TK Talkie – Custom Stormtrooper Voice Effects Version 2

NOTICE: This tutorial is out-of-date! The updated tutorial can be found at


Version 1 on the left (20mm high), Version 2 on the right (7.5mm high)

Version 1 on the left (20mm high), Version 2 on the right (7.5mm high)

Not long after putting up the original TK Talkie tutorial I ordered another set of Teensy boards from  This time, however, I ordered the pre-pinned Teensy and, well, the pins are soldered on differently (on the other side of the board from the way I did it…don’t know why I didn’t notice this the first time…)

While designing a 3-D printed case for what I’m now calling Version 1, I noticed to get everything to fit the case needed to be around 25mm high.  That really bothered me because I wanted this project to be as compact as possible.  The boards with the sockets and headers stacked together (see Version 1 tutorial) are about 20mm high.  With the pre-pinned version just soldered directly onto the Audio Shield, the overall height is around 7.5mm!  That’s great for something really compact!

Of course this new design precludes you from being able to swap out the Teensy or Audio Shield by pulling them apart, but since this is a purpose-built project, that’s probably way down on the list of priorities. You trade convenience for compactness.  If you still want that capability, you can build Version 1.  Also, you can desolder the boards for Version 2 if you really need to take them apart.

In order to build Version 2, follow the Version 1 tutorial, but when you get to the part about attaching the boards together, skip it and solder the pre-pinned Teensy directly to the Audio shield (see pic) AFTER soldering lead wires for the microphone, being careful (as always) to make sure the pins are properly aligned.

There is not much clearance between the boards, so solder the mic wires FIRST and leave room.

There is not much clearance between the boards, so solder the mic wires FIRST and leave room.

Once again, since there is hardly any clearance between the Teensy and the Audio shield, solder the lead wires for the microphone BEFORE attaching the Teensy and Audio Shield together.  There is very little clearance, so make sure the wires do not stick up very far or you could cause a short.

Since I don’t have an enclosure designed for this version, just make sure you have at least 2.5 inches of lead wire in order for the microphone jack to fit anywhere in the enclosure.

I’ll be designing a 3-D printed case for Version 2 as well.  Stay tuned!

TK Talkie – Custom Stormtrooper Voice Effects

NOTICE: This tutorial is out-of-date! The updated tutorial can be found at


This tutorial is for Version 1 of this project.  There is now a Version 2 available.  In order to build Version 2, follow the tutorial below, and the alternate steps for Version 2 are marked below.

It’s been a lifelong dream of mine (as well as many, many others out there) to own my own set of Stormtrooper armor. I, like may others, was finally able to do this when Anovos offered up their kits last year and made them super affordable.  Cue dream montage in 3…2…

20160806_193439I’ve had a blast building my kit and helping and being helped in the process by so many great people that are so ready to offer up their knowledge via the Anovos Facebook group and of course

So here’s my attempt at giving back.  I purchased a wireless mic system from Wireless Trooping Systems and an Aker 10 watt speaker off eBay, but wanted to add the really cool voice effects.  You can buy effects boxes, and they are all great, but I, like so many, am on a budget (putting 2 kids through college with a 3rd on the way is NOT cheap lol…)

I love to tinker with Arduinos and such, and stumbled across a video for the Teensy 3.2 and the Teensy Audio Shield and was blown away by what it could do.  And it’s inexpensive.  I started thinking…”what if…”

Fast-forward about a week later and I have a pretty decent working voice-effects box for around 50.00 (not including the speaker or the wireless microphone system…which is awesome btw..)  It was not very difficult.  I built on the plethora of examples and tutorials that come the Teensy software.  And to date, it has the following features:

  • Is voice-activated (no Push-To-Talk…but it could be added pretty easily)
  • Is fully customizable – From the startup sound to the effects, you can use pretty much whatever you want (though honestly, there are only a few TK voice effects to realistically use)
  • Did I mention it is FULLY customizable? Since you have the source code you can do pretty much whatever you want with it!

You can get the source  code and instructions from my Github repository.

Ok, enough chatter (see what I did there?) Let’s get to it!

Stuff You’ll Need

I built my effects box using a Teensy 3.2 and Teensy Audio Shield, although you can actually use other boards if you want.  Teensy is pretty powerful and just makes it easy!

If you are building Version 2, you’ll need to get the pre-pinned Teensy, or else solder your pin headers the same as the pre-pinned Teensy. YOU WILL NOT NEED THE SOCKET SET OR THE HEADER PIN SET LISTED BELOW.

The following are optional, but I recommend grabbing them:

Tools You’ll Need

  • Soldering iron and solder
  • Magnifying headset if you’re over 40 like me and can’t see anything within a foot of your face 😉
  • Wire
  • Wire strippers

The following are for making an optional case:

  • X-acto knife (for fine trimming)
  • Drill and various size drill bits
  • Some type of work mat (if you are working on your kitchen table like me)
  • Needle (or small) files

Getting Started

NOTICE:  The link to the Arduino software below is the general downloads page…the current version of the TeensyDuino software DOES NOT work with the latest version of Arduino (1.6.9 as of this writing) so you’ll need to grab an older version.

Once you have your Teensy and Audio Shield in hand, you’ll need to install the Arduino software as well as the Teensy software, called TeensyDuino.  Take some time and familiarize yourself with the examples and tutorials under File > Examples > Audio and File > Examples > Audio > Tutorial.  There is a lot of great stuff there.  Additionally, watch the Teensy Audio Tutorial and Workshop video on Youtube to get an idea of what you can do with this awesome piece of tech!

If you are impatient, then just keep reading 🙂

Install the Software

Once you have downloaded the Arduino and TeensyDuino software, install the Arduino software FIRST.  Then, install the TeensyDuino software (you’ll need to tell it where the Arduino software is located.)

Soldering and Connecting the Boards

If you are building Version 2 using the pre-pinned Teensy (or soldering the pins on the same way as the pre-pinned version), skip the steps regarding the header pins and sockets and just solder the Teensy directly to the Audio Shield according to the directions in the Version 2 tutorial, being careful to align the pins correctly. (See Version 2 for reference.)

I actually soldered mine backwards, with the sockets on the Teensy and the header pins on the Audio Shield

I actually soldered mine backwards, with the sockets on the Teensy and the header pins on the Audio Shield

If you did not get the pre-pinned Teensy, then you’ll need to solder the header pins on the Teensy.  Then solder the sockets on the Audio Shield.  Put the short end of the header pins on the “top” of the Teensy…that is, the side that has the micro USB connector and the programming button.  The long part of the pins should point up and away from the side with the usb connector and button.  On the Audio Shield, solder the short end of the socket pins to the underside…or the side that has the SD card reader and headphones jack.  The long end of the sockets should be on the opposite side.  It’s important to get these right so that the connections are correct when you put these together!

Once you have everything soldered up, connect the shield to the Teensy, being careful that the pins are lined up correctly.  Check the 4 corner pins on each board and make sure they will line up with you connect the boards together.  They are (clockwise, holding the Audio Shield looking at the side opposite the SD Card reader and headphone jack)

  • GND (ground)
  • 12
  • 13
  • 5V

If everything is lined up, the micro USB of the Teensy and the headphone jack of the Audio Shield should be facing the same direction.

Sound Files

You can make your own WAV files, or you can download a zip file with WAV files to get started.   Be sure to read the file listed in the repo regarding WAV files, but here’s the short of it:

  • WAV files can be 16-bit mono or stereo at 44,100Khz.  You can try other bit rates, but those are the ones that seem work best
  • The SD card reader expects the files to be in old-school 8.3 format and all UPPERCASE.  That is, the file name can have up to 8 characters and the extension has 3.
  • The way the software is CURRENTLY written (remember, you can change it however you want) it looks for a file named STARTUP.WAV when it first boots up and plays that, then reads all files that start with “TKT_” and loads them into a list that it will randomly select from each time an effect is played.
  • Try to keep all your WAV files at the same volume level.  If they are not, you’ll have weirdness where some effects are louder than others. There are lots of free WAV file editors out there that will let you add or remove gain from your WAV files.

If you have downloaded the zip file, go ahead and unzip and load these files onto your micro SD card and then insert into into the SD card reader on the audio shield.

Status Check

Teensy and Audio Shield with headers and sockets soldered and connected together

Teensy and Audio Shield with headers and sockets soldered and connected together

See how easy this is so far?  By now, you should have

  • Arduino and TeensyDuino installed
  • Sockets and header pins soldered onto Teensy and Audio Shield and boards connected
  • Sound files loaded on micro USB card and card installed in SD card reader of Audio Shield

Loading the Software

Connect the Teensy with the USB to micro USB cable.  Plug the micro USB end to the Teensy and the USB end to your computer.  You should see the on-board LED light up.  This means you have power 🙂  Next:

  • In the Arduino software, go to Tools > Board and make sure to select the correct board (in this case, Teensy 3.2/3.1).
  • Go to Tools > Port and select the correct serial port (the one your Teensy is connected to)
  • Download the tktalkie.ino file from the Github repo (remember where you download it!)
  • Go to File > Open in the Arduino software and open up the tktalkie.ino file

Once the file is opened, click the “Upload” button (the one that looks like an arrow pointing right.)  If everything is connected correctly, the sketch should compile and load onto your Teensy.  Then the board should restart and you should hear the STARTUP.WAV file play (oh yeah don’t forget to either connect your speaker to the headphone jack on the audio shield or plug in some headphones…)

If the sketch doesn’t load (i.e. you get an error in the Arduino window), make sure your pins are connected correctly and that you have selected the correct board and serial port (see above.) Also make sure the volume is turned up on your speaker 🙂

Then unplug everything because you have some more soldering to do…

About the Software

I used the BitCrusher component to compress the voice and lower the pitch just a tad so it sounds like a crappy old walkie talkie.  The software sketch is commented pretty heavily so that you know what’s going on.  Feel free to play around with it and tweak to your liking! Again, take a look at the file on the Github repo.

Connecting the Microphone


Panel mount 1/8″ stereo input jack soldered to Audio Shield. Note the jumper between the left and right input channels on the jack since the microphone input on the Audio Shield is mono.

You can either use the microphone input on the audio shield or the line-in.  It’s easier to use the microphone (IMO), but feel free to use the line-in if you want (that just means you’ll need to use some type of powered input signal.)  The microphone is mono with a single positive lead and a ground, and I used a stereo input jack, so I just jumped a wire between the left and right pins on the jack and then soldered the microphone to the board.  Make sure you solder the ground on the input jack to the ground on the audio shield.

Once this is done, you have a “complete” system.  You should be able to connect everything back up, including connecting a microphone, fire up the board (you can use the 5V power supply at this point or just keep using your computer’s USB port,) hear the STARTUP.WAV file, then start talking and hearing voice effects!

Now It Needs a Box…

The last part of this project is putting it in a protective box so that you can troop with it without worrying about it getting damaged.  I went to the local Fry’s and looked for a project enclosure and actually bought a few to try out, but they were all to big or not tall enough or too tall (and as you know, you have limited room in the TK outfit…)

As luck would have it, I had recently upgraded my phone to a Galaxy S7 and as it turns out the plastic box that the headphones come it is almost perfect for the job!  The boards can squeeze in there and be held pretty safely in place!  Yay!

So in the last part of this tutorial I’ll show you how I mounted it in the headphones case 🙂

Make a Base

In order to prevent the board from rattling around inside the box once it was closed, I took the sticky foam pads from inside the TK helmet (if you’ve done any helmet upgrades you know what I’m talking about 😉 ) and cut out a rectangle shape and stuck it to the bottom of the case.

Trimmed down sticky pad from inside the TK helmet.

Trimmed down sticky pad from inside the TK helmet.

The only bad thing about the case is that it curved on the sides, so in order to get the board to sit flush I would have to make openings a little larger in order to get to the connections.  Not a big deal, I need this to work, not look pretty (although…to be honest…I would like it to look SOMEWHAT pretty) since it will be mounted behind my chest plate.

Next, I test fitted the boards and marked where I would have to make openings for the micro USB, headphone and microphone jack connections.  Since this case has a top and a bottom, I would have to make cuts in both.

Make Some Holes

After test fitting and marking where to cut, I got out the trusty Dremel with a cutting wheel and some needle files (if you don’t have needle files….bro? Do you even cosplay?)  Also an X-acto knife comes in handy for some finer trimming.

I cut the opening for the micro USB first since it was on the bottom and I needed to make sure it went low enough so that when the boards are resting on the bottom of the case I could plug in the micro USB cable.

Cutting the opening for the micro USB connection.

Cutting the opening for the micro USB connection.

Next, I marked where the headphone jack would need to be accessible through the top part of the case and started by drilling a 1/16″ pilot hole, then eventually ended up using a 1/4″ drill bit and widening the opening to make sure the speaker connector could be plugged in.  Each time I cut an opening, I used the needle files to smooth it out and the x-acto knife for fine trimming as the plastic was soft enough that it started to melt from the Dremel or drill if I went too fast.

At first the opening was too small, so I had to go back with a larger bit to open it up more and then use the files to smooth it out so the entire connector would fit.

At first the opening was too small, so I had to go back with a larger bit to open it up more and then use the files to smooth it out so the entire connector would fit.

Also, once I had the openings for the micro USB and headphones cut out, I put the boards in the box and closed it up for another test fit and noticed that I didn’t actually have the clearance I though I had so the board kind of sat lop-sided.  Oops!  Oh well, like I said, this needs to work more than it needs to look pretty, plus it ended up holding the board pretty securely in place!


Oops! Turns out the box was not as tall as I thought! I could still access the connections, though…so all good.

Microphone Jack

I chose a panel mount microphone jack because I knew that whatever I ended up using for an enclosure, I would want it accessible from the outside (as is normal.)  However, with this one, I would need to make cuts in both the bottom and top of the case in order to get it to fit.

Had to make an opening in the bottom of the case and then cut a notch out of the lid for the microphone jack.

Had to make an opening in the bottom of the case and then cut a notch out of the lid for the microphone jack.

Putting It All Together

Once I was done with the openings for the connections, I was able to close up the case, hook everything up and voila!  It works great!

Case closed.

Case closed.

I hope this tutorial was helpful, and I hope if you make this project you have as much fun as I did.  Like I said, there are LOTS of things you can do to this project (like add a PTT button if you want.)

For the Empire!


Custom Mandalorian Costume – Part 2


Face mask template glued onto helment form

After getting the dome glued on and sanded a bit, it’s time to glue on the face mask onto the underlying form.  This gives the helmet some of its depth.

This is where the spray bottle once again comes in handy.  Wetting the cardboard (but not too much!) allows you to more easily shape it.

Also, you can never have too many clamps!  If you don’t have at least 8 or 10 clamps in various sizes, I suggest getting some.  They are invaluable in making sure everything is glued up properly.

Once everything is dry, it’s time to cut out the cheeks. Go slow and take your time.

You can see that I had made initial cuts for the cheeks and visor in the cardboard before gluing it on.

You can never have too many clamps!

You can never have too many clamps!

I took a pencil and traced the initial cuts to make them easier to see while I was cutting them out.

TIP: Change your blade often, especially when you are about to make detailed cuts!

Once the cheeks are cut out, it’s time to trace and cut out the actual cheek inserts.  Again, take your time and go slow.  These can be tricky to attach just right.  I also recommend cutting at 45 degree angle along the edges of the cheek plate (angling from the edge of the insert up) to make them fit a little more flush.

After the cheeks are cut out, make sure that the facemask is securely attached to the underlying layer. I noticed some gaps so I applied some glue and clamped them back up for a bit. After that I took some 150 grit sand paper and smoothed the edges a bit so that the cheeks inserts would fit better.

Helmet with cheeks cut out.

Helmet with cheeks cut out.

Since the cardboard is 2mm thick, I cut a very light surface cut at an angle where the cheek inserts will bend.  Check reference photos of the Boba Fett helmet to see what I mean, but you can see them in the next picture.

TIP:  Use reference photos A LOT to make sure you are fitting parts together correctly and getting the right kinds of edges (if you want to stay somewhat true to original, that is…)

As you can see I did not get the 45 degree angle exact, so there is a little bit of a gap where the cheek attaches…but that’s ok. It’s pretty close and if you look at reference photos those are not “sharp” edges on the original helmet and the fiberglass/bondo application should help with that. The unsharp edges help contribute to the “used” look of the most of the costumes and props of the Star Wars galaxy.

Plus, this is my first time making something like this so I’m trying to give myself some slack and turn off my OCD or I might never get anything done 🙂

Mandalorian Helmet for Halloween

I purchased a resin-cast helmet for my in-progress Mandalorian costume and managed to get it painted in time for the festivities (minus the weathering and battle damage.)

I have also been working on a wireless system to move the RF stalk up and down in the helmet.  I took a couple of Arduino Nano’s and a 315Mhz RF transmitter and receiver and concocted a setup (that I am in the process of perfecting) to facilitate this.

Since it was Halloween and I was going as “Mando on Vacation”, I bought some of those oversized sunglasses and attached them to the servo.  The video and pics below should give you an idea…


3D Printed Mandolorian Helmet

So…we have  a 3D printer at the office.  That poor thing has been going pretty much non-stop since it was put together.  I, of course, decided I wanted to print something big and test how far the printer can go.

I started perusing and found a full-size Boba Fett file.  In no time I had it fired up in Blender and was gawking at the awesomeness.

However, it was too tall (and almost too wide) for the printer, so the dome was sliced off and printed separately.  The dome took 15 hours to print, the bottom face mask 31 hours (there were also a lot of false starts while we adjusted the position of the mask and printer settings…maybe another 4 or 5 hours involved.)

The result is below.  It’s a perfect skeleton for a helmet.  The next steps are to reinforce it with fiberglass (after reattaching the dome) and then a coat of Bondo on the outside (and maybe inside) to smooth it out…then of course painting and decorating

Still have to print the ear caps and other helmet gear, but this is a great start.



Custom Mandalorian Costume – Part 1

After visiting the Dallas Comic-Con a few weeks ago and seeing all the cool costumes (one of the main reasons I like to go) I decided it’s finally time for me to get to work on one of my own.

I have always wanted a set of good Stormtrooper armor, but have never really had the nearly $2K it would take to get a good set put together (there are cheaper versions…but come on…)  I know you can make your own, but I don’t really have the time to create a body cast to custom fit a set.

Members of the local Mandalorian Mercs club

Members of the local Mandalorian Mercs club

I’ve also always wanted a set of Boba Fett armor, and after some research determined that it was something I could do from scratch, even thought it will take a while.  Also, one of the main reasons I decided to go this route is the level of customization that could be done.  If I’m going to spend the time and resources to make it, I want it to be “mine.” So I’m going with a set of custom Mandalorian armor.

At the Con I visited the 501st booth (obligatory) and next to them was a booth for the Mandalorian Mercs costume club.  The guy there was very helpful and had some tips to offer.  I also began researching the build on sites such at The Dented Helmet (TDH for short.)  TDH has vast amounts of tutorials, templates, tips and tricks, etc…  I realized I could build almost a complete costume on my own, but there are some parts of it I will need to purchase already made (but can still custom paint.)

The Helmet

The helmet is the most recognizable part of the costume.  It’s the piece you want to spend the most time on, and the piece you want most to “get right.”  However, since I’m building a custom costume, I “may” take some liberties with the design.

I’m using templates I found on TDH and using 2mm cardboard (not corrugated) I picked up at Hobby Lobby to build the helmet.  Later on I’ll apply fiberglass to strengthen and Bondo to shape it, but for now it’s still in the cardboard phase.


Laying out the helmet stencils

The first thing to do is print out the templates.  I chose to use the popular Wizard of Flight (WOF) templates I found on TDH.  However, I later ended up using RafalFett’s Templates for the reasons I outline below.

Helmet Problems

I started off using the latest versions (that I could find) of WOF’s templates.  They come in several different PDF files and are made to be printed on standard letter-sized paper.


PDF’s print at different sizes based upon the type of printer and print settings of your system.  I printed out the helmet templates and then the dome templates (from another file) and found that the dome was too small for the helmet, or the helmet was too large for the dome…either way….

Testing fitting the mask forms

Testing fitting the mask forms using the WOF templates

I messed around with print settings and after about 10 trees’ worth of paper later just decided it was too much. There are a lot of posts of successful builds on TDH with these templates, so I’m sure they are fine, I just decided to go another route for the sake of the environment. I did a test fit of the cheeks and mask overlay and found that the ears (the tall parts on the sides) sat a little too far forward.

Before I decided to use RafalFett’s templates, I printed off just the helmet dome from this set to see if it would work with the WOF mask templates.  It “kinda” did, as seen in the pics, but the helmet was just a tad to big.

At this point I just decided to start over completely using only RafalFett’s templates as everything is contained in one file, so once I got the print size correct, everything would be in proportion and should fit together nicely.

Test fitting the RafalFett dome on the WOF mask

Test fitting the RafalFett dome on the WOF mask

I’m going to keep the WOF mask I started and will probably return to it once I get this first build under my belt and mess with getting the dome right. I’m sure this first build will result in a lot of lessons learned that will be useful in future builds (yes, I’m already planning my future builds!) This stuff is addictive…

Rafal Fett Templates

So now that I’ve decided to start over, I printed a few sets of the templates so that I could test size the build before starting in earnest.  I highly recommend that you do this if you ever decide to build your own as it will save you a lot of headaches down the road, plus there are no “instructions” so you need to familiarize yourself with how the pieces fit together.  I spent a lot of time looking at reference photos of Mando helmets (there are a lot of pics on TDH as well.)

Once I was satisfied with a mock-up, I began cutting the pieces out of the cardboard and getting to work.  I probably won’t do a step-by-step of this build since it is my first one, plus there are a TON of good tuts on TDH to follow. But, I will document as best I can and offer whatever advice and lessons I learn from this build.  It is a good idea to do as much research and read as much as you can regarding a build like this to prepare yourself for inevitable pitfalls and such, and I read a LOT of posts…

RF templates helmet form

RF templates helmet form

(Skip ahead a couple of days…)

The next pic is the helmet dome and mask form put together.  These are cut out of 2mm cardboard and glued together using a combination of fast-drying glue or a hot glue gun, depending upon the application.  I plan on eventually removing the dome supports once the fiberglass and bondo is applied, so those are all hot-glued.

The next step is to cut out the dome templates.  This is a somewhat tedious process, but you have to take your time.

TIP: Use a spray bottle of water when shaping the cardboard to prevent folds and bends and to get a smoother curve (not too much, though, or the paper will fall apart.)

Also, to get the level of detail needed when cutting the cardboard, do not use a box-cutter or X-acto knife.  The best thing to use is a craft-knife with the retractable snap-off blades.  You will need to keep a sharp edge, and cutting cardboard is a fast way to dull the blades, so you will be snapping off blades quite a bit.

Gluing the dome pieces to the form

Gluing the dome pieces to the form

Gluing the Dome

This part is an exercise in patience 🙂  You need to go slow and continually test fit the remaining pieces to make sure it all fits together somewhat.  There is no way to avoid gaps between pieces or pieces resting at different levels, but you need to try and get them as close to “round” as possible.  Do not play to rely to heavily on fixing it using bondo as you can get the shape of your dome off if there are too many “fixes” to do.

I used a dab of hot glue on the points of the dome pieces to make sure everything would go together properly, then went back and applied more permanent glue not only at the tips but along the “spines” of the helmet supports.  This process took several hours over a two-day period.  I wanted to try and get this part as close as possible so that I would not have to rely too much on fixing places with the fiberglass/bondo applications.

Final glued dome

Final glued dome

Final glued dome

Final glued dome

After getting the dome all glued up to the mask form, I decided to call it a night 🙂

Note that the gaps will be filled with spackle before the fiberglass/bondo processes.

My next post will be on attaching the faceplate and cheeks.