Friday, December 28, 2007

501stCast Episodes 4 and 5

Where is the time going?! Okay, the fourth and fifth episodes of our official 501st Legion podcast are now available for download at We've done our first "celebrity interview" with Star Wars author Karen Traviss (of the Republic Commando series) but it wasn't edited in time for Episode 5, so listen for it in Episode 6 in January 2008. I'm also doing some Skype (you do have Skype, don't you?) interviews with 501st members who participated in the New Year's Day Rose Parade in 2007 for a special retrospective 501stCast episode. Hopefully this will be out during the first week of January as well. Honestly, you should just subscribe to the feed instead of relying on me to blog about it here, but since I like to experiment with new things I just added a 501stCast widget to the sidebar for your convenience. Just select the podcast episode and press the play button (you may have to wait for it to load 100% before you get audio).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Geek Cred, LFL-Style

One of the biggest geek milestones for a Star Wars fan has to be getting on Lucasfilm's holiday greeting card mailing list. Each year, they send out a custom-designed card to their friends, licensees, and partners. Over the past decade, the 501st has developed a great relationship with LFL...particularly in the area of fan relations. As such, many 501st members (including yours truly) are on the list! The 2007 card (featuring pop-up rows of caroling Stormtroopers) seems like it was made for us troopers. Big thanks to Steve and Mary at LFL for their thoughtfulness and support.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

'Tis the Season for Toys For Tots

Stormtroopers all across America have been working with their local U.S. Marines to help promote the Toys For Tots toy drive this time of year. The 501st Carolina Garrison is no exception, and if I was going to squeeze in one event during the holidays, it might as well be something in the spirit of the season. I'm normally in the Charlotte, NC, area, but we were visiting the in-laws this weekend which put us closer to Asheville, where TK-7404 had organized a Toys for Tots event at a local Toys R Us store. This would be my wife's first official troop since receiving her 501st ID number back in September, and as a result I ended up working the event out of costume as a handler taking photos and minding the kids. In retrospect, a giant sign explaining our presence as related to the Toys For Tots campaign would probably have helped people understand why Darth Vader was greeting shoppers on this rainy December day, but even so, we did get some donations. Here's some photos from the event.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Are You a Member of the 501st Legion?

This post is really to serve as an archive for past polls that I've put here on White Armor Chronicles. Surprisingly, it doesn't appear that Blogger has an option to archive old polls. There's probably a hack out there somewhere, but until I find it, I'll just post results like this:

Yes, I'm a 501st member. 26 votes (42%)
Not yet, but thinking about it! 31 votes (50%)
No, just visiting. 4 votes (6%)

Total Votes: 61

There. Now I can post the next poll. (See right column)

501stCast Episode 3

These official 501st podcasts are coming faster than I thought! This is old news now, but our third episode is already available for download at We resolved some audio quality issues and Rich Sigfrit (IC-9577) did an incredible job with the post-production editing this time around. Trust me, when we recorded the show, it was full of awkward pauses, mispronounced words, and inappropriate commentary! We post new podcast episodes every other Wednesday, so the next 501stCast will be available on December 12, 2007. But you wouldn't need to know this is if you simply subscribe to the podcast feed through iTunes or your favorite podcatcher.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

501stCast Episode 2

Sticking to the schedule (which I personally feel is paramount to the success of any podcast), we have just released episode 2 of the "501stCast," the official biweekly podcast of the 501st Legion. This time around, we added Lor as a third co-host, just to see how it would go. As a result, the chemistry changed and we ended up scrapping the first take entirely. There was a lot of talking over each other (which is still evident in the final recording) and things didn't flow as well with three of us doing the reporting. I have a feeling we'll go back to the 2-host formula in future episodes. Anyway, enjoy:

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Imperial Barricade Tape

As seen on , Timothy Zahn's 501st Trading Card, and even girls at Dragon*Con! I'm doing another run of custom Imperial Barricade Tape in 1000-foot (304.8m) rolls. Perfect for decorating trooping venues, designating areas "off limits", and showing your loyalty to the Empire. Continuous black imprint on durable bright yellow tape reads "IMPERIAL OCCUPIED ZONE" followed by "MOVE ALONG" in Aurebesh lettering and, of course, the unmistakable symbol of the Galactic Empire. Can be tied, stapled, nailed, or taped in place to establish a highly visible barrier. Click here to order yours!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

501st Legion Podcast Launched

Finally, after several demos and countless Skype conversations, the first official 501st Legion podcast was published on November 1st, 2007 (although we are calling it our October 31 episode)! We still have a lot to learn as we delve into podcasting, but it's a great medium and adds a bit more personality to the 501st Legion's relationships with fans and the public. You can check out the first episode, subscribe to the feed, and view the show notes at If you have some show ideas, feel free to e-mail me or reply as a comment!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Lenses (A Disclaimer)

Thanks to everyone who has tried (and fallen in love with) my single-piece flat lens mod. I make the lenses from welder's faceshield replacements and they have some small imprinted writing (a warning for welders) in one corner. It should be noted that this corner of the lens strip isn't visible through a helmet's eye holes when installed properly. So, please don't panic if you order a kit from me and it has the warning...some will have it, some won't. Here's a quick testimonial (from someone who had the writing):

I received the lenses the other day and they are great!! Really easy to install and limited, super limited fogging if any at all. I don't have any fans installed in my bucket yet, but for right now it is not needed. Thanks again bud.
-Struan R.

P.S. Sorry about the poor quality image. I'm testing out my new camera phone.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rubber Glove Upgrade

After years of reliable wear from my Nomex Hatch Flight Gloves (wow, the price has really gone up on these in the past 5 years!), I finally came across a pair of black rubber neoprene gloves this weekend in a size medium. At $6.99 US, I think they were a bit expensive for rubber gloves, but they are really nice with a 12-inch gauntlet (that tucks nicely beneath the forearm armor) and 100% cotton flock lining. I have noticed that the Hatch Flight Gloves, while comfortable and more breathable, tend to make manual tasks a little tricky. For example, it's difficult to pick up or separate trading cards from a stack because the cotton and leather are slippery. These new rubber gloves have a non-slip tire tread grip for improved dexterity. They also lack the obvious seams in the stitching of the Hatch gloves, therefore improving screen-accuracy. The exact gloves I purchased are Wells Lamont Men's Professional Neoprene SureGard gloves. Make sure you don't get the glossy "coated" ones or ones that are too long. Note: The flash from the camera washed out the color, but these are indeed a flat black.

TRIVIA: The trooper gloves worn in Episode IV: A New Hope were black rubber chemical gloves while the handback armor was stitched onto cloth gloves in Episodes V and VI.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

501st Legion Podcast Demo

Something I've been wanting to do for a long time is produce a podcast for the 501st Legion. I really enjoy The ForceCast among other podcasts, and they are a great way to pass the time as I drive to and from work every weekday. I finally got myself a decent headset microphone and put out the call for a fellow 501st member who was willing to work on the project with me. Varza (DZ-8772) answered the call and after working out a few technical issues, we churned out the first demo podcast. Click the player below to give it a listen!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New Static Box Bursts onto the Scene

It's been a while since an affordable static box was readily available (anyone remember the $35 Galaxy Trading Static Box from 2003?). The existing offerings do their job well, but they could also end up being the most expensive part of your bucket. The Trooper Com Interface is the latest low-cost alternative. At this point I should tell you that I haven't seen or heard it in action. The creator (TB-1352) wanted to give me a demo at Dragon*Con, but we ran out of time. Admittedly, this unit does not offer multiple sound effects or pre-recorded audio files like the Hyperdyne or ROM FX, but at a fraction of the cost ($85 US or $95 Int'l including shipping) it looks like a fair alternative for troopers who want the added realism of a static burst to punctuate their dialog when interacting with the public. If you get one, let me know what you think.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mrs. TK-899 Joins the 501st

After Celebration IV in Los Angeles, my wife began to entertain the idea of joining the 501st Legion. Like most people, she was intrigued by the camaraderie and philanthropy shared between like-minded Star Wars fans from around the world. After spending a week away from home for CIV, I was surprised that it was Dionne, not I, who was pushing for us to attend a long weekend in Atlanta, Georgia, for Dragon*Con. Of course, you can't attend Dragon*Con without a costume, and you can't join the 501st without a Star Wars costume...what a wonderful coincidence! We managed to get Dionne's female Tusken costume together the night before D*C and it debuted at the convention without any casualties. We submitted her application for membership in early September and just got confirmation of her official Legion ID number (4009) today! The significance of the number? She joined the Legion in the 9th month of her 40th year...shhhhhhh...don't let her know I posted that! Check out her 501st profile here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Don't Get Cocky

There's just nothing cooler than an obscure Star Wars t-shirt. In fact, that's one of the ways the hit ABC TV show LOST got its start. Due to large unsolicited requests for these, you can now pre-order the "Don't Get Cocky" design until October 6, 2007. Just click here to go to the order page. Reprints of the other designs in the "Targeting Shirt Trilogy" ("Stay On Target" and "I Have You Now") will be available later this year.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Dragon*Con 2007 Recap

A picture is worth a thousand words, and never more so than with an event like Dragon*Con in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. With a rumored 60,000+ attendees from around the world, D*C has become an annual homecoming event for costumers and revellers from all walks of life. The overall vibe was non-judgmental, and with the exception of staff and security being a bit too high-strung, I found little to complain about. For every outstanding costume we encountered, there were 10 more we never saw in passing. It was interesting to see active hotel lobbies filled with outlandish characters from every genre even at 3am, and mid-day naps were mandatory. We finished my wife's female Tusken Raider just in time and it was the only one we saw there. I only brought my stock Stormtrooper armor (that's me, 2nd from the left in the above photo), but it's a safe bet we will be attending next year...with more costumes to debut. Enjoy the photos!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dragon*Con Virgin

Although Dragon*Con is often regarded as the annual "homecoming" for the 501st Legion (having been the site of the 501st's first official group gathering in 1998), this year will mark my first foray into this established sci-fi/fantasy/comics/costuming convention in Atlanta, Georgia. Dragon*Con is perhaps best described as an urban Mardi Gras of sorts, where fans and friends congregate in their best (and worst) costumes over Labor Day weekend, and where days and nights are said to blur together. Believe it or not, it was my wife's idea to go to D*C after experiencing Star Wars Celebration IV in Los Angeles, and we look forward to some time to ourselves thanks to my parents who are visiting (and babysitting). Presently, we are working hard to finish up a female Tusken Raider costume for would be done if we weren't obsessing over details!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

We Love R2-KT

501st Legion Founder Albin Johnson started something incredible 10 years ago when he decided to show up at a local movie theater in full Stormtrooper armor just for fun. Although he would never admit it, Albin has an amazing sense of vision and his passion drives him to succeed. I would like to state now, for the record, that I think he's doing it again. The formula is similar to that which fuels the ever-growing 501st Legion, but replace the fans in costume with an army of good-willed robots.

The result is the story of R2-KT, the "Pink Imperial Droid with a Heart of Gold."

When Albin's daughter, Katie, was diagnosed with brain cancer, the network of friends that Albin had built over the years rallied around the brave little girl. The fan community showed a tremendous outpour of support including the construction of a scale remote control droid to watch over Katie while she slept (her sister Allie's idea). The droid was dubbed "R2-KT" (as in "Artoo-Katie"), and despite the loss of Katie, the pink robot now serves to educate, entertain, and bring awareness to pediatric cancer. She's even inspired Hasbro and Lucasfilm to donate $100,000 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

My prediction: R2-KT's robot friends (namely the R2 Builders Group) will join the cause. Awareness will spread amongst children's hospitals and charitable organizations across the world. More fans (perhaps parents of sick children) will be inspired to build replica droids for the same purpose. A new Legion will be born. In fact, with a trading card, embroidered patch, and Hasbro action figure already on the market, the future looks bright pink for R2-KT.

For more information about R2-KT, please visit

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Rose Parade Audition Flashback

It's been one year since troopers around the globe were asked by Lucasfilm to submit videos of themselves marching in military-style formation. During the grueling summer practice sessions, troopers were asked to state their name, 501st Legion ID number, and unit affiliation. At the time, nobody knew just why Lucasfilm wanted the footage...was it an audition for the Star Wars live-action TV series? Was this an underhanded way of gathering names for a large-scale cease-and-desist order to all owners of bootleg Stormtrooper armor? Speculations ran rampant, but it was finally announced at San Diego Comic-Con that George Lucas himself wanted to recognize and reward the 501st Legion for their volunteer service as goodwill ambassadors of the Star Wars franchise by inviting 200 troopers to the Star Wars Spectacular in the 2007 Rose Parade. Many of the training videos can be seen on this YouTube playlist. The training I participated in on July 8, 2006, in Greensboro, North Carolina, happened to be one of the only times I've been captured on video skateboarding in my armor.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Now Featuring Polls and Frappr!

It seems Google's can't stop adding new features to make things easier for me. The latest addition is the ability to run polls on this blog so I've added one about how visitors find Please vote in the poll at the top of the right column to help me test this new feature. And while you're at it, scroll all the way to the bottom and map yourself!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Tega Cay 4th of July Parade

The community of Tega Cay, South Carolina, loves the 501st Legion! In 2006, the Carolina Garrison marched in this city's 4th of July parade and even had 501st Founder Albin Johnson as the Grand Marshal. The troops were such a hit, the Mayor invited us back this year and extended every courtesy imaginable including changing space at his own home office, a special 501st cake, a pre-parade dinner, breakfast, tickets to the afternoon fish fry, a personal trolley and parade vehicles...even a banner advertising our appearance posted at a major intersection! The best part is that the city is making a $500 donation to Make-A-Wish in the name of the 501st Legion. I'm not sure how many laws were broken during the 3.5-mile route, but standing in moving pickup truck beds and shooting spectators with a super soaker water gun was just too much fun. The neighbors (some with signs that read "Squirt Me!") shot back with their own water guns and even garden hoses! It's a good thing I didn't install my ROMFX voice amp system yet---the water might have ruined something. Maybe an E-Web water cannon is in order for 2008 (maybe I'll have a Snowtrooper costume completed by then). More photos can be seen here, here, and here.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Super Soaker Water Blaster

The upcoming Fourth of July parade in Tega Cay, SC, presents a unique opportunity to "blast" spectators with water as I ride in the back of a flatbed truck with other costumed participants. The organizers have given the approval to do this, and as a summertime event, the cool streams of water should be welcomed (and relatively harmless). I picked up a Water Warriors "TigerShark" super soaker water gun at Big K this past weekend for a sale price of just under $12. To make the colorful water gun look a bit more like a Star Wars weapon, I removed the stickers and used Krylon Fusion black spray paint which bonds with plastic and doesn't require primer before painting. I had fun testing range, power, and the longevity of the water supply with the kids in the backyard and this particular model seemed to be a good compromise between price and performance. The TigerShark even comes with a shoulder strap to support the weight of 67 ounces of water, although refilling will require an assistant (as well as a lot of water) along the parade route. The LED you see lit up in the photo is supposed to be a "ready light" that indicates how much air pressure you have in the super soaker, but it's more for show than anything else.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Tours of Duty

I've just added a list of all my Stormtrooper-related events (right column), and so far I've come up with roughly 46 occassions dating back to March 2002 when I first acquired my armor kit (although there's probably some that I've forgotten). On my original site, I used to document my troopin' gigs including photos of each event, but I eventually gave up. Hopefully, this blog will make it much easier to keep a record of each event as it passes. Moving forward, you can see my "Tours of Duty" by selecting the "Tours of Duty" tag under "Select a Topic" in the right column.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hovi Mix Mic Tips

One of the simplest upgrades you can make to your helmet is to get some screen-accurate Hovi Mix microphone tips replicas to replace the faucet aerators that come with the FX helmet kit. Resin castings of these original parts are fairly common now and only cost about $10 US per pair. Contact Russell if you are looking for a set. You can even wire mini-speakers inside your mic tips to use in conjunction with your voice amp. More on that later...

TRIVIA: The Hovi Mix mic tips were also used as the top of the comlink prop used by C-3PO and Luke during the Trash Compactor scene in Episode IV: A New Hope. The newer prop shown in the Star Wars Visual Dictionary is not the original.

Got Static?

I just purchased a second-hand ROM/FX Static Burst/Voice Amplifier unit and started playing around with it. A "static box" is a custom circuit board that adds the cool walkie-talkie clicks and radio noise that is heard after a Stormtrooper speaks in Star Wars. The static (in combination with a voice amplifier) really adds a nice element of realism to the costume. I acquired the "Pro" version, which comes with a speaker, microphone, battery boxes, three wired buttons for alternate sound effects, and some other add-ons. This particular set-up cost me $250 US which isn't too bad considering the current exchange rate (USD to GBP). On top of that, availability of the ROM/FX unit through their site is somewhat unpredictable. My old FX helmet had the classic "Radio Shack" voice amp set up (no longer in production). You can still get an inexpensive mini amplifier but you'll need to buy the microphone separately. I had an old "GT Static Box" from around 2002 (now out of production) but it never seemed to work quite right so I ended up using the low-tech "blow into the mic" technique to punctuate my sentences with a static burst. This approach actually worked really well over the past five years, but the poor man's "static burst" sound isn't movie-accurate. Since I got a new RT-MOD helmet, I figured it was time for an upgrade. Pulling out the old wiring from my FX bucket was going to be difficult anyway and would depreciate any resale value should I decide to part with my trusty old oversized bucket. Playing with the settings was simple and the sound effects are great (mine came customized with three sound clips in addition to the static burst effects). There is quite a bit of wiring, mostly due to the two battery packs which each hold 4 AA batteries, so I'll have to play around with the best way to pack this all into my helmet. Some people install these things behind their chest armor or on a belt-pack, but I like the all-inclusive helmet package.

TRIVIA: The static burst audio effect is only heard on Stormtroopers in Episode IV: A New Hope. Curiously, the static is absent from trooper chatter in all of the other Star Wars films.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Ab Plate Button Mod

It's amazing how small modifications can really change the overall look of your armor. The bulk of my armor is still the tried-and-true FX suit that I bought in 2002. However, with a new helmet and this ab plate modification, other troopers always ask me what type of armor I have (thinking that it's not FX, but not sure exactly what). Anyway, the ab plate buttons that come with the FX suit are actual black buttons that are glued into holes in the abdomen. The screen-used suits had the "buttons" molded into the plastic and were simply painted blue and gray. This is one of those cases where you might say "Hey, I don't care what the actual costumes look like! Real buttons are much cooler than painted-on buttons," and I'd agree with you. Up close, the FX buttons look more "real" and functional versus something just painted. It's a matter of fictional realism versus accurate reproduction. Have a look at this actual screen-used Return of the Jedi-style Stormtrooper armor that has been on exhibit. The abdomen button plate is unpainted and upside-down. How ugly is that?! My preference was to change the black buttons to ones with color, as seen in Stormtroopers from Episode IV: A New Hope, and to make them slightly smaller. Dagobah Swamp has a good tutorial for this, and I essentially did the same thing except I used thumbtacks rather than metal screw posts.

TRIVIA: Among other subtle differences, Sandtroopers do not have buttons on their abdomen plates. The Tatooine desert scenes in Episode IV: A New Hope were reportedly some of the first that were filmed around 1976, and thus the costumes weren't quite "final."

Single-Piece Flat Lens Strip Mod

When I upgraded from the FX helmet to the more accurate RT-MOD in December 2006, I decided to try a single piece lens for simplicity of installation as well as convenient future replacement. Photos of the original screen-used helmets show a flimsy green sheet of plastic was used for lenses. Of course, movie props are typically built to serve their seconds of screen time, not to last for years of troopin' abuse. So I've used the dark green welder's faceshield replacement (the standard for troopers these days) which is much sturdier. Having previously used these in the two-piece lens set-up, I knew the tint was dark enough to hide my eyes---even in the flash of a camera---and yet light enough so as not to impair my vision. The lens strip is held in place by two plastic spring clips that are bonded to the inside of the helmet with DevCon Plastic Welder. Because I am able to quickly remove the entire lens strip, applying anti-fog spray, wiping condensation from the lens, or even repainting the inside of the helmet is now a breeze. Speaking of breezes, there is no need for an air-tight seal around the eye holes. In fact, the gaps (no visible from the outside) help improve much-needed airflow inside the helmet. Read more about the installation of the single-piece flat lens here.

TRIVIA: One easy way to tell "hero" helmets from "stunt" helmets in Episode IV: A New Hope is bubble (hero) versus flat (stunt) lenses.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Schiele Museum Troop

Today I trooped a Mid-Summer Festival at the Schiele Museum of Natural History in Gastonia, NC. Some of the local 501st members have family that work at the museum and invited us to add some flare to their event. From the museum's website:

"See a live white buffalo, hear the legend of White Buffalo Woman, watch Star Wars Imperial Stormtroopers and Rebel Alliance fighters in battle, meet an iguana, make giant bubbles, learn why it's really mid-summer and much more!"
I'm not sure about the connection between Stormtroopers and natural history, but fans loved us (despite a few "Oh, look! Power Rangers!" comments) and the museum treated us well. We had about 24 total costumed attendees including members of the Tidewater Alliance who put on a nice lightsaber seminar. It was good to meet more of my local Carolina Garrison members. Check out some photos here, here, and here.