Last week, I started a series that will look at how one goes about building a set of stormtrooper armor. At that point, I hadn’t actually gotten around to doing anything: I had a box full of rough-cast plastic parts. This week, we’re doing something with that box of plastic: cutting and trimming.
When a piece of plastic is heated up and sucked down on a buck in a vacuum former, that’s the first part of the process. The person pulling the plastic parts now has a sheet of plastic with the plastic part embedded in it. To help with packaging, they’ll trim as much of the excess off as is possible: with a saw or a very hot knife, they’ll cut away the part, and leave the rest to the person who’ll end up with the kit.
That’s where I am now. Here’s an example of what roughly cut forearm armor looks like before:
And here’s what happens after it’s trimmed:
This is a first pass: it’s easier to get as much of the excess off as possible, because it’ll allow a builder to roughly figure out what sizes each piece needs to be. Here’s another before and after:
Where before, you couldn’t really put it on, now, I can take the front and back chest pieces, and figure out how well they’ll sit on my shoulders. This can be taped together with painter’s tape, which will help me figure out how to customize it: are there edges that need to be cut away more than others? How well do edges line up, and how to I make sure that they do that perfectly?
Now, the suit has been trimmed out entirely: a couple of afternoons with a pair of shears took off all the excess plastic, and now, it’s roughly trimmed into pieces that can go together. Some people prefer to use a saw for this part, but I’ve always used a set of tin snips, which allow me some degree of precision as I cut away. This is important, because once you cut something off, it’s hard (but not impossible), to put it back.
All of the extra chips haven’t been thrown out: they’ve been put into a box for use later on. When the time comes to begin gluing the suit together, one method is to melt down the plastic and use it as a bonding agent. This is simple to do: put the plastic into a metal container and pour acetone into it. The mix will turn into a putty, and from there, it can be used to seal up cracks and joins: smear it on (carefully), and it’ll bond with the plastic. There’s a downside to this, however: put on too much, and it’ll warp and melt the plastic. I’m probably only going to do this on high-stress, non-visible areas, like the insides of the shins and thighs, which can use a little extra rigidity. For costumes such as Clone Troopers, which require a seamless exterior on the arms and legs, this is helpful for covering up the joints.
The next step will be to completely smooth out the edges, and take away any cut marks that might be remaining. For this step, I’ll take a dremel and hit all of the edges. That’ll take care of any rough bits, and it’ll take out the rest of the edging that isn’t needed. Next week, I’ll cover that part.