Monday, January 16, 2012

Shadow Trooper Helmet

Shadow Troopers were specialized storm troopers seen in the Marvel Star Wars comic books in the late 70's & early 80's.  Their armor is essentially the same thing as a regular stormtrooper's armor, only it's black instead of white.

Stormtroopers have always been my favorite!  When I was a kid I always wanted a stormtrooper helmet.  I made various cheap masks and helmets when I was quite young, but it was only till I was in my late 20's that I actually got one from a halloween store.

Above you see the stormtrooper helmet on the end.

It's a pretty cheap helmet and definitely needs to be made better.  But more importantly, I want to make my own helmet from scratch!  

When I first started this project I had every intention to make a standard white stormtrooper helmet.  But as this project was nearing completion I decided to make it black instead.  I'm glad I did - not many people have a black shadow trooper helmet!

So for reference I go to to get accurite shots of the originals. 
I also made some pepakura armor seen below.  I did this mostly for fun.  I am too big to fit into such small armor.

But enough about the armor.  Let's start on this helmet!
Below is the first pic I took of the helmet partially assembled.

and now it's done.  At this point the helmet is 100% cardstock and scotch tape.

For the next step I glued strips of cardboard inside the helmet to strengthen it.

And then applied plaster cloth.

And then wood filler.

a little sanding...

More filler...

And after a little sanding...

And then I applied some primer.

The primer filled in a lot, but I still have more touch up work, and more shaping to do.

Below is an image of my 2 stormtrooper helmets side by side.

The eyes on my helmet on the right are more accurite to the screen shots, but the 'tubes' on the back and the sides are better shaped on the store bought helmet on the left.  I will have to work on it some more.

Having no luck in the past with clay, I decided to try it once more to fill in gaps, and add large areas that need to be corrected.  This time the clay worked.

I've tried using the clay on paper, cardboard, wood filler and spackle and it never worked.
But it did work on the helmet with primer on it!
It doesn't look pretty right now, but after some sanding, filling and more priming it should look a lot better!

Fast forward a week.  I finally got around to sanding down the clay.  It sands quite nicely, and things are starting to shape up nicely.

Added some more clay, then sanding, then some wood filler.

After some sanding, both the Stormtrooper Helmet and my Iron Man v.2 Helmet get a fresh coat of primer.

As always the primer does a good job smoothing and covering up little holes.  However the clay that I used in certain spots are not adhering to the helmet as well as I would have liked.  The Iron Man helmet is worse.  Luckily I finally got around to getting some Apoxie sculpt, and that will be much better than the clay.  Later on I discovered that after sanding the clay, it leaves a heavy texture.  I had to buy some very fine grit sandpaper in order for the clay to have the same texture as the rest of the helmet during priming.

Added the Apoxy Sculpt to some areas that needed improvement.  It dries in 2 hours and fully hardens in 24 hours.

When it dried I sanded it down.

Then I added some wood filler to various holes and spots.
Since the clay areas were still a bit raised, I added wood filler to make a smooth transition from the clay to the helmet.

And then sanded.

The top of the helmet was not quite rounded or even, so using apoxy clay I evened it out some.  Then I used wood filler and gave it all a nice smooth covering.

Then sanded. Looks much better now!

And even more sanding...

Looking at photos of the original, I needed to widen the 'nose' area.
To do this I used Apoxie Clay.

I also fixed up the areas under the eyes.

and above the mouth region.

Once it dried I went back to the wood filler to smooth things out.

I still had a few problem areas such as above and below the 'nose' and above the right eye, so I used some clay to fill in those spots.

When that dried I sanded it down, and then added more clay to the bottom and side bulbous areas.

A few days later I added some more clay to the eye and nose areas.

The edges of the eyes were becoming a bit frayed, so I used some clay around both sides of the eyes to strengthen it.

Here's how it looks on the inside.

The nose area was finally closed up.

When the clay dried I gave it a good sanding.

As I was sanding I noticed that the ears were kind of sagging.  As you can see from earlier in this post, the helmet is made of paper initially.  The ears which were hollow, did not get the proper fortification on the inside, so they started to break.

I then crafted some new ears from the pep file.  This time I made them out of cardboard and I am going to fill them with clay.

I then started to cut away the old ears.

And I added more clay to smooth out the area where the ears were.

While I waited for the clay to dry inside the new ears, I cut strips of cardboard which will eventually become the 'brow'.

I curved the cardboard so that it fits well onto the helmet.

When the clay dried, I sanded it down.

Then I used my strips of cardboard to form the brow, gluing it on with hot glue.

Using my helmet which I bought from the store, I made the shape of the squares on both ends of the brow and cut it out of a piece of cardboard.  This will be a template for my helmet (below).

I did the same for the squares on the back.

I drew in squares on the front 'nose' where it will be filled in later with clay or cardboard.

The 3 images below show the squares and the brow with clay added.  For the squares I simply built up the outsides since the squares themselves are slightly lower than the surrounding areas.  When the clay dries I will sand them and shape them better and then add filler to the outsides of the squares.

Once it dried I sanded the clay down a lot.

And then added wood filler.

In a few hours when it dries I will begin to sand once again.

Next I cut out pieces of cardboard to make up the block shapes that make up the 'nose'.

I spent a lot of time sanding it nicely and I'm loving how it looks.
Next step is to apply more primer.

Today was a very bright day and unfortunately my cheap camera phone could not capture much detail. All the photos I took looked the the one above - very washed out.

While the helmet was drying I started cutting out the shapes of the 'mouth'.  These were made out of many layered pieces of cardboard.

When the helmet is more or less done and once I have sculpt the mouth a bit, I will add the mouth piece on.

The priming worked well, but due to the humidity it did not fully dry for a few days.  I added wood filler to a few spots that needed work.  Fortunately, the number of spots needing work is getting smaller and smaller.

When all dried I sanded it down.  I noticed a few uneven spots near the nose, mouth and eyes, so I fixed it with clay.

When the clay dried I sanded it down smooth and added some wood filler to level the surface.

I then added filler to the mouth piece and ears.

When the ears were sanded, I glued them back onto the helmet.  The bottom part of the ears which connects to the bottom of the helmet still need some work, so they have not been glued on yet.

I also used my dremmel tool to flatten the sides of the 2 round holes that are on both sides of the mouth.

I finished with the ear pieces and glued them on and added wood filler.

And then sanded it down.

Using my new curvature tool, I realized the the boxes on the back of the helmet were very uneven.  I drew in lines where the proper boundaries of the boxes should be.

And using an X-acto knife and sandpaper, I corrected the boxes.

I also corrected the boxes on the side of the helmet.

I added more wood filler to various parts of the helmet to fix up little areas.
While the filler was drying, I made the 'ear buds' out of layered cardboard.

I also picked up some sink faucet tips to use as the 2 black microphones (I guess) located on the front bottom 'bells' of the helmet.

I will add these on once the helmet is practically done.

The next step was to fix up the bottom parts of the ears where they meet the opening of the helmet.  For this I used some clay.

Then I glued on the mouth piece.

And the ear buds.

A few spots to touch up and then it's ready for another coat of primer.

Next I applied filler to around the ear buds and mouth and other areas that needed it.

Next I sanded and cleaned it up.

Next, first coat of primer.

Then a second coat.

Here the Stormtrooper helmet is drying with and Iron Man and Boba Fett Helmet.

Looking at the helmet dome, I've noticed that the top is slightly uneven.  The left side is slightly lower than the right.  This will need to be fixed.

So I added a little clay to build up the area.

I also added clay to fill in the big gap between under the mouth piece and the helmet rim.

I circled a lot of spots that need some looks like a lot, but some of those spots are simple sanding or a little filling in.

And begin filling it in with watered down wood filler.

After some sanding and cleaning, the helmet is ready for another coat of primer.

For the first coat I used a gray primer.

The second coat was a black primer.  This helmet looks very cool in black....kind of like a TIE Fighter Pilot Helmet.

I sanded some primer down and marked up a few spots that needed work.

Next I added some clay to a few areas that needed refinement.

Then I sanded it and gave it a good cleaning for the next round of priming.

First few coats were filler using filler primer.

Below is the stormtrooper, boba fett and iron man helmet drying for a few coats of filler primer.

The follow up coats were applied using black sand-able primer.

Once it dried I gave it a light sanding and filled in some spots with filler.

And then sanded.

Next I finally glued on the microphones (or whatever they are) to the 2 bottom bells.

And after a little bit of sanding, it's primer time again.

So after the black primer dried it honestly sat in my work room for several week.  Not because I didn't want to work on it.  Mostly because it looks so cool and I didn't want to mess it up.  But alas, it is not done and it's time to keep working.

First, I decided to paint the interior of the helmet black.
Next, I applied some red primer - which for me is easier to spot defects in the surface.

Using a pencil I marked some areas that need work.

And worked on it.  Wood filler and primer and sanding. 

Then it was time to go outside and prime.
The first coat was dark gray.

The second coat was light gray.

When it was dry, I decided to put on the first coat of final black paint.

It was at this point I decided to make the helmet black since I liked how it looked every time I painted it with dark gray primer.  So henceforth this is going to be a Shadow Trooper helmet.
The second coat applied, and the helmet was a rich black, glossy color.

After a few hours the paint was dry enough to handle.

The next day I started to paint on silver details with a silver marker.  When I find some enamel paints I will cover up my marked spots, but it still looked pretty good.

When I finally bought the paints I went straight to work!

In addition to repainting all the silver, I also added some wear and tear on the helmet.  These mostly were chips of silver where the helmet got bumped around during battle.

To set this helmet apart from other stormtrooper helmets, I started to add some red details.

I gave the sides and backs some red scratch marks...maybe painted on by the empire, or blood plattered on by this trooper after a deadly battle.

After the paint dried, I gave it more red touch ups since the red was not as bright after the first application.

With my painting now done, it's time to give the whole helmet a coating of clear enamel.

The clear coat looks great!
All that's left is to put in some visors and padding for the insides!

Using a sheet of clear plastic coated with black Nite-Shades, I cut the pieces to fit the eyes.

And I glued them in.  It looks so good!

Lastly I placed a sheet of soft black foam on the inside to make it more comfortable for the wearer.

And I'm Done!!!

After 11 months this helmet is finally complete!!
This has probably been the most labor intensive helmet I've made so far.  I worked on it almost regularly and I am so pleased with the outcome.
Soon I will have to work on that cheaper white store-bought helmet and make it better, but that is another posting for another day,
Thanks for reading!!!!

UPDATE:  After 4 years I still have this helmet, and I proudly displayed in my new home.

However, when next to my other stormtrooper helmets it looks very uneven.

Above on the far left is my original store-bought stormtrooper helmet, and next to it is another store-bought stormtrooper helmet - but that one is painted up to be a NY Jets helmet.

I also bought another helmet to make a NY Yankees helmet.

And I bought a few more to make into molds for my first vacuum former...

...and my second vacuum former.

With the Vacuum former I can easily make many helmets, BUT...

Since Disney now owns Star Wars, it is quite easy (and inexpensive) to get these helmets.  The last few I bought from for around $20 each.

The helmet pictured above was bought to help in making a better vacuum forming mold, but it honestly costs less to buy it from Amazon than it is to buy enough sheets of thermoforming plastic to make the helmets themselves.  So I had an extra stormtrooper helmet sitting around and I thought I'd spray paint it black and make it into a better looking Shadow Trooper helmet.

I popped out the lenses before painting the whole thing glossy black.

Then the lenses were glued back on and the silver details were added.

I didn't add the red to the helmet this time.

And that's it.

They even have red stormtroopers which they call "Magma Troopers", so I may yet buy/make another helmet.

The new helmet definitely looks better, but I'll still be keeping the first helmet I made for sentimental reasons.

So either way you do it - make it using paper, cardboard, plaster, clay, glue and paint OR buy a white helmet and paint it black, these are seriously cool helmets.

Thanks for reading!