Several years ago I took on a huge project. To build a functioning, working model of R2-D2. I still have yet to finish this one though. This is one of those huge projects you start when you’re un-employed and/or single, or in my case, have a very understanding girlfriend (now wife.)
At the time I stumbled upon the R2 Builders club. This was a yahoo group of R2D2 builders from around the globe. It is an amazing resource for anyone thinking about building this be-loved ‘droid.
As a kid born in the 70’s, I of course LOVED Star Wars. I had the action figures and model space ships. But what I always wanted was a life sized R2D2. It was about 10 years ago that I decided to try and build one.Time went on, and I got busy, and R2 turned into one of those projects that just kind of gets put away and never finished. I had made some decent progress at the time, but it really is a huge endeavor to build a ‘droid, as you can probably guess.
The best way to tackle a project of this scale was to break it up into smaller parts. In R2’s case; The dome, the body, the two outer legs, and the third, retractable leg. The dome was a challenging aspect of this project. I needed to find an 18-inch diameter dome. I thought about all kinds of methods to make one, or re-purpose something else. I thought about paper-mache, but it wouldn’t be strong enough. I though about finding a big enough bowl or flower planter, but had no luck finding anything that would fit my needs. I looked through all kinds of cooking supply stores, second hand stores, and hardware stores, but no luck. It seemed like I was never going to find a dome for this project, and as I looked, I began working on the body and two outer legs.
Finally one day it occurred to me as I was walking down the street – a street light! I’ve seen them with plastic sphere’s. I’m sure one would have to be 18-inches. I called a supply store and they told me they did have them, but it was $100. Not an outrages price, but still kind of up there. In the end I did get one and had the pleasure of cutting it into two halves.
At this point the dome is etched and primed. I still haven’t cut out the few panels I wanted to have open to reveal little R2 goodies, like a para-scope and a little radar scanner.
Of all the materials that I could use to construct the body, I decided on using a wood frame. I choose wood for a few reasons but mostly because it was cheap, and easy to work with. At this point I have constructed the frame and the leg collars. The frame has been primed but not painted.
The legs are a project in them-selves. At the time I only had a jig saw and my cuts were not as perfect as I would have liked, so I used plaster to smooth out the edges. This was not a great choice due to the fragile nature of plaster. And if R2 was going to be moving around it may bump loose or chip. There is also quite a bit of detail in the legs that lead to all kinds of carving and chiseling to get just right. The legs also need to manage bending the feet during a two leg to three leg stance and back. So I needed to leave them hollow to allow for an inner rod to run through the length of the leg from the shoulder to the foot.
Where is this project now?
The reason I’m telling you about my R2D2 project is that I intend to start working on my R2 again! I did keep everything and have dug it all out of storage. I even found my plans. So I will be updating my blog with my status as I move forward.
My goal is to build a full-scale model of R2D2. The dome will spin; have working lights, and at least one opening panel that something will pop out of. (Haven’t decided what yet.) I would like to have some body panels open as well, for access to internal ports. I am also going to try and have it transition from two to three leg mode and back. All this will be controlled from an onboard computer. So basically I’m building a working R2D2.
This project will take me some time, however I am already well on my way, and I will keep you updated on my progress.