By: Rob Howdle
Droid (s): KNB1, R2XL
How long have you been apart of a Droid Building Community?
I joined the R2 Builders Club in 2017, after attending the Birmingham MCM in November. I went to there because I knew the builders would be there. I met with Oliver and Lee and told them about R2-XL, Lee’s first thought that I was joking until I showed him the building pictures I had on my phone.
The first thing he said was ” mate you got to join our club!”. So I did and in the following August I attended my first meet which was the very first R2UK 2018. To say I was exteremly nervous was a understatement as I winch “XL” down the ramp of my van, but the weekend was fantastic!
What are your current build? (Droid, Materials etc)
My current build I finished in February after being cleared by James with a full MOT. It’s “M5-BZ” from the Clone Wars series, but I have renamed him KN-B1 after my late father Ken Berry. I wanted to build something a bit different from the standard Astromechs.
The dimensions are different to the “R2’s so I found a picture of M5 and scaled it up against the standard R2, the Clone Wars droids are actually about 3 inches higher, plus the variation in the skins and the legs. The build consists of a wood frame wood legs and feet with foamex skin and dome with the occasional 3D printed part. The whole build took about six months.
What made you want to build a droid in the first place?
My friend runs a comic con in weston super-mare, he got in contact with me about advertising it with something a bit different. I had just finished building a standard size static R2D2 , I got to thinking what it would be like to be in Kenny Baker’s shoes and drive a R2, so I scaled up the R2 plans I had against a picture of me sat on a box which worked out to be a dome size of 700mm diameter, at this size I could fit in comfortably, and I’m 6ft 2″.
The first thing to find was a 700mm dome which I found at a company the blows acrylic domes to 3 meters wide, the next thing was to make the body from wood , the legs are 20mm foamex sandwich together to make 110mm thick. The whole thing runs on two wheel chair motors with a reversing camera and screen to see where I’m going.
I must admit I didn’t think it would be as popular as what it is. When we go to comic cons we put children in him and the parents take pictures, and they are happy to put some cash in the collection box for it. It brings a smile to my face when I see the reaction on the childrens faces when I ask them if the would like to sit in R2D2.
What future plans do you have for your droid? Constantly upgrading? Show piece? Events droid?
I won’t be doing anymore to XL , I can’t wait to use KN-B1 because of locked down he hasn’t made a visit to a con as yet…hopefully soon!
Do you have plans to build more droids? If so which one (s)?
I would love to build a proper R2-D2 at some point, maybe wood frame ali dome wood legs and ali feet. I have my eye on an egg droid and customise that, it would be great to join in the races I love what the other members have done to their’s so many variations!
Do you have any more droids? If so what other droids do you have either complete or WIP/ planning stages?
I don’t have anymore droids beside XL & KN I’ve always got ideas for new projects , it’s just finding enough space to store them, XL takes up a lot of space.
What are some of the challenges you have faced during your build?
When I was building XL all the parts had to be scaled up and at the time I had no access to a 3D printer so all the parts had to be made by hand. The worst thing was transporting him, I stripped my camper of the bed and units and had to install a two tonne winch and make two ramps plus make my workshop doors bigger to get him out, plus convert a standard sack truck into a two to four wheel to get him up the ramp into the van.
Do you have a ‘proudest moment’? If so what would that be (could be from the build itself or an event)
Proudest moments was the reaction I got from all the members at R2UK who made me feel very welcomed to the club, and the other was first trip to MCM when I drove him around the stalls.
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)
Building R2XL was a challenge because of having to scale everything up and finding a dome 700mm wide, where you could get away with a lamp shade from B&Q or nowadays a 3D print. I managed to find a company that can blow an acrylic dome up to 3 meter in diameter who I found out later make the cockpits for Guardians of the galaxy and Star Wars. The other problem was actually transporting him so much so that I had to rip out the furniture in my van build two ramps buy a two ton winch and make the doors on my workshop wider by 3 feet. Overall I followed my gut instinct on what I thought would work.
What is the most important piece of advise you would give to any new builder?
If I was to give any advice it would be think outside the box a bit , I know everybody wants an R2 but try and be different. Try looking in some of the Star Wars books and get inspiration from some of the droids that were in the background or clone wars. Basically it’s like everybody says research research!