When building a vacuformed kit, you must realize that you have to build a framework for the parts to fit on. Unlike an injected molded kit, there are no guides (pin and slots) to line the parts up and lock them into place. If you have a well vacuformed kit, as seen here from an Imperial Armor 2005 front to back style kit, adding the structure will support and help your build go smoother. What I will attempt to do in this tutorial is show how to use the vacuform kit to its best advantaged to produce a prop of quality. The TIE Chestbox kit I am using was cast in Gloss Black double smooth ABS.

Here you see the parts laid out as they come in this particular kit.


One of the first things that you need to do is lay down a cloth or soft shop towel to lay the parts down as you work on it. I generally will use either GE Silicone II caulk or E-6000, or GOOP Glue and Super Glues or ACC glue. The first two give you time to re-position items, but with that flexibility comes the need to wait for the glues to cure. ACC Glue can run or foam or whiten if you are building in a humid environment so use a "Quick Cure" to keep the glue from running. There are foam safe ACC glues now available. Write me for details. This can be a disaster which will cause you to have to paint the ABS box. The whole point behind doing the kit in ABS is to not have to paint. So be careful.


ACC glues (cyranoacryllic) “Crazy Glue” bond items together like your fingers to the box, leaving a perfect fingerprint in the middle of the box. ACC has great strength and won’t pull apart. The problem comes when a part gets “twisted” the torque will break the bond. So if you want to glue a part together like the gears to the lower donuts parts that’s a great use for ACC. There are two drawbacks to using ACC. If you are working in humid conditions and use a “Kickers” to accelerate the bond, the glue will turn white. Not a good look on a glossy black box. So use ACC where you cannot see it. Secondly, to break the bond of ACC you have to use “Acetone” used in nail polish remover. Acetone will mar your ABS finish as badly as liquid glue will.


Above you see the layout of the rockers and round buttons (I know the box is upside down.) You should mount your rockers a half inch from the top edge and right side of the box. Then leave a 1/16th of an inch gap between them. If you are not going to install lights, the two gray rockers should have black dots where you see them in the picture. Mount the red round button over the white rocker and the white over the left gray rocker.

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Cut out a 2” X 6” square out of the back of the box so you have access to the interior of the box. I simply score the box with a new exacto blade. If you never intend to add anything to your box you can bypass this part. Be sure to clean the parts of the box you are working on. A rubbing alcohol will generally remove any foreign substance from the surface. Then you must rough up the sides of the plastic to be glued. I use a rough grit of sandpaper to achieve this and then clean the residue before gluing. I then brush both parts to be joined with the Weldon 4 and push them together and then clamp them. If you can leave them clamped over night do so. Time is your friend. The first thing to do is add strips of plastic to back side of the box. I generally use the back side of the box to place these on. You’ll notice the white strips first go on the sides as well as the top. Smaller strips will go into the top corners to add rigidity and keep the box from shifting. On the bottom I use a very thin strip of styrene otherwise you would have to heat and curve the piece of plastic to match the curvature of the bottom of the box.

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All of this is used to connect the front and the back together. I will use the black GE Silicone II caulk to glue the front to back together. Use a wet paper towel to remove the access. This will do two things, fill the gaps and if you allow it to dry 24 hrs. a firm seal.

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Once you have all the “ledges” added to the edges of the back sections of the box, you will need to line up the hose ports (donuts) and cut out the same size hole out of the sides of the box. The hose ports should be an 1/8th of an inch from the top of the box. Cut a 1 7/8th” diameter hole to match that of the donut in the side of the box. This is a slightly larger hole than the outside diameter of the hoses most of us use. See the illustration to the left. You can use the donut itself to draw the hole on the box and cut it out. If you are using a Dremel tool be careful. Though a Dremel is a great tool for this purpose but it can get away from you and ruin a project. You should glue the donuts in place with ACC from the inside of the donut and then fill the connection with the Silicone caulk to add strength to the connection.

Once you have glued your bottom donuts into place a 1/8th of an inch from the bottom edge its time to finish the box. The lower donut is where you should glue your gears. You should now attach the top “wedge” to the top of the box. Center the “wedge” to the center of the top of the box with the flatter angle facing forward, and the sloped angle to the back. Add your 1” squares to the left side of the box as pictured and also the 1/8th” white pin striping around the squares and along the bottom front of the box. Add the aluminum greeblie to the lower rectangle. This does not come with the kit but can be found from our favorite Elvis trooper. http://www.elvistrooper.com/tiekit.htm . Once you have completed your box add industrial strength Velcro to the back of the box or use nuts and bolts to attach your box to your armor. Without modifications, your vacuform box should be light enough to be held easily by the Velcro.


Congratulations you have now completed your vacuformed TIE Pilot chestbox. I hope this tutorial has been of help.