TNI's Cool Custom Of The Week: Star Wars Carbon Freeze Chamber By Steve Malen

Jay Cochran - January 23, 2005
This week's TNI Cool Custom Of The Week is of a Carbon Freeze Chamber from Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back, done by Steve Malen. Here is some comments by Steve on the making of this custom.

"Its hard to believe that almost 15 months have gone by since I posted an update. A lot has been done on some of the more mundane (but not insignificant) parts of the chamber. I've completely reworked the upper "ceiling", abandoning my aluminum version for a copper version. I've rebuilt many of the parts using copper and brass, adding more detail as I go. The lighted "ring" around the ceiling and the main supports are now done in thick, photo etched copper. Without even adding any paint, this gives the perfect coloring and natural aged look of the actual set. Not to mention that its darned-near indestructible. I've also finished the control panels on the main deck, complete with the smallest LEDs I could find - not the kind you'll find at Radio Shack. Each control panel has 6 LEDs of the appropriate colors and each LED is controlled independently by a micro-controller to reproduce a flashing sequence as close to the movie as possible. Also, both sets of stairs and attached gantry ways are finished (in brass now) and lighted. I'm struggling now with what to do at the end of the slanted gantry ways since on the real set, they ends were most likely off camera and unfinished. I haven't found any good source material for the off camera stuff that shows anything practical or aesthetically pleasing, so I'm going to have to use some artistic license there. The main claw has yet to spontaneously create itself, though I've been patiently waiting. For fog effects, I've done some preliminary testing with smoke machines piped through the chamber and the results are promising. I'm trying to avoid having to use liquid nitrogen or some other noxious substance to create the fog/smoke effects. My main concern with Halloween-style smoke machines is the residue that the fog leaves behind. The use a glycerol-based liquid and the residue may build up over time and create a nasty mess. Liquid nitrogen leaves no residue but is also the hardest to implement (you have to consider refrigeration, storage and that pesky human need to breathe oxygen). I've still got lots of testing to do in that area. In the meantime, here are a few pics to show some of the highlights of the past 15 months. Enjoy."

It's hard to believe this is still a work in progress.

If you would like to follow the progress of Steve' work, then head over to his site by, Clicking here.

If you would like to submit your own custom figure(s) to be displayed on TNI, then email your submissions to


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