Monday, September 21, 2020

Second Sister Costume from Jedi: Fallen Order Part 1: Prototyping and Molding the Helmet

I tend to be pretty late to the show when it comes to video games.  I didn't pick up any of the Halo games until Reach came out and the first Fallout game I played was Fallout 4.  It's not that I don't love gaming, it's just that simpler games don't really interest me and I don't tend to have enough time to really dedicate my time to playing through anything with a good narrative.  That said, I'd been hearing so many good things about Jedi: Fallen Order that it didn't take me long to pick up a copy for the PS4.  Now I pretty much suck at playing video games, so I'm still only about halfway through the story.  Specifically, I'm stuck on the part where we meet this lady for the second time:
In-Game screenshot

That's the Second Sister, one of the Imperial Inquisitors on a mission to hunt down the remaining Jedi sometime between Order 66 and the beginning of A New Hope.

Because I suck at gaming, she's been repeatedly kicking my butt in a lightsaber duel that is likely going to take me days to figure out.  But that hasn't stopped me from wanting to bring this character to life.  Originally was just going to shop around for a nice, smooth 3D model so I could print the helmet and call it done, but I never came across one that I was happy with.  Instead, I decided to start with the in-game 3D model which someone was good enough to rip and post online.  Here it is imported into Netfabb:
2nd sister in-game model 001

At first glance, the model is a bit of a mess.  That's because it includes everything.  Soft parts, body parts.  Even her hair, eyes, and teeth are mixed in there.  After deleting the geometry I didn't need, here's what the hard parts looked like:
Game Files

Much better.

Here are the hard parts imported into Armorsmith for a digital test fit on a slightly taller than average female figure:
Game Files scaled

If you've never heard of Armorsmith, it's a tremendously helpful tool to do virtual test fitting of your costumes before you commit a bunch of time to making something the wrong size.  You can get more information and check out the software here:

I usually have at least a dozen random costume and prop projects running simultaneously.  While I am always pretty gung ho about them when I start, sometimes I lose steam and things find their way to the backburner or get filed away in storage until I get back to them "someday."  Since I know this about me, I've gotten into the habit of starting armored character projects with the helmet.  That way, if that's all I end up getting done at least I've got a piece that will look cool hanging on the wall.*

Taking a couple of slices out of the helmet model, I printed a quick and dirty size tester.  Here's Dr. Girlfriend trying it on:

It fit her 21.5" head with room to spare, but it was a bit snug on my 23.5" head:

Satisfied that this was a good size for her (and potentially an adequate size for me) I went ahead and printed all of the helmet parts:

At a glance, it looked good:

But it turned out to be really snug in the cheek area:

Looking back at a full-color render of the in-game model, it was even worse for the on-screen character:
Cheek Mesh Problem

That bit of pallid, sickly skin tone is her cheekbone sticking out through the geometry of the helmet.  So I had to make it a tiny bit bigger.  I also changed the angle of the cheek vent area to make the cheek indents a bit shallower.  The larger modified model is almost indistinguishable from the original test:

When Dr. Girlfriend tried it on, it still looked good:

So I got to work smoothing it out.  Step one was rough sanding the whole thing to knock the corners off of the low-poly print:

Then a layer of Bondo and some more sanding:

At the end of the day it looked like so:

The next day I printed the shoulders, belt buckle, ears, and rank bars:

I also printed the inner skirt section:

In order to fit a wider variety of sizes, I decided to widen the neck opening a bit:

Here's the helmet after the second bodyshop session:

In order to get someone's head in through the tiny neck hole, I've decided to mold and cast the jaw separately so it can be removable.  To ensure the two parts mate up properly, I covered the end of the jaw in masking tape and a thin coat of vaseline.  Then piled up some Bondo on the edge of the inner skirt and pressed the jaw into place.  When the Bondo had mostly cured, I roughed out the shape with a knife:


To make the jaw thinner (and more importanly, lighter) I ground out most of the inner geometry with sanding drum on my Dremel:

Then did a quick and dirty job of fairing it out with some more Bondo and 60-grit sandpaper:

At the end of the third bodyshop session, I gave the helmet dome a coat of gray primer to see where I stand:

Helmet Body Primed

Jaw Interior Finalized

Happy that it was smooth enough to proceed, I went ahead and gave it my customary gloss coat of lightish red paint:
Shiny Prototype Done 1

Shiny Prototype Done 2

Shiny Prototype Done 4


I started by mounting the helmet to some cardboard scraps:
Main Helmet Moldmaking

Then wrapped it in plastic wrap:
Main Helmet Moldmaking

The surface was covered with a 3/8" layer of oil-based clay with ridges here and there to act as registration keys and allow bubbles to escape.  A small cup was positioned at the highest point to form a funnel:
Main Helmet Moldmaking

Then I added a mold flange:
Main Helmet Moldmaking

And laid up the first half of the fiberglass mothermold:
Main Helmet Moldmaking

Once the first half was cured, I removed the clay parting wall and prepped the other side for layup:
Main Helmet Moldmaking

By the end of the day, I was pretty exhausted but I'd just finished the second side of the mothermold:
2nd Sister Helmet Mold Progress

Once the glass had cured, I drilled a series of bolt holes along the flange:
2nd Sister Helmet Mold Progress

Then, using a pair of regular screwdrivers and exceptional, masculine brawn, I separated the two halves of the mothermold:
2nd Sister Helmet Mold Progress

With the mothermold set aside I removed the clay, taking care not to disturb the cardboard glued to the bottom of the helmet:
2nd Sister Helmet Mold Progress

Then I clayed up the lower end of the helmet and added registration dimples all the way around:
2nd Sister Helmet Mold Progress

With the helmet thus ready for a rubber jacket, I used hot glue to reseal the mothermold in place,
2nd Sister Helmet Mold Progress

In order to ensure expensive liquid silicone wouldn't drool out and end up all over the place, I used probably too much hot glue on all of the edges:
2nd Sister Helmet Mold Progress

Once I was convinced it was all sealed, I mixed and poured in the silicone. This creates a rubber jacket with a nice uniform thickness and no wasted rubber, but there are tons of things that can go wrong in the process.
2nd Sister Helmet Mold Progress

In this case, nothing went wrong and the first portion of the mold was complete.  So it was on to making the next part of the mold.  I started by removing the cardboard that had been attached to the bottom of the helmet and cleaning up the surface of the mothermold.  Then attached a new cardboard skirt to the inner edge with hot glue:
Helmet Mold Bottom Cleaned
NOTE: the binder clips are there to temporarily hold the parts together while the hot glue cools.  Otherwise I've got to stand there like an idiot and hold them with my fingers (which get scorched in the process).

Once that was done, I added more clay to form the shape of the lower section of the rubber jacket.  Once again, a small cup was positioned at the highest point to form a funnel:
Helmet Inner Jacket Formed

As before, this was fiberglassed over, then the clay was removed and the resulting void was filled with silicone rubber.  Then it was time to demold and remove the prototype:
2nd Sister Mothermold Removal

Here's the finished upper section of the mold:
2nd Sister Helmet Mold Upper Portion Cleaned Out

And the uglier but just as effective lower section of the mold:
2nd Sister Helmet Mold Lower Portion

Here's the whole assembly bolted together and ready to use:
2nd Sister Helmet Mold Ready

The mold for the jaw section was handled in pretty much the same way.  Here are the parts once they were all separated:
Jaw Mold Trimmed and Cleaned

Casting the jaw was a simple matter of injecting resin into the sprue on one side until it drooled out of the vent on the other side:
Jaw Poured

This is the first set of cast parts out of the mold:
First cast is successful.

After trimming the flashing and cleaning up the edges, the eye slit was cut out and she was really starting to take shape:
Trimmed helmet front quarter

Trimmed Helmet Up Right

But I'll write more about the finishing of the helmet in the next post about this build.

I was still excited about the build and not really ready to get back to the game and having this lady hand me my own ass a few dozen more times, so I continued making parts.  Tune in next time for the fascinating saga of prototyping and molding the other hard parts.

*I'm still living on a boat with no place to display any of my finished works.  Given the number of helmets I've completed at this point, whenever I move into a house again it's going to have to have one hell of a wall.


  1. Great to see you posting again, i regularly check your blog. Your work is brilliant and your writing style is great. Keep going!

    1. Thank you for commenting. It's nice to know that folks are actually reading my blog. I've been getting a bit discouraged by the lack of traffic.

      I'll try to step up my writing schedule. :)

    2. I read every post. Sometimes takes a while before I get to it, though.