Introduction: COBRA Naval Base Playset (made With Upcycled Plastic Waste)

About: I'm Mario Caicedo Langer (M.C. for short), a Colombian STEAM educator living in Azerbaijan, BSc in Naval Sciences, Master in Toy Design, and former Navy officer. I am a CAD and 3D Printing enthusiast and an ar…

Christmas. When you are a kid, toys beneath the tree are the best thing in life! But when you are a parent, you have to suffer how much "Evil Toys Megacorp" makes you expend a lot of money for only for a big piece of "Made in China" plastic with a famous logo.

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).


(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
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer (for plastic) in spray
  • Gray paint in spray
For inside the barracks:
  • 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)
For the Communications Antenna:
  • Acrylic disc
  • Plastic cap
  • Plastic toys pieces
  • Long screw and bolts
For the Annihilation Ray:
  • Printer pieces
  • Plastic toys pieces
  • 1 LED
  • 1 Buzzer
  • 1 AA Batteries box
  • Wire
  • 1 Switch
  • Joystick handle
For the CRAB
  • 1 AA Batteries box
  • Wire
  • 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)
CRAB's platform
  • 1 plastic square (I use one from a lamp)
  • 4 breathalyzer mouthpieces.
I found an incomplete building set named Robotix and it was very useful in some parts of this project.

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
Wire cutters
Screwdriver kit
Soldering Iron
Super Glue

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

First, you will need only the tape recorder case. Remove everything you won't need.

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

You can use the tape recorder handler as framework for a side room. Just open it and attach some plastic plates. I use a screen base, a printer plate, the cover from a calculator, the cover from the batteries box of a R/C car and some piece from the air entry of a slide projector. Use Iron angles, screws and bolts for fixing each one.

Step 4: Inside the Barracks (Part 1)

Your barracks will need floors, ramps and stairs. The second floor will be the Controll Room, whre later we will put some computers monitors.

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

For extra decoration, put some plastic boxes where you want to.

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

The base will need and elevated point for surveillance. I use a long piece from a printer and the cover of the batteries compartment of an electric device.  The cover must be fixed to one of the ends of the long piece (use screws). The another end can be inserted in the upper groove of the base and fixed with superglue or screws.

Step 7: Roof Secret Door

As the printer case I use in the roof has an entry, I made a secret door to cover it, using the plastic pieces showed on the picture (one was from a printer, the other one I found it on the street). This secret door can be a "panic room" for the villains or you can use it for keeping the batteries of the Annihilation Ray on the top of the roof.

Step 8: Stairs

If the Baroness needs to go to the roof, she will need some stairs. I made it with a long piece from the tray of the printer, some plastic strips (for the crossbars) and superglue.

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

If your CRAB will be in the middle of the bay, it will need a platform to stay. I use a square plastic plate from an electronic device and four breathalyzer mouthpieces as pillars. I insert each one in each angle of the square, fixing with superglue and screws. Then I sandpaper all of it for the next step: painting.

Step 11: Painting the Barracks

First, I sandpaper the base for a best adherence of the paint. Second, I spray primer for plastics.

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

Decorate the rooms of the barracks using displays from discarded gadgets. I use a DaVinci handheld for the main monitor and the display from an old videogame. A toy from a Happy Meal (I think it is from "Flubber") could look like a chemical tank.

Use a wipe with nail polish remover for removing logos.

Step 13: Outside the Barracks (Part 2): Details

Get some COBRA stickers, or find some on Internet and print in adhesive paper. Stick them on strategic places.

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

I found an acrylic disc in a FM radio for shower, so I thought it could be a good antenna. In a long screw I insert an iron angle, a plastic cap, the disc, a cylindric piece from Robotix and a piece from a PC joystick. For extra decoration I attached a plastic piece from a toy headset.

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

Before the following steps, take a look of this diagram. The Annihilation Ray is a easy circuit. It has a red LED and a buzzer so your beam will have light and sound. The switch will be in the Roof Generator, the batteries box will be in the roof secret door and the rest of the circuit will be in the cannon.

Step 16: Roof Generator

This "Robotix" building toy is fantastic!

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

To attach the Annihilation Ray to the roof, it must have an articulated arm. The main part is a handler from a PC joystick. On top, it has an articulation for attaching the Ray. On the bottom, the handler was cut and attached to a base made with a plastic joint and one piece from an old slide projector. The joint axis are long screws fixed with bolts.

Step 19: Final Details

Introduce the Annihilation Ray wires inside the roof secret room. Fix the batteries box to the secret door. Connect all wires following the electric diagram of Step 15. Correct all minor details.

Now, get some G.I.JOE and COBRA action figures, put the 80's series theme song and shout your battlecry...


Holiday Gifts Contest

First Prize in the
Holiday Gifts Contest

Instructables Design Competition

Participated in the
Instructables Design Competition