Saturday, February 28, 2015

A little Saturday night build

I decided to put the Com8 A1 frame together tonight with a little help from my family.

One of these days I will actually find out what I have in the manner of "extra" parts for this droid.  Again, I am not sure if this is an upgrade, or a re-do.  Could be a little of both.  I seriously do not want to scavenge parts from my existing droid.

New regulations on part runs through our club means that the parts may be a little more scarce in the future.  Meaning, the parts must be in hand by the maker before any money is collected.  This will certainly put a different spin on "part runs" in the future, as whoever is hosting the run will need to pony up the funds to create the parts, as opposed to having members pay and source the money from their interest.  Apparently a few runs have gone south recently.   Which means, a good number of members paying for parts, and the organizer of the run not being able to produce the final product.  This has caused the builders council to change their approval process of parts runs - nothing will be offered unless the parts are complete and ready to ship when payment is made.  The long and short of it, a maker who would offer a run of 100 shoulder hydraulics would have to front around $10,000 in costs for a shop to fabricate the items, then hoe there was enough interest to sell all of the parts.

These clubs have always operated on a blind trust basis, backed by the insurance of a forum of users.  The parts run organizer offers a service, you pay some money, and wait for the parts to be made.  The only thing that keeps people from skating with the dough is the respect for and from the community.  Again, a few runs have not gone smoothly as of late which has changed the game a bit.  I have been very fortunate in my experience, and have not lost money, but I foresee longer wait times and less parts being available in the future.

Parts come available from time to time, but with the emergence of Tapatalk - a forum app, these "used" parts rarely stay available for more than a minute.  Tapatalk will send users notifications of posts on the forum, and the for sale threads are responded to almost as quickly as they are posted.  That said, it may take a while to get any remaining parts that I need for this build.  But this build is meant to be leisurely - not the race I participated in on the last go-round.

Here are a couple photos from tonight's session.  The Com8 frame is a thing of beauty in engineering.  Everything fits together without a hitch, and is machined to perfection.

My nephew Kaden is no stranger to an R2 build.  He was pretty much there from day one on my first build.  He knows which way to turn the allen key to make it tighter.

Upon completion, every screw is then garnished with a "look what I did !"  Good job, young man.

Dad gets in on the action as well.  Being a guy who worked in the brazing industry for 40 years, Dad once considered aluminum the enemy.  That said, I have to believe he sees the beauty in this frame.

Somewhere behind the frame lurks a no-neck monster.......

Here is a pretty good shot of the slide mechanism for the center foot.  The carriage runs up and down on 4 rods with derlin bushings as slides.  The center leg lock is right in front of dad.  It has a key that locks the foot in the up or down position.  The actuated 2-3-2 mechanism is being manufactured at this point and will be available in a few months.

This is really a test fit for the frame, as I am sure it will be in various stages of construction throughout the build.

I will post more photos of the frame at a later date, but it is really a thing of beauty.  Almost a shame to cover it up with skins.  The plan on this build is to make it as clean and organized as possible.  Armed with the knowledge that I achieved from the last build, I foresee saving at least 3-7 swear words per build day.

Edit : here is a photo of the new foot drives for R2.  I will be using the NPC 2212 motors on this droid.  I love having my name on a part being made.  (2nd from the bottom left)

More to come on this as well....

Sunday, February 15, 2015

It has been a while....

It's been a while.

For the most part, R2 and I have been having a lot of fun.  Taking him to events is really satisfying.  Trying to upgrade him in-between, well that has been met with mixed results.

I think the first iteration of R2 was probably the most stable, although not intentionally so.  I had no idea what I was doing with the electronics, RC, Arduino, L.E.D.s, etc, etc.  But, I think that actually helped me.  During the initial build, I was so overly cautious of making sure everything worked in conjunction with all of the other pieces parts that everything just worked in the end.

Then I started meddling.  I got confident.  I made changed.  I made modifications.  I made mistakes.

Gone are the days of the blue smoke and arcing flashes of electricity.  These are the days of  wondering.... "Did it work just as well (or better) before I changed _______".  I think this is part of owning one of these beasts.  In theory, the process of making him work and upgrading may never be complete.

With that said, I have been collecting a few parts here and there over the past year.  Here are some photos of a new frame that I picked up from a user on  The coveted Com8 A-1 frame, made by James "Commando 8" in Texas.

I have seen these frames in photos, and read the oohs and aahhhhs from a multitude of posts.  Nothing you have seen in a photo, or read about in a blog can speak for the quality and sheer cool factor of these frames.

Here are a number of photos for your enjoyment :

Pretty much, all the parts together.  The frame is a beautiful anodized blue.   There is a crazy amount of detail etched into the frame, and a host of holes to reduce weight.

Did someone say ba-donk-a-donk ?

(I originally typed ba-donk-a-DORK by accident, laughed so hard I shot Vernors ginger ale out my nose.  It made my eyes water... a lot.  Still chuckling about the ba-donk-a-dork.)

Back on task - the rear door.  This thing is beefy and STRONG.  You never realize just how much you open and close the back door when he is "complete".  The hinges on this back door are made of 1/4" aluminum.  

Center leg plate and lift mechanism.  This mounting plate runs up and down inside the frame on the 4 shafts in the upper right hand corner of the photo.  The black post with the pin in it is used to manually move (and lock) the center foot up and down.  An upgrade kit is going to be made to allow automation of this process..... uh-oh ... did someone say 2-3-2 ???

Here is the top plate.  A ton of machining went into this part.  It is an absolutely beautiful piece of craftsmanship.

The bottom plate with routed recesses for batteries and weight shedding.  All of the hardware in the center is for the outer legs.  The Two outer legs will rotate and lock in position with ease.  The red parts are for the legs struts that allow R2 to stand in two legged mode.  More on that to come in following weeks.

The center plate with the shoulder hubs and a new center vent kit by Wayne Orr.

The utility arm plate and speaker bracket.  I will eventually remove the backing plate and install my newest utility arms that will be animated via a system of servo motors.

The side plates.  These are the plates that mount to the leg hubs and ultimately, the legs.  I really like the details on this part - reminds me of a recognizer from Tron.

So there you have it.   The start of what is an upgrade... or another build entirely.  I want to take more time with this build, as it will be way more involved.  I also do not want to start scavenging my current R2 in order to build on this one.

The ultimate goal is for full 2-3-2 automation on this droid.  Currently, there are probably 5-6 droids in the world that actually have accomplished this.  I have a number of custom actuators, numerous motor controllers, and an overwhelming amount of confidence at this point.  We will see what the future brings.

In case you are wondering what 2-3-2 is - check out this video from Droid Builder :

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Wow - it has been a good long while since I have posted to the blog.  Here is quick recap of a couple of events that happened over the past two weekends.

First, was the Lexington Comic-Con in Lexington, Kentucky.  While attending the Mid-Ohio Con in Columbus in October, the owner of the Lexington Comic-Con invited me to his con.  All he had to say was "free passes", and I was there.  Actually, knowing that our speeder bike crew from Cincinnati was going was the main reason - they had me hooked up before the event staff hit me up.  Regardless, it is really cool getting invited to events - it gets R2 out of the house and lets him do his thing in public.

The con was a three day event, starting Friday night with a V.I.P. opening ceremony.  I got down to Lexington just in time for the start of the event and was welcomed by the members of the 501sts Mid-South Garrison.  I have to say, I have a great sense of pride in this group.  No matter where I go in the country, I know that there is a family of like-minded, caring, fun people who accept you with open arms.  Within minutes, I felt like I was at an Ohio Garrison event, chatting with a bunch of old friends.

Here are some photos of the event.

James Ficker from the Ohio Garrison rocking' a classic TK.

James Ficker and Eve Steiner (another

The Midsouth Garrison's life-size Dewback prop.

Shoo-A-Trooper events are becoming very popular.  Our boys in white line up to take shots from Nerf guns to raise money for charity.  Based on the number of darts on the floor, the Midsouth Garrison raised thousands of dollars this weekend.

Photo ops were everywhere, and the crowd was pretty consistent throughout the entire weekend.  

Here is a shot of Craig Provine from Michigan's Great Lakes Garrison.  I have probably been at at least 10 troops with Craig (aka Hyper).  The man is unstoppable and unstoppable with the number of events he does around the country.  We trooped the George Lucas / Jon Stewart "Main Event" together at Celebration V in Orlando a couple of years back.

Taking a break from droid driving to catch up with Lindsay and Fentrooper Julie - both taking a break from the Star Wars costuming.

I love the Clone Wars troopers, and here is an outstanding Commander Wolf.

Yeah, he gets two photos, because these kits are my favorite, and the paint job on this one was outta sight !

A simple display like this was a real crowd pleaser.  Hasbros black series action figures - life size !

Admittedly, I have not watched Dr. Who since I was about 10 - but I certainly remember what a Delak and a Tardis are.

Here R2 meets up with the most dangerous droid in the Who-iverse.  A video edited and posted by the maker - Dalek Gan.

I got a chance to pick up some new art from Jim Mafood.  I really like the street style - and of course, I am a  fan of Tank Girl.  (The Comics, not the movie)

What more can you ask for ?  Star Wars, Tron and Daft Punk.  Three things that have, and continue to inform me.

Bad guys look so very cool in red.

Deadpool continues to be a HUGE go-to for costumers lately.  This guy did not disappoint - apparently he did this build in 24 hours.  Regardless of the amount of time put in, he was the best at the show.

Meanwhile, inside a Adventure Time Jake / Deadpool enjoyed getting his boogie on with a couple of well known astromech droids.  His transition from The Bee Gees to The Cantina Song is rather impressive....

Lord knows - R2 likes the pretty ladies.  I am not sure what bet this trio lost.... but they were certainly getting their nerd on this weekend.

Here is the group shot of the Midsouth Garrison at the end of the weekend.

The Midsouth Garrison has a good number of retired and active duty military in their ranks.  There is also a special person in this photo....

Felis Silla, honorary member of the 501st.  Felix is probably best know for playing Twiki on the TV series Buck Rogers.  A really nice guy - he rapped on R2's dome and said "Hey Kenny !  You in there ??? Wake up !"   At the start of this weekend you told me I would be having dinner with Felix and the Honky Tonk Man from WWF fame, I would have asked you to kindly walk away....

Alex Brown, active duty combat medic doing the kilted trooper thing, an Asassin's Creed woman and R2.  Commence mash-up jokes.

Back to the Future DeLorean - we also saw the T.V. series Batmobile.

What is better than one R2... two R2s ! member Nimster's great R2 here.  His weathering is incredible, and it was great meeting another member and talking shop.  Whenever both of the droids got together, the movement in the hall ground to a halt.

A father reassuring his little guy that R2, is in fact, a good guy.

The Lexington Comic and Toy Convention will be a "must attend" on my list from this point on.  It is a smaller con, but growing in popularity year after year.

Let's flash back a few weeks.  Prior to being invited to the Cavaliers game, we were invited to do a promotional video for the event.  I was out of town, so Dad and Uncle Bob Szeliga took over the duties to run R2 for the shoot.

Dad and Bob did a great job, and here is the video :

Because of that shoot, I was invited to another event.  Friday night was the FIRST ROBOTICS mixer at Windows on the River.  A Cavaliers marketing employee's mother ran the First Robotics regional competition here, and wondered if R2 would like to visit.

All told, there were 52 teams of high school robotics teams from this region of the country competing for a national title.

Here is a link to the website :

What a really great group of kids.  R2 was a huge hit, and became even more popular when I took his dome off to show off all of the goodies inside.  I am extremely jealous and proud of these youngsters, as their world in robotics will only continue to grow in the coming years.  

I felt as though R2 may have needed a tie for this event...

 NASA Glenn's Deputy Director Gregory Robinson and his wife with a Mars mission candidate.

I was having way too much fun taking with all of the students, so the only photos I got from the First Robotics event were in the first 10 minutes.

On to Saturday night - the Cavs Game.  Big time events like professional sports gigs are alway a lot of fun for our groups.  

O.G.s Dan Peterson as Vader and his little friend.

Getting ready for the masses.  Alex Ford in C3P0 getting wheeled into position.  Walking half way around the concourse is not a reality in this outstanding costume.

Biker Scout Matt Molina (Nighthawk) ready to go.

A great photo with the Star Wars crew, Mom and nephew Brady.

Our outstanding handler kept things very organized and flowing with all of the photos that were taken that evening.

A typical scene before the game.  45 minutes of camera phones and children being prodded into position. 

these moments make the entire hobby worth-while.  Here we are queuing up for some court time.

Lumpy (as Chewie) - from the Great Lakes Base of the Rebel Legion was obviously excited about something....

Cav's mascot Moondog was really excited to see the Star Wars nerds.  He even rocked a Chewie style bandolier during the game.

Sharing grooming tips.  Walking carpet vs. basketball dunking carpet.... let the Wookie win.

Lord only knows what this conversation was about.

Cavaliers Marketing Manager, Matthew Papatheodorou.  The man who made this all possible.  What a great host for all of us all.  We truly appreciate the opportunity and are ready to serve for the next event !  Apparently Matt saw an appearance of R2 at the Lake Erie Captains game, got in tough with Lucasfilm to find out who owned that thing.  Lucasfilm pointed him towards the Ohio Garrison, and Lisa Ford got us all connected.  It is truly amazing the number of opportunities a single event can spawn.  As long as R2 is rolling - he stands ready to perform.

Lisa, Saxter and Nighthawk ready for Deal Or No Deal during the third quarter. 

More court time.  Unfortunately, R2's controller batteries were getting tired, so he couldn't show off all his moves on the court, but he did get to roll around for a while on the maple floor.  The event coordinators quizzed me on what R2's wheels were made of, making sure that he would not scuff the surface of the court.

After convincing them that the rubber wheels and casters were non-marring, Matt and I lugged him up the ramp and onto the floor.  Matt was REALLY excited to have R2 on the court - admittedly, I was too - but I wanted to play it cool.  

All in all, a great - albeit busy - couple of weekends for R2.  Looking forward to many other events !