Introduction: Rugged R2D2 Pinata

About: If you've got a problem, Yo, I'll solve it ! -Robert Matthew Van Winkle

For my son's birthday, I created a rugged R2D2 pinata. The reason I wanted to create a rugged pinata is because store bought pinata offerings are frankly pathetic. Their construction seems like a glorified cereal box covered in tissue paper, and they yield quite easily when beaten. Once kids start beating on a pinata, they don't like to stop. With a cheap pinata this is a problem because if it ruptures before everybody gets a chance to hit it, some of the kids will be certainly be whining that they didn't get a turn.

With a rugged pinata, all the guests, from the youngest to the oldest, can let loose their aggression on it. Each kid gets at least a few turns before it is damaged to the point where any candy is spilling out. I also figure it is better to get them to burn as many calories as possible in the process of getting their candy.

I also chose not to blindfold the kids. I always thought that blindfolding added a kind of a disappointment to something that should be fun. Who wants to just swing at air and miss? Kids and adults alike enjoy beating on something and being able to cause real damage.

Step 1: Design, Materials, and Construction Methods

I was not trying to create an exact R2D2 replica by any means. I just wanted to create a piñata version with all of the essential details. I searched the internet for some basic pictures and diagrams that I could measure and scale as needed for my design. Thankfully, there is a whole community related to ultra detailed R2D2 replicas, so finding this kind of information was no problem.

I did not create a complete plan before starting construction. I only had a general idea of the construction materials and techniques I would like to use. The main body was chosen to be 12 inches in diameter. I chose this dimension somewhat arbitrarily, based on what I thought was a reasonable overall size for a piñata. Online sources stated that a full size R2D2 has a main body diameter of about 18 inches. That puts my piñata at about 2/3 scale.

The cardboard I used was very thick, taken from heavy boxes I salvaged from my workplace shipping department recycle bin. The material was not your usual cardboard; it was almost like plywood! I used by band saw to cut most of the pieces due to the thickness. When working with thinner material, I did the cutting with a utility knife.

I primarily used regular Elmer's white glue for joining the cardboard pieces of the structure. I must have used two 16 fl oz bottles of glue by the time it was finished. Masking tape was used to temporarily hold pieces in place during gluing.

Step 2: Construction of the Head Section

The hemispherical shaped head is built from several interlocking cardboard sections as shown. A total of 8 separate sector pieces interlock with a center cardboard disk that had slots cut into it as shown in the pictures.

The finishing of the spherical shape for the head was created by layering paper mache over the cardboard structure. It took several layers to get a better looking spherical shape. Even with the paper mache, the internal structure was still clearly visible, and I wanted at a somewhat smoother finish. So, I further filled in the shape with some plaster. The underlying structure was visible even after that, but I thought it looked OK for piñata purposes. After the plaster had dried, the head was painted silver.

Step 3: Construction of the Main Body Section

The cylindrical body was made from interlocking cardboard pieces, using a similar concept as that used on the head. Three circular disks with slots cut into them allow the four vertical side pieces to interlock for a sturdy internal frame.

As I mentioned earlier, I did not start out with a complete plan, so I had to make some things up as I went along. I had to add some braces as shown additional strength. In particular, I needed to create a sturdy bracket on each side at which to mount the legs.

To mount the legs I cut small pieces of plywood and drilled a hole in the center for a 5/8” dowel. The dowel serves as an axel for the legs to join to the body.

The main body frame was wrapped with 3 layers of light weight cardboard to complete the cylindrical shape. I used lighter weight, smooth cardboard for this part, to give a more finished appearance that would look good when painted.

Before added the light weight cardboard, I added a nylon rope to hang the piñata from. I didn't want the rope connection to be the weak point, and have the whole thing just fall to the ground after a short beating. So, I cut holes to allow the rope to pass though several of the main structural pieces of the frame and the head.

Step 4: Construction of the Legs

The legs were created by cutting out several leg-shaped pieces from thick cardboard and then gluing a stack of them together, like plywood. I used about 10 layers in each leg, so the legs ended up being very sturdy, with a thickness of almost 1.5" when complete.

A hole was drilled in each leg as shown in the pictures so that they could fit over the axle dowels on the main body.

Step 5: Completing the Assembly

The hemispherical head was glued onto the main body. The yellow rope passed through the very top of the head.

The leg pieces were mounted onto the main body on the axel dowels.

A small hole was left in the bottom circular plate to allow candy to be added.

Step 6: Finishing and Details

For the paint job, I just used white latex primer I had left over from earlier projects to paint the body and legs. After a coat of white paint on the main body, it really looks like R2D2.

The front panel and dome details were drawn in Open Office, from different images I found on the internet. Again, I wasn't looking to create an exact replica, just something that captured essential details of R2D2.

Step 7: Destruction

Overall, the pinata was a success. I definitely did withstand a considerable beating before a rupture formed and the candy started coming out. Just as I had hoped, everyone got to take at least a few turns pummeling it. It was so tough, that the broom handle we had used to beat it at the beginning broke before too long. Thankfully, a neighbor had an aluminum bat to use instead. Even after the lengthy beating, the main parts were not totally demolished; the kids enjoyed playing with R2D2’s carcass while eating their candy. Check out the embedded video for a short summary of the highlights.

Cardboard Contest 2017

Runner Up in the
Cardboard Contest 2017