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The Pièce De Résistance of Blasters

Part 2 of Developing the E-11 Blaster Kit


When we last left off we identified the following problem: how and where can you find a blaster that has the accuracy and durability that can match the armor you’ve spent so many hours completing?

This article will cover the topic of accuracy...relatively speaking. Why relatively? The problem with replicating any kind of prop that originated from the 1970s is that it’s often more of an archeological dig than it is a simple matter of referencing the archives. Despite the plethora of resources and original film assets that are in the archives of the Lucasfilm Museum of Cultural Archives (what you might commonly refer to as the Lucasfilm Archives or Skywalker Ranch Archives), the only E-11 blasters in their catalog were sub-par castings from The Empire Strikes Back and the MGC Sterling from Return of the Jedi. We knew the blasters from A New Hope had been rented from a local rental house and were returned to that rental house after filming.

Unlike a lot of our earlier projects, nothing we found in the archives had true lineage to the original deactivated Sterlings that were used. We had to rely on other types of research that has long existed in the ethos of prop replication.

The key references we ultimately came upon were a set of very good photos of the blaster commonly referred to as the “Bapty” blaster, so named after the rental house from which the original deactivated prop was procured. We found both photos from the time of filming and more recent photos of these blasters that had made their way into the hands of private collectors. The Bapty blaster stands out because of its additional detailing and its slight variance to the standard E-11 blaster we all know and love, ultimately leading to our decision to base the first kit on this beloved piece.

  1. Grip
  2. Different Greebles
  3. Casting Line and Receiver Cut

Grip Comparison

Grip: Looking at the grip, one can’t help but notice the bold departure from the well-known Sterling checked grip featured on the E-11. The grainy grip of the original blaster is not present, but replaced with a relatively smooth grip instead. Additionally, the overall shape of the grip has been simplified to a degree. The only question is "why?" We will never know for sure, but it is presumed this is the result of casting the grip and trigger group to make the Sterling non-functional. This may have been done in a hurry, maybe even on location, and resulted in less detail than the original.

Different Greebles: Like Industrial Light and Magic, who coined the term, when we refer to ‘greebles’ (not to be confused with 'nurnies' which are CGI detailing of a similar nature) we are identifying the small detail pieces purposely placed, sometimes seemingly at random, on a prop to give it a more complex and interesting appearance. Greebles are typically found parts from various unrelated kits and models, often at all sorts of scale, and repurposed to provide depth and on screen ‘realism’ to the piece. In this particular blaster, we noted that the greebles we ever so slightly different with unique additions to the magazine and the counter. Again, why?

Counter Comparison

Scope Comparison

Cylinders Comparison

Casting Line and Receiver Cut: To top it all off, there is an odd cut line that was present on the body of this blaster that wasn’t on others. As part of the deactivation process, the receiver tube of the Sterling was cut and a solid-cast replacement metal receiver was riveted to its tail end. There is a very obvious line down the side of the new rear receiver due to the casting process where the two halves didn't quite align. While this wasn't an intentional deviation from the standard E-11, it is an obvious identifier of the Bapty blaster.

Receiver Comparison

Now at this point most people have dozed off, but to enthusiasts of the prop this discussion has spawned all kinds of theories as to why the Bapty is the way it is. One of the most prevailing ideas (none of these can be definitively validated) takes into account that we do know some of the blasters were taken to Tunisia, crossing international borders. It is speculated that because of differing deactivation prop laws, perhaps more care than usual was needed. It would at least explain the odd cut line; perhaps it was used for additional proof of deactivation. Secondly, perhaps that iconic grip had to be removed and replaced by a quickly cut and sanded down version that worked more as a plug than anything. This would help drive home the the notion that the prop held no more threat than a broom handle. Lastly—and this is a shot in the dark—maybe the additional greebles were purposely placed to demarcate this as a true variant, perhaps only something a Sandtrooper would love. We’re fans, we can dream!

There you have it! With all the mystery and history, how could we NOT choose this as our first E-11 base kit? It’s clearly unique and perhaps the most easily identified variant of the E-11 seen in A New Hope.

In the next segment, we’re going to take a look the thought process in redefining how a blaster costume accessory kit should come together, from design principle to actual execution. Don’t miss the final chapter in this three piece series!

Questions? Comments? Let us know below what you think! Ready to get yours? Click here!

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Anovos Productions LLC March 19, 2019 4 tags (show) 1 comment

The Sterling Finishing Touch, Part One

Part 1 of Developing the E-11 Blaster Kit

Sterling, isn't it?

Back in my ol’ Stormtrooper cosplay days I often spent hours, days and WEEKS making my white armor perfect. You know what I am talking about: measuring your armor, scoring it, making the perfect cut. Then you measure if it fits, make the proper adjustments, measure if it fits, adjust...then see if it looks right, detect asymmetries...the whole kit and caboodle. Then finally, if your fitting mirror could only talk, you have… the PERFECT set of armor that fits you flawlessly! You couldn’t be prouder and you’re ready to hit the convention or event.

But what’s a classic trooper without his or her’s blaster?!?

If you’re like me, this is where things go, “eh”? After all this time to create the perfect piece of armor, you’re suddenly scouring eBay, forums, friends and family looking for an E-11 blaster. It then dawns on you; when it comes down to it, you really only have three choices:

  1. A Real Sterling Conversion
  2. A Foamy
  3. A Kit
Right off the bat, a real Sterling (the base of the E-11) is just out of the question because... well, depending on what country or state you’re in, there might be some legal jurisdiction issues and, not to mention, it’s horrendously expensive and equally heavy. Try holding one of these for an extended period of time, and you will get a real appreciation for our Greatest Generation troops.
 
A “foamy” is made of condensed open cells. It is generally made of a single cast, with a process that skins the inside of a mold, then an expandable open cell formulation creates the strength of the body around a metal armature. This option is awesome if that's your cup of tea, but sacrifices undercut detail due to the nature of the total foam build. Secondly, finding sources for really good ones is a tough thing now a days. In my day, this is what I used for lack of other options.
 
Kits really ranged in my day. The first issue was simply finding them: I often had to ask around, search eBay or hope someone in my costuming group resolved to never build theirs and would sell it to me! When you did find one or some, their accuracy and complexity was really polarized.  Some kits were mind-numbingly simple, but lacked detail and accuracy. Those same kits usually had a seam line that took days to sand then align with putty. Then some kits were direct casts of Sterling parts and conversion kits that, while amazingly accurate, were exceedingly complex to put together, then ended up being brittle because of the tiny parts hanging on for dear life with a drop of CA glue.

The crazy thing about it all, you’ve put in all this work into making your outfit incredible, but the finishing touch was a scramble to find something suitable that, honestly, didn’t match the caliber of your suit.

I am sure you’ve had similar experiences and it’s what framed our design of the E-11 kit. Many of us in the company have worn suits and have the bathroom scars to prove it. But with our kit we wanted it all: accuracy, durability and, most importantly, the ease of putting it all together whether you were an experienced kit builder or a beginner.

It all started with one rule: Make it super accurate but super easy.

This is going to be a three part series that looks at just that.

Wait, why three parts? Because the finishing touch is easily overlooked as the best part to the costume—next to the helmet of course—but it gets the least love!

Obviously, this is the intro into the problem that has existed for most of us. Be on the lookout for the following segments where we will dive deeper into how we chased the accuracy of this piece, and how we made it easy.

Questions? Comments? Let us know below what you think of these insights.

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Anovos Productions LLC March 15, 2019 4 tags (show) Add a comment
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