Introduction: How to Build a Boba Fett Jetpack From Scratch
Fourth Prize in the
Hand Tools Only Contest
Let's face it, $350 is a lot of cash to be throwing down to purchase a molded jetpack kit to complete your Boba Fett costume. Fortunately, it's not impossible to put together a jetpack from scratch (at least that's what I told myself when I started this project). It's taken me five weeks, and I wanted to share my process in case it might be helpful for others.
My main materials were:
- sintra foam pvc in 1/8" and 1/4" sheets from a sign company
- 2 sizes of cardboard tubing that I picked up at a tapestry shop.
They gave me both for free. :)
I also used:
- 2 dowel rods
- Bondo (automotive filler)
- 2 bottles of pvc glue
- 2 rolls of masking tape
- liquid mask.
As far as tools go, I used quite a few different tools, but the main tools were:
- a box cutter
- a heat gun (to shape the sintra)
- an electric sander
Ok. Let's get building!
Step 1: Building the First Pieces of the Jetpack
I used the 1/4" sintra to start things off and build a solid structure for the rest of the pieces to attach to. Get ready for a ton of cutting. If you use a exacto for the whole thing, your fingers are probably going to fall off, so I highly recommend a box cutter for most of the cutting. You can also use metal shears to rough cut the pieces before trimming them more closely, if you happen to have a set on hand.
The great thing about sintra is that since it's PVC, it bonds with PVC glue. To strengthen the connection, I tried gluing a small piece of pvc tube in the corner, but this wasn't the way to go. Instead, I used a heat gut to heat some small rectangles of pvc and bend them into 90 degree angles. Slapped some glue on that, and it was perfect for a bracket.
I built the bottom of the jetpack and used four small spacers to shim the bottom grill away from the other piece.
To curve the back, I used a heat gun in the area where the fold needed to be, then I set a board on top and used that to keep the bend straight. Repeated this for the second bend as well.
To give some thickness to the top of the jetpack, I glued another piece to the top and shimmed it out with small pieces placed lower on the jetpack. I let this top piece overlap the top edge, and once it was dry, I used the box cutter to cut the new piece flush with the other. Then, I rounded it off with a sander.
The cardboard tubing was attached using Gorilla Glue.
Now, let's build those fuel tanks...
Step 2: Adding Fuel Tanks
The caps at the top and bottom of the fuel tanks were a little difficult to figure out. What I ended up doing was heating a small square of sintra and then pressing it down over a little piece of tubing to give each of the pieces a uniform shape and height. Then, I used a compass to draw a circle of the correct diameter from the center of the raised shape. I cut those lines to finish the caps.
To create the cones under the caps at the top of the fuel tanks, I just worked through trial and error to make the correct shapes. It didn't turn out very well, and it was a waste of time. What I should have done is use the same process that I ended up using for all the other cones - calculating the correct angle and distances using a super helpful online tool for creating cones.
For the bottom fuel tanks, I glued a flat piece of sintra to the tube and then trimmed it off once it was dry.
When I tried adding the fuel tanks to the rest of the pack, I had to adjust the bottom slightly so that they would fit lower.
This was a good start, but the next step was much more rewarding, so let's check that out.
Step 3: Closing in the Jetpack
This part went more quickly than I had expected. It's actually one of the more simple and pleasant parts because of the ease of the straight cuts. And it's very rewarding because you really get the feel that things are coming along.
I often used painter's tape to hold pieces in place while glue was drying. Not only does it come off easily, but it also can be used to keep your glue on the inside of things.
I only have a couple of in-process photos, but next I used the same process to build the extra edges and details to the outside. When I built the top "stripe" piece, I shimmed out that piece and glued it flat then glued and trimmed the edges.
From here, I decided to build the weird little thrusters (directional servos).
Step 4: Building the Thrusters (Directional Servos)
I drilled into the outside tubes to fit my pvc and then drilled completely through the whole body using a small bit. I then put a tight-fitting thin dowel rod through the middle and secured it to both pvc pieces to keep the two servos pointed in the same direction.
I purchased two round wooden balls at a hobby store. They already had a flat side to them with a hole, so I decided to use that as the front of each. I drilled out those holes slightly to enlarge them, then I used a clamp to hold the wooden ball in place so that I'd have a handle as I drilled a hole in the side for attaching to the jetpack.
I also drilled slightly into the balls where the buttons needed to attach, and I made the buttons out of stacked washers (two large + one small + two large) JB Welded together. To finish off the red button (not seen here) I dripped a couple of spots of hot glue, spray painted them the red color, cut them to fit, then glued them in place.
Next, I used this awesome website I've mentioned before to find out the angles and distances, and then I drew out the cones onto sintra. Once they were cut, I heated each one, shaped it, and glued it together. The process wasn't exactly simple, but it turned out okay.
After one failed attempt at the top intake area, I managed to come up with something that worked pretty well. Not perfect, but close enough for my needs.
Next up, piecing together the missile boost charge.
Step 5: Building the Missile Boost Charge and Missile for a Boba Fett Jetpack
On a whim, I decided to glue a pvc adapter directly to the jetpack inside the upper tube piece. I thought it might have just been a waste, but I later discovered that it was the perfect way to make the jetpack easy to break down for transportation.
Hint: If you're having a hard time getting the sintra to roll correctly, try using a conical piece of floral foam. I wrapped the thing in aluminum foil and then wrapped the hot sintra around it to get a good shape.
Because I wanted the missile to also be removable, I used a thick dowel for the inside of the missile and sized it to fit down into the missile boost charge. Very snug but still easy to remove.
Next was my least favorite part of all: filling and sanding. :(
Step 6: Filling and Sanding the Boba Fett Jetpack
Here I'm applying automotive filler (Bondo) then sanding it off. Over and over again.
I really hated this part, and I nearly quit too soon. Fortunately, I read an article about someone's prop build, and it talked about how everything should be completely smooth before you start painting. I had already painted primer and an aluminum color over the whole thing, but the article inspired me to sand it down.
Hint: Try using sand paper and a block of wood, if you've been using an electric sander. It will help with removing the final flaws.
What I didn't expect was for this final sanding process to leave me with the most cool mixture of silvers and grays. It ended up being the perfect base before adding more color.
Did somebody say color? Next, we start painting!
Step 7: Let the Painting Begin - Yellow!
In my opinion, the most fun part was painting, but the most tedious was masking. I began with primer on each piece, then aluminum paint, then masking and painting each color. I used trash bags and grocery sacks to cover large areas so that everything wouldn't have to be taped.
For the areas where I wanted the silver to show through, I used a liquid mask that I painted onto each of these detail areas. Once the mask was dry, I would paint the color, and after 20-30 minutes of paint drying, I would peel off the masked areas. You may be tempted to skip this step (like I did with my original armor), but you'll probably regret it if you do. The liquid mask is a little hard to find, but I found a bottle at Michael's, and it's probably the coolest part of the whole project. It just makes the worn areas look so nice. I promise, you won't regret it.
Since the angle of my original missile wasn't quite right, I ended up rebuilding the bottom half to get it right. It was a pain because it required me to cut into the dowel quite a bit to get to the right size, but I'm glad I took the time to do this.
Next up: Painting the blue areas.
Step 8: More Painting - Blue!
Tons more masking and painting. If you look closely at the first photo here, you can see a weird yellow color in different places. That's the liquid mask after it's dry.
In the sixth photo, I hadn't yet pulled off the masked areas. Some places are pretty hard to spot, but you can see some of the bumpy places.
Next, painting the red areas.
Step 9: Painting the Red & Light Gray Areas on the Boba Fett Jetpack
The final major section of color painted on the jetpack, and things are looking pretty bright and shiny (I even used white for that last section). Unfortunately, bright and shiny isn't what we're looking for.
Time to add final details and grunge things up a bit.
Step 10: Finishing Up the Jetpack
Painting the top and bottom of the fuel canisters, finishing up the missile, and adding little details.
I used a small dowel and a piece of round sintra for one instrument, and I used a dry erase marker cut in two and hollowed out for the other.
To finish things out, I dusted over different parts with ultra flat black for that grimy Boba Fett look, and hurray! It's done!
There's no doubt about it, this is a beast of a project! Thanks for checking out my tutorial, and please let me know if you find this helpful!
If you're interested in photo-by-photo descriptions, go here.
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