Steve Nelson's R2D2 Build History, Documentation and Archive

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MENU: Mock Legs Glass Skirt Foot Work R2LA 10 Dome Work Sand Drive

The Build I Started in 1978

The movie Star Wars hit me with impact! It knocked me over! I've always loved Sci-Fi, but in this movie everything was perfect! I identified with Luke and his struggle, the story pulled me in, and the description of The Force was almost spot-on to what I value as religion. Here is my journal entry from August 1, 1977:

"...Benton called and asked us if we wanted to see Star Wars. 10 minutes later we were at his place and we went to Bangor or Brewer rather and saw it! WOW!!! It was great!! C-3PO, R2D2, Luke Skywalker, Hans Solo, Princess Liah, Darth Vader, Obiwan Kenoby, Chewbacca, WOW!!! I loved it and want to see it again!!!!!" [sic]

August 3, 1977, right after I saw Star Wars for the first time, I heard that R2, 3PO and Darth Vader were going to be immortalized with their footprints in cement down at Grauman's Chinese Theater.
R2
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Then, early 1978 I got a book about Star Wars (before it was "Episode 4, A New Hope") with a blueprint of R2 and thought, "Wow! I'll bet I could build one of these things!" R2 was my absolute favorite when it came to robots. But the prints had no dimensions! As soon as I could I was down to Grauman's Chinese Theater with my calipers measuring the footprints R2 left so I could scale the blueprints I had.
R2
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R2
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I've now seen episode IV literally, without exaggeration, thousands of times. (I got a VHS tape recorded from cable TV by someone and spent a couple of years one winter snowed in at Tahoma, CA, on the west shore of Lake Tahoe.)

As close as I can figure, I then started my build some time in 1978.

Remarkably, the measurements of an 18" diameter dome and body are incredibly close to what the R2 builders of today have standardized as proper measurements. With the new prints and measurements at my disposal it was easy to mark and roll a sheet of aluminum into an R2 unit's body with the help of a like-minded superintendent named Sherman Prosser.

I was then working at Weber Aircraft when they had a plant in Burbank, CA, and would work on my droid about 20 minutes per day at lunchtime. On a side note, I was working with a guy named Bernie Sanders in the "dust bowl" there who said he had a friend who knew a guy who read the complete outline or treatment written by George Lucas of all 9 episodes, and that the original movie was episode 4 among the 9. He told me some spoilers too, but I, ah, forget what they were. Yeah, that's it, I forgot that part!
R2
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R2
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After I rolled the aluminum for the body (I SO wish I didn't cut holes in it!) I found a trash can with the correct dimensions in the spray booth and made two half molds from the top, spliced them together, and did a polyester resin and fiberglass matt layup of the dome inside the mold.
R2
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I reinforced the edge of the dome with aircraft grade flexible foam and fiberglass I got out of the trash.
R2
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Next I made a vacuum form mold and formed 3 plastic leg pieces with the help of a good friend "Hippie" Greg LeBlanc who ran the vacuum form machine.
R2
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R2
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I knew had to beef up the leg inside structure so I fabricated a frame but the first frame I fabbed was too flimsy. Please note that everything here was made from trash, flawed materials, or scrap.
R2
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R2
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I fabbed another frame and bonded the thicker aluminum plate to the back of the plastic choosing to reinforce the points that appeared would have the most stress.
R2
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The cutout in the back, as I look at it now, isn't to print OR any of the pictures I can find. I have no idea WHAT I was thinking! (After all, it was like over 30 freaking years ago!) Also at that time the interior of R2 was a mystery.
R2
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R2
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The little details like a piece from a broken heat gun vent, flawed nozzles from airline interiors, toy racetrack for commutator strips to get electricity from body to dome without twisting wires together when the dome rotates -- I had a lot of little parts I had fabricated that have gotten lost throughout the years. Here are a few of what's left:
R2
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I was doing R&D on silicone air bladders to inflate inside the layup of a carbon composite ejection seat frame, so I could vacuum bag and oven cure the part. I quickly would use the excess silicone and empty the gun by spraying it over a quick mold I made instead of throwing it out, and made a silicone mud-purge bladder shown after R2 gets spit out of the swamp on Dagoba.
R2
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R2
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I cut and fit the only access door, the only blue piece, on my old dome. I still have the cut out panel though I used the dome as a pattern to fab tooling for a better dome.
R2
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R2
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R2
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R2
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R2
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The shoulder stand-off pieces (what I was calling them) were really easy! I built an 18" diameter curve into the bottom of a cylinder and filled it solid with high temp tooling resin and glass from the trash, then when cured ground where the legs join flat.
R2
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My shoulder horseshoes, I see from the better pictures available today, aren't the correct dimensions. Not sure what I was thinking because I see they aren't to print either. There are differences in the print and pictures I have too. The shoulder horseshoes are made from white tooling resin and fiberglass. You can tell I used whatever was available at the time. The slots for the buttons and bar were pieces of wax I laid up around and dug our after cure.
R2
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R2
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I was beginning to become overwhelmed by all the doors, gadgets, and abilities that R2 had as each movie came out. Then, somewhere around 1988, I got laid off from the aerospace plant where I was working and R2 went into storage. I lugged the little droid - or rather the pieces of droid - around with me whenever I moved until present day.

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Move ahead to 2011 - I met a girl named Leya Falcon who is a huge fan of Star Wars. (More about Leya below.) It got me thinking, and I dug down deep in the wreckage of my past and pulled out a bunch of dusty old parts and the ancient moth-eaten blueprints I used to fabricate them.
R2 Rediscovered
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After careful consideration I've decided to put together what parts I have as a mock up for photographic purposes. (Leya wants to shoot with R2 and I need to have a visually viable prop.) Then, one piece at a time I can replace the mock-up parts with working pieces until I can complete my droid. I've begun researching the work done on standardizing measurements, improving materials, the stats for R2D2, and the rest of the work done by builders since the late 80s until now, and I'm impressed at what I see from those who have been building droids since Al Gore invented the Internet.

The overwhelming task (for me) of the electronics will be a lot easier with the assistance of the craftsmen in the R2 Builders Club and the R2 Builders Yahoo Group. Find the Yahoo group here:
http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/r2builders/

As the economy gets better (ha ha ha) and I have more income I can spare (another joke) for my old hobby, I look forward to getting back to the build I started over three decades ago. May the force be with me!

Read all the stories mentioning Star Wars on Adult Industry News (AINews.com) through this link:
http://ainews.com/search/?lookfor=Star+Wars (Safe for work.)

(No graphic pictures are on this website. Adult Industry News at AINews.com is the only non-pornographic website to cover the Adult Industry, and has the largest searchable database of information archived on the Internet about the Adult Entertainment Industry.)

Leya Falcon
  • Leya Falcon was a columnist at Adult Industry News (AINews.com), writing her first column for us soon after her very first scene.
  • Leya was referred to us by Bill "Papa Bear" Margold, who's advice sought to help her brand her name.
  • Leya's column was called "Falcon's Flight". Leya wrote for us from December 2011 to July 2013.
  • Read Leya's account of her experiences starting out as adult talent, behind the scenes stories, and sexual adventures. She is absolutely crazy. She is also an enormous fan of Star Wars.
  • There are several places on the Internet where you can see more of Leya:
  • Leya Falcon's Twitter Page http://Twitter.com/leyafalcon
  • Leya Falcon's LeyaFalcon.com http://LeyaFalcon.com/
  • Leya Falcon's Facebook Page http://Facebook.com/leyafalcon
  • Leya Falcon's Facebook Fan Page http://Facebook.com/leyafalconfans
Leya Falcon

CONTOUR SANDING

When you sand, use a flexible sanding block or spline board to keep the contour. Sand in a 45 degree alternate pattern. Hard to explain. I should learn how to make a YouTube video on this.

I use a bending spline board - a piece of flexible plastic about a foot by 3" and put fine sandpaper in the middle, and a paper shim the thickness of the sandpaper on the outside for the up-down contour. I would alternate up-down strokes at 45 degree angles. The side to side sanding I would use a full sheet of paper, strokes side to side alternating at 45 degrees. I'd also use a finer grit sandpaper than one would expect. If this is unclear, let me know. Also, if you glue little blocks of wood to the ends of the spline board they will act as handles. Bending a full sheet up is it's own handles.

For small pinholes use glazing. You can also "water down" Bondo with a few drops of liquid styrene. It sometimes pools in a gallon can of Bondo. I've also used a few drops of acetone to thin it down and can paint it on with an acid brush.

Composites was my specialty when I worked in aerospace. Oh, and put too little on rather than too much. You can build it up easier than sand it off. Practice on some scrap first if you've never done contour sanding.

It might be a good idea to invest in a cheap respirator. Harbor Freight or a paint store should have a good one. I'd also ask the sales rep if it filters out whatever fumes the materials you are using puts off if I can't find it listed on the box. I used to get bad headaches when my respirator wasn't seated properly and may be partly to blame on my poor memory!

Bonding Epoxy to Polyesther

Epoxy and polyester do not cross-link. HOWEVER, there is a trick to bonding a poly/epoxy lay-up by laying-up the glass and epoxy into the poly lay-up before the poly is completely cured. It must be gelled and still tacky. Though I became good at it, there's still a high probability of de-laminations.

Releasing Tooling

Also, use a good mold release; first buff out your mold with car wax, then apply a coat of Partall green wax and buff it out, then a spray coating of PVA (poly vinyl alcohol). I've even gently waxed a coat of PVA to get as many sheer planes as possible for complex molds.

MENU: Mock Legs Glass Skirt Foot Work R2LA 10 Dome Work Sand Drive