Building My Blaster

Of all the projects I’ve ever made, I think one could easily be the most complex. MagSafe-like electrical connections, and tight tolerances to fit the electronic BlastFX kit that’s running the sounds and ammo count. Behind the scenes, this required a lot of designing and redesigning, printing components, making changes, and printing them again and again until they were right.

And now I’ve finally satisfied most of what I was hoping to accomplish, and I’ve started taking preorders.

Millennium Falcon Cockpit: Full-Sized Garage Build

In the process of relocating to Texas, our beloved Millennium Falcon Playhouse was destroyed. We were all really bummed out for months, but eventually we started to see a new opportunity emerge. Rebuilding the cockpit, but at a glorious full scale!

Part 1: The Dashboard

We started by finding reference material online. Particularly helpful was this schematic. From it, I was able to line up the top, front, and side views in my 3d modeling software, scale them to actual size, and then explode those pieces into the parts I needed to cut out.

Since I don’t own a CNC, these had to be done the old fashioned way, measuring out each length and angle and then cutting them out of thin MDF board. Once the parts were all cut out, I taped them all together with masking tape and then built an internal frame using 2″x2″ boards.

At this point, my kids were pretty confused. They wanted a Millennium Falcon, not a biplane, and I had a hard time convincing them that we were headed in the right direction.

Next, I spray painted each of the panels and then attached them to the frame using sheetrock screws. Scavenging our old broken Millennium Falcon playhouse of switches and wires, I started installing some of the switches in the area between the seats as well as beginning to apply the telltale pinstripe patterns.

Next came the slow process of building out the many components seen in the Falcon. Particularly helpful at this point was the beautiful 360 degree view of the Force Awakens era Millennium Falcon cockpit on the Star Wars website.

Don’t tell anyone, but designing in 3D is one of my favorite things to do, and for sure I had my work cut out for me. With just the dashboard, there are dozens of components that required my attention and many many hours of printing on my beloved CR-10.

Initially, I used silicone and resin to duplicate a few parts, but for the most part, this ended up being a waste of time, and I eventually went back to printing each piece. I’ve added all the initial 3D printed components here for you to download.

Pinstriping is a tedious but simple process. Taking your time to keep the lines straight is a pain, but it looks amazing when it’s done.

Particularly challenging early on were the multiple large lights. My final solution was to 3d print the lenses in a translucent white filament and then color in the front of the lenses with a marker. I know it sounds janky, but it worked, at least for a temporary solution.

The white and blue illuminated buttons are the primary visual element on the dashboard. These either make our break the look. With the previous playhouses I had built for my kids, I had just used square pieces of plastic or wood, but now I needed something that would both look crisp and also disperse light well.

The solution, 1/8″ thick #2447 acrylic laser cut into 1″x1″ squares. I made a custom order from Delvie’s Plastics and got great customer service and a quick turnaround on the parts.

Since I needed many of the squares tiles to be blue, I used fabric dye and followed the instructions on the package with hope that they’d turn out well. Fortunately, the dye worked perfectly.

For illumination, I decided to go the simplest and easiest route – using strings of Christmas lights secured with hot glue. Behind the tiles, I drilled 7/8″ holes. For the small lights, I drilled small holes and filled the top with a small cylinder of transparent 3d printing.

Honestly, I was nearly giddy with excitement when I got the panels reassembled and plugged in the lights for the first time. Though only half the details were done at this point, the lighting is already giving the console a very finished look.

At this point, my kids began clamoring for me to get some buttons and sounds installed, so I once again scavenged our broken playhouse project for our Adafruit Audio FX board. I powered this and an old computer speaker system (with a subwoofer – everything fit nicely inside the console) with the same switch going to the lights. Then I placed momentary switches in different areas on the console and tied each to a different sound (explosions, guns, takeoff, and the Falcon theme music).

But my favorite part was using a capacitor to trigger a sound when flipping on the lights. It’s a very nice effect.

Initially, I thought I was going to need to install rows of switches, but I eventually decided to go with a screen accurate look by designing the parts and printing them out on the 3d printer. It ended up being a quick and easy way to add a ton of detail.

One of my favorite details of our Millennium Falcon dashboard was inspired by my oldest twin. He suggested that one of all the switches in the mass of switches on the console should do something. I used a switch of his choice to toggle on and off the map-looking interface. The challenge was to make the interface completely disappear when the light is off. To make this work, I stacked a piece of welding mask plastic on top of some transparency paper that I had printed the design onto. When the light is on, the design shines through, but when the light is off, you can only see the welding mask screen.

Using 3D printed handles and some wooden dowels and wheels, I was able to create a rudimentary mechanism for the motion of the light speed controls.

Part 2: Building Platforms

The dashboard sitting on the ground is all fine and good for starters, but things really began to get interesting when we built risers underneath the dashboard to get it to our final height.

But things started to get real once we were finally able to install our front chairs, even if they were magenta. 

I removed the base from the chairs, drilled holes through the risers and ran steel tubing down the ground. The hydraulic mechanism on the chairs fits right inside of the tubing, and the chairs are sturdy and secure.

Part 3: Adding the Back Seat

This project is still actively underway. Check back for progress.

Making Star Wars Props

Not sure why I’ve never mentioned it here, but for the past year, during the evenings and the weekends, I’ve been selling Star Wars props online. What began with working with sheet plastic and foam and cobbling together found objects to make various props has transitioned into learning 3D design, silicone molding, and resin casting. It’s required a ton of problem solving and learning new skills, but it’s also been the fulfillment of a dream that I’ve had for several years.

I don’t plan on overtaking this blog with prop designs that I’ve made, but it might happen. Until then, for those who are interested, you can get updates on my Facebook page.

 

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The Car Wreck

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It had been a great day.

A few weeks ago, my two oldest kids and I spent the day at Dollywood Splash Country, a nearby water park. Though both of my oldest children tend toward caution, they each took huge steps of courage by riding down the largest slide at the park–something they swore they would never do. To celebrate, we stopped at Chick-fil-a on the way home to get dinner and milkshakes.

These are the days I live for as a parent. When I get to share uninterrupted stretches of time with my children. When I watch them do things they didn’t think were possible. I love these moments.

But then, on the way home, something unpredictable happened. As I neared our house, I exited the Interstate and merged onto a curving highway. As we rounded the curve, five raccoons appeared walking across the street in single file, effectively blocking the road. I had only a split second, not enough time to make a rational decision, and I made a small instinctive jerk on the steering wheel to the left. I remember the horrible realization that I had lost control of the car. And within a second, we smashed headlong into the guardrails on the left side of the road and then bounced back to the other side where we collided with the concrete wall twice.

Raccoon sabotage.

Maybe not such a great day after all.

My car was full of smoke from my airbag, and my kids were crying out in shock and alarm. The milkshakes had exploded everywhere. As we got out of the car and moved to a safer location, we assessed our situation. We were dazed from the sudden impact, but we were okay. The car was totaled, but we were not. We were all sore, and my neck was killing me, but we were alive with hardly a scratch on us.

I don’t think I quite realized it at the moment, but it has been clear to me in retrospect that just like my kids with the slide, I was facing my own test of courage. Just as I had observed their decision to rise to the occasion, they were watching mine.

Looking back at what happened, I realize now that I could have died. My kids could have died. Any of us could have been injured in a life-altering way.

And that doesn’t make me feel afraid. Instead, it makes me even more committed to using the time I have to make a difference. I want to do my part in God’s Kingdom work here on earth.

I’m more convinced than ever before that God is doing a great thing through our Internet Campus, and I’m still praying that God will give us His favor and allow us to reach record numbers of people

Please join me in praying that God will work in a supernatural way through our Internet Campus and that we’ll see significant growth in our online attendance and new volunteers through the second half of the year.

Halloween 2015

Once again, my wife, kids, and I dressed up in new homemade Star Wars costumes that I created over the last few weeks. Like before, it was a ton of work and a ton of fun.

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From left to right: Ahsoka Tano (from the animated Clone Wars series), young Jedi, Rey (from upcoming Star Wars movie), another young Jedi, Sith Acolyte Eradicator (from a Star Wars video game that I’ve never played), and Luke Skywalker

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Dang, my costume looks tough! Fierce, even.

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And a huge dose of adorable cuteness.

For photos of our last family-wide Star Wars costume fun, go here.

For photos of my Sith Acolyte costume build, go here.

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Sith Acolyte Eradicator Costume

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For several years, since I first started working on my Boba Fett costume, I’ve thought it would be fun to build a costume that would be worthy of joining the 501st. If you’re not familiar with the 501st, it’s a international volunteer Star Wars costuming organization. It’s the organization that provides characters to zoos, events, hospital visits to sick kids, and even the characters at Disney’s Star Wars Weekends.

The only problem is that the 501st are very picky about costume details, and I knew that I would have to spend several hundred dollars to finish out my Boba Fett costume. Instead, I decided to sell off the parts and use the money I made to build a new costume. The character I picked was the Sith Acolyte Eradictor from one of the Star Wars video games (that I’ve never played).

Basically, I wanted to carry a lightsaber and wear a mask. And this guy looks awesome. In fact, I think he might be able to take Boba.

Well, after many hours of work, I’ve finally completed my costume, and this afternoon we did a little photo shoot. This evening I submitted my application for the 501st. :)

I made everything except for the mask and the lightsaber. Below, I’ve posted a bunch of photos that I took during the build. As you hover over these images, you should see some notes related to each.

[update 11/2/15: My costume didn’t get 501st approval. Plan on working on an updated set of armor over the next few months.]

Thanks for checking things out! Hopefully I get some good news on my costume approval soon!

If you’re interested in seeing more things like this that I’ve built, check out the category here.

And here’s all the parts bagged up into two large suitcases for the photo shoot:

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Millennium Falcon – for the Kids

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After a bit of an intervention from my wife a few days ago, I have come to realize that I’m a bit of a project junkie. And especially if that project has to do with cosplay, prop making, Star Wars, or Lord of the Ring, I’m hooked. I mean, really. I have almost zero resistance to such urges.

Though I’m an addict, I find a huge amount of creative joy when working on projects of this sort. So when I decided to use my free time over a week to put together a Millennium Falcon cockpit playhouse for my children, I had a blast. And if my son sleeping inside of it whenever he gets a chance is any indication of how much he likes it, then I think it was well worth the effort.

Someone also recently showed me an inexpensive way to tie audio to multiple buttons, so that’s probably an addition that’s happening in the near future as well. How fun!

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For a full writeup of the instructions I made and photos I took while putting the thing together, go here.

In addition, this project has been featured in several blogs, including:

comicbook-com

instructables

make

nerd-approved

technobob

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