The Robolocity Roaming Instructables Robot Gnome - RoboGnome




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Never roam alone!

When you think of travel, what comes to mind is how to do it cheap and how to do it without the problems associated with lost luggage, airport security check-in, big-guy-in-front-reclining-his-seat, etc. So, why not have an adventure in travel from the comfort of your own home.

There seems to be a wordwide fad of kidnapping garden gnomes, more accurately, liberating gnomes from their proper place in the garden and taking them to far-away and exotic places. The gnomes would then send back pictures of their exploits and travels back to their owner. Apparently there is a movement that you can join(search the web for details) which seems to encourage such activities. It is such a phenomenon that one travel service uses the roaming gnome as its advertising mascot.

Discussion of the traveling Instructables Robot or reasonable facsimile is here.

So, let's create our own Instructables Robot roaming gnome, henceforth the Roaming RoboGnome.

Yes, this may look like a traveling companion as part of The Amazing Robot Race or the immunity idol from Instructables Survivor-San Francisco (Outtwit, Outpun, Outcomment, who would you cast and vote off?) but you try to buy a replica gnome from TV fame and realize they are way overpriced and not as cool. I don't think you can find this on Eb@y.

Pictures below are from a remote control model airplane jet meet. People do spend thousands USD for that tiny turbine engine and we have seen some crash and Real men do cry. The real Supersonic Transport SST (Concorde for the Air France version) in "landdock" while its home, the Intrepid aircraft carrier museum is in drydock for renovation. Fuhgeddaboudit, this is Brooklyn, New York.

Step 1: Basic Bot

Well, for this project mosey on over to the paper recycling bin and select a few carboard boxes and four spent toilet paper tubes. If you do not have cardboard from the heavy duty boxes, just laminate more layers of cardboard. Cut pieces with a sharp utility knife over a piece of scrap plywood or board so as not to nick your nice hardwood floor or carpet. Use a heavy duty pair of shears or scissors to do some final trimming.

You will also need 2 medium length bolts/nuts/washers, stiff wire with black insulation.

CAUTION: Use sharp instruments with care.

Look at Flower-Whirligig project to get more hints on working with cardboard as a building material.

On with the show:

As always, this is a creative project so there are no real plans to speak of. I did print out a picture of the Instructables Robot sized to fit a full page of the robot as my guide. The finished Robot is about 19 inches high without pointy hat, similar in stature to the commercially produced Roaming Gnome.

Step 2: Step by Step

Leg Assembly

Take two toilet paper tubes to use as the legs. Cut out circles for the wheels. I laminated three disks to make the wheel. Cut two small notches in the ends of the tube so that the wheel can be inserted and glued to the tube. Cut out paddle shaped hubcaps to laminate to the wheel. Laminate 2 layers of cardboard on each side of the wheel. Cut out another small strip and glue in to simulate the wheel strut. You need to just start layering enough to fill up the tube.

Step 3: Hardbody


Draw an oval-ish round shape to be the bottom of the robot. Cut and laminate two or three layers of cardboard. When dry, place the legs on the shape and trace out the ends of the tubes. Slit the cardboard inside the circles you just traced. This will be the gluing surface and will be a friction fit to hold the legs.

Cut a cardboard panel to wrap around the bottom oval. It should overlap at the end so you can glue it up. Try to taper in the top by pulling it in a bit smaller than the bottom. Use a stapler to set it in place. Make sure the corrugations /internal ridges of the cardboard go vertically so the cardboard bends easily.

Reinforce the inside of the body with additional cardboard where the the arms will attach to the RoboGnome.

Add details for the three buttons and tummy slot.

Step 4: Step Ahead

Round broad shoulders

As I was going along I knew I had to round out the top. So I said, if the RoboGnome wasn't going anywhere it might as well be used as a cookie jar. So I made it with a removeable top.

Take a strip of cardboard and make it fit inside the body tube. Staple it to form a ring. Draw a line around it after it has been pushed down enough to form the lip of your jar lid.

Take the ring and trace a cardboard circle. Make a bigger circle around it and cut it to look like a turbofan blade. Bend the tabs inward to form the gluing surface. Push this disk into your ring and glue in at the line to form the robot head platform.

Robot Head

Create a boxy form for the robot head. The height of the head should include the height of the rounded shoulder part. Create and glue on other details such as the eyes, earmuffs, 3 body buttons, and body slot.
Start bending strips of cardboard to attach as the superstructure of the rounded shoulders. I like to fill in the voids with scrap cardboard for more support.

Make some forms for the gnome beard and pointy hat.

Step 5: Call to Arms


Take two more toilet paper tubes to create the arms. Pinch one end together and mark a quarter-circle arc that is about one third of the length of the tube.

While still pinched, cut along that line.

Trace the tube ends on a piece of carboard. Draw two tabs attached to the circle. This will look like an outline of a wristwatch and the wristband. Cut these out and bend the tabs to use as gluing surfaces to make the endcaps for the arms.

Cut and laminate the fingers you will attach to the endcap.

At the cut arc end, glue in a layer or two of cardboard inside the tube. This will be reinforcement for the bolt that attaches the arm to the body. Use an awl to poke a hole for the bolt with a washer go through. Glue in the end cap at the non-arc end.

Stuff the arm with some rolled up cardboard.

Trace a shape of the open-V arc end and cut it bigger so you can glue and stuff in the edges of that endcap.

Step 6: Rock Bottom

Rock Bottom

Cut out several layers of various shapes of cardboard to create your statue base. I laminated eight layers to create a suitable height.

Attach your Robot to the base by inserting rigid wire or dowels through the base going up the leg assemblies. This will provide an "invisible" support to stand the Robot upright. You can use thin dowels or even spare pencils pushed in through the bottom. Glue in place.

Give this baby and the rock base a skim coat of veneer paper mache. There are many formulas and concoctions for the liquid mix but I just used 1 part white glue to 1 part water. Just soak pieces of torn newspaper until saturated and then place over the form. Press out any air bubbles and make it conform to the details you put on. I could have used plaster or maybe some stucco/cement-repair-with-latex-additive mix to give this a rock hard coating for outdoor use but I just stuck to some kid-friendly stuff. Don't flush any excess cement stuff down your drain or you guarantee you will need a plumber in the future to unclog it. Let it dry then toss hardened cement/plaster out.

When all is dry, prime your RoboGnome. It was easier to mix the right colors and paint with tempera paint and then just give it an enamel spray clearcoat. Attach the antennae.

Step 7: Wherever You May Gnome

So, set out the RoboGnome in the garden amongst the flower whirligigs and wait for something magical to happen. Be sure to put your mailing address or email on the RoboGnome so they know where to send the pictures. Add a GPS or homing device if you want to discreetly track your RoboGnome on its whereabouts. Happy travelling...

So, as suggested in =SMART='s Instructable Robot Paper Model here others can make their own and customize it with accessories like:

  • KFC bucket helmet
  • Vintage airplane flying helmet and goggles
  • Killer Union Jack jock-a-lope thongy thingy

This RoboGnome does not speak but I would imagine it has a Kiteman-like accented voice...

Check back often as we post pics of the RoboGnome or Instructables Robot on its travels...

"Don't know where I'm going to but I'm on my way..." Simon and Garfunkel

"Don't know where I was or where I'm going to..." Killerjackalope...not really

Third Prize in the
Lonely Planet Travel Tips Contest



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    55 Discussions


    10 years ago on Introduction

    You always have the best Instructables Robot instructables. That's really cool! 5 stars and I'm definetly making this!

    14 replies

    Hmm, looks like it needs no shirt. a white mask, and a KFC bucket... Maybe even a Buckethead Custom Les Paul... :O


    How did you make that? Printed or drawn? Nicely done, but I prefer KFC buckets, white masks, and guitars. Hahaha, I ate KFC today. :P


    I took the Joe Rules pic and overlaid the text with copied sections of the T-shirt to erase the text. I then used Photoshop to smudge or blend in the rough edges and then replace the text and shape it so it looks 3-D and added the pointing finger graphic. The original was a piece of paper that I wrote the words in marker and taped to a baby-sized T-shirt that the Robot is wearing.


    Maybe you can get them to add it to the Instructables Shirt Store or else the "I waited in line 3 days for the new Instructables Book and I didn't get one!" shirt for you...haha...


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Yay! Robot is being cloned... (Go ahead, it OK to grab the pic if you want it for your avatar or something)


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I'm working on mine right now, and I'd just like to add one thing. If you don't have enough cardboard at your house you can go down to the local hardware store and ask them if you can have some of the extra stuff they have. They normally have a lot extra from shipments (at least they do where I live).


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Dang, I thought you wouldn't make fun of me, until I saw the last image and the GorillazMiko glue part. Still, nice Instructable, but I'm too lazy to do this now that school's out. Skating is much funner. :P +5/5 stars. (added to favorites)

    1 reply