Friday, March 25, 2016

FemTK - Legacy Era Female Stormtrooper Build #1 - Getting Started

Master List of Linked Build Pages:
#1 Getting Started -sorting armor and getting supplies
#2 The Corset and Butt Plate
#3 Torso and Shoulder Pieces
#4 Upper Arm Pieces and Shoulder Bells
#5 Lower Arm Pieces and Hands
#6 Leg Pieces
#7 Belt and Ammo Boxesand detonator
#8 Helmet

What the hell did I get myself into?

Ok, my ranting is over but the frustration is real. So, I opened my box and took everything out. I was so excited! And then the realization set in that there was no instructions, some parts weren't labeled, and a good chunk of them were nothing like my Anovos Armor - at all.

So after looking at pieces, trimming them a bit here and there, looking at the 501st Costume Reference Library page while still being confused, putting them all back in the box and feeling discouraged,

I reached out...

And now life is much better!

So, if I had to do it all again, I would do it this way.

Join a few websites and Facebook groups to do your research and have some help.

1. - specifically look at the Legacy Stormtrooper (Joker Squad) area under Costume Builds. I passed this up because it didn't say FEMALE - gotta tell the webmaster that one. If I had looked a little into that thread I would have never bought my Anovos in the first place and saved myself some time and money... blah, blah, blah.

2. Join Ladies of the Legion Facebook group - they have mentored me through this build and I have gained a new appreciation of sisterhood. No guy-written build thread will tell you that you have to trim the crotch or feel "violated" or that you need to learn to walk with legs a little far apart in the TK outfit.

3. Contact your local 501st people and have an armor party. Guess what? I found out there were three of us in the area with kits in our boxes, feeling lost and confused by terms such as "butt joint," and just haven't started our build out of sheer terror that we would screw it all up. Although, I was the only female. So we got together, and few seasoned TK builders helped us with the techniques and it was nice to be surrounded by enthusiasts at this time.

4. Don't be weirded out by how zealous and excited people are to help you. It's because they've been there, they've had the big brown box arrive without any clue what to do. And they've felt the frustration. And they want to help mostly because someone took them by the hand and helped them too. Paying it forward is what they told me.

5. Order all the stuff you need together and don't fit your armor over regular clothes or shoes. Fit and trim your armor over what you will be wearing under it when you troop. Or it may not fit :)

Getting started:

1. You order your armor. Ask around about kits and try to get the one that works best for you. I found you just gotta ask and ask. So many people didn't know a FemTK existed until I found a discussion on the Anovos build Facebook group. I ordered by KW Designs off Facebook, but if you are a larger gal and want to male look, Anovos is a good company to go through. If you want a biker scout or other costume, there are other vendors like WTF on Facebook, Walt's Trooper Factory. He does kids costumes too. Others you just have to ask around the forums. But I will say this: people don't use the forums all the time so Facebook may be the new way to go. And like your local 501st legion Facebook page as well.

2. Order other things you need to order at same time as armor so you aren't waiting on them (like I was):
-Neck seal: or make your own, I ordered a new one because the Anovos one was huge on me! And it is now my hubby's. JoAnn's Fabric has a new line of costume fabric that has a perfect black spandex for the neck seal if you choose to sew it yourself. I paid $50 for mine, and figured it saved me three hours of cutting and sewing.
-Helmet decals: again from or you can paint your own on. Order the ones listed on the Costume Reference Library page if you want to be 501st approved.
-Black under suit: I used my Anovos one, but Kohl's and Amazon are your friend for under armor
-Black gloves: see the CRL, I ordered nomex ones from Amazon, and am waiting for them to come!
-Boots: Don't assemble shins until you have the boots! You could over trim and it won't fit. Chunky style white Chelsea boots, but they must have leather strap sewn from front toe to upper ankle. You can buy a custom made pair from Crow Props on Facebook (Giovanni is nice to work with) for around $140 or you can find your own and sew the leather strip on yourself. Check images on the CRL (501st Costume Reference Library Page). Leather boots can be painted white, so if you find a steal on brown/black ones and want to learn more about leather crafting - go for it!

Optional parts to budget for after build is done:
-Motorcycle helmet pads: join the Anovos building group and ask what they use to get a feel for what's out there. This helps increase the comfort level. Cheap foam from craft store can be cut and fitted into the inside of the helmet too.
-Helmet Fan and battery: keeps head cool
-Armor storage box: I got a mobile tool strong box from Amazon, but every store has them. A hard shell suitcase would work as well.

3. Gather tools and supplies
-e6000 glue - 1 big tube
-CA glue - less strong than e6000 for areas that may need to be taken apart in future
-CA glue excellerator (I used Zap a Gap and Zip Kicker)
-dremel or drill: I hear there is a $20 dremel kit at walmart. I plan to borrow my hubby's
-attachment set for dremel (has a cutter, sanding stone, a buffer etc...)
-industrial velcro - not regular stuff, and amazon were awesome
-heavy duty snaps and snap setter tools - Joann's with coupon, but Tandy brand is best
-Lexan scissors, curved and straight, these are the best for trimming (I love mine)
-cutting gloves from hardware store
-white and black webbing or strapping not sure on total or color (yet)
-3 inch wide black elastic band, dritz is the brand I bought, the kind for belts
-metal straight ruler from hardware store
-heavy duty cutting craft knife (not Exact-O but one that uses razor blade, box cutter style)
-sand paper, fine and heavy
-clamps: about 10 if you glue in batches
-heavy strong magnets from hardware store (for gluing where clamps cannot reach)
-mask to filter out small particles while sanding: this plastic can ruin your lungs! Don't skimp on it, buy a 20 dollar one and don't look back
-protective eye glasses or goggles (the Dremel throws small chips everywhere)
-washable kids marker (for marking outsides if needed)
-black sharpie for marking insides
-exacto knife with small blade for doing eyes and teeth
-low heat hot glue gun
-thin sheet of craft foam (1/4 inch thick - white)
- screws and nuts for belt (see belt tutorial)
-Testors Paint, black and Grey 1138
-paint Brush
-alcohol or hand sanitizer (for removing paint)
-Novus plastic polisher kit (3 bottles)
-drill with various bits (see directions)
-mesh for inside helmet

As you can see, I am about 1000 dollars into this already. That gives you a price estimate on what it all costs so be prepared. The good things is I broke mine up into monthly chunks except the main kit. That was a bonus. And I looked for sales.

And it all arrives!
You are amazed at how KW could fit it into one box, and its smells so strongly of new plastic. And you have no idea what half the parts are:

And that's ok. Don't feel overwhelmed. Let's get started. Start by laying it all out and making sure you have all the pieces listed in the packing list. I made a youtube video as well about what is in the kit.

Click here to view it

Some differences right off the bat:
This kit's belt is made of plastic, not cloth
The kit has to keep most return edges
The 501st CRL states the normal stormtrooper helmet won't work (and it's too big anyway) so you have to get the helmet kit too
Cute white boots required, specialty made by a guy in Ecuador or you have to learn some leather sewing techniques
You can't walk with legs closed, so if you are a gal who walks with knees almost touching, this will require some adapting during troops
No outside cover strips, all on inside to create a seamless look - so butt joints will be your friend while building
The arms flare out at elbows, how feminine!
And its a brighter white than the Anovos kit
The plastic comes unpainted
Some kit pieces were unmarked as to whether they were right or left. Ask for clarification before gluing

4. Take your time and sort it all out. Familiarize yourself with the parts.

Take your black sharpie and mark left and right if not already done.

Notice how I laid mine out.

Sort into left and right. Note that beginning curve part on the thighs are different. The lower curve should be inside the leg. The piece below is a right-leg piece and then you can see both pieces together. The allows for the corset U-shaped edge to fit there without pinching each other.

Mark them on the inside. Match the back thighs by seeing which seems line up.

These don't match:

These are a match:

I marked mine Right Front and Right Back. RF and RB. 

Lower Legs:
Each lower leg is composed of three pieces. Mine were labeled right inside and right outside. 

The weird middle piece comes untrimmed and labeled right in the plastic. This piece goes inside the shins to stabilize it. Making a butt joint would be harder without it due to the angle. It won't show at all. Take a sharpie and label them R or L on inside prior to trimming off the end so they don't get them mixed up.

Here I trimmed a piece and fitted it inside the two pieces to see how it would work. It actually has shallow grooves in the top that fit right into shallow grooves on each calf piece.

The calves will be glued together with a butt joint in the front (not overlapping) to have a seamless look. My picture shows it overlapping (below) but that is because the pieces need to be trimmed. The back will be able to open and close with velcro. But you get the idea...

Knee caps:

The knee caps are attached by white strapping or webbing. If you put fit them inside each other, you will note that one side extends beyond the other. The sides that extend go on the outside and the sides cut in more go on the inside. Label them right and left as well.

What are some of those odd parts for?
Extra Plastic sheets

You will cut these into inch-wide strips that are glued to the inside of seams. Called a butt joint. You will make a fair number of these. Some will be made into snap plates.

What are hinges/brackets for? 
Two boxes on the belt have lids that flip up, hence you need hinges for that.

What is the inch wide piece with four trapezoids in it?

They are hole covers. You cut these out and they cover the knee cap webbing hole. See tutorial on it before cutting.

And you are just getting started!

A few tips:
Tape things before doing final glueing or cutting
Tape your magnets! Then they won't smudge
Tape the tips of your fingers when holding CA Glue pieces. You don't glue your fingers!
Save your scraps for practice with Dremel, testing paint on, or making ABS paste
Buy the Dremel kit with attachments - saves so much time

Master List of Linked Build Pages:
#1 Getting Started -sorting armor and getting supplies
#2 The Corset and Butt Plate
#3 Torso and Shoulder Pieces
#4 Upper Arm Pieces and Shoulder Bells
#5 Lower Arm Pieces and Hands
#6 Leg Pieces
#7 Belt and Ammo Boxesand detonator
#8 Helmet

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

My armor arrives and change of plans - I am going with a FemTK, Legacy Era Female Stormtrooper kit

So like all other Trooper wannabes my Anovos armor arrived in a Big Brown Box. Know as BBB.   I was super excited, got the BBB home and opened her up.

And like everyone else I had to take a helmet shot.

Then I got all the pieces out and started basic trimming. The plastic parts had lots of extra stuff on them. So lots to do. What helped was to join and look at UKsWrath's tutorial. (hint: you have to sign up for a free account to look at stuff) Also, I joined the Anovos Stormtrooper kit Building group on Facebook. Those guys are amazing and helped give out tons of ideas and parts list.

And then it happened. First, the helmet was huge on me. My small head just swims in it. Second, my dear Hubby tried on my armor parts and they fit him pretty good. And they don't fit me at all. I am not a skinny gal but I drown in them. The trimming now seemed so daunting, and then they would have to be heated and re-bent to fit at all... it all seemed so overwhelming.

Then someone posted that a Female TK kit was out there. What? How come no one mentioned it before? How come I couldn't find a link to it on Why was I not aware that there was other option out there?

And then I asked the men in the Anovos group and they listed Imperial Surplus's Female Stormtrooper kit designed by Kevin Weir. His facebook page - KW designs was the best way to contact him. It looks amazing! And I am just the right size for the specs, and since my hubby has been eyeing the Anovos one for a Sandtrooper. We got it.  And it arrived in three weeks. And its beautiful!

Notice how the torso on the right has a more feminine look with a tapered waist, and no cup in the crotch area.  It is also a brighter white. Here are all my pieces laid out. I am very excited!

I have no idea how KW got this all into a small brown box! He is a packing master. I will be assembling my own helmet though. Anovos did that for you. They were almost the same price.

Now to buy shoes, neck seal, and find some guidance on how to put it together.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

My Quest to Make Latex Covered Foam Lekku - #2 Making the Lekku or Tails

Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 1 - Stand and Pattern
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 2 - Making Tails
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 3 - Covering Them in Latex
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 4 - Custom Ear Pieces

I built the base of my foam lekku and now its time to build the lekku themselves, or tails if you can't quite get into the vernacular. Lek is singular and there is even a name for left and right ones - t'chin, and t'chun respectively.

But we don't need to go there.

#2 - Making the Lekku or Tails

First off, you will find that keeping your robot head on a box isn't going to cut it. While I started my gluing and discovered this part-way in, I would recommend doing this now.

Step one: Make a stand for your head

I found some PVC, bought three 90 degree elbows, and cut three tubes the same length for the stand. Duct'ed taped them together, then I put some shorter extra pieces on the bottom to balance it. Viola!

Or find something around your house that works. I read somewhere that a guy used barbells, upended. A broom in a bucket of sand, and stuff the head with old towels to keep its shape.

You should have already bought your craft foam and made the base. Now its time to measure how long you want your lekku to be. Short lekku go part-way down your back and long lekku go all the way down to your butt. Originally I thought I would be making a Sinya costume - but now I have changed my mind. However, I made mine long. I measured the top of my head all the way down to my butt. Then I added six inches for bending. That became my length.

Step two - Making a pattern for Lekku or tails

I know that I already chose to make the diameter of my lekku 12 inches. So it stands to reason that the width at the top needed to be 12. I then measured my length and marked off where that was. I measured half - six inches - and made a mark. Then I measured up half and inch, made a mark, and measured below half an inch. I then drew a line from my top to the marks I had made. The visual below shows it best.

You end up with a nice triangular shaped piece of foam. Here is mine below: but for some reason one of my sides looks too straight. I must have skewed the angle when I took the picture. Or cut it pretty crappy. I admit, my first lekku was substandard.

And now its time for your handy glue gun.

Step three: Gluing lekku

I started gluing from the big end, and then found my lekku was too long and pointed. It was super hard to glue the end with only 1 inch width. Needless to say, that lekku looked poorly. So I did it again, and modified my pattern.

First measure six inches from the bottom of your lekku, I am glad I made mine long! Make a dot.

Then measure two inches up on each side and make a dot. Draw lines connecting each side to the center dot and cut. Notice the image next to it shows an already cut off piece. You will discard this piece.

Start at the smaller end by gluing the sides, leaving the point open for now. Pinch and hold them until they glue cools and the foam stops pulling apart.

Then put a line of glue in the trough and pinch shut. This gives it a nice point. Hold till glue sets.

Trim and round to desired look.

Working your way down, continue to glue the edges together, pinching the seams to hold them until the glue cools.

I did about an inch or so at a time and put two thin streams, one on inside and one on outer edge.

At times I put too much glue on it and it bulged out. Don't worry you can smooth it our with your fingers (and they do get burned a bit) but also you can cut the excess glue off when it dries with scissors.

Step four: Shaping the lekku

You should have your completed lekku rolls ready for shaping. Now, I did not like the way latex lekku in many pictures folded down due to its weight. Most made a headress that kinda covered it, but I personally wanted to improve on this.

See, it will just fold if you don't shape it. No folds for me. So I decided to cut pieces out of just the bottom half of the tube and create a curve. I was so glad for a third lekku to try it on. So, I first practiced on the wonky, substandard lekku to get it right. Here is a picture of the first few cuts and how they turned out. I marked the photo wrong so one thinks that how its should be.

Obviously, when glued it looked ugly. I found that I was making my cuts too shallow, they needed to be at least half way up the tube, and you can't make them too wide. They work best when only a half-inch wide.

Notice my cuts go almost to the center of tube and I made them very narrow. I found making three in a row made a good bend. Then leave a gap and do more till you get your desired shape. The third lekku came in pretty handy!

See, that bend is so much nicer!

I also found that in glueing my lek would curve up a bit, especially near the ends.

Foam is stretchy, so I just took a few minutes to stretch out the top of the foam till it was straight.

And the first fitting!
And it didn't curve enough. So I will be making more bends.

I also noticed that if I took away part of the bottom top it would fit better.

So cute the top off at an angle. It sets pretty much where I wanted it to be.

So after cutting more bends into it, here is the final result:

They are pretty much identical and both have that nice bend in them that I wanted.

I have to admit that it bothers me a bit that one is larger than the other but I think wonkiness is ok. A Twi'lek in real life would have different sized lekku. So, I am good with it.

Glue them on your base and your part way there! I found mine fit inside my curves just perfectly, only in one spot did I need to fill it in. I just kept putting glue in till the hole was filled. 

The next step is to cover them with latex. I found out that it needs to be done in a warm, well ventilated area, so till the Wisconsin winter lets up, this project will be on hold. But its been fun so far!

And I am only 22 bucks into it.

Now if I can find a safe spot to keep them away from my kids...

Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 1 - Stand and Pattern
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 2 - Making Tails
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 3 - Covering Them in Latex
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 4 - Custom Ear Pieces