Building Darth Vader
Out of PVC and Cardboard
Made from PVC, Craft Foam, Duct Tape, Fabric and Cardboard – you can have your own budget Darth Vader for under $40 (minus the helmet). David Prowse (Actor who played Darth Vader) was an ominous character standing at 6’7” and a bodybuilder by trade. After sketching some measurements, a PVC skeleton was constructed with those proportions. The arms are left short to provide a postured “fists on hips” stance so that hands wouldn’t have to be constructed.
Using scrap cardboard from an IKEA furniture box, discs for the arms and a shell for the body frame was cemented together using hot glue. Make sure to check your measurements and keep things proportional.
Strips of black duct tape were layered vertically on the body to simulate the pleats on Vader’s leather body suit. Once the strips are tacked on, black duct tape is placed over the pleats to cover the body and arms.
Using 2-sheets of black craft foam (glued together), the shape of the chest armor begins to take shape.
Using references online, various trim pieces are cut and placed on to the chest armor.
Once glued and trimmed, the chest armor is heated with a heat gun and then curved to give a natural bend over the shoulders. Epoxy Resin is then brushed on in order to allow paint adherence and to provide a hard, protective surface.
In order to maintain the body proportions, the shoulders need to be built up using a 2-liter soda bottle or in this case, a plastic blister pack.
Both the chest armor and shoulders get the signature paint of silver and black. A simple mask job keeps the colors separated and once on the mannequin, it starts to look like Vader.
In order to make the belt and boxes, again black craft foam serves as the belt, cardboard for the boxes (painted black) with a sheet of craft foam for the box greeblies (later glued onto the box).
The gizmos on the box include green buttons made from layered foam with aluminum flashing tape with a kids plastic transparent (green) divider plastic cover. The silver buttons are tattoo mixing cups used for airbrushing and I included small red LEDs powered by a 9volt battery.
The half circle rod, was a piece of white plastic tubing (could also use coat hanger tube), split in half and wrapped in duct tape.
The belt buckle leveraged aluminum tape over various shapes (rectangle and circle cardboard) with 5 vertical bars made from black electrical tape.
The chest pack was a lucky find at the local good will for $2, but this could be found on ebay or made with the same technique as the belt assembly. Vader’s codpiece was fashioned from craft foam and heated to give shape.The half circle rod, was a piece of white plastic tubing (could also use coat hanger tube), split in half and wrapped in duct tape.
The cape completes the look and no commercially available capes are available at this size under $100. Within 4 hours a completed cape was made with 9-yards of cheap black fabric. The fabric is cut into triangles (long edge at 6’10”) and then sewed together to make pie – or pacman shape. Make sure to keep enough material for his cloth that drapes under the belt.
With the cape added (including some chain from the craft store), I realized that neither his legs nor his feet show, therefore nothing more was added to those areas.
With his $2 chest pack, you can walk up and hit the buttons and have him say lines from the movies and begin breathing.