Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ready for the Real Thing

This is mostly going to be more of a a photo update than a lot of narrative today.  I did want to document the "rig" a little better on how I'm using it.  The Router is attached to the guide that I finished yesterday, and the two black lines are to mark the two I'm using for inside and outside cuts.  The inside cut is just a little bit larger than the Senna plans call for, to make sure I don't over-do it.  I figured I can always trim it back down the 1/8" difference that it made.

I cut out the middle 1/2" ring setup, and gave it a go.  Overall it looks to work near perfectly.  I would state the when you get to the last piece that completes it, be careful as you basically have created a gear that can spin rather easily!  After that I notched out the connectors, labeled them, and then created a few of the curved ribs with the insides.  Using this method I was able to get 3 of the ribs done easily, with 1 more that I can hand carve.  I will not get all of the ones that the plans had in the center piece, but I have a 1/4" 2x2 ply I'm planning on using for that one as-is, so I should be good.

The major question I'm going to have is, do I keep these parts and finish them off, or do I re-do all of this work in the Birch ply once I purchase it this week?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The first cut is the deepest

Not my best work.
This is going to be a little longer of a post today, mostly because I got a whole lot more done on the project than I have in recent days.  Last night I attempted to use some 2'x2' sheets of plywood to get some practice cuts made, while attempting to create my router guide for cutting circles.  To say the least, it didn't go so well.  What I learned is that holding the trim router in my hand is not going to do much for me all the time, I'm going to have to be VERY careful with it!  It didn't help that the battery that I thought was full for my Ryboi ONE system was anything but full, so I put it to charge and took the evening off.  I figured Saturday may bring different results.

What I can say is that a day, the right tools, and the right techniques, make all the difference!  I spent the morning out, and after lunch came back and started back up again on creating the router circle cutting guide, this time with a fully charged 18v battery.  After getting the shape cut out, I cleared out the middle in as close to a shape as I could to the bottom guide of the router.  After that I drilled out the 4 screw holes to connect it to the bottom of the router, and then drilled out the holes, I thought, to the lengths needed for the various curved pieces.

The next part was to test it out.  For my first attempt I decided to use a 1/4" piece of 2x2 ply, and pre cut out the circle so I was only trimming what I thought was going to be maybe 1/2" off of it.  What I found was that I could place the router in the middle of my workbench and vice it in place, upside down.  Then after drilling a hole in the center of the board, place a nail through both the ply and the guide hole below.   During my first attempt I didn't secure the router depth well enough, and it slipped some.  I was able to re-secure it, and trim it off no problem.

The good news is that it created a beautiful circle, but it was less than 18" in diameter by about 1/2"!  I made a few adjustments to the guide from what I learned - First I created a new hole at approximately 1/2" further down the guide than what I had before, and this time I place a spare piece of 1/2" ply underneath the guide further up to help secure it so it wouldn't bend.  When I got my test wood, I had picked up a 2x2 1/2" ply as well, intending to have enough material to test out most techniques well before attempting to work on the good hardwood!

This time, I measured out a center hole about 9 1/4" from the edges of the wood, and drilled the new pilot hole.  I'm still getting the hang of using the router, but it's definitely going better.  I did have a few problems still with cutting out the circle, but it's definitely improving.  I may need to get a better 1/4" router bit than the cheapie $7 one from Harbor Freight to do this work, but it is definitely doing the job on the test runs so far.  Hopefully by Labor day I should have the initial pieces of the frame cut out and ready to assemble.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Many Bothans Died...

One of the final major decisions I had to make in the construction of my Astromech was pretty much made for me yesterday:  what material to use.  Not being able to put a door on the back of my droid if made from styrene, along with the fact that with plywood I can realistically make a 2-3-2 setup (an astromech that can stand on 2 or 3 legs interchangeably), was tipping me back to a plywood design.  Hearing back from a local plastic supplier that the shipping for the 2 initial sheets of styrene that I would need is more than just using plywood push it over the top.

I found that the Home Depot down the street has the grade and thickness of plywood I'd need "in stock", and that the price was reasonable for the amount of wood I'd need for the frame plus "some".   So today I brought the "Senna" blueprint plans over to Kinko's (I refuse to call it FedEx Office or whatever) and got it printed out.  Todd from the R2 Builder's club had offered to print them out for several of us, but I just felt uncomfortable with asking on the initial plans I'd need.

My goals for getting some time this weekend to work on the cuts seems reasonable at this point.  My thoughts are to get some less expensive (see thinner and cheaper) plywood to do some initial tests on with the tools before spending the money for the real materials.  Just getting started is exciting, though.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Workspace Completed

After making the decision that I really wanted to build a droid, there were three big starting points I had to deal with: Where I was going to do this work, what droid I'm building, and what materials I'm going to use. Today I got the first of these 3 mostly done, and should finish up one of the other two this week. My hope is to make the first cuts on the frame this weekend, if it's feasible.

That said, my workspace is mostly cleared off. I had a chance to go to Harbor Freight today and get the 1/4" router and other materials I knew I'd need. I put together the drill press I've had sitting around to make sure it worked (it does!) and then proceeded to put the parts away. I only spent about $76 on the additional tools I'd need, so I'm pretty happy with that.

The next big decisions is material. There are 3 main designs for the frame: Aluminum, Plywood, or High Impact Polystyrene. This is one of the biggest decisions I'm going to have to make, as the design I use will forever dominate this droid. Honestly, aluminum is out of the question, as the costs of the material are just too high for me in the making of my initial droid. That leaves Plywood, which is a more available product, but heavier, or Polystyrene which is lighter. I've been planning on a styrene build for a while now, but I think I'm starting to change my mind as I think about the lifecycle of the little guy. He'd be light with the styrene, but he wouldn't be very durable that way.

The last major decision is what astromech I'm building. I had decided that I didn't want to attempt R2-D2, as it would require more precision than I was going to be comfortable with, but I think I've figured out which one I'm going to do. The good thing is that painting is going to be so late in the project for me (frame and legs should take me until the end of the year, so it'll be when I start putting the outer layers on him that I'll be really painting). For right now, I'm focusing on making him as R4-P17, which is Obi-wan's droid in both Episode II and III. It should work out nicely, as it's still in continuity, but it's not the "most recognized" droid that way.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Droid Building

After going to Celebration V last week, I think I'm going to be inspired to do some more "hands on" work. I got to talk to some of the folks from the R2-D2 Builder's Club, and I wish I had spent more time in their area learning and seeing more. Since I only had a 1-day pass to the convention, I couldn't spend enough time in any one location to really do much.

This is going to be a very adventurous build for me, and definitely something that is going to tax me. Generally I like to "get things done", but this is a kind of project where you have to "enjoy the ride" much more than the final goal. From what I'm reading and seeing, I can do a lot of the build myself, saving a good chunk of money on the initial frame and legs. I have most of the parts I'd need for that. At best I can see this taking 6-12 months to get to a point where I'd start to do actual automation on it, which is a very long term type of project for me. Keeping the dedication and the drive for it would be challenging, but I think it would be a fun and very personally profitable project.

My goal is to slowly start up a section of my blog, if not a whole new blog, for the Droid build as I go. We'll see what develops.