So you got your Anovos stormtrooper kit. Now what? If you’re a trooper noob, that big pile of plastic and cardboard can be a little daunting. Well, I’m going to try and help you over a few of the rough spots, but in the end, it’s up to you. Take your time. Don’t rush. Don’t try to tackle it all at once. Get your materials together and do it right the first time.
These kits are very nice. The plastic pulls are sharp and the plastic is of a high quality. That doesn’t mean there won’t be thin spots in some of the parts. Prior to assembly, hold the parts up to the light and identify the weak points. That’s where you’re more likely to crack the plastic. Be especially careful when working in those areas.
Be sure to use a very sharp X-acto type hobby knife and change blades frequently. The Anovos parts have well-defined cut lines. Just SLOWLY ease your knife along those. Use multiple passes. The score and snap method will also work. That simply means cut about halfway through and then snap the plastic off the rest of the way by bending it away from the score line. You’ll want to trim everything before assembly and lightly sand any rough edges that might get snagged on your undersuit. DO NOT remove the protective plastic film yet and be sure to save the trimmed pieces of ABS for glue and paint tests or the addition of “bridges”. More on this later.
Once everything’s trimmed, read through all of the Anovos instructions for assembly. They can be downloaded here:
You really do want to try things on before gluing them. The first time I tried on my trooper gear, it looked like ass. It took quite a bit of work to make it fit properly. Buy some small, plastic, craft clamps and use them to hold things together while you try them. You can also use them when you finally glue pieces together.
Speaking of glue, Anovos recommends using superglue, or cyanoacrylate, also known as CA glue. I recommend against that because CA glue often becomes brittle over time and can release unexpectedly in extreme temperatures. Since Anovos armor is made of ABS plastic, I recommend you use clear ABS cement. Any brand will do. It comes in different colors so make sure you get what’s usually referred to as “milky clear”. You’ll need to be very careful, as this type of glue basically welds the parts together. You’ll need to try it out on some of the scrap parts first to determine how much to use, but I always use it sparingly. In the end, ABS cement will give you a bond that’s much more durable and permanent than any CA glue. You’ll want to remove the plastic film and lightly scuff up the areas you intend to glue before setting them and clamping them overnight.
There are, of course, many glue alternatives. Some troopers swear by Devcon plastic welder. Others use E6000 or Amazing Goop (both favorites of mine). I say use what you like but I believe that ABS cement will give you maximum durability.
The other big change I’d recommend is to buy a big roll of industrial Velcro. I don’t know what the velcro included in the Anovos kit is, so I wouldn’t trust its adhesive if you’re ever going to expose your armor to the summer heat. I’ve used industrial Velcro in numerous costumes and it’s never failed me. Yes, it’s pricey, but you want to do this the right way, don’t you? You’ve been warned.
Sandtroopers are slightly different from the clean stormtroopers we see later in ANH. Key differences include the ab plate, the left knee “sniper” plate, the shoulder straps, the belt accessories, hand plate variants, and several helmet changes. If you want to be a sandtrooper, decide before assembly.
You’ll notice that the Anovos kit comes with a couple of small parts that attach to the ab plate. This is the way the original costumes were built because those plates were added late in the production schedule. The sandtroopers were the first trooper costumes to be shot because they were filmed on location in Tunisia. They’re basically version 1.0 troopers and they had ab plates without the additions. If you want to go sandy, don’t attach the center part at all, and mod the button panel to have just three unpainted buttons.
As to the shoulder straps, sandies had canvas straps similar to the belt. You can make these yourself fairly easily if you have a sewing machine. If not, make a friend at the fabric store or check on MEPD.net for someone who might make and sell them.
The “sniper” knee plate can also be made, but that’s beyond the scope of this article. If you want to be a sandtrooper, spend some time at the MEPD. They’re the best 501st detachment, IMHO, and are actually very friendly to noobs as long as you mind your manners. They’ll help you with the helmet mods as well.
Now, back to you shiny whiteys. Many troopers choose to cut their cod plate so that they can flip it up and use the bathroom without removing armor. If you choose to do this, just hot glue elastic strips on the back side between the two parts.
The elastic strapping system devised by Anovos looks pretty good, but it may become unreliable over time due to all the velcro used. You may find that you want to permanently attach some of the starps with hot glue or replace the Anovos Velcro with the industrial stuff.
You can check out my old FX suit video for another reliable method. I prefer the handplate attachment I did in that video to the version Anovos uses. YMMV.
You’ll notice the “bridge” method I used for my FX suit in the video. I glued in small bridges of ABS to loop my straps through and this system never failed me through years of trooping. You can adapt this idea to any connection points you wish. Remember – it’s your suit. Build it in a way that makes it easiest for you to get in and out of it by yourself.
For example, the Anovos instructions tell you to glue the forearm armor pieces together on both sides. If you have large hands, you may find that this simply won’t work for you. Your hands may not fit through the openings! IN that case, you should velcro one side and clamshell the parts. Check your fit for every part prior to gluing it. You may even find you need to add bigger shims to some parts to get them to fit. Better to learn that before you glue anything, right?
All in all, the Anovos suit is a fine kit and much more accurate than other commercially available kits from the past. We’ve really come a long way in this hobby from the days when 90% of 501st members were wearing FX suits. Just remember to take your time and if things go haywire, you can always convert the suit to a sandtrooper costume and hide the mistakes with heavy weathering.
If you have additional mods that you’ve discovered during assembly, please comment and share, and as always, feel free to ask questions. Good luck, and may the force be with you!