About Me

My photo
I make toys for kids who don't want to grow up. I'm on the lookout for new projects. If you're interested in commissioning me to build something ridiculous, shoot me an email.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Making the Rest of the Costume for the Mandalorian Armorsmith

Back in what seems like forever ago, I made the helmet for the Armorer as seen in the first season of "the Mandalorian:"


Read about that build here: LINK

Since I can't just leave well enough alone and I have a thing for strong, capable women, I had to build the rest of her ensemble.  Here's the end result:

SWCC 2022 Armorer and Reference

To see how it was made, read on...

The chest and back armor were printed using files from DO3D.com with a few adjustments.  To speed up the printing, I sliced each piece into a series of smaller sections and fed them to my fleet of Zortrax M200 FDM printers.  After a day or so worth of printing, we taped the parts together and did a quick test fit:Chest Print Sized Properly

So far so good.

Satisfied that I'd gotten the sizing right, I started gluing the sections together and began the bodyshop work to smooth out the seams.  Here's my assistant Rachel applying Bondo in excess to fair in the edges: 


After a few rounds of filling and sanding, we were almost there:

The first round of greay primer revealed a few flaws we'd missed:

But after a couple more rounds of filling and sanding, we were ready for a nice gloss coat:
Armorsmith Chest and Back Armor Progress

The gloss coat revealed a few more flaws, so we did a couple of rounds of spot putting and sanding.  Somewhere in the middle of that process, the Lady Shawnon stopped by to try on the parts in progress:
Fur Cape Test

Once I was happy that the surface was smooth enough, the whole thing was polished up and mounted to some corrugated cardboard, then wrapped in plastic food wrap for the beginning of the matrix molding process:
Chest Ready to Mold

The clay matrix was built up 1/2" thick over the entire surface of the part.  Then raised sections were built up to allow bubbles to flow out later when the silicon was poured.  These sections would also serve as keys to help the rubber jacket register into the mothermold properly.  Finally, a parting wall was built up along the middle ridge:
Chest Ready for Matrix Molding

The backplate was a much simpler matrix since it would only require a one-piece mothermold:
Back Prepped for Matrix Molding

Once I was happy with the shape of the clay matrix, I started laying up the fiberglass mothermold.  Here's the first half of the chest mothermold:
Chest Mothermold 1st Half

The key consideration when laying up the fiberglass mothermold is to keep out any bubbles.  While this is usually a concern when laying up fiberglass parts, a bubble in the mothermold becomes a place where silicone will leak through and potentially make it tougher to demold and/or fit everything back together when it's time to cast copies in the mold.

Here's the one-piece mothermold for the backplate:
Back Mothermold

After removing the clay parting wall, I was ready to lay up the second half of the chest mothermold:
Chest Mothermold Ready for 2nd Half

The hairy excess was trimmed off of the mold flange, the surface was given a liberal smearing with petroleum jelly to keep the second half from bonding to the first half, and then the second half of the mothermold was laid up just like the first:
Chest Mothermold complete

Once that had cured, it was time to pry the two halves of the mothermold apart and remove the clay matrix:
Removing Chest Mothermold

Because we're getting pretty good at this, the clay came out nice and easy:
Cleaning Out Chest Mothermold

After trimming the edges of the mothermold, it was reassembled and glued back in place with hot glue before pouring silicone into the spout at the top to fill the void left behind where the clay was:
Chest Mold Silicone Poured

NOTE: I use a lot of hot glue here.  Like, a lot a lot.  Possibly way too much.  The idea is to seal up all of the edges all the way around in order to prevent any of the pricey liquid silicon rubber from leaking out of the edges wasting time, money, and material that could go into some other awesome project.

Here's the backplate after we'd poured in the rubber:
Back Mold Silicone Poured

Once the silicone had cured, we could remove the mothermold and take the original 3D printed masters out of the rubber mold jacket.  Here's the reassembled chest mothermold next to the newly cured rubber jacket:
Chest Mothermold Removed

Once the jacket was placed back into the mothermold, we went ahead and laid up a set of parts in fiberglass:
Chest and Back Laid Up in Fiberglass

Typically, tin cure silicon rubber will retard the curing of polyester fiberglass resins and gelcoats.  To mitigate this, I dusted the mold with a silver colored metallic powder which serves as a barrier and also installs this nifty finish onto the cast parts:
First Chest and Back Cast

Still, after a couple of not-so-awesome fiberglass pulls were attempted, we decided to opt for rotocasting them in urethane resin instead.  Here's one of the first good pulls with a quick and dirty rattlecan paint job:

Given how dimly lit most of her scenes are, we spent a lot of time deliberating over the color of the chest and back armor and finally settled on "burgundy berry metallic" from Duplicolor.  Here's a chest plate after we'd given it a bit of a blackwash to age it:
Blackwashed Chest Closeup

Blackwashing is magical.  Whenever something is shiny and clean, it tends to look fake.  A few smudges of black and dusty and suddenly it all comes to life.

Still, the sheen was all wrong, so we gave it a matte clear coat to dull the shine to something more reasonable:
Matte Clearcoat

At around this time, someone pointed out that we had missed a little raised detail on the center of the bottom lip of the chest armor.  I'm not sure how I missed it, because it shows up clear as day on screen in the show as seen here:

Yeah.  It's right there.

Rather than start over with a new mold for the chest plate, I opted to make this little detail an add-on part.  I started by pouring a bit of resin into that section of the chest armor mold:
Making the makeup widget

After making ten or twelve of these little blobs, they were trimmed down and the ends were cut square like so:

Widgets Forms

These little resin widgets were then spaced out on my smaller vacforming machine and a set of little detail parts were formed in 1/16" polystyrene.  Rough cut, they looked like so:

Widgets Formed

Once they were fine-trimmed, they were painted to match and glued in place:

After a bit more weathering, you'd never guess I'd made such an egregious oversight:
Finished Chestplates

We were feeling pretty proud of this look.  Then a few days later, Legacy Effects (the makers of the screen-used costume) released this image:
Boy did we get that color wrong.

Taken in different lighting, the image used for this cardboard standee still makes us wrong (but you can finally see that little lip detail on the bottom of the chest plate, so there's that): 

Recognizing the need for a more orange, coppery tone, we went back to work:
Color Sanding

After a bit of noodling it over, I decided on a combination of these two colors:
I might have not used the Burgundy Berry Metallic, but I bought a whole bunch of it in anticipation of possibly making more than one copy of this costume and didn't want it to go to waste.

After giving everything a coat of black primer, then a base coat of the Burgundy Berry Metallic, I dusted on a very light mist coat of the Rustoleum Desert Rose Gold.  The resulting blend got us pretty convincingly close:

After another round of blackwash, I was pretty happy with the result:
Finished Chest, New Color Scheme

Rigging the whole thing together really amounts to just bolting a bit of nylon webbing in to connect the chest to the backplate.  The bolts themselves get covered by the fur collar/cape and will also serve to hold in the woven leather shoulder pieces when I get around to making those.

So here's how it looked at this point:
Improved Colors

Tragically, that was as far as things got before COVID hit and the world shut down.

For the next couple of years, I'd intermittently dust off this project and do a bit of tinkering on the toe caps or the hammer or whatever, but it had mostly ground to a halt.  The plan had been to show it off at Star Wars Celebration: Anaheim in 2020, but that event was postponed to 2022, so this project was also set aside for later.

Now it's 2022.

With all of the hardships of the past two years, I had told myself that I wasn't going to build anything new for Celebration.  I would just pull out things I'd already worn and have a more laid-back time than I usually do at conventions.   But that was a lie.

Instead, I settled for finishing things I'd already started.  I usually have a pretty long list of backburner projects, but the Armorer costume was right on top of the list.  Somewhere along the way, my assistant Rachel had sewn up the soft parts for the undersuit: Undersuit Front

Left Sleeve Closeup

With that done, progress stalled until I could find the time and focus to sew together all of the leather parts.  I've had the rest of the costume in a bin with three full hides worth of brown leather for almost two years, but I just haven't been able to get it done.  Fortunately, a few weeks before attending Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, the Lady Shawnon offered to knuckle down, draft some patterns, and bust out all of the leatherwork.

Here she is in the early stage of working out the skirt parts:
Shawnon Working Out Paper Templates for Armorer Skirt

Starting with the easy part first, she made the boot covers.  They came out great:
Boot Covers Finished

The next part in order of difficulty was the rear flap for the skirt:
Skirt Butt Flap

The biggest piece, but not the most difficult, is the rest of the skirt:
Leather Skirt Assembly

She did a great job:
Leather Skirt Mostly Done

Of course, a few minor details ended up getting added once we were at the hotel for the convention:
SWCC 2022 Shawnon Finishing Leather Skirt

Last on the list was the gloves.  We'd tried to build the long forearm cuffs around a pair of donor gloves, but matching the color proved to be more of a pain than we'd expected.  Instead, Shawnon spent a few hours one evening stitching up a pair of gloves from scratch.  The end result was superb:
SWCC 2022 063

The whole thing could use a bit of weathering and darkening, but it was definitely good enough to take to a convention.

So the next thing you know we were at Star Wars Celebration:
SWCC 2022 Day 3 Arrival

I was a bit worried that we'd run into a lot of people dressed as this character, but by the time the weekend was over, I'd only ever seen three or four others.  We did run into a lot of this guy though:
SWCC 2022 Armorer and Din Djarin

SWCC 2022 Armor and Unmasked Din Djarin

We also got to check out the Mandalorian Experience, a massive collection of screen-used props and costumes from the Mandalorian as well as the Book of Boba Fett.  We got a great pic as we entered the exhibit:
SWCC 2022 Mandalorian Arrival

Inside, mixed in with all of the other awesomeness, was the screen-used Armorer costume.  I was really happy with our replica until I got to compare it side by side with the real deal:
SWCC 2022 Mine and Theirs

We're almost there.  I just need to make some adjustments to the leather parts so they'll be a less red version of brown, fade the undersuit to a more drab version of green, add some grunge and nappy-ness to the fur cape, and make the helmet a bit shinier.

So stay tuned for whenever I get around to upgrading it.


  1. Thanks for sharing. I have an armorer myself and feel your frustration as the screen used costume is released. Nice work!

  2. If polyester resin is out because of the tin-cure silicone, wouldn't it still be possible to add fiberglass cloth to an epoxy or urethane resin cast?

    1. Yes. In the end, we rotocast a couple of layers of urethane resin into the molds, then laid a layer of fiberglass mat into the third layer of urethane, and covered that with a fourth layer of urethane.