4.26.17

My wife, Kritika was told she should do a custom smuggler for TDE “The Dark Empire.”  This was after one especially long troop in her Mando armour.  The next troop she came as a OM handler and got a lot of compliments on her attire.  We both started looking into TDE and found that it is an official fourth club to the Star Wars costuming to account for Sith, custom Sith, pirates, smugglers, and non-mandalorian bounty hunters.  We both decided we’d like custom smuggler kits for ourselves and started with the leather holsters similar to Han Solo’s.  With Kritika’s I kept her dual holster look and made it similar to my own.

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The background story to my Mandalorian kit is I was born as Karl Darklighter on Corellia.  I grew up there and left home around the age of 17 and joined the Imperial Academy faking my age.  It was there I really learned how to fly, especially in combat.  I graduated the academy and served a few years in the Imperial Navy.  After that I started my own life and purchased a modified YT-1760 Corellian small transport. I upgraded the small cargo hold with a better shield generator, my cargo is usually high class folks, but doesn’t limit me to not have some small amounts of cargo on board.  My sidearm is a modified BlasTech DL-44, still has a tender meaning for my home planet and has never let me down in a fight.

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Around age 25, I met my now wife Kritika. She originated from Corellian, but was said to have studied the military art at the Carida Academy, the emerald green planet which also matches her hair colour. A vibrant red. We now live in my ship (modified YT-1760), hopping between jobs and planets. It really depends on how many credits we have and where Kritika wants to site see next. When we work, it is as a team and the job gets done quicker with two.”

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I started designing Kritika’s custom smuggler with a few quick sketches last November (2016).  I kept the basic idea of her boots and dual holsters from her Mandalorian kit.  Adding a sort of Dash Rendar look to her.  The biggest thing she wanted with her holsters was to match the rest of her kit, especially the brown boots.  Black holsters with brown boots was a no go.

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The began the research of what to look like.  Still working out the pants and shirt for Kritika, but I narrowed down my look.  The image below got me thinking of what a custom smuggler would look like with the flair of Star Wars, yet unique ability to develop my own personality.  The leather duster intrigued me and I kept searching.

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The vest seemed to be standard across all the references I found.  I had an old leather western vest in my closet, so I pulled it out and compared.  I noticed the bottom of all the referenced vest were straight and my western style was not.  So first thing I did was cut it straight.  I then researched ways to make it pop more with uniqueness and ordered those parts; a shotgun shell bandoleer for detonator charges (old big fuses) and a couple of metal code cylinders (chalk holders) that I will add to my vest.

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Something else I noticed was both the image above and below the guy wore black gauntlet gloves.  I recently acquired a motorcycle and happened to buy these same gloves, so dual purpose.

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The shirt I found on Amazon looked similar to the referenced photos and less “earthy.”  I still need to figure out a way to hide the zipper but it fits well and looks the part.  The pants I wanted to go with the traditional Corellian military award earned second class stripes while serving in the Imperial Navy.

Han Solo Holster and pants

“It was awarded most typically for courage demonstrated after deliberation; it was said that Corellians believed that anyone can be brave in the heat of the moment, but true heroism came when one knew that doing the right thing would hurt but did it anyway. Though they could be awarded for many reasons, the majority of the prestigious awards were awarded for courage under fire.” -Wookieepedia, Corellian Bloodstripe

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I found a pair of yellow piping stripes on eBay for a reasonable price and bought them.  The seller said they matched best with a pair of Dickies pants.  That weekend I went to 7 different stores looking for Dickies and didn’t find a pair until the seventh store.  They had the pants I was looking for, but in the wrong colour.  So I tried on a few pairs until I found a good fit and then ordered the right colour online.

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When the pants got delivered I took them to a local seamstress who stitched them down the sides of my pants.  My boots are done with Ariat half chaps to give them the added height, as I couldn’t find any tall riding boots for men in the state of North Dakota.

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I got my pants back today from the seamstress and tried everything on, the vest definitely needs that extra flair to it, but overall it is coming together quite well.

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I will be testing it out this Saturday at iMagicon.

Update: 5/4/17 (May the Fourth Be With You)

I tested this kit out on Saturday at iMagicon 2017 up in Minot, North Dakota.  There are few tweaks I’d like to do to the holster and some additions wanted for the vest area, but other than that it is coming along very nicely.

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I also met a guy dressed up as Barf from Spaceballs at the comic con and got a picture with him.

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They had a green screen to get your picture in front of, so I went and tried it out.  I tried to get the fairy princess background with butterflies but they decided this background (see below) was more fitting.  🙂  Yes, I got them to line my blaster tip up with a star.

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Update 5/18/17:

So after my vest got misrepresented as Captain Malcolm Reynolds of the Firefly television series with its western space smuggler look I researched and bought a new vest.  It is a basic vest similar to Han Solo’s black one with pocket flaps and everything.

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It arrived yesterday and the first thing I did was see if my detonator charges (giant fuses) would work in the shotgun shell loops.  I had bought a bandoleer earlier, but found the vinyl strapping did not fit well with my overall kit.  The charges fit well and I ended up spacing them up to look more realistic.

Vest with Charges

I also have been researching a smugglers neck guard recently, trying to add more of a Star Wars flair to my overall kit.  I posted the inquiry on the Star Wars Fans Forever page and my Facebook page.

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Here are some of the results I got:

“You could cut up and reshape a portion of a dryer hose or some other smaller corrugated hosing followed by some spray paint. A dark stocking with a wire through the middle and sew lines to make the ribbing. You could do like a wooden snake concept.” -Kelly Wilson

“It looks like an armadillo neck pillow.” -Katie Dunn

“I was thinking a dryer hose, but like the wooden snake idea above. Otherwise, I just think of baked goods…..” -my mom

Others suggested dense foam, dense foam with leather wraps, and/or pool noodles.  The first thing I tried was the pool noodle for less than a dollar at the store.  I cut it in half and then made notches in it to fold the leather into . . . . never really got past the point of how to connect the leather to the foam and it sort of died there.

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I then started researching different kinds of leather and by accident in my research found pleated leather for marine seating covers.  It is perfect for the look I was going for with pleats in it already.  It arrived today and I got started, the picture below is a size comparison to the pen as this was a 36″ x 54″ piece of pleather leather (way more than I would ever need).

I cut out a scrap piece and held it up to my neck to check the pleats, they lined up!  Then I cut a straight edge and with the help of my wife and her sewing machine we started to work.  First we removed some of the padding (batting) on the back to fold over the leather to not have a rough edge.  We duplicated that on the other side of the strip and used pins to hold it in place.

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Then we sewed it to the seam of my vest after I had removed the zipper in the hide-a-way hood that I had already torn out and the main zipper down the front.  Not sure on how strict TDE is compared to the Mercs with zippers, but figured it wouldn’t hurt to pull it out anyways.

We then sewed the leather to the seam and sort of folded it over to form a tube.  Then I finished up by sewing it back on itself.  After that I stuffed the “tube” full of a strip of dense foam (pool noodle) to give the neck guard shape/depth.

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After I had the foam sticking out of both sides, I used two pieces of leather to tuck the foam up inside the “tubes” and super glued the leather pieces to the pleated leather.

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In addition to the neck guard I plan to add similar pieces to form sleeves like the image below; but that depends on how well it works with my idea for shoulder armour.  The shoulder armour I am looking into doing is a solid leather piece on my right shoulder.  I like the style of the girl below’s shoulder leather armour best.

Shoulder Guard

Update 5/20/17: I started working on my shoulder armour last night.  I’ve been toying with this piece of leather all week trying to figure out a good shape.  I compressed it under some heavy boxes of matchbox cars to form the shape after wet molding it.  I finally went with the same basic cutout shape as a Mandalorian shoulder bell, but in leather.

After cutting it out, I stained it with the same stain as my holster (acorn brown).  I really like this colour.  I then punched holes through the leather and used a second piece of leather punched in the same pattern for the reverse side.  Then it was a matter of lining up the shoulder armour to my shoulder while not wearing it, a feat in itself.

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When lined up I was able to punch holes through the vest and held it in place with a screw driver until I could put my Chicago Screws through the top visible leather armour, the vest, the thick backing leather on the inside, and small leather gap fillers for a snug tight fit.  The placement on the shoulder allowed me to hide a bunch in the shoulders from when we sewed the neck guard in.

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The Chicago Screws are simple yet very effective and really brings the kit together with the same stain in both the shoulder armour and holster.  Unfortunately it looks really good reversed in the mirror, so I hope it looks good in really like with the shoulder piece on my left side.  I’m thinking of a strap for the right side that connects to the front of the vest and the back of the vest giving it some add style to the back, but we’ll have to see about that.

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Update 5/21/17: I figured out the time era of my smuggler kit, it is somewhere before Episode 4 – A New Hope when Han Solo is introduced to the movies.  I did some research and found out where my primary photo sources were coming from.  They are referenced and seen in Star Wars Edge of the Empire Role-playing Game.

Star Wars Edge of the Empire Roleplaying Game

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Karl Darklighter Custom Smuggler

I had originally thought it was during the time of the Old Republic but seeing as my kit matches more to what Han Solo would have and that my primary weapon is a DL-44 that this time period fits better.  “Prequel Trilogy (ep. l-lll)”  It has all the elements of my kit from the neck guard to the shoulder armour to the pants, holsters, DL-44, and more.

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Update 5/23/17: Official Member of The Dark Empire TDE# 388.  Karl Darklighter.