501st Legion member Clint Randall has been keeping a secret these past few months, and he’s ready to let us all in on it. Take a read to see what’s involved in building a The Force Awakens First Order stormtrooper.
Hey guys! I was one of the fortunate 501st members who got the opportunity to build a new Force Awakens stormtrooper. It’s been a fun ride and even though I wasn’t on stage, we’ve been trooping about all weekend. I thought it would be cool to send you some build photos to give a little sneak peak about how we put these things together.
The armor opportunity was offered to the 501st Legion first as a chance to participate in the debut of the new trooper at Celebration. The 501st Legion has a long-standing tradition of building high- quality screen-accurate costumes for the Star Wars universe and we were fortunate to be invited to be some of the first customers. The costume components were ordered through ANOVOS costuming company as a kit, which means it came in parts and had to be built. Here are some of the types of things that had to be done.
But I shouldn’t start before thanking my awesome build crew!
TRIMMING AND SANDING
The kit came with a ton of Vacu-formed ABS plastic parts ranging from small hand plates to large chest and back pieces. There were also a lot of greeblies to sand and shape. These are decorative small pieces (usually resin) that simulate clips or electronics or other details common in Sci-Fi costuming. The first significant chunk of the effort was figuring out where to cut everything since the parts are a bit raw and due to the secrecy of the Force Awakens, we didn’t entirely know what the end result would be and there was no prior history of helpful forums in the 501st as there are for most other costumes we assemble.
When the plastic and resin is all good to go, there are quite a bit of parts that are glued to each other in various ways. There are glues that cure immediately and some that take up to two days. We typically went with the quick stuff due to the very tight timeframe for this project. There is also gluing plastic to plastic, elastic to plastic, rubber to rubber, etc, which requires different techniques.
BONDO AND SANDING
This armor is similar to the Clone armor in that it has some hidden seams. This applied to the biceps, the forearms, the thermal detonator and the ridge across the back. Bondo’d plastic has to be reinforced on the inside with thick ABS to prevent flexing and cracking. It also has to be sanded smooth enough that painting over it gives the same appearance as if it was just one smooth solid piece.
This kit needed to be primered and painted because the armor needs to match the color of the helmet perfectly. It also creates uniformity as it gives everything the same sheen despite gluing and bondo work. It has to be sanded very carefully to give the uniform glossy effect.
STRAPPING AND FITTING
Strapping is the means by which we attach all the armor to itself and to ourselves for wearing. This is a combination of velcro, elastic, canvas, snaps, rivets, etc. Not everyone straps the same, but it usually involves a combinations of some of these methods.Fitting is important because no one has the same body shape. The armor might be all the same, but we each have different thicknesses and lengths in various areas. For instance, some people have longer forearms and some people have thicker thighs. All of this must be taken into account and adjustments made when fitting the suit to yourself. This project had a particular challenge in that the joints are backed with thick rubber gaskets that are tricky to strap and fit into the armor in a way that the suit is wearable without too much difficulty.
In the end, this was challenging on multiple fronts because there was very little screen reference from the first teaser trailer and a lot of the process was being figured out on the fly due to the secret nature of the project and the short timeframe. Trooping at Celebration was a highlight of my time in the 501st because it was the end of a very difficult road that ended with us giving people the joy of taking photos with new Stormtroopers a full 8 months before the movie came out. We troop in the 501st to make people happy and that’s certainly what we did this week!