Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I've Been Shopping...and building.

Okay, so I'm just horrible at keeping things updated on here but I will try and get things up-to-date. First off, I'm not sure if wiring up the slip ring should have been my introduction to soldering but I think I got the hang of it. Hearing Chris James in the back of my head saying "check as you go" helped things, along with the helping hands holder. each connection was checked, and cleaned up with heat shrink tubing. I ordered the slip ring through Ebay and got it fairly quickly. I also ordered the slip ring connection board from Scott and put that together at the same time.

With the wood frame there is not horizontal brace to mount the slip ring. I could have mounted it upside down on the dome ring but decided to add an aluminum brace at the top to be able to mount the slip ring.

Here I took the cover off of the d-sub connector so you can see the wiring from the slip ring. Not only did I use the heat shrink tubing, but I also bought a set of bright blue wire covers in different sizes that will be used in a variety of places to keep things cleaned up and add to R2's blue theme on the inside.

Next up on my list is the inner detail panel. This was not screen used but later seen published as the inside detail behind the door that receives the restraining bolt on R2. I just really liked the look of this panel and apparently I'm not the only one. A new addition to the the list of cool laser cut parts from A&A came out with this piece. So, I thought it would be a fun project to break up the larger parts of the build that can get overwhelming.

Here is the published photo that the A&A part was based on

and here is my version. It's not done yet and it's not exact..but hey, it doesn't have to be.

I have on order some flat top blue LED's that will go in the bottom left. I replaced what looks like red push buttons on the published version for red LED's, I think it just looked better with some catchy red lights. The top right LED's are just temporary. I'm going to tone down the white lights, I also have a blinking red LED in the 4th "window'. I hope to come back later and have some more automated movement with the LED's flashing. The top right little holes next to each "window" is also going to get a fiber optic to close it and still let the light shine nicely.
I'm also going to have to modify the frame a bit to get it to fit my wood frame. For the most part, I'm pretty happy with it and it will just add to the magic when that door panel opens up and reveals this. The whole thing will be on a switch with the door so as not to run all the time. This was a fun little project and not overwhelming at all, I'd recommend trying this out if your first starting out as you'll get some time working with styrene, painting techniques, weathering techniques, soldering/electrical, and then in the end...a pretty cool little detail that will not take you long to complete.

More purchases included getting in on the run for the aluminum battery boxes, aluminum center vents, I purchased my amplifier, speakers, Futaba radio/receiver, battery charger, AND my JEDI controller came in. I'm still waiting on the JEDI display and JAG foot drives that should be in soon. And I'm totally excited to get the 300mm dome towards the end of the year.
Unfortunately, with the holidays quickly approaching, along with the entire family celebrating our birthdays in the next two months and vacations, R2 is not going to see much more in purchases until after the holidays. There will althought be plenty to do with what I have. With the radio/receiver, JEDI controller and sound system, I hope to get started on that soon.
I am also looking forward to driving down to R2LA this next week with Chris James, it will great to visit with other R2 builders. Plus, a trip with no commitments, work, or obligations will be nice change.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dome Progress and More Parts...

Well, after quite a bit of work I'm getting closer to finishing the dome. This dome I guess you could call my "starter dome" as I'm excited to be getting a new 300mm dome soon enough. The styrene dome was a great way to get my feet wet and I haven't decided weather to see if another builder could use this one and get a new styrene or repaint this but my plans are to paint this to match a background droid from ANH, a red and white dome. This will allow me to be a little more flexible if needed. Again, this was a great learning opportunity.

This is the styrene dome, with front and rear PSI's from Mike Velcheck and the radar eye, lens, and logic surrounds are from Azman. I'm waiting on the JEDI display for the logics. There is also a micro controller (roboduino) that is moving the front HP.

I love the look of R2 in ANH, I love the beat up dirty look that really projects a great story behind each scratch. I'm details the panels and will be using a few techniques for the dome, I'm pretty happy with the styrene dome and think after weathering it a bit more, things will blend much better.

Here's my solution on how to attach JAG's new skirt to my wood frame. I'm sure there are much better ways to do this, but this is how my brain came up with it, it attaches perfectly and looks good, strong, and stable.
I'm waiting on the foot drives to come in, JEDI controller, motors, and I'm working on soldering the slip ring connection boards to the slip ring to bring power up to the dome. I'm also working on a few details that will be hiding behind a few panels, once I'm happy with the fit, I'll glue up the frame and then get starting really putting things together. Once the frame is glued, I'll start cutting out panels and painting the skins before things get cold and wet around here.
It looks like I'll be going to R2LA and look forward to visiting with some other builders.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Photo updates....

Just a few updates and comments...

I started getting my PVC battery boxes ready with a few coats of primer. These were made by Matt McCormick and he did such a great job. I realized later that these are a little short so I might not be able to get my NPC motors to fit but I'll prep and get them ready anyway. I might go with aluminum at some point and someone else can use these...not sure yet but the craftsmanship is very nice! - you can find more information on these at his blog at:

I drilled out the PSI diffuser set from Daren to make room for my PSI's from Mike Valcheck - these things are just awesome and super bright!

I haven't done a whole lot here, the frame, skins, and dome. This was before a LOT of sanding to get the inner and outer dome to fit. I'm hoping to paint the dome this next week if I can manage to cut everything out - pretty easy on the styrene dome. I was working on the inner skins so they are missing in the photo.

I quickly put together Andy's HP Servo Holder...I think it's a great item to have and will need to fine tune it when I get to that point.

I had a LOT of frustration in trying to get things to line up and fit. My problem was that things just were not fitting right. The CNC cut wood frame was a little short, something that is normal so you don't "see" the frame above the skins. Well, mine was a little more than 1/8" short so my great LDP from David Shaw just would not fit, even after cutting the top of the frame. I managed to get clearance for the LDP but then after propping it up, the Rocker bearing would sit level. So, I used a cut piece of PVC to add to the top of the frame. So, in the photo, after some time, I have the LDP fitting perfect with the skins and frame...a beautiful site. I'm waiting on a few more items to check the fit before I glue and attach the skins so things are still in a holding pattern but at least I can see it working. I have not decided yet if I will just paint the frame (behind the LDP) black, or if I will get out the router, I'm thinking probably some flat black will be in my future.
So, there are a few other things I working on, a few more items have come in from my friendly UPS/USPS/and FedEx guys.
I'm still waiting on a few parts for the dome and I cannot wait to get it painted and looking just right. I'm also getting an aluminum dome but will use the styrene for awhile. As I started with the styrene, I'm going to finish R2 with it and will upgrade later when I have the time. Questions are always good and if you're seeing me making a grave mistake on something...please, mention it! ;)

Friday, June 4, 2010

What a Rebel...

So, I sanded some more and I'm almost there to primer the dome...then sand some more. I really REALLY wanted to get the styrene dome together without having to cut the dome...I'm sure it really doesn't matter and I get that it would have saved me a bunch of time, but I just wanted the inside to be clean and solid.

One thing I really like is that each of these droids is so unique...even all the R2's. You could have asked me a year ago in a lineup and I wouldn't be able to tell the difference but now having spent some time with them, you quickly learn how to pick out each other's droids in a lineup.

While I'm making R2-D2, I'm not really going to follow a specific scene, I'm taking a few different things that I like and making it work. While a pure aluminum HP really is a beautiful thing, I really like the painted segments of the hp's seen in ANH. I also like how one of the back panels is not painted and one of the back panel on the dome is not painted either. I'm going to go with the "LA" look and leave the inner skin unpainted too. While I think the same detail can be achieved with weathering...I'll be doing both. Also, while I'm sure some will roll their eyes, my dome bumps will be LED switches as some have used, mine were ordered this morning and I'm including a photo of what they look like. No, it's not screen accurate...but I like the added detail. I don't think I'll have the switch actually connected anything though as kids hands tend to wander...but I like the LED look. Mine is the blue LED but the outer rim is aluminum to match the dome and not black.

Also, another update was I've ordered the 300mm aluminum dome. I think it will be awhile before I do anything with it but once my build slows down a bit, I'll at least have it on hand to work with.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

More Parts on the Way!

Well, work has left me just way too busy but I of course have had some time to spend some money! I ordered a few aluminum parts from David Shaw that should be here in another week, of those, the coin slot is going to help me align the skins. I also ordered some VHB tape to help with the skins and some special aluminum paint that will go on the dome once I'm done filling/sanding/filling/and sanding.

I ordered the atomic pickle Pittman dome drive and the Pittman motor arrived yesterday. I got in on the aluminum skirt run along with a few other parts and can't wait to start working on things.

While I do not have much to show for my efforts or photos, I thought I'd leave you with a story from this week. So, here you go...

I was one of the parent helpers in a walking field trip with my daughter's elementary school class to one of our local fire stations. These kids were so excited to meet some REAL heroes and I also enjoy going along to help out. During part of the Fire Captain's "show and tell" he had the parents line up by different compartments on the large ladder truck. Once the Captain pointed to us, we would open the door and everyone would first guess what the item was used for and explain its' purpose. So, I had my assigned door and once it was my turn, before I opened the door, the captain told the kids, "Now, our next door we have....R2-D2!!!" uhhhh, what!? Really!? Haha, Now, I have not told anyone what I'm working on at home so it was a VERY strange experience, OF COURSE, it would be ME that got that door! Well, it turned out that behind the door was the turbo vac that they use to suck up flooded water from homes...and yes, it did in a strange why resemble R2. I kept my mouth shut about my little project but perhaps someday in the future, I'll introduce them to the REAL R2!

I hope everyone is doing well and progressing on whatever stage of the build you're on.

Monday, May 31, 2010

My Home Looks Like a Paint Store!

Today has been full of sanding on the styrene dome. For some reason, a few of these domes have a warped center ring around the dome....lots of sanding and some filling I guess is the solution...but I haven't gotten there yet. While I'm sure the price is just right for some, I opted for the styrene as it was my only option but I do see an aluminum dome in my future.

I've been collecting paint almost every time I'm out, I pretty much have everything I need now. The only paint I'm missing is the aluminum paint for the dome but it's on order and should be here at the end of the week. Between the blue, purple, plastic and metal primers, clear coat, white, black, it looks like I should open up a paint store around here!

I was looking forward to putting some primer on a few of the parts today but family came first as we were all off. It was nice to get out of the house and spend the day having fun with the wife and kids. I hope you all had a great day today!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

More Parts and Stuff...

Okay, to start things off, I thought I'd share another photo from Maker Faire this past weekend. It is always so motivating to my build to see the reaction that kids have with R2. I can't wait!

So, more parts are coming in but not a lot of time to do anything with them until I'm on vacation. I'm really excited to be able to have found a set of aluminum skins from Chris James and have them loosely around R2 like he's lost weight!
I'm waiting on some resin parts for the dome to get here so that I can get the dome painting done in one weekend. I've ordered the dome motor and the atomic pickle dome drive. I'm also in the for the run for JAG's foot motor drives, the J.E.D.I. display, and the J.E.D.I. controller, have my doubts after looking into it but we'll see with time what route I actually go down.
I'll probably be painting my battery boxes and shoulders tomorrow and will probably glue up the frame now that I have the skins next week.
Still lots of planning but to see R2 with his dome, frame, and skins - he's looking better and better.
I'm also spread all over the house and need to clear out the workshop for some true R2 dedicated space. Once I do this I'll probably be better at taking some progress photos for you all.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Maker Faire 2010

Didn't get much building done this weekend, okay...nothing but spent a few days with the Bay Area members at Maker Faire in San Mateo. We had a blast and drew in a great and steady crowd throughout the two day event. I'm including a few photos and there is a video that is coming from the panel that was done. Also check out Chris' blog at or Matt's blog at

So, here's the gang that attended the event...what a great group of guys. From left to right - Steve, Gerard, Johnathan, Chris, Matt, and Grant

Our group picture started to really get a crowd so we called out for the kids to hop in for the photo too - way too fun!

Chris speaking after the panel

Matt headed the panel with a great presentation

We were a hit!

Tammy and Chris relaxing

Steve working the crowd

Steve's R2 with a very neat color changing paint, it's get the idea.


Chris giving away the secrets

crowds were steady

Matt was great with the kids and loved making R2 talk and looking down into the body

control...yeah right - R2 still manages to do what he wants every now and then

This little guy brought his R2 toy to show the "real" R2-D2

Ah...the Tesla Coil. While it was ears will never be the same. Thanks everyone for (not) telling me to bring ear protection.

R2! No bad motivator here!

As still so new to building, it was a great time to ask questions and get up close to many different r2's.

R2-D2, just is case you didn't know.

Love seeing the great family memories being made

Gerard...what a guy! Fun conversations, and great at the controls.


Chris' controller did take a spill but not all was lost and the problem was fixed...thanks Matt.

Problem solving


Chris made an addition to the sign pole

more R2

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why? Well, Because I Can.

Well, not much to post so far but I thought I'd go into some details for those that care. Now, to answer the question that many friends and family have presented... "why are you doing this?" well, I guess the real answer is...because I can!

Am I a Star Wars fan? well, uh...yes but I wouldn't call myself a "super fan"...until now I guess. I think you cross that line when you start building your very own R2-D2 Haha. I'm not the type that has my own costume, I didn't sleep in a tent to be first in line when the movies came out, but I did see the movies, all of them, many times. I remember still standing in line to see the Empire Strikes Back when an aunt that was a real sci-fi fan took me as a kid...and I was hooked!

I had the toys growing up, and I think like most kids watching the movies and playing with the toys, I always imagined how cool it would be to have my very own droid.

So, I was looking on Ebay one day and noticed an auction for a R2 replica part, I thought that was interesting and read the listing, it described a full size R2 replica, so I started my search from there. I then went to youtube and noticed how much people just loved seeing R2. This search took me to a blog from a builder that documented his whole build ( ). It was fascinating, could this really be possible that I could do something like this? Well, I think we're all about ready to find out.

After finding the first blog, I found a group site with people all over the world building their very own droids and a yahoo group as well. It's a whole community full of great people wanting to help each other in reaching their droid goals. After spending quite a bit of time reading, researching, and reading some more, I started asking questions...

Like most things I do and enjoy, building a droid is not cheap, there are cheaper ways to do it and some shortcuts, but nothing quick or easy.

My first part ordered was a styrene dome, laser cut for all the details. This is quite the item to have as those very first droid builders had nothing like this and really paved the way for these type of great parts. Next on my list was the frame, legs, resin details, Rockler bearing, and some dome display electronics. With some other projects in the works, it has been more a time of collecting parts but soon I will start actually putting things together and will be including photos of the project here. Hope you all enjoy!

Monday, April 5, 2010


For all of those wishing to see how I'm doing on this project, check back here soon as this journey is about to begin!