Introduction: Star Wars Millennium Falcon Cockpit Playhouse That Can Fly!
Second Prize in the
Sci-Fi Contest 2016
Background of this project.
Step 1: Introduction:
This project originated out of a birthday party for my son who was about to turn five. He wanted a Star Wars party, so I started planning this about four months in advance beginning with hologram invitations. The hologram invites message was "that if you were receiving this message it is because we have identified that the Fore is strong within you and that the Rebel Alliance desperately needs your help. Please report to the following coordinates on such and such date for pilot and Jedi training."
I had come up with an idea to create a Millennium Falcon Flight simulation VR experience. My husband flew our drown up from the back yard up to about 500 feet, then reversed the path and landed in the same spot. I took this video and with some inexpensive special effects and some video shot from the front car at Disney's Space Mountain, created a first person experience of taking off from our yard, jumping into hyperspace, outrunning and dodging the Star Destroyer and Tie-Fighters then hyper-spacing back home and landing safely where it took off. Viewing this from within Google Cardboard only enhanced the experience. You can view the Falcon's VR flight embedded above.
Now that I had a flight simulation created, I needed to create the cockpit of the Millennial Falcon for the kids to sit in while viewing the video. I searched everywhere on the internet and looked at every picture I could find on space ship play houses and the cockpit. There is really nothing out there that could help with the structure. I did not have very much money to spend and I knew that this would have to be constructed out of plywood.
We live in Southern California so rain is really not my primary concern. My priority was how to keep it cool during the intense heat of summer. I added solar screen which appears black from the outside but absorbs a tremendous amount of heat and glare when experienced from the inside. I caulked all the seams and primed and painted it with external house paint to make it as waterproof as possible, but I cover it with a tarp when it rains. Usually that is one day out of the year, but we have had an unusually wet winter. So far everything is holding up very well in all the dampness.
I still have some aesthetic things I would like to do when the weather permits such as touch up painting adding some battle scarred patina, additional caulking, adding some electrical conduit and perhaps lights to the exhaust and rear door when it latches closed. I also plan to add more interactive lights and panels inside as well as a nerf gun rack. Maybe I will add solar panels and a remote control nerf turret. It's the type of project you can just keep tweaking adding cool stuff as time and budget permit.
I built the entire ship by myself. I'm a stay at home mom with, at the time, a four year old boy and a one year old baby girl. I worked during the week when my son was at pre-school and my baby girl was napping or playing near me in her bouncy chair and on weekends when my husband could watch the kids. I had no previous experience with a table saw, but my husband showed me how to set it up, wished me luck and said go for it! LOL! I'm happy to say that I still have all my fingers and I only had to redo one cut so I did not waste materials. To get the basic ship built including the flight desk in time for my son's 5th birthday party I had about 160 hours in it not including planning and thinking about it. LOL! I've since added the solar screen, acrylic front widow and back door. Now let's get started!
Step 2: Falcon Materials List:
6-7 sheets of 1/2 inch sanded plywood. 4x8 ft each
1 sheet of 1 inch sanded plywood 4x8ft
2x4's about 40 board ft
about 22 pine 1x1.5s. these come in 8 ft lengths at about $.89 cents each
Box of 1/2 inch screws
Box of 3/4 inch screws
Box of 2 inch screws
Package of 3 inch screws
8, 3 inch lag screws 1/4 inch diameter
1 4x4 (total of 60 inches)
1 4x8 ft sheet of 1/16 inch clear acrylic
4 heavy duty 14 inch metal drawer slides you can find them here
2, 48 inch wide rolls of sun protecting screen you can find here about $20 each
External house white primer 1 gallon
External house white paint 1 gallon
External house paint black 1/2 gallon
External house paint gray 1/2 gallon
4 Steel large diameter caster wheels or lawn mower wheels
Flight Control Desk Materials
2, 15.5 inch 2x4s
Assorted arcade buttons
Assorted toggle switches
Assorted juice bottle caps
Optional set of plastic chair caster wheels. These can be pulled apart and used as dials in the control panel
Package of 1.5 inch crews
Assorted wooden screw covers (craft stores)
3, 7/8 inch diameter dowels approximately 20 inches each in length. This will vary based on your design ( craft stores)
3 Decorative Wood dowels larger in diameter than the dowel sticks above. The ones in the picture I found at Michaels. I had to drill out the center very carefully with a a hand drill, then slide it over the top of each of the dowels.
Two children's chairs ( I found these in a dumpster, removed the legs and painted them tan)
2 turn table lazy-susan swivels found here
Tan spray paint with primer to adhere to plastic
Metallic silver spray paint with primer to adhere to plastic
2 Strands of battery powered clear Christmas Lights from Dollar Tree
2 Strands of battery powered red Christmas Lights from Dollar Tree
Roll of electrical wire small gauge
Small diameter heat shrink
1 household sponge (instead of sock for the joystick design)
1/2 inch PVC pipe and PVC fittings approximately 40 inches plut fittings
Phillips screw driver/drill bit and drill
If you can, get this hand screwdriver by Rigid. It will save you so much time and can be found here:
Heavy duty staple gun and staples
Hand held jig saw
Rotary sander and paper medium grit
Caulk and caulk gun
Over head projector
Paint roller fine knapp 6 inches wide. You will need several of these.
Step 3: Build the Base
The floor is the entire sheet of 4x8 ft 1 inch sanded plywood. I braced all four edges and down the middle and across the middle with 2x4's. See picture. I screwed these in using 3 inch screws with the hand drill and Phillips bit.
Then I cut the 4x4 legs. Each leg is 15 inches long and both screwed from the top into the leg using two three inch screws but also secured from two sides using the three inch lags. I pre-drilled these holes with a 1/4 inch bit then ratcheted the lags in through the side brace and into the 4x4 on two sides of each leg.
Lastly I attached the caster wheels to the bottom of each leg. In hindsight I should have mounted something more like a lawn mower wheel. The casters are not that stable or heavy duty enough, but they do assist with moving the Falcon from the barn lot to its home in the back yard.
Step 4: Defining the Shape and Supports for the Millennium Falcon
Like I mentioned previously, I searched the internet for pictures and finally came across some architectural plans for either a model or perhaps the original set design. I do not have the attributions for these two images, but I did not create them someone else did. I took these images and made transparencies of them. Then using the overhead projector I laid a sheet of plywood up against my garage door and projected the image onto the plywood until I found the right size. I knew that the bottom of these could not be greater than the 4ft width of my plywood floor. At the same I did didn't want the Falcon to look like a plain old box, so I took some creative license with the design.
The front piece was cut using a jig saw from a single sheet of 1/2 inch sanded plywood. After tracing the outline from the projected image onto the wood, I created a large compass and went back over these lines making sure the arc was uniform and symmetrical before cutting.
The second main rib and back are both identical pieces. Each rib is actually cut using a jig saw out of two sheets of 1/2 inch sanded plywood for a total of four sheets. The arch exceeds the 4 ft width of the plywood, but returns to 4 ft at the base where it attaches to the floor. While the external edges of these two ribs are the same, their internal shapes are different. The rib in the middle of the ship is cut out creating a large arch and interior cabin space. The width of this rib is about 6 inches. The back rib is left solid except where the door is cut out. Half of the door shape on one side, the other half from the other side.
All three of these pieces are mounted to the floor by bracing a small 2x4 up next to each one. Securing the 2x4s to the floor, then screwing from the side through the 2x4 into the back, middle and front. I used 1.5 inch screws. I also ran a 2x4 from the back to the middle rib at the top to add some additional framing strength and a 1x1.5 from the top of the middle rib to the front of the ship.
One of the tougher decisions was determining how far from the font to position the middle rib and how far this rib would be from the back. It had to be far enough back from the front that the chairs would have room to move and kids getting in and out of the seats could move freely. At the same time, I wanted to maximize the space behind the chairs creating a secondary play area. My layout was the following: Distance from the front to the middle rib is 53 inches. The distance from the middle to the back is 43 inches. Also, keep in mind the perspective looking out through the front of the cockpit. The Falcon has this iconic front window. From all the picture s I looked at, the desk sits right up next to the front window and when seated you look out through the front at its midpoint. In other words the seated height of the children when looking out should be just about half way through the front window. This becomes relevant when building the swivel chairs, determining their height and approximately where they will be mounted to the floor.
Step 5: Building Up the Sides
Once the front, middle rib and back are mounted to the floor and the basic frame is in place, I started from the front and measured each panel length and width. These are not rectangular panels, but have irregular shapes. Fortunately, they did work out symmetrical on each side. But I did measure each length and width multiple times before cutting with a table saw. I did not assume anything but double checked everything to a fault. I just didn't have the time or budget to run and buy more wood if I messed up. It is important to mention that when selecting your wood at the lumber yard or store, do your best to find pieces that are flat, and absent of any scrapes, cracks and knots. This is nearly impossible with the 1x1.5s but these are only $.89 each so do your best. I cut one panel at a time, starting at the floor and working up mounting each one before I cut the next. The total height of each side in the front is about 6 inches taller than the middle horizontal line of the front window. I used the 1x1.5s to brace on the inside so that the sides would not bow or gap. All of these holes had to be predrilled with a slightly smaller diameter bit before screwing into place. This was crazy, slow, tedious work, but if I didn't predrill then either the plywood or the 1x1.5 would split. I didn't have the Rigid palm screw driver at the time, but my husband later bought it for me at Christmas and it is totally AWESOME! It makes screwing in screws super fast with just one hand. It even has a little light to help you see when you are working into the wee hour of the night. LOL!
Once I had reached the top of the sides in the front, I switched to the back and started from the center 2x4 at the top and worked out and around on both sides. Each panel needed to fit snug all the way around. Again I used the 1x1.5s in short lengths to create little ledges that the panels could rest on. These were then all anchored using 3/4 inch screws.
Once the canopy and side boxes were filled in, then I caulked every seam all the way around. I did my best to eliminated any cracks. Then I primed the entire structure and once that was dry painted the floor gray, the interior black and the outside white with exterior house paint.
Step 6: Building the Control Desk
This proved to be every bit as challenging and time consuming as the rest of the whole ship together. Again I researched every image on the internet I could find of the interior of the Millennium Flacon. The desk consists of a bottom horizontal and angled back. The dimensions for my desk are the following: 55 in3/4 inches wide on the bottom and 54 inches wide on the back. These are joined at a 45 degree angle. The bottom of the desk is 22 inches deep. i.e. extends approximately 22 inches back from the front window. The bottom of the desk is 15.5 inches from the floor to the underside of the bottom of the desk. The chairs seat height is 10.5 inches. This gives about 5 inches of leg room when seated. All of this takes into considerations the perspective I mentioned earlier. The desk bottom and top are cut from 1/2 inch sanded plywood.
There have been lots of models created, a few movie pictures, a few that are attempting to recreate the inside, but very few if any of my search results offered a real consensus as to just what the desk should really look like. The best guide I found was actually another Instructable by Kyle Gilbert, DIY Star Wars Millennium Falcon Cockpit Playhouse.
He made a much smaller simpler type for his kids and did a really good job of detailing the construction of his control desk. The ideas of his that I found most useful were his design for the flight joy sticks/box, the design of the navigator frame, the use of plaster caster wheels and his use of auto pin-striping to decorate the desk. I could not copy his switches or their layout because my desk was wider and bigger. I had to design a layout that was unique to my ships dimensions. In addition, I couldn't afford to buy retail toggle switches and I didn't have time to wait a month while some super cheap ones shipped from China. So I did the best with what I could find. I got lucky and found some used arcade buttons on Craig's List that I purchased for $.50 cents each. The guy was local so I drove out one day and bought all that he had. Then I found a source for the tall white toggles. these were about $.20 cents each, but did not have a decorative mount. This meant that every hole I cut had to be super clean and neat and straight because it would show. I drew out the design and laid out the spacing for every button and toggle. Measuring from every direction and including where the pin-striping would go. Then I bought the absolute cheapest bulk toggles I could find from Amazon, the green ones in the picture. I needed to have enough buttons and switches that the desk looked real and engaging to the kids, needed to be balanced on each side and needed to lay out aesthetically pleasing. This was hugely time consuming.
Next I primed and painted the desk bottom and back. When that had dried I cut each and every hole starting first by drilling a 1/4 inch hole large enough for my jig saw blade to fit, then slowly and carefully cutting out tiny rectangles for the switches and buttons to fit into. The bottom half of the desk took me exactly 12 hours working non-stop to cut out! I was so wishing I could have just used a CNC machine for this part. LOL! Anyway, I cleaned up the corners of these tiny rectangle holes with small files, so that when I fit the toggles into them, they were snug and looked neat and clean. Then I added the white and red pin -stripping to group and outline the switches.
The joystick box and navigational box design from the Instructable mentioned above, I modified to fit the layout of my desk. I added a clear rectangular sheet of acrylic to the front of the navigator to protect the blue plastic report cover behind it that I found at Dollar Tree. This is also back lit by one of my clear Christmas Lights I describe how to do later.
I took juice bottle and milk caps, spray painted those either black or silver and made dials that turn by drilling a hole in their center and putting a 1.5 inch screw through them and into the wood beneath. The space at the top of the screw is just the right length to allow the plastic cap to turn freely without screwing in or out of the wood beneath. I super glued a smaller cap on top painted with contrasting color to hide the screws.
After these were in place the back of the desk was mounted to the bottom at a 45 degree angle and braced from behind by 3 pieces of scrap 2x10s cut at 45 degrees and screwed in. The screws are hidden in front by the navigational console and joy stick box.
The desk is mounted to the floor in the ship first to a center console box. This box is approximately 6 inches wide (the width of two 2x4s) and is the width of the desk's depth, (22 inches) then tapers from 15.5 inches in height, the height of the desktop to 10 inches in front. This length should come to the back of where you mount the chairs. So again it may vary with your design. This desk is attached to the center console by six 3/4 inch screws through the top into the center console. These are hidden by the joystick and navigational boxes.. In addition to the center console, the desk is supported and attached to the floor with two 2x4s at the rear of the desk. I used steel elbows screwed into the 2x4s at the floor and 2x4 and top 2x4 and under the desk on each side.
From all the pictures I had looked at, the Falcon has two steering control yokes. I made these out of 1/2 inch PVC pipes. The horizontal width of each is 12 inches. I used two PVC elbows then extended the yokes with two 3 inch lengths and end caps. The center of the horizontal bar slide through an open T-connector. I drilled a hole in the desktop large enough for this T connector to fit through then screwed a washer and end cap on the underside of the desk to hold it into place. They are initially a bit tight and squeaky, but a little silicon spray fixes that. I spray painted both of these with metallic silver paint prior to attaching to the desk.
Step 7: Lighting the Desk
I found at the Dollar Tree various colored battery powered strands of Christmas lights. Each strand had 10 lights. I predrilled holes the diameter of the light along the base of the back of the desk. I carefully pushed each red light through. It's held in place simply by friction. See the picture outlined with red pin-striping. Then I carefully taped into place the clear lights one behind each arcade button. Since the Christmas lights are a simple circuit, I cut one wire near the battery pack and spliced, by twisting the wires together covering in heat shrink and wrapping in electrical tape, an additional wire so that the battery pack would extend beyond the back of the desk and into the center console support where it could be reached from the front to replace batteries. I then took the attached wire and connected it to the wall switches one to each Christmas light strand. By leaving all the lights in the on position on their respective battery packs, the on/off was now controlled by the wall light switches mounted in the center console one per strand. This is not the most elegant solution, but is was certainly the cheapest. LOL!
Step 8: Building the Swivel Chairs
I found two preschool plastic chairs in a dumpster behind my son's school. Both chairs had broken legs. I brought them home, removed the legs, cleaned them up and painted them the iconic tan color then attached the bottom of them to the lazy-susans. Each was then mounted to two scrap 4x4's screwed together to form a base. The base was then attached to a larger square sheet approximately 12x12 inches of 1/2 inch sanded plywood and mounted to the floor with screws in front of the desk. The chairs have just enough room to pivot on the swivel between the ship's side, the front edge of the desk and the center console. The base of the chairs I spray painted black.
Step 9: Adding the Solar Screen
Like I mentioned before, the real concern here in Southern California is the summer heat. My fear is that it would get so hot that the children would not want to play in the Falcon. The cockpit is very large and open so that a lot of air can move through it. To preserve this as well as provide some shade from the glaring sun, I added solar screen. This is not cheap stuff, but two 48 inch wide rolls will cover the cockpit. First I cut seven 1x1.5s the length of the middle rib to the front of the ship. These are spaced out evenly around the cockpit. The ends were cut at about a 15 degree angle so that they laid flush against the front and back, primed and painted them white then screwed them into place. Then beginning in the center I unrolled the screen starting from the back I stapled it in place and pulled it taunt against the center support 1x1.5 and stapled it into place. I worked from the center out keeping the screen pulled as taunt as possible. Then I cut nine more 1x1.5s the same length and angle, primed and painted them, and laid them across the top of the screen over the existing ribs creating a sand which and screwed them into place with the 3/4 inch screws. The two extra pieces covered the screen where it met with the sides of the ship. I then trimmed the excess screen off with a pair of scissors and added a few more staples to prevent puckering. I'm sure this will have to be replaced from time to time, but it makes a huge difference out in bright sunlight. It also keeps bugs, rodents, nerf bullets and leaves out of the Falcon.
Step 10: Adding the Acrylic to the Front Window
I had 2/3rds of a sheet of clear 1/16th acrylic left over after making the hologram invitations. My husband got me this wonderful tool by Dremel. The Dremel Saw Max you can purchase here. It is the only thing that I have found that will cut acrylic effortlessly without making it split or crack. Mind you its best to practice first. When making longer cuts the acrylic can start to melt and ball up around the blade. This can spray back at you so be sure to wear eye protection. Also this is the kind of tool that usually shows up in horror movies! LOL! For a hand held tool it can be very dangerous and it could easily slice into your leg or opposite hand. Please take the appropriate precautions, use common sense and be mindful of the risks.
I held the acrylic sheet up to the front of the Falcon and took a black sharpie and drew the outline of the front onto the acrylic. I drew it to extend at least 2 inches beyond any windows. Then with the blue protective film still in place, I took the Dremel saw and carefully cut it out. Then I carefully predrilled the holes for 1/2 inch screws. I peeled the blue protective film off and held the piece in place while I screwed it into the inside of the front window.
Step 11: Adding the Rear Door
To be complete, the Falcon needed a rear door. But this couldn't be just some hinged thing, it had to be cool and slide open the way space ship doors open. I looked at all kinds of closet doors, bypass doors, shower doors etc. and none of these had parts that would really work elegantly. Then I came up with the idea to use heavy duty drawer slides. I cut the plywood door to be two inches wider all the way around than the existing door space, and then cut it right down the middle dividing it in half. Then it was a process of trial and error to determine where to mount the drawer slides. I purchased the smallest length of 14 inches which fully extended however was 21 inches. So this pushed the rear of the slide to the outer edge of the back. I've since found these online in smaller sizes. You will just have to measure and determine what you need based on your ships dimensions. When the door is closed, it is fully extended, and the door will slide all the way to the end of the slide when open. To add stability I'm going to add another pair of slides to either side near the bottom. This will keep the door from bowing out or flopping around. to hold the door closed in the closed position, I'm adding a magnetic clasp to the center edge. Any type of door knob or handle can be used on the outside, However, on the inside since the door slides flush against the back of the ship, the handles need to be flush with the door. I'm still working on this solution. It may just be a metal one inch diameter cup that is embedded into the plywood giving a finger hold enough to close the door from the inside. In addition, I plan to cut small windows in the door at the top and bottom on either side and adding acrylic to the inside. This way the kids and I can see who and what's going on inside the ship. LOL!
Step 12: Optional Pieces
I mentioned earlier this is the type of project that can continue to grow over time. Because of the weather, I've not been able to do any additional work for the last month. It's just been too cold and wet, but I intend to add black planter buckets from Home Depot to the back attached on the box area rocket thrusters. I may also add Arduino powered lights and sounds so that when a switch is pressed the engines ignite with a rumble and the exhaust lights up blue!
This is my first Instructable, if you enjoyed it, please vote for it in the Star Wars Contest! Good luck and may the Force be with you!
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