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One of our more ambitious projects for our Halloween event this year is a full-size speeder bike from ROTJ. My goal is to keep this project within a reasonable cost, lightweight and made out of simple materials and structure (i.e. wood/foam vs. aluminum/carbon).
I started by gathering as many plans and profile views as possible and determined a significant number of discrepancies between the source materials (as always). Therefore, I set out to create my own plans and projected them onto the large sheets of foam and plywood. Little Jawa helpers assisted in transferring the design to the building materials (pink builders foam and plywood).
Cut out all of the parts with a jig saw. Making sure to stay within the lines helps to reduce sanding and filling later.
You'll notice the base of the speeder bike is not completely flat and includes some ramping shapes. I opted to build some elongated triangles for the shape changes, but to also incorporate a flat base for the mounting frames (office chair bases) to be secured. Holes were drilled in all the plywood pieces to help lighten the structure.
With the base prepped and ready, all the formers are aligned and put into order for assembly. I opted to use the plywood formers at the critical junction points (near handlebars, under seat, ends, etc) and used pink foam in between. There are still gaps in between, but we'll tackle those spaces later.
To adhere the formers to the base, I used Liquid Nails "FUZE IT" all-surface adhesive as it grabs fast, doesn't react the foam, and is fairly tough stuff. In case you glue the wrong the part down, this stuff can be cut up with a knife when cured (a few hours), so it's definitely not as solid as something like epoxy. Once the formers are setup, let them cure overnight to keep them from shifting.
The gaps between the formers are filled with the Great Stuff expanding spray foam. I used both the normal and big gap filler types and would highly recommend staying with the normal gap filler for all these prop projects. Although its tempting to shoot the big gap filler all over since it fills bigger gaps faster - it actually continues to expand for days upon days, thus upsetting the cutting, sanding, and fiberglassing process.
Within the deep recesses, I layered scraps of foam so that I didn't have to use so much of the spray version. I ended up using 3 cans to fill all the remaining voids. Cuts Just Like Butta'! Actually, using a bread knife and small box cutter, the foam does cut somewhat like butter. This takes some patience, time, and a large garbage can at your disposal. Making sure to not go too deep and keep things symmetrical - this is the key at this stage.
Once everything has been carved and sanded to the proper contour, I take a 1:1 ratio of wood filler and lightweight spackle mixed together and apply it to help fill the voids.
This is what it should look like being applied.
The intakes were lined with heavy foam core board to create nice flat surfaces (and sharp edges). They'll later receive a coat of epoxy to harden them up even more.
Installing the top deck comes next. the insets are built by cutting out the center panel and slightly lowering it and then regluing. Since it now hangs below the bottom, the center piece needs some slight shaving to sit flush.
Sanding, sanding, and more sanding... The Sanding Speeder - errr, Speeder Bike is starting to take shape. The edge of the top deck is also blended in with more putty at this stage.
The hog gets some skin! Using some 1 oz. fiberglass cloth to sheath the foam bit underneath begins with a large drape. Now this is starting to get real!
This is a terrific, pro-grade product that is fairly forgiving. Here's my order of operations for the epoxy/fiberglass process: 1) The initial coat of epoxy is applied (slow cure variety) over the structure to permeate the fiberglass 2) Wait to Dry (usually overnight) 3) Another coat of epoxy is applied with 410 filler added - peanut butter consistency 4) Wait to Dry 5) Sand high spots and use more filler as necessary
The first coat of epoxy is painted down and the cloth is positioned over the top. Use a paint spatula to spread (not a brush) to smooth out the epoxy and distribute it more evenly. Once dry, I applied a second coat, this time mixed with West System 410 filler. Peanut Butter consistency is about right and this coat fills the weave of the cloth nicely. Once dry, the edges can be trimmed and ready for a light sanding - 80 grit.
Picked up some spare parts at the second hand store for this build. We picked up these office chairs for $5 and will use the stands as the base for the speederbike and corrugated plastic sleeve as engine parts. Additionally, I picked up a some computer cable bundling tubes and plumbing parts for cheap as well.
The engine nacelles were built as one single piece so that I could ensure their symmetry. The base dimensions of both were created as a single piece with the tapering sheets of foam added. The two pieces at the center were not glued together so that when the shaping/sanding was completed, I could cut the base in half and the two sides would simply fall away from each other. If you didn't already know, the original ILM modeler's used a Space Shuttle kit for these parts. They're the nose.
Once the shape is finalized, simply split the base down the middle and "vwaaala"! you have two engine nacelles! The nacelles can now be fiberglassed just as before.
The seat is then carved to shape and sanded down. The curve in the back is simply two layers of foam (top and bottom) cut into slices and positioned to match the curve.
Using a sheet of masonite board, I projected some new patterns I drew up in order to maintain the scale profiles. Here are the front fins carved out with edges sanded.
Adjustable Pipe Straps are secured to hold the forks (poles) that extend out.
Starting to resemble a speeder bike...
Ok - let's have some fun! Remember the plumbing parts I picked up? Here they are along with yogurt cup. Any guesses what this is for?
In keeping with the cost/time constraints, I opted to use some ready-made parts to make the intake component of the engine. In addition to the parts here, my neighbors son (Kindergartener) has been come over each day to inspect the progress. He donated an Easter Egg for the spinner that we painted and he glued it on. Now he can say he worked on a full-size speeder bike.
Let's build the undercarriage next! I'm building the lower assembly out of pink foam. Using some rough cuts to get everything to fit.
Here are some more random bits for the project that I'll try to incorporate.
An initial coat of black acrylic to start the sealing process. I'll be going back with a skim coat of epoxy over these parts, but want to finalize a pre-assemble process to ensure everything fits nice and tight.
A few more key details were added. For the bullet on the front of the bike, I opted to use a plastic wine glass from the dollar store and trim/sand to shape. The backplate that holds the bullet is a cap from the great stuff foam canister - perfect fit!
While the bike is upside down and some parts are easier to access, I began painting engine intake. Using a base of black spray paint, I layered some of the rustoleum metals and eventually began "dry-wiping" (a close cousin to "dry brushing") acrylics on a paper towel to get a beat-up, grimy look.
With it now beginning to look like a speederbike - I could start the finish sanding process - over, over, and over...
With a final coat of epoxy down, I used a high-build primer was applied to help provide a good solid base for the paint to adhere. After more sanding, the primer coat was applied again and sanded with 120 grit sandpaper. Eventually we would get down to 400 grit.
Sanding and filling continues, and continues, and... You know the drill by now -
Taking the original foam seat I carved, I fiberglassed the seat to give it some rigidity and did something I'd not yet ever done with fiberglass. I refrained from filling the weave with filler and let the original fabric weave show through. I think it looks fantastic! I started by priming the seat for better paint adherence and then traced a line where the recessed panels will go:
Trim out the center panel. Incidentally, when cutting foamed fiberglass, I use a heavy-utility knife to cut through the fiberglass shell, and then follow the same cut with a rectractable hobby knife for the depth of the foam. Makes for easy work!
Using heavy craft foam, I measured the width of the panels and cut out rough shapes to check my positioning. The panels are then glued with 5-minute epoxy - still rough cut at this point.
The craft foam is then trimmed on the edges equidistant to the gaps between the cushions.Then I re-epoxy the entire insert inside the seat. The insert was slightly lowered to the craft foam is flush with the top of the seat. The bottom of the insert is then sanded flush with the bottom of the seat.
To clean up the spaces between the craft foam cushions, a little paintable caulking is applied and smoothed out.
Here it is spray painted Dark Walnut (not black) as I'll be weathering the seat at a later point
This is what it looks like before being painted:
This is what it looks like after being painted. The change is spectacular!
The next step is to make your greeblies. Due to the fact that I have a 3D Printer, I am going to be printing these. I currently have some "placeholder" items on the bike at this point and have been busy designing my new components and getting them on the 3D printer. Everything from the gun, to the hose clamps, dash controls, and random engine bits are in process of being created in PLA. Here we are just about done:
It is almost done!
This was a quick assembly of various parts, just to see what things look like assembled. Many details to come and further refinement.
In considering the type of sheathing to use, I'm opting to use PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate) - or better known as vacuum forming plastic. It's very rigid, can be heated and stretched, and I also like the fact that it's clear, so I can see how well it's adhering. Start by making some paper/tape templates to determine the shape and then cut out slightly oversized sheets of PETG.
Here, I have the top of the turtle deck:
In order to get good adherence, the paint/primer on the bike and the adhered side of the PETG plastic sheet need a good sanding. In this case, I'm opting to leave on the protective blue plastic on the pretty side to keep it from getting dinged.
Once everything is sanded, 5-minute epoxy makes quick work to get a good bond started. There will be slight gaps between the bike and the plastic - corners, edges, etc. I'll come back with some West Systems slow-cure (very thinset) epoxy and pour it in the edges and tape them down to dry overnight. This is creating a very nice, smooth and hard material that will hide any imperfections and create those sharp demarcations.
Keep in mind, the plastic is clear, so it's tough to not see through it to the sanded surface, but the plastic provides a nice, hard outer shell.
Begin painting the greeblies and work on getting the front end assembly completed.
I found that Rustoleum Metal paints are thick enough to actually cover some of the printed grain in the 3D prints.
To make some of the various components, I used some ready made components and combined those with prints from the 3D printer.
Incorporating ready-made objects is what many movie prop makers employ to keep costs and time down - wonder if any butter tubs were used in Star Wars?
After some paint and mounting - Vwalla! Another thingamajigger on the Speeder Bike!
I continued making some of the components with ready made plastic tubs and objects. In this case, a Country Crock tub for back of front plate.
Painted all black and secured...
Some More! Getting there - Just about ready to paint again. This time I'm going to be using an old 80's model building and hairstyling technique using Aquanet. If you don't have a can of this stuf for your prop/modelling tools - I suggest you run down to the 7-11 and pick on up!
In order to create the paint chipping/weathered effect, I'm going to take a page from my model building efforts and lay down a coat of silver paint as the base. Even though I started with brown (wanted to check the hue), I will spray paint the whole bike in silver spray paint (Rustoleum) as base for the chipping effort.
Back to the silver paint technique - The key here is to let the silver dry completely and then work quickly on the next few steps. Here's a blast from the 80's - get out your can of Aqua Net Hairspray (Aersol) and saturate a paper towel. Dab the paper towel randomly over the silver paint. This will create a slight barrier between the silver and the body color. Once the hairspray dries (like 5 mins) - spray the top coat on immediately.
Note, I'm not using acrylics here - I'm using spray paint lacquer on this project. Dab it in a random pattern in the high-traffic areas (corners, edges, etc.)
Spray paint the final colors - in this case, I'm spraying a medium nutmeg brown with highlights of dark brown, bronze, olive, and a hint of black. Only rattle cans for this job, I left my airbrush in the house as it's waaaay too humid to airbrush acrylics.
Some more painting photos:
Now - the fun weathering process can begin! (This is my favorite part!) As you've guessed by now, in order to create the paint chipping effect, we'll be removing the top layer of paint we just sprayed in order to reveal the silver paint below. Remember, these things fly at 200mph in the forest - wonder why there aren't more bugs splattered? The key here is to let the brown paint set up just to where it's a bit tacky, but not full cured - perhaps 20-30 mins after painting.
Better paints can adhere through the Aqua Net and the effect is lost. So, here's what you'll need - a roll of clear packing tape and some heavy steel wool (to help add texture). If you just lay the strip of tape down, you'll pull off a perfect rectangle of paint - definitely not the look we're going for here. It helps to wad the tape up and then pull it back apart to put some creases and wrinkles in it. You can also impress the steel wool into the tape to create textures.
You can also impress the steel wool into the tape to create textures. Your fingernail and any other tool also work to create many effects. In this case, less is more and it's easy to have too much fun and overdo it. But don't despair, you can always reshoot more topcoat color and peel again.
Start on one end and work around - the steel wool also makes great scratch effects too!
The edges and high-spots are prime for chipped paint effects.
That looks about right -
Don't forget the tops of the rivets!
A quick dab of the paint and the paint is gone -
Removing paint around the control panel -
Here's another view -
When flying around 300mph (according to the expanded universe) just a few feet from the ground with debris hitting all around, the integrity of the paint job begins to break down. And as with any weathering job, it's easy to over due the effect and sand blast the entire front. Taking a steel wool and depressing it into the tape creates an interesting mottle pattern to the front of the bike.
At this scale, it's difficult to make convincing paint scratch effects when painting "on" silver. Some light scratches with the steel wool cut thin scrapes of paint to reveal the silver underneath. But wait - we're not done yet!
Here's a key step to the process, the silver paint is too bright as it shows through. A very slight misting of light brown and a darker bronze, take the edge off the reflectiveness of the silver and tone it down, thus making it look like "aged" weathering that has accumulated over time.
OK - let's keep going... The foot pedals are cut from plywood, with a PVC pole, a PVC center peg (heated and bent), and a toe frame from plastic drip line.
Installed! These actually actuate and retract up with a strong spring.
Let's complete the control panel! Using the 3D printer (if you don't have one - you NEED one!) , I created the controls for the speeder bike by taking rough measurements and comparing to studio photos. Once printed, a coat of paint and there they are. To keep people from breaking them off too easily, 3.5" wood screws were drilled through them and then drilled into the control panel. 2-Part Epoxy was applied for the greeblies on top.
Engine Flap Assembly - With my 3D printed hinge assembly installed, it's time to install the flaps! Using some trimmed masonite sections, small rubber sticker feet (for legs of chairs) are adhered into the pattern seen on the original -
Next step - you guessed it! Paint it silver, wait 30 minutes, then spray Aqua Net! You know this stuff smells different than it did in the 80's? Maybe I've been smelling too much spray paint lately, but it's definitely not the same... ;(
Once the Silver is fairly dry you can coat it in the top coat - in this case, I'm using a metallic bronze with an accent of black.
These two shots demonstrate how the silver looks before and after the silver is slightly toned down with the bronze metallizer:
Installed on the new hinges!
With the other components assembled - it's starting to take shape! Just a few notes - the bed roll on the back needs straps and buckles, there are a few greeblies yet to add, and of course the handle bar assemblies are yet to install. Overall, I think it looks kinda' like a speeder bike. Not bad for about $150 investment so far?
I stopped by the Goodwill earlier today and found a ladies purse that had leather shoulder straps with two identical buckles. I took a shot at seeing if it would work for the tie downs in the back.
However, they're too clean - so in classic Star Wars style, it's time to transform them for the used universe - let's add some spray paint and grunge things up a bit -starting with some oil rubbed bronze color...
The bedroll gets some dirt too - just a light mist to gather some of that forest dirt...
I had created scale brackets to secure the bed roll, however it wasn't easily secured and quickly became hidden under the bedroll. So, my quick and dirty alternative is to cut the straps down to the appropriate length and screw them to the top of the speederbike...
Then, just wrap up the bedroll and secure it down with the straps.
The bedroll was a piece of packing liner from a piece of Ikea furniture. I saved it for some odd purpose in the future, and it turned out perfect for the speederbike. Another sub-assembly completed!
Handlebar fabrication begins. Mainly from stock wood and masonite. Many of the greeblies are found items like these knobs from the office chairs.
Handle bars continuation. I'm not sure why, but the handle bars were really intimidating as the actual bike's had very complex curves built in. Mine is slightly simplified and once the paint is on, they start to look the part
The gun was fashioned from a length of 3/4" PVC with some 3d printed parts.
Speeder Bike Star Wars
Halloween Star Wars Decoration Speed
Okay - I've been working on a few parallel projects and have been fighting a nasty head cold the past few weeks - but the build must go on! Continuation of the gun: I used a small PVC bit bolted to the bottom deck for the gun to simply slide into. The gun remains moveable and pivotable at this point.
The final handlebar details include those yellow caps from Great Stuff foam cans (I save everything for use later). Knowing that paint will ultimately chip off those yellow caps, I opted to wrap them in foil tape. Some greeblies are added on the outside to make them look more convincing...
Halloween Scout Trooper Star Wars
Halloween Speeder Bike Star Wars
Star Wars Scout Trooper Bike
Halloween Biker Scout Speeder Bike
Some additional chachkies -
The brake lines were fashioned from the same computer cable tubing (smaller diameter) as the engine piping. By stretching it out and spray painting it black, a quick side mist of silver makes it look like conduit.
After a quick wipe down with a tack cloth, I coated the bike in a matte enamel finish to lock in the paint and knock down the sheen.
Scout Trooper Halloween Star Wars
Okay - after 10 weeks (just at 2.5 months), the Speeder Bike Project is completed!
Star Wars Speederbike
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