And you're thinking, Ah man, that longwinded Old Fart is back again. Shouldn't he be yelling at kids to get off his lawn or something?
Well, yeah, it is prime yelling-at-kids season, but they're at school at the moment -- or they oughta be, the little juvenile delinquents -- so I've left my lawn unguarded for a little while to bring you up to date on my build. Haven't updated anything since March, at which time I outlined a few issues: One was my left Bicep constantly coming loose. After two troops I knew that I was satisfied with the Bicep position, so rather than replace or add more snaps to the Bicep, I simply squirted a bit of E6000 around the snaps such that it cemented one strap to the other right around the snaps. Not a lot of glue, but enough that it never comes undone on its own anymore, but would be easy to pull apart if I needed to. (Thanks, E6000.) I also had a clicking Sniper Plate, even though I had already added padding in the front of the Shin and Back of the thigh on that side. A bit of judicious Sniper Plate trimming along the top edge, along with hiking up the thighs pretty much solved that.
The final issue I needed to deal with at the time was the rampant and incessant pinching around the, ahem, nether regions. The armor bites were terrible, even leading to a bleeding wound at one spot on my leg after three hours of Trooping. I shaved a bit off both sides of the Cod, as well as off the inner edges of the thighs. Next troop I still got some bites, but not nearly as many. I shaved some more off the inner edges of the thighs again, and the problem is all but gone.
Since then, I submitted for and achieved EIB (yay!) and intended to immediately go for Centurion. As always, the EIB review was filled with lots of great suggestions for improvement that don't directly affect Centurion approval, but there were two things I was requested to fix before applying for Centurion: The gaps between the Shoulder Bells and the Chest plate in front, and the overlap of the Back Plate over the Kidney. The first was an easy fix by just tightening up the shoulder straps, but that Back Plate was problematic.
As anybody who has built a set of AM armor knows, the bottom edge of the Back Plate is a bit odd. Now, I absolutely love AM armor and consider it to be the best out there by far.
However, it does have a couple quirks and that Back Plate is one of them. For some armor, the bottom edge of the Back Plate has a nice, flat return edge that mates flat on the top edge of the Kidney Plate. AM armor is different: That bottom edge isn't anywhere near flat, and the outer tips bend down and out like little "wings." The end result is that no matter what you do, those wings will overlap the Kidney, which is a no-no in general, and a roadblock to attaining Centurion. Here's a detail from the back photo from my EIB submission:
Notice in the above photo that the actual bottom of the Back Plate is right on top of the Kidney where it's supposed to be (red arrow), but those wings overhang at the sides (green arrows). What's worse, with those wings overhanging they tend to pull the Back Plate out and down over the Kidney pretty much every time you move. Here's a look at if from the side just before I started to work on it yesterday.
How badly the effect is may vary from Trooper to Trooper, depending on body characteristics. If your upper back arches out at an angle, it's a bit easier to get the bottom of the Back Plate to rest atop the Kidney. In the photo below, I'm holding the Back Plate out at an angle.
If your back arches out, great, but even if the Back Plate is resting in the right place along its width at this angle, good luck getting it to stay there. Lean forward and your strapping will likely pull the Back Plate down over the Kidney again.
I had brought up this issue way back during my build and got a number of suggestions, most of which dealt with heating those wings and bending them up to make them level. But I could tell that heating and bending would warp the side edges of the Back Plate because of the amount of return edge I'd retained there, so I balked on heating. Then, when I got my EIB, I corresponded with JustJoseph about it and got some guidance from him, as well. Joseph has a set of AM armor, so he knows exactly what this issue is like. He agreed that trying to reshape them with heat would badly mis-shape the side edges, and suggested that the only real way around it is to start cutting off return edges to reshape those pesky wings. Again, I put it off because I wanted those edges to stay (my shoulder blades tend to push the Back Plate out, creating gaps at the side that I wanted to minimize with as much return edge as possible),. However, I want to reach Centurion level even more, so those edges had to be dealt with.
After giving it a lot of thought, I determined that a combination of return-edge trimming and heat would be the best way to go. I started by outlining the cuts I planned to make on the sides...
... and along the outer tips of the bottom.
It took me a long time to do these cut lines, as I kept redoing them to ensure I started with the minimum amount needed -- I didn't want to cut too much. I wanted to do this in extreme baby steps: Do some cuts, then do some heat and see what I got. Then trim some more and heat some more, and check it out. By the way, remember that last photo above. You'll see it again a bit later.
So, first I used Lexan scissors to cut off most of the waste up to my lines.
After that, I headed over to my drill press and used that cutter drum you saw earlier in my build to shave the Back Plate smoothly down to my lines. Then, I heated those trimmed wings up using a hair dryer and did some bending, starting with the right side wing.
In the photo above, you can see the result after several cycles of trim/heat, trim/heat, trim/heat. I was indeed taking it slow. Satisfied that I had the right side as good as I could get it, I did the same trim/heat, trim/heat, trim/heat routine on the left wing.
OK, both sides are looking pretty good, and you can see how the bottom edge is now more or less straight across with no corner wings dipping down. Lastly, I heated both sides a bit more to curve the outer edges inward to more closely match the curve of the top of the Kidney to help the Back rest more firmly in place.
This whole process took several hours, but I was determined to go slowly. I did not want to trim any more than I had too or, worse, ruin the Back Plate and have to buy another one and start over. Hey, remember earlier when I said you'd see that photo of my proposed cut lines again? Well, here's that same photo, but I've superimposed red lines where I ended up making my actual final trims.
Yeah, I ended up taking a lot of plastic off, and as time-consuming as it was it was worth it when I reassembled all the straps and hung the torso on my mannequin to see how it came together.
That's about as perfect as I think it can be. I still don't like the way the AM armor isn't flat along that bottom edge -- that bottom return edge is angled, not flat -- and I may address that somewhere down the road, but for now I'm satisfied that this fixes my issue with the overhanging Back Plate.
Now it's time to reshoot submission photos and achieve that Centurion certificate.