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AMT/Ertl 1/6 scale Darth Vader from "Star Wars"

Kit: No. 8784
Scale: 1/6
Manufacturer: AMT/Ertl, P.O. Box 500, Dyersville, IA 52040-0500, phone 800-553-4886
Price: $22.75
Comments: Cast vinyl, 14 parts.

HE MAY BE THE ARCH VILLAIN in the "Star Wars" movies, but when he's scaled down and broken to vinyl bits, Darth Vader doesn't look so intimidating. I'll just super glue the pieces together, spray him black, and in no time he'll be cruising the 1/6 scale universe in search of something to crush under his boot heel -- or so I thought.

Like most vinyl kits I've seen, the pieces have lots of flash. Heating them with a hair dryer or in hot water makes the vinyl easy to trim and allows you to reshape the parts slightly as well. Hold the warm part in the desired shape until it cools or simply plunge it into cold water to set the new shape.

The instructions indicate how much flash to trim, but leave extra vinyl on the lower waist, including the triangular ribs at the edge to provide better contact with the torso.

After mating the boots and legs, I poured Bondex patching plaster through the open waist to weight the figure. Then I realized, too late, that I hadn't cut holes in the legs to let the plaster pass through into the boots. No matter -- he's more top-heavy than he would have been otherwise, but he remains vertical. Fill the boots before attaching and filling the legs.

The instructions suggest stuffing the torso with newspaper so it holds its shape. If your figure's chest sags (as mine did), use something more substantial -- even after thermoforming and stuffing, the vinyl tends to return to its original shape.

Good news for novices: No need to fill seams between parts. Darth's trousers tuck into his boots, sleeves into gloves, and the armor attached to the torso's bottom edge slips over and covers the waist joint. The shoulder and head joints are armored, so those seams are OK.

The parts are well molded. The right boot had several tiny pinholes which disappeared when painted.

However, trimming flash from the cape and skirt opened bubbles along their edges. I briefly considered filling and smoothing these imperfections before I realized I could simply cut them off, trimming inside the edges and making these parts only slightly smaller than designed. After tailoring the cape and skirt I smoothed the edges with a motor tool, and painted them separately.

Painting was a puzzle. The instructions specify acrylic paints, but I found they didn't adhere well. I experimented, priming the helmet and body with a light coat of Testor flat gray enamel and covering the primer with various Testor enamels and Tamiya and DecoArt acrylic gloss blacks. On the cape and skirt, I skipped the primer and sprayed Testor flat-black enamel.

Don't start painting without making provisions for brighter-than-usual light. One coat of black and this guy soaks up light like a black hole, making it nigh impossible to see missed spots.

A "Star Wars" expert (my 11-year-old son) suggested I make the helmet really glossy, so I applied a heavy coat of Future floor polish to produce that space-age shine so important to Vader's spit-and-polish neofascist image.

Under the helmet, Vader's cowl invites details. There are lots of electrical gadgets, vents, and even some icky scarred flesh -- oh boy!

The skirt would have been much easier to attach to the waist if I hadn't painted the mating surfaces. (Eventually, super glue held the parts together -- but not before I sprayed on accelerator, which removed the flat black paint quickly and easily!) Instead of gluing the cape I merely draped it over the shoulders.

The cape's vinyl clasp chain is supplied in the kit but not shown in the instructions. Paint it silver, cut it to length, and super glue it to connect the cape at the neck.

Vader's light saber is injection molded in clear styrene. The base of the hilt is removable, which would allow an electronically inclined modeler to install a grain-of-wheat bulb or a fiber-optic strand to replicate the weapon's glow.

That would have taken more than the 12 hours I spent building Darth Vader. Perhaps another time, in a galaxy far, far away.

Mark Hembree


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