Darth Vader costume build

Hey gang!

I’m new here at VHS but thought I would post a bit about a project I’ve recently begun. I’m endeavoring to build a complete Darth Vader costume from each of the original Star Wars trilogy movies, recreating every last detail to the best of my ability and learn new skills along the way. The first component I’m really digging in to is Vader’s belt and belt boxes as seen in “A New Hope”.

Earlier this summer, before I discovered that VHS existed, I had taken a stab at my first prototype of the belt using some limited tools and a little improvising. I used an old leather belt blank that I bought years back from Tandy leather that I trimmed down to the correct width, cut grooves along the edges, and dyed black. I riveted on an accurate replica buckle (that I had helped design a long time ago for some folks on a Star Wars costuming forum) with a Tandy buckle ring and hook thingy.

The next step was to figure out the dimensions for the belt boxes, scaling from photo reference and some of the correct original found parts used on the screen used piece (lights and such), and then cut some sheet aluminum with some shears to the appropriate shape before bending them into the boxes using some sheet metal vise grips.

After that I cut some sheet stainless steel into shape to create the hook used to hang his lightsaber on his belt. A cobbled together little jig let me add the needed bends and it was ready to go.

Then a little paint and assembly led to a reasonable prototype I was satisfied with. Here’s a quick and dirty comparison to the screen used belt.

I shared this prototype on some costuming forums and got several interested parties requesting one, so I thought I would try doing a short production run of 10 of these completed belts to see how I go with the concept. It was while I was researching options for how I might actually produce this run that I discovered VHS and immediately signed up. I have drawn up plans for all the various components, ordered some custom laser cut sheet metal parts online (I’ll share the link once I get the parts in hand and see that the quality is good), and have sourced all the lights and things I’ll need. While I wait for things to arrive in the mail, I’ve made a stop at Lonsdale Leather here in Vancouver to pick up a hide or two, some basic leather work tools, and some black dye to start making the belts themselves, which is what I have been working on in the shop at VHS.

I used a strap cutter tool to slice up some 8-9 oz veg tan leather into enough belt blanks for this run.

Then I used the groover tool to cut the grooves that run along the edges of the belts.

Then all that was left was to dye them all a nice rich black.

So that’s where I’m at now. I’ll cut them to length and add the sizing holes once I have everything else together. Once other parts start coming in I’ll be in the shop working on the next steps.



Darth Vader? Never heard of her :wink:

Those are some beautifully made belt clips (among all the rest, of course)

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Thanks! The metal work has been my favourite part of this project so far and are the skills I’m most excited to expand at VHS. :+1:


Ok, I need to do a little bit of catch up on my progress on this project. I got myself a bit more organized by sorting all of the components (that I have so far) that go into making these Vader belts into this part sorter so that assembly will be a bit more streamlined when the time comes.

I snagged a non functioning vintage Telefunken Magnetophon 201 TS tape player which was the source for the metal mesh that was installed in each of the belt boxes.

I took a hairdryer to it and softened the glue that holds the mesh onto the tape player and was able to pry it out without any damage.

Then I simply popped out the logo plate, which is just press fit with some little pegs through the holes in the mesh leaving me with a beautiful piece of authentic vintage mesh to chop up into little pieces!

Last week I received all of the custom laser cut metal parts I ordered online and I am really pleased with them! All the measurements match my designs perfectly and the assembled parts will be very accurate when all finished. I’ve got the flat pieces that need to be folded into the belt box lids and bottoms, the backing plates and “D” shaped detail plates for the belt buckles, and the flat pieces that will be bent into the lightsaber clips. The company I used is called “SendCutSend” (https://sendcutsend.com/) who are based out of Reno, Nevada. They are extremely affordable and ship very quickly, although they don’t ship outside of the USA, so I had a friend in California receive the parts and then re-direct them to me. A little hassle, but the quality and accuracy of the parts was totally worth it.

I used my box and pan brake to start bending over the edges of the lid part of the belt box to see how it looks.

Happy with how it all looked, I proceeded to do the rest of the bending required to form all 20 belt box lids and bottoms leading to this stack-o-boxes here:

I’m looking forward to getting checked out on the manual metal lathe this coming weekend as the next few steps on this project are going to require turning some knurled aluminum knobs and the centre disk on the belt buckles. Yay learning!


@Cantina_Dude I liked your aluminum boxes. Where did you buy them? Are they 1/16" thick? I’ll probably use similar sheets to do the housing my terminator arm’s mechanism for a Halloween costume.

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Thanks, @Noah. I had my custom designs cut out of 0.040" thick aluminum 5052 sheet by the company I linked to in my previous post. The material was super easy to work with and bend using the pan brake, creating nice corners all around. :+1:

Thanks @Cantina_Dude. Do you mean SendCutSend? I was wondering where did you buy the first raw alluminum sheet that you cut and bended with hand tools. Did you buy that one locally or from the USA company?

@Noah Oh, no, the metal I used for the prototype boxes was 0.040" thick aluminum 5052 sheet I bought from Metal Supermarket in Burnaby. https://www.metalsupermarkets.com/vancouver-burnaby/

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That is so useful! Thanks @Cantina_Dude

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I have now finished a significant component in the Vader belt run that I was initially unsure exactly how I would make… the lightsaber hooks! I haven’t seen completely accurate hooks be offered anywhere before so I had to make them myself. I drew up my design and had the flat stainless steel parts laser cut. I then had to come up with a bending jig to allow for accurate and repeatable bends. Doing the actual bending was a bit of a work out, but I got them all done and couldn’t be happier with them!

Here are some of the flat laser cut stainless steel parts next to the bending jig I came up with. I took this piece of steel U-channel I had and mucked about milling, drilling, and filing things in a way that I figured would do the things I wanted it to do and even had @Metal_Janet do some quick welds to fuse the positioning pins in place.

First a flat stainless steel blank is positioned on the pins of the bending jig ready for the first bend.

A bit of force gives the tip of the hook a neat and tidy bend.

Then the blank is flipped around to face the other end of the bending jig.

This section of 0.25" steel rod is positioned in the half round cutouts I milled into this end of the bending jig.

Then with a little more force the second bend is made around the rod.

The steel rod needs to be removed to release the completed hook from the jig.

And this is what a finished lightsaber hook looks like when it’s done!

Hurray for repeatability! Boy, are my arms tired…


Tidy. Nice job!

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Wow, this is beautiful! Nice write-up and great pics!

I love that we are getting some great use out of the bending break, a recent-ish crowd-sourced tool!

edit I see now that it was your box brake, not ours, but note, vhs has one :slight_smile: edit

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This is an awesome build!

Just a fyi. I’ve had some laser cut metal pieces done locally in Richmond/Steveston at http://www.industriallaser.com

Their minimum order is $250.

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Thanks! And cheers for the link to the local metal laser cutting place. I’ll have to look into it and see how their pricing compares. The $250 minimum wouldn’t necessarily be a problem in a lot of cases, but I wonder how things would break down on a per part basis. I had received quotes from a couple different waterjet cutting places in Burnaby that was pretty pricey compared to the SendCutSend place, even with the shipping costs. For example, the flat aluminum box lid parts with the holes pre cut for the lights, knobs, and mesh was going to cost $12.00 CAD per part from the waterjet place if I supplied the sheet aluminum myself. That same part $1.75 CAD per part including the material cost from SendCutSend, so a significant savings. It’ll be interesting to see what Industrial Laser can do!


Playing a little bit of catch up on this thread… I’ve been busy working away on these replicas and haven’t had the chance to update things here!

OK, so the folks I am making these belts for want to convenience and reliability of LEDs rather than old school incandescent bulbs, so I converted the little red and green lights that are installed in the belt boxes to house some warm white LEDs.

I prepped the back plates for the belt buckles for painting and a hit them with a couple coats of flat black.

The raw laser cut detail plates were given a directional sanding with 320 grit sandpaper before being smoothed out a little with a Scoth-Brite pad.

Machining the threaded buckle disc starts by cutting the material down to diameter for the threaded stem.

Then the main disc diameter is cleaned up.

Chamfers are cut on the end of the stem and the back edge of the disc.

Then the threads are cut on the stem with a die.

Next the disc is parted off from the aluminum stock.

The piece is threaded into an adapter to allow it to be mounted in the jaws of the lathe chuck in the other direction without damaging the threads.

The front face is smoothed out and cut to the proper thickness.

Then finally a chamfer is cut on the front edge of the disc.

And that’s one disc done! Now to do that 9 more times…

All 10 discs done!

How these belt buckles are assembled will become more clear later on…

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Here is when I did some prepping of the box bases and lids for painting and then hitting them all with a few coats of flat black paint.

I wanted to give both the insides and outsides a few coats of paint so I had to flip things over and get all sides covered and then leave everything for a few days to fully cure.

These painted pieces get roughed up and weathered later on down the line, but it’s good to get a solid finish down first before scratching it all up!

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Here’s an example of some of the tiny details that are part of replicating a costume piece like this. Perhaps it’s also an example of my level of insanity…

I needed to make a whole bunch of very specifically sized red rubber washers and came up with this method for punching them out of a gasket I found in the plumbing section at the hardware store.

I found a leather hole punch that was the appropriate size for the outer dimension of the washers. Step one was to line up and hand punch these little circles.

The next step is to use a smaller leather punch to put the hole in the centre.

And that’s one washer done!

Now do that 120 times… Here’s a handful of completed washers!


Amazing! Thanks for the pics. Love seeing your process and attention to detail.

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