So You Want To Join The Empire: Arm Up!

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The last couple of weeks with this column, we’ve looked at getting stormtrooper armor up and running: measuring, accuracy, the differences between films and last week, finally getting to assembly. This week, let’s look at putting together another component: the upper arms.

There’s two of these: one for each arm. This piece sits under the shoulder bell and above the forearm: it’s a small component, but it’s a good one to start on, because it’s a) small, and b) largely out of the way.

Let’s get started. Here’s what the 501st Legion’s Costume Reference Library says about the upper arms for an Empire Strikes Back Stormtrooper:


Upper Arm Armor

For 501st approval:

  • Armor is fully closed.

For level three certification (if applicable):

  • Armor is constructed using the butt joint and cover strip method. Overlap construction is not allowed.

So, both components need to be joined together and sealed: this is pretty self explanatory. For my older suit, I had just glued each part together by overlapping the outer part with the inner one. That’s still acceptable, but I’m going to do it slightly differently this time.

The cover strip method is one where you don’t overlap: instead, both sides are butted together and covered with a strip of plastic that’s glued onto each side.


After each part is trimmed and sanded down (this picture isn’t *quite* sanded all the way, but I got that after I took the picture), I did a quick test fit: blue tape works really well for this, and it seemed to fit okay. On to the next step.


When you’re gluing overlapped plastic, there’s not much to do other than glue two parts together. Cover strips are a little more complicated. I had to trim down the edges a bit to make them line up properly, and I saved some plastic strips from when I trimmed the part in the first place:


With a little more work, they became a bit more regular in shape, without bends or weird angles. These will cover the joints and join both pieces together. Next step, glue.


You don’t need much glue here: just a small bit down the edge. Too much, and it bleeds out and makes a bit of a mess. Too little, and the part won’t hold together well when you clamp it. The cover strip goes over the glue, and gets clamped down for a firm seal:


After a couple of hours of drying time, the other half of the arm is glued and clamped on. I didn’t take pictures of it, but I ended up doing two strips at the same time, which saves a bit of time later. Once one side was dry, the other is glued and clamped together.


That would be the end of the story with these two parts, until I tried to put them on for another test fit, and ... they didn’t fit. This is where measuring comes in handy! When I trimmed down each side a bit after the first test-fit, I apparently did a little too much. Remember, measure twice, glue once. So, both sides have been pulled apart: with new, slightly wider cover strips, they should fit perfectly.


Next week, the rest of the arms.