Building R2D2
My Background

For me, my love affair with Star Wars, and its characters, started with the film release in 1977. I was 29 at the time and already a Star Trek fan. Like a lot of other folks I enjoyed the movie and read the books. With a job and a family I had to limit my adventures “In a galaxy far, far, away” and “Where no man has gone before” to collecting the books, dvd’s, and Hallmark figures when I could get them at price sales. I have an extensive paperback book collection that I assembled so I’d have something to read when I was “retired”. I also picked up a set of plastic models, from both universes, when KB Toys, now out of business, ran a buy one get one at price sale that I just couldn’t resist.

Fast forward to 2008. I retired in 2003 and have been enjoying the retirement by reading many of those books I purchased “way back when” as well as trying to keep up with the new stories as they come out. I picked up the May 2008 copy of Servo Magazine that featured the R2 Builder’s Club and pictures of R2D2 on the front cover. The May 2008 issue of Nuts & Volts magazine had an article in the Personal Robotics column that featured the R2 Builder’s Club as well. I couldn’t wait to get home and log in to the R2BC website. Not only were there people building their own R2 units, they had published pictures, plans and tutorials. Now I could build my own!

Retirement and age, however, brought different limitations. I couldn’t justify spending more than $5000 for an aluminum droid. Nor would I be able to lift a droid weighing more than 100 pounds if I wanted to transport it anywhere. I’ve been reading the R2BC message digest ever since that day in May. Two significant things have changed. First, it’s now possible to get acrylic domes for R2’s head for around $100. Second, just when I was going to ask if anyone had ever thought about building a droid in plastic, Dave Everett published plans for a “Styrene Droid”.

The publication of plastic droid plans and the availability of affordable domes put an R2 unit within my theoretical reach. I’m pretty sure, however, that my fabrication skills are not up to the job. How do I know? Simple. I once cut off a small (very small) part of the tip of my index finger while using an Xacto knife to cut cardboard. I was using a steel rule to guide the knife; it’s just that my fingertip was on the wrong side of the cutting edge! Duh!!! It was a stupid mistake. Not one I’m likely to repeat. I hope. Ok, I’m not totally incompetent with tools. However, getting several pieces of styrene cut by hand to come out exactly the same size is going to be a challenge. I started looking for a CNC solution.

While I was building my CNC router I went and bought a laser cut styrene dome. It was my motivation to complete the router. Now that I'm finished with the router I've got no excuse not to start building my R2 unit. Let the adventure begin!

Frank Pirz