Side Panels

It’s funny, the side panels are one of the few things you’ll not see discussed often on the Y! Group or on builders blogs. I’m not really sure why. My theory is that most likely this is the last thing that you work on before rushing off with your new droid for the first time – and sadly overlooked when sharing building tips.

What exactly are the side panels, well they’re the small nondescript flat square pieces that fill the holes below the side vents. They’re typically not included with frame or skin part run, unless you’re using a fiberglass body. So material and implementation is left up to each builder to figure out.

Here’s a shot of the side panel on the the ILM Uber R2 – which incidentally has them molded into the skins.

I’m guilty as most builders and left this part to the last minute – but thought I’d do my duty and share the solution I came up. At the time I thought it would be a temporary fix, but most likely it’ll stay this way for a while.

The plan was to cut the panels out of aluminum and attach them to the frame using the same bolts that attach the skin mounting blocks to the frame. Here’s a good shot of a skin mounting block.

I started off by cutting some spare aluminum sheet to fit in the gap.

I cut it slightly too long as I wanted to bend it over and create an L shape. Don’t ask how wide the plate is – I made it to fit snug in the groove in the lower ring of my aluminum frame, and in this photo it extend all the the way down and touches the frame ring where the mount block is attached.

I cut a few notches from the corners as it needed to fit around the frame vertical supports.

I then bent it along the line I’d marked earlier, making an L shape

I marked and drilling the mounting holes

Then test fitted and tweaked the edge until it was flush with the skirt and skins

I added a couple of quick coats of paint using the same formula as the skins (metal etching primer, gray primer Rusoleum satin white)

Here’s the final version of the panel bolted to the frame ring and skin mounting block

I’m pretty happy how it came out, and it’s one of those parts that nobody really pays much attention to anyway.

However, one of the issue with the panels sharing the same bolt with the skin mounting block is that when putting on the skins I find it easy to get them to fit by keeping the mounting blocks little loose. But once the skins and panel are in place it’s incredibly hard to then get inside to tighten the screw up to hold the side panel firmly in place. It’s hard to explain, but trust me even with small hands it’s really difficult to juggle the skins, side panels and mounting blocks to get everything tight and aligned.

Posted by Chris on March 25th, 2008 in Body | 4 Comments

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Rear Door Magnets

Now that WonderCon is over I’m hoping to go back and post details on the final few steps of my build – I’m probably going to post some things out of order, so you may see some things in the photos that I’ve not covered yet.

First up is the the rear panel/back door. I’d deliberated this for a while and tests a few different methods before finally settling on using the rare earth magnets.

I’d bought a bunch of different sizes, with the intent of using them on various spots on the droid.

One of my fears was the smaller magnets wouldn’t hold, and if I’d went with the larger magnets they’d get in the way of my movable electronics panel, or the door would be impossible to remove.

Frank Cerney had posted a few months ago about using 1/2 inch cylindrical magnets (NSN0818) from Magcraft successfully to hold the door on a wooden frame, so I decided to do something similar. Here’s Frank’s original implementation –

Frank Cerney Door Magnets

I don’t have the luxury of being able to drill holes in a wooden frame, so I needed to come up with something to hold the magnets to the skin. On hindsight maybe I should have gone with square or block magnets instead, but I was stuck with what I had on hand.

After a few experiments I ended up cutting some aluminum U channel into 1 inch chunks and bent them to clamp the magnets.

The gap is slightly narrower than the magnet, and I simply tapped the magnet in making sure they matched the opposite one.

I then took my CA glue and excellerant and glued them to the skins

I could have used epoxy, but I really wanted this to setup quick without worrying about clamps, movement etc. It seems to hold okay, but I still may still go back and re-enforce them with some epoxy at some point.

Here’s the skins/frame assembled showing the final location of the magnets

One of the issue of using the magnets to hold the door on from the sides is that the force pulls outward, instead of pulling or holding the door tight toward the frame/skin, like if I’d used screws to hold it in place.

You probably can’t tell from the photo, but this results in the door,which naturally curves a little tighter than frame, to bow out at the top.

To combat this I added a tab which will pull everything together and hopefully add a little more hold and reduce the strain on the magnets.

Again I used CA glue to hold it in place

I topped everything off by added some white tape to the inside line of the skins.

Remember I’d had a problem closing the gap at the bottom of the door once I’d cut it from the skins, so rather than fight with it – I simply masked the problem by covering the raw aluminum which blended the door into the skin. I have to thank my wife for this suggestion.

Due to the electronics panel having to swing out I had to either attach the rear power coupler to the door or make it removable from the frame. I opted for the latter as I didn’t want additional weight on the door.

I simply cut a chunk of metal (not aluminum) and secured it to the back of the power coupler. I then used a large magnet on a bracket on the frame to secure the power coupler and allow me to pull it off when needed

The good news is the door holds on great and I had zero problems with it at WonderCon – it even held on even when I did the R2 death spin 🙂

Posted by Chris on February 27th, 2008 in Body | No Comments

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Re-assemble Update

Believe it or not I am still alive and working on Artoo. I’ve had an incredibly hectic couple of weeks, but I’ve still been able to fit in some building here and there. Unfortunately, I’ve not had time to blog the progress, the good news is I have been taking photos so hopefully I can go back and post what I’ve missed later. WonderCon is also coming up in two weeks and I’m rushing to get Artoo back together and presentable.

Most of the work this last week has been working on the electronics and finishing the skins, like attaching the small detail pieces, doors, panels etc. I’ve only got a few more bits to go and he’s looking really good.

The panels and inserts I simply attached with silicon. Nothing fancy, just held in place with tape while it dried over night.

Some people use epoxy to fix the rear panels just in case they decide to collect signatures, but I really don’t care for signatures (nor epoxy) and this is a much cleaner/quicker method for me at least.

I did get one door hinged, the one I’ll be using to access the on/off switch and charging port. Like a lot of builders, I had a lot trouble getting the Robart to work correctly. In the end I left the hinge in the default setup as suggested by the manufacturer, but ended up using some spacers to lift the hinge away from the skin/door slightly. I’ll try and take some better pictures and detail how I add hinges to the remaining doors.

To secure the door closed I attached a magnet and metal stop for it to hold on to.

I also added a small warning sign to the inside of the door. It’s my interpretation of the one seen in ROTJ where Artoo helps free Leia from the chains.


One of the issues I’ve had is that the back door doesn’t fit well. I’ve been avoiding it, but I would like to have it attached for WonderCon. The problem is the skins don’t quite wrap around the frame snuggly, which leaves the back opening wider than it should be and the door has more of a gap around it than I’d like. I’ve still going some tweaking but I think I may have to live with it for now.

This is the correct gap at the top of the door

I now need to remove the skirt and bottom ring to drill and tap some holes to attach the octagon ports and power couplers. Hopefully this will be the last time I have to disassemble the frame for a while.

 

Posted by Chris on February 4th, 2008 in Body, Finish/Paint | 4 Comments

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Skin and Skirt Fitting

I finally got around to fitting my newly painted skirt and skins to the frame. Overall I’m happy how they came out and can’t wait to get the panels fitted.

For some strange reason there’s now a gap where the skirt meets the bottom of the frame which wasn’t there before. I’m not sure if it’s something I can fix easily or if I’ll even notice once I get him back on 3 legs.

I still need to glue on the small panels with silicon, but that should be relatively easy. For the larger panels I’ll probably use silicon too, but I’m hoping to hinge some of the front one’s.

Now that the skins are on I could mark the holes on the frame rings for adjustable brackets that hold things like the octagon ports and power couplers in place.

Posted by Chris on January 23rd, 2008 in Body | No Comments

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Re-painting Skins

Another busy evening working on R2, but not a lot to show for it. Started off with prepping some stuff for painting tomorrow.

Remember about a month ago I’d posted pictures of my skins all done. Well I decided that I wasn’t happy with the result. The problem was the paint’s thin in places and felt rough to the touch. It could have been what I’ve dubbed ‘dusty paint’, or maybe it was simply that the paint thinned/settled while drying and the aluminum was coming through. What I mean by ‘dusty paint’ is that sometimes I find that the Satin Rustoleum sprays out almost like a fine powder or dust with very little solvent and dries rough. It looks okay from a distance, but to the touch it’s not good and picks up marks really easy. I’d agonized for almost month if I was going to repaint. I knew I need to, but kept on telling myself it wasn’t that bad.

I lightly sanded down the problem areas and then had to re-mask all the bits I didn’t want paint on. Luckily I hadn’t removed all the mask-tape on the back skin.

I’m going to start tomorrow with a fresh can of paint and hopefully I’ll not have the ‘dusty paint’ problem or worse the dread orange peal.

The bad news is the weather is cold, well cold for Northern California. Its 45-50 overnight and not gets much over 60 during the day. The Rusoleum primer is good from 50 degrees, but I’m not sure how well the Satin White will dry overnight. The good news is the forecast is rain which means the temperature should be a little higher due to cloud coverage 🙂

I also tried to get the skirt ready tonight for the top coat as well. Finally finished up the Bondo work

The problem with Bondo, or for me at least, is that I end up putting on way to much while trying to fill the gaps, resulting in a lot of cleanup – and I’m tired of sanding the inside corners of all those strips, so I think it’s as good as it’s going to get for now.

I applied a coat of primer, sanded a little more followed by a final coat of primer (until I see what it looks like in the morning)

I also need to remember to hit the underside of the frame with primer/satin white too.

Lesson learned today – Don’t rush to remove masking tape until you’re 110% sure you’re happy with the finish.

Posted by Chris on December 28th, 2007 in Finish/Paint | No Comments

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Mounting Body Detail Pieces

I’ve started to peel away the masking on the skins over the weekend and mounting the various body detail pieces.

I even temporarily mounted a door to see how well the hinges work.

Overall, I’m very happy with the finish and how the aluminum shows through from the inner skin layer. The only real clean up I had to do was on some of the green self etching primer that had leaked underneath the tape, but it was easy to remove with some acetone and a q-tip. I did spot one place on the rear skin that I may sand down and give it one more coat.

I also started to mount the detail pieces to the skin and frame. For the octagon ports and power couplers I plan on permanently attaching them to the frame and have the skins press up against them.

I took some 1″ x 1/16″ alu stock bar and made some slotted L brackets. The aluminum is easily bent in a vice.

I ended up elongated the holes to make them adjustable.

Posted by Chris on December 3rd, 2007 in Body, Finish/Paint | No Comments

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Skin Update

Three big milestones the last few nights. One, I finished gluing the skins together, two, I mounted the skins to the frame, and finally – I’ve almost finished painting the white parts including the skins. I can’t believe it!

Front skins were a little more tricky than the rear as I needed a lot more clips. I also had to go buy more of them as the rear skins were still drying.

Do yourself a favor and go to a 99c store and pick up 20 packs of these before you start anything. I estimate that I used around 60 clamps for skins in total. You maybe need a few bigger/stronger clamps just in case you get some spots that want to pull part, and a box or two of those black binder clips just in case.


These little clamps are probably useless for anything else you’ll work on in your life, but they’re perfect for the skins and very cheap. You could easily blow much more by going to a regular hardware store and stocking up on name brand clamps.

I’d noticed that very few builders have photos of how they glue the skins together. There’s plenty of before and after shots, but nothing during. Now I know why. It’s incredible messy and you’re in such a hurry in case the glue sets!

Once again I used the cheap 60 minute epoxy. I turns out that one pack was enough to do all of the skins and panels.

Before I applied the epoxy I cleaned the surfaces with Acetone, and double checked any tabs that I may have missed. It’s worth checking as once the skins are stuck together it’ll be really hard to get in to file them down.

Okay, here’s the obligatory after photo

I used Acetone again to clean up the excess epoxy that oozes out everywhere. I went back around again after an hour to clean up even more that came out. I pulled off each clamp one by one so I could get underneath.

It’s probably worth checking all the seems around the whole outside of the skins as I had some spots that small clamps wouldn’t hold together. In fact I missed a few places and now I have to live with it. Also, don’t forget to keep the skins in the same half circle as the frame. They will most likely de-laminate if you don’t keep them curved correctly.

Here’s a quick shot of the rear door outer skin with the epoxy on before I stuck the pieces together

By the time I’d got to the door I’d cut way back the amount of epoxy I was lathering on. It still set up fine and cleanup was a lot easier.

You’ll also notice that I cut out all of the the large panels at the last minute. I’d hoped to keep them in place but it was virtually impossible to get the skins to bond together without gaps otherwise.

While the skins were drying I tackled turning this box of bits into assembled skin panels

Clean up of the edges and tabs was pretty easy, but I had some trouble getting the door frame surrounds to stick to the inner/back panels. A few days ago I’d tried silicon, but some of them kept de-laminating.I know Victor and many others swear by silicon, and I’m sure I was doing something wrong.

I tried one door three times but the silicon would just not hold it together, three others I did at the same time worked great. Go figure. Cleaning up the silicon after it had dried was also slow going for me. And with the success and relatively easy cleanup of epoxy on the skins I opted to use it instead on the panels. It was messy but I could quickly remove the excess epoxy while it was still wet. Again I used my trusted friend “Acetone”.

Once the skins dried overnight I was able to clean up the remaining dried epoxy and get to attaching them to the frame. Test fit without any mounting blocks seemed okay, but where I’d cut out the rear door on the skin it wouldn’t sit flush to the frame, it flared out a lot. It looked like I may have to add some blocks or mount pointer on the lower half of the frame.

Fitting the skins to the frame took a little longer than I thought it would. I’m using Daniel’s mounting blocks and it look a while to figure out how I was going to measure and mark up where to drill the holes in the skins. The blocks are designed to fit the JAG frame and screw to three of the frame rings.

At first I thought I needed to attach the block to the frame first but I quickly realized that it would be hard to center, so I opted to mark a line on the inside of the skin where the ring was and attach the blocks to the skins first.

In the end I worked out the math and a little system and I only screwed up on one hole. I was amazed I didn’t get them all wrong.

Now I have one elongated hole and I’m not sure if I’m going to try and fix it or not. I’ll probably leave it and see how it looks painted up.

I then tried to drill holes in the frame rings to attach the blocks to, but the skins are so tight once the blocks are in place I only really needed to attach the lower one’s. They also pulled in the rear skins snug to the frame So I don’t think I need to add extra mounting blocks there as first though. Here’s a shot of the skins without the blocks attached to the frame and you can just about see in the bottom right of the photo where the skins don’t quite meet the frame

The next day when the epoxy was set on panels I set myself up to prep everything for painting. I went over the surfaces again to make sure there wasn’t any epoxy. I also taped off the panel surround on the skin so that the aluminum would not get painted. I really like the look of Victor’s R2.

I hope that by doing this doesn’t cause me a headache down the road.

I didn’t realize it until I was done, but it took me 4 hours last night to mask everything off.

Here’s the majority of the skins and panels layed out ready for painting.

And here they are with the first coat of self etching primer

and the gray rustoleum primer on top of that

Next up was the Rustoleum Satin White (#7791). The instructions say that you can add additional coats within 60 minutes, so I did. I must have put on at least 4 coats by the time I was done. The only catch was I could see little dust and hair particles in the paint. I was in two minds to just stop and wait the 24-48 hours for it to try and then wet sand and start again. But I decided to continue as I know that the my paint job will never be perfect and besides I’m gonna weather him eventually anyway.

Rustoleum Satin White 7791

I also went back and tried to add a few coats to some other parts. It was early evening and it was starting to get really cold. The paint came out really strange and it orange peeled instantly. I’m not sure if it was the cold that did it or just a bad can, but I’m glad it wasn’t on the skins. The horse shoe can easily be sanded down and re-painted later – much easier than the skins.

I tried to capture the orange peel look in this photo but it’s hard to capture. Click through for the larger version and you’ll probably see it better.

My wife is also sick of the paint smell in the house. Even though I paint outside I bring stuff in to dry to avoid dust. I tried to fix the fumes problem last night by duct taping the door between the laundry room and garage, and it worked. She didn’t complain once after.

Tomorrow I have to decide if I’m going to continue painting the skins or call it done and wait for them to dry properly.

I also have a possible event on Saturday, but I dont think the paint will have dried enough and give myself time to re-assemble everything. I know if I push it I’ll screw something up and I’ll need to start over on the paint.

Posted by Chris on November 29th, 2007 in Body, Finish/Paint | No Comments

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Holiday Weekend Update

I’ve had an incredible busy weekend working on R2. I’m getting close to re-assembling him with all the skins and parts bolted on and everything painted.

If you’re browsing the gallery for new photos you’ve probably spot a lot of new work over the weekend. I tend to upload photos quicker than I can blog them here 🙂

Throughout the 4 day holiday weekend I’ve been slowly prepping and painting everything that I could, including the legs, feet, ankles etc. Every time there was some downtime I’d turn around pick something up of my paint table, take it outside and give it another coat. I must have applied 3 or 4 coats of the white by now. The paint job isn’t perfect but it’ll do for now, plus I’ll probably be weathering him at some point soon.

I also finished painting all the remaining blue pieces, mostly body detail parts like the octagon ports, power couplers and vents . Once the skins are done and fixed to the frame I’ll be in good shape to start mounting the parts.



I started to use a self etching primer on some of the latest alu parts. I’d been looking for a self etching primer locally for a while and I finally found some in stock at Kragen’s. The problem with the small local auto places is that they seem to only carry one can of some paints, and refuse to special order – so each time I looked they were out. Anyway, it got lucky this time and I picked up the Duplicolor primer (olive green top.) You can see the olive colored parts in the first photo.

I guess my new hypo blue formula is

Duplicolor Self Etching Primer – wait 30
Rustoleum White Primer – wait 30 (maybe apply 2nd coat after 15 mins)
Rustoleum Purple – wait 30-45
Duplicolor – wait 30-45
Rustoleum Clear Coat (maybe two coats)

The biggest thing I probably worked on was gluing the skins together. I’d flip flopped a few times on how how I was going to do this. I really like how Victor has left the inner skins unpainted to show off the panel detail. But having an aluminum frame makes it a lot harder to mount the skins separately, so I’d probably need to paint them in one go. I’d considered using silicon to bond things together, but from some tests I’d done with some of the doors panels, it delaminates at the edges too easily. Cleanup is also hard and it’s difficult to remove all the excess silicon. If you’ve ever tried to paint over silicon you’ll know how bad that can be. The door panels I’d glued together had small fish-eye marks once I painted them. I think I can work around it, but all the other panels will be epoxied I think.

After a bunch of emails back and forth with friends, and a phone call or two – In the end I opted to use a cheap home-brand 60 minute epoxy from Ace Hardware. It’s supposed to setup in 60 minute, hard to the touch/movable in 4 hours and sets fully in 24, but even after 2 hours it was still very soft. Which was good news as it allowed me plenty of time to clean up the excess that squished out. I only had enough clamps for one half of the skins so I tackled the back set first. I’m hoping to get to the front set tonight then on to mounting them on the frame.

I think in the end there was over 60 clamps, paper snaps and clothes pegs stuck to the frame.

This morning the skins had definitely stiffened up, and I’m glad that I’d made sure they were sitting in the correct curved shape I marked on the workbench before going to bed.

Talking of mounting the skins I’ve flip flopped on how best to do this too. Like anything to do with R2 building there always more than one way to go, and there is never a right or wrong answer. I have skin mounting systems from Daniel and Darren, both are very different with pros and cons to each. Darren’s quick snap mounts are made from plastic and allow quick and easy removal, where as Daniel’s are aluminum and require screws to hold everything together. Having experimented with both I’m opting to go with Daniel’s mounting blocks for now.

I also worked on getting the skirt finished this weekend. I didn’t quite finish it ready for painting, but I did get the strips mounted. It probably took close to 4 hours to drill and tap all the small holes.

I started off by marking up where the strips would go and drilling a series of holes.

I then clamped each strip one by one into place, center punched through where the strip needed to be drilled, tapped the hole, reattached to the skirt, repeat for the second hole. That’s a total of 48 holes and 24 taps needed. I also had to cut down each screw as they were too long!

The holes in the strips do not go all the way through, so tapping them was hard and didn’t leave much for the 4-40 screws to hold onto.

Each strip had to be tweaked and filed to get it to fit, and due to the construction of the skirt, some strips are too long and need filing down in length. I’m also going to have to bondo/fill in the gaps before painting.

I’m sure there was more done this weekend, but that seems to cover most of it for now.

Posted by Chris on November 26th, 2007 in Body, Feet, Finish/Paint, Legs | 1 Comment

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