The last couple of weeks, I’ve discussed some of the preparations for getting stormtrooper armor up and running: measuring, accuracy, and the differences between films. This week, let’s get to putting something together.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve trimmed down a kit to individual armor components, then sanded them down. The refinement process is still going on: there’s a lot of parts to tackle, but what I tend to do is to put together a suit in chunks. I’m going to start with the chest, which has four parts: the front chest piece, the back piece, and two shoulder straps.

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Because I’m aiming to have a suit that’ll be approved for use in the 501st Legion, it needs to meet Legion requirements. Over the last couple of years, the Legion has been putting together what they call Costume Reference Libraries. Even if you’re not aiming to join the legion, these are some fantastic guides that tell you, piece by piece, what’s required in any given, screen-accurate costume.

So, for an Empire Strikes Back Stormtrooper, here’s what the end product needs to be. For the chest components, there’s a couple of requirements:

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Shoulder Straps

For 501st approval:

  • These shall be securely mounted in front and may free float in back. They may be affixed with rivets, Velcro, or adhesive.

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For level two certification (if applicable):

  • No visible rivets are allowed.

For level three certification (if applicable):

  • These shall be glued in front.
  • These shall be affixed in the back (no snaps, rivets or brads shall be visible).
  • The plastic shoulder straps need to be held down in the back via a white elastic band to the white fabric that connects/bridges the chest and back piece.

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Chest Armor

For 501st approval:

  • Chest plate overlaps the abdominal plate.

For level three certification (if applicable):

  • Chest and back shall be connected with a white fabric or preferably elastic strap at the shoulders.
  • AM 1.0 chest plate is replaced with a more screen accurate version.

Back Armor

For 501st approval:

  • Back plate contains a “O II” design.

For level two certification (if applicable):

  • Back plate shall have no, or minimal overlap of the kidney plate.

For level three certification (if applicable):

  • AM back plate is replaced with a more screen accurate version.

Let’s simplify it. The straps need to be affixed to the chest plate, and for the upper level certification, it needs to be glued, rather than riveted. They should also be affixed to the back. When it’s put on with the other components, it needs to overlap the front, but should just meet the kidney plate on my lower back.

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I’m not particularly aiming for a higher-level certification here: (there’s no way I’m wearing rubber gloves) but if I can meet it where I can, I’ll try for that.

So, let’s get to work. Here’s the three components laid out. I’ve trimmed and sanded them down, and they’re ready to be assembled.

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As a first step, it’s good practice to mock it up. I’ve used some painter’s tape (which comes off easily and without residue) to put together the four pieces. Shoulder straps attack to the front and back, and presto! The first part of the suit has been assembled:

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This is a good point to make sure that it actually fits. When I tried it on, I found a problem:

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As I’d laid it out, I can’t actually fit my head in where it’s supposed to go. This is a problem. Fortunately, I haven’t actually done anything permanent, so I can fix it.

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The second try works out nicely: I’ve given myself a bit more space, and that allows me to fit into the chest assembly comfortably. Now, it’s time to glue it together.

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I’m using a type of glue called Goop, which is pretty fantastic. It holds together nicely and it doesn’t seem to dry out: it’ll be durable and will keep everything together. One constant worry while out in public is having a piece fall off on you - it’s happened to me more than once. (In one embarrassing incident, the belt holding onto my butt plate on my Clone Trooper broke. Yeah.)

To help the glue hold onto the plastic, I’ve taken some sandpaper and have scratched up the glossy surface in each place where each part attaches - the tops of the chest and back, and on the inside of each end of the shoulder straps.

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Before:

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After:

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This will help the glue hold on a little better, and will ensure that it doesn’t come apart.

Next, I’ve glued the front, and used a pair of clamps to hold the join firmly in place.

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While the glue is setting, I’ve moved them around a little, to help line it up with the back plate. The clamps will hold the entire thing in place while the glue sets.

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With the front parts attached, now, the back parts get the same treatment:

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After shifting each joint around to make sure it all looks good, I’ve set it aside. The cure time for the glue is 3-4 hours, but the longer I can leave it, the better.

Part one, done. On to the next parts.

Photo credits: Hayes Johnson (Header), all others, Andrew Liptak

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