I've been a Star Wars fan since the very beginning. My uncle bought the novel in 1976, before A New Hope first hit theaters in 1977, and I remember staring at the cover and wishing I could read so badly. LOL! Fast-forward to 1977. I've just seen Star Wars at the Trail Drive-In and absolutely MUST be Darth Vader for Halloween! (Darth Vader has a ray gun here because his mom hadn't found a lightsaber yet.)
Now it's Christmas 1978 and Santa just brought me the coolest new toys on the market! 12" Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader battled constantly in my room. They may have even fought some of my Shogun Warriors. I continued to collect all of the Star Wars toys my mom would buy for me. I grew up keeping them as treasured possessions and still have many of them.
As I got older, I saw more and more people "dressing up" as Star Wars characters. I didn't discover that people were making their own Stormtrooper armor until the late 1990s! I can't recall exactly where it was online, but I believe it was the early version of the Replica Prop Forum (www.therpf.com.) I joined and met lots of like-minded folks. From there, I bought some parts and made some parts and ended up with my very first cosplay. A Biker Scout! I remember modifying a Don Post helmet to slim it down in the front and replaced the lens and breather. I painted and weathered a Kenner Biker Scout blaster and vacuformed a styrene holster that I covered in white vinyl and attached to my boot. I hand-stitched my own pouches, cummerbund/codpiece and modified my back armor with more accurate greeblies.
I think the Biker Scout is circa 1998. I remember being excited to troop for the premier of The Phantom Menace, which released in 1999. I joined an early version of the 501st as TB905 and that started me down a path of prop-making and collecting that continues to this day! I even made and sold my own versions of the Scout Trooper pouches/cummerbund and codpiece to many other troopers!
Next up was a Stormtrooper/Sandtrooper! This was armor purchased from the Wookie Cantina. I assembled and made small adjustments to it but it was SO much nicer than my scout armor! I loved the sand trooper backpack and pauldron but I could never bring myself to weather it like it had been on Tattooine!
Now, it's 1999 and The Phantom Menace releases! A whole new world opens up to me! New characters, new LIGHTSABERS!! I absolutely HAD to build my own. So off to the hardware store I went! I put this Obi-Wan, EP1 saber together from parts from Lowe's, a Dremel and the newly discovered Covertech clip and holster! They were made for pagers!!
So, I'm hooked on lightsabers. The fantastic artisans in the RPF are making some incredible stuff. I purchase my first fan-made saber from a user called "bobadebt" on the forums. It's solid aluminum! It's a static prop of Luke's ROTJ saber. As you can see, it never even got built.
And that was it! No turning back! I played with some other sabers over the years. Made my own Vader saber from a Heiland Research flash gun. Found a Graflex at an old camera shop and made Luke's ANH saber. I made a few other "custom" or "homemade" sabers through the years. Lost track of the RPF and just did my own thing for a while.
2015 rolls around and The Force Awakens rekindles my passion for lightsabers. I start playing with parts from The Custom Saber Shop. I turn my first saber on the lathe in my uncle's machine shop and I'm hooked on making sabers. There's been no looking back since then.