster Supply, which was mentioned way back in Norm Gagnon's plans from 2001, is still around and was able to source three used frames at a great price. If you're struggling with with finding a frame locally and are leery of the reviews of the ones on Amazon, give them a call. The guy was super friendly, and yes, is very familar with the needs of the many would-be Ghostbusters he's helped out over the years.
A lot of the fittings, bolts, knobs, switches, lights and other materials came from the amazing surplus store in my neighborhood (if you happen to live in Minnesota, don't sleep on Ax-Man -- they are incredible!), which I think added an extra layer of realism over the scratch-built options in the videos. And I got lucky with the ribbon cable with someone on eBay selling NOS (new old stock) vintage Spectra Strip from 1981! No, it isn't GBII accurate, and certainly not Fincher-level GB1 style, but for the cost of one modern GBII cable, I was able to get enough of this stuff for all three packs. Once again, "that's good enough" is the refrain of the day, though if I had only been building one for myself, I'd totally consider a Fincher or GBFans cable.
A few other parts inspired by builds from these forums include wooden dowels wrapped in split-loom for the ion arm resistors, the classic popsicle stick heat sink, a shock-mount fashioned from a stack of two sizes of nylon washers (a super light-weight alternative to the metal option, and they take paint well!), a bit of cut up dollar store strainer in the N-filters, a piece of CD jewel case for the light bar in the thrower, and the ladder, HGA, PPD and all the "capped PVC pipe" bits are all out of the Astyanax thread -- apologies to the rest of you, as I can't rememember what I got from where anymore, but your innovations were greatly appreciated!
The last touches were some Rub 'n Buff silver leaf (awesome stuff) and a black/brown acrylic wash to give everything just a fine layer of grime. The decals came from the excellent files provided by valentino_42 on these forums, though I did make a few small adjustments to the type to get it a bit closer to the look of the screen labels.
Aside from looking pretty dang good in the end, these packs are also incredibly lightweight with each one weighing in at just under 13 pounds. That was another key consideration, as we'll be chasing our kids all over the neighborhood in full GB regalia Halloween night and would like to skip the sore backs the next morning.
Thanks for reading, and an extra big thanks to all of your step-by-step pack builds on this forum. Your images, tips, tricks, and ingenuity is greatly appreciated by all of us who decide to undertake a pack build of our own.