How I built sci-fi armor from plastic chemical barrels:

My basic primer, with abridged step-by-step instructions

HOME   -   Page 2   -   Page 3   -   Page 4   -   Page 5

A long time ago in a city far, far away...

Two non-pro costume builders, in their creation(s). The 'Stormtrooper' told me that his armor would cost 'about $1000.oo'

  It was at a Star Wars convention in Ontario, Canada that I decided to build my own armor. I was at the "Men Behind the Masks" convention, held Oct. 1997 in downtown Toronto, where I first saw among the many attendees in costume, two very well made character costumes. The audience absolutely loved these non-professionally constructed armor, based upon George Lucas' wildy popular "Star Wars" series.

  I was sitting in the audience with friends from Montreal, and one of them, -an avid Star Wars fan, cherished friend not to forget, -a very talented and creative costume-builder in her own right, -was very much influenced. "I'm going to build one of those!" she declared, with a glazed look in her eyes. I asked her how does she think she'll do this, and she, still in the magic of the moment, said that she didn't know how... and suggested "...maybe with 2-liter Coke bottles, painted white?"

  I suspected futility of this mode of construction, I asked her to please let me first try something at home. I felt that I could come up with something a bit more, um, ...workable. So after the on-stage presentation, I was able to photograph these two superlative constumes up-close, and would use these as a guide. Little did I know that this project would take me just over two years to realize!  At that time, I was working in a dairy-foods manufacturing plant in Arkport, NY, where we use many cleaning and sanitizing products daily that come to us in non-deposit 55-gallon plastic barrels. With management's permission, we are permitted to take them from the facility, first washing out the residues from the barrels. These HDPE ("high density poly-ethelene") barrels are strong, durable, and drillable. They can be cut into templates, heated first with a hand-held propane torch (use proper ventilation, as in "do it outdoors!"), re-shaped by hand and then rapidly cooled by water immersion to form new rigid shapes. I felt that with the aid of 'pop-rivets' for attaching the various parts together, I might be able to construct something that looks simular to the vaccu-formed parts of the 'non-pro' armor.

  The day I attended this convention was the day before I was scheduled back in western New York near my home, for a foot surgery to remove a bunion and correct a minor deviation of the first metatarsal (the long bone of the top of the foot, that leads to the base of the big toe), and after this I would be off work for two or three months. -Perfect! I'd be able to sit and delve into ideas and constructs! So, with dozens of photos and sketches, all the proper tools already and several white 55-gallon barrels that I already had in storage, I began.

  For patterns, I used hand-drawn white posterboard mock-ups, to emulate the Stormtrooper armor componants. I would make these posterboards mock-ups to size by holding them up onto my chest to get the size right, trimming with scissors to fit. Then, using the paper template, would trace the outline onto the white HDPE barrels with Magic Marker, and cut the carapace out using a saw blade (later, I'd use an electric jig-saw). Simple chest pieces, cut to my size and a slightly smaller unit made to the approximate size of my Montreal pal, the work progressed slowly at first. I made many mistakes and took some liberties with my version versus the trademarked "Stormtrooper" armor. Knowing that I cannot make nor market these for sale as this would violate trademark and intellectual properties laws, these were constructed soley 'for personal use only'.

  The following pages will show an abbreviated photo thesis of the various steps for this and another type of armor, in the hopes that others with some artisitic and mechanical skills might draw inspiration and possibly take-on the project for their own armor. And, in the past two years, I progressed to making armor from yet another sci-fi series. I became a fan of the SHOWTIME original series "Stargate: SG-1".   The armor in question are the armored 'Serpent Guard' characters, also know as "Jaffa". For these, the skills and techniques learned and used in making the "Stormtrooper" armor were employed, and espounded upon. And once again, I made two. One for myself and another for my sci-fi fan and convention cohort from Montreal.

  We wore these "Jaffa" armor constructs at the recent "TorontoTrek 16" convention, July 5-7, 2002 where we won awards for "Best Journeyman" and "Best presentation" for a skit she wrote for us. -I don't really know, understand or care about 'winning awards', -they're just signed pieces of paper in my opinion. But I do very much enjoy going up on stage and performing for the audience, receiving applause and cheers and posing for photographs after the event while still in armor. Many fans and convention goers were impressed with our armor. A few wanted to 'buy the complete blueprints' for making these. Hmm... no such 'blueprints' exist, but if the fan has a bit of experience using power tools and such and is willing to experiement, this bit of visual guideance might lead them to the same end. With a few power tools and other items to be outlined herein and some inspiration derived from these photos, -they too can make their own armor! I wish them all success in their endeavors, and I'd be happy to offer advise and encouragement.

My Montreal pal (l.) and me (r.) in the armor I built Us, wearing the Stormtrooper armor

  Some photos of my nearly finished and freshly spray-painted in 'bone white' Stormtrooper armor.

me, getting suited up in my armor At "MediaWestCon" in Lansing, Michigan, I wore my fully-wearable armor for the first time. Not all the armor is being worn in this image. I have still to put on the bicep-covers, and lower leg-cover armors.

The complete chest carapaces, displayed for photographing Here, I have both chestcages completed, with only minor 'size adjustments' still to do.

me in my backyard, test-fitting the armor for wearability Constantly checking visually to ensure that it 'looks right' is important. Photographing yourself and examining the pictures is far better than relying upon using a mirror.

Our helmets are DonPostStudio productions

(defunct manufacturer)