I’ve promised this for a good six months or more, and finally here is my Fallout Pip-Boy build post!
Before I get started, let me state that this is the process I’ve used twice (once on my own Pip-Boy, and again on my Pimp-Boy). I saw a lot of videos before starting that showed fully functional props, but they are either unwearable or they use an iPod Touch/iPhone which (to me) doesn’t fit properly and looks worse than this method. I wanted the prop to be comfortable and wearable, but also have some sort of working lights.
The screen was the biggest issue I ran into, and after waffling on what to do found the build post on therpf.com and saw they used an electroluminescent sheet, and thats what I went with. Before that, I was literally winging it on how to make this (once I found the cast), but our builds are very similar. Therpf is more of a forum and information is sometimes hard to find, so I decided to put up my process (along with the elements I used for the screen from that forum) to hopefully simplify and spread the info for those that want to do this themselves!
Again, this is just my process, so you or someone you know may have done it differently. I’m not telling you how to do, just trying to help anyone by telling my experience. I will try to be as detailed as possible. This CAN be easy if you have a steady hand and patience. My first build took about three months, but the second I did in only about twenty hours over the course of two days!
Step 1: Get your materials
The total cost for materials to make a Pip-Boy is around $140, and total hours to complete one will vary with each person. If you don’t have a lot of tools already, the cost for the materials and tools you’ll need will total about $300. Here is a breakdown of what you’ll need.
- Pip-Boy cast of the original Fallout 3 special edition alarm clock [$70] Forge Props
- 1” Hinges [$2] Home Depot
- Gray spray primer (medium gray) [$3] Home Depot
- Silver metallic acrylic paint [$2] Michael’s/JoAnn
- Metallic gold spray paint (for Pimp-Boy) [$3] Home Depot
- Glass Enamel spray paint (for Pimp-Boy) [$3] Home Depot
- Army Green Spray Paint (for Pip-Boy) [$3] Home Depot
- Sophisticated Finishes Pewter Metallic Surfacer (for Pip-Boy) [$3] Michael’s/JoAnn
- #4 x 3/8 phillips round head screws (6 total) [$1.18] Home Depot
- Orange LEDs (3) [$2 each, $6 total] Radio Shack
- Sheet of plexiglass [$5] Home Depot
- Gel sheet (yellow for PimpBoy, green for Pipboy) [$3] Camera Store/eBay
- Electroluminescent Sheet with 9V inverter [$33] eBay
- Heat Shrink for 22-24 gauge wire [$2 for plenty] Home Depot
- 3/4” Elastic Band [$3 for an entire box] Michael’s/JoAnn
- 3M Dual Lock strips [$3 for a 4-pack] Target
- Dremel Tool with basic accessories kit [$50 Dremel 200 + $25 accessory kit should get you covered]
- Drill with small drill bits [varies]
- Loctite Gel Control Super Glue [$3]
- Tweezers [the rest of the stuff is cheap and varies depending on where you shop, so I’m gonna stop nickel & diming the pricing…]
- Various small paint brushes
- Protective goggles
- Protective facial mask
- Plenty of workspace with a level surface
Optional things that might help:
- JB Weld Kwik Plastik [roughly $4] Home Depot
- Sandpaper/sanding block
- X-Acto Knife
- Wire strippers
- Lighter/matches (for heat-shrink)
- Needle-Nose Pliers
For the mold, I have used Forge Props on both mine. There are other mold makers out there, but they are sometimes hard to get to. Forge Props can take up to a month to get you your mold, so be sure to ask for a time frame to be sure when you should expect it. He usually charges about $60 + shipping for the cold cast aluminum version, which I thought looked better. You can also pay a little more and have it cast in green to not have to buy paint if doing a regular Pip-Boy. If the website goes away, check him on Facebook.
In the meantime, go ahead and order the electroluminescent sheet on eBay from seller glow_hut. I would link to a listing, but it has the chance to disappear in 30 days. Just make sure you get the “electroluminescent panel with 9v inverter”. It should be $33, and just get the plain white.
The colored acrylic gel used to color the screen can be purchased at any local camera specialty store or online. You want yellow/gold for the Pimp-Boy, or green for the regular Pip-Boy.
Get the Orange LEDs from Radio Shack. You might have to go to more than one to get 3 total, or order them from their website. They are a part# 276-0272.
Michael’s Arts & Crafts or JoAnn will have the Sophisticated Finishes Pewter Metallic Surfacer, as well as the acrylic paints you need (get a gloss black for $1, and for the Pimp-Boy get the Martha Stewart Rose Chrome, and for the regular Pip-Boy get any silver metallic). You can also get 3/4” elastic used to hold the prop to your arm more securely. You can get thicker if needed, and color doesn’t matter.
Home Depot should have you covered on all the spray paint (except for the gold), the Loctite Gel Control Glue (yes, it’s that specific - it’s the best glue I’ve ever used as I keep 2 bottles on hand at all times), the 1” hinges, the screws, the Lexan polycarbonate sheet (it’s thick and sturdy yet easy to work with), the heat shrink for 24 gauge wire (not 20 gauge as pictured - I tossed the original package for the 245 gauge), Kwik Plastik for any repairs, and whatever tools you may need. If you don’t have a Dremel (or access to one with lots of accessories), and you plan on doing any more prop work, I highly suggest buying one. It’s the prop makers main tool, and can make everything 1000x easier.
The 3M dual lock I really like to use as fasteners I can only find at Target currently (unless you know another brick and mortar store to buy it).
Next, you will need the screencap of the Pip-Boy screen, which I have provided a quick and simple one here. Note that the name is my wife’s, as I made her’s last. Using basic copy/paint in MS Paint, or if you have Photoshop (and some mad skillz) then you can change just about anything you want. I used MS Paint both times, and it just takes longer but will work all the same. The image is in color, and you will want to print out in grayscale (the gel will go over top it). It may look too bright, but it will look perfect after installation. Print this bad boy out at
Don’t feel overwhelmed! If this is your first time making a prop, I hope you find it enjoyable and want to do more. It was my first, and now it’s become a main hobby of mine.
Now, take time to gather your materials, and head on to Step 2: begin the Dremeling!