Jan 24, 2012

R2D2 mini secret storage box from recycling

 This is something we made almost eight months ago and I just haven't found the time to post until now. We'd been to the Bay Area Maker Faire back in May 2011 and the kids had had a wonderful time there, the high point of which was hanging out with the Astromech group and all their R2D2 builds. Totally amazing workmanship and engineering! Carys, who is a Star Wars nut, wore her Droid t-shirt especially to go and meet R2 and even drew him a picture.

The kids decided that we needed to make our own R2 unit, but making anything even remotely as fabulous as Astromech have done requires rather a lot of cash for parts and a hell of a lot of time dedicated to it as well, so it wasn't going to happen on anywhere approaching that scale (not least because I was a month away from having Delyth). We did put together some baby R2s to play with though, and because they were made from things in the recycling bin and hot glue, the kids got to be involved in the building process. I've photographed the process here so you can also have a go at making them if you want to.

 From Left to Right: Ffion's R2, Carys's R2, y R2.

These little guys are made using popsicle sticks, a cardboard toilet roll tube, the bottom part of one of those plastic easter eggs used for egg hunts, the lid off a gallon milk jug, and a cardboard print out that I designed to make the feet and shoulder parts. His dome can be put on and taken off easily, and you can store secret messages inside your R2 unit, just like Leia stores her message to Obi-Wan in R2D2 himself! My kids have written messages on paper to go in their R2s, but you could record something and put it on a USB flash drive or memory card to fit in there too, or make one to use as an elaborate gift box. We started off as we usually do with most creative endeavours, with our box of junk...

The thing that made me think we could pull this off was noticing that the bottom part of the plastic easter eggs that we'd saved from our egg hunt fitted exactly onto the end of a toilet roll tube, and I mean EXACTLY. It fitted easily on and sort of clicked like it does with the top part of the egg, so it will rotate like R2's dome, but won't fall off, even if you turn it upside down, but you can take it off easily without damaging the tube too, which makes it perfect to be used as a little storage pot.
 Just look how well they fit together!
Here are most of the bits we needed to make the three R2s.  You actually need six popsicle sticks for each model plus three lots of the print out template that I've linked to later on in this post.
First we cut the toilet roll tubes down to be the right height (about 5cm), then snipped lots of little tabs into the bottom of one end so that we could glue the milk bottle lid on. The milk bottle lid had just the right texture along the sides of it to be used for R2's base, but was a little bit too small to be glued in place without making those little tabs and folding them in.
We used hot glue to stick the two pieces together, because it works great for sticking plastic things, and the kids love using the hot glue guns to get immediate results.
So with the half of the plastic egg popped on top, that's the basic body of your R2 done.

Now we had to figure out how to make legs that were going to be the right size and shape, and be sturdy enough to hold R2's body and whatever we stored in it, without falling over or falling apart. There wasn't anything in our box of junk that was going to work for the feet or the tops of his legs. I did think about maybe trying to use the white lids from tick tack boxes, but we didn't have enough of them and it wasn't quite right anyway, so I decided to make little cardboard templates that we could cut out, fold and glue instead. The leg part that makes them sturdy enough is made from cutting down some popsicle sticks with an exacto knife and gluing them together. Generally we try to let our kids have hands on experience with real tools under supervision, but I did the exacto knife part for them. They were only five and six years old when we made these, and even as a grown up I still manage to maim myself with an exacto quite frequently. Maybe I need adult supervision?

It would look nicer if you glued the popsicle sticks together in sets of three after you've cut them, but we didn't have suitable glue, so we used some electrical tape to hold them together instead. The side legs need the popsicle sticks to be cut to 6.5cm long and the middle one needs to be 3cm.
Click here to get the pdf template that I made for the cut out and glue card leg parts. They are rather small, so if your kids are young like mine then you'll likely have to do this bit for them, or at least be an extra pair of hands to hold things in place while they glue. I reckon kids that are nine or ten and older will be able to do this bit just fine on their own though.

By the way, the pdf mentions a bead in the list of things you'll need. I was going to use it to glue onto the dome for a realistic thingymadoodle that R2 has poking out on there, but the kids wanted to draw it on with pens, so we didn't bother with that part in the end.

Here are the three feet and two shoulder parts from the print out, having been cut out and scored by me, ready to fold and glue.
 Here they are all folded up and glued together. You can see that the middle foot is slightly different to the other two because the popsicle stick leg goes into it at an angle, rather than straight down like with the two side legs.

To fix them onto the popsicle sticks we squeezed hot glue into the feet and shoulder pieces and then pushed the popsicle sticks in, holding them in place until the glue cooled and set, then folded the feet parts closed and glued them shut.

This is how your R2 legs and feet should look, ready to be glued onto the body.

and here is the completed R2, ready to be decorated.
 We gave the whole of the body a coat of white paint. This would be really easy if you have spray paint, but we didn't, so we just used some white acrylic craft paint to give R2 a plain white base coat. It doesn't look perfect, but R2 is an old droid in the original three movies, so having him look a bit untidy sort of works in the same way that our Wall-E we made out of recycling didn't have to look new either.

R2's dome is silver, and again, spray paint would have been useful, but what we had at hand was a silver Sharpie pen, so to make that adhere well and not rub off, we sanded the plastic egg part a bit to rough it up, then coloured it in with the pen. Here are our R2 units all lined up ready to decorate.

As far as adding the details went, I just put out a few fine tipped sharpies, one blue, one black, one silver and one red, plus a pencil and everyone used a picture in a book we had as a reference. Yes, I enjoyed decorating my R2D2 as much as the kids did!

R2D2 by Ffion, Aged 5.
R2D2 by Carys, Aged 6.
Hope you enjoyed this post and that, even though it's rather involved, someone out there (whether it be a kid or a grown up) will give this a whirl.  I've noticed that the plastic Easter eggs have already started appearing on the shelves at the Dollar Tree!

If you like the idea of making robots out of recycling then you might like these two posts from a while back:
or, if you're just into Star Wars then maybe one of these posts from the Filth Wizardry archives will interest you:
I'll be back in a few days with some links to Valentine's type crafts from the archives that might be handy in the next couple of weeks :)

Jan 20, 2012

Super easy paper plate hats for every occasion

Wheee! First craft project of 2012 that I've written up!

Here's a link to my latest post over at Alpha Mom. Pop on over to see how you can make a very simple hat design from a single paper plate, with no glue or tape or anything, just a paper plate and a pair of scissors. I've also included several hat variations that will suit different holidays and a print out that shows you how to cut twelve different hat designs, plus a couple of party game ideas that these hats work well for.

I've got to say that I'm really impressed that so many of the other bloggers with kids out there get so much written up and posted. I've still got half written posts from 2011 lurking back here! I have got a couple that should be quick to finish for you though. Man, one of them has been festering since 2010, and it's a good one, but I just haven't got a video of it in action yet. I also have one from last year that uses the plastic easter eggs that are now starting to appear in the stores again, so I'll try and finish that one up too. Ahhhh, the todo list, how it mocks me!

In other scatterbrained "the less sleep you have, the less you behave like a grown up" news... In my giddy enthusiasm for paper plate hats, I tried on Ffion's shamrock hat before it was completely dry and later several people notified me while I was out that I had "green in my hair". If only I'd had a hat, or Jedi mind control skills (Alec Guinness impersonation) "There is *no* green in my hair" (end Alec Guinness impersonation). So far today I think all that's on me is smashed up teething biscuit and drool (it's still early though).

Anyhoo, for any of my readers that happen to be in the Bay Area, there are a couple of cool things happening this weekend that we're going along to and thought you might be interested in knowing about too.

Firstly, this Saturday there is an "Open Make" event at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. The theme is "Toys" and there will be a few makers there to share their works with visitors and lots of hands on stuff for the kids.

The second is a presentation given by "The Wild Cat Education and Conservation Fund" in the Los Altos Hills area. If you're up north of here then there's another presentation by them next weekend in Sebastopol too.

Hope you have a lovely weekend. We'll be sloshing about in our wellies, because the rains are finally here! I am very proud of myself because I managed to get all the rogue socks strewn about the back yard inside before the rain came. One was in a tree! My kids need spray on footwear.

Jan 18, 2012

Back from Blighty!

Well, we're what, nearly three weeks into 2012 now and I'm only just saying happy new year? It took us a while to reset after getting back from the UK, dashing up to Tahoe for a mate's wedding immediately, and then back home to get over the jet lag and start school again. I think we're back on an even keel now though, so, Happy New Year!

It was so so good to see friends and family back in Wales and England over the holidays. It hurts my heart that we can't be nearer to them more often. Everyone got to meet Delyth for the first time, which was great because she's such a happy little camper, and at six months old she adored the attension. Plus she is sitting up, crawling backwards and saying some darn cute babbly baby nonsense too, which the two bigger filth wizards think is great fun.

Just look how spoiled she was by our families!
My Mum.

My dad and sister.

Paul's folks.

Paul with the girls and their cousin.

I don't have a craft project to post for you right this minute, but I did want to share with you some pics from our trip. If you've been to Wales or live there then you'll understand my love for the place. If you've never visited then definitely put North Wales on the list! Really, no matter what time of year we go, whatever the weather, the beauty of the place shines through like nowhere else I've experienced.

From Rhosgadfan at sunrise,

to Portmeirion just before sun set.

to Llanberris Pass in the rain and fog

We also got to have a very personal guided tour of the Blue John Caverns in Castleton (Derbyshire) because it was off season, it was just our family and my best mate that were taken 300ft underground into the caverns by Ben, who is one of the two miners that works there. The kids were really great down there and Delyth slept in the sling for most of it too, so we could really take it all in and find out about the history of the place and what mining there involves. I felt really lucky to have had that kind of tour of the place, because Ben said that in the summer they can have groups of sixty or more going down there at once. One of the coolest parts for me was seeing the fossils of ocean creatures so far underground.

People have asked me a lot about the journey itself and how we've managed long haul flying year after year with the kids at various ages. I'm not really sure I have any advice on the subject because honestly I'm not sure that we've even got it figured out ourselves. There are just so many variables. We manage it and we have a sense of humour about it, but you just never know how it's going to go. As evidence I present Carys's journal entry for the day we flew San francisco to London, which takes about eleven hours... Poor Ffion. The other three flights were better thankfully!

We were reminded also how good our freinds are to us. We stayed with some friends in Manchester for a few days when we landed and dealt with the eight hours worth of jet lag and they were fantastic to us and even stayed up into the wee hours catching up, which meant they had to go to work with very little sleep! When we got home we were picked up from the airport by another friend, who's wife had put fresh milk and fruit in our fridge for us because they knew we were only home for a few hours before driving up to Tahoe and these friends have a two week old baby! Awesome friends are awesome! Actually, as I type this, Paul is off picking up these friends because their car has just broken down on the way to school. In the words of Bill and Ted, "Be excellent to each other!".

Just as a crafty tid bit to leave you with though, Kami over at "Get Your Mess On" and "Austin Tinkering School" let me know about a great instructables tutorial on making Unicorn poop cookies last week. We made some over the weekend for my daughter's friend's birthday party and the kids decorated the bakery box too. Here's the link to the tutorial. The kids had a blast making these, and we made more with friends on Monday too. The friend we gave them to called them "fantasy forrest fertilizer". Well worth making! Not least because the kids get to spend quite a while making not that many cookies, so the mess and sugar consumption to entertainment ratio is very agreeable.

I'll be back soon with more Filth Wizardry antics, but until then, party on dudes and have a most excellent start to 2012!