Mike Branski

4 minute read

Let’s see, the last time I talked about my stormtrooper project was almost a month ago. Despite not sharing my progress here, I *have* been hard at work on it (okay, okay, I’ve had my bouts of laziness and procrastination with it, too). I’ve been keeping friends updated through chat, and keeping The RPF community updated in my build thread over there. I can’t stress enough how awesome that community is and how instrumental they’ve been in my inspiration for and knowledge of this project. However, this isn’t instant message, and you’re not The RPF, and it’s long overdue for an update here!

When we last left off I was just beginning the project’s build. I had part of the helmet folded, and that was about it. Well, I’ve come a long way in that time. I finished the pep build of the helmet, applied the resin, fiberglassed the inside, and started on some armor pieces.

Note: You can see these photos and more in my Costumes set on Flickr.

Stormtrooper Helmet Pepakura - Front LeftFinished helmet (minus the ears)

Too Much HardenerToo much hardener turns the resin to jelly too fast

Stormtrooper Helmet PepakuraHelmet with inside fiberglassed

Stormtrooper Helmet Pepakura - InteriorInterior view of helmet. The rectangles are the scotch tap.

After getting tired of working with fiberglass resin, I decided to order a gallon kit of Smooth-Cast 320, which arrived last Friday. Smooth-Cast 320 is still a resin, but it has so many benefits over the “traditional” fiberglass resin route, such as… It’s way easier to mix; simply combine one part A with one part B, stir, and voilá! It also doesn’t have an odor anywhere near as offensive. I was working for 15 minutes with it when I realized I forgot my respirator. Indoors. That’s how little this stuff stinks. (I still wear my respirator, though; better to be safe!)

The one thing that’s been problematic is the pot life, which is just three minutes, and do they mean three minutes! My first batch I clearly over-estimated what I’d be able to use in that time…

Hardened Smooth-Cast 320Wasted resin that cured too quickly to be used in time

After that disaster, I cut the amount down by half. Still way too much. At $100 for a gallon kit, I was pretty annoyed with myself. Now I’m mixing 12 – 1 tablespoon of parts A to B, and it’s working great. The only thing is you go through brushes like there’s no tomorrow.

Smooth-Cast 320 Ruins Brushes FastOne throw-away brush every three minutes…

Realizing there had to be a better way, I remembered a technique called slush casting, which is really just pouring the resin inside the model and slushing it around the interior. This gives it a nice, even coating with a smooth finish and minimal air bubbles. It also doesn’t destroy a brush!

Although the three minute pot life means you have to work fast, this stuff also cures in an incredibly short time. After 10 minutes I can easily handle the piece with no tackiness or odor. Waiting 30 minutes for good measure, I can quickly apply an additional coating without needing to go hours between applications.

Finally, after over a week of putting it off, I trimmed most of the excess fiberglass from the helmet. Unfortunately, I just have the sanding discs that came with the rotary too, and they suck.

Trimming the fiberglass - broken sanding discCheap rotary tool sanding discs

Ahh, nice and smooth! Switched to the sanding drum and it went so much easier.

Trimmed Helmet - InteriorExcess fiberglass sanded away

Just a little more work around the mouth area once I get some new discs to get in the tight spots.

Trimmed Helmet - FrontFront view of trimmed helmet

It feels good to be making progress! Tomorrow (actually, today now) I’ll applying my first layer of Bondo for smoothing and shaping the helmet. I’m also going to give fiberglassing with the Smooth-Cast a go. I can see it being frustrating with the three minute pot life, but it’d really reinforce the pieces. While I’m happy I got the Smooth-Cast, I’m definitely going with the 321 next time, which has a longer pot life and a longer curing time, but still shorter than the resin I was using.

Stay tuned for more!

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