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For 14 years1, ever since first seeing examples of others that have done so on the Internet, I’ve schemed, planned, yearned, learned, studied, and plotted to make myself a “real” set of Stormtrooper armor, from scratch. It’s been a long road full of reading, studying, and learning about vacuum forming, mold-making, resin, fiberglass, silicone, carbon fiber, plastic, urethane, Bondo, pepakaura, and more. Finally, I’m at a point in life, skill level, patience, and focus that I feel ready to tackle this project.
The most complex part of the whole endeavor, which I’ve decided to tackle first2 is the Stormtrooper’s distinctive helmet. I’ve seen a number of fantastic approaches to this part of the suit, ranging from wildly complex3 to astonishingly simple. I decided to take an approach I hadn’t yet seen and start digitally, since my background is in digital art.
The idea behind doing it this way is to get familiar with the shapes and flow before I ever start assembling a physical object.
First pass 3D, with inaccuracies noted post-render:
Second pass 3D, with inaccuracies corrected:
Final pass 3D with some additional shape refinement:
Once I brought the 3D version to as high a level of fidelity and accuracy (with certain intentional caveats) as I wanted, I created vertical slices from front-to-back and a single horizontal slice. These slices are printed out and then carved into cardboard and assembled into a real-world 3D “skeleton.”
Initial test print of profile silhouette:
Real profile silhouette alongside the actual cardboard cutout:
Starting to assemble the portrait cross-sections onto the profile frame:
There are 34 individual cross-sectional slices, separated by about 1cm each. As of this writing, I’ve done 11 of them.
Once I’ve printed and cut all of the cross-sections and glued them into their proper place, I plan to fill the gaps in the skeleton with expanding insulation foam, sand that down to get the rough volume, and then coat the whole thing in Bondo for further shape revision. Eventually, this will create a positive mold that I can coat with silicone, create a negative mold, and finally create an actual urethane “pull” that I’ll end up wearing.
Someone asked which version of the helmet I’m making and the answer is: a little bit of a mash-up, actually.
The helmet is predominantly ANH Hero, since that’s historically the most “real” one. The ANH Stunts were made first, but the ANH Hero is the only one of the lot to be both fresh off the master and vacuum-pulled from white ABS rather than off-white polyethylene and spray-painted. However, because of the way the ESB and ROTJ helmets were made (either refurbishing the ANH Stunts or using the ANH Stunts as a “master” to create new pulls), certain details from the ANH Stunts became more common: namely, the 8 “teeth” compared to the 6 in the ANH Hero. I’ll be going with 8 for this.
The other piece, which I haven’t yet decided about, is the eye lens. The ANH Hero had a nice, bulbous green lens that I’d much prefer to use based on look. However, these are also notoriously difficult to see through, leading many to prefer the ANH Stunt’s flat, smoked lenses instead. I’m going to try the rounded lenses first and, if those prove really difficult to see through, will fall back on flats.
The rest of the helmet details will be ANH Hero, though.
As for symmetry, while I’m usually a stickler for “on screen = authentic; author’s intent = irrelevant” I’m deviating from that standard here and going for as much symmetry as I can manage. I think asymmetry crept in unintentionally and isn’t representative of what the Empire would actually manufacture for its troops. The in-universe Stormtrooper helmet was almost certainly designed using 3D software of some kind, with the resulting specs then sent straight to an automatic manufacturing facility that stamped out millions upon millions of perfect, symmetrical, identical copies.
For the rest of the suit, my current plan is to, again, mostly go with ANH (Hero and Stunt armors were identical), but pull any more-interesting design features from the later suits as I go. Ultimately, I’ll end up with an ANH Hero variant suit, but I’m okay with that!
- I first saw fan-made versions when I was ~15, which was a pretty significant year for me in a lot of ways. Many things in my life have resulted from events that happened and things I learned at 15 [↩]
- Primarily because it’s the one piece that I don’t need my nascent vacu-form table for. [↩]
- Andrew Ainsworth, the guy in this video, is the guy who made the original helmets for A New Hope back in the 70s! [↩]