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TK-73692 Reporting for Duty, MaskedVengeance’s Journey to the 501st


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My journey to join the 501st Legion has followed a seemingly never ending path, and many of you have been alongside supporting me over the past several years, but for the purpose of this note I'm going to go back even further. This is my Star Wars story.

 

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I've been a lifelong Star Wars fan, and my earliest memories of the universe were from my elementary school years. While I don't remember my first film viewing, I do recall a time when my parents deemed me too young to watch the films, but I was a full-fledged fan by the time I reached middle school (school years/grades 6-8). Interestingly, I don't think I saw The Phantom Menace in theatres when I was in 5th grade in 1999 (but I did see it in 3D back in 2012 before the Disney acquisition), but I have vivid memories of seeing Attack of the Clones on the big screen in 2002.

 

Fast forward to my College/University years, and I sported my first ever star wars costume component on September 1, 2008, shown below. Really it was simply a friend's plastic Vader mask, and I only wore it long enough to snap this photo and upload it to facebook.

 

 

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Around that same time, between 2008-2010, my college buddies and I stumbled upon some "whitearmor" website, where we learned that real stormtrooper armor could be attained for a mere/whopping $600 (if I recall correctly). Of course this was out of the question on a student budget, so we moved on. At some point I should go back and review old screenshots and saved images on an old hard drive to see if I saved anything from FISD at that time.

 

Skip ahead another decade and we come to October 22, 2019 when I first donned a stormtrooper helmet. We had a themed tailgate-type event at work and the IT department had a Star Wars table. (Would you expect anything different?) At the conclusion of the event I just had to try on my friend's Black Series bucket, which perfectly complimented my silly Christmas sweater, dontcha think?!

 

I was hooked.

 

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Within a week I (re)found FISD and began consuming as much information as I could find; my saved resources would later be compiled into what is now the All-In-One Resource Thread. On November 11, 2019 I emailed Terrell at ATA Works and on the 14th facebook messaged my Imperial Attache, Jorge @zv288bot. Several days later I joined the GA Legion facebook groups, created accounts on FISD and the GA and Midsouth Garrisons' forums, and reached out to Justin @TheRascalKing. I ended my New Member Introduction post on FISD with "I look forward to joining the Legion in the not too distant future! Thanks in advance, Troopers, for all your help!", certainly not foreseeing how long the journey would actually be.

 

On November 27, 2019 I took my first real steps towards the 501st with a Trooperbay purchase consisting of my Hellhounds E-11 rubber blaster, flexible hand guards (later exchanged for Joseph's), and a helmet guide and decals. And yes, I recorded all of this on a timeline document. :smiley-sw013: But of course I also NEEDED immediate gratification, so I asked my wife for a Black Series TK Helmet for Christmas, and that's what I received.

 

 

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On January 3, 2020 I was officially added to the ATA armor wait list with an ETA of 9 weeks, and I sold a drone and some other personal items to fund the purchase. I couldn't be more excited. But for those of you keeping track of dates, do the math; January 2020 + 9 weeks. My Big Brown Box Day came on March 5, 2020, one week before the novel coronavirus shut down the US.

 

 

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While some people were able to take advantage of the lockdowns and make significant progress on their builds, much of my time continued to be occupied by then one-year-old daughter. If I made any progress on my build it occurred between midnight and 3:00am, or 5:00am-7:00am. Progress was slow and funds were tight on a single income. At one point I resigned to sell my armor, and if it were not for a very special trooper, I would not be posting this today. I will never be able to thank you enough.

 

 

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Yes, I took a photo of my clock every time worked on my build past 1:00am. The times before 4:00am meant to stayed up late, and for times after that, I woke up early. Oh, and there was one all-nighter as well.

 

 

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If I'm being honest with myself, a couple other contributing factors to my slow build were 1) the mental barrier of trimming and fitting the helmet ears, and 2) my desire for a thorough and well-formatted build thread and corresponding PDF compilation. Coupled with my OCD-like tendencies and perfectionism, these were crippling to my progress. At times I went months without any build work.

 

Two years later, in the summer of 2022, I was asked by my wife's best friend if I could make an appearance as a TK at her son's birthday party at the end of September. Since my wife and I were expecting our second daughter at the end of August I figured I would need to wrap up my build before delivery. But as luck would have it, our new princess arrived nearly three weeks early, and my armor remained incomplete. It's a miracle that I'm alive to say this, but somehow I managed to find the time to get my armor into civilian-passable shape (through 3:00am armor build nights and one all-nighter), and on September 24th, the day of the party, I fully kitted up for the very first time, literally. To say I was pushing it is an understatement, especially considering I should have done to the ER for stitches that morning after a bad hobby blade accident that night. But I was determined to make the little boy's birthday special. @paradoxb3, a brilliant armor alignment and photo stager and the first and only 501st member I've ever met to this day, even joined me to multiply the fun!

 

Here is what I looked like, with a substitute WTF helmet featuring  droopy brow trim, incomplete shoulder bridges hidden by the pauldron, neckseal dressing issues, rotated forearms, non-secured sagging belt, missing drop boxes, and many other issues that eagle-eyed TKs would notice. But I was a stormtrooper. And the smiles on all the children's (and their parents) made it worth it.

 

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Thanks to some extra motivation from Devin, Joseph, Cricket, Justin, and my now Squad Leader, Scout (TI-35006), in the four months since then I was able to complete everything needed for basic Legion approval. I do still intend to tweak some aspects of my helmet ears, adjust some strapping, and add in rear cover strips, some of which may be necessary for L2 and L3 approval. But for now, I'M A STORMTROOPER!

 

 

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I'd like to acknowledge and thank troopers that went above and beyond in their support of me over these several years of building. Some of you helped in specific areas, and others in a variety of ways, all of which I'm beyond grateful for. Without you, there's no way I get this project off the ground, must less complete it. And to any others reading this who also provided feedback, encouragement, and assistance, a big heartfelt THANK YOU!

 

 

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Along my first ever costume construction journey I learned more about stormtroopers than I could have ever foreseen. Who knew about all the variations and nuances?! I also learned a great deal about actually assembling an armor kit, and here are some specific tips in no particular order, some of which I also made note of in my build thread.

 

  1. E-6000 is as slippery as they say. Combat this by having adequate guidelines/marks so proper alignment can be maintained. Also use tape to keep pieces stationary in their intended locations before applying clamps and magnets.
  2. E-6000 will react to at least some paints. Seeping glue absorbed the color of the spray paint I used on my thermal detonator, and I was left with a wet paint mess.
  3. NEVER BE IN A HURRY. I repeat, NEVER. Consider your build a marathon, not  sprint. And actually—just completely forego the competition metaphor altogether. Being rushed will result in shortcuts or lapses in attentiveness. Your armor is a costly work of art, and art takes time. If you have to ask yourself and deliberate whether or not you have enough time for preparation, execution, and cleanup, then you probably don't. Take your time. Do things methodically. No shortcuts. Leave extra time to spare should something unforeseen arise. Case in point: my build too three years with on-and-off progress.
  4. When preparing paint, always stir the bottle instead of shaking. This minimizes or eliminates the introduction of air bubbles into the paint. Toothpicks work great to stirring tiny bottles of enamel paint.
  5. Enamel paints can take far longer to dry/cure than regular latex home paint or hobby acrylics. Give yourself ample curing time prior to recoating or handling.
  6. Apply multiple thin coats of paint rather than one thick coat. Thick coats of enamel will dry unevenly (surface vs underneath), resulting in wrinkling. As me how I know.
  7. When cutting/trimming anything, work in stages removing only a little material at a time. This can apply to rubber trim or ABS plastic. It's easy to trim off more if needed, but nearly impossible to add material back once you've removed it.
  8. LISTEN to those with more experience and wisdom. Their tips and feedback will be indispensable. Apply this to life in general as well.
  9. Buy a deburring tool. This will help you quickly and efficiently smooth out sharp edges of plastic armor after initial trimming or rough-grit sanding. Heck, it could be arguing that such a tool could even be used instead of sanding. Here is the LINK to the one I purchased.
  10. Buy sanding/polishing sticks (aka emory boards). The semi-firm structure that these provide, coupled with their small size, are great for sanding curves or tight hard-to-reach areas. Here is the LINK to what I purchased.
  11. Buy anything and everything that Joseph sells. Flexible hand guards, hardware kits, and other greeblies and props. Top quality and well priced. Just DEW IT.
  12. Always wear the appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment). When using blades, this means wearing cutting gloves. When sanding ABS, wear is mask or respirator. When using power tools, protect your eyes with glasses. It's not a question of IF an accident will happen; it's WHEN. In fact, blood will trimming armor is a rite of passage, of sorts.  I nearly sliced off my entire knuckle due to thinking one or two quick cuts didn't warrant gloves. Don't be like me.
  13. Research is key, and ask lots of questions. This forum contains all the information you'll need, whether it be in written form or through conversation with fellow builders. I'm a bit partial, but this All-In-One Resource thread is a great place to start. Start your own build thread and post lots of photos and ask as many questions. Veteran builders will come to your aid!
  14. Build your armor to Level Three (Centurion) from the beginning, rather than "upgrade" later on. Some of finer details are easier to implement from the beginning than to update after-the-fact. There's no extra cost other than for a blaster if you didn't have one for basic approval, and it'll save time and possible headaches later. Even if you don't intend to apply for higher levels of immediately, knock out some of the details in advance, if at all possible.
  15. Don't sweat it if you make mistakes or your armor or paint job doesn't look as good as somebody else's. It's your work of art to be proud of. Remember that the screen-used suits in the films were a wreck, with inconsistences, cracks, and sometimes held together by white gaff tape. There may also be differing opinions on techniques or final outcome goals, but do what you feel comfortable and happy with.
  16. Set goals and celebrate milestones, especially if your easily susceptible to becoming overwhelmed. Seeing all the raw plastic on BBB Day can be daunting, so break up the work and take baby steps. If you get burnt out on a specific component, step away from that part or your build entirely. Come back refreshed and ready to tackle the challenge. Celebrate when you meet individual goals or finish certain armor pieces and post up your handiwork so others can join in your excitement!
  17. Plan on approval photo shoots taking longer than expected. I naively thought our shoot would take half an hour. Try 2-3x that, just for my fully-kitting photos. I then spent several more hours taking the detail shots for L2 and L3. Speaking of which, L2 approval requires some images that aren't on the L3 list. Ask me how I know. :salute: @revlimiter
  18. And last but not least, trim off those armor return edges (unless you have a very slender body-type)! Joseph's sometimes controversial Return Edges 101 thread goes more in-depth on this topic. :laugh1:

 

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So now that I'm 501st approved, what next? Well, as our Imperial CO once said, "This is where the fun begins." My ANH Stunt build is just a stepping stone for my plan to join the four EI (and Centurion) approvals club. Next up will be likely be an ESB TK conversion (hey, does anybody have any clamshell handguards I could take off your hands, figuratively and literally?), followed by an ANH Hero. I also have all the components for a HWT (my build thread HERE), but the backpack assembly will take me a while, especially since I'd like to find a 3D printed vent box and a downward-angled tombstone box. Additionally, I snagged a Rothco Ranger black vest that I want to theme up with Legion identification, so I'll soon be seeking a large FISD patch to place on the back, as well as one of those nice metallic 501st nametags, a rank bar from @Alay, and perhaps even some pins from Jeff (ID-17004). And let's not get started on the coins I need want...

 

I also need to continue and finish up my actual ANH Stunt build thread, which is embarrassingly incomplete. My intention for it, along with my PDF compilation of it, has been to serve as a thorough build resource for future builders, so obviously I need to complete it. I have literally hundreds of backlogged photos waiting to be inserted with process descriptions. Expect to see updates on that front in the coming weeks and months, and even though the kit has been assembled, continued feedback on processes and results in that thread will always be appreciated!

 

On my journey I constantly saw or experienced FISD's motto of Troopers Helping Troopers, and I want to join in giving back and passing it forward. Needless to say, as a finally-credentialed TK, I'm going to continue to follow the boards and spend even more time in the New Members and Builds sections assisting new builders. Perhaps I can even join Jorge as a second Imperial Attaché in Georgia's Venator Squad, especially since the metropolitan area I actually reside near (Chattanooga, TN) has no Attaché in the Mos Nooga Squad of the Midsouth Garrison. All that to say, I'm not going anywhere. This community is my home, and I look forward to many more years with you, my Imperial brothers and sisters!

 

And trooping! What am I going to do about trooping, you might ask. Well, the local TN unit isn't very active as far I can tell, but the Georgia Garrison folks stay busy. Unfortunately, most of that activity occurs several hours south of me in Atlanta, so I'll probably be a minimally-trooping trooper. Haha. Hopefully there will be some May 4th options in my local area, but it's likely that my first ever con will be Dragoncon later this year. I'm not sure if I'd actually go to the convention floor or panels, but the parade sounds fun. If there was to be an FISD gathering at DG, I'd certainly make an effort to be there too! The next Braves Star Wars Night Game will definitely be on my schedule, and someday I'd love to participate in one of the Star Wars film screenings with a live orchestra performing the symphonic score.

 

 

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And there we have it. Perhaps the longest "Sounding-Off" post of all time. Oh, and here's the story behind my TK ID selection. Thanks again for following along, friends. And until next time...

 

TK-73692 reporting for duty.

 

 

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Jeez, this is beautiful. Dank ferrick. :th_AnimatedBravoSmiley:

 

And your post made me instantly start to reflect on the mindset that makes a person want to be a stormtrooper. The psychological strangeness in our brains that creates a burning desire to wear the white armor. It... makes no sense really. They're such humble characters in the SW universe - not heroes and arguably rather ineffective as villains. We TKs are somewhere between battle droids and clones in the narrative. We're often jokes.

 

And it's brilliant getting to be one.

 

The times in my life when my TK's universe overlaps my own and I get to walk around in his armor - they're the best times. Some of my favorite times in my 45 years. My TK isn't the brightest bulb in the fixture. He's kinda goofy, doesn't listen enough, and talks waaaay too much. But he makes people smile and I dearly love sharing his armor a few hours a month.  It's not something I can easily explain to most people in my life. It's something only a few of us understand - the joy of being a stormtrooper. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

 

Also, I currently have Dragoncon tickets. :D

 

I salute you, TK-73692. :salute: Can't wait to troop with you someday in the future. I'm overjoyed that you are also finally a stormtrooper.

 

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So awesome to see you complete this journey! Thank you for taking the time to not only tell it but do such an amazing job of documenting on this forum! And as far as I am concerned this squad and second or Georgia is definitely large enough for 2 of us. Welcome aboard trooper and come see me for that coin!

 

 

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Congratulations TK-73692! :salute: One of my most anticipated approvals! 

Your PDF will be a very valuable resource, especially comparing it with Q&A's on the forum!


Your list of learnings is valuable too! I've surprised myself many times that I still had my fingers left after slipping with the old knife! :56pullhair:

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On 1/20/2023 at 4:13 PM, TKSpartan said:

Awesome story , thanks for sharing and Enjoy being a Bad Guy Doing Good!!!

 

Thanks so much, Mario! I'm looking forward to being the bestest bad guy there is. :laugh1:

 

 

On 1/20/2023 at 6:07 PM, revlimiter said:

Jeez, this is beautiful. Dank ferrick.

 

And your post made me instantly start to reflect on the mindset that makes a person want to be a stormtrooper. The psychological strangeness in our brains that creates a burning desire to wear the white armor. It... makes no sense really. They're such humble characters in the SW universe - not heroes and arguably rather ineffective as villains. We TKs are somewhere between battle droids and clones in the narrative. We're often jokes.

 

And it's brilliant getting to be one.

 

The times in my life when my TK's universe overlaps my own and I get to walk around in his armor - they're the best times. Some of my favorite times in my 45 years. My TK isn't the brightest bulb in the fixture. He's kinda goofy, doesn't listen enough, and talks waaaay too much. But he makes people smile and I dearly love sharing his armor a few hours a month.  It's not something I can easily explain to most people in my life. It's something only a few of us understand - the joy of being a stormtrooper. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

 

Also, I currently have Dragoncon tickets.

 

I salute you, TK-73692. Can't wait to troop with you someday in the future. I'm overjoyed that you are also finally a stormtrooper.

 

Right on, Adam! Most of my family are amazed, and at the same time confused, by my TK build. :smiley-sw013: And you attending DC basically means I gotta go now. You gonna bring your kit and participate in the parade? If so, we also need to kit up and make the Chaos Div @Morgi and @Swoby proud!

 

 

On 1/21/2023 at 8:47 PM, zv288bot said:

So awesome to see you complete this journey! Thank you for taking the time to not only tell it but do such an amazing job of documenting on this forum! And as far as I am concerned this squad and second or Georgia is definitely large enough for 2 of us. Welcome aboard trooper and come see me for that coin!

 

Thanks Jorge! I'm gonna be tagging you in my Attache app when I submit. And I now have no excuse to get down to Rome, Kennesaw, Marietta, or ATL to troop and finally snag that hardware from you!

 

 

On 1/21/2023 at 10:41 PM, magni said:

Congratulations!

You finally made it.

Great story.

 

Thanks for following along, Randy! And don't worry, finishing my HWT is on the docket for this year!

 

 

2 hours ago, Nairy said:

Congratulations TK-73692! One of my most anticipated approvals!

Your PDF will be a very valuable resource, especially comparing it with Q&A's on the forum!

 

Your list of learnings is valuable too! I've surprised myself many times that I still had my fingers left after slipping with the old knife!

 

Thanks Jonatan! Now I just gotta catch up on my build thread and the PDF, which is already nearly 200 pages long! Stay safe with those blades! :D

 

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vor 5 Minuten schrieb MaskedVengeance:

And you attending DC basically means I gotta go now. You gonna bring your kit and participate in the parade? If so, we also need to kit up and make the Chaos Div @Morgi and @Swoby proud!

 

We know you're gonna make us proud -- spread some chaos for us, will you? :peace::dancing-trooper:

 

Oh, and @revlimiter? If Caleb hasn't learned how to sit down in armor until then, do me a favor and show him how ;)

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