Droids Custom R5-D4 - Casting and Painting!

by Bill Cable
on 2020-05-20, 07:12:18

It was one hell of a productive week on the customizing front. First thing I needed to do was cast some coins. That turned out to be a bit of an adventure, because my plastic turned to slush. I use a product called EasyFlo 60, which consists of two bottles of liquid that harden when you mix them together. The blue bottle is thin and slippery. The red bottle is thicker and gooey and makes a big mess. Enough of it got caked around the seal of the bottle that air got in from the last batch I made, and it started to harden. The result was kind of a grainy, clumpy melted margarita of a thing. I honestly didn't know if it'd work at all. I poured as much of the liquid as I could into a cup, and used a syringe to skim the smoothest stuff off the top.

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The results were mixed. The first few batches were rough until I noticed kind of a thin, glossy residue was being left in the molds. So I started wiping them after each coin with a tissue. After that they turned out pretty well. I'm still not 100% sure they'll hold up after they're painted. I made 8 more than I need, so I'm hoping I can salvage enough for the project. If not, I ordered new bottles of EasyFlo 60, so I can cast another batch. Since my dear friend Yehuda was kind enough to send me three molds of the POTF Droids coin, I can knock out another batch pretty quickly.

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I'm giving the coins a long time to cure, so I moved on to painting the R5-D4 figures. And that presented an entirely different challenge - how the heck am I supposed to paint 30 R5-D4s efficiently?? That's lots of painting! I was thinking of ideas... somehow creating blocks that'd hold the pieces in place while I spray them. But that'd involve a ton of work finding dowels or something that are the right diameter. I was lost. Then I had an epiphany.

Hot glue gun!

I don't need something the right size to hold the pieces in place. I just need something I can hit with a dab of hot glue! I'll be attaching to the innards of the droid, so it needn't be pretty. And hot glue pops off pretty easily anyway. Genius! So I set about nailing nails into a grid on a couple boards. The heads didn't even need nails! I could just glue them to the board directly.

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All that was left was the painting. I put down a nice coat of primer, followed by the Krylon satin-finish spray paint Matt Brookins recommended. I decided to go with a lighter color of gray for the neck than Matt chose originally... something to closer match the "chrome" of the Droids R2-D2. Everything else was white. That all went swimmingly... until I got greedy. The inner tube of one of the bodies had some sort of black marking all inside it. I hoped to cover it by spraying over it, but spraying spray paint into a tiny tube is difficult. And I ended up overspraying everywhere around it. That resulted in streaking and dripping all over the place. So a couple of the bodies will need to be sanded down and repainted (this weekend).

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The final pieces that needed to be dealt with were the legs. Matt had painted about half of them already, so it didn't seem like it'd be too heavy a lift. That was until I started disassembling the figures he'd painted...

The paint was still sticky. Still sticky weeks after he'd painted them. So sticky that they left white marks on my hands. I don't know if it was because they'd been stored in bubble wrap since I got them, marinating in their own gasses, or if the paint itself was reacting chemically to the plastic. In either case, they were unusable. No way I'm sending out a product that'll mark up the insides of the bubbles with paint streaks. My only option was to strip.

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It took me two entire BABYMETAL albums to get enough of the paint off of them to salvage them. I used paint thinner and a toothbrush. Some were super easy... a few strokes and the paint just disintegrated. Others were stubborn, even after soaking for over an hour. Those ones SUCKED. I paid particular effort to clean the bottoms of the feat and outsides of the legs, as that's where they might end up touching the bubbles. After I got them as good as I could get them, I soaked them in a big bowl of water for an hour to neutralize any leftover paint thinner. Then I gave them one more scrub with a different toothbrush (along with the other half of the legs that were never cleaned), giving me 60 legs to paint!

So the next challenge - how does one set up 60 legs which need to be painted from all possible angles? One gets creative with wires and clamps...

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I'm quite proud of coming up with that one. I could hold the wood block in the center, and rotate it around to get all the various angles I'd need to shoot from. It ended up taking 7 different shots. Front, front-right, front-left, back, back-right, back-left, and bottom. To prevent the same sort of sticky situation I encountered with the first paint job, I was sure to get every nook and cranny with primer.

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Altogether the legs took me 4 hours on Sunday. But I think it was time well-spent. I let them cure untouched until Tuesday night, and when I checked them, they were perfectly dry and not sticky at all. I think we're in business.

In other news - my big batch of bubbles arrived from the UK on Monday, and I did get some color work done on the art. But I think I'll save those stories for a future update. Stay tuned!





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