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Make your own Stormtrooper Armor?
Yes, you can build your own bone white armor, if you have the right tools, have a lot of spare time and know a few secrets! Here's how I did it.

Latest suits finished. TK560 [me] on the left and TK652 on the right.
tricorder by rodd
Latest set of armor pulls from TK560's 2 year plus project to create a stormtrooper armor from scratch.

Some of the film crew in their trooper gear.April 2006

And with the helmets off.

Back in August 2002 I started on a project; to create my own Star Wars Imperial Stormtrooper costume from scratch. Now, nearly three years later, and countless hours research, trial and error reverse-engineering and hard work, I finally have reached a point where I have a complete set of armor molds done. I'm still working on the helmet molds, but for now the body armor is done.

So, what does it take to make a stormtrooper costume? Well, the process is a complex one but not beyond what a fan can do in his spare time, and a few square feet in the garage. The first step is the vacuum forming machine. I must have made 4 different machines before I got one large enough to pull this project. The second step is the mold making. Different techniques have been used by other fans to make their trooper armor, but for me, I took advice from a fellow RPF board memeber, Phil G. aka Blaxmyth, and used MDF and Bondo to make the molds. The final step is to pull the plastic, trim out the parts, fit, paint and weather.

This page details some of my efforts. A documentary short film is available on this process, on the companion site Until that site is finished, most of my information [on how to make your own trooper armor] is kept here.

Here is a link for making replica hovi-mix mic screens

Here is a peek at the PVC pipe O2/Thermal detonator

Here is a peek at the PVC pipe Blaster

Here is the link for the template and how-to for the sandtrooper sniper knee diamond.

Here is a link to TKBIG's information on how he did his armor.


Brow/neck trim sites: not movie accurate, but nice neck trim material and will give your helmet a rigid neck
. Lots of options for both neck and brow trim. (Product #8507K41) for the brow. Product #US161 or US52 for the brow and SWR150 for the neck. These are screen accurate.



I get emails all the time from people asking me to sell them armor kits. These are for a fan film, and not for sale. I'm not doing this project to make money, even though I need money to pay bills and buy diapers for the kids! Here is my thinking on this:

  • First, the armor is not that accurate for most die-hard costumers wanting a screen accurate suit. [I'd say its good enought the fans/public that recognize them as Star Wars Stormtroopers, but thats it].
  • My molds will only last a few pulls, before needing repairs. I need to make about a 20 or so for a fan film. After this project will be complete, I do not plan to make any more. Email me for more details.
  • I have always had a bad feeling about using someone elses ideas to make money from. I've been asked why go to all the trouble and expense to make the trooper molds, and a vacuum forming machine, and not offer to sell the parts. The answer is simple, this is my hobby, and I do this for my own enjoyment. I plan to produce a "second" suit to be modified as a "Sandtrooper". After all, this is not about selling stuff, its about enjoying a fun hobby. If I got into trying to make a buck off this, that gets into legal issues with Lucasfilms. Something I don't want to do!
  • For me, its about gaining knowledge, and a personal challenge. Can I do this? Is vac-u-forming really that hard? What else can I make?
  • What will happen to the molds once I'm done using them? That I don't know yet. Most likely that will sit in the attic, collect dust and the grandkids can chunk them when I gone. I don't plan to sell the molds. I'm not sure how I'd feel if I sold the molds and later found out someone was selling "MY" suits on ebay!
  • What happens with the fan film suits once shooting wraps? I plan to give the suits to the actors in the film as 'payment' for being in the film and doing all the hard work. After all, the actors put days worth of work into pulling, trimming and fitting their costumes. What the actors decide to do with the suits will be up to them, but once the suits are out of my hands, I have no control over what becomes of them.

Really, the way I'm making these parts, its going to be a low-cost costume solution, cheap enough for the fan film production, but not intended for the die-hard costume buff. Sort of my version of what I saw in the movies, and scaled to fit my lanky 6' 2" frame. The GT/FX suit is a little short. Also, since these are made from HIPs they work better for a dirty Sandtrooper, and not a clean and shiny Death Star Door Guard unless you want to paint the armor a glossy white, and add the proper knee plate! For the fan film, these will be mudtroopers with some underwater action, and some really beat-up looks to the weathering.

For the nit-pickers, please try to remember, that these parts are fan-made in my tool shed, on a home-made vacuum form machine, one at a time, made by hand by me. They are rough around the edges, and need a lot of trim work before I ever get a suit I could wear! Each mold has hours of work in them, and there are 23 molds! If I were to calculate the time and effort I've put into this project, not just the cost of the plastic, I can't even begin to calculate the cost for each suit.

Can't make your own suit and need to buy one? So far, Lucas has never liscensed a decent version of the suit or helmet, and thats too bad. The fan produced suits, however are very nice. Email me if you want to know anything else.

Enough of the boring stuff, lets move on to the fun part!





Getting Started:

The next section is a collection of links for things you can easily and cheaply get to complete your own trooper suit. Besides the hard part, the armor "shells", you will also need gloves, boots, and a body suit. No trooper is complete without his E-11 blaster, complete with holster. Sandtroopers also have shoulder pauldrons, backpacks, and heavy blasters.

Here is my latest scratch built blaster, made from PVC pipe, and a piece of scrap wood. Some of the parts like the scope, grip, counter, stock, muzzle tip, and endcaps were resin casts I made from a real gun. Email me if you need these parts,as I have a few spares.


  • Here is a link to some pretty good trooper boots. These are styled after the 1970's disco ankle boots and are what you want. Get them big.
  • Here is a link for the undersuit. There are several options, but I like this suit the best. [thanks TK-409 for the link!] A local alternate is the "under-armor" type Lycra-Spandex athletic under garmets. Wal-mart sells a generic version at their stores. Dance wear unitards will also work, just be sure they are opaque!
  • Here is a cheap option for the voice-amp. [again, thanks TK-409!] An alternate is a Halloween voice changer that can be found at party supply stores.
  • Here is a link to a DIY neck seal. If the link is broken, here is the PDF version. [1.3MB] This adds a real nice touch to finish off the basic suit. Thanks Nordic Garrison! Also, TK-409 sells a great neck seal along with other cool trooper gear. Check out his site!
  • Here is a link to a the famous PVC Blaster Builders Club for all your scratch made blaster needs. What stormtrooper armor costume would be complete without a blaster? There are also Sterling dummy guns available and resin castings as well as stunt guns made from rubber. For me, the PVC versions are easy to make, look good and are cheap! Hasbro has again, re released their "Kenner E-11 blaster". Its a child's toy, and is about 2/3rds scale. A lot of the 501st cary them cause they are cheap. About $20 al Walmart.
  • A DIY "O2 Canister/Thermal Detonator" made of 2 inch OD PVC pipe, or electrical conduit pipe, 7.5 inches long; some cut down PVC endcaps, aluminum tape, and a scratch made control panels.
  • I have some spare resin blaster parts, and a few extra small armor parts. Click here to learn more.

Step One: The vacuum forming machine

The final version of my home-made vacuum forming machine. Click on the image for more info.

Click here to see the fabrication of my fourth version vacuum forming rig. Also, here are some of the prototype machines I made. Don't even think about this project until you have committed to making or buying a vacuum forming machine that is large enough for the chest mold. A forming platen on no less than 21.5 x 21.5 inches square is needed, trust me. You can buy commercial vacuum form machines and spend thousands of dollars and get great results, or, you can spend less than $200 and build your own Thurston James-type machine. I wanted to replicate the Thurston James design, but simplify it with a low-tech vacuum source. The hardest part is the oven construction and thats hard only because of the exotic wire and ceramic posts. The rest of the machine can be made from materials found at the local hardware/home improvment store.

Here is a link to the video, a documentary-type tutorial on vacuum forming.

Step 2: Bucks, Molds, "Moulds" or Plugs

Here are some of the first molds I ever tried to make. Made of MDF/Bondo and basswood hobby boards. Raw or painted, and made from any material you can think of, molds are the foundation for the armor. Add risers and tapers, and you have a mold that can be vacuum formed. The following are in chronological order. Start out with the most simple mold, the hip drop box, then the collar strip, and the knee power pack. The hand molds are the next easiest. Make these molds and you are on your way! Watch the video on mold making.

Some of the small molds. Note the collar straps will have to be reworked. The flat straps don't bend well. Here is a shot of the "hand" molds. Note, each part needs to be elevated above the vac-table surface in order to have the correct contours once it has been trimmed out. And a view of the shoulder bell still being worked on. The correct contour is a little tricky. Its done now!
Step 3: Making the vacuum form "pull"
The very first test pull: using the prototype Mark II Vac-machine

In my initial trials, I used what polystyrene I had on hand, an old "Garage Sale" sign. While functional as a test subject, I really needed to find a good styrene source. I eventually found "US Plastics Corp." and ordered the .060 styrene in a 40" x 72" sheet. Cost is $14.39 plus shipping. Not too bad. I am optimistic that this will work out well. HIPs is just a short name for High Impact Styrene. #43334. a 12" x 18" sale sign will run $5.00. The paint on the sale signs seem to cause some weird distortions too.

Here is the "US Plastics Corp." .060 styrene in a 40" x 72" sheet. Cost is $14.39 plus shipping. Not too bad. I measured the frame, cut it with a knife and slipped it into my frame. Two holes were drilled and thumbscrews were slipped in. The plastic is held securely during the heating and vacuum process. Here you can see the hand sections and the collar strips being formed. Notice that around the corners the plastic did not get hot enough. Also, I need to add risers with cut marks to indicate where to trim the parts. Here is another view of the second set of molds being vac-ed. I re-oriented the heater, and got better results with this pull. I still need to figure out some risers with cut marks on the "drop boxes" as the "bottoms are too curvy.
Here is the final test pull, removed from the frame. You can see, this is about the best I can expect from the current heating set-up. Not bad, I'd say 80-85% coverage. The 3 hp Shop-vac seems to pull a vacuum just fine. I do have some extended heating issues with the cheap-o Sunbeam grill [it cuts off at a medium temp] Adding a second unit should fix the problem. Also adding magnetic catches to hold the frame during heating should make the transition smoother. I really need a larger machine!


I have since changed plastic suppliers and now use http:/ as my supplier. They sell the Sheet High Impact Styrene [sHIS] for $23.41 a .080thick 4x 8 foot sheet.

Pretty soon I realized that my little vac-machine was going to be too tiny to pull the larger armor parts. Some other sites call to use your kitchen oven as the heater source. If your wife will allow this, it makes a cheap option. My wife said no, so I had to make the oven! After months of research and build time, trial and error, I finally got the oven working. The key to a successful vacuum forming machine is the oven.


Step 4: Reworking and using the bigger machine

The larger molds and the need for a larger machine
I'm pretty happy with the chest mold. It was a challenge to get the proper shape to the pecks, and I think it worked pout pretty well. This mold was used before I top coated it with the spot filler primer. It looks ugly, but it pulls fine. As I make a mold, I learn something new. Bondo is a wonder material! It helps contour and shape the rough blocks that I make, transforming them from MDF to vac-molds! A sealer coat also helps hide imperfections. MDF has a tendancy to fuzz a little on the surface. It needs a coat of spot putt to smooth things out. This is the upper back, and it need some fine tuning, but its mostly there. I'm working on the scale drawing of the thighs. Once the upper body is finished, I can see the light at the end of the mold making tunnel. Once the upper body is made, all that is left to do are the: inner and outer calves, the inner and outer right thigh and inner and outer left thigh. Some sort of fabricated thermal detonator and its off to the helmet molds!


As you can tell, these molds are larger than what could have been pulled on the prototype machine. That chest mold alone needs a pretty big working surface. If you plan to pull the abdomen and codpiece as one part, you will be glad you made the machine as a 24"x24" rig.


 The collars need to be reworked with an arch built in. The flat straps just do not bend well. Also, the knee boxes and belt seem to pull poorly using the thicker .080 material. I need to use .060 on these parts. Above are some of the molds.


Test pulls using the larger machine - Trial and error
Here are the pulls from the Thurston James-type machine. After getting some .080 thick HIS sheet and cutting it down to 24x24 inch squares, I mounted it on the frame, and began trying to melt it. The oven was not hot enough, and the corners did not get warm so the pull was poor. No vacuum seal. I continued heating the oven, and installing the lid, I was able to get a better pull. This one had an issue; there was such a deep draw between two pieces, the styrene had a hole pop in between the forearm and the shoulder. This caused a loss of vacuum and loss of detail. So, I decided to try a wider spacing approach. This seemed to work, and revealed the webbing issues, and the need for risers. Careful attention to arrangement of the molds on the forming platen will minimize the webbing issue.
The oven had been running for 20 mins. by the time I pulled this, and I found that if I wear gloves, I can massage the hot plastic to conform to the mold better. Note, the belt and the shoulder bell are on risers. The drop boxes, and other small parts are not. I had one error, I overheated the pastic, and it melted onto the coils. It was a lost cause. But after reloading the machine, and using the latest mold, the upper back, I had a good pull. It too needs a riser to reduce the flare that happens where the mold sits on the forming surface. Here is a detail shot of the popped plastic. I was really hoping for a lot of parts that could be pulled at one time with this machine. I will need to carefully cosider the mold placement to best minimize these issues.
Take a look at some of the webbing. Note, that a better arrangement of the molds will reduce the webbing issues. Another detail shot of the last test pull. Pretty decent detail. These parts are on risers and will trim out nicely. Some parts will look better uisng 0.60 material instead of the .080 seen here.  A few more pulls were made over the weekend. I finished the upper chest and now all the "armor shirt" parts are done. Time to work on the abdomen and lower back sections.


A lot was learned from the first few test pulls. Placement and the proper oven temperature are keys to a successful pull. Don't rush the heat cycle on the plastic. Also, the shop-vac I used is old and brand-new filter really helps.

Each mold that has a hard deep end to it, like the biceps and the shoulder bell, are going to need to be reworked with tapers to aid in the release of the mold from the pulled plastic. I am hopefull, if the tapers work, that I will be able to make some plaster casts from a good pull of the shoulder bell, biceps and forearms. That way I can pull a complete set in one pull instead of having to pull the same mold twice. [and save me from making another mold from scratch!]


Here is the first pull of the abdomen. I need to rework the edges, to get a tighter pull, but its getting there, some channels for the air to travel down. This should give a tighter pull on the surface. Second pull of the abdomen, and I added the belt. The belt did not pull very well, but the abdomen will be just fine. I'm still having a lockdown issue with some of the molds. Starkid1990 suggested adding some pulls and I think I will have to do that. The lower back. This is an easy mold to make if you have power hand planer and a belt sander! Thats a sandwich of 6 sheets of 15/16" MDF gluded together and ground down to the right shape.
This is the reworked arm molds. Notice there are tapers and risers on these that extend beyond the ends of the molds. The tapers help smooth the edges, and make demolding easier. Note the webbing between the drop box and the forearm. [not an issue for the useable portion] Here is a close-up of the tapers. These are not attached, but when you demold them, simply slip out the taper, and the mold pops right off. Also, it acts as a cuting guide! IA slight rework on the upper back armor. I'm still working on the details, I'm not entirely happy with this one. The ring thing needs to be redone, and the armpits seem too big. It also sticks real bad.


Its getting there! Each time I use the machine I seem to learn something new. Time to start on the molds that are bleow the waistline.

The last pull for the day is the "flat" parts. Finally, I got the belt to cooperate. Nice tight pull, no webbing and the mold release pretty easily. I plan to redo the mold for the collar straps, and make them arched instead of flat. After an hour and a half's worth of vac-u-forming, and only one miss-fire, this is the results. Call it a trooper factory!  
UPDATE 2-13-05:
I had an assistant help pull the next set of armor. Thanks Lance! Here are the results. Get an assistant, it really helps.
Another view of the vacuum formed parts. I now have 17 or 23 molds done. Working on the calves this week. Here is the abdomen and codpiece molds pulled as one mold. I was unsure if my vac-machine could pull this lage of a mold, but it can! There is a seam line where the two molds are butted together.

I'm glad the machine will hold the abdomen & codpiece as one pull. I did not realize the lower back and butt armor is even larger than the abdomen/codpiece! It barely fit on the machine. Less than an inch to spare all the way around. This means that it will cut down on the number of pulls, and the number of sheets of HIPS I need to make the full set of armor. Right now, that looks like a bout 3.25 sheets. Cost in materials for a trooper armor set, around $90. WOW!

The thigh molds and legs are done now. by removing the molds from the formed plastic quickly, while the plastic is still warm really helps release the molds.

Here is the lower back and butt armor. This is about as big as I can pull! Any longer and the mold would hang over the side.There is a seam line where the two molds are butted together.  I re-pulled the chest armor after making some minor changes to it. I think a little more sanding and I can call this mold done.  


Step 5: Practice makes perfect

With each pull I learn something. Who would have known, that the MDF does not have to be sealed to give a decent result?Latex paint or watered -down Elmers glue can seal the MDF. Trimming the part off the mold while the plastic is still warm is a good part removal technique? Most parts need Risers and Tapers? The list goes on.

Step 7: Trimming the parts from the raw pull

Rough trimming using the bandsaw is the way to go! Really cuts down on the time it takes to finish out the armor. Once this is done, the detail trimmings a combination of "score and snap" using a sharp utility knife, and sanding by hand or with Dremel sanding drum. I'm working on a video of the detail trimming and fitting.

Step 8: Assembly

Stay tuned for details. I'm working on a video of this.

Step 9: Weathering

Stay tuned for details. I'm working on a video of this.

Step 10: Fitting a complete suit

Here is a shot of the first trooper assembly. So far you get the idea, its a trooper. The helmet and the blaster are from my old suit, shown here as an example. We still have these parts to make: thigh molds, calves, and the O2/thermal detonator, helmet, and blasters. Here is a shot of Herbert without the helmet or blaster. A little more tweaking and I think it will work. Is Herb too short for a stormtrooper? Hmm... I don't think so! Pretty much the final version of Herb's #1 suit . Note the chest has had been modified a bit to be more form fitting. Also, note, the 'sniper' knee diamond. Time to get that suit dirty!

Final thoughts

I like working with the MDF/Bondo/poplar/basswood as a mold material. The MDF/Bondo, for me, is easy to work with, and cost is pretty low, and its an easy 'lumber yard' material to get. So far I have used up 3 sheet of 4x8 foot 3/4" MDF. The moulds made to date:

  • Left hand
  • right Hand
  • collar [these are going to be upgraded with the proper arched versions]
  • shoulder bell
  • bicep inner
  • bicep outer
  • right knee "power pack"
  • hip drop boxes [first molds made]
  • inner forearm
  • outer forearm
  • utility belt
  • chest plate
  • upper back
  • abdomen
  • lower back
  • codpiece "groin"
  • buttocks "seat"
  • inside calf
  • outside calf
  • right Inside thigh
  • right outside thigh
  • left inside thigh
  • left outside thigh
  • thermal detonator encap
  • thermal detonator control pad * Note the body is made from a PVC pipe, 2 inches in dia. and 7.5 inches long painted gray.
Note, all body armor molds are done. [March 2005] Some minor tweaking to get the molds to release better from the pulled plastic, but YEA, all the body molds are finished.

In the works:

  • Helmet dome: MDF mold almost complete, still working on the trapazoids, and a method to mate up with the back section.
  • Helmet back: MDF block made and initial sanding started. Man, getting that bulbed contour is tricky.
  • Helmet face: MDF block started, but waiting to finish dome and back section.
  • Helmet left ear: MDF block done
  • Helmet right ear: MDF block done

Since I have a GT/FX armor set, and I know of some of its inaccurate elemets, I have decided to "base" this project with those modifications in mind, but using the GT/FX as a scale guide. Each mold is made from a reference photograph, scale drawings and a visual reference of the GT/FX armor. Each molds starts out as a scale drawing. Next, I make a template from a sheet of chip-board. This makes the template rigid and easy to transfer to the MDF. Next, one inch flat piece of MDF are bandsawed the shape of the template. Several layers [3-6 layers ] of the MDF are then glued together, clamped down and allowed to dry for several days. At this pint I have a blank block that is a rough outline of the armor shape I want. I use a number of wood working tools to sand, plane, grind or chizel down the block of MDF into the rough shape of the armor. Next comes the bondo to smooth out edges and seams and to fill in any missing areas. Top if off with a good coat of "spot filler" paint, and ta-da! Molds. Getting the right contour is hard. I've rewored the shoulder bell several times and I'm still not happy with it! The last step is to cut out a 1-inch thick riser. This is an elevated platform the same shape as the base of the mold. Its function is to float the mold about the forming surface to allow the mold to base to be higher than the forming surface.

I'm cheating a bit to reduce the number of molds that I have to make. First, there is only one shoulder bell. Second, the forarms are the same, not a left and right part. Finally the calves are like the forarms, no a left and right sides. If I have to go and make these molds thats ok, but for now, this is all I intend to do. I may try to cast a plaster [Hydro-cal or Ultra-cal 30] cast of the molds before they start to break. That way, I can make more than one pull of some of the mold at a time.

I'm still hard at work shaping the MDF molds for the trooper helmet. I know the originals were a dome molded to the back, the face mold, and the left and right ears. Thats what I'd like to make, but most trooper buckets I've have access to for reference have seperate domes and back sections.

The helmet is kicking my butt! Getting just the dome to look right has taken me what seems like FOREVER.


Vacuum Forming Machines

The Mark IV [Thuston James Replica]

While the prototype machine seen in the first few images was easy to make, the size was too small to be any good for parts large than the smallest trooper gear. I need a larger vacuform machine. Here is view of my latest Thurston James Vacuform table replica. This is a 24"x24" table, undergoing test pulls now, This will be the last word in vacuform tables, and the final table I plan to construct. Previous attempts have been "proof of concept" designs. Now that I know this will work, its time to get started on a "real" vacuform projects. Lets see, Halo armor, X-wing pilot gear, ALiENs gear, Star Trek props, storage bins and boxes, toys... the list goes on and on!

Another view of the new Thurston James replica with the forming cart finished. Click here for more details. Test pulls have been made. The new machine works great! Some mods to the cart system, and a better vacuum, but all in all, it works great! Now that the machine is working, I need to get my molds ready. Back to the workshop!

Daughter Lauren and TK560, Halloween 2003.

Me, TK560, Halloween, 2002.

Man, this thing is hot!

TK-560's GT/FX Suit
Having an armor set as a reference really helps, even if that suit is not a 100% accurate one.

A few years ago, my wife bought me a Don Post vintage Stormtrooper helmet as a birthday present. You might remember these, the amber lense version. Well, that started me, as the Star Wars fans might say, "down the path to the dark side." I loved that helmet, not only because my wife gave it to me, [she knew what a big Star Wars fan I was] but because it was instantly recognized by everyone who saw it. I knew it was an instant classic!

I also knew that sooner or later, I had to get a whole set of Trooper armor. I wanted to make it myself, but I had never seen a set in person. I needed some kind of reference to build my set from. I contacted some of my prop making connections and before long I had received my armor set. Just in time for Halloween 2002. Needless to say, each time I wore this costume I was a big hit at all the parties. I joined the Fighting 501st soon there after, and became the vile trooper known only by his ID number: TK560. As you can see from the lower photo, the armor set has some errors that need to be corrected. The helmet, also known as a "bucket" is about 10-15% too large. [the Don Post is about 15% too small]. In the top photo I have upgraded the helmet to a more correct ANH style. The rest of the armor is straignt forward enough to build, with basic modeling, a large vac-u-form system and a boat-load of sheet styrene.

The helmets both have cooling fans, and a voice amplification system. Most of the parts have been glued, snap-fit or rivited for "trooping". The body suit has been upgraded from a pair of black long underwear, to a Lycra/Spandex body suit made for SCUBA diving called a dive skin. The gloves are a Walmart special. Lets just say that this thing is hot, real HOT, to wear in East Texas. The boots have been upgraded from a pair of "Justin Ropers", that I painted, cut and taped them to fit under the lower shin pieces to correct 1970's style low cut "disco" boots.

I love the challenge of scratch building, and the first ever scratch built prop I did was the "evil empire" E-11 Blaster. Much better looking than using a toy blaster, and not as expensive as a real deactivated L2-A3 Sterling machine gun!

When I'm not wearing this rig, I made a mannequin that my daughter calls 'Mr. Man'. He stands guard over my studio and greets visitors. I'll post a tutorial on how to make a $30 mannequin one of these days.

When I got my GT/FX suit and then upgraded to a MovieFX helmet, I wanted to have both the Stormtrooper AND a Sandtrooper. I did not have the budget to buy another suit, so I decided to make one, from scratch. This required me to build a vacuform machine and the molds necessary to make another suit. My buddies found out what I'm doing, and begged me to make them a suit too! One thing led to another, and the idea of a fan film emerged. During the research stage of this massive project, I've been working on a script for an elaborate stormtrooper action packed fan film that requires about 12-20 troopers, a swamp, and a whole lot of pyrotechnics.


Last update, June 13, 2007

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