Captain Rex for Halloween
With Halloween just around the corner, it is time to decide on costumes for the family. So my son and I had a big meeting recently to decide what he wanted to be for this Halloween. I had a inkling what it will be since he has been watching a lot of Star Wars The Clone Wars lately. His favorite character from the show is Captain Rex, a cool, smart and compassionate soldier that serves as the trusted commander under Anakin Skywalker. For those of you that are not up to speed on Star Wars mythology, Captain Rex is the ideal soldier sporting a good looking all white armor that is the trademark of the Star Wars universe.
I realize that it would be a lot easier to buy a Captain Rex costumes from the stores, but where is fun in that! Plus I like a challenge and making a Star Wars armor out of my favorite material cardboard is certainly quite the challenge!
It’s My Prerogative Right?
One of my goals for this projects would be to take different design elements from Star Wars and other sources to create this Captain Rex costume. It will adhere closely to the original design but it will not be entirely canonical. I want to do this for several reasons, first there are practical limitations on what can be achieved with cardboard. I will eliminate design features that may be too difficult or time consuming to create using what I termed standard cardboard construction techniques. Second I need to make the armor a bit more comfortable to wear. Things like sitting comfortably or rapidly removing the armor for bathroom trips are practical consideration for my eight year old son. Lastly, I just want the armor to be look slightly different from the standard designs. Hey I am making the costume, so it is kind of my prerogative right?!
One thing I always wanted to try if I were to make a Star Wars armor is to mix in modern-day weaponry with the Star Wars universe. I was inspired by the photos from an Instagram account, galactic_warfighters. The aesthetics of various Star Wars soldiers kitted out more like a modern-day soldier is really appealing to me. Again, I am doing the work, so it is kind of my prerogative right?!
Let’s Start with the Helmet
Based on my experience with designing cardboard armor, out of all the pieces that make up a full body armor, the helmet is the hardest to put together. For this project, like most of my recent projects, I will document the design using Adobe Illustrators. Although, on the surface, this looks like this might take more time, I contend that it actually takes less time, since I have a clear record on what was attempted in the prior iteration which help me quickly converge onto the final design. Plus, if I ever want to do something with this costume in the future, having the design files will be very handy
Design is an Iterative Process
I approach this project, like any other engineering project that I have ever been on, it is an iterative process which means I do not aim nor expect to get the design correct on the first attempt. First I started with lots of image searches on the internet and hand sketch. As I hand kketch helmet, I am mentally planning how to break up the helmet and create each cardboard pieces. One of the biggest challenge with cardboard is creating enclosed “bowls” structures like the dome on the top of the helmet. As you can see, I took the approach of breaking the dome up into multiple pieces but require quite a bit of trial and error to get the right look.
After creating the hand sketch I moved onto the creating the “Rough Prototype” and hand cut all of the pieces. The Rough Prototype was basically a frame where I can experiment with different design and hone in on the optimal solution. It does not look pretty but it quickly got me to roughly 60% of the final design. During this phase I also use a technique where I draw 1/4” grids onto the hand cut pieces in order to better translate the design onto Illustrator.
One Step Close with the Mockup
After getting most of the critical pieces onto Illustrator, it is time to create the Mockup helmet. At this point, I still have not fully figured out how to build the dome on the top of the helmet. I was hoping to build the dome in 7 pieces but I could not get the last piece to fit correctly with all the other pieces, so I abandoned this approach and tried a different design with Iteration 1. My goal with the Mockup is to get the design roughly 80% to the final design.
Getting Really Close with Iteration 1
The biggest difference between the “Mockup” and “Iteration 1” is the dome design. After experimenting with different approaches I landed on using large triangles to form the majority of the dome with smaller pieces on the sides to complete it. The photos below shows how the design of the helmet converged from the “Rough Prototype” to “Iteration 2.”
Iteration 2 is NOT the Final Design
Even though I am pretty happy with how “Iteration 2” turned out.There is still a number of features that needs to be improved upon especially if I ever want to share this design with anyone else. One thing I would like to improve in future iterations is how helmet tapers inwards from top to bottom where it should taper slightly outwards. Additionally I am not complete satisfied with how the helmet dome turned out. I am hoping to smooth out some of the lines with further tweaks. Perhaps I am nitpicking but I think these improvements are all within my capabilities.
What is Most Important? My Son is Happy
Despite the weeks of work and the frustration with getting some of the pieces to fit right, at the end of the day my son is really happy with his helmet which makes me really happy. Plus the helmet really turned out pretty well. I am so pleases with it I am seriously contemplating making an adult version for myself. As I stated before, having the Illustrator files will make that task easier.