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A.J.'s O.F. AM 2.0 Build

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Ok, I'm officially starting "A.J.'s O.F. AM 2.0 Build."


So, why "O.F.?"  You’re probably thinking I'm dyslexic and meant First Order.  Nope.  That stands for "Old Fart."  Or, in keeping with ANH canon, I guess maybe that should be "Old Fossil."  Either way, I'm probably one of the older noob armor builders and 501st aspirants you're likely to trip over.  In viewing all my armor spread out in my shop, my wife noted how pleased she was that I'm enjoying my second childhood.  That's nonsense, since I’m nowhere near finished with my first one yet so the joke's on her.  In any event I'm certainly older than most of you -- likely old enough to say, "Luke, I am your father" to a lot of you and have it be accurate.  Well, except for all the genetics, of course.


I've been reading the build threads (and pretty much everything else around here) for several weeks now, and while my abject terror at making the first trim cut is no less than it was when I first started researching, I'm fairly confident that I'm as prepared as I can possibly be.  To that end, as soon as I post this I'm heading down to my shop to get started.


Before that, however, a word about TrooperGear and the AM armor.  First, I'm beyond impressed with this stuff.  In going through the many, many builds I'm stunned at how nice AM armor is.  The preliminary trimming work is top-notch, the ABS is thick and shiny, and the look of everything is simply beautiful.  I'd also like to compliment TG (does that guy have a name?) directly.  His correspondence with me before purchasing was complete and packed with information.  His responses to my incessant questions were speedy.  When I ordered, he was more than willing to ship my BBB around my busy travel schedule so I'd be sure to be home when my UPS guy dropkicked the box from the street to my porch.  (All UPS drivers deliver this way, right?)  Further, when I discovered a crack in the helmet components -- probably thanks to Mr. UPS -- he quickly and without questions shipped replacements.  In fact, when I emailed to verify that he'd gotten the photos I’d sent of the parts, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that he'd already shipped them.


Also, I couldn't get started without saying just how awesome all of you are here on White Armor.  Your willingness to help is nothing short of amazing, and there are no words for the value of the copious amounts of info to be found here.  In gathering stuff for my build I’ve even bought stuff from a few of you -- Ukswrath, Pencap, Darman -- and your gear is not only great, but your communications back-and-forth before buying are just as rapid as your shipping.  Outstanding!


A little about me -- I'm a full-time freelance writer/editor living in Williamstown, W.Va., and have been in the publishing industry in one manner or another full-time since the mid-'90s .  Before that, I was a radio broadcaster for a few decades.  (The two careers actually overlapped.)  I've been a Civil War re-enactor for 20 years, and have written two books on the subject of making authentic reproductions of wooden items from the 19th century.  In that regard, I guess I'm not a complete noob when it comes to making exact copies of things from a long, long time ago.  If you're not already bored, check out some of the things I've made and written on my website, www.ajhamler.com.  Haven't updated the site in a while, though.  Gotta do that Real Soon Now.  Let's see, what else?  My passions include my 4-year-old grandson Jed (who, naturally, I call "My Young Jedi"), gourmet cooking, hiking and a really good IPA.


Oh, and I'm also an Old Fart.


So anyway, if you’re still with me after all of that, welcome to my build!  Next post will be the first item on my build list: the Thermal Detonator.



Edited by A.J. Hamler
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Ok, I'm officially starting "A.J.'s O.F. AM 2.0 Build."   So, why "O.F.?"  You’re probably thinking I'm dyslexic and meant First Order.  Nope.  That stands for "Old Fart."  Or, in keeping with ANH c

Meanwhile...   Yeah, I know it's not part of my TK build, but while I'm waiting to submit we finished my wife Sally's Imperial Line Officer and I just had to share.     A

Snaps 'n' Straps -- Part II   OK, back to work.  All the snap plates are done, so let's start gluing them into the armor.  For reversibility I'm going with E6000 all the way here.  Yeah, it'

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Welcome aboard A.J.!


As a fellow AM 2.0 builder (just submitted for EIB with mine!) I agree with everything you said regarding TG and the armor. I was very impressed not only with the quality of the armor, but he was extremely fast to respond, great with the communication and easy to deal with, generally.


I also have to agree with the guys on the boards, the same ones, who helped me with my build, got me the right stuff to work with, and were never short in giving me helpful advice and direction. What a great group to enjoy this hobby with across the board! 


I look forward to seeing your build and am here having been "baptized by stitches" (two in my right thumb trimming...get some cut-proof gloves) if you need anything! 


Good luck on your build! I look forward to seeing it come to life! 




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Thermal Detonator completed!


This went together well, and I'm quite pleased.  No issues at all.  As I describe the steps I'm sure I'll be using tips and hints that I picked up here, and if I can remember where/who I'll give credit.  However, I've looked at so many builds over the past several weeks that they've all kinda blurred together.  If it's your tip I've used, by all means speak out and take credit.


Since this is my first post of the actual build, I hope I do it right --  Too many photos?  Not enough?  I talk too much?  Please, let me know! 


The first thing I did was drill an air relief hole in the TD tube.  This is an example of a tip I found here, but can't remember who posted it.  [Edit to add: It was Artshot's build.]  However, it makes sense.  Pressing the end caps into place can be difficult if the slight air pressure inside doesn't allow the caps to seat.  Likewise, getting caps off after dry-fitting can be tough if there's a suction.




I've just nestled the tube in my official TK-build carryall to keep it steady, and drilled a small hole smack in the middle.  (The drill bit is 3/32", and I'll use it again later when mounting the belt clips.)  It doesn't really matter where you drill the hole, as you can cover it later when attaching the button plate.


And now, a tip of my own.  The end caps can be hard to seat because the space at the bottom of the molded caps into which the tube slides taper slightly with the bend at the bottom, making it harder for the caps to go that last little bit and seat properly.  To counter this, I tapered the ends of the tube just a bit.




I first used a sanding block to bevel the outer edges of the openings, then a knife to bevel the inside edges.  This results in a tapered rim on each end of the tube.  Slipping the caps on is easy now (and easy to remove while test-fitting).


My AM kit was nicely trimmed right out of the box, but the end caps were ever-so-slightly off-square.  That is, the length of the sides wasn't quite consistent around the circumference.  To correct it, I just used my knife to pare down the "lips" of the cap on the high side, and then slid the caps back and forth over some 150-grit sandpaper to level everything out.




I checked the fit several times and sanded more as needed till the caps were perfectly square.  While I was at it, I used some 220-grit paper to remove the sharp edges of the caps, as well as the edges on the curved button plate.  Lastly, with everything dry-fit I measured, and it's a perfect 7.5" in length.


OK, time to start some gluing.  Now, a lot of you guys are gonna scream, but I elected to forgo the beloved E6000 for the TD build in favor of regular ABS cement.  I've done a good bit of plumbing and have worked a lot with both ABS and PVC, and I felt I could handle the use of ABS cement for this part of the armor, plus the TD doesn't really involve fitting issues and I was confident I'd get it right the first time.  But believe me, I will be using the easy-to-correct-screw-ups-E6000 when it comes time to fit the armor.


I decided to start with the button plate, so first I scribed a perfectly straight pencil line down the side of the TD tube.




Laying the tube on my workbench and using a piece of wood scrap allowed me to make the line as perfectly square as I could.  I next lined up the button plate on my line, centered it on the tube, and penciled in a line along each edge to guide me when it was time to glue.  Using the swab applicator in the cap of the ABS cement, I dabbed an outline around the underside of the plate, pressed it into place on my lines, and clamped that baby up.  I bit of tape around the center helped, too.




When the assembly was dry -- in only a few minutes!  Take that, E6000! -- I unclamped it.  Next, I used a disposable acid brush to swirl a small bit of ABS cement into the bottoms of the two end caps and slid them into place.  Since I dabbed the cement around the underside of the button plate in a broken line, air escaping from my relief hole under the plate allowed the caps to slide home easily.


To mount a pair of Ukswrath's fine belt clips on the TD, I first had to bend the straight part of the clips out of the way a bit to allow room to get my drill and screwdriver into the rear hole of the clips.  They bent readily, and I can bend them back where they were when I'm done.  With the assembly dry and solid, I masking-taped both clips into place per the Level 2 requirements in the ANH CRL -- 


       "Thermal detonator belt clips are positioned with little to no gap between the clips and the end caps."


Then I drilled pilot holes for the screws right through the clips (using that 3/32" bit from earlier), and tightened everything down with the screws.




With all four screws in place I stripped off the tape and bent the clips back into their original positions, then did a quick check to look for errant cement or anything else that needed addressed.  Everything seemed pretty good to me, and nothing needed fixing that I could see.  Here's how everything came out:





All that's left now is to paint the screw heads black and get to work on the rest of my armor.


OK, hope you've all enjoyed my first installment.  Next up -- I've decided to build the bucket.



Edited by A.J. Hamler
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Thanks, Art.  I just checked out your build, and realized that's where I saw that "air relief hole" tip.  Giving credit where it's due!


Also noticed that you and I share the dreaded nit-picky affliction, constantly fiddling with things that are already just fine simply because we're never satisfied.  An example is how I lightly fine-sanded each sharp edge of those TD pieces just trying to be a perfectionist. I've already made a mental note of how you've filled all the return gaps with ABS paste and will surely do the same (probably extending the length of my build in the process).



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Helmet, Part I -- Smile!


Didn't get anything done on my armor yesterday and very little today, but I did start on my bucket.


The AM 4.0 helmet is really nice. Very thick and heavy, and very nicely trimmed. The eyes are nice, the overall shape is smooth and unblemished ... heck the whole thing looks good. Won't know till I have it fully assembled, of course, but I'm thinking that the only real trimming I'll need to do on this is the opening where the S-trim goes.


Since I got such a late start today, I figured I'd only tackle cutting out the teeth. Tools for this will be my Dremel rotary tool with a coarse-grit sanding drum bit, sharp knife, some needle files and maybe a bit of fine sandpaper.


In some of the builds here I've seen folks do a lot of drilling into those teeth openings, followed by lots and lots of cutting. Looked like way too much work for this Old Fart, plus any opportunity to avoid cutting myself when I'm cutting by doing as little cutting as possible is a Good Thing. I took a tip from Eric Dyck's AM 4.0 build video on YouTube, and elected to simply sand the openings to eliminate most of the waste. To do this, I worked from the back of the helmet face.




On the inside of the helmet, those teeth openings really bulge out, and the ABS here is a lot thicker than you might think. To open up those teeth, all you need to do is start leveling those bulges. It's as easy as that. With my rotary tool set low enough that I had plenty of control of the grinding process -- and yet still fast enough to produce the lovely aroma of hot plastic -- I started with the smallest tooth opening at one end of that beautiful smile and worked my way to the other. (Yeah, yeah -- it's a frown. I know that. But at this point it's easiest to work with the face upside down to allow the best access for my rotary tool, and from this angle it looks like a smile to me. And why the hell not? This guy knows he's on his way to Stormtrooper glory. He just can't wait for me to finish...)


I didn't want to grind too deeply, so as a way to guide my progress I set a shop work light on the other side and got to work. As you get to the point where plenty of light starts coming through the thinning plastic and outlines the rough, rounded rectangular shapes of the openings, just move on to the next one in turn. By not going all the way through there's no danger of going too far and deforming the openings, and it leaves a paper-thin membrane that's easy to cut through in the next step.


When leveled to my satisfaction, I shook out the ABS sanding dust and flipped the face over to the outside, resting it solidly on my workbench. Taking my utility knife and snapping the blade to reveal a sharp edge, it was a simple matter to just trace around the teeth openings with the tip of the knife and clear out the rest of the waste.




There's still a lot of plastic flange at this point and the shapes of teeth openings are still rough, but just keep working the openings till almost all the flange is gone. And for the moment, he's still smiling at me. Now, I moved over to my needle files, and worked those openings to refine the shapes.




I just keep working those files and continued the refining, occasionally flipping the face over and working from the opposite side -- that allowed me to work those teeth from behind at another angle. Also, I jumped around with my needle files, too. The flat one with the square edges worked best on the long, flat sides of the openings, while the triangular one really let me square those corners. The tapered file also helped get those corners nice and sharp.


When I considered the teeth as perfect as I was going to get them, I folded a small piece of fine sandpaper and stuck it through each opening just to smooth those edges a bit. Not much, just enough to remove any sharpness or remaining flange or cutting pieces.


I'm pleased with how the teeth came out. And while he's frowning now, I'm smiling.


OK, that's it for today. Next up will be Part II of the helmet construction. Before actually assembling the bucket, though, I think I'll figure out how I want to mount the lens while everything on the inside of the face is still easy to access.

Edited by A.J. Hamler
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Helmet, Part II -- Bucket list


Haven't had a chance to work on my kit this weekend -- went to my first troop as a squire yesterday!  But last night I picked up where I left off, and decided to do some painting before I tackled the lenses.  


Now, I have to say it up front: I ain't no painter.  I can barely paint a straight line which, unfortunately, happens a lot when painting a Stormtrooper bucket.  With that in mind, I give myself as many aids and shortcuts I can come up with.  Painting a room is easy, as there's a nice sharp corner at the ends of each wall.  It's fairly easy to follow that with a brush because it's a sharp transition, usually 90 degrees.  For most of the things you're painting on a helmet, however, there is no hard line or transition where the paint should start and stop.  That is, the plastic tends to slope gently to another plane, so there's nothing to follow with the brush as in my room-painting analogy.  I find that painting surfaces like that is easier if you create a hard line to guide your brush.  I did that with a pencil by holding the tip at a 45-degee angle and just following the outline of what I want to paint.




Above, I'm outlining the Vocorder, but I also did all of the teeth the same way.  Regular pencil is perfect -- it's easy to see, and rubs right off with a fingertip.  


The next shortcut I took was to use the right brushes.  A round-tip brush is perfect, especially for the round ends of those Vocorder sticky-up things.  The brush has a nice round profile from the top, and it's good and flat from the side.




I took my time with the painting, and everything came out OK.  Not great -- I've seen some fantastic paint jobs some of you folks have done, and I'm sorely jealous -- but I'm satisfied it's the best I can do.




After the paint dried overnight, this morning I laid out a towel to protect the front and flipped the face plate over and started on the lens mounting on the inside.  I know some like to install the entire piece of plastic, securing it to the side screws, but I didn't want that whole big piece of plastic in there, plus I wanted more control of getting the lenses smoothly against the eye openings.  Attaching it with the helmet or ear screws is too much tricky juggling for me.  Checking other builds I've seen several clever ways of securing these, but I like Slyfox's way of using epoxy putty (JB Weld) and embedding some sort of screw post.  I think he used computer standoffs, while others have used T-nuts.  I opted to use plastic wall anchors, the type you can just screw into drywall.  I also took a tip from Slyfox and only used two mounts for each eye -- he's right, you really only need anchors at the lowest spot of the curved eye openings on top and bottom.  The screw will pull the lenses down and curve them to fit the openings perfectly flush.




The putty really holds those huge flange-like threads on the anchors tightly, plus the plastic is easy to cut and size for the perfect amount of standoff from the helmet.  I just snipped them to the right length with a pair of side-cutters, and smoothed the tips a bit on some sandpaper.  Before embedding them in the putty, I first drove a screw into each to set the threading in the opening which will make driving the screws in with the lenses a bit easier.  I mixed up a small wad of putty for each, pressed it around the plastic mounts and then set each in place in turn.




Each time I pressed a putty mount into place, I took my lens templates (made of some thin clear plastic so I could see what I was doing) and pressed the lens down onto the still pliable putty mount.  This pressed the putty flush with the edge of the eye opening.  With all four mounts in place I headed into the house for some chow to give the putty time to set.


When the epoxy putty had cured I did a dry assembly of the helmet.  Now, if you've followed the builds here of anyone else making an AM 4.0 helmet, you know it goes together a little wonky.  When I got the brow of the dome where I wanted it (about 1/8" above the ridge over the eyes on the face plate, I couldn't get the side tubes to line up;  if I lined up the side tubes first, then the dome brow was way too low.  Also, looking at the sides, there wasn't quite enough room to get the tube stripes on.  Yeah, I know the CRLs say you can have anywhere from 9 to 16 stripes, but I didn't want to cut my decals and force them in.  So I did some cutting.




I started by trimming back each side "flap" of the dome/back (the AM 4.0 has a one-piece back now) by about 1/4" inch.  Not much; just enough to check the fit.  I could always trim more.  Note above that I first drilled a hole at that sharp junction between the side and dome.  You can see the difference in the before/after shots below.




On the left is the original side flap, and on the right the new edge after trimming.  As a bonus, the rubber brow trim strip would now sit flush with the back of the traps.  A test dry-fit showed that the fit was much better, but the brow was still too low.  I could force everything where I wanted, but I didn't want to put that much tension on the assembly.  Instead, I trimmed the front edge of the dome about 3/16" in the center, tapered toward that holes I drilled at the junction of the dome and sides.  Another dry fit and it was perfect -- no struggling to get everything to line up at the side tubes, the brow was right where I wanted it, and I gained some more room on the tubes for stripe placement.


Before taking the plunge with the final assembly, I made one more trim.  I absolutely HATE unnecessary sharp edges and corners.  You'll see why later.  So I cut the sides of the face plate to give them a nice rounding.




After that, I trimmed those top corners, too.  None of this is seen, of course, but it eliminates some sharp edges inside the helmet.  God knows that between plastic edges, screw tips, nuts and bolts, electronics and what have you, there's already enough sharp stuff in there.


OK, the point of no return; time to start fastening things.  I opted to skip the screws included with the armor -- again, didn't want screws sticking out -- and decided to rivet the helmet together.  Before starting I went ahead and applied the decals to the front traps as well as the rubber brow trim strip simply because I'm a cranky Old Fart and didn't want to mess around with them after the bucket was assembled.  With the brow set where I wanted and clamped into place, and then the sides clamped to hold everything solid, I drilled a pair of holes through the flaps and into the sides of the face plate.  The uppermost screw went into the outer round portion of the flap, while the lower one was just above the angle where the tubes start.  Then a quick count to three, and I sank those rivets into place.




There already wasn't too much of a gap there, but those rivets really pulled everything together nicely.


OK, let's take a look at what we got.





In all, I'm very pleased with how it came out.  Next, I'll tackle those ears.  And after all the horror stories I've read about ears in the builds, I ain't looking forward to that.


Oh, hey... remember what I said above about not liking sharp edges?  Well, it seems traditional around here to post examples of the general carnage that building a set of armor can wreak on the body, so here's my first blood.




Ouch.  I did that on the bottom edge of the back/dome piece while trimming those side flaps.  Damn.  Added to that other scar on my forearm (a remnant of tendon surgery a couple years ago) the scar this thing will undoubted leave will have me looking like a junkie.


A somewhat crankier Old Fart junkie.



Edited by A.J. Hamler
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Nice and clean!  Great work on the lid.  Go slow on the ears.  I'm sure that with the detail you're paying to the build so far, you won't have any problems!

Sorry to hear about the scrape, but you know now that it's part of being fully initiated as a TK.  Mine was a quarter-sized blood blister on my thigh due to two n50 magnets slipping off of my desk and falling onto my leg at the same time.  The magnets quickly found each other, my flesh got in the way.  

Keep up the good work!

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I'll continue with the build shortly, but I've hit my first issue.  


I didn't plan to trim the helmet neck opening until after the ears were installed -- pretty much like everyone else, I guess -- but when estimating the distance from the edge for placing the screw my eye got fooled by the extra material I'd be cutting away.  As a result, I think the screw is way too close to the rim after trimming.




I did a test fit of the S-trim, and although it goes over the head of the screw more or less all right, it bumps right up against the nut on the inside, not allowing the S-trim to seat properly.  Also, as you can see I probably need to trim that spot a hair more to remove that jagged overlap of the helmet front and back, but with the screw there I can't.


As an aside, I trimmed that ear pretty nicely, but once the screw was in it didn't quite hold it down on the curved portion of the bottom "Y" shape of the ear.  (You can see that in the photo above.)  I'm thinking that with the screw so far down at the end of the Y shape it just doesn't have enough leverage to press the that curve of the Y shape tightly against the cheek.


So... should I re-drill and relocate the screw a bit higher up and, if so, how far from the rim?





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So... should I re-drill and relocate the screw a bit higher up and, if so, how far from the rim?



This happened to me on my RS lid- I installed the screw too close to where the S trim needed to be, and the S trim wouldn't fit.  Gah!


So, yes, remove the screw and repair the hole with some ABS paste.   Don't worry too much about getting the repair perfect because it'll be covered by the S trim anyways.


I would test fit the S trim on the helmet before installing a new screw.  Tape down the ear at the cheek if you need to secure it, and put the S trim on.  Mark the edge of the trim with a pencil and remove the trim.  You should now have a good idea of where you should install your screw.  Hope this helps!

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So, I should trim the neck opening first before setting the bottom of the ears I guess. The way the front and back halves of the AM 4.0 helmet overlap at the neck opening is very jagged and uneven -- you can see what it's like AFTER trimming in the photo above. Here's what the other side looks like before I trimming:




BTW, the bottom edge of the ear's "Y" at the bottom comes almost all the way to the untrimmed edge.



Edited by A.J. Hamler
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  • 2 weeks later...

Helmet, Part III – Lend me your ears


Well, no, I don’t need your ears.  I made my own.  Keep yours.


It’s been a while since my last update; been busy with all that annoying "work" stuff that gets in the way of my personal fun and enjoyment.  Plus, we’re in the process of selling our house, so fun keeps taking a backseat.  The ears went fine, but I did have some issues.  I'll flesh out the details when I get to that step.


As with any ear-trimming and mounting, this was a slow process.  Fortunately, the AM 4.0 helmet ears come very nicely trimmed (as does everything in this kit), so all the rough trimming is already done for you.  The whole process of trimming ears is just an incessant repetition of trying the fit, marking the high spots in pencil, sanding/cutting the high spots, and trying the fit again.  Then rinse and repeat a few hundred times till you’re satisfied with the fit.


I find I'm using a sanding drum on my rotary tool a lot in this build, but when I want both speed and control of what I'm doing, for my money nothing gets the job done better than a sanding block with coarse paper.




For fast waste removal, I use 80-grit paper.  For flat or convex areas of the ears I use my regular flat block, and for concave areas sandpaper wrapped around a nice fat dowel does the trick.  The coarse paper removes waste to my pencil marks quickly and evenly.  When everything fits to my satisfaction, I'll do a final sanding of that edge with some 150-grit.  For now, I'm almost there.




A bit more sanding on the first ear and I was finally pleased with the fit, so I clamped it in place and drilled the top two screw holes.  Then it was just a matter of slipping the screws into place and adding the nylon lock nuts on the inside. 




Yikes, those screws really stick out on the inside. To avoid turning my armor into an iron maiden -- the torture device, not the band -- note to self to trim those impalers off later.  OK, moment of truth; let's see how it turned out.





Oh, yeah, that's what I'm talkin' about.  I was thrilled with the fit.  It was perfectly flush in the back, with only the slightest gap in the front.  Once I add the bottom screw it'll pull it tight.  Or so I thought.  As it happened, however, my thrill was short-lived.  When I added the bottom screw, getting the angle just right was extremely difficult and I must have had the angle off a bit because even though the ear fit almost perfectly initially, tightening down the bottom screw skewed it, creating a big gap front and back.  On top of that, once I trimmed the neck opening I realized that in addition to getting the angle off, I'd placed the screw too close to what would become the trimmed edge.  Couldn't get the S-trim on.




Well, poop.  Double poop.  Imperial-level poop.  So, I'm no longer pleased with my ear fit because the screw skewed it -- generally, I eschew screw skewing whenever possible -- I figured it was time to do my first build repair consisting of drilling a new hole and filling the old one which, of course, is a job for ABS paste.


Although this is my first TK build ever, it's not the first time I've worked with ABS paste so I'll pass on what works for me.  When mixing up paste the smaller and/or thinner the pieces of ABS, the faster the acetone will liquefy it.  Rather that tediously snip or cut small pieces of ABS with scissors or a knife, I grab one of my block planes instead.  As a woodworker any of my small planes will do, but I have this little baby plane I use for lightly beveling sharp edges when I make furniture that was perfect.  Just secure a sheet of ABS in a vise (or clamp to the edge of a table or other work surface), and start going to town on that edge like this:




It slices, it dices and it juliennes -- if this was a potato, I'd have the best hash browns in town.  Just look at those little curlicues.  Look at them!  Since I'll likely need more ABS paste before I'm through with this project, I just went ahead and curled me up a big ol' mess of these I can just put in a baggie or something till needed.


Now it's just a matter of dropping my ABS hash browns into a small jar with acetone and mixing it up.  If you elect to try this method, you'll be pleased with how quickly it mixes up.




Now, what's the best consistency for ABS paste?  Reading here in the forum I've found "toothpaste," "yogurt," "pudding" and at least a dozen other descriptions but here's what works for me.  I've found that the more liquid the paste is, the better it fuses to the parts.  So I mix mine up so that when I pull my mixing stick out of the goo, it tries to drip off the stick but can’t quite.  For me, anything thicker just creates too many troublesome ABS paste "strings" that get all over everything.  I keep the mix as thin as I can without it actually dripping off my applicator stick, and that gives me the best results.


OK, back to those ears.  I drilled a new hole higher up on the base of the ear, but once again my angle was off in the new spot, and once again it skewed my great-fitting ear out of place.  So, the hell with this, methinks, I won't even use a screw.  And you're saying, A.J., what are you, drunk?  You gotta have a screw there.  The CRL says so.  Well, just wait. 


I removed the screw and dabbed a healthy wad of ABS behind the lower "Y" shape of ear and lightly clamped it in place (which, in the process, filled the old too-low hole).  As the paste was setting, I clipped the screw off so it was less than the thickness of the helmet at that spot, then squirted some ABS paste into the hole and pressed the shortened screw into place.  The end result was that the ear is solidly attached without skewing, it still has a screw in place to visually satisfy the CRL, and everybody’s happy.




The S-trim pretty much covers the filled hole, so I didn't bother to refine the filling. From this point it was just a matter of repeating all of the above steps to attach the ear on the opposite side of the bucket.


With the ears done, it's on to the Hovi mic tips.  Spoiler alert: Just as I used an unconventional means of getting those ears just right, I did something unconventional for the mic tips, too.  Gosh, whatever could it be?  Find out next time.



Edited by A.J. Hamler
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Hey, I love the creativity on your fixes!!!  That fix for the stubborn ear screw is awesome.  I shall steal it.

And I'm going to steal your idea for using a wooden dowel to help shape that inner ear, too.


I wish I had a wood planer now.  Those hash brown ABS curls are making me think about getting one.  (I have another build coming soon!)   What a great way to get ABS paste cooking faster.  Nice!

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From one O.F. to another I love your tips and out-of-the-BBB thinking on the creative solutions  :jc_doublethumbup:

Just a question, so you left a "decorative" screw head on the bottom of the ears and effectively solvent welded them in place?

Obviously since I am from the ANOVOS (read as super thin armor) masses, I am VERY careful when it comes to ABS past and heat guns. And yes I've used both quite a bit during my build, but not without interpretation.  ;)

They look absolutely fantastic, but ( and same reason I won't plastic dip and cheese cloth the inside of my helmet), for whatever reason, I like to leave everything easily removable (as in replaceable) since I already had one issue with my faceplate, I guess I'm just paranoid about long term maintenance?


Any way, welcome to the ranks and very nice build thread that I will be following for more O.F. tips  :laugh1:

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Beautiful Build A.J..


Loving the clean cuts, sanded edges, planning, and paint. Keep up the awesome quality! :duim::smiley-sw013:


I hope you're shooting for EIB or Centurion!! :jc_doublethumbup:

Edited by 68Brick
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Just a question, so you left a "decorative" screw head on the bottom of the ears and effectively solvent welded them in place?


Yeah.  It's just welded at the bottom, though, so if for some reason I wanted to replace those ears -- and I can't imagine why -- I could do it.  Since the welding is at the bottom it'd be easily repairable, and the S-trim covers it anyway.  I decided not to worry about it.



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Beautiful Build A.J..


Loving the clean cuts, sanded edges, planning, and paint. Keep up the awesome quality! :duim::smiley-sw013:


I hope you're shooting for EIB or Centurion!! :jc_doublethumbup:


Thanks, Brad!  Yes, I'm definitely going for EIB right off the bat.  Don't know about Centurion, though, as the CRL calls for hand-painted everything on the helmet and I'm not sure I could do that to my satisfaction.  I like the idealized clean look of the decals, and I could never get them that nice by hand.



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Helmet, Part IV – I like mic


It doesn’t matter what kit you get, everybody’s armor has a trouble spot in the helmet -- actually, a pair of them -- that’s universal: It’s those deep holes/sockets/wells/depressions the Hovi mic tips fit into.  Because of the nature of vacuum-forming and how the plastic is stretched, there’s no way to avoid a thin spot somewhere in those holes.  Hold your helmet’s faceplate up to the light and it’ll shine right through.  Press your finger into one of those spots and it may also go right through.  As a result, it’s a good idea to beef those spots up in some manner before drilling and attaching the mic tips.  Epoxy putty or gluing on scrap ABS from the back are two common ways.


The mic tips are already annoying anyway.  You’re trying to mount a flat-bottomed thing into a hole with a rounded bottom.  They simply will not seat securely unless you really tighten down the nut holding them in place, and to do that you run the risk of pulling everything right through the thin spots.  Even if you don’t damage the plastic, the chances of the mic tip pointing off in an unintended angle is high.  And to make it all the more fun, if a maddening task can be fun, if your armor is well made in relation to screen accuracy then those holes probably aren’t even the same shape, so whatever you do to fix one you have to do differently to fix the other.


Well, I addressed all of those annoyances with a single fix.  And, like my fix involving those bottom screws on the ears, and I decided not to attach the mic tips with screws here, either.  Well, not directly anyway.  Instead, I used JB Weld epoxy putty, although any brand that comes in white or off-white will do.


After painting up the mic tips, I went ahead and slipped the supplied screws into place in each of them, followed those with the little supplied lock washers, and tightened everything down with the supplied nuts.  Then, I clipped off the screws to leave about 1/8" sticking out the bottom.


http://i499.photobucket.com/albums/rr355/ajhamler/AJ Stormtrooper Build/TK 34 lo-res.jpg


Epoxy putty is plenty sticky, but that nub of a screw sticking out will really let the putty grab the mic tip securely.  The screws trimmed, I set the mic tips aside and scored the bottom of the holes where the putty would rest.


http://i499.photobucket.com/albums/rr355/ajhamler/AJ Stormtrooper Build/TK 35 lo-res.jpg


Do this carefully!  It’s thin there, remember.  The idea here is just to thoroughly score the plastic surface with light scratching, not cut through the plastic.  Mix up a wad of putty and press it onto the bottom of one of the mics to fully engage the nib of the screw, then form it into a round mound like this.


http://i499.photobucket.com/albums/rr355/ajhamler/AJ Stormtrooper Build/TK 36 lo-res.jpg


Because the shape of your helmet holes may differ from the AM 4.0 it’s difficult to say how much you’ll need, but I used a putty ball not quite the size of a marble.  Press the mic tip into the helmet hole and push firmly into place until it bottoms out.  If you have lots of putty gooshing out around the bottom you used too much.  Just pull it out, pinch off a bit of putty, round it over and try again.  Likewise, if nothing gooshed out when you pressed it in, pull it out and add a bit more.  The idea is that when you push the mic into place a small amount will bulge out from underneath -- not too much and not too little.  Sounds a little nebulous, I know, but it’s really not that difficult to tell.  When you have it in place with just the right amount of goosh-out, grab a thin, flat stick.  I used the same sticks I use to mix and apply ABS paste.


http://i499.photobucket.com/albums/rr355/ajhamler/AJ Stormtrooper Build/TK 37 lo-res.jpg


Using the flat of the stick, smooth out the putty bulge to push it back under the mic tip, forming it into the same shape as the mic tip base.  Steady the mic tip with your thumb to keep it oriented the way you want.  What you’re doing here is merely directing as much putty as you can back under and in line with the base of mic tip itself.  If you look down into the hole later, you won’t even be able to see the putty, as it’s all under the base.


Repeat with the other mic tip and let the epoxy set and harden.  The putty I used takes about an hour.  When everything’s done, the mic tips are securely attached and the hole has been reinforced at the same time.


This will also work with Hovi mic tips that have been converted to speakers, like those Ukswrath offers.  In that case, you’ll need to drill a hole at the bottom of the opening for the post and wires to go through, but everything else works the same.


This is the last structural thing to do to the outside of my helmet, so let’s flash forward a bit.  I attached the lens onto the lens posts I installed earlier, followed by applying the decals for the traps, or you can paint yours, if you prefer.  Then I added the tube stripe decals (or paint them if you like), and finally painted the ears.


With the exception of the single black stripe on the ears, I’m considering the outside of my helmet done.  Next, I'll move to the inside for the frown mesh, suspension and electronics.  But meantime, here's a walk-around to take a look:


http://i499.photobucket.com/albums/rr355/ajhamler/AJ Stormtrooper Build/TK 38 lo-res.jpg

http://i499.photobucket.com/albums/rr355/ajhamler/AJ Stormtrooper Build/TK 39 lo-res.jpg

http://i499.photobucket.com/albums/rr355/ajhamler/AJ Stormtrooper Build/TK 40 lo-res.jpg

http://i499.photobucket.com/albums/rr355/ajhamler/AJ Stormtrooper Build/TK 41 lo-res.jpg


Lastly, another ABS cutting mishap to share, this one more painful than the one from earlier I managed to do to my arm.  I mean, that was just flesh and blood.  This was my favorite shop shirt!


http://i499.photobucket.com/albums/rr355/ajhamler/AJ Stormtrooper Build/TK 42 lo-res.jpg



Edited by A.J. Hamler
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  • 2 weeks later...

We're preparing to move to a new home, so haven't done a lick of work on my armor.  However, I did want to go ahead and order my Kittell belt so I did a test fit of the ab and kidney sections to measure.  Clam-shelled it with blue tape, and once it was secured put it all on to find that...


...it fits perfectly right out of the BBB.  No, I mean it fits exactly spot-on at the sides.  No gaps, not too tight, not too loose.  Since this is an AM kit, does this mean that I'm extremely lucky, or heftier than I thought?


I know which I'd prefer to think...



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