we are making better REAL armor quality ones for sale out of 15 oz. leather currently. also do spaulders and pauldrons with a harness system made from leather, license plates, and hand made nail buckles.
even buying from scrap/junk yards? what about yard sales and flea markets? I'm interested in your requirements for "not cheating". Personally the places I listed wouldn't be "cheating" goinging to toys 'r' us and buying guns to customize would be however.
I have heps of stuff I have scavenged for just such stuff. working on a battle axe made from a mauser bolt action shotgun barrel and trigger assembly, part of a riding lawn mower steering column, and a circular saw blade.