Introduction: TIE Advanced & TIE Fighter Mini Popsicle Stick Models

How about a project that's seem simple enough but extremely difficult to build?

Hello everyone, at long last, after five (5) long months, here's a two-in-one project that details the steps done to make an Imperial TIE fighter AND a TIE advanced from popsicle sticks.

Another design by Seinar Fleet Systems for the Galactic Empire, the Twin Ion Engine or TIE fighter was the standard Imperial fighter against the better-armored Rebel Starfighters. What the TIEs lack in armor and shielding more than made up with their superior maneuverability and massive numbers. The TIE advanced, on the other hand, was better armored and at par with the Rebel Alliance's T-65 X-wing. The TIE advanced also had the advantage of having a smaller profile with the incorporation of a bent-wing solar wing design.

Originally a request from instructable member Tombishi, I really thought that this would be a single weekend project. Man, was I wrong! It turned out to be quite difficult to build.

Two of the most difficult steps for the TIE fighter and TIE Advanced build were the fabrication of the 'eyeball' shaped cockpit and the wing brace for the twin solar panels/wings. The available dowels I used in previous builds were insufficient for the size of the fuselage hence the need to fabricate each from laminated wooden ice cream cup spoons. Likewise wing braces for each side of the wing took time to mount and carve. The effort was worth it though and the TIEs look impressive chasing an X-wing in the Death Star's dangerous trench.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Main materials used for this build included thick wooden ice cream cup spoons (for the ball-shaped cockpit), tongue depressor-sized sticks (for the solar panels) and toothpicks/small square dowels (for the solar panel wing brace, laser cannons, TIE fighter ion drive, solar panel center hubs and canopy center brace). Pine needles were used for the canopy brace/frame. Other materials came from my 'spares' box.

Tools used were as follows:

- Dremel 3000 mounted on a workstation with 225-01 flex shaft using the following attachments:

  • 1/2" and 1/4" Coarse and Fine Drum sander
  • Fine disc Sander
  • #125, #194 High speed cutter
  • Standard & reinforced cut-off wheel
  • #83702, #85622, #85602 Silicon Carbide grinding stones
  • #911, #953 Aluminum Oxide grinding stone
  • #541 Aluminum Oxide grinding wheel

- Olfa Cutter

- Fine Tweezers

- Mechanical Pencil

- Ruler

- Various plastic clamps

- Elmers White Glue

- Cutting Mat

Step 2: Images and Schematics

Keywords to search for in Google and Bing images were "TIE fighter" and "TIE advanced". Additional search keys for other views of the spacecrafts were "TIE fighter rear" and "TIE advanced rear".

URL for the schematic images used were:

Other reference and detailed images including top and rear views were from the following sources:

I edited the TIE advanced schematics from to get the correct ratio for the size of the side-view image of the spacecraft. The original illustration of the front view is much larger from the side view image of the TIE advanced.

There were more reference images available online but these were the main pictures and schematics I used for this project. Again, my sincere appreciation to the publishers of these images without which there would be no TIE fighter or TIE advanced to speak of.

Step 3: "Eyeball" Fuselage

The first major component fabricated were the "Eyeball" fuselages. I made three sets of these for the TIE Advanced and the two (2) TIE Fighter escorts.

Each "Eyeball" fuselage was made from five (5) layers of sliced wooden ice cream cup spoons glued together with Elmers white glue. The single laminated piece was carved into a bullet shaped piece using various dremel sanding attachments (1/2 inch coarse/fine drum sander and coarse/fine disk sander). I drilled a tiny pilot hole at the tip of the bullet using a #125 high speed cutter attachment for the canopy viewport. The pilot hole was made larger using a #911 and #953 aluminum oxide grinding stone attachments and finished with a #194 high speed cutter and #83702 silicon carbide grinding stone attachments on a moto tool. The entire fuselage was cut from the single, bullet shaped piece using a reinforced cutting wheel attachment.

Now the difficult part of the build begins - shaping the detached piece into the familiar oval-shaped fuselage of the TIE. I carefully sanded the rough, oval-shaped fuselage of the TIE using 1/2 and 1/4 inch coarse/fine drum sander attachments to get the desired curve for the front and rear end. Handling the part wass difficult due to the small size and shape of the fuselage.

A cavity to simulate the solar ionization reactor was carved at the rear end using a #124 and #125 high speed cutter and finished with #953 aluminum oxide grinding stone and a round grinding stone attachments. Somehow I can't find the designation of the round grinding stone attachment I used from the Dremel website. In any case, I'll just refer to the attachment as a 'round grinding stone' for the rest of the steps.

For the most tedious part of the build, I used square dowels from my spares box for the main viewport center support of the canopy frame. Very tiny six (6) pieces of pine needles were painstakingly glued (one at a time) from the outer edge of the canopy window to the main viewport center support. You can refer to the front and side view cross section images I provided in this instructable for additional reference. The structural bond of the canopy center and frame was strengthen with additional white glue applied with a toothpick.

The access hatch that will be glued at the top of the fuselage was made from the rounded edge of a wooden dowel. A notch near the end of the rounded piece was made using a standard cutting wheel attachment on a Dremel 3000. I was very careful not to fully detach the end so as to provide leverage in making three horizontal notches across the rounded end. After the horizontal notches were carved with the use of a standard cutting wheel attachment, the completed piece was detached from the dowel using an Olfa cutter.

The top of the fuselage was slightly sanded using a 1/2 inch fine drum sander attachment to accommodate the top access hatch. The hatch was glued on top of the fuselage to finally complete the first major subassembly of the TIE fighter.

Step 4: TIE Fighter Solar Panels

The TIE solar panel 'wings' were made from three (3) pieces of sliced tongue depressor-sized sticks. The size and shapes of the pieces were patterned after the scaled schematics downloaded from the internet. Two (2) triangle shaped pieces were glued to the center piece to form the familiar hexagon shape of the solar panel 'wing'. After the glue dried, the surface of the completed single piece was sanded using a 1/2 inch fine drum sander attachment to make it thinner.

The wing braces and frame of the solar panel 'wings' were made from small, square dowels sanded into thin strips using 1/2 course/fine drum sander attachment on a moto tool. Each strip was painstakingly glued at each edge of the six edges of the solar panel wing. This step was done at both sides of each wing.

The center, hexagon-shaped brace was cut from regular-sized popsicle sticks from my spares box with the use of an Olfa Cutter. The center brace was glued at the wing center making sure that the corners of the hexagon align with the corners of the wing. Strips made from square dowels were glued from the corners of the center brace to the wing corners. The wing with the braces were allowed to dry overnight to ensure maximum bond. The braces were then sanded using a 1/2 inch coarse/ fine drum sander attachment on a moto tool. These steps were repeated for the other side of each wing.

Another hexagon-shaped brace, much smaller than the first center brace was cut from regular sized popsicle sticks. This piece was glued on top of the first center brace in each of the outer surface of each wing. Plastic clamps ensure a strong bond between the base and second layer. The second layer was likewise sanded thin using a 1/2 inch coarse/find drum sander attachment.

Step 5: Solar Panel Attachment Pylons and Final Assembly

The solar panel attachment pylons were made from large wooden dowels shaped and sanded using #85622 Silicon Carbide grinding stone, a 1/4 inch fine drum sander and a round grinding stone attachment on a moto tool. Each of the single piece assembly was carefully detached from the wooden dowel using a reinforced cutting wheel attachment and an Olfa cutter. Each pylon was glued to the center brace of the TIE's inner solar panel wing. Finally, two (2) tiny center hub pieces were cut from a toothpick and glued on top of the second layer center brace of the TIE's outer wing. These were sanded thinly using a 1/2 inch fine drum sander attachment on a moto tool.

The two (2) wing/pylon subassemblies were glued to opposite sides of the TIE's 'eyeball' fuselage. The access hatch on top of the fuselage was used as a guide to carefully position the wing/pylon subassemblies to the side of the TIE fighter. A jig was customized from parts in my spares box to prop up the wing/pylon assembly while the white glue dries.

I used a 1/2 inch fine drum and disk sander attachment to make the toothpick to a very thin dowel for the TIE's twin laser canons. These were cut to size with an Olfa cutter. Each tiny laser canon was carefully glued below the TIE's canopy near the bottom of the fuselage. A trick I learned was to dab a small amount of glue at the fuselage and a similar amount at the end of the laser canon. I allow the white glue to set for approximately fifteen (15) seconds before I join the two pieces together. With this procedure, the two pieces almost immediately stick to each other in the position you desire. After allowing the glue to fully harden, I reinforce the bond by adding more white glue.

And for the final two (2) tiny pieces for the TIE's ion engines, the same steps to make the laser canons were done. The only difference was the slightly larger dowel size for the ion engines. Before I cut the ion engines from the toothpick, one edge was sanded to an angle using a fine disk sander attachment. The slanted surface should fit the rounded edge of the fuselage facing the rear. Finally, the ion engines rear ends where trimmed off using a #83702 silicon carbide grinding stone attachment on a Dremel 3000.

This completes the TIE fighter part of the project. On to the TIE advanced!

Step 6: TIE Advanced Solar Panels and "Eyeball" Fuselage

Three (3) pieces of regular-sized popsicle sticks were used for the TIE Advanced solar panels. The schematic from was used as reference in cutting the angle of the lower and upper solar wings of the TIE advanced. The edges of the upper, lower and middle solar panel wings were sanded using a #85602 Silicon Carbide grinding stone attachment on a moto tool. Guidelines were drawn for the solar panel wing brace that will be added later in the build. The three (3) pieces were glued together using spare popsicle sticks as jigs to prop up the upper and lower wings at an angle.

The wing braces for both sides of the outer solar panels were from thin wooden coffee stirrers. I used a regular cut-off wheel attachment to get the desired shape for the wing braces. The wing braces were glued at the outer solar panels using the guidelines as reference. Additional strips were glued to the upper and lower part of the outer wings.

Bits of toothpick were cut off using a regular cut-off wheel attachment and glued at the center of the wing braces. These 'center hubs' were finished using a #85602 Silicon Carbide grinding stone attachment on a moto tool.

For the wing pylon mounts, regular popsicle sticks were cut and glued to the inner middle solar panel wings. A #85602 Silicon Carbide grinding stone attachment was used to bevel the sides of the wing pylon mounts. Round cavities to fit the wing pylon were carved using a #83702 silicon carbide grinding stone attachment on a Dremel 3000.

Starting off from a completed "Eyeball" fuselage from Step 3, a wooden disk was cut from a wooden dowel and glued to the rear end of the assembly. The rear end was sanded at an angle using a 1/4 inch fine drum attachment on a moto tool.

The two (2) wing pylons were carved from a wooden dowel using a 1/4 inch fine drum attachment on a moto tool. Finally, the wing pylons were detached from the wooden dowel using a standard cut-off wheel attachment.

Step 7: TIE Advanced Wing Attachment Pylons and Final Assembly

The wing pylons were glued to each side of the "Eyeball" fuselage. Special jigs and spare popsicle sticks were used to hold the pieces in place while the

white glue dries.

Another jig was carved from a wooden dowel using a round grinding stone attachment. This special jig was used to prop up the completed fuselage assembly before attaching the solar panel wings. Each end of the wing pylon was glued into the round cavities of the wing pylon mount. The TIE advanced started to take shape after attaching the solar panel wings to the wing pylons. Before the white glue completely dries, I made sure that the panels were perfectly aligned with each other. It was at this point that it was possible to do some minor adjustments to the angle of the wings in relation to the fuselage.

The ion drive mount was a single piece of scrap tongue depressor-sized popsicle stick cut and carved into shape. This was where my patience was tested since I had to fit, re-fit, sand and re-sand the ion drive mount so it would fit perfectly at the rear of the fuselage between the two wings. Attachments used to customize the ion drive mount were 1/2 inch fine drum sander attachment, fine disk sander and a standard cut-off wheel. The custom carved piece was carefully glued to the rear of the TIE advanced.

The ion drives were from two (2) pieces of scrap, thin coffee stirrers, cut into shape using the schematics as guide. One was glued at the top and one at the bottom of the ion drive mount. Two notches were carved using a standard cut-off wheel to simulate the ion drive exhaust nozzles.

Similar to the twin laser canons of the TIE fighter, a very thin dowel was carved from a toothpick for the TIE's advanced laser canons. These were cut to size with an Olfa cutter. Each tiny laser canon was carefully glued below the TIE's canopy near the bottom of the fuselage. After reinforcing the canon mounts with additional glue and allowing it to dry thoroughly, used a #85602 Silicon Carbide grinding stone attachment to shorten the laser canons to the desired length.

Alas, a TIE advanced with it's TIE fighter escorts at the rear of an X-wing fighter.... "I HAVE YOU NOW!"