Tag Archives: 501st legion

A Trooper’s Point of View – Building a TIE Fighter Pilot Part 3

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It’s been a stressful few months but the finish line is in sight as I’m nearing completion of my TIE Fighter pilot costume.  I have all of the construction finished and the costume is now fully wearable, I’m only missing the shoulder straps, a mostly cosmetic piece, before I can submit it for approval.  In some cases, it’s easier to opt for a buying a complicated piece instead of trying to make one.  Laziness and overall comfort won out for me in this case.

Previously, I had documented my build all leading up to a large trooping event in April.  I was able to get all my pieces wearable in time, and I had a blast wearing the pilot outfit.  The event was the Salem Red Sox Star Wars night for our local minor league baseball team.  A very fun event and one of the largest events in our area with over a dozen troopers and thousands of attendees.

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I achieved my goal of having the costume be wearable at the baseball game

It’s important to try on the costume often to make sure that you have everything lining up correctly.  This will lead to many awkward photos in your garage or living room as you are wearing pieces of a costume that are often times held in place by tape or sheer will.  But, it’s part of the process and important to make sure that you are building something that can actually fit you.

No matter how many times you try on a costume while you are building it, you are never fully prepared for what will happen when you actually go out and wear it to an event.  Every time you wear it you find things that need to be adjusted.  It takes several times before you are able to fully dial in the fitting.  There are just some things you can’t account for until you are actually out in the world interacting with people.  It’s been no different this time around either.  I’ve now worn this costume to four events and each time I’ve come home with something that needs to be adjusted.

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Since I started with the 501st Legion in July of 2008 I’ve only ever had full hard armor costumes, a Stormtrooper and later a Sandtrooper.  The armor is extremely limiting in your movements and over time I’ve grown accustomed to those limitations and found my best ways of dealing with it and compensating.  However, the TIE pilot is only hard armor on the chest and a helmet.  More than once I’ve been shocked at how much mobility I have and I have to keep reminding myself that I can actually bend or even sit while in costume.

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My Sandtrooper (right) in December for The Force Awakens premiere

This has been a stressful build and more than once I’ve felt completely overwhelmed by it all.  With that being said, I’ve enjoyed the building and I’m really enjoying wearing the costume, even if I do get called Darth Vader all the time.  I’ve tried to document my build through the various Legion forums in an effort to provide assistance to others going through their build in hopes that they can learn from both my successes and my failures.  I look forward to trooping as TI-5990 now.  Of course, I’m constantly looking ahead to what the next project and costume will be.  Costuming can become an addiction, we are always looking ahead to the next build.  Star Wars has so many great costumes that it can be hard to narrow it down to just one.  For the next costume, I have to remember to give myself a much more realistic timeframe.

A Trooper’s Point of View – Building a TIE Fighter Pilot Part 2

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Previously, we discussed the basics of trimming the armor kit.  This time, we are getting into more of the fun stuff.  Now I’m beginning to assemble pieces and it’s actually starting to take shape.

I have to admit that my anxiety around this build has been pretty high.  I think it’s two-fold.  First, I gave myself such a short time frame to get this kit to be wearable.  Second, I haven’t been able to locate as much in the way of tutorials as I have for previous projects so I’ve been having to figure a lot of it out on my own.  This isn’t a very hard build, but it’s been stressing me way out and I am constantly in fear of screwing it up.  While a few pieces have not turned out exactly the way I wanted them to be, there isn’t anything that is beyond fixing.

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After cutting the pieces to the correct sizing, you have to sand the edges smooth.  Most of your time working on armor is either spent sanding or waiting for glue or paint to dry.  Measure, compare to your reference, measure again, cut, sand, sand, sand, sand, sand, sand and sand some more.  Then you get to line up the pieces and glue them.  You will need to clamp the pieces while the glue cures.  Depending on the piece, you may need to get creative with how you clamp it by using magnets or even tape in addition to the regular clamps.

For glues, I like to use E6000 on most pieces.  It’s an industrial strength adhesive, but when it dries it has a little bit of a rubbery flex to it which can be very helpful in certain areas.  Unfortunately, it also takes approximately 24 hours to cure, which means once you get glue on your pieces you have to let them sit for at least a day.  That is one thing that can slow down the process.  Some people swear by CA glue (think really hard-core superglue) or using epoxies.  I tried CA glue when I first got my original Stormtrooper kit, but I didn’t like it and I ended up redoing almost everything I had glued.  Epoxies are great for some parts, but I don’t like that most of them make a permanent bond.  E6000, for good or for bad, can be undone by extreme temperatures.  I learned that the hard way when I stored my armor in my car during a con in the winter.

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Painting the greeblies

The 501st Legion is a great community of people.  Unfortunately for me, I was spoiled when I was working on my Stormtrooper and Sandtrooper armor because these are among the most common armor types and there is a wealth of information and various tutorials to follow.  However, the TIE pilot community is smaller and since there is less armor involved, a lot of the armor makers offer to sell it already assembled.  Thus, there are fewer tutorials to follow.  This is part of the reason I always try to document everything I’m doing.  It helps to show my progress and to give others a guide to follow.  Obviously here, I’m just giving a highlights and overview.

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My deadline is fast approaching.  I want to have it wearable by this Saturday.  Yes, this whole process for me has been done under pressure and with an unrealistic timeline.  I feel confident that I have some of the major pieces finished and some of the hardest work is now behind me.  Now it’s just a matter of getting all the separate assembled pieces together to create a cohesive whole.

A Trooper’s Point of View – Building a TIE Fighter Pilot

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Last year at this time I had a crazy idea pop in my head that just a mere two months before Celebration Anaheim I wanted to make a new 501st costume.  I really wanted to bring some kind of Legion costume to the convention and I didn’t want the hassle of flying with my armor.  So I decided to make something that was entirely soft goods that could be folded up and put in my suitcase.

I decided to make a Reserve Pilot/Imperial Crewman costume.  Basically, it’s a black jumpsuit, boots, belt and gloves.  It’s called a Reserve Pilot, because you have all the costume bits of a TIE Pilot without the helmet or hard armor.

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Now, two months is not in any way shape or form a realistic time frame to research, source, plan and build any kind of Legion approvable costume, especially not when you are also trying to finalize a cross country trip.  Somehow I managed to get it done.  I premiered my Reserve Pilot at Celebration and had a blast.  It’s nice to have a costume I can sit down in.

Fast forward to today, and I am finally working on my full and proper TIE Pilot outfit.  I ordered the armor and patiently waited a month for it to arrive.  The happiest day in any trooper’s life is the day that the Big, Brown Box shows up on your doorstep.  It’s also the most intimidating time of the process.  I laid out all the pieces to make sure everything was there, and then began to scratch my head and realize that I had no idea what I was doing.

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Researching your costume is important.  Let me say that again.  Researching your costume is important.  Especially with armor.  Once you cut that plastic it’s very hard to go back and correct a mistake.  Most everything is fixable, but you may end up doubling or tripling the amount of work you need to do for one piece.  Measure twice, measure again, check your sources, measure one more time, then cut.  Most armor makers send things out in a rough cut form.  The pieces have been cut down to the point that they will fit in the box.  It’s up to you to then trim them down to size.  This is where the research comes into play.  The various Legion detachment sites are a great tool for research, as well as any of the traveling costume exhibits.

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Cutting armor is actually easier than you may think.  Most armor is made out of a plastic like ABS or HIPS.  These cut pretty well with an exacto knife, lexan plastic shears or a dremel.  I prefer to use the exacto knife or shears primarily.  A dremel is a great tool and I highly recommend having one if you are working on these type of costumes, but for a lot of the cutting and trimming, I feel like it’s overkill.  Plus the smell of melting plastic is awful and it makes a HUGE mess.  With an exacto knife you don’t need to cut all the way through the plastic, simply score the plastic, and then you can bend and snap the piece off.  It makes for a fairly clean cut.  Regardless of the method, you end up with a lot of excess plastic, it’s helpful to keep these.  The excess pieces can be useful for fixing things or making plates to attach snaps to.

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Once you have your pieces roughly cut you may need an idea of how the different pieces will fit together, I have found that blue painter’s tape is a great option.  It’s not so sticky that it will leave a residue.

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This is where I am at now, spending my evenings on the couch watching TV and trimming out armor.  Slowly but surely it is starting to take shape.  One of our larger trooping events is coming up at the end of April and my goal is to have the armor be wearable, not necessarily approved yet by that time.  Deadlines are important, but it’s also helpful to make sure they are realistic deadlines.

Next month I should have completed pieces and will be going over fitting and wearing the armor.

Dark Times and The Force Awakens

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As of the time I’m writing this we are 31 days away from the release of The Force Awakens and the beginning of the sequel era for Star Wars.  Looking back over the last 20 years of Star Wars it’s amazing to see how much Star Wars has changed.

After the release of Attack of the Clones in 2002, George Lucas was giving many interviews explaining how Episode III would be the end of the saga.  Since the mid 90’s, we had come out of the dark times of the 80’s and been enjoying new Star Wars content on a regular basis. I wasn’t ready to give all that up again and once more let Star Wars drift into the background.  I couldn’t imagine a world without new Star Wars.

It’s such a strange concept now to think of a world without Star Wars, but in 2002 it felt like it could be a real possibility. In order to stave that off and prolong the Star Wars story as much as possible, I actually decided to stop reading the Expanded Universe novels. This was right as the New Jedi Order was kicking into motion. To this day, I still haven’t finished anything beyond book 6 of the NJO.

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This feeling of Star Wars ending stuck with me even after I joined the 501st in 2008. At the time, I felt like I was joining the group after they had peaked with the Rose Parade celebration in 2007. My feeling was that this would be a fun ride for a few years and then Star Wars would slowly drift away as other things came up to take it’s place in the geek pantheon.

How little did I know? Since then Star Wars has only gotten bigger with each passing year. Clone Wars came and broke the mold for an animated series. The 501st Legion and other club memberships continue to grow each year.

Now, 3 years after the Disney & Lucasfilm merger we have not one, but 5 new films slated for release over the course of the next 5 years, and who knows how much more beyond that. As Star Wars gets bigger and the excitement for the future of the saga grows, it gets harder and harder to ever imagine a return to those dark times of the 80’s. At least I know I’ll have plenty of Star Wars books to read if that should happen again.

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Star Wars: The Next Generation “Midnight Madness”

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“Midnight Madness”

As a young father with limited resources, my Star Wars toy habit was on hiatus when the prequels were released.  Admittedly, I would peruse the toy aisles in Wal-Mart and Target when the family was shopping, and the Star Wars aisles at Toys ‘R’ Us and Kay-Bee were always my first place to browse when we went to the toy stores.  But apart from some Playskool Star Wars toys for my daughter and Galactic Heroes and Jedi Force figures for my son, it wasn’t until the release of Revenge of the Sith around my son’s third birthday that my Star Wars collecting was reborn.

That being the case, I had never considered going to Star Wars events (other than the movies) when my children were very young.  I certainly wasn’t going to any “Midnight Madness” releases of Star Wars toys I couldn’t buy anyway.  All that changed in 2008 when, in anticipation of the release of The Clone Wars in August, Toys ‘R’ Us stores hosted a “Midnight Madness” event to release the new line of Star Wars figures and toys.  Fortuitously, we were visiting family in Atlanta when the day arrived, so we headed up to the Kennesaw store at about 10:00 to get in line.

I didn’t know what to expect from something like this.  Apart from keeping the kids up way past their bedtime, I wasn’t concerned about taking them to Toys ‘R’ Us for this event.  After all, Star Wars fans are well known for their kindness and cordiality, so I was certain that everyone would be on their best behavior.  My wife, on the other hand, was sure that our younglings (small even for their ages) would be trampled by maniacal fans storming the store in competition for a big Millennium Falcon or V-19 Torrent Fighter.  Once we saw other families with their children there and talked to the folks near us in line, her concerns were lessened.

Then the unexpected occurred.

dsc04088Out the front doors marched a couple stormtroopers, a Republic Commando, and a bounty hunter named Boussh.  My wife and the kids watched as others stepped forward to see the life-sized action figures.  With some coaching and prodding, I was eventually able to get my six year-old son to meet the members of the Georgia Garrison of the 501st.  Within a few minutes, we returned to our place in line as my wife checked to ensure the youngest shazling was unscathed after his encounter with the Imperials just in time for the doors to open.

As we entered the store, all the customers who had been waiting in line calmly took their carts to the display and began picking the figures and toys they wanted to purchase.  There were more than enough Millennium Falcons and AT-TEs to satisfy customers, though some of the more highly anticipated figures were disappearing quickly.  I made sure to get my Yarna — certain that she would sell out immediately.  Luke chose a Captain Rex and Darth Vader.  And I topped off our shopping list with a V-19 Torrent Fighter.  We weren’t going to be big spenders, but this selection would put us above the price point to allow us to get a free holographic General Grievous Toys ‘R’ Us exclusive.

By the time we made it back to the in-laws’ house, both kids were asleep and my wife was happy that (1) they hadn’t been trampled and (2) I hadn’t emptied the bank account.

With another “Midnight Madness” on the horizon, I thought it would be beneficial to make a few suggestions for parents who are considering a trip to Toys ‘R’ Us on September 4th.

Make sure the store you’re considering is Clock Midnightactually hosting this event.  Although official site for the 2015 “Midnight Madness” states that all locations (except for those in Paramus, NJ), my local Toys ‘R’ Us has told me that they will not be even participating in “Midnight Madness” this time around.  I live in a relatively small city without a large contingent of Star Wars collectors.  If yours is the same, you may have to drive a bit further to find a store that will be hosting Destination: Star Wars, the official designation of the event.

Check to see if the 501st Legion, Rebel Legion, or Mandalorian Mercs will be attending.  Part of the magic of events like this is seeing your kids’ favorite characters from the movies, television, and toy aisles come to life.  Through their websites, you may even be able to find out which characters will be at certain stores.  Even if your local Toys ‘R’ Us is hosting Destination: Star Wars, you may want to go to another location if you want to make sure to have some interaction with Star Wars characters.

Consider costuming.  You might want to join in the fun, too.  Most everyone enjoys dressing-up — especially kids.  Even if your kids don’t have a costume and you lack the ability to craft a screen accurate costume yourself, ask your younglings if they would like to dress-up as one of their favorite characters for the event.  Let them help put together a costume.  A robe, some plain pants, and a toy lightsaber can make a convincing Jedi.  Cardboard and foam sheets can become Stormtrooper armor.  Be inventive.  Your kids will always remember the time you let them go out in public in costume when it wasn’t even Hallowe’en!  And if you have the energy to put into it, think about becoming a character yourself.  Those present for the event will enjoy having a character along with them for the night, especially if none of the well-known organizations aren’t in attendance.

HanSoloShirtWear Star Wars items.  In 2008, I didn’t have a single Star Wars T-shirt.  It seems unbelievable to me now that I have several* in my closet and drawer.  Still, I had the wherewithal to pull out an old iron-on transfer from my collection to put on a white shirt.  (For those who are shouting about the audacity of actually using an iron-on from the ‘70s, never fear: I scanned it into the computer and printed it out on iron-on transfer paper for printers.)  With Star Wars in public awareness, you can likely find an inexpensive shirt at Target or Wal-Mart for the occasion.

Set aside some money now.  We all know that Christmas is coming in just a few months.  And while I was reluctant to make big purchases at my first “Midnight Madness” because I knew that Santa would be bringing one or both of the big vehicles to my house in December, as I think back to that night, it would have been an exciting impromptu summer holiday for my younglings had we brought home the big Millennium Falcon that night.  Even if you decide to limit your spending at this event, it’s best to prepare beforehand so you can budget yourself accordingly without taking out a credit card because you suddenly decide to get more than you had planned.  Knowing how much you are able to spend will help you choose what is most important to you on September 4th.

If you have other ideas or advice to add to this list, feel free to add it below in the comments or contact me @shazbazzar on Twitter.  Happy hunting on “Force Friday” this September!