I need creativity like I need to breathe. I love making things, especially for the kids.
How To Make A Clone Trooper Outfit From Cardboard
Probably one of the more challenging craft projects I've undertaken with the kids, to fabricate a child's full Clone Trooper costume (including helmet) from rigid boxboard sheets. Below is the end result and a bit about how it was done.
Note: Boxboard is a solid grey multi-ply board made entirely from 100% post-consumer recycled waste.
Dear Stars Wars Fan
To all dyed-in-the-wool Star Wars enthusiasts, arriving here thinking to find an authentic how-to-build Clone Trooper armour guide with accompanying proportions perfect templates, my apologies. This was built to fit a ten-year-old, so unless you're vertically challenged, I wouldn't recommend duplicating it.
Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?
— Princess Leia
It's also far from proportions perfect; I was working from photos. Therefore, what you see here is a fair-to-middly replication of a very short Clone Troopers set of armour... made of cardboard... and a few other bits and pieces that I could find in the garage.
That said, it ain't half bad (even if I do say so myself), and I hope you'll appreciate the effort, and at the very least give the 'Awesome' button on the bottom of the page a big thump; or a favorable comment if you can't find the awesome button.
And may the force be with you in as you read on
Before reading on, let's listen as the troops play the opening of the imperial march; hum along with me: dum, dum, dum, dum-dum dum, dum-dum. Dum dum dum, dum, dum da-da... etc.
Why Would You Want To Undertake This Project?
Some people have asked me what motivated me to even start such a challenging project. Well there are several reasons, and they fall roughly into the following order:
- The stuff you buy online is, well, rubbish; at least, the stuff I can afford is.
- Love my son. He loves Star Wars... and boy is he excited (ergo, me too).
- Really, really enjoy making stuff... Clone Trooper armour is really cool stuff
- Get a buzz hearing, "did you really make that?" (not so proud of this reason :)
- Given a pile of cardboard. What else does one do except build cool stuff.
- Between jobs. It's amazing what one can get done when not earning any money.
A Bit About The Process
This sort of project takes planning. I started by viewing a lot of Clone Trooper outfits online, downloading detailed images for reference and working out measurements.
These measurements I then scaled down to my sons size.
Using those measurements, I fabricated basic frameworks around which to build the armour. Some pieces didn't require this, however, pieces that encircled a part of the body were best assembled around a frame; this helps maintain symmetry. All framework was fabricated from the same cardboard as the costume.
The Helmet easily takes the longest to fabricate; especially when it's a first attempt.
As a prototype, this finished helmet consists of approximately eighty individual parts; many of them could be consolidated together.
Again, the first step is to transpose the wearers measurement into a framework upon which to attach the basic shell of the helmet. Getting the helmet dimensions is a challenge. I started by taking key measurements of my sons head: circumference from above the eyebrows, distance from eye to bottom of chin, distance from eye to top of head etc. I used number 2 wire to capture his head shape. From these I created a frame upon which to temporarily position the key parts and create the dome.
TIP - Once you have the circumference, cut the wire to that length, then bend the wire around head to capture basic shape, lay the wire flat on cardboard and mark around shape adding a further 5-10 mm all around so helmet doesn't end up too tight.
Many of the parts were created by simply snipping away at a piece of cardboard until I'd found the right size and shape.
For the dome I used a combination of Honus's method and papermache; using a blender to pulp the papermache to a very smooth consistency. The dome consists of a base layer of cardboard, upon which paper mache was used to get a more accurate shape and a thin layer of Super Filler to smooth off.
A blue LED light was installed at the end; this shone from the back of the 'Mohawk'.
The Work Area
As this project proceeded, my work area expanded; until what started at the kitchen table required reorganising the garage; half of which became a Clone Trooper manufacturing facility.
There are over twenty individual pieces, and at times I was working on half a dozen simultaneously. While the glue dried on one, I cut, folded, rolled, assembled, sanded, painted the others. It's a project that just got busier.
That said, it was also a great time spent with the kids. Both of my youngest children (8 and 10) moved their craft tables into the garage, and we spent many hours together; even moving in one of the lounge sofas so we could hangout in comfort. By the end, the rest of the house became neglected, my wife taking up residence on the sofa, and even meals eaten there... it was great!
Star Wars Movie Poll
The finished outfit took a pile of pasted boxboard (chipboard, cardboard) that reached my waist. I think that's over 200 sheets; each sheet 200x280mm. The boxboard came in two grades, 1800 and 1400 gsm.
Other materials included:
- Glue (heaps of it); including craft and PVA glue, hot glue and super glue
- Super fine filler (I used Nordsjo Super Filler)
- Foam padding
- White and black fabric (stolen from my wife's sewing basket); used mainly as a backing to give strength to cardboard
- Velcro; for connecting and holding all the parts in place
- Misc: rivets, clear plastic for helmet, LED lights for helmet, various plastics bits, vinyl.
- Lots of white spray paint!
Any job is made easier when using the right tools, and I would go as far as to say that with projects such as this, they are a necessity.
For this project I used the following tools:
- Razor knife (absolutely essential), with lots of spare blades; you'll need them.
- High revolution rotary multi-tool (these things are a godsend)
Note: A rotary tool is a handheld power tool with a rotary tip that accepts a variety of attachments for different tasks.
- Quality craft shears and a range of scissors
- Range of paint brushes from fine to 25mm
- Sharp pencils and a few dark felt tip pens
- Range of sandpaper grits
- Self healing cutting board
- Putty knife or equivalent
- Craft clips and/or pegs
- Stainless steel rule
- Safety glasses
- Hot Glue gun
- Spray bottles
- Duster brush
- Dust mask
- Rolling pin
- Rivet gun
The Upside and Downside
So, although it took a lot of planning, patience and time, the upshot was quality/quantity time spent with the kids (and wife), a great gift for my son, and a sense of something worthwhile accomplished.
Downside... now my daughter wants one... so its back to the garage... has anyone got any more cardboard :)
Another Star Wars Poll
© 2011 Richard Parr
Eman Abdallah Kamel from Egypt on January 11, 2018:
It is very interesting article to read.
Richard Parr (author) from Australia on March 14, 2014:
@Anna Haven ~ thanks. Yes, we were happy with the results. My sons since outgrown the suit, but we are now working on a knights outfit so he can enter the Abbey Tournament; a yearly medieval festival they have here. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
Anna Haven from Scotland on March 14, 2014:
That is some project. You explained it really clearly and the photographs provided an easy step by step guide. The end result really did look good.
Alexander Silvius from Portland, Oregon on December 07, 2011:
That is quite a feat. How about a working HUD display for the helmet? And when's mine going to be finished?
Richard Parr (author) from Australia on November 02, 2011:
@C1W ~ A Dalek, now there's an idea. Thx for commenting.
@Grace~ Aww, shucks, thx Grace. Of all the roles I fill, being a dad is the most fun.
@stessily ~ Thank you for the praise. The artwork you spied is the work of my second daughter (Tamzie); probably the most artistic in the family. She calls them Inky's, and for a while they were her gift of choice to family and friends. She hasn't produced any more for a while, but I passed on your comments.
stessily on November 01, 2011:
parrster: I wish that "awesome" hadn't been so over-used in my lifetime so that the power of that word sometimes seems to have been relegated to the trite category! So, I am awestruck by the dedication, creativity, and love that went into this project! And I love the Clone Trooper Orchestra video! My artistic eyes espied a series of drawings in the background in the photo of "first testing fitting: still a long way to go." May I ask who is the artist? They look interesting and well composed. Thank you for sharing this tribute to love in your family. All the votes, parrster!
UlrikeGrace from Canada on October 30, 2011:
You absolutely amaze me...good job and what a dad!
CASE1WORKER from UNITED KINGDOM on October 30, 2011:
Wow what a project, perhaps a dalek next time? Well done to you all