Apollo A7L Spacesuit Build

zachsbanks547

New Member
I’m embarking on making my own Apollo A7L Spacesuit replica.

I certainly don’t expect to be up to Mr. Nagata level (it’s a holy grail for me to own one of his replicas someday), but hopefully I can make something reasonably accurate that can be made with what what I have available.

I started by gathering several hundred reference pictures, reading every A7L build I could find, and reading “Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo” by Nicholas de Monchaux (which honestly didn’t give a ton of information that would be useful to a replica maker, but was super interesting nonetheless and should be required reading for any Apollo aficionado).

I’ve pulled fabric patterns for a couple pieces from Mr. Nagata's post to get me started, but I haven’t done much with them other than a couple test pieces with scrap fabric.
I’ve done a couple test pieces of the shoulder to try and get the sizing right for me, and I did some tests of the snoopy cap, using scrap nylon and power mesh (which I’ll also use in the final). And I cut out the shapes for the ears out of foam, which will eventually sit in pockets on the cap.

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I’ve got a good amount of the hardware done as of right now. I could go the route of 3D printing the pieces, but then I’d have to buy the files for them, which as of right now is prohibitively expensive (unless anyone here knows of a cheaper way to get super accurate 3D files).
So because of the that, I decided to go the route of trying to replicate the hardware of the suit using PVC plumbing parts from the hardware store as much as I possibly could.
For the chest connectors, I started with a 3/4” PNC union.
I screwed it apart and removed one of the connectors and ended up with this.

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Than I used my Dremel to widen the hole on the front side.

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For the flange with the screws, I started with a 3” PVC test cap, and used a 3” hole saw to cut out a disk, a smaller hole saw to cut a hole just big enough for the back connector of the union, and then drilled and countersunk screw holes around the edges.

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The electrical connector was the same deal, but I used a 3/4” threaded adapter instead of the union.
I then painted everything with Dupli-Color Metalcast (ground coat and then red or blue where appropriate). It worked really well and came out looking great IMO.

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The glove construction I used is very similar to what Mr. Nagata did in his post. I used 4” white vinyl duct as the convolute and stapled polyurethane-coated work gloves from Harbor Freight onto one end.

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The wrist rings are also PVC parts. The glove side is a 3" spigot female PVC adapter. I trimmed the smaller-diameter side to length and sanded off the bumps on the other half.

The suit side is a 3” coupler that I cut right in half and used the two halves for each side. The narrow side of the spigot adaptor fits right into the coupler. I also drilled holes for magnets to hold them together. And then painted with Metalcast, same as the chest connectors. I added velcro to each side which will be the connection to the fabric, once I get there.

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I started working on test pieces for the glove fabric. The transition from the White Beta cloth to the black fabric (Vinyl? Pleather? Not sure what was used originally) was really doing my head in. The black fabric always looked too wide compared to my reference. But after some help from my sewing wizard mother, I think I got a test piece that’s looking pretty good.
The test piece uses ribbed jersey fabric, but I got some stretchy, black pleather to use for the final piece.

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I kept going back and forth on what to do for the neck ring. But I ended up finding a website where I could buy Schedule 80 PVC by the inch and I got three inches of 10”, Sch 80 PVC. It’s a tad bit thicker than the real neck rings were, which I may try to correct at some point. But otherwise, I think it’ll work well for my purposes.

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Hopefully I can move onto the soft parts soon. I have a bunch of scrap to do tests with, which I plan on doing. And then I need to get around to buying my final fabric.
I’m planning on using Joann white sport nylon as the Beta cloth, and ironing board fabric as the Chromel-R.
Construction-wise, I plan to go the route Nagata did in his post. Meaning lining it in velour and velcroing boning on the inside to give it structure.

Any help, tips or tricks, or anything else anyone can give me would be appreciated.
 

captblitzdawg

New Member
I am just starting my build of an A7L. I am making mine mainly for library events where I work. Our theme this summer is space. It won't be anything close to an exact replica, and I am trying to keep costs down as much as possible. For the neck rings I got some 12" sewing hoops and plan to connect them with magnets.Once I cover the edges to hide the gaps, someone suggested coloring them with ruby Rub-N-Buff.
I have already decided to use a produce box for the PLSS, but I haven't decided what to make the hoses from yet.
 

captblitzdawg

New Member
If you don't have a base for your helmet (I tried making one from cardstock and tape and another from EVA foam) then search for the Dark Voyager helmet from Fortnight. It needs a repaint, but it already has a smokey visor. I have tried several things to make a visor, but honestly, without a vacuum-former or some type of mold process, anything I come up with is not going to be as nice as the visor on that Fortnite helmet. It looks like it has a place to attach the neck ring. I should have mine in a few days- then I can give some insight about the padding, the visor and if it can be removed, etc.
 

NickClyro

New Member
Man this looks great so far. Have you made any progress with your snoopy cap? I'm looking at making one myself but I wouldn't know where to begin patterning for something like that. The most experience I have with fabric is making a "square" cushion 10 years ago at school.
 

chikhual

New Member
it looks awesome, I’m trying to make a replica myself, I found a couple of 3D printable connectors, that I’m using. for the arm connectors I went the PVC rout too, but made them out of 4Inch PVC, and they connect with magnets. Painting was a bit harder I used the same product you did but first layer was a silver coat so that I shined a bit more and took some of that plastic look
 

zachsbanks547

New Member
Sorry for the long gap. I’ve had quite a bit of other stuff going on and I’m just getting back into the build.
I finished up the gloves a bit ago:
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They fit great. I ended up tacking down the white nylon to the convolute (right at the wrist) to make sure it scrunched up in the right way.

I’ve also made progress on the shoulders.
I have the padding under-layer sewn up:
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And the nylon outer layer is sewn up mostly (with red commander stripes) and a flag patch. I used printable iron on transfer paper to make the flag, but I ended up putting it on a cotton, since my tests with the nylon didn’t go very well.

The flag graphic I used is one I made from scratch and matched it to an original beta patch I have in my collection. If any of you want the file, let me know.

I’m currently working on the pockets, which I need to finish and attach to the nylon before I can attach the outer and under layers together. I just need to get more velcro to finish it up.
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All the layers of fabric on the pockets add up, and my machine has been struggling a bit getting through it all. Hopefully final attachment goes well enough.
 

zachsbanks547

New Member
Thanks for the tip on the Fortnight helmet; I’ll have to check that out.

No progress on the snoopy cap yet. I’ll probably not get to that at least until I get the right fabric in.
I’m also terrible at patterning. I took the pattern I used from some old pictures Nagata posted of his build progress. I can send you the patterns I have if you want them.
 

zachsbanks547

New Member
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Shoulders are complete! The padding is sealed by the commander stripe and serged on the tope, waiting to get connected to the torso. The pockets went on well enough.

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Here’s a mock-up test of my elbow pattern. The second one actually.

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Here it is attached to the shoulder and glove to see how it works. I looked good, so moved on with that pattern.

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And here are the completed elbows! I still have to serge the top edges.

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Here’s a quick test of the arm pieces to see how they work together. The elbows still aren’t attached to the shoulders yet. I’m waiting to attach the shoulders to the torso before I do, to make sure I get the length right.

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I have patterns made up for the chest and knee, which I’ll test out soon.
I also have most of the pieces cut out for the leg pocket. Once that’s done, I’ll post pictures.
 

zachsbanks547

New Member
I worked on the elbows more by adding the black strips around the wrist connects. I’d love more info about what these were there for and what they were made from. I just used some black elastic to replicate the look.
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I added some more structure to the elbows in the form of some elastic down the sides. This should help pull the elbows up; which should both replicate the look you can see when astronauts were pictures wearing the suits sans gloves, and give some pulling force to gloves, keeping then from being too loose on my hands.
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I also finished up the Pressure Release Valve cover, which I’ll attach to one of the elbows. Still working on the Pressure Gauge cover for the other arm.
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Lastly, I started work on the chest. I made up a test piece using the pattern I had to check it would work, and then cut out my final pieces. I just need to get ahold of the zipper in order to put it all together.
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Kokanee

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
You're pretty good with a sewing machine!

For the black strips just below the rings on the arms, I worked from this reference picture of Buzz Aldrin's suit:

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Looks like rubber to me! So I ordered some GIANT rubber bands and dyed them black with RIT dye:

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zachsbanks547

New Member
Interesting... Yeah, it definitely does look like rubber. It also looks like that in reference I have of Armstrong’s suit. Makes me more curious what it was for.
 

JamesDalton

New Member
Great build Zach! I came looking for inspiration and found it.
Keep the posts coming as I will definitely be referencing your work. And I'll post as I make progress.
While sourcing materials and designs I came across a tweet from Adam Savage. Its a sketch he made of the chest buckle. It might be of use or you may already have it but either way I'll post here incase anyone else can use it.
I imagine his details would be accurate to the original suit .
 

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zachsbanks547

New Member
Glad I can inspire!

I think I’ve seen that sketch before, but I’m happy to have a copy of it. I have an accurate STL of the buckle (and most of the other hardware) that I’ll use once I get my hands on a 3D printer.
 

JamesDalton

New Member
Glad I can inspire!

I think I’ve seen that sketch before, but I’m happy to have a copy of it. I have an accurate STL of the buckle (and most of the other hardware) that I’ll use once I get my hands on a 3D printer.
You're way ahead of me in the build but we're in the same boat. I have been back and forth on whether to buy a set of connectors or buy a printer. I suppose for bigger pieces like the neck assembly you need to go with a printer that has a bigger footprint. From what I see they tend to get a bit pricier in that range. Did you get your models here in the community? 3D models will be something I need to look into as well as sewing! Nice work by the way.
 
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