DroidBuilders UK

Uniting all droid builders.

James Feurtado

By: Rob Howdle

Droid (s): R5-D4

How long have you been apart of a Droid Building Community?

I got into droid building back in 2010, after attending a local Sci-Fi event in Corsham. There were two builders with their droids, Mark Enright & Ian Havenhand. Having looked at Mark’s wood built R2, I knew I could build one as well. So, I joined up with Astromech.net and it wasn’t long after joining that the UK forum Astromech.info was setup.

What are your current builds?

I’ve built one droid, R5-D4. Back then, part runs were not a thing, unless you lived in the USA or where able to afford to import the parts. I didn’t and was working on a tight to NO budget at all. R5’s frame, ‘skin’, utility arms, boosters, battery boxes, legs, feet and his head, are all, made of wood. There are a few components that are resin, that I decided would be better than my attempt at making. Being in engineering, I was able to machine up some of the aluminium components myself. I decided to build alternative domes, these include an ‘R0’ dome, based on ones seen in ‘The Force Awakens’ film. And then after a break, I built an ‘R4’ dome. Both made of wood.

What made you want to build a droid in the first place?

I’ve always loved Sci-Fi and of course Star Wars, but being mechanically minded, it was the droid’s that drew my attention. My Son, who was the reason for attending the Corsham event, was enthusiastic at the prospect that I could build our own droid. After doing my research, I decided on building R5.

What future plans do you have for your droid? Constantly upgrading? Show piece? Events droid?

Most droid builds are never really finished, there’s always something. You complete your droid and then someone else does an upgrade and you’re like, why didn’t I think of that? This happened with R5’s centre leg. The body/leg plans for Astromech’s are the same, but I wanted R5 to be as ‘screen accurate’ as possible. This was when it was brought to my attention that during filming the mechanical function of the 2-3-2 failed and so the centre leg had to be replaced. In doing so, they used an outer leg, which features only one ankle cylinder. Also, the centre foot doesn’t have any half Moon pieces. R5 doesn’t have much in the way of opening panels etc, so the one thing I HAD to do was create his ‘Bad Motivator’ system. This has had a few upgrades over the years, but, he definitely gets the public’s attention lol

Do you have plans to build more droids? If so which one (s)?

I’m always open to the idea of building another droid, but a much lighter version. I do like the 39.1% LT droids…..

Do you have any more droids? If so, what other droids do you have either complete or WIP/ planning stages?

I started on building a MSE ‘mouse’ droid last year. This is still a WIP though as I’m sourcing components to fix the donor base car.

What are some of the challenges you have faced during your build?

I’ve always been handy with woodworking and later metal (engineering). But building a droid fully, out of wood, was a challenge. How to affix parts without having screws showing etc. How to wrap wood around the frame without it splitting. Following previous build blogs is a must! Here you learn does and don’t which make your build even more fun without the lows.

Do you have a ‘proudest moment’? If so what would that be (could be from the build itself or an event)

I’ve had a few ‘proud’ moments since building R5, the first, must be the day I showed him moving, to the family. Representing the Club at events is always something I enjoy, the most notably event would be Celebration Europe 2016. And being able to work on ‘Los Alamos’, ‘Red Cup’ & ‘Trixie’.

Are there any parts of the build process that have surprised you with how easy/ hard you found them? (For example, something that you thought would be very hard that turned out to be easy for you etc)

One of the hardest parts was constructing R5’s head, I had actually left this to the last. Figuring out a frame that would allow the hardboard to be wrapped around without splitting and holding it in place, but I eventually achieved the desired results. The ‘R0’ dome build was easier still, with the ‘R4’ dome being the most complicated build, shape wise, but being the lightest, and the most fun one to build.

What is the most important piece of advice you would give to any new builder?

Read up on previous build blogs. This is usually the standard answer and for some new builders, this is self-explanatory. There are lots of different ways and materials you can use and/or combine to build your Astromech. Reading and research will help you with materials, time & money (budgets).