Design Diary – The Saga of Darth Shakespeare

With the rediscovery of Verily, A New Hope by William Shakespeare, I had the pleasure of being contacted to create an authentic period helmet for a reproduction of Lord Vader’s garb. BEST PROJECT EVER!

It is rare that one gets the opportunity to work on something so utterly brilliant. It was a challenge to my craft that I haven’t yet had and it was intensely pleasurable to create, while at the same time nerve-racking and physically painful at times. It took three weeks to complete and it filled much of my conscious mind, as well as my unconscious mind as I dreamed about it more than once.

This is how it began. After one day, it was barely a wok.
darth day 1

Two days in and the sheet of metal showed no signs of becoming a helmet. I had to work on other things to let my arm recover after this.
darth day 2

Skip forward a bit and the notion of a helm can be drawn from the beaten and blackened sheet. It is incredibly satisfying to watch this take shape, one hammer blow at a time.
darth 3

After a week of regular beatings, the base of the helmet was formed.
darth 4

I can’t even describe how utterly dull the process is to turn that dented and scorched shell into something shiny like this. The planishing, oh the planishing!
darth 5

Finally, the helmet was finished,
darth 6

but for one detail
darth logo

Affixed with tiny rivets, the lobster tail is adorned with the imperial logo, etched in brass.
darth back

With the helmet finished, the real fun begins on the mask
darth 7

After some gentle persuasion and several trips to the furnace, Darth begins to emerge. Every blow of the hammer matters at this stage. A bit too much force in the wrong place could tear or crumple the mask like a piece of paper.
darth eight

A bit more work and refinement and he’s ready for polishing.
darth 9

Steel, being somewhat opaque, requires eyeholes. An afternoon with a diamond-bladed jeweler’s saw was needed to carve them out but it was totally worth the effort. This detail added so much to the overall sculpture it is difficult to describe.

Then finally, it was finished. All it required was a dapper little moustache and beard to place it firmly in sixteenth century Europe.


Ryan is a professional nerd, teaching engineering in the frozen north. Somewhat less professionally, he is a costumer, author, blacksmith, juggler, gamer, serial enthusiast, and supporter of the Oxford comma. He can be found on twitter and instagram @studentofwhim. If you like what I do here, feel free to leave a tip in my tipjar.

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