Monday, January 28, 2013

Artoo and I attended the Clarence Winterfest yesterday with the Northridge FanForce group.  This is one of my favorite events as it is very well attended and everyone is really excited to be there and to see the Star Wars characters.  I've done this event for 3 years now and each year we build on the presentations.  This year included lightsaber demonstrations and duels.  Needless to say, after two performances of both demonstrations and duels, I'm feeling it! 

All went very well and both performances filled the presentation area completely.  Artoo was also a big hit next to Chewbacca.  Of course, Chewie "one upped" the droid as this year was actually cold enough for ice skating and thus allowed for the first official perfornamce of Wookies on Ice.

I made some minor repairs to Artoo's feet.  I have been having issues with the foot shells breaking at the seams and as many times as they have been reglued together, they have never stayed and the seams looked horrible.  Of all things, I decided to duct tape them.  I found some white duct tape, cut into thinner strips to apply around the seams.  Not only did it hold, but when weathered, it really didn't show much.  The seams look better and are holding.  So, we'll see how this works in 6 months or so after another couple events.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

To friends and family - Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 3, 2012

More Adventures

Sorry, I haven't been updating this blog as much as I had hoped to.  Artoo has had a lot of adventures throughout 2012 and a few upgrades.  I find though that I have more repair work on him than upgrades or new parts.   His center foot shell is cracked at the seams and I'm looking for options to glue it again with something much stronger than what I had been using.  It's been alot of patchwork on that particular part and I haven't really been too pleased with the footshells in general.  I'm also in no position to replace them at this time so I'll deal with them as needed.

Anyway, this past weekend, Artoo made a visit with fellow members of The NorthRidge Fanforce group to the Walden Galleria in the Buffalo area to promote the release of Angry Birds Star Wars items at Build A Bear.  The mall was very busy and we all attracted quite the crowd at the store. 

Artoo was a hit with fans of all ages and was available for pictures most of the day.  The first person who approached me was visiting from San Francisco, and he had heard of the R2 Builders group.  Artoo had his picture taken with both him and his child and after talking a short while and complimenting me on my build, he revealed that he had worked for Lucas Films and was a mat painter for the Avatar movie.  You never know who you will come across when out and about.

Later in the afternoon, we took a walk with another Jedi to the Apple Store to visit another member of the NorthRidge who just happened to be working at the time.  It was amazing to be able to clear the Genius Bar and attract the attention of just about everyone in the store - staff and customers alike!  Well, after all, it's not everyday that you see a couple Jedi and an Astromech walking around a mall...  Glad that we could bring some joy and smiles amidst the holiday hustle and bustle.

All in all, a very good day and alot of fun had by all!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Finally! Some Work On R2

Finally had some time to work on the ol' boy, although for all the work over the past couple weeks, I can't say that I'm overly pleased with the results.

I had previously completed a battery box and it's been set aside for a while.  Recently, I completed the second box and it had turned out OK.  So I went over options on how to install this part on the side feet so as to still be able to get to the motors and cable connection that it would be hiding.  After several ideas and concept,s I went with the material that I had on hand and used industrial strength Velcro.  Good idea, right?

Well...  The first battery box showed some of the Velcro near the top of the foot.  Not terrible, but not quite happy with the result.  The second battery box construction wasn't as strong in the area that I needed it to be and it causes it to slouch inward slightly.  The positive spin...the Velcro stuff really works, and is holding the boxes in place. 

Then there are the hoses.  I first attempted with a clear epoxy, one that I use in construction of my saber blades.  It didn't dry properly.  I pulled the hose off and cleaned off the epoxy.  I then tried a 1 minute instant LockTite epoxy.  Same thing, the hose, even when left overnight, didn't dry.  I had been using JB Weld for some aluminum parts, however, it goes on and dries black.  Couldn't hurt, I tried installing the hoses with that and it hardened within minutes, dried completely within an hour.  So, after wrestling with my first pair of hoses, I decided to weld the connectors in first on the other foot, only to find out that two of the 4 ends would not adhere to the connectors.  Several hours of sweating, grumbling, cursing, tossing things around and walking away in frustration (several times....) I finally got blankety-blank things in place.  It's sloppy, but it's in place.

Again, I can get away with the storyline of he's been pretty beat up over the years, but really, I know that I can do a lot better quality than this.  I wasn't happy that the feet didn't really fit the motor holders like I expected they would and I had been patching them up continually after events until recently where I just got tired of doing the same repair over and over.

I've never been a fan of the phrase, "good enough".  If I ever use that phrase, it means that I've given up and not really done my best.  I have the biggest event of the year in just 11 days and I refuse to let this be "good enough".

However, I'm not opposed to using the phrase, "it'll do for the moment".  It's going to be extremely busy at this event and I expect that people will be excited to see R2 again, looking a little more complete this time around.  I don't think anyone will be looking so closely or critically at his feet, but just in case they do...

Well... that's why I carry a lightsaber.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Lightsaber update, more Artoo work

It's been a busy past couple of months between work, some photography work that I needed to complete, family, etc.  I did finally complete my personal lightsaber back in February after replacing the Petit Crouton board and re-wiring everything again.  This was an expense that I didn't really foresee and wasn't too pleased with.  The first board was working fine during testing, but failed once I installed the parts into the hilt.  Needless to say, I have a very bright red Sith saber.

For those reading who are interested in building sabers, (those non-technical non geeky sorta folk can skip down to the pics)  here are the specs:

MHS parts from The Custom Saber Shop
Petit Crouton v 1.6
Seoul P4 Red LED (main) clocked to 900ma
7.4V Trustfire battery pack
Internal recharge port/kill switch
Anti-Vandal illuminated activation switch
2W Bass speaker
MadCow custom sound font (Revenge) - more information at

This was my first saber and I chose not to go all out with the effects.  I do have an additional LED in the hilt to illuminate the pommel from the inside, but no flash on clash effect as this board could allow - I'll save that for my next one.  Pics are below.

I did finally get to some work on Artoo.  I disassembled him down to the frame this past week and added a styrene plate on to the shoulder area.  I did this specifically to lock the legs in place and to keep them from shifting forward if the front caster catches on an object or crevice, stopping the forward motion.  Hopefully this will allow the drive wheels to continue moving and push the front casters over the object.  I've had some difficulty maneuvering the robot over crack in the sidewalk, door jambs, etc up to this point, and had to be aware of such obstacles to avoid a possible tip over.

I didn't take any pictures of this due to the minimal time that I had to get this work done. Artoo has a filming engagement this weekend for a small fan film.  I have yet to figure out how to attach the rear door to the body and have two days left before the shoot.  Needless to say, I'll be busy tonight.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

My first lightsaber build

So, I began a couple side projects.

I'm starting on my first personal lightsaber.  I originally planned on doing this build about 5 years ago and put it off for my droid build.  My build will be a Sith blade and I have the hilt on hand as well as the Petit Crouton 1.6 board.  Not sure yet if I am going to go with a Deep Red LEDEngin 5W and overclock it to 1.5 amps, or with a Seoul P4 overclocked.  My understanding is the main difference between both is the hue of the red - the LEDEngin Deep Red is much closer to the crimson Sith blade, while the P4 has a slight orange tint.   I would love to up the saber to 10W, but not sure that I really want to deal with the headache of cross wiring pads on a 10W star.

I should be able to get a start on this sometime between Christmas and New Years.

Meanwhile, here are some pics of my first lightsaber build. I couldn't post these as this was a gift for a friend and I didn't want to tip my hand too early. I delivered the saber yesterday.

This was my first attempt at scratch building a saber. This one was made from some PVC tubing that I had on hand, an extra blade and a Seoul P4 Red electronics kit from TCSS. No sound in this saber, just a simple on/off LED circuit.

The saber appears to have an orange-ish/yellow appearance in the photos. I assure you, it is a very bright red.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Some news and a couple side projects

It's been quite a while since I had a moment to update this post.  This month marks 4 years as a member of the R2Builder Group and I've made a lot of progress over the recent years.

October/November provided quite a bit of action for Artoo with events - Buffalo's 2nd Annual comic convention at the Buffalo Library, among trick or treat events (Safe and Seen Halloween at Erie Community College, appearances at my church for our annual Trunk or Treat event, Halloween day in my neighborhood, and even an appearance at my children's elementary school for a Star Wars movie night). 

Needless to say, we both are getting some much needed downtime before two planned January events.

Ok, well, he is.  I've been working like mad with my job as of late and my planned maintenance period has quickly been disappearing.  I had planned on disassembling and inspecting the shoulder area and thanks to the generosity of a member of my church, replacing the shoulder panel on the frame with a machined aluminum part that will lock my legs in a three legged position.  I have been having difficulty navigating Artoo over bumps as the front casters will catch and stop his forward motion, while the outer legs, driven by the motors, continue moving forward.  This brings him to a standing position, with the potential of him tipping forward.  Thankfully, he hasn't fallen yet while controlling him and I would like to prevent that from happening at all.

I also plan on upgrading the caster set up in the center foot to better navigate cracks in the pavement or small bumps along the way.

The rear door still isn't installed.  I have vacation time coming up at the end of the month, so hopefully I'll have some time to do some building.

I have a couple side projects going on.  Based on my E11 blaster project from a couple years back (I posted my progress in this blog - check July-August 2009), I started a Fleet Trooper blaster.  I haven't gotten far with it as I put it aside temporarily, but its something that I do plan on completing over the winter.  Maybe.

I have also created my first LED based lightsaber.  I just completed a fully scratch built saber made from scrap PVC, a sink pipe, spare blade that I had kicking around and about $20 worth of electronics from The Custom Saber Shop.  I can't post pics of it at the moment, but I will get some to post soon.

I have also started another more advanced saber.  This is a project that I put aside to take on the Artoo build, so it's a good 5 years in the making.  One major benefit of holding off is the advancement of technology.  TCSS introduced the the Ultrasound saber sound and while I was setting aside money for a build, went out of stock for a long time, until the US 2.0 was released.  Both boards had mixed reviews, although were generally accepted as a good board.  Advancements over the years brought about revisions in the coveted Crystal Focus board from Plector Labs, and more recently, the Petit Crouton as designed by Plector Labs.  I commissioned a saber over the summer with a Petit Crouton (PC) 1.5 board and am happy with the board, however, due to some error (or poor judgement...) on the sabersmith's part, I cannot custom tailor the saber is it's designed (I won't mention the sabersmith, however, I will say that he will no longer see my business as there seems to be a lack of communication on his part to resolve this issue).  I am, however, pleased with the board and the construction of the saber overall is nice.  Short and long - it's usuable.

I've just decided to take it a bit further.  I now have a hilt put together and have purchased a Petit Crouton Rev 1.6.  I have some more components to acquire, but will soon start on this build.  I'll post pics as I go along.

That's all for the moment, more news and some pictures to post soon.