Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Painting Mop-Up Day

As I mentioned yesterday, I figured I'd hit the dome pieces with another coat or two of yellow (BTW I failed to mention that it's Dupli-Color School Bus Yellow), and as the weather was still pretty nice (except for the occasional pesky breeze) I went ahead with those plans. First, I sanded some of the embedded grit down. Then painted. I also tossed in the bit of styrene that has color on the body which I'd mistakenly painted white yesterday.

Everything went pretty well except for that dang piece of styrene. I held the spray on it too long, and the paint immediately started to crackle. Hubby likes it -- says it will look good once I weather, but I fear I'm taking this weathering thing too far if I'm using it to cover up all my mistakes! We shall see...

Next I removed the outer skins, and the masking on the inner skins.

Here I found mistake #2 of the day. See that "W"? I'd put those on any panels needing white paint. Silly me -- I'd masked over that one! So...I re-masked, and took it out to paint.

Next I hope to do some styrene reinforcing on the inner skins, then, attach the outer skins!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Finally -- A Decent Day for Painting!

Hi all! Yes, it's been a while...around a MONTH! But I've finally made progress again!

It's been either hot as blazes, or rainy and humid, or extremely windy -- and the next step on my droid involved painting. Today I got a weather break; an utterly perfect painting day.

I began giving the skins (still on the body) and all the little frames associated with the skins several coats of Rustoleum Satin White. This went pretty quickly, although part-way through...the WIND PICKED UP AGAIN! Arrrgh! Yes, some tiny bits of I-don't-know-what embedded themselves in the still-wet paint. I gave those bits a good hard look, and then decided they'd look great when I started the weathering process -- Whew!! I didn't take pictures of the white paint going on, as it looked a bit boring. White! On white! Woooo!

Okay, next up was the dome ring, and dome panels (drum roll please) featuring my committment to a yellow droid! I've been looking forward to this for a long, long time...

Another whoopsie that has me grateful I'd decided early on to do a heavily-weathered droid:

They will all dry overnight in my spare room -- here you can see the color a bit better. I may do one more coat tomorrow!

The last of my resin parts from the entirely awesome Keith arrived today -- looks like resin prep will be my next big step!

Monday, October 18, 2010

R2LA Day!

I'm still grinning!

Yes, I had THAT much fun at my first R2LA! For those not in the know, R2LA is an Artoo Builders Party hosted in Southern California by Senior Builder (I just made up that title) Mike Senna and his gracious family. Some travel great distances to attend these fun shin-digs! Food, drink and droids -- how can you beat that? Yes, folks bring droids -- both finished and "in progress" (like mine), so there's a "show and tell" component. Some years feature tutorials, sometimes funny videos are produced for YouTube, sometimes awards are presented...it's different every time. This year we had...chicken races!! When was that last time that happened at a party YOU attended, eh?

I had decided to bring only my partially-completed styrene frame as I didn't want to hog table space with my 4 bins of droid parts. I thought it would be fun to take pics of some of the stuff I'd left at home, so I spent the evening before unpacking some stuff and setting it out on my work table for documenting in all its geeky splendor!

Some styrene (Dave E. plans) leg parts, and wood shoulders:

Some of the resin parts and the battery hoses (which were the 1st parts I obtained!):

Some of the electronics/motor stuff I'm hoarding:

Dome (I ended up bringing it) and panels:

I set my body and dome, display frames with the pics above, my builder's notebook, and cards with this blog address all out on one of the tables provided at the party. I was happy to see new builders checking out the notebook! Please to ignore the adult beverage in the shot...

At several points during the party I took the frame out to hand around, so folks could see how light, yet solid, it is. I was kind of surprised I was the only one doing the styrene build in attendance, but then again -- most of the guys built their droids quite a while ago...

The chicken races were hilarious! And I picked the winning chicken, but not the winning number... hah! My hubby came along too, and was very interested in the various droids; he was struck by the variety of approaches to the project. He did doze a bit -- I'd warned him not to! - and got the "sleeping man" treatment...heeee!

The best part, for me, was getting to spend hours talking droid! I picked up sooo many tips (wrote everything down as soon as I got home), and really studied all the different builds. I think I chatted with almost every person there (a few got away early). I wish I'd written down every person's name, though...that's one of the weak parts of my memory :-( . Hopefully some of them will comment here (hint!).

I took only the one picture above (of my table set-up), but more pics and coverage are available at Victor's blog (see links to the right). Thanks Victor, for allowing me to share this group shot of the gang at R2LA VIII below!

I can't wait until R2LA IX!! Will I have a completed droid ready by then? Here's hoping!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wee Building Day

Got my primered dome panels sanded...aaaand that was all -- I've come down with a bad cold! Droid building, along with most everything else I'm supposed to be doing, is temporarily on hold. :-(

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Moving Right Along

When we last parted, I'd anticipated Dremelling goodness. As usual, things did not go according to plan.

What was my plan? Yes, I actually had one LOL! Well, I'd decided to start by getting all the parts I plan to paint this week primered in the morning, then, while that was drying, start Dremeling away. Well first off, some reading I'd done last night convinced me to do a better job sanding and cleaning everything. Again! This time each piece got wiped down with Isopropyl Alcohol after sanding. But darn if this didn't take HOURS! Not to worry though; as it turns out, mornings right now are a bit too humid to do any painting...so I'd have to have waited anyway.

I ran a string around the groove in the dome ring so that inner part would stay nice and metally. A great tip I gleaned from being a regular reader of the forums at astromech.net!

When the humidity broke, it was hot as blazes out there -- so I had to wait until dusk to get started. In the meantime I broke out the Dremel and some heavy-duty cutting disks. That's when I found out all my little drill-holes were a bit too far from my lines, and Dremelling all this out could take forEVER! Tomorrow, I'm going to drill more holes, I hope.

So, back to getting those parts primed! As soon as the balcony was in shade I went out and taped paper to the temporary painting area I'd set up. Then I carefully took all the parts out there, trying to not get my oily paws all over them. Finally, tossed on a mask, shook the heck out of two cans of primer and went to town!

Shhh -- look! R2 is wearing his skirt on his head!

A slight breeze came up partway through and I ended up painting part of my left arm heh-heh. Somehow forgot to get a picture *whistles innocently*.

Managed to get a few coats on...very lightly each time, and after everything was dry brought the parts back in to spend the night away from any dew.

Tomorrow: pretty much the same schedule as today I imagine, as I sand/wash the primered parts, and then paint at dusk. What's going to be fun is seeing the first of the YELLOW as I paint dome panels!

Any spare time will be spent re-drilling those holes on my inner dome. Wooooo -- living large I tell ya!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Countdown to My First R2LA!

Hello patient readers!

R2LA VIII is next Saturday, and, wanting to bring along a droid a bit further along I've started stepping up my work. ("Finally!" you say)

Today I did the long-avoided drilling on the inner dome. Some of the panels must be removed (for the electronics etc.) and drilling holes around each panel perimeter is the first step.

I'll be honest: this is the part I've been dreading the most in this build. I'm pretty confident around power tools, but I've never used them on metal. Especially metal with a curved surface. Did I say "curved?" -- I meant convex! Aye-yay-yay!

So, I kept hubby home, to have a buddy to hold the dome still, and paced a bit working up my courage. Finally ready, I used a nail to put a little depression to set the tip of the bit into, and squeezed the trigger! And here we have it -- lovely error #1:

Yep, the drill bit went skidding around! Okay -- turns out this is something that only vanishes with practice, and luckily, for all but one of the panels, the outer dome will hide most egregious mistakes! I'll need this practice for the final hole -- the one that IS visible from the outside. I'm going to do that one LAST! As in: later this week.

So, here's how it was done: we started with a 1/8" bit and then widened each hole with a 3/8" bit. There was a break partway through the process as we decided to run out and buy some rubberized shelf liner to sit the dome on so it would resist skidding around while under the pressure of the drill from the side.

My favorite part was using the step drill to completely bore out the holes for the dome "bumps" -- thanks for the tip on that, Victor! Here's where I am today (you can see the area I filed down too):

Tomorrow I finish the cuts and sand them down with the Dremel! Woooo! I looove my Dremel!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Is it a droid yet?

Nooo, not quite! Still a bit (cough) to go...

I've been sanding, sanding, sanding my dome, trying to get the top to fit flush on the bottom. Not quite there yet, sadly. And I decided against pictures this time, as a pic of sanding is pretty dull! Although some take sanding to the point of shiny. Rimshot. ;-)

When I get a bit further along I'll post a nice pic...maybe I'll have some test painting done then too!


Update! My husband asked what on earth I was doing, and after I explained he said "why don't you just use that big file there on that dome -- nobody's going to see that part anyway!" Well! Less than 20 minutes of big-filing later and I have two dome parts that fit snugly! WTG hubby! :-D

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sorry Styrene, but the Dome is Aluminum...

...or is that aluminium?! :-D Okay, I feel a bit like a traitor, but I'm using an aluminum dome -- the R & J dome to be exact. It's a thing of beauty, but it does add quite a bit of weight. So it's not a complete styrene build...more like a Frankendroid!

After I finished applying metallic striping to my inner skin, I set work on the body aside until it's a bit cooler, as my next step involves some painting.

So, out comes the next big part of the droid puzzle: the dome! Luckily for me, excellent R2 Build blogger Victor Franco has the same dome (see his blog on the lower right) so I was able to refer to his posts for this part. At least at first. I could see right away the "gap" issue, so I skipped ahead and started removing panels prior to the big sanding I know is coming. Like Victor, I kept attached any panel that would need tracing onto the inner dome later. Standing on the shoulders of building giants, I am!

Instructions for panel-removal called for sawing off three of the wee connectors on each panel, then twisting off the fourth. I chose to saw off only two (on opposite sides) -- so the twisting would be on two connectors -- eliminating some sawing! Woo! Yeah, I'm lazy that way. But it worked!

I used a hacksaw blade, and wrapped one end in toweling so I'd not saw my sawing hand. Good call there, I'd say.

I started filing off the little nubs but ran out of time before finishing. I'm off to a convention in Baltimore for the weekend, so...see y'all next week!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gimme Some Skin!

So I spent a couple of days fussing with my inner skins -- I'd tape them on, find a gap, pull them off and try again! I must have re-taped them down about six times before I was not completely displeased. They are still not perfect, but I had to commit at some point! I carefully glued each seam and let the droid sit for a full day while the Weld-On did its thing.

Well, it worked! This droid is now solid as a rock...woooo!

Today I fussed some more -- filling in a couple of spots with some scrap styrene. I then taped on the outer skins in preparation for my special "faux aluminum frame" experiment. I ran pencil lines along each spot where the inner skin would peep through (unless it was to be a white area -- those I just marked for paint). Then I affixed metallic tape along each line. This should create the illusion of an aluminum skin...I hope! I plan to paint the outer skins (in curved position) off of the droid so I don't lose this effect.

Unfortunately, I ran out of tape precisely when my local hobby shop closed. Will continue tomorrow!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Wooo-Hoooo! Another Frame Is Born!

Finally we have gone from 2-D to 3-D! Frame contruction took about 5 hours. Do I have any advice or tips? Why, yes I do! Purchase as many small squares as you can reasonably justify. Waiting for each upright part to "set up" takes most of the time. Here is my start:

Have I started a model of the coliseum? Stonehenge for Spinal Tap? No, it's the start of level 2! I used my taller squares to be sure the rings were even.

Here is where it started to get tricky -- tiny errors multiplied later. Be careful!

She's not perfect, but she'll do. Frame done! I used tape to force some parts together. Will add some extra stryrene in places needed tomorrow. The cutting process caused most of the problems: some pieces weren't precisely the same height/width due to imperfect edges from the "breaking/snapping" method of cutting styrene.

A "frame-is-finished" builder tradition: trying on the skins! Some minor filing will need to be done before they are glued on, but HEY we are starting to look really droid-like, eh?

All in all, I'm glad I did this by myself. If I wanted a perfect droid, however, I'd pay to have the patterns laser-cut. There were so many tiny issues -- things that I will see forever, but that hopefully not too many others will notice. But WHEW I've got one major part done!! Huzzah!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Post-CV Inspiration!

I had such a fantastic time at CV, mostly in the droid room -- 75 droids! Droid heaven!!

Renewed and inspired (and finally rested), I've started back on my build. Today, I prepared to construct the frame. I thought prep time would be around...oh, one or two hours, and then I'd be on to the actual building! Bwahahhaaahaha!

Preparation consisted of the following steps: score pattern marks into styrene, remove pattern, wipe adhesive off with faux turpentine, soak in sudsy water, scrub, rinse, air-dry, drill any needed holes, counter-sink as needed. Whew! Pics are below, and frame-building finally begins tomorrow! Really, I promise!

All ready for frame assembly tomorrow:

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Checking In

Hi dear readers of my droid blog! I'm still frantically working on my costume for CV, and I needed to spend last week serving on a jury, so droid-work has remained on hold. I may not have time to resume work until after CV -- but I will return! ;-D

Monday, July 5, 2010

Just Couldn't Stay Away...

Yep! Although I was planning to put R2 on hold, in spite of not having finished the routering portion of cutting out the styrene, I just couldn't stop when the routering table was all set, ready to go, over there: mocking me.

So I did a hard push and got all of the rest of the styrene cut out -- and it took me the last four days! Okay, just a few hours each day. Not, actually, 96 hours of hard labor.

I finished with a flourish, as I decided to accidentally brush my first finger against the still-spinning router after the last cut; thank goodness for my fingernails, as having longish ones no doubt saved the tip of my finger! I ended up with a mangled nail, and one small slice...and I felt like I dodged a bullet as I packed up the router table and cleaned up the mess. Now, I'm really going on a brief break: R2's parts are packed up and out of the way, and my sewing stuff is out. See you all again after my costuming project is done!

Here is the stack of finished routered circular cuts, alongside a pic of my "jig" for cleaning up some of the straight cuts I was not happy with. I'm glad I'm done with this part -- and I expect I'll be cleaning up styrene "snow" for the next 3 years!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Okay, small droid holding pattern...

I need to set droid work aside to work on costuming for CV, and some art projects. Not to fear: droid-progress ...er...progresses!

Today I received some more gorgeous parts from Keith (resin bits for the dome and body), and a lovely vacu-formed skirt from Mansugi. It was a bit like my birthday or something :-D.

I may get a bit more cutting done this week before packing that up to make room for sewing. See? See how I'm already trying to plan more droid work? Bwahahaha!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I'm in the Cutting Home Stretch!

And other sentences I'd never expected to type.

Well, I'd hoped to be done with all the cutting of the styrene today (or was that weeks ago?), but...at least yesterday I finished all the straight cuts!

Today was routering circular cuts day; I'd wanted backup at home in case something went terribly wrong, plus I wanted hubby to document it! So, he observed in a worried fashion, and took a photo or two.

This is surely the messiest thing we've ever attempted inside the apartment! Does anyone out there need some fake snow for their low-budget movie? I've got quite a bit in my kitchen now...

Unfortunately today was also to be lesson-learning day: apparently it is unwise to let the router bit get too hot, as it rather easily melts plastic! *sigh*

Looks like tomorrow will include a trip to the hardware store for some new bits. And I'll miss my self-imposed cutting deadline - but only by one day!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dome arrival!

It's a thing of beauty, isn't it! This is the R & J Dome, and I was very lucky to get it! Thanks to Bryan S.!!

Edit: I'm such a noob at this, I didn't notice I'd taken the pic with the dome ring upside-down! I know YOU all noticed didn't you? And you were so polite and said nothing.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Yesterday we finished the router table! I've begun marking the holes for the center cuts.
Today I pulled and prepared all the patterns that will be cut using the table. I wish I'd done it yesterday, as I found I need more .125" styrene, and my styrene supplier is closed on weekends. That sounds pretty bad: "my styrene supplier." Closed on weekends! Jonesing for styrene! Pity me.

Because this is going to make a terrible mess (already did a bit of practicing and "mess" is understating it) I want to do all the needed router cuts in one swell foop! So it looks like Monday-- after more styrene is obtained -- will be the day. In the meantime I'm cutting down the styrene I've got (again) into smaller, more manageable pieces. Thrilling isn't it?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Quick little update

Was out of town for nearly a week (Heroes Con -- wooo!), but yesterday got going again on my droid. We bought more stuff for the router table (we keep running into tiny difficulties, like finding the right screws to mount the router), and I found a local source for the 2mm styrene I still needed. I also bought several paints to test (looks like I'm finally committing to yellow!), and a circle-cutting mechanism for my knife for cutting the smaller curves. Sounds like an exciting, glamourous life I lead, no?

I hope to get this router table situation sorted out this week as I'd really like to get the frame built!

I succeeded in purchasing an R&J Dome (really one of the best domes one can obtain for an R2) from another builder, and that should be arriving this week as well! I ordered, or am in the process of ordering, most of the non-styrene parts for the dome and body. My to-buy list is getting shorter! I'm so easily thrilled.

Next post should have some progress pics...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Dremel Router Experiment

Okay, so Dave E. advised against trying to use the Dremel as a router (he'd said he burned one out). Still, I had a router attachment, plus an extra Dremel, so I thought I'd give it a shot. You see, cutting out the round parts requires non-straight scoring, and using a pivot-point is key. Here's the first pass (not bad!):

Unfortunately I wasn't seeing how badly the Dremel was chewing up the styrene! When I was finished, the cut just looked...REALLY CHEWED! Chewie, I daresay. Sorry, it had to be said. Romngowhawaggghayy!

Oh well! I'm going to need to reprint that pattern, and dig out hubby's proper router and go ahead with plan B -- the building of a router table as suggested by Dave E.!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Shoulder grease required

After several days of frustration attempting to cut the 3 mm styrene (thicker and utterly recalcitrant IMHO) I turned to the experienced builders at astromech.net for help. I got lots of support and advice (thanks guys) and today really got on my first roll with the stuff.

Apparently one must really lean over thick styrene to get it to break. Score it and score it and score it and (ya...about 6-10 times) and then lean over the score like you mean it!!

All my upright frame supports are cut! Tomorrow I'm going to hit the miscellaneous frame pieces, then, with luck, start setting up my router system to get the curved cuts done. Could frame assembly be starting next week? Woo! Am I a dreamer? Yes!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Looking Droid-Like!

Needing to get a sense of progress, I began cutting the skins today. I got the inner ones done! The top photo is the back inner skin, and the bottom pic shows the front inner skin. Cutting styrene is really a lot more like carving: one pares down each edge using multiple gentle passes with the blade, and when it's looking like it's got a nice little styrene canyon forming it's time to put down the knife, pick up the styrene, and start bending until...SNAP! Takes a while, but it's getting to feel fun! Styrene-cutting goodness indeed!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bith, meet mathematics!

I've confirmed what I started suspecting part-way through pattern cutting: I did not buy nearly enough styrene! Yeah, those 4X8' 3mm sheets look massive, but it appears one needs five, not one! I think. And I need two more of the 1mm thickness, and 1 2X4' of the 2mm (which I'll have to drive to Anaheim to get). Oh well -- I still have plenty to get started on for now. I think.

I successfully ordered the remaining needed bits for my JEDI Control System, and I have a strong lead on an aluminum dome! I'm feeling like I can almost relax now, as the rest of what I'll need seems to be readily available. Yes, this droid-building business is soooo stressful: perhaps I deserve a luxury day. ;-)

Thursday should see some hearty styrene-cutting goodness. I think.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Hurrah! The patterns are done being cut! Tomorrow they get stuck on styrene and the REAL cutting begins...

Another small step forward! :)

It's a tiny boon, but I'll take it.

Enthusiasm Wall

No, I haven't hit the enthusiasm wall yet, but a recent post on the forums got me thinking.

It happens in every project: one starts off gung-ho, then it gets...boring? frustrating? tedious? Of course it does.

While I haven't hit a major wall yet, I'm in the doldrums, certainly, of styrene-droid building. I'm cutting...cutting...cutting. And nothing looks remotely droid-like yet.

Luckily, I know this sensation well from sewing. I really despise the pattern-cutting process in sewing! Ugh...it is boring defined! But it must be done. Then...the fun begins: construction!

So, I keep my eyes on the prize (actual building) and I know this boring cutting part will be over as soon as I've applied myself fully to it.

Okay! Onward and upward (and glad I keep parts-ordering dangling as a prize for each step!)...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Inching forward! And I mean inching.

Parts are arriving -- forgot to mention my utility arms and Jedi Control system arrived. Whoo! Thanks Keith and Chris! And I've started plotting the budget for the rest of the parts. I've paid for a Jedi Display system to complete the Control system -- just waiting on the build for that -- and I've set aside the money in my PP account for the most important part: the aluminum dome! It will add a bit of weight, but I've observed the "patting" R2's dome gets in public, and I just want the most solid part there I can get. Actually the poor droid should get a force-field, as some of those kids can get eeeeevil!

I'm still cutting out the pattern for my future little buddy! Oy!

Well, to be honest I've also been a tad distracted by my sudden desire to whip out a Hoth Snowspeeder jacket for CV (to add to my X-wing Pilot costume, and because I'm nothing if not easily distractible). It won't take long to actually sew, but the research (haha) took a day or so out of droid-building. Anyway, some fabric samples are ordered (along with the gloves and some other stuff), so I can get back to the business of this blog! *cough* Unless some other new shiny comes along...eep!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Progress Continues...Slowly!

Maybe I'm being fussy, and spending too much time on this part, but just taping together and carefully cutting out the styrene patterns (they're not even on the styrene yet!) is taking an age. I'm carefully marking each pattern with the width of styrene required (using a color-coding system), and then filing it by type. Crazy? I hope I'm just being organized.

Well, that's okay -- no need to rush this. There are many parts I cannot make that I need to obtain when the runs happen, so I knew going into this that it would take a great deal of time. Interestingly, I'm finding this very similar to sewing (something I'm rather good at); taking 2-D patterns and constructing something 3-D from them has been intuitive so far. /earnest fervent posting

Anyway, a pic from today's pattern cutting (and yes, our new AC was installed just in time for warm temps to hit):