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  1. Abaris is offline Abaris
    May 20, 2011, 10:27 AM - ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #1

    I have created this thread so we can discuss what plastics were used for the original ANH, and ESB refurbished, helmets, as well as the colour of the plastics used. Also, I'll do a little history intro.

    Info and pictures from StarWarsHelmets.com, some of it has been modified to what we know/think nowadays:

    The design work for these characters can be traced back to Ralph McQuarrie's early drawings and paintings produced in 1975 as part of George Lucas' wish to help visualise the movie for Fox company execs..

    Moving on a year or so to February 1976 as pre-production started in London, an original clay sculpt was produced of the Stormtrooper helmet (by Liz Moore) and armour (by Brian Muir) which was then moulded by plasterers, refined by Brian Muir, moulded and then casted for production. As you can see at this stage in the design process the sculptor was by now very close to nailing the finished screen look. - especially when you look at the curves around the frown and nose sections.



    The physical manufacturing (vacuumforming) of the helmets and armor were the responsibility of Andrew Ainsworth (AA) at Shepperton Design Studios in Twickenham, established a few years earlier in 1974. Ainsworth and SDS became a key element in the production process given their manufacturing input into a significant number of helmets and costuming parts for the movie including the Stormtrooper, TIE Pilot, Death Star Gunner, Imperial Guard, Rebel X and Y-Wing pilots, Rebel Fleet Trooper and Rebel Ground Crew/Guards.

    Here a shot of some partially completed helmets and armor outside Shepperton Design Studio's near London in March 1976. As you can see the helmets have all been spray-painted, and many have the ears and brow trims attached. If you look closely the "mic tips" look more bulbous and less defined than the screen-used ones suggesting that they were replaced by the Art department at the Studio. Behind them you can see some vac-formed sheets of armor, ready to go to the Studio where John Mollo's team assembled the costumes.



    SDS's original receipts dating back to 1976 show that in total they fabricated fifty-six Stormtrooper helmets, twelve Imperial Forces' (Gunner) helmets, twelve Imperial (TIE) Fighter Pilots' helmets and twenty X-Wing Fighter Pilots' helmets - along with the Imperial Guards and of course the Stormtrooper and TIE Armour.

    Ainsworth was initially approached to produce around 50 Stormtrooper helmets. However, as soon as he began he realised that the complex shape of their design (such as the male and female curves on the helmet rear) WE THINK he used a less than ideal kind of plastic, High Density Poly Ethylene. HDPE is a flexible material now used to make things like milk cartons, but the khaki-green coloured sheets (TWO diferent colours were used) Ainsworth used required him to spray-paint them white. So fifty of these "Stunt" helmets were produced and the vast majority of Stormtroopers you see in the movie are them.

    However, because painted helmets don't look all that great under close scrutiny, Lucasfilm/Mollo requested that Ainsworth also produce six "close up" helmets when Stormtrooper were to be featured more prominently - such as when Luke and Han are disguised as Stormtroopers (although they can also be seen in numerous other shots as well). We refer to these six as the "Hero" Stormtrooper helmets as they were made to a higher specification, vac-formed in a shiny white ABS plastic, and have a higher quality of detailing, including curved eye lenses. Hence in the screen-shot below the Hero is on the Left, with the Stunt on the Right. Note that the armor is the same, only the helmets varied.



    The Empire Strikes Back - For the sequel, Mollo and his team simply re-used the same Stormtrooper costumes and helmets that had previously been used in A New Hope. This was the simplest solution since less than a dozen were required - and it also saved them money on what was a strict budget. For Return of the Jedi over 50 were needed so new armor and helmets were produced - cast from an original ANH set.
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  2. Abaris is offline Abaris
    May 20, 2011, 10:27 AM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #2

    Here are pics of the SiMan's original helmet and prototype copy mixed where you can see some of the details of the Stunt helmets as well as the colour diferences (pictures property RS Props):









    And about the colours discussion:

    KaanE said:
    Maybe Humbrol #72 for the lighter colour?
    BGHunter said:
    I know we shouldnt start this but I think 84 would be good
    KaanE said:
    They are almost the same:

    From the "other" thread:

    SiMan said:
    As for HDPE. We are not convinced that is the original material.
    JoeR said:
    I thought so, our only problem now is if the chemical make up has changed over the last 30 years, without some crazy analysis it may be impossible to tell what the original material is.

    Joe
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    Last edited by Abaris; May 20, 2011 at 10:38 AM.
  3. Art Andrews's Avatar
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    May 20, 2011, 10:30 AM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #3

    Good call guys and should be a great discussion. From what I have seen (and can even be seen on the SiMan helmet, it looks like the color of plastic varied slightly from piece to piece, so I am not sure there is one truly definitive color, but we surely can get a range that is right.
  4. Abaris is offline Abaris
    May 20, 2011, 10:45 AM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #4

    It definetly looks he (Andrew Ainsworth) used plastic scraps he had lying around his workshop. We know that AT LEAST two diferent coloured plastics were used, one more khaki coloured and other more on the green shade, but still with a brown hue.
  5. RPF Premium Member GINO's Avatar
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    May 20, 2011, 10:58 AM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #5

    There were definitely two shades of HDPE used.
    Both were a khaki green color, but one is actually more green than the other.
    For the sake of simplicity, i'll just refer to them as "light green" and "dark green".
    Out of all the examples I've seen, it just appears to be random in regards to which shade is used on each part.
    For example the SiMan helmet, the back/cap is the dark green color while the face is the light green color.
    The Dave M helmet (set for stun helmet) actually was the reverse with the back/cap having the light green color and the face having the dark green.
    Then there is another example where both the face and back/cap were the dark green color. I've yet to see an example of a face-back/cap combo both in the light green but that does not mean that combination does not exist.



    .
  6. Abaris is offline Abaris
    May 20, 2011, 11:24 AM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #6

    It could even be the same plastic/colour but with the lighter having been washed out because he left it outside the workshop for a long time! Who knows

    Here is a pic comparing the thre helmets (ANH Stunt - ANH Hero - ESB Hero/Sunt):



    Bigger pic attached
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  7. JoeR's Avatar
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    May 20, 2011, 11:42 AM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #7

    @ GINO you are stating they were HDPE. What actual evidence is this based on? AA's word? How do we actually know they were HDPE? SiMan doesn't think his helmet is HDPE...

    I am not saying they are not HDPE, but how do we actually know? Someone said they were ages ago and we have alll rolled with it.

    Joe
    Last edited by JoeR; May 20, 2011 at 11:48 AM.
  8. RPF Premium Member voice in the crowd's Avatar
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    May 20, 2011, 11:44 AM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #8

    Hi guys,

    For what it is worth the green colours we see don't appear to have been stock colours in HDPE. Either now or a while ago I have spoken to plastic companies in the past about this. I believe JoeR done a bit of research on this recently as well. Not saying it is not HDPE just saying it might not be it may be a similar plastic.

    Polypropelene definitely comes in the lighter colour of green. It is also a material used for vac forming.

    I always found it odd that AA said he had HDPE lying about that he used. HDPE isn't a material for vac forming and his business is to this day vac forming.

    Cheers Chris
  9. JoeR's Avatar
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    May 20, 2011, 11:51 AM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #9

    Cheers Chris

    I spoke to every plastics supplier in the UK and no one had ever heard of or seen a khaki 'standard' colured HDPE. Not to say there wasn't...
  10. RPF Premium Member GINO's Avatar
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    May 20, 2011, 11:56 AM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #10

    It is extremely common in manufacturing situations that the plastics used are not stock plastics.
    In most cases the plastics used are custom ordered with specific colors and thickness specified for whatever particular job/product they are needed for.

    Most plastic companies require a minimum of 1000 lbs (some require more) when running custom material.
    While this is a VERY costly and gross excess from a hobbyist standpoint, it is quite common (and actually a pretty small order) in manufacturing situations.

    I have no doubt that the original plastic used was hdpe which was originally custom run for some other type of product (i.e. for a fishpond business).

    Also, the original helmets exhibit specific characteristics that you can only get when forming hdpe.
    Characteristics such as the way it cools/wrinkles when formed, the way it sucks into the creases and then bulges back out, and also that paint does not stick to it.
    All of these characteristics can be found on the original helmets.
    Some to an extreme degree while others is subtle but still present.



    .
  11. JoeR's Avatar
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    May 20, 2011, 12:05 PM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #11

    The guy with the original helmet in his hands says:

    As for HDPE. We are not convinced that is the original material.
    Vs you who have purchased a custom colour run of HDPE. I am not convinced yet.

    Two people who have seen the original have told me it doesn't act or feel like HDPE in person.

    The propeties of HDPE, LDPE etc are similar so it is quite possible it is not HDPE but behaves in a similar way. I still don't hear any solid evidence either way. It may not be a huge point to everyone but I would one day like an exact replica of the original and this is a huge part of it.
  12. Art Andrews's Avatar
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    May 20, 2011, 12:22 PM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #12

    I have never held an original helmet in hand, but have held copies in ABS, styrene, and HDPE. I would think that if someone had an original in hand (like SiMan) it would be INCREDIBLY apparent as HDPE is VERY different from styrene and ABS. It does make me question if the helmets are HDPE if SiMan feels unconvinced his helmet is HDPE because I would think within about half a second he should know if it is or it isn't.

    The one thing that has always made me question if the helmets truly were HDPE was the cracks we see in some of the helmets, especially the big crack on the side of the Move Along trooper helmet. HDPE slices easily with a blade, but it doesn't crack and you can't tear it with your hands to save your life. I have always wanted an explanation for those cracks as they makes me question the HDPE idea.
  13. Abaris is offline Abaris
    May 20, 2011, 12:22 PM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #13

    So... for the helmets that are going to be produced soon, what do you guys think about the Humbrol #84 (or Humbrol #72) for the lighter colour?
  14. Abaris is offline Abaris
    May 20, 2011, 12:23 PM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #14

    What cracks are you speaking about Art?
  15. Art Andrews's Avatar
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    May 20, 2011, 12:30 PM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #15

    KaanE said: View Post
    What cracks are you speaking about Art?

    This one on the Move Along helmet. This crack was present at the time of shooting, so it isn't something that happened with age. Now, I am NOT a plastics expert by any means, but my little bit of exposure to HDPE (both with helmets and in the real world with things like Milk containers) would indicate that HDPE does not easily crack like this. It is VERY pliable and bendable and you can even crease it like paper... something styrene doesn't do at all, and something ABS doesn't do easily.

    BTW, I think Jez took this photo, so thanks to him if it is his... might have been Keith... I can't remember, but thanks to whoever took it.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  16. Abaris is offline Abaris
    May 20, 2011, 12:39 PM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #16

    Or maybe making a cut at the bottom of the crack to release the plastic out of the master would cause that crack when pulling it out. Do I explain? English is not my language so I can suck while explaining myself
  17. RPF Premium Member Psammead's Avatar
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    May 20, 2011, 12:50 PM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #17

    Yeah I was thinking the same thing. As if a knick (sp?) in the material caused a weak point which then tore as it was pulled off the mould. Seeing as it looks like it was painted over it probably has got larger since then too.
  18. Cast From Original RPF Premium Member sskunky's Avatar
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    May 20, 2011, 12:51 PM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #18

    I have a sample of the plastic that AA supposedly used back in the 70's and it has an almost oily texture and is quite manipulative.
    It has a slight flattened grainy texture on one side that I am told that is from the process of being calendered which is when the plastic is forced through huge rollers and a plastic grit is thrown on the rollers to give them grip.
    I see no reason why AA would have lied about this as he has no intention of producing his helmets in this plastic as he said it was horrible to form the helmets in. Also he cannot buy it off the shelf anymore.
    I cannot say for sure that this piece I have is the same that was used but it looked like it when it was in a big piece.
  19. Art Andrews's Avatar
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    May 20, 2011, 12:59 PM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #19

    Just a note; I am not necessarily arguing against HDPE. While AA may be a bit of a nutcase, I would assume he knows something about different plastics since that is his business. My only points were 1) from the HDPE, ABS and styrene I have handled, the HDPE is VERY different in flexibility and feel than the other two and 2) from the HDPE, ABS and styrene I have handled, the crack we see on helmets like the Move Along don't seem to be in line with the properties HDPE exhibits. Please understand that I am not making definitive statements here, only sharing my limited experiences with these materials.
  20. Abaris is offline Abaris
    May 20, 2011, 12:59 PM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #20

    sskunky said: View Post
    I see no reason why AA would have lied about this as he has no intention of producing his helmets in this plastic as he said it was horrible to form the helmets in.
    Maybe not lying but having a false record, as he usually has... Do you think you would remember what plastic did you use 30 years ago? I can't remember what do I ate 2 weeks ago...
  21. RPF Premium Member GINO's Avatar
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    May 20, 2011, 1:03 PM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #21

    You can still tear hdpe especially in thinner areas.
    Once a cut/tear gets started, it will continue.
    I would consider myself a plastics expert and will all the plastics I've formed, and considering all factors seen on the originals, I feel confident in my determinations.

    I have yet to see any material other than hdpe that when formed create the very distinctive properties and characteristics found on the original helmets.

    For those who would disagree with me, I would encourage them to do their own physical research/experimentation with forming and see what conclusions they draw.


    .
    Last edited by GINO; May 20, 2011 at 1:16 PM.
  22. Cast From Original RPF Premium Member sskunky's Avatar
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    May 20, 2011, 1:13 PM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #22

    I think we can all hypothesize about the plastic but without cutting a piece of the original helmet and getting it analyzed I doubt we will ever know for sure.
    The piece I have feels much like the plastic used here for milk bottles which is HDPE but clear. I have just ordered some beige PP to try on my new mould so when it arrives I can see how it compares to the small sample I have of the supposed original stuff....
  23. Art Andrews's Avatar
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    May 20, 2011, 1:15 PM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #23

    Will you EVER get paint to stick to PP?
  24. Abaris is offline Abaris
    May 20, 2011, 1:17 PM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #24

    Horatio Caine is coming
  25. Abaris is offline Abaris
    May 20, 2011, 1:18 PM - Re: ANH/ESB Stormtrooper - Discussion Thread #25

    Art Andrews said: View Post
    Will you EVER get paint to stick to PP?
    Well, actually paint seems to not stick to the original helmets, even the primer peels off

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