Don't get me wrong. I like toys, I love action figures and some of their vehicles and playsets are pretty cool. But, when we talk about the heroes/villains average headquarters playsets, a lot of those are overpriced things for children who will destroy them in the worst case scenario or stop playing with them in the best. Depending of the size, an playset for action figures costs between $45 and $200 in US, and if you live in South America, the price triplicates.
(And don't start with the classic G.I.Joe playsets, from $500 to thousands of dollars).
Do you want to know something? You can build your very own and personalized playset for much less, using upcycled plastic things and a lot of imagination. No limits for what you want to build for your favorite heroes/villains. A new mass destruction weapon for Cobra Commander? You got it! A great garage for your Cobra HISS Tank? Checked. Destro and the Baroness want a hot tub? Why not?
As example, I made a Cobra naval base playset for G.I.Joe action figures and the Cobra MANTIS vehicle. I used a big discarded tape recorder, some printer pieces and other found plastic stuff. The maritime base has a dock, Cobra Commander's last Annihilation Ray and a defense droid I called CRAB (COBRA Rapid Attack Bot).
So... LET'S PLAY!
(G.I.JOE, COBRA and all characters, vehicles and names related, are trademarks and propierty of HASBRO)
Step 1: Safety Precautions, Materials, Tools and Tips
Remember: You are making a toy for kids (or some geek friend). Not recommended for children under 6 years old. Use plastic from reliable and no hazardous sources. Don't use easy breakable plastic. Don't leave any pointy or sharp part that could injure your children. Wash and desinfect the parts of this toy before giving it to any child. Check the cautions in the label of the painting products before using. Take any precaution possible.
Materials can variate depending of what you have on stock or what you can find. Note that I don't know the name of some materials or where they came from because I found them in flea markets or in the street. So if you have any doubt, just look the pictures and find something of similar shape. For decoration try to get pieces with the following colors: grey, black, red and blue. I used:
For the base:
- 1 Big tape recorder plastic case
- A lot of printers pieces (or any king of rigid plastic pieces. See the pictures in case if you have any doubt)
- 1 PC screen base
- Damaged toys
- Iron angles
- screws and bolts
- Primer (for plastic) in spray
- Gray paint in spray
- A damaged DaVinci handheld (or any gadget that looks like a computer display)
- Printer pieces
- Plastic rectangles
- Something that looks like stairs (I use one from a girls toy and made one with plastic shreds and a printer long piece)
- Acrylic disc
- Plastic cap
- Plastic toys pieces
- Long screw and bolts
- Printer pieces
- Plastic toys pieces
- 1 LED
- 1 Buzzer
- 1 AA Batteries box
- 1 Switch
- Joystick handle
- 1 AA Batteries box
- 1 Switch
- 1 motor
- Cylinder from a toy revolver
- 2 big caps (I found two blue ones from air filters)
- 2 oven knobs
- 2 weapons from action toys (I used two pieces from a Max Steel weapon I found in a flea market)
- 1 plastic square (I use one from a lamp)
- 4 breathalyzer mouthpieces.
Have around a G.I.JOE action figure and the MANTIS (or your vehicle of choice) as reference when you start building the base.
Dremel Rotary Tool
And don't forget:
1. If you don't have it, replace it!
2. Use protective equipment (dust mask and goggles)
3. Beware of drilled and soldered hot surfaces
4. Work in a good ventilated area.
5. Always have junk in stock.
6. Have fun.
Step 2: Dock and Barracks Entry
The deck is easy: is the same batteries compartment cover. In one of the ends I attached a piece from a Hot Wheels track. The other end will fit in the lower part of the batteries compartment.
With the Dremel, make a rectangular access to inside the tape record case and insert the deck. The access must be big enough for the action figure and the deck must be long and high enough for parking the COBRA MANTIS below.
Now, glue the deck to the access.
Step 3: Side Room
Step 4: Inside the Barracks (Part 1)
For the second floor, I use the tray from an electric typewriter. I attached it to the walls using iron angles, screws and bolts. Some printer plates will be great auxiliary floors and ramps. I found the stairs from a toy and attached it to the division between the side room and the main room.
Step 5: Outside the Barracks and Front Door
The roof will have an extra floor for the Annihilation Ray. Use a printer case. It will hide the screws attaching the ray to the base, the wires and the batteries box of the ray.
For the front door, I found a printer piece that fits and slides perfectly into the tape recorder's batteries box, so I made a sliding door that ups and downs thanks to a metal bar. With some plastic scratch I made the rails for the door. I use a printer's rectangular plate for covering the door when opens. A big COBRA logo will be in this plate.
Step 6: Look-out
Step 7: Roof Secret Door
Step 8: Stairs
Glue the first crossbar on the end of the printer's long piece. If you want the same space between crossbars, use some rectangular piece as reference. Put it besides every crossbar when you glue it.
When you finish, attach it to the roof, using screws.
Step 9: CRAB (COBRA Rapid Attack Bot)
This battle droid is a simple vibrobot. It uses 2 AA batteries connected to an unbalanced weight motor with a switch for activation. It's composed by two halfs, each one made with a big blue cap from an air filter, an oven knob as foot and a action figure weapon as arm (I found those inside a damaged Max Steel weapon for kids. I can't find its name, but any toy weapon could be useful).
The unbalanced weight is a cylinder from a toy revolver with a screw with a big bolt on a side. It will be in one of the half-robot. In the other half, it will be the batteries box.
Both halfs are attached by a hinge made with a long screw and two small cylinders from a lipstick, so you can open it when you have to change the batteries.
Step 10: CRAB's Defense Platform
Step 11: Painting the Barracks
Now, the product choice. Generally, I use lacquer in spray, but this time I decided to try a new paint in spray. Each one has advantages and disadvantages:
Paint: more realistic finishes to the base. Even it looks almost like real concrete deteriorate by the marine environment. Easy application. The bad thing: it generates a lot of dust, even when dry. Recomended if this base is a gift for an adult geek who only want a dioram for his JOEs.
Lacquer: mi favorite. Smooth finishes, like the real toy. It doesn't generate too much dust so It could be the best choice for kids. The bad thing: It's very liquid so, If you are a rookie in the art of painting, don't apply so much lacquer in one point or you will see leaks, and you will have to wait until the lacquer gets dry, sandpaper the solidified leaks and paint it again.
About the color, I choose grey paint (blue paint would be more COBRA style, but the Colombian Navy would remove my B.Sc. on Naval Sciences if they find I suggest to paint a maritime base with blue color)
Step 12: Inside the Barracks (Part 2): the Equipment
Use a wipe with nail polish remover for removing logos.
Step 13: Outside the Barracks (Part 2): Details
Attach weapons on the look-out and every place you want. Use screws, bolts, iron angles and superglue (be careful, don't damage the paint). I put an empty reel on front of the dock. On the side, I made a small crane with a plastic claw from a candy dispenser.
Step 14: Communications Antenna
On the iron angle I attached a long Robotix piece and then I attached it to the side room of the base. Now you can move your antenna in any direction.
Step 15: Annihilation Ray Electric Diagram
Step 16: Roof Generator
An Annihilation Ray, as well as any Doomsday Device, needs some kind of "generator". I try with other stuff but a cylinder made of Robotix pieces had the perfect color, size and details. You can try with any other thing, no necessarily cylindrical.
I install the Annihilation Ray switch in one side of the cylinder. I fix the cylinder to the roof using screws. I open a hole to connect the generator to the roof and for passing the wire to the roof secret door.
Step 17: Annihilation Ray
Using a red cylindrical piece I found in the street, some printer pieces, a piece from a Super Soaker, Robotix pieces and a lot of plastic junk, I made the Annihilation Ray. The LED and the buzzer will make the "Light & Sound" features we love in the action toys.
Step 18: Annihilation Ray's Mechanical Arm
Step 19: Final Details
Now, get some G.I.JOE and COBRA action figures, put the 80's series theme song and shout your battlecry...