I had been rolling this idea around in my head for quite a while- Robot Action Figures made from pop/soda cans. When the Christmas contest was announced, I knew the time was right. I altered my plans slightly to make my action figure into a Christmas ornament instead. What's the difference between the two? Probably not much, other than fewer points of articulation and some sparkly glitter.
Some other notes about this project- I used tin snips on the cans, which tends to create small and very sharp aluminum splinters. Be proactive in your cutting to avoid creating these, and when you are trimming, be sure to track them and dispose of them. They are not the kind of thing you want laying around to step on or stab your hands with.
Also, I chose to eyeball everything, so I can't really provide measurements for you. There were a few reasons for choosing to do it this way. First, the drawings of Robot that I based my modeling on are very imprecise. Except for the head being pretty well cubed, it looks like he would have been designed by hand too. Thus, the head was the only part that I made a template for, and I still just did it by hand after my template was a little too big for the body I had created. Also, trial and error by hand is more fun, and allowed me to do things like shorten the legs, and giving the final result more of a sculpture kind of feel rather than something like a molding. The imprecision will also give your final product more of an organic feel. Want to build your own? On to step one!
Step 1: Tools and Supplies
Since the ornament will consist of a base made from pop cans, you will need a good number of these. I ended up using about fifty, but a large number of those was just trial and error for different techniques of building and connecting. You will also need some glue and/or tape to hold them together. I bought a package of the movable eyes from hobby lobby, and used them for several of the body decorations as well.
After the base is built, I used flex paste (also available at hobby lobby, mostly used by model railroad builders) as a kind of body putty, plus a paintbrush to apply the flex paste and some sandpaper for when it is dry. Tin snips are the tool you will mostly use for cutting, and I also used an Xacto knife for cutting slots in the aluminum for matching tabs to go into. I also suggest painting yours, however I have not done that with mine. Finally, you will need some glitter to make it all Christmas spectacular when you're done.
Step 2: Fail, Fail, Fail Again (Making the Body)
Creating the body for Robot was much more challenging than I ever imagined. I tried several different approaches, and had about three dozen failed attempts before coming up with something I was happy with including shaping, fanning, spiraling, templating and such. The first picture is of some of the unusable attempts I had in creating the unique bell shape of the body.
The solution I came up with was using the bottom of two pop cans, one with roughly a quarter inch of the side left on. That gave me a circular base and something to start with. I then cut two side pieces, which could be bent in a circle and connected at the top with a thin strip that was the diameter of a bottle cap. That allowed both sides to curve, while keeping the top coned in. I used the second bottom to slide inside the body, and shove the outside flush to the other can making it circular. That took care of the front and back, then I made ribs from thinly cut strips which I attached at the front and back of the body all the way to the top. I would have liked to have glued these down, but due to time restraints for the contest just used electrical tape.
Step 3: Build the Cube-Shaped Head
I should point out that Robot's head is slightly rectangular, and not a true cube. I designed a template to build the cube with tabs and places for the slots to be cut. When my design was a little too big, I just drew one out by hand that was pretty close. The final slot ended up being too long, so I trimmed it back and cut a new tab on the end. The first picture is of the template I created, and subsequent pictures are of the actual head being built. Much like a paper plane, the more exact the folds, the better it will fit (and stay) together.
Step 4: You Put Your Left Wheel In
Now your ornament will need some arms, legs, wheels, and hands, and a place to hang it from. For the arms and legs I guesstimated how long they should be and cut a few strips with that width. Cut a couple of tabs on the end of your length and roll them around an ink pen or wooden dowel (or anything else that is round). When you figure out how tight they need to be wound for your desired diameter, carefully cut a couple of slots for your tabs to go in, and cut away some of the excess length if necessary. Then put the tabs in the appropriate slots and bend the over backwards on the inside.
For the arms, I also cut part of one side out so it would fit better into the side of the can. For the legs, I ended up needing to put part of a bottle cap in the bottom so that there was more to glue the legs to. Given more time, tabbing the legs into the can would have probably been better.
The wheels are bottle tops from small Aquafina bottles, glued back to back, then glued to the slightly round out bottom of the legs. The hands are bent in half, with an additional bend on each side to make them slightly three dimensional instead of just flat. That also allows the hands to be glued into the round ends of the arms. On the back of the robot, I glued a bent pop tab to hang the robot from when you're finished.
Step 5: I'm Dreaming of a White Robot.
In this step, you'll need your paintbrush, flex paste, and some fairly fine sandpaper. Apply your paste over all of the robot, and allow it to dry for one or two hours. Then sand your ornament smooth again, and add another layer. Continue sanding and pasting until your robot is of sufficient smoothness for the glitter used in the next step to adequately cover the imperfections. These will be the most apparent in the torso of the robot.
Step 6: Glitz and Glam the World Over
The robot really started to have some personality when all the limbs were finally attached to the body, but this is where you really add personality to your ornament. I bought some spray glue to use, but happened to leave it at my house when I came to my parents house for Christmas. So instead, I decided to just paint the robot with yellow paint, and add the glitter right into the paint before it had a chance to dry. This seemed to work very well. In areas without much glitter, carefully paint over the top of what is there when it's dry and simply add more glitter.
You need to carefully add your extra stuff before painting, unless it is going to show white below it. I painted the inside of the torso buttons, and let some yellow paint dry before gluing on the slot in the belly. Otherwise you are just gluing them to the glitter, which is likely to just crumble off and ruin your robot ornament. I started with the head, adding the wires out of the side of the head to eyes that I had cut the insides out of and painted red. The eyes go on the front, and remember to add the eyebrows, mouth, and belly slot using the same thin black wire you used for the ears. Also, I placed three eye bumps on the chest with the eye parts cut out. Cut some more of the inside of the eyes out, and use these for the rivets around the base and one on each arm
Once it dries, you may want to add some more glitter to make sure you've covered all of the ornament with glitter. I plan to spray mine with clear coat, and add some more glitter to appropriate areas. After that, add your hook to the pop tab in the back, and once it's dry it's ready to hang on your tree or mail off to your favorite ibler. This has been instructable number ten, please remember to comment, rate and vote if you enjoyed it.