Sunday, November 8, 2009


Before starting on the color change I did some concept art to get an idea of how it would look.

I also took the opportunity to establish a list of further upgrades I hope to make. This blog will cover these upgrades as I progress.

Here is a little more on the background of the original build:

This was my second R2-D2 build- my first being a static/wearable R2 I made for my brother for Halloween in 1978. It featured a dome made from a hoover canister vacuum, cardboard skins, and masonite legs. In 1995 my friends and I planned a Star Wars themed Halloween show for our fire department, so I began construction on my second R2, which was to become R4-G9.

Back then I had no access to blueprints. I had a large fold-out poster of R2, and a friend loaned me a side-view sketch that had been printed in one of the magazines at some point. The only other references I had were some pictures in other magazines and books and what I could take directly from scenes in the movies.

From those references I designed my droid based on a frame of welded 1/2" steel tubing. The skins are single-layer 1/8" aluminum to which I then etched panel lines and other details. From the outset I designed the droid around the 2-3-2 funcionality, but it was only recently that I was able to achieve an automated 2-3-2 transition.

Often times in shows and on display I would manually convert R2 from three-legged to two-legged mode. Also, even though my R2 was designed for R/C control, during the first few years of use until I got the electronics worked out it was a wheeled static display.

The most challenging part of the build back then was finding a suitable material from which to build the dome. After much searching I opted for the bottom section of a Weber BBQ grill. What I first thought would be simple material to work with turned out to be anything but. It had not occured to me that the grill was coated in porcelain. After a week or so of grinding, I had managed to remove most of the porcelain. I left the porcelain on the sections where panels were located in order to create a raised look and to save some grinding.

One of my tasks when I refurbished the droid was to realign some of the dome details once a decent blueprint became available. This involved grinding additional porcelain from some areas, while filling in with polyester body filler in others. The resulting dome still exists on R4-G9 today.

When it came time to finish the control and drive systems, I abandoned the original direct-drive wiper motors I intended to use in lieu of a set of surplus Denso seat adjuster motors. These were coupled to the 3:1 chain drives I had built, and finally R2 was mobile. This drive arrangement exists on R4 to this day, although I am considering a change in sprocket ratios to see if I can increase the top speed of the droid.

Many of the original drive electronics and effects have been preserved in the R2-R4 transformation. She still has the IFI Victor 883 speed controllers running the feet and the dome, even though I now believe that in all three cases this is a bit of overkill. The dome drive at that time consisted of one of the Denso motors on a belt/pulley drive.

This concludes the historical portion of the droid before she was R4-G9. Many significant upgrades and modifications have been made since, and they will be profiled elswhere in this blog.