Re-assembling the Bits

I was going to add a few more coats of paint to the skins today, but on close inspection in the daylight they looked fine. A lot of the dust spots I was seeing yesterday just rubbed off with my finger now that the paint has had time to dry. I’m going to leave it a few more days before I attempt to remove the masking tape, as it’s been pretty cold and I’m not sure how the paint cures in this sort of weather.

I’ve decided to re-assembling R2. Started off with something easy – the center ankle as it’s relatively simple and self contained. I need to get him back on 3 legs to start laying out the electronics again. I’m probably going to move things around a bit, for example I know the speed controller can’t stay where I had it on the back mounting plate as it now hits the skins. It may end up on the back side of the plate or somewhere else internally. I also want to build in some sort of switch and circuit to allow me to charge the batteries in place rather than having to remove the cables each time to clip the charger on.

I’ve been paranoid all week that I’m going to ding or mark the paint, and tonight I had to moved passed that. Right off the bat there was no avoiding dirty fingerprint from the grease when handling the new white paint, plus I scratched a some paint off trying to get the ankle to fit back in the foot shell slot. I really should have filed down the metal parts a long time ago to compensate for the added paint – but I didn’t. I’m sure it going to wear off in this spot anyway, but don’t ya hate it when something like this happens?

I’m glad now that I didn’t get things powder-coated and at least I can touch it things up myself if I need to.

I’m going to have to keep an eye on the foot shells as they’re steel and prone to rust, especially where I live on the coast. It’s ironic that one of the reasons I went with an aluminum droid was because wood warps so easily here, even when sealed, and now here I am worrying about rust from the salt air. I may just grease up this area when I get around to weathering him.

I also noticed that nearly all of my ankle cylinders are scratched up and should really be repainted, but I’m not going to do it this time around.

I used silicon to attach the foot strips to the foot shell. I should probably tap and screw them on, but I’m feeling lazy and really want to see this done. I roughed up the two surfaces and taped on the strip. I’ll probably know tomorrow if it works.

I think it looks pretty cool all put together don’t you think?

One last thing while I remember, don’t forget to use screw Loctite or something similar. I missed a few screws in the feet before C4 and lost nearly all of them by the end of the week.

Posted by Chris on November 30th, 2007 in Feet, Finish/Paint, General, Legs | 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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Unwrapping Blue Bits

I’m still behind on blogging what I’m currently working on. There’s plenty of new photos in the build section of the gallery and I’ll eventually get some down time and catch up.

I finally unwrapped the remaining blue parts I painted over the weekend. They came out okay, but not great. The power coupler shown below had some paint leak underneath the tape and I had to clean it up. I used my old friend “Acetone” who seems to work great on a lot of stuff these days, like oozing silicon and epoxy. I just have to remember to use it in a well ventilated space.

Power Coupler

Cleaning up the blue

The tape also lifted up a chunk of paint on one of power couplers, but I think it’ll do for now.

Here’s the coin slot and octagon port, note the paint lifting at the edge again. I’m gonna have to learn how to do this masking right someday.

And, I couldn’t resist trying some of the parts out for size

I also assembled some of the other parts now that they’re painted. These are Daniel D’s small vents, they’re very cool and over engineered to make my life a little easier to install them. They should be a snap to get into the frame.

Side Vent

On the other hand, the large side vents don’t have any screws to hold the plate in place. I’ve tried silicon to hold them together, but I’m not sure if it’s going to hold and I may need to try epoxy. I’m hoping to bond a bracket to the back to allow me to screw it to the frame somehow.

I decided to redo the front vent louvers. I’d originally hot glued the pieces together, but it didn’t hold so I borrowed another trick from Victor and used some silver foil tape instead. I’ve no idea why I had this in my tool bag, but I did and it saved me my daily trip to Ace Hardware 🙂

This stuff is super sticky and seems to hold the structure together really well. I’m not sure if you can see it in the picture but along the sides and corners are strips of the silver foil tape.

Click on the image to see a close up shot.

Once the piece is flipped around and in place you’ll not be able to see the tape

I also forgot to post this photo a few weeks ago where I sanded down the surface of the front vent surrounds. I’m pretty sure these are water cut or something, and the finish will be beaded when you get them – they look more like they’ve been painted with rattle can aluminum paint instead. A quick once over with some sandpaper fixes it.

In closing here’s a quick photo of a bunch of parts ready to install in the skins

Posted by Chris on November 28th, 2007 in Body, Finish/Paint | 3 Comments

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Green Endor R2

Another long night of working on R2.

Not sure what came over me today, could have been the paint fumes, but out of the blue I suddenly decided to do a green camo Endor R2 instead. Here’s the test coat on the alu skirt.

Just kidding. This is the self etching primer. I still need to fill some gaps but this should be white by this time tomorrow.

I also got the second half of the skins and the rear door glued together. I’m glad that I’ve gone with epoxy, but the long dry time is killing me. I had to buy some extra clamps so I could move forward while I waited on the first half to dry.

I’ll try and post some pictures and blog tomorrow.

Posted by Chris on November 27th, 2007 in 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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More Painting

I started painting some more parts last week, including the feet, ankles and boxes. I also stripped down the drive system and decided to give it the once over too.

Base coat was just Rustolum gray primer. Plan is to do at least two coats of undercoat followed by 3 coats of the Rustolum Satin white.

Here’s the inner drive system supports all finished. I’m sure they’ll get all scratched up in no time, but I wanted to protect them the best I could.

I also masked off some parts today ready for more priming tomorrow. I used the latex rubber trick to get into those hard to tape spots.

I used a combination of a small pointed file and Q-tip to remove any excess latex. It came off pretty easy. What seem to work was to wait a few minutes for it to start to set, and then just pick at it with the file and the latex would just peel away at the edge. For larger blob on the surface I just used the Q-tip.

It works so well I decided to use it on some others parts that I could have just used tape on, like the shoulder recesses, but thought it quicker to use the latex instead. I guess I’ll find out tomorrow if I over did it.

Here’s the recess where under shoulder detail goes right before I painted in the latex on the sides.

With a bit of luck I’ll get to painting things white in a day or so.

More photos in the gallery.

Posted by Chris on November 23rd, 2007 in Finish/Paint | No Comments

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From Feet to Painting

Weather has turned a little cold and we’ve had some rain, so I got to work in the garage this last weekend.

It was a mix bag, from cleaning up space to work to jumping between painting some parts, cutting the skins and fitting the battery boxes and hoses. I also tried to troubleshoot some issues I’m having, like the dome speed rotation, but more of that later.

First up I really needed to make space to totally disassembled R2. I’d been dreading it and a few events throughout the summer kinda gave me an excuse to avoid it. Even though he’s not finished it’s still been fun driving him around and people love him.

So I started off by breaking him down and inspected parts for wear, missing screws etc.

I never did get a coat of undercoat on the center foot before C4, and some surface rust had set in. I was also surprised how well the omniball castor’s have held up given the terrain I’ve run him over.

Center Foot

Center Foot omni ball

A once over with some sandpaper removed the rust from all the center foot parts and I was able to give them a coat paint.

I also inspected my center ankle for any problems. George Luck broke a JAG center ankle right after C4 and I was a little worried about mine, but all the joints looked fine. I’ve heard of two ankles breaking now, and both times the droids had done a long cross country trek for C4. I’m wondering if that’s the problem rather than every day wear and tear. To be on the safe side I had ordered a spare center ankle from Jerry just in case, but hopefully I’ll not need to use it anytime soon 🙂

JAG Ankle - Weld Inspection

Next up, I finally drilled the holes in the outer feet for the Knurled Hose Fittings (KHF). I had a bit of trouble securing the the foot on my drill press, so had to use my cordless hand drill instead, problem was the drill bit would not fit. I had to use my stepping bit instead. I don’t think it like it much as the steel feet are pretty tough – but it got the job done.

The Kurled Hose Fittings only just arrived last week from Doug and they have a nice feature where the hose is easily secured with a screw-in plug.

Knurled Hose Fittings

With the KFL I also got some new braided hoses, but I wasn’t too keen on how gold they were. I much prefer the original copper one’s I got some time ago.

I had to insert some tubing into the braided hoses to make sure they held their shape and secure the hose in place inside the KHF.

Now comes the kicker with the KHF – there’s always a kicker right? They hit the main drive wheel once I got things back together

I even switched out to using regular nuts, but it looks like I’ll need to trim the KHF’s down by half

I decided to move on to cutting the back of the battery boxes to accommodated the big NPC motors. I couldn’t find a template anywhere, so it was a bit of trial and error. I started off with cutting the smallest hole I could, traced from the matching hole in the foot. It wasn’t big enough to slide down and over the motor so I gradually made things bigger until thinks worked. Once the box is in place you’ll not be able to notice the hole.

I’ll try and create a PDF template later tonight to share [update – here’s the template]

Cut Battery Boxes

I also had to grind down the motor in three spots. In the Dave Painter tutorial it looks like you only need to grind the top sides of the motor, but I also had to grind the bottom outside edge too

So here’s the first foot assembled with the motor encased in the battery box ready for painting. Next step battery harnesses.

As I said at the start of this blog entry, I did a lot more on R2 over the weekend, but I’ll stop here for now.

As always more photos in the gallery section.

Posted by Chris on November 13th, 2007 in Feet, Finish/Paint | 6 Comments

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Quick Tip – Masking Parts

Here’s a quick tip when painting those hard to mask parts like the groves on the Booster Covers and inside surfaces of Power Couplers.

I wanted to use rubber latex to mask of my parts but for the life of me I couldn’t find any in local stores. Short of time and rushing for C4 I came up with an alternative – Elmers Rubber Cement – which is made from mostly Latex. It’s readily available at most craft stores. It’s goes on clear so somewhat hard to apply as it’s hard to see where you’ve already covered.

If you can get Liquid Latex then I’d recommend using it – but in a pinch the Rubber Cement worked for me.

Masking Hard to Paint Parts with Rubber Cement

Posted by Chris on August 5th, 2007 in Finish/Paint | 2 Comments

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