Introduction: R2D2 Welded Rod Sculpture

Picture of R2D2 Welded Rod Sculpture

You can make any image into a 2D welded rod sculpture. If you follow these basic steps, you can create any character, vehicle, or object. I've made dogs, flowers, guns, a motorcycle, and many others. I enjoy making these they are great gifts.

As a big fan of Star Wars, I'll show you how to make one of my favorite characters...R2D2!

Step 1: Find an Outline Image

Picture of Find an Outline Image

Go to your favorite search engine and type in what you want to make and include "outline"

  1. Type "R2D2 Outline" in Google image search
  2. Pick an image with a wire frame outline. Simpler is usually better.

Step 2: Enlarge and Trace the Image on Paper

Picture of Enlarge and Trace the Image on Paper

Your goal is to create full scale version of that picture. You can make them as small as a few inches or as big as several feet. For this R2D2 I used a Tracer Projector to enlarge a 3x5 inch printed image to about 21 x 35 inches.

What you'll need:

  • Black marker
  • 30x35 inch sheet of paper (from an easel pad)
  • Tracer Projector

Directions

  1. Hang the paper or the easel pad on a flat wall or door.
  2. Put the projector over your printed image and focus the image on the paper.
  3. Trace the outline with a marker.

***CAUTION! The marker may bleed through the paper***
***You can trace the image with a pencil, then take it down and go over it with marker on a safe surface***

Step 3: Trace the Image on Sheet Metal As Well

Picture of Trace the Image on Sheet Metal As Well

You will also trace the R2D2 on the sheet metal for the assembly and welding portion of this project. You want the R2D2 to be the same size on the sheet metal as on the paper because you will use the paper to measure and cut the rod, and you will use the sheet metal for the final assembly and welding.

What you'll need:

  • Black marker
  • Tracer Projector
  • Standard 24x48 inch, 16 gauge sheet metal, steel (non galvanized)
  1. Without moving the projector, place the sheet metal right over the projected image.
  2. Trace the image onto the sheet metal with a marker.

Step 4: Measure the Lines

Picture of Measure the Lines

What you'll need:

  • About 24 inches of twine or string
  • Tape measure
  • Marker
  • Scissors
  1. Numerically label all the lines that are included in the design and note the ends of each line segment.

    You want to have a well defined start and end point, usually at line intersections.

  2. For each line segment, align the string along the line as close as possible.

  3. Pinch the string at an at the end of your line and stretch it in front of a tape measure to see the length.

  4. Record the length of the lines on the side of the image or in a note book.
    • Tip!! If you have a simple corner make that a single length because you will have less pieces to assemble and less welding. Do not combine a line with more than one or two corners because then it will be difficult to bend.
  5. Repeat until you measure and record each line of the image.
  • This R2D2 has about over 230 lines, which means you'll end up with about 230 pieces of metal. Make sure you stay organized!

Step 5: Define Rod Thickness and Total Length

Picture of Define Rod Thickness and Total Length

Making the rod sculpture out of more than one thickness of rod will give it more visual depth. It is not absolutely necessary.

What you'll need:

  • Marker
  • Calculator
  1. Label the outer perimeter as the thickest. In the picture, they are highlighted blue.
  2. Label any supporting structure, like the lines that make up the legs medium. In the picture they are highlighted red.
  3. Label all other details, like internal shapes small. In the picture they are not highlighted.
  4. Once all of your lines are labeled, add them up to find what your final lengths are.
  • Tip!! Label all line lengths up to the nearest 1/4 inch.

For this R2D2, there are:

  • 84.25 inches of large thickness (1/4 inch rod)
  • 204.5 inches of medium thickness (3/8 inch rod)
  • 334 inches of small thickness (1/8 inch rod)
  • Tip!! That's nearly 52 feet of rod! When you go buy rod, always buy a few feet extra of each length.

Step 6: Frame Dimensions

Picture of Frame Dimensions

What you'll need:

  • Tape Measure
  • Marker

Measure the length and width of the image to determine the size of the frame.

  1. The length is the longest part of the image. Measure the R2D2 from the top of the head to the bottom of his front leg.
  2. Width is perpendicular to the length. Measure the R2D2 from the width of the left foot to the right "shoulder".
  3. Record the length and width on the image or in a notebook.

For this R2D2 you will need:

9 feet of 1 inch, 16 gauge, square, mild steel tubing.

Tip!! Always buys a few extra feet of material

Step 7: Purchase and Clean

Picture of Purchase and Clean

What you'll need:

  • 9 feet of 1/4 inch mild steel rod
  • 20 feet of 3/8 inch mild steel rod
  • 30 feet of 1/8 inch mild steel rod
  • 9 feet of 1 inch, 16 gauge, square, mild steel tubing
  • Isopropyl rubbing alcohol
  • Clean cloth
  1. Purchase your rod and square tubing from a local metal supplier. Your can also purchase it online.
    • Tip!! Purchase hot rolled, mild steel rod. If hot rolled steel is not available for one of the sizes, you can get cold rolled as well.
    • Tip!! Hot rolled steel will be slightly less expensive and easier to bend. 1/8 inch rod is only available cold rolled at my supplier. It is easy and seamless to welding the hot rolled and cold rolled.
  2. Clean all oil off the rod and tubing with rubbing alcohol after you buy it. This will keep your work area cleaner and you absolutely should not weld oily or dirty metal.

Step 8: Mark and Cut

Picture of Mark and Cut

What you'll need:

  • 24 inch bolt cutters
  • Hacksaw with 32 teeth per inch
  • Vice or workbench
  • Tape measure
  • Marker
  • Safety glasses
  1. From the list of line lengths, use a tape measure to measure and mark the length of rod as well as the segment number.
    • Tip!! Pay close attention to rod thickness.
  2. Use the bolt cutters or hacksaw to cut the rod at the marked locations
    • **CAUTION** When cutting with a hacksaw, small metal pieces will get hot!
    • **CAUTION**Use safety glasses because metal pieces can "pop" and go flying when cutting with bolt cutters

  3. Save all the small scrap pieces. They will be used later.
  4. If there are any corners or major bends in the piece you are working with, mark those on the cut rod. It will make bending easier.

Step 9: Bending Methods

Picture of Bending Methods

Bending is the longest and most time consuming part of this project but be patient because good bends will make assembly and welding easy.

What you'll need:

  • Vice or work bench
  • Vice grips
  • Rubber mallet or hammer

General bending tips:

  • When bending a large radius, use the vice and make multiple small bends. You can use your hands for better control, but 1/4 inch rod and rod ends are difficult to bend.
  • Use vice grips for greater leverage.
  • When bending a 90 degree angle, hold the rod in the vice and use a hammer. This will give you a tight 90 degree bend.
  • When bending circles or small radii, it is easiest to use two vice grips and bend it by hand.

Step 10: Fit, Label, and Store

Picture of Fit, Label, and Store

ORGANIZATION IS KEY! I can't stress this enough. You want to weld together an assembly not a puzzle!

What you'll need:

  • Masking tape
  • Marker
  • Ziploc bag or storage container
  1. After bending, make sure the rod fits right on the line
  2. Label the rod with the same number as the line it represents
  3. After making a few bends, assemble nearby pieces to make sure they all fit together.
  4. Store all labeled parts in a bag or box. Segregate all left over scrap pieces into similar lengths and store them too.

Step 11: Cut Frame Material

Picture of Cut Frame Material

What you'll need:

  • Miter saw with metal cutting blade
  • Tape measure
  • Marker
  • Safety Glasses
  1. Mark the tube at 31 inches
  2. Set the miter saw to make a 45 degree angle cut
  3. Cut 45 degrees at both ends of the tube
  4. Repeat at 22 inches
  5. Repeat steps 1 -4 for a total of 4 pcs

Step 12: Prepare for Welding

Picture of Prepare for Welding

You should be able to do this with a TIG or MIG welder. I used a TIG welder with both stainless steel and bronze filler rod. The stainless steel has a much stronger weld but the bronze flows better.

What you need:

  • Work bench or welding table
  • TIG or MIG welder
  • Labeled rod
  • Sheet metal with R2D2 drawing on it
  1. Set the sheet metal on the welding table with image side up
  2. On a separate table or bench, lay the labeled rod out from low to high so you can find the parts easily
  3. Use stainless steel or brass filler rod when TIG Welding.

Tip!! Make sure all surfaces are clean of any oil, dirt, or rust.

Step 13: Assemble, Weld, Clean

Picture of Assemble, Weld, Clean

When you are assembling and welding the parts together, it's best to do it in small sections.

What you'll need:

  • Work bench or welding table
  • TIG or MIG welder
  • Labeled rod
  • Scrap rod
  • Sheet metal with R2D2 drawing on it
  • Metal file or grinder
  • Wire brush
  1. Get the parts you need for one small section.
  2. Assemble the parts on the sheet metal outline to make sure you have all the parts you want to work with.
  3. Remove the label and any residue that might be left over from the masking tape. If needed, wipe the part down one more time with rubbing alcohol.
  4. Assemble the parts again and make sure they all fit tightly.
    • Tip!! Use a file or grinder to make the parts fit if they're too long. Use the spare scrap pieces to fill in the gaps if some parts are too short.
  5. Weld the parts together one at a time.
  6. Use a wire brush to clean the welds.
  7. Inspect the welds for thorough penetration and minimal porosity.
  8. Repeat steps 1-7 until all sections are complete.

Step 14: Weld the Frame and Attach R2D2

Picture of Weld the Frame and Attach R2D2

Weld the square tubing together to make a frame, then weld the R2D2 to the frame.

What you'll need:

  • Framing square
  • Tape measure
  • TIG or MIG welder
  • Work bench or welding table
  • Grinder or file
  1. Use a framing square to get a true 90 degree angle for the frame.
  2. Tack weld the outside corners for a quick reference frame.
  3. Weld all corners the same way. Weld outside to inside, or inside to outside at each corner. This will ensure you end up with a non-warped, square frame at the end.
    • Tip!! Let the frame cool before measuring if it is square
  4. Measure from corner to corner on each side. If the corner to corner length is identical, your frame will be square.
  5. Place the R2D2 face down and center the frame around it (good side down). When you're done welding it together, you will flip it around to see the good side.
  6. Use some of the longer (2-3 inch) scrap pieces of rod to weld the R2D2 to the frame.
  7. Grind or cut any excess metal.

Step 15: Prepare for Painting

Picture of Prepare for Painting

Painting is a delicate process so make sure you are thorough with cleaning.

What you'll need:

  • Drill or Dremel
  • Wire brush
  • Latex or Nitrile gloves
  • Isopropyl rubbing alcohol
  • Clean Rag
  1. Use the wire brush to remove any rusty areas or areas that have splatter if you used a MIG welder
  2. Go over every rod and the frame. Go over the front, back and sides of all parts.
  3. Put on some gloves to avoid getting any oil from your hands onto the rod or frame.
  4. Wipe everything down with rubbing alcohol to remove any oils and particles.

Step 16: Prime and Clean

Picture of Prime and Clean

What you'll need:

  • Primer for metal (Color does not matter)
  • Scotch Brite pad
  • Latex or Nitrile gloves
  1. Ideally you want to paint indoors with some ventilation but if you can paint outside on a still day. You can also build a wind shelter out of cardboard if needed.
    • Tip!!! Priming and painting- Once you spray on a thin layer you need to apply a second coat within 10-15 minutes or wait 24 hours. The paint will get crinkly and cracked if you do a second coat after 15 min but before 24 hrs. Read the directions on the can.
  2. Put on the gloves to avoid getting any skin oils and other contaminates on the rod and frame.
  3. Apply primer to the entire sculpture. You will need to apply it from straight on, from the top, bottom and both sided. It's easy to miss a side in a section.
    • Tip!! It may be easier to paint if you hang the sculpture with a string. Then, you won't have to wait 24 hours before you can turn it over and paint the back.
  4. Let it dry for 24 hours
  5. Rub everything down with Scotch Bite pad. You want the surface to be clean and smooth.

Step 17: Color the Body

Picture of Color the Body

What you'll need

  • Blue spray paint
  • Scrap paper
  • Masking tape
  • Scissors
  • Latex or Nitrile gloves

      1. Find a colored picture of R2D2 you're trying to make and use it for color reference.
      2. For the first color, pick blue because it's the color with the least area.
      3. Ideally you want to paint indoors with some ventilation but if you can also paint outside on a still day. You can also build a wind shelter out of cardboard.
        • Tip!!! Priming and painting- Once you spray on a thin layer you need to apply a second coat within 10-15 minutes or wait 24 hours. The paint will get crinkly and cracked if you do a second coat after 15 min but before 24 hrs. Read the direction on the can.
      4. Put on the gloves to avoid getting any skin oils and other contaminates on the rod and frame.
      5. Just like with the primer, make sure you spray from all angles and sides. Apply 2 or 3 thin coats of paint.
      6. Don't worry about getting blue on other rod or frame parts that have a different color in the end product. They will be colored over in the following steps
      7. Let it dry for 24 hours
      8. Use scrap paper and tape to mask off any parts you want to keep blue.

      Step 18: Color the Rest of the Body

      Picture of Color the Rest of the Body

      Use the same painting process for all the colors used. The only change is which parts are covered by masking.

      What you'll need:

      • White spray paint
      • Scrap paper
      • Masking tape
      • Scissors
      • Latex or nitrite gloves

      Step 19: Prepare to Paint the Frame

      Picture of Prepare to Paint the Frame

      What you'll need:

      • Scrap paper
      • Masking tape
      • Scissors
      • Scotch Brite pad
      • Isopropyl rubbing alcohol
      • Latex or nitrite gloves
      1. Put on the gloves to avoid getting any skin oils and other contaminates on the rod and frame.
      2. Use scrap paper and tape to mask off all parts of R2D2 rod.
      3. Use a Scotch Brite pad to clean the frame
      4. Wipe the frame down with rubbing alcohol to remove any oils or contaminates.

      Step 20: Paint the Frame

      Picture of Paint the Frame

      Use the same painting process as before on the frame.

      What you'll need:

      • Latex or nitrite gloves
      • Black spray paint

      Step 21: Complete R2D2

      Picture of Complete R2D2

      What you'll need:

      • Isopropyl rubbing alcohol
      • Clean cloth
      • A BIG smile
      1. Remove all scrap paper and tape.
      2. Use rubbing alcohol and a rag to wipe off any residue from the making tape.
      3. Smile reeeaaalllyyyy big because:

        YOUR WELDED ROD SCULPTURE IS COMPLETE!!

      Comments

      seempie (author)2015-08-28

      Great effort !

      TheGorka (author)2015-08-16

      Thanks a lot. This one was a quite a bit more work than I thought. I'm really happy with the way it turned out. I'll have to look into new ways of bending for future projects.

      Majorp08 (author)2015-08-16

      Great work. I build a lot of rod work too. You are way more organized in your setup than i am. As for the bending methods, i always liked haveing several holes of various sizing drilled into my work bench so i didnt have to adjust my vise all the time to make a tight bend.

      seamster (author)2015-08-14

      This is so cool! Looks like a ton of work, but the finished results are terrific.

      About This Instructable

      3,455views

      72favorites

      More by TheGorka:R2D2 Welded Rod Sculpture
      Add instructable to: