Scott Holden's Tauntaun Costume - Q & A

The following is a short Q&A with Scott Holden, maker of the "Luke Skywalker on a tauntaun" costume.


Before we got started, I wanted to address four technological innovations with his tauntaun costume:

1. Using tubes of silicone caulk to paint a mold directly onto the surface of your sculpture
I've only done one other mold before using liquid urethane, and wasn't really satisfied with the workability. I guess I was just scared of having the same experience if I tried liquid latex or anything else 'liquid'. Not to mention the cost of these items from the (not so) local supplier was breathtaking! I wondered about the tubes of Silicone caulking you could buy at Home Depot, and if anyone had tried it before.. An internet search yielded groups of people that were using the tubes, but were thinning it down using various solvents. It seemed like they were just trying to duplicate the 'liquid' medium that I was trying to avoid. After testing the technique on a small clay model, I pulled the trigger and bought a box of silicone caulking tubes. It worked surprisingly well! The consistency of the silicone straight from the tube allowed me to put an even coat over all the surfaces of the model, even upside down. Applying the silicone in long, overlapping bead-like passes took a long time,.. But the finished product captured all the detail of the model perfectly.

read Easy, Illustrated Instructions on How to Make a Cheap Silicone Mold with Ordinary Silicone Caulk

2. Using quartered PVC pipe.
Previous costumes I've made used the same kind of wire-frame body work. Home Depot used to sell these large (4'x8') sheets of PVC(?) that I could cut flexible strips from. Note the "used to". The only solution I could come up with was to take the 3/4" thin wall pvc that I bought and rip it through my table saw. 3 passes and I was left with narrow, but sturdy strips that would easily flex and conform to the shape I was looking for.

3. Making offset stilts
I wanted the costume to be as big as real life, which meant stilts were needed to achieve the height aspect. The Tauntaun, like a horse's back legs, have a dog-leg bend. I hoped to use some sheetrock stilts that I had but they were too 'vertical' looking. Thank god I work at a sheet metal shop. I designed some stilts in Solidworks, and had them built and welded at the shop I work at. One of the things I was really proud of was that they had little springs and pivots that allowed for independent heel and toe action.

4. Using snowboard bindings
I've found that when you use stilts in a costume you're not always able to reach your feet. So a couple years back when making a different costume I got the idea of using snowboard bindings. I just screw the clips into the bottom of some sturdy shoes, fasten the plates to the stilts and presto! No more blindly fiddling with straps and belts, they just click in. I also tied a little piece of twine to the release mechanism and ran it up the stilt to around my knee, so a little tug on the twine and your feet are free.

Were PVC strips strong? Were they difficult to cut?
Yes, very strong. Even quartered, you're best bet to cut them perpendicularly was w/ pvc pipe cutters. I'll be honest, ripping the pvc on the table saw was a little sketchy... Even with a finishing blade the pipe tended to chip away in sections instead of cut. Oh, and use earplugs and safety glasses. Seriously, USE EARPLUGS, it is unbelievably loud.

Did you have to apply heat to bend them? Did the rivets hold well?
I didn't use heat to bend the strips, just the main tube frame. What I did use was little strips to pull in where I wanted to put symmetrical bends in the body. Imagine putting a horizontal strip in an O to make it shape like an 8. I started off using little self tapping screws, but was quickly running out, so switched to rivets. They held pretty well.. In some high stress areas, I used the screws, most other places I went the rivets.

How much PVC is used in the whole costume?
Hmm.. I ended up throwing so much away in mess-ups and excess lengths.. A rough guess would be 7 or 8 10' pieces?

How did you attach the expanded foam Tauntaun head to the PVC pipe body?

I cored 3 holes in the bottom of the head that matched the 3 pvc pipes coming out of the neck. I put pvc couplings on the neck and glued little pipes into the cored holes in the head. A couple pvc tee's and elbows were used for tying in the horns. Oh, and the horns were the same,.. I cored a hole through the back and glued in a pipe.

Was the fur the most expensive component?

Yeah, but is was also the largest component.. So even though it was an expensive single step, that single step catapulted the costume from theory to reality in a matter of hours. But yes, I guess no matter which way you look at it $22 per yard times 9 yards...

When you carried the fur out of the fabric store, were you thinking, "gosh, this is approximately how much additional weight I'll be adding onto the costume tomorrow".

Ha! You know, I really didn't.. I guess maybe because deep down I knew that most of it was going to just be scrapped or trimmed off?

After you cut the fur, did you sew the pieces together?

Nope, Zip-Ties! I hear it is possible to sew fur, but i'm horrible at best when it comes to sewing. I just put the fabric fur side to fur side and poked zip ties about every 6? inches. Fur hides everything, including bad seams.

Sometimes I embark upon a process which requires a moderate investment for an experimental technique which doesn't work out. Did you have many expensive missteps?

Only one I can recall. I was thinking I would use flexible expanding foam for the head. Turns out it only expands 10 times is original volume and the end product was too dense. That was a $40 mistake. Hang on,.. I did waste 3 hours making Luke's binoculars out of a milk jug, pvc pipe and MDF wood only to have it look totally cheesy. But that only cost me my time.

The offset stilts are something that not just anyone could fabricate. What did you learn when you were building them?

I learned how to weld 2" .049 wall Aluminum tubing together. I've never done that, and it was fun. Oh and I learned how to make my 'cut' drawings better, I guess I never realized I'd been making my drawings at work so difficult until I had to go out there and cut my OWN stuff.

 


The fake human legs are a very effective illusion, and it is hard to imagine that the person "riding" is actually carrying the entire weight of it on his shoulders. Do you have an idea of the total weight?

Just weighed it! 39 lbs of Body, head, and tail. And legs are 15 lbs each. I can't believe my buddy dragged that thing around for what was it 2.5 hours!?

Did the project creep? If you had 6 more months, what would you have changed?

Yeah, it felt like a lot of the time was just spent sitting in front of the costume saying "I need to do this next, but I have to do this first, and I don't have the supplies to that, so...." 6 more months, I would try and make it lighter? Maybe more maneuverable? I don't like the fact that it doesn't have completed feet, possibly fix that.

This costume is one of the all time greatest, and more people should see this thing in action. Do you have plans to showcase it anywhere else?

Thank you! I'd love to take it to Las Vegas, and try my hand at the contests down there! I've also jokingly talked about cruising the Boreal parking lot during ski season. I think it would look good in a natural snow environment. Or in the background, way behind the reporter broadcasting from Blue Canyon reporting the first blizzard. We'll see!

More on the Zone Ball costume contest | the tauntaun costume | How to make a cheap silicone mold with ordinary silcone caulk | Greg's Bumblebee Transformer Costume

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