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Elumusic

Albuquerque Storm Trooper Helmet Mold

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First I'd like to say hey to everyone here at whitearmor.net.  I have been lurking on this forum for a couple years now.  I have been a professional recording artist, music producer, and composer for many many years.  I'm a member of the Recording Academy and BMI, and music has always kept me from being artistic in different ways.  It is very time consuming and the bottom line is that unless you are a super star, there is just not enough money in it to survive on. So basically I work in the engineering field to pay my bills and I spend all my evenings and weekends in the recording studio.   I recently decided I have spent enough time in a music studio and I wanted to approach some new forms of creativity and my love for Star Wars and Storm Troopers led me to this.  My plan is to make some art pieces using my Storm Trooper mold as well as creating a wearable version for myself.  I will post more on the art as it happens, for now I wanted to share my mold making process.

 

To get this far I have spent two years as I am still working on finishing up my last album before I retire from music as a recording artist.  And with my new family time isn't making itself any more available, so I decided to just go for it and make time here and there to try my hand at something new.  I have never done anything like this before, but I have been an artist back in my teens and twenties and I have also started 3D modeling and CGI in the last few years so I figured how hard could it be?

 

The first thing I needed was a base form to create a helmet...and yup, that's when I became a lurker.  I found some guys using Pepakura so that's what I did too.  I won't bore anyone with the details of what a pain in the an impolite person it is to cut paper and assemble it into a Storm Trooper helmet.  So we will start right after that fiasco.

 

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I neglected to say earlier that I added strips of actual fiber glass to the interior of the helmet for strength.  I will be adding wire mesh later to make is strong for the vacuum table.

Edited by Elumusic

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As with everyone else who has done the Pepakura starting point, I used fiberglass resin to stiffen up the paper.  Notice how it's a little wonky and lopsided?  egh!  That just makes me crazy.  But I'm really anal about stuff, so I'm going to fix it as I sculpt the helmet.  The next step is smearing bondo on the paper form.    I have worked with Bondo many times, on cars....but this was new to me.  And to be honest, don't listen to anyone who says you can only use thin amounts of bondo, because I loaded this baby up!  I could probably drive a tank over it.  bondo on paper just isn't the same as going onto a car.  The curves on the helmet are just to tight.  So I just went with it.  I'll sand it down later.

 

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Edited by Elumusic

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As you can see in the previous images, I cut a few things off the model because I want to use this as a vacuum mold.  So ear buds are cut off and done individually.

 

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Edited by Elumusic

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So after that mess I made I needed to sand it down and start refining the sculpt.  I used an orbital sander and a dremel tool for all of the work.  Notice the chin piece in the earlier photos.  I cut that portion out and made it flat for now.  I will do something with that later.

 

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Still pretty rough at this point.  Notice I have the eyes, mic tips, teeth and temples cut out.  This was because I didn't want to deal with having to carve those areas out with this mess of bondo going on here.  I figure I'll get them added back in after the helmet is cut into it's proper portions for vacuum forming.  Right now all I want to get established are the lines and shape.  I am working my hardest on getting this to be symmetrical.  And no, it's not but at least it's close.  I am trying to make it movie accurate, but make it attractive at the same time.  Not that the movie helmets were not attractive, but they were asymmetrical and wonky.  Something I didn't personally like, but again this is for the sake of art and my owner personal helmet.

 

The next few steps are just more smoothing and shaping with the sander and dremel.

 

14113665381_b9c8764605_z.jpg  13930276177_039bc87ec7_z.jpg

 

14116945505_65e219e20c_z.jpg  14093781366_667c37f693_z.jpg

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Still pretty rough at this point.  Notice I have the eyes, mic tips, teeth and temples cut out.  This was because I didn't want to deal with having to carve those areas out with this mess of bondo going on here.  I figure I'll get them added back in after the helmet is cut into it's proper portions for vacuum forming.  Right now all I want to get established are the lines and shape.  I am working my hardest on getting this to be symmetrical.  And no, it's not but at least it's close.  I am trying to make it movie accurate, but make it attractive at the same time.  Not that the movie helmets were not attractive, but they were asymmetrical and wonky.  Something I didn't personally like, but again this is for the sake of art and my owner personal helmet.

 

The next few steps are just more smoothing and shaping with the sander and dremel.

 

14113665381_b9c8764605_z.jpg  13930276177_039bc87ec7_z.jpg

 

14116945505_65e219e20c_z.jpg  14093781366_667c37f693_z.jpg\

 

 

hi and welcome! I'm know this is a work in progress and you're making some great steps so far!

 

One thing I noticed is that the ridge on the back of the helmet seems much to large at this point. easy enough smooth it down, just a little thing I noticed is all.

 

At the top of the forum is a section called photo gallery, click in there and look for the movie screenshots, photos of screen used helmets and such so that you can see some stuff used on screen to model your form after. Just be careful to not use helmets that someone had put together already, always use the screen shots and screen used props as reference, then you can't go wrong.

 

Good luck, and I look forward to seeing more of your build.

 

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You are correct.  I love to meet people as visual as I am.  This was only the first pass on the sculpt.  As I said I am a perfectionist and I pretty much drive everyone crazy when I start a project, whether it is mixing music tracks or visually inspecting my own work.  Here are some more progress pictures.

 

The chin and the ear bud detailing is next.  Basically I decided to add globs of bondo to each part and sculpt it down to the correct shapes.  I used a dremel and a steady hand to make these next modifications.  

 

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At this point the sculpt was looking pretty good.  I didn't want to spend more time yet because after I cut this down and extending the pieces to sit on the vacuum table I will need to do some more mods to the sculpt.   The next issue was cutting the helmet apart to set up the mold pieces similar to the original molds used in the movie.  I used these reference images to set up the next few steps.  

 

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Here goes my cuts....

 

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Take a second and look how thick the bondo is on the sides of the helmet.  This is because the shape of the pepakura model was just not accurate.  I spent hours looking at photos from every angle and decided to add more bondo to the sides to get it to look more accurate.  This is part of the reason it took me so long to finish.

 

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Edited by Elumusic

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The next step was to start filling in the new missing areas so I  have a solid mass for the vacuum table.  I used wire lath on the interior of the helmet and started filling in the open areas.  This part was critical to give is strength and enough waste area to avoid webbing during the vacuum process.

 

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Time to attack the back of the helmet ridge Derrek pointed out.

 

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A little more smoothing and a little more bondo to get a tight bottom edge for the vacuum table.  Notice how I am bringing the bondo all the way flush with the surface.  Since Bondo does not stick to plastic I put down some plastic trash bags and ran an edge around the base of each piece.  And I detailed the sculpt a little farther.

 

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At this point a year after I started I picked it up again and finalized the lines and fixed a few blemishes.  The helmet is very smooth and the lines all look correct based on the hundreds of images I used to make this sculpt.  Here are the final sculpts.  After this, holes will need to be drilled into the mold to get the detail to pull correctly on the vacuum table.  I'm hoping to do that this next weekend.  But before I get to it I decided it was time to start building a vacuum table.

 

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So in this image the left side of the helmet has a bulge at the top above the helmet ridge.  I just hate it.  So I will work this down with the orbital sander and some elbow grease until it matches the right side.

 

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WOW!  Just wow.  I hate being a perfectionist, but I love it at the same time.  Awesome work.  Can't wait to see the vacuum table!  My wife is a musician, so I understand your creative sacrifices all too well.  Glad to see you following your dreams.  I've always said that wonderful things happen when people pursue their passions.  It's just too bad our society puts so much emphasis on getting a good job and working yourself to death.  Thanks for posting!!!

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Ok...now on to what a friend and I accomplished these last couple of weekends.  The vacuum table build.  Next weekend we will tackle the oven part of this.  Basically we went to Home Depot and bought a bunch of wood and some tin sheeting to build this.  The top and bottom of the vacuum table is MDF.  The chamber is 1/8" plywood with glue and acrylic latex caulk around the perimeter to make it air tight.  I hammered a sheet of tin to cover the top and then we drew a 1"x1" grid and drilled holes into the top.  We fit two 1.5" PVC inputs under the table to fit two shop vacs, wired in an outlet with a switch so that both shop vacs come on at the same time.  It's not pretty, but it doesn't have to be.

 

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The vacuum frame is made of 1" square steel tube welded together.  I had my buddy weld on a few brackets and some hinges so I can make it all work together.  And yup, that's my beer.

 

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Edited by Elumusic

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WOW!  Just wow.  I hate being a perfectionist, but I love it at the same time.  Awesome work.  Can't wait to see the vacuum table!  My wife is a musician, so I understand your creative sacrifices all too well.  Glad to see you following your dreams.  I've always said that wonderful things happen when people pursue their passions.  It's just too bad our society puts so much emphasis on getting a good job and working yourself to death.  Thanks for posting!!!

Thanks for that.  Music was a passion since high school.  I played in many bands and worked as a lead guitarist in a bar band at 18.  I always had to stay on the stage because I was under age.  That sucked.  lol.  Got a small recording contract, won a few awards, did some remixes for a few people, made a few music charts here and there, but I just never got over the hump.   I thank my mom for making me go to school because my plan was to live out of my car until I made it.   And you are right about the working yourself to death.  It's time to slow down and enjoy a few things.  

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Ok...now on to what a friend and I accomplished these last couple of weekends.  The vacuum table build.  Next weekend we will tackle the oven part of this.  Basically we went to Home Depot and bought a bunch of wood and some tin sheeting to build this.  The top and bottom of the vacuum table is MDF.  The chamber is 1/8" plywood with glue and acrylic latex caulk around the perimeter to make it air tight.  I hammered a sheet of tin to cover the top and then we drew a 1"x1" grid and drilled holes into the top.  We fit two 1.5" PVC inputs under the table to fit two shop vacs, wired in an outlet with a switch so that both shop vacs come on at the same time.  It's not pretty, but it doesn't have to be.

 

 

 

The vacuum frame is made of 1" square steel tube welded together.  I had my buddy weld on a few brackets and some hinges so I can make it all work together.  And yup, that's my beer.

 

 

You may run into issues with a hinge based system because the plastic will hit the buck on the one side before the rest and can cause some issues. Most times I have seen people have the plate come straight down by hand or some sort of system and then locking into the bottom plate to get an air tight seal. The best tables I have seen blow some air into the ABS a split second before it hits the mold to bubble out the ABS some before sucking it down which helps to get an even pull all over the buck.

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Yesterday I picked up some white ABS from the local plastic shop.  Just a couple of remnants so I can experiment.  The draw on the vacuum table will be pretty deep so they recommended going with 1/8" thick stock so that the thickness at the top of the mold isn't too thin.  I'll see how that works.  I'm hoping to get as much detail as I can.  I'd love to hear from anyone who has done this so I don't have to re-invent the wheel.   I want the helmets to have some strength as they will be painted and modified as part of this art project.  They need to stand up to the task.

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You may run into issues with a hinge based system because the plastic will hit the buck on the one side before the rest and can cause some issues. Most times I have seen people have the plate come straight down by hand or some sort of system and then locking into the bottom plate to get an air tight seal. The best tables I have seen blow some air into the ABS a split second before it hits the mold to bubble out the ABS some before sucking it down which helps to get an even pull all over the buck.

Yeah, we thought about that.  I'm a little concerned about it.  Our plan of attack was to have a swift movement to catch air into the ABS and make a bubble as it hits the helmet.  My concern is that one side will be thicker than the other.   If that doesn't work we could always remove the hinge from the table for tall draws and set it on manually.  Again I have never done anything like this and anything you can call my attention to is greatly appreciated.  Thanks!!!

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I think the 0.80 thickness is the thicker stuff, with 0.60 being the more flexible stuff. If you're making an art project vs looking to build/sell helmets, I'd go with the .80 as it's thin enough to get good details but thick enough to be pretty robust... But keep in mind, thick isn't always tough. I like the thinner ABS as it's more flexible and less prone to crack when different stresses and pressure are put on it.

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I think the 0.80 thickness is the thicker stuff, with 0.60 being the more flexible stuff. If you're making an art project vs looking to build/sell helmets, I'd go with the .80 as it's thin enough to get good details but thick enough to be pretty robust... But keep in mind, thick isn't always tough. I like the thinner ABS as it's more flexible and less prone to crack when different stresses and pressure are put on it.

Thanks for the info!

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Found this vid', back when I started researching TKs. Hope it helps :)

 

Yeah, this was the video that started the whole vacuum table quest for me.  Thanks for sharing.  

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Hi... i am walt...the .060 abs is a good choie fir the face and will give it the fine details you want...looking at your molds i would change a few things,,,but first do a pull and see...if you get a ring around the top of the helmet..shot me a pm...if you get webbing at the tubes or the face is to thin at the top shoot me a pm....really good job on the molds....what is your vacuum source??

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Hi... i am walt...the .060 abs is a good choie fir the face and will give it the fine details you want...looking at your molds i would change a few things,,,but first do a pull and see...if you get a ring around the top of the helmet..shot me a pm...if you get webbing at the tubes or the face is to thin at the top shoot me a pm....really good job on the molds....what is your vacuum source??

Hey Walt.  I'll let you know how it comes out.  They guys at the plastic shop sent me home with some 1/8" ABS because the said the helmet size is tall and will require a deep draw.  They gave me some scraps to experiment with.  The vacuum source on this will be dual (2) vacs.  One is a shop vac rated at 5 HP,130 CFM and the second is a Dyson Animal with 250 Airwatts, 12 amps.  They will run in unison.

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