Nov 25, 2012

Two TK Buckets

The TK Project continues! See previous post!

Nov 12, 2012

The TK Project


Introducing a new blog post category called The TK Project.

This category will document my newest costume, that of an Imperial  Stormtrooper.

Putting together a set of armor is not an easy task, and obtaining the pieces is just the beginning. Many hours of work need to be done to make the armor ready to wear. Each suit of armor is custom-fit for the person who wears it.

At long last, I have obtained TK armor, and will be documenting the process of customizing it, so that I can wear it during 501st Legion events.

In the picture above, I am with my friend Gary, wearing the armor of a late friend of mine, Marc Brugger, who passed away unexpectedly. This picture was taken two years ago after marching in the Star Wars Weekends parade at Disney World's Hollywood Studios, in Orlando. Marc had organized a bunch of us for a photoshoot at an empty office park, for a professional photographer, and since he was wearing his Darth Vader, he asked me to wear his TK.

Why do they call it TK?

Each costume in the 501st Legion is assigned a code; an Imperial Officer is ID, a TIE pilot is a TI, a biker scout is a TB, and an Imperial Stormtrooper is called a TK (in the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, an Imperial Officer aboard the Death Star calls one of the Stormtroopers who has been knocked out by Han Solo and Luke Skywalker: "TK-421, why aren't you at your post?")

This is what unassembled TK looks like:

You can't walk into a store and by TK armor. I obtained this set from a friend of a friend, who made each piece from original molds.

Each piece was made in a vacu-form machine using ABS plastic, and must be individually trimmed to fit the person who wears it. The thigh, leg, and arm pieces must all be the proper length, and an attachment system has to be created to keep it together while it is worn, which means creating a system of straps and snaps.

No two suits of TK armor are exactly the same.

Members of the 501st Legion gather on weekends to work on their costumes and swap ideas on how to improve and upgrade them during get-togethers called armor parties. To read more about armor parties, click HERE

The first piece of armor I will be working on is the bucket, or the Stormtrooper helmet which consists of several pieces, all of which have to be trimmed and assembled. Part Two of The TK Project will document this part of it.


Now that I have the armor, the real work begins, and it involves armor parties, this one taking place at my house.

Assembling movie-accurate TK armor entails a tremendous amount of work, time and commitment, as you will soon see. It also requires a great deal of skill: skill with a Dremel, and skill modifying and customizing each piece for a proper fit.

The process usually begins with the bucket, which comes in several pieces, and has to be carefully trimmed before being assembled.

When the bucket pieces are made in the vacuum-molding machine, there are no openings. The eyes and the holes in the frown have to be cut out. This is a delicate process, and has to be done just right.

An hobby knife is used to cut out the center of the eyes, but there is still more trimming that needs to be done.

Below: a pen is used to mark the areas where the excess ABS plastic must be trimmed away from the inside of the helmet. A Dremel with a rotary cutting blade is used to do this.

The excess plastic from the back part of the bucket has to be trimmed as well.

The Dremel is used once again for this task, after which the plastic is sanded to make it smooth. The back and front parts of the bucket will overlap, hiding the joint.

Opening the holes in the frown is a delicate process. The holes must be rectangular, and angled up to the center of the mask.

The first step is clearing a path with a small drill bit, and following up with a set of precision files.

Below: the holes in the frown must be as rectangular as possible, and angled toward the center. The size of the holes decrease from the center. The frown will be painted gray, masking any remaining imperfections. It is time-consuming, precise work.

One side is almost finished, but there is still more filing that needs to be done

A good friend of mine in the 501st Legion, Brian has many costumes (including a Darth Vader; we have trooped together many times) and provides guidance on making sure my trimming is being done correctly. The armor will have to be approved by The 501st Legion before I can wear it at events.

Below: trimming the frown with the precision files

Below: my TK bucket (left) sitting beside a completed TK bucket (right)

Two friends of mine who are also working on their armor do some test fittings. Each set of armor is carefully trimmed to make sure it fits the person who will wear it.

As the day winds down, my wife Deb looks at Fritz trying on pieces of his armor.

It's been a productive day; I've made a good start on trimming my bucket. Many hours of work remain, however, before my armor becomes close to being ready to wear.

Nov 8, 2012

Lowry Park Zoo

Reality has been bearing heavily on Deb and I of late, so we decided to take a day off from reality and go to the zoo, specifically the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. Enjoy this short gallery of the best pics I shot while there.

Now I ask you: how could you not fall in love with a face like this? Giraffes are such quiet, gentle animals, and display a very visible affection for each other.

The stingrays love being petted; they would flock to my outstretched hand so I could stroke their backs. As soon as I put my hand in the water they came right over, constantly circling back again, sometimes jockeying for space!

On a Wednesday, the aquarium area of the zoo is sparsely populated

Have you ever noticed that eels look like they just told a joke and are waiting for you to get it?

Nov 6, 2012

Give Yourself Permission To Suck At Something

Newsflash: It's okay to suck at something you do. Give yourself permission.

I tell my students that failure is a good thing. Embrace your failures as a learning opportunity. Failure is how you learn. I've learned more from my failures than I've ever learned from my successes.

This is a good video that reminds you that whenever you are learning a skill, be it drawing, flying a kite, building something, working on your car, you are going to suck at it for awhile.

Be comfortable with that, and give yourself permission. No one is a master of something right off the bat. The link below is worth reading to remind us that it's important to give ourselves permission to suck at something.

Nov 4, 2012

8th Annual HUGS Event

8th Annual HUGS Event, Largo Central Park, Saturday, November 3rd 2012

Once again I organized The 501st Legion's involvement in the 8th annual HUGS event at Largo Central Park, which raises money for Hydrocephalus.  This year over $7,000 was raised. 

This event is put together by my friend Paula Kaiser, a tireless advocate for people who suffer from Hydrocephalusa medical condition in which there is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. This may cause increased pressure inside the skull and progressive enlargement of the head, convulsion, tunnel vision, and mental disability. Hydrocephalus can also cause death.

The only known treatment is brain surgery every few years. This event helps raise not only awareness, but money for a cure.

Left: Kellie Lightbourne is a friend of mine who is Mrs. Universe and is a tireless advocate of helping others. She works with troubled teens, and has been on a Trooping For The Troops event with the 501st Legion at the Tampa VA last year. We may collaborate on future programs or events to help others, particularly teens.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from this event. The full album is viewable HERE.

We take the Tampa Bay Rays mascot into custody, parading him around the field with his hands behind his back. Good times!

We led the procession of walkers around the park this year, being encouraged by cheerleaders 

Kellie Lightbourne and Paula Kaiser, who organizes this event each year. Her son Jeremy has Hydrocephalus, and has already lived longer than many children who have this disease.

Below: after the troop, Legion members grab some chow, with Kellie and her daughter