Introduction: Full Size R2D2 on a Budget

Picture of Full Size R2D2 on a Budget

This is a prop I built for a Star Wars party. I didn't want to spend a lot, but I did want it to look cool.
I know that there are some incredibly talented folks who put years of effort into making awesome R2D2 and other droids, but I wanted something inexpensive and I only had a few months until the party. So rather than use sheet metal and fiberglass, I used mostly cardboard and wallboard joint compound. I also use a lot of stuff  that I had in my junk-box.

Yep - that was once a used refrigerator box!

Step 1: R2D2 Frame and Covering

Picture of R2D2 Frame and Covering

I found some pictures on the web and once I found the overall dimensions of R2D2, I was able to calculate the size of each piece. R2D2 is about 43 inches tall and the body is about 18 inches in diameter (not counting the legs)
Google image search is great!

Here's a site that I found very useful: (especially the Autocad .DXF files)*2003_Archives/9-September_2003


I acquired a few refrigerator boxes at a local retailer and got to work.
I created a frame for the body, then wrapped the cardboard around the frame.
This is a bit tricky. You'll need to soften - but not drench - the cardboard by spraying it with water and letting the moisture soak through the layers. When it's sufficiently soft, you're ready to wrap it around the frame. Apply hot glue to the edges of the frame and attach the softened cardboard sheet to it. I recommend that you get some assistance with this step.
It has a few inconsistencies, but we'll compensate for that later.

Step 2: Cutting Out and Assembling the Legs

Picture of Cutting Out and Assembling the Legs

The legs are also made of cardboard, so I drew an outline on the cardboard an cut out a total of four duplicate pieces. I left a lot of extra cardboard at the bottom since I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do with the bottom of the feet.
I then assembled the leg with several long strips of cardboard, softened as before,  and wrapped around the sides of the leg. Patience is key, letting the softened cardboard form to the shape that you want. I'm getting better with the use of the hot glue gun!

To help keep the two halves of the leg separated by the proper distance, I tacked in a 2x4 piece of lumber temporarily between the two halves of the leg.

I later ended up gluing a 2x4 in permanently, but it was oriented so that when assembled with the body, I could  put a long wood screw through the wood, and securely attach it to the body -- which had another piece of wood glued into it's inside.

The cardboard however, has an un-mistakable look of... cardboard.  I decided to cover the legs and the body with wallboard joint compound and sand it flat. This covers a number of goofs and bumps.

Step 3: The Body - Altering My Plans

Picture of The Body - Altering My Plans

My inspiration for creating this project was partially from an R2D2 promotional Pepsi beverage cooler that I saw while doing a Google image search. The body of the beverage cooler went all the way to the ground which makes sense for the cooler, and was a simpler design. This is what I intended to do, but I changed my mind and decided to make it more like the real R2D2, so  I cut off the bottom, sliced about 30 angled fingers in the bottom and folded them toward the center to form the bevel that  looks more authentic.

Step 4: Building the Head

Picture of Building the Head

My first thought was to create the head out of paper mache applied to a balloon, but I was unable to find the proper sized balloon to match the diameter of the body, so  I decided on a ribbed design. This was similar to the way  I made model airplane wings when I was a kid.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture before I put on the paper mache, so you'll have to imagine what the ribbed cardboard looks like.

The downside of the ribbed method is that the ribs show through. so it is going to get several coats of wallboard joint compound to make it more spherical.

In hind sight, I should have spent more time looking for a balloon. The ribbed method never got perfectly spherical.

To give the paper mache more strength, I coated the inside with a layer of expanding foam.

Between the cardboard, hot glue, paper mache and a lot of wallboard joint compound, the head is getting rather heavy.

Step 5: Smoothing the Body and Adding Details

Picture of Smoothing the Body and Adding Details

The body has now taken form, and is covered with the wallboard joint compound. I used a very wide strip of sandpaper attached to a piece of wood to make the body smooth and uniformly shaped. I spray painted the body white to seal the joint compound.

I found a drawing of R2D2's body detail, so I printed it out and attached it to the body so that I could make the appropriate marks where the boxes would go. I made a few masks for spray painting and covered up areas that were to remain white.

A sharpie and a straight edge were all i needed to draw the outlines.

Step 6: Spray Painting R2D2's Head

Picture of Spray Painting R2D2's Head

After getting R2D2's head smooth, I spray painted it a metallic silver. The spray paint is very silvery, but I later found that it's not as durable as other spray paints, even removable tape leaves a mark on it.

I laid out the design details and sprayed on the blue then carefully removed the tape when it was dry.

Step 7: Adding Details to R2D2's Head

Picture of Adding Details to R2D2's Head

R2D2's 'face' is a focal point, so I wanted to add some some carefully crafted pieces. R2's 'eye' is made from the lens from a dollar store plastic magnifying glass. In the movies, it always looks like a black void, so I spray painted the back side of the lens black and placed it into a recessed hole in it's frame. The frame is made from a scrap piece of MDF (Medium density Fiberboard). I like MDF since it cuts well and is easily smoothed.

The Red/Blue circle was made from a scrap of PVC pipe, and I attached a translucent piece of Plexiglas to the PVC. SO how does one make it blink?

At  the dollar store I  found a flashing LED gadget that contains 3 colored LEDs. I gutted the gadget for it's circuitry and installed it into the PVC tube. But since I only wanted red and blue, I removed the green LED and added another red LED in its place.

And finally the projector that R2D2 uses to project the memorable holographic image of princess Leia saying "Help me Obi Wan... You're our only hope"

Ok, so mine doesn't project anything, but I used a short piece of metal tube from a discarded vacuum cleaner and a fishing bobber painted gray.


Step 8: Attaching the Legs

Picture of Attaching the Legs

Next step - attach legs. Since the little droid may end up in storage at some time, I wanted to make sure that I could easily assemble and disassemble it. I decided to make the legs removable, but sturdy enough to hold the load.

As I mentioned earlier, I glued some solid pieces of wood on the inside of the body, and the inside of the legs. This way, I can run a couple of long wood screws through the leg and into the body.

After the screws were in, I covered up the holes with a piece of decorative trim.

Step 9: Final Assembly

Picture of Final Assembly

The head was designed to simply slide on the top of the body and it's ready to go

I was concerned that R2D2 would be a little top heavy and possibly fall over, but it appears that the large feet keep it steady.

Now all that's left to do is install a MP3 player with some amplified speakers and some appropriate sound effects.


FrasrielD (author)2017-06-07

I am going to do this for a school project...

Good instructions!

Conas (author)2012-05-24

Very nice man!

This IS the droid we've been looking for.

Jonnie Green (author)Conas2017-04-04

Nice quote!

Wintershot (author)Conas2012-05-25


fenris (author)2010-11-09

I guess I am a famous quibbler in some circles - well, I study languages, and I always try to push people in the direction of correct use of words and phrases. So - if "droid" is short for "android (robot)", meaning a humanlike robot, then C3PO is a droid and R2D2 is a robot. It is correct to say both are robots, but it is NOT correct to say both are "droids" - yeah, I know, they did that in the movies, but that doesn't make it correct. If 50 million Frenchmen all agree that the moon is made of green cheese, that does not make it so. For droid to enter the language as a synonym for robot is very unfortunate, and frankly, stupid, IMHO. Better if we all cooperate in trying to improve our language, rather than degrade it farther than has already been done.
Thank you for you attention, and sorry if I am being a drag.

michellev73 (author)fenris2011-08-28

Dude - since "droid" in this case is being used in reference to someone's intellectual property, using another "more correct, IYHO" word would be wrong. The moon is green cheese analogy is stupid. If George Lucas says R2D2 is a droid, then we all must refer to him as a droid, to do otherwise would be demeaning his creative works.

Jonnie Green (author)michellev732017-04-04

I agree with you, michellev73.

nbrett (author)fenris2011-09-29

R2-D2 is actually a model of Astro-mech

Jonnie Green (author)nbrett2017-04-04

An R-series astromech droid, to be more precise.

Kcuboo (author)fenris2017-01-15

Maybe in a galaxy far far away, they use the word "droid" to be synonymous with robot. You don't know. Plus you said that C3P0 is more humanlike That is true on earth. But what about in said galaxy, where there are many different types of aliens? Whats to say that all humanoids look the same. Maybe some are short, barrel shaped and very pale.

antennas (author)fenris2012-09-28

Yup major drag. If 50 million don't care..well you know the rest.....

cmccormick1 (author)fenris2011-12-06

so fenris you wouldnt believe 50million french people but would you believe the person that created the moon....the same goes for a secret recipe, you wouldnt trust just anybody on the contents except the person that wrote it. So doesn't that make it reasonable to trust George Lucas when he claimed r2d2 and c3po both as droids but separate varieties? r2d2 is not the same as c3po correct, but that is because he is an astromech droid and not a protocol droid such as c3po.

davidfarrell116 (author)fenris2011-02-03

you have way too much time on your hands !!!

does putting people down make you feel better ?

maybe you didn’t realise you were putting that person down but you most certainly were

Crap its Yumi (author)fenris2010-12-26

There's more than one way to be "humanlike". Just because something isn't in a humanoid form, doesn't mean that they can't be humanlike--and in this case, R2D2 clearly displayed emotions and reactions attributed to humans. So it isn't incorrect to refer to him (it, whatever) as a "droid" or android. Perhaps you should look at the subject matter more thoroughly and consider all the possible meanings of the words instead of just a single narrow-minded one, because in this situation you were being quite rude in addition to being wrong. Since you say you study languages, then you should know that common language is constantly changing and growing to accommodate new needs. Language isn't something that is set in stone, and a new developments and associations in meaning isn't wrong or a "degradation", just because one person trying to act highbrow says it is.

smithinca (author)fenris2010-11-29


turtletomy (author)2017-02-03

How much weight can the r2 hold?

lorah10 (author)2017-01-08

This is awesome! Thank you so much for posting this for us to learn. I will enjoy making this for my cosroom!!

taria (author)2016-09-28

this is really cool and impressive. one day I will make one, one day. I wonder if I made it if I could use it as a toy box. I think my 2 year old granddaughter would want to sit on him or try to climb in. still a good idea I think. :)

Gablook6 (author)2016-03-13

Also how tall is the head (dome)?

Gablook6 (author)2016-03-13

How long are the wood pillars used for the body?

RosieCrafts (author)2016-01-02

What are the measurements for a leg?

AustinRyan77 (author)2015-12-12

Nice. Love it! I'm curious if you could sell one like this, how much would you sell for it? Thanks.

Dzucky (author)2013-02-24

what did you use for the pillars of the frame in step one? was it wood? (just checking)

BrianH (author)Dzucky2013-03-16

The 'pillars' are wood one inch square if I remember correctly.

StevenT15 (author)BrianH2015-09-11

how long are the pillars

garry.gardner.18 (author)2015-05-04

hears an idea on the top under the dome of his head place a wireless projector where it comes out of R2-D2 eye and add a Bluetooth speaker for sound

becurry (author)2014-10-02

This is awesome. Thank you for taking time to put this up. I've always wanted to make a 1.1 replica of R2 but thought it would cost hundreds.

And the 3rd leg was rarely actually used. That other guy was just looking to be a negative Nancy.

cwarren7 (author)2014-03-29

do you have the link to the body decals? i need those too

BrianH (author)cwarren72014-09-05

I didn't use decals - all the body art was painted - based on the detail from the Autocad (DXF) file that I got from the link that I mention in step #1. Please send me a private message when you finish your project (or even mostly finished) - I'd love to see photos!

cwarren7 (author)2014-03-29

hey thanks alot!! i gave it up for a while but am at it again and its going great! ill post a instructable when im done to show. Thanks a million!!!!!!!

xdarth99x (author)2013-12-03

Lol I would love to make one but I don't have the time and patience

kelllbelll (author)2013-10-24


Scolova (author)2010-11-07

Great job, Look terrific!

jangorenn (author)Scolova2013-08-30

I just found this. Looks great mine if I borrow it this Halloween?

Cheetahkid888 (author)2013-08-25

Does anybody have a link to the body details

Technopro (author)2013-08-25

Awesome! Where did you get a pic of "r2d2's body detail?!? If you could post a link to it that would be awesome! I'm building your r2 but adding more supports to make it an actual functioning r2d2 robot.

xenor (author)2013-08-20

Great work! Considering that's cardboard, it's remarkably accurate. Bravo!

cwarren7 (author)2013-03-31

Thank you! i am on the last step (mache the head) but i have one more question: do you by any chance remember where you found the logos?

BrianH (author)cwarren72013-04-20

I found the dimensions on this page - with a lot of other helpful info too:*2003_Archives/9-September_2003

look for the .DXF (AutoCad files) that start with the prefix JAG200

cwarren7 (author)2012-11-23

how tall and wide are the legs? im building this right now and it works!

BrianH (author)cwarren72013-03-16

Sorry for the late reply - The legs are 31 inches tall and (side view) 8.75 wide at the top and 4.5 in the middle. From the front view, they are 3inches thick.

alexanderall (author)2012-11-04

You said that r2 is 43 incches tall, Is that from its feet to the tip the dome or is it the size of the body?

BrianH (author)alexanderall2013-03-16

43 inches tall from bottom of the feet to the top of the dome.

cwarren7 (author)2012-11-22

Awesome! doing it right now! thanks for sharing!

Dusk Shadows (author)2012-05-24

wow you can't get better than this

Wintershot (author)Dusk Shadows2012-05-24

Well you can but you'd have to break into George Lucas' house.

Dusk Shadows (author)Wintershot2012-05-24


vroom...vroom... (author)2012-05-24

I think his legs are shot long. But other than that,it's amazing!

ljm12# (author)2012-02-11

dude this is awesome im so trying

zomfibame (author)2012-01-11

Nicely done R2D2.

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