A NEW AND IMPROVED VERSION OF THIS PROJECT IS AVAILABLE HERE.
Before I begin this very long Instructable, I'd like to mention that if you like this project, I'd appreciate your likes and votes. Thanks for being so supportive!
My kids love Star Wars, and pretty much every day they end up walking around the house with blasters and lightsabers as they fight off the bad guys. Since I was ready for a new project and because the new Star Wars movie is getting closer every day, I decided it would be fun to build the kids a Millennium Falcon Playhouse. What you see here I managed to build in ten days, working on it until very late at night and over the weekends.
Like the Boba Fett Jetpack that I built last year, the main material is PVC board which I love because you can shape it with heat, bond it with PVC glue, sand it nicely, cut it with a box cutter, and it takes spray paint really well.
And by the way, this build isn't intended for outdoors. We just took it outside to take these few photos. It's now located in my son's bedroom, and he's pretty happy about that. In fact, I found him asleep inside of it a couple of days ago.
A few of the materials that were needed.
- PVC board - I used 2 sheets at 4" x 8" plus some additional smaller pieces that I had from other projects.
- MDF - a small sheet of half inch.
- PVC glue, super glue, and Gorilla glue
- A few wooden odds and ends that are shown in the instructions.
As far as tools go, I used quite a few different tools, but the main tools were: metal cutters, a box cutter, a heat gun, and an electric sander. My table saw was also helpful at one point.
But enough of that, let's start planning!
Step 1: Planning Things Out
I began with a very rough sketch of how things might work. Just getting an idea of how I would use my materials. Basically, I spent one evening looking at all the reference photos I could find
Right off the bat, I knew that I needed to cut off the bottom part of the cockpit to keep the thing from getting too large and my wife calling off the project. :) I also knew that because of scale, there would be some things on the instrument panel that I would leave out and simplify.
From there, I did a rough drawing in Adobe Illustrator so that I could begin to work on the dimensions and angles, including where my cutoff area would be at the bottom. I needed to make sure to accommodate for the height of my kids as well as providing enough width that two children could sit side by side.
Since I drew things in actual size, this file was a helpful reference through the project.
Step 2: Starting With the Epic Front Window
It's sometimes difficult to know where to begin. For me, since I was waiting to pick up some PVC board, I kicked things off building the front window out of MDF for stability. Once I had the basic shape built out, I covered the front edges with PVC board using this awesome cone calculator and this quick method of drawing large circles.
Then I used Bondo to fill in the gaps. I sanded this off with a disc sander and then, to the horror of my children, I cut off the bottom of the window where I planned the bottom of the cockpit to be.
Ok, that turned out pretty good. Let's keep on going.
Step 3: Amass the Greebles!
Have you ever notices that Star Wars ships are covered with weird little shapes on the inside and outside? These little shapes build interest and a sense of realness to the objects. These little pieces of junk have been given the made-up word, greeble.
Well, it's time to start rummaging through some of your old junk to find some greebles.
One of the best things I came across was a bunch of old plastic casters that I'd never used. I pried the wheels off, and these worked great on the instrument panel. I also cut out some pieces of PVC board and glued them together to install my first greebles on the inside of the front window.
Time for something new! Let's start on the dashboard!
Step 4: Let's Make That Dashboard!
Using my box cutter, I cut out of the shape of the upper and lower dashboard out of some 1/4" PVC board that I had lying around.
If you've never cut PVC board before, use the box cutter to make a shallow-but-accurate cut. Then, apply more pressure on the following passes until you've cut through the board. Or, if you're more fortunate than me, just use your bansaw.
To get a rough idea of how all the pieces would work, I sketched this out on the surface of the PVC.
Step 5: Building Out the Controls
This part felt pretty intimidating, so I just jumped right in cutting out pieces and thinking through how I would make the lever mechanisms move. In the end, I decided to go with a Tinkertoy-looking setup with some dowels and large wooden wheels I found at a craft store.
To space things out to fit the cover I had made out PVC board, I used some drilled through dowels to shim out the space between the wheels. Because it was only a guess, I ended up using some washers I quickly made out of PVC board to help increase the spacing between some wheels.
To create some friction on the wheels so that the levers would stay in place and not lamely fall to the bottom like a broken thing, I took an old sock (wish I was kidding) and wrapped it around a board and attached it firmly against the wheels.
Step 6: Detailing Out the Dashboard
When I'm spray painting small parts, I sometimes use tape to securely wrap the piece on one end. I leave a few inches of extra tape that I use to hold the piece by as I spray it. Then, I use this extra tape to hang the piece while it dries. I used this technique with the dowel rods.
I ordered some switches on the cheap via Amazon, and I cut the holes. for the switches. This took a painfully long time, and since it was about 3:00 am at the time, I thought I would never finish. But persistence prevailed in the end.
Once those were done, I spray painted the dashboard and painted some little wooden squares that I bought at a craft store. These would be the buttons.
When the paint was dry, I installed all the switches, levers, and buttons. Looking nice! But something's still missing.
Step 7: Break Out the Pinstripe
The finishing touch was to install some white and red pinstripe to the surface of the dashboard. I quickly discovered that these little rolls kept wanting to unroll themselves and make a huge mess, so I used a bread tie to keep the roll secure while I was working.
Included with the pinstripe was a small rectangle of the same material. I used a hole punch to make some small circles of the stuff for some of the details.
This is slow work, but the payoff was huge. The addition of the pinstripes really made things look great.
Step 8: Finished Dashboard Cover
Getting this part done was a huge encouragement, and it really helped me to push forward with the rest of the project. I've often found that it's the moments like this that give me the energy to press on with a big project. Especially when there's a lot of work ahead.
And speaking of which, let's get back to work!
Step 9: Starting on the Cockpit
There are times when you have everything you need on hand, and there are times when you have to improvise. This was one of the second situations. Since I didn't have enough wood to create a nice brace for the shape of the cockpit, I cut out several pieces and glued them together to form a skeleton. Then, I installed the inner piece of the cockpit.
I decided to create and outer and inner layer for the cockpit so that I could run lights in between the two. Nothing fancy - I just picked up a strand of LED Christmas lights.
It was around this time that my wife mentioned that I'd better build the thing in two pieces or it would be too large to ever leave the garage. It was certainly good advice and helped me to avoid a bit of heartache, but it was hard to picture how to make the front and back of the cockpit fit snugly together without using glue. As I worked on this part and started into the next, that was the main thing that I had on my mind.
Step 10: Building Out the Nose
Using the table saw, I cut some MDF board to serve as the window frames, and as I taped everything together, I began to get a feel for where everything should go. Once I felt pretty good about the placement, I installed PVC board across the top of the window to hold things in place - careful not to glue this down to the back section.
Next, I glued down the outer shell. Since it was difficult to get a good glue seal against the brace I had made, I used a heat gun on some small PVC board pieces to create brackets. I glued these to the skeleton so that I'd have better surfaces for attaching the outer piece.
Everything looked pretty good, but there was a weird overhang at the top. It was time to make a decision of how things would fit together. As I was using my heat gun to fold down the outer piece, it hit me. I could build on this area to mimic the underlying piece. This would allow the overhang to keep the window section snug. It was at least worth a try.
And what do you know? It actually worked.
Step 11: Building the Attachment
Here you can clearly see the two pieces, as well as the outer piece I built to overhang the window and keep the two parts fitted together.
After some Bondo and sanding, things were starting to look pretty great.
Step 12: Another Encouraging Moment
Looking from the inside, this thing was finally starting to look like the Millennium Falcon! Maybe all my hard work was not in vain! Hurray!
This was the end of the hard dreary work. From here on out it would be all paint and details - the fun stuff. Bring it on!
Step 13: Painting the Interior
Now that the outside was mostly done, I decided to focus on the interior. I started with spray painting the inside and then collecting the greebles for the inside windows.
I forgot to take a photo of the inside of the larger section, but I just spray painted the inside black.
With that done, it was time to paint the outside.
Step 14: Painting the Exterior
I used a light gray paint for the exterior. And since I couldn't find a roller, I used a brush. After doing a pretty horrible job painting the outside, I touched up the interior where the paint had dripped. I was running out of time, and I was feeling the pressure to get things wrapped up.
Once the base color had dried, I took a piece of wood and used it to block the spray as I misted areas with a darker gray. This part is a little nerve wracking, but it can be pretty fun.
Step 15: Adding Final Details
To finish up the project, I added some additional greebles to the interior. I also ran a string of LED Christmas lights between the outer and inner shell.
I cut a rectangle into each side and covered it with a piece of acrylic that I backed with a piece of copy paper (no fancy window frosting here).
Like the dashboard, I used pinstripe to detail the interior, and to complete the project, I simply drilled holes through the interior shell to let light shine through.
I had met my deadline of ten days. I was exhausted, and I was finally done.
Step 16: Enjoying the Fruit of Our Labor
It was time to drag the Millennium Falcon out of the darkness in my garage and into the sunshine for my kids to check out the finished project and to get a few photos. They loved it, and they can't wait to take it to their play room once the paint has had time to fully cure.
And speaking of love, if you like this Instructable, I'd love to hear from you in the comments. And I'd also appreciate your vote in the two contests that I've entered. Thanks so much!
Step 17: Final Details
Since I originally posted this, we moved the Falcon into my son's room and added some details to the interior. Those lights are looking pretty sweet!
Again, thanks for checking out this project. I hope you're inspired to create something fun as a result.