R2-D2 Part 1

In 2004 I was newly married and a homeowner, and I decided I wanted to build a full-size R2-D2. I had been reading the Yahoo! email group for a while, and had the opportunity to get in on one of the group runs for a blank dome. I believe I paid something around $100 for it. The first thing I did before cutting anything was to create a fiberglass inner dome to act as support for the panels. I prepped the inside of the aluminum dome with car wax, and laid-down some fiberglass cloth with resin from Home Depot. It was my first time working with fiberglass, and it shows, but most of the inner dome will be hidden. After these photos I added another layer or two of fiberglass for strength.

After sanding down the dome to remove spin lines from its manufacture, it was time to lay out the dome panels and cut them out. Since I did this so long ago, I don’t have a lot of insight to offer as to how I did it, so bear with me. I used some blueprints from the R2 Builders’ Club, along with constantly referencing photos of the original. To draw the lines, I first drilled a hole in the top-center of the dome and inserted a bolt. From this point, I bent an aluminum ruler down over the dome, drilled a hole wherever a “latitude” line needed to be drawn, and put a pencil through the hole to draw the line. I also used it as a straight-edge for the “longitude” lines, but this was a bit trickier. The gaps between the panels are not tapered towards the top, but rather a uniform thickness. After a lot of double and triple-checking, I got out my rotary tool and carefully cut out the panels. For the holo-projector holes, I used an adjustable hole cutter for a drill-press. This was terrifying, and I probably wouldn’t do it that way again.

For the radar eye, I downloaded a flat-pack file from the group and made a test-run in paper. Once I was sure it was sized correctly, I cut one out of thin aluminum sheet and glued it with JB-Weld. I built the side-boxes from some scrap plastic, then used body-filler over the whole thing to smooth it out. I cut the bottom slot using a routing attachment for my rotary tool. For the lens, I painted the inside of an clear plastic ornament from Hobby Lobby that opens up for you to put festive things inside. Finally, I JB-Welded four bolts for attaching it to the dome.

For the holo-projectors, I used the method pioneered by Craig from the R2 Builders. It’s a fence-post cap for the “surround”, with a doorknob (or other sphere of the correct size) as the inner ball, and a cap from a scope bottle on top. I’m not 100% happy with mine at this point, and might end up replacing these when I get started again.

The last thing I did before going on an extended hiatus was to paint all the panels. There are many ways to achieve versions of the R2 blue, but I went with one developed by Kelly Krider.

So far, that’s it. I have this guy sitting on a shelf in my garage, just waiting to be activated. The next step will be to start work on a frame for him, which I’m planning to build out of plywood. Hopefully that will happen in the Spring.

Leave a Reply