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project: Sandcrawler



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  • project: Sandcrawler

    I ran across the AT-AT case mod here (looks amazing, can't wait to see it done), and though I have worklogs going on a couple other forums, I decided to copy mine over here too. I think y'all will like this....the photos start back in October of 2009, although I've been working on this, the 3rd iteration of the model, since April 2007. My first two were based on inaccurate reference material and just didn't look right, so when I happened across better reference, I had to rebuild it. What a journey it's been. As an added challenge on this model, I'm also going to build the interior. My goal is to have people look at it and say "there's a computer in there?" and then, when I open all the cutaway side flaps, "where the heck is it???". It's been continuously evolving the last 3 years as I think of better and/or different ways of doing things. Most recent change was to dismantle the power supply so it would be visible under the floor of the rearmost "engine" room. the final upcoming change to the computer portion is it looks like I'll be getting a watercooling setup (which of course I didn't design the case for), so that's going to be a fun challenge to incorporate.
    I took the case up to San Francisco in February to show at the Exploratorium museum Rods 'n Mods show. There were I think 26 pretty amazing builds there.

    First a photo of what it looked like at the Exploratorium Rods ‘n Mods show in San Francisco Feb 11-13 2010, then I'll post photos starting back in October:

    At this point, I needed to rewire the LEDs in it - a bunch blew out and I decided I must not have done it right (I hadn't), so I rewired and added a LOT more.

    before I started rewiring. doesn't look bad, but they're all parallel wired, no resistors, and the section on the right/foreground all blew out on me.

    new LEDs in place, note the sharpie marks I made so I wouldn't forget which side was which.

    all replacement LEDs in place.

    soldering started. I didn't do the final wiring today, gotta finish the back roof to stabilize the back section, then stand it up on its back so I can access the wiring underneath and then run the new wiring.

    doesn't look all that pretty, but then I can't really access the cockpit lights and since I'm pretty sure I don't need to replace them, I didn't want to risk breaking anything in trying. I *did* desolder them and rewire them in series instead of parallel.

    last replaced section.

    note white wires coming from cockpit section - I added 4 LEDs above loading door area, so that each set of LEDs in the cockpit would be 6 instead of just 5, so I wouldn't have to go buy new resistors. More LEDS, didn't have to buy more stuff, not bad.
    tt53/artoodeeto/crawler%20update/09--11-01DSC_0010.jpg" alt="" />

    not pretty, but it won't be visible so who cares

    there were 2 LEDs left over in each of these sections - I decided once the roof panels are installed on the back (to the left of this photo), to add 4 LEDs on each side back there, and so get 6 LEDs on each of these strands.

    there were 4 LEDs leftover in the front section, but then in this removeable roofpiece I had 2 LEDS, so it worked out quite well to solder in a plug and add these 2 LEDS in the middle of the series strand and get 6 on there instead of just 4....once again avoiding having to buy new resistors. life is good

  • #2
    project: Sandcrawler

    I re-did the top. first off, pic of what it used to look like (basically, hinged flaps covering the fan openings):

    I did away with the flaps, and recessed the area that used to be the front flap; "machinery" and such will eventually go in there

    Lastly, I won't be able to do this til Sunday probably, but this is the rear area sans roof panels (I need to remake them, they're not quite shaped right..grrr...). note the wires sticking out; these will be attached to the remaining 8 LEDs (4 per side) to complete the lighting:

    View of the rearmost interior compartment. The other side houses the power supply, so only the upper section opens up, as opposed to this side, which will house a full blown engine room with upper and lower sections.

    This last shot is looking straight up into the front loading area. Gives you a better idea of just how many lights are in there.

    I've begun the sculpting process! The chrome circle in the very top is a hubcap from a 1/12 Ferrari F40 model. I'll use the drinking straw where pictured, but it'll be cut shorter to fit. Once this sculpted piece is totally done, I'll mold it and cast it twice, one for each side.
    The other visible pieces in the photos are a couple of Asus motherboard heatsink fans. I'm not planning on making them operable at the moment, but I may just run the wires into the space where the light wiring is to give myself the option. The fans, if they worked, would serve no functional purpose (since the intake side is the more-interesting-to-look-at top portion) but it might look kinda cool if they spun while the computer was on.
    After all that, it'll be on to the interior...and then painting after that. Oh yeah, the white flat piece of plastic under the sculpted part is just the base for the sculpture, it won't be present in the final cast (just the gray chunk will be).

    One other thing - I have to get this done by early Feb. so I'm putting myself on a pretty rigorous schedule - an hour or two after work each weeknight and at least 4 or 5 hours a day on weekends for the rest of this month. Now that holiday craziness is over, I'm hoping that's pretty realistic.

    here's the piece that's going to be the main mechanical unit on the rear wall (there'll be 2 copies of it, and while I pictured it horizontally, it'll be positioned vertically). The basic form is done, and it was surprisingly hard to make it symmetrical by hand. But I (mostly) got it, so tonight it'll be on to detail work, then molding/casting on the weekend, and once it's on the crawler, I'll add extra model pieces for more detail. I cut the posterboard card it's on right now to fit vertically in the space on the crawler, so I wouldn't have to worry about potential misfits/misalignments.

    Nearly done with this piece! It's taken far longer than I thought it would to sculpt. I just need to smooth it out, possibly add a couple more recessed or raised areas, and then texture in some detail. After that, I can mold it and cast it and get back to assembly of the case.

    Next up, a machinery assemblage that on the original model was made of Harrier and other jet engine parts, from what I can tell. this is about the only angle it'll be viewed from once it's on the model:

    Other angles:


    • #3
      project: Sandcrawler

      alrightie, here's some more progress! pics below include my completed molds (which are now holding the casting resin, poured this morning and now curing and giving me a headache even though they're in the extra bathroom w/door shut and window open), and my initial attempts to sort through the seemingly bazillion old model parts. I actually just bought a box of old model car parts, looks like mostly engine parts, which I've discovered look the best. all sorts of pipes and things just looks perfect, and in my initial stash I didn't have enough. Hopefully once I get this box of goodies from the seller, I'll be able to finish off the detailing the way I want to. I also can't WAIT to get the cast parts on the model. I'll demold the first set tomorrow night, and assuming all goes well, pour casting set #2 tomorrow night. Again if all goes well, by Wednesday night both sets of cast parts will be on the model, and I can finish detailing the back section around those pieces. I've done nearly as much as I can back there for the moment. Note - the initial pics, I just had parts piled on top of the model, the ones that are now glued in place are shown in the last couple photos below.

      oh yeah...those two Asus things in the last pic, those are duplicates of the little extra fan that came with my motherboard. The wires on these bad boys are still attached, in fact they're on hinged flaps that open to provide access to the lights below. i'm thinking about wiring them into those lights; it'll probably dim the lights a bit and the fans won't spin fast, but that's ok. I'm leaving their plugs intact in case adding them to the lights messes everything up, in which case I can just unplug them. but hopefully they'll be a spinning external element while the machine is on.
      The light gray cylinders glued on each of their hubs are a couple "intakes" from the engines of an old X-wing model. In fact, if you look carefully at these pics, you can see parts from several Star Wars fighters (x-wing, a-wing, b-wing).


      • #4
        project: Sandcrawler

        New pic! I got 2 of the 4 cast pieces on the model. They're screwed in, 1 each, from the bottom. Held the screw in place with a ratchet, then literally spun the epoxy cast (after drilling a hole in it) around til it was tight. It's like they're superglued on, but they're fully removeable, at least for now. The other two cast pieces are ready to go on, but since I used resin for them instead of epoxy (shoulda used epoxy...the resin casts didn't come out as well. I pulled the mold off too early, and now the mold's pretty much ruined and I don't have time right now to make another one. It's not too much of a disaster, one piece came out fine and the other one can have detail added back to it). Anyway. Since I used resin, they still stink to high heaven. I'm going to give them airing out time til the weekend before adding them.

        with the fan-flap open showing access to the lights (the other one opens too but not quite far enough to stay up on its own):

        well guys, my box of car parts arrived on Friday. It measures 9" x 6" x 3.5". And it was STUFFED. Not just full. We're talking packed-to-the-brim-and-spilling-as-soon-as-I-opened-the-outer-shipping-box full! I'm hoping there's enough in there to last me not just this model, but the large scale Y-wing I want to build someday...anyway, I sorted the contents of most of the box, based on similarities between parts. Took about an hour to do 2/3 of the box, and I'm not gonna do the rest unless I use all that I've sorted so far.

        Before the addition of the extra parts:

        After the addition of the extra parts:

        oh yeah, and I stopped by Michael's and got some popsicle sticks, figured they'd be good for some interior panelling and such:

        There was some weird stuff in the parts box:

        I have no idea what that sphere was. No clue. Most of the parts, including the Big Daddy Roth painted hood interior (though jarring to find and a little creepy-looking) I could at least figure out what they used to be. But not that sphere. My first thought was Sputnik....oh....hell...that'd be awesome. There may be a junked sputnik in the sandcrawler at some point....

        I have the 2 outside Asus fans wired up now; this shot is with the central roof removed so you can see how I ran the wires (the whitish plugs for the fans are visible just under each fan):

        Now as far as what else I accomplished so far, I've finished all the recessed bays, 6 total, 3 on each side of the model. Took awhile - I don't have a lot of room to work, and I kept having to go 'round the other side of the table, try and remember what i'd just done, and duplicate it roughly symmetrically. First, a photo of it before I did the front 2 bays on the left:

        And after, followed by some detail shots. Incidentally, the red ladder was from an X-wing model; the silver ladder is a handmade duplicate of the red ladder cuz i didn't have 2 red ladders. Also, the thick pink and yellow tubes in the central bays are.....bendy straws.


        • #5
          project: Sandcrawler

          Finally, I got one of the last 2 resin cast pieces on the back of the model:

          But, the 2nd cast didn't come out very well. I was impatient and pulled the first cast out of the mold too early (I thought 30 hours was enough time, but it wasn't ) and while the first cast came out decently, it left enough residue in the mold that the second cast looked like a slightly melted ice sculpture:

          This simply wouldn't do, so I've started making another mold of the original clay part, and I'm gonna do the replacement cast in epoxy: cures faster, and harder, and is less prone to picking up fingerprints and indentations. It also doesn't make the apartment smell like a chemical manufacturing plant.

          eventually, I'm planning on having the interior all detailed, and to have some sculpted jawas and droids kickin' around in it. Ambitious? Me? naaaah.........

          My cat Tiger decided to help out the other day by keeping my seat warm:

          I've made a little more progress - added some more stuffs to the rear roof area and the recessed roof area toward the front (note especially the strategic use of bendy and straight straws). I also started on the detailing of the front section roof, it's looking a whole lot more interesting. The couple of chrome pieces in the front corners had the word Ford on them, so I scratched that away. Although the sandcrawler probably does look a bit like some Fords from the '70's.....


          • #6
            project: Sandcrawler

            Finally got the last cast piece on the model this morning! Tonight I'll be working on detailing the back section and hopefully finishing off the roof. If I'm REALLY good I'll get the hinges covered too. I thought I'd put some comparison shots in this post, and a couple new ones at the end. I began planning this project in April 2007.

            First, front views. I'll edit this later to include a new shot of the front, the most current one I have from a similar angle was taken back in November.

            Taken June 30, 2007:

            Taken January 18, 2008 (major difference is openings on roof for fans):

            Taken November 12, 2009:

            And rear views, this is where the differences get REALLY obvious.

            Taken July 28, 2007 (that's the old 2nd crawler on the left):

            Taken July 1, 2009 (yep....2 years later, major difference is I'd just rebuilt the tank treads and underside):

            Taken February 2, 2010:

            Taken today, February 3, 2010, shows the addition of the final cast piece on the back:

            And the other new shots:

            The rear fans opened up - note the pipes and such glued to them that help (when they're shut) to disguise the fact that they open for wiring access:

            I forgot to add comparison shots of the computer itself. You'll see a general trend from really messy to really not messy:

            Taken May 17, 2007, still in the old 2nd crawler (with the posterboard mockup of the 3rd one on top, I had nowhere else to keep it):

            Taken June 9, 2007, same computer system, but now in the 3rd crawler:

            Taken June 25, 2007, zoomed out version of above photo:

            Taken May 9, 2009, still the base and treads from 2nd crawler, but much neater computer now:

            Taken October 23, 2009, this is what it looks like from the outside now:

            Taken January 8, 2010, I'm going to remove that paper funnel and turn the CPU fan around so it's not blowing hot air into the PSU...


            • #7
              project: Sandcrawler

              Last night it took a surprisingly long time, but I got the remaining large areas covered with posterboard. In a lot of ways I wish I'd thought to use thin sheet styrene instead, but in one way at least I like the posterboard - I can fold it over corners. Can't do that with styrene, and it really helps smooth out rough edges. As the following photos show (newly covered areas are the rear lower panel, the middle-most removable roof piece, and the raised ridge forming a horseshoe shape 'round the rear-most roof). Tonight's tasks include finally getting the dang hinges covered, and adding detail work to the areas I covered last night. And with that, I do believe the exterior will be done from a construction standpoint. Well, ok, there's a few things I want to try and add to the outside of the front loading door. THEN it'll be done.

              More updates - as of this morning it's FINALLY ready to paint. I'll probably have a few more pics this afternoon, I'm going home from work today at lunch to get the primer coat on. Then it'll be off to the model store to buy the paint(s) to use for the topcoat and detailwork.

              Covering the hinges:

              Worked on front loading door - needed to create these little diamond shaped thingies at the top of the door:

              I cut them out of a 1cm square poplar dowel:

              But I still needed to shave the backs down, the pieces were cut from 1 cubic cm blocks, so they're REALLY small, and at the suggestion of my girlfriend (after several attempts using a knife didn't work), I used my power sander. But how to hang on to these little parts? Stick them in some extra clay with the portion to be sanded away sticking up:

              After sanding (that's a little propane tank next to them):

              Got them glued on:

              Then discovered that in the mess on my table, I'd missed putting one on. This is of course AFTER the glue dried. No wonder it didn't look right! So I stripped them off:

              And re-made the piece of posterboard and glued them to that, then glued that whole piece back onto the door. Much better!

              Is it any wonder I lost stuff? So last night I was using tweezers to try and add a small piece to the back. It had glue on it, and of course I gripped the tweezers a little too hard, the piece shifted, then suddenly shot away, bounced off something, and disappeared. No joke, I spent 10 minutes looking for the stupid thing, and finally gave up. A couple minutes later, I brushed my hand on the back of my pant leg by chance, and voila! it was stuck to the back of my leg LOL....

              As of this morning, after all kit-bashing was done, much cleaner!

              Prior to working on the very back:

              Finished back:


              • #8
                project: Sandcrawler

                It occurred to me this morning it'd be a whole lot easier to paint and move this thing if the computer was removed from the base:

                And finally, some shots of the FINISHED construction, at least finished on the outside...

                And the first paint pics. Sadly this may be about as far as I get before the show - I only have tonight and tomorrow, and it's supposed to rain tomorrow... It's not nearly as "neon-ish" as it looks - the lighting was wonky and my camera decided to use the flash.


                • #9
                  project: Sandcrawler

                  Amazing...the progress I've made since December 17, 2009, when I first heard about the Exploratorium show that got me kicked into overdrive on this project:

                  Taken December 7, 2009:

                  Taken this morning, February 9, 2010:

                  It's still just the primer coat on, I'm hoping to do some airbrushing of the main coat tonight, despite the rain...

                  After yet another frenetic evening spent painting, I've gotten some of the airbrushing done. I airbrushed Model Master "Italian Dark Brown" over the red-brown primer, and didn't try to make it an even coat. I did this on purpose to allow the reddish undercoat to show through a bit.
                  I then airbrushed a thin flat black color for the dark streaks. What's left to do is airbrush the lighter colors - grays, maybe a little yellow, and then very light tan or sand. I may also use artist chalk powder for additional fading. Then it'll be on to some detail work with a brush, and then the outside is done. But for now, it's all packed up in the back of my truck so I can leave after work today and head out for the Rods 'n Mods show at the Exploratrium tomorrow...

                  My indoor setup. Had to do the painting at night, and the lighting was WAY better inside. Not to mention it was supposed to rain last night.

                  After I got the initial brown coat on there.

                  And after I finished with the black. I did do the base too (not pictured) although I'll need to pull the treads off later to paint them.

                  And this is what it looks like after the tape was removed from the cockpit and I painted the window frames up there:


                  • #10
                    project: Sandcrawler

                    My jam-packed truck interior (Dodge Dakota, so not overly huge):

                    This is a rare time that I wish I had an SUV....oh well. It fits. Barely. :P

                    My setup at Rods 'n Mods at the Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco, 2/11/10 through 2/13/10:

                    Me and my parents, I think I was showing them all the removable roof panels:

                    And finally, a bunch of our cases were shown on CNET, I didn't expect that sort of publicity!


                    • #11
                      project: Sandcrawler

                      I mentioned in my first post that this is the third one I've built. the first 2 looked terrible, I didn't have decent reference material, so when I finally did come across something better, I had to rebuild (the 2nd crawler was really the same as the first, just made of sturdier material).
                      Here's photos of all 3 for your comparing/contrasting pleasure (note that on the 2nd one, I didn't have any extra model parts to use...a problem remedied on the 3rd one hehehehe). R2D2 and the metal motherboard tray are the only 2 things present in all 3 models; although I did re-use the washer "wheels" and a few LEDs from the 2nd model on the 3rd). :

                      The first model. Finished in February 2001 I think. I had no real idea what I was doing, I just knew that I wanted a large Star Wars model that would function as a computer case as well. I was clueless on the modding community at the time.

                      The second model. Started in 2004, then didn't work on it at all for 2 years during a very bad relationship. Finished in August 2006. Still clueless on the modding community, although I had a slightly better idea what I was doing. This is the only one of the 3 to open like a car hood, I was going to do it on the 3rd one but it turned out the hinge attachment point was far too weak to hold its weight.

                      The 3rd model. Begun April 2007 and worked on sporadically since then. I discovered the modding community back in October 2009 when I needed help rewiring the LEDs, and it looks like I'm gonna keep right on moddin' long after this one is done. It's just too much fun! I'm reposting these couple pics here for ease of comparison...


                      • #12
                        project: Sandcrawler

                        the outer paint job is very nearly done now. I'm learning a huge amount from this paint job, I've never really been able to weather anything particularly well, and I'm learning things like painting a dark color under a lighter one to subtly darken the light color, and I'm learning that painting in a lot of layers of various colors and shades can create a much more interesting paint job. It'll be a couple days before I have time to finish it, but here's what I accomplished this weekend:

                        Dismantled the base so I could paint the treads, and decided to add a couple thick wood dowel pieces (same dowel I used to make the triangular things on the loading door) to the middle of the underside for added support. The middle has been sagging a bit due to the weight of the computer, and luckily where these dowels are located, you can't really see them when the model is upright. In one of the photos, the top of one tank tread set is a bit glossier than the others because I ran out of my gunmetal/flat black mix and had to mix in a large amount of semi-gloss black. It's ok though, that part of the tread really isn't visible, and I later oversprayed a light coat of gray anyway.

                        this is the upper side of the base, sans most of the computer. The wires you see are predominantly under the motherboard, but I decided to spray them all black anyway to match the rest of the inside. I also cut a strip out where the cords go in, so I no longer have to wrestle the plugs through that half-PVC pipe in the back. I can just lay the cords through the open strip, and since I angled the cut, they shouldn't really pop out on their own. This also means I can reattach a SCSI scanner I have, as before the plug was too big to fit through the pipe.

                        For the upper section, I masked off several random panels (based loosely on the film model) and painted them black. However, they came out way darker than I meant them to, so I oversprayed a thin coat of the dark brown to fade the panels back a bit. Worked pretty well.

                        I masked off the exterior bays so I could paint them gray (Model Master Dark Gull Gray with a little Flat White mixed in, then thinned for the airbrush), just like on the film model (although it's not very apparent when watching the movie). I haven't done any detail painting in the bays yet, but I will, then I'll dirty them up.

                        the paint job as it is now. I used the same gray from the bays to do the exterior streaks. they're a little too contrasting with the brown for my taste, so I may do a very light brown overcoat to fade them. then again, I'm planning on using chalk powder to simulate paint fading, and that might be enough. the rust marks are mostly done, I started with Model Master Go Mango (semi-gloss unfortunately, hence the slight sheen) and mixed in some Model Master Rust to darken it. I'm going to darken the remaining paint even more and add some darker areas to the rust spots, and I'll probably go back to the original Mango color to add a few highlights here and there. Then I need to do the silver paint chips, detail painting/weathering in the bays, then I can do the chalk for paint fading. Then the outside will be done. I hope.


                        • #13
                          project: Sandcrawler

                          power supply is done pending plug-in to make sure it still works right. I was all set to do it last night, but ran out of energy I'll probably hook the computer up to it tonight, turn it on, and make sure the PSU doesn't get too hot. I seriously doubt it will, but my case, as someone pointed out, is a bit of a fire waiting to happen. So without further ado, the pics (and yes, the wires look a bit messy. Nearly all of them will be under the motherboard when I put it back on, but I will probably at least make an attempt to straighten them up).

                          First off, the rear engine room whose floor I will be cutting a hole into so you can see the PSU that is now under it. you can see the 140mm fan through the existing hole...and I need to paint that sticker black:

                          And shots of the PSU (thermaltake toughpower 650W, had it for several years now):

                          I mounted the main power switch in a spot that should be relatively hidden yet still accessible I hope, through the hole in the floor. The idea is that I can flip the switch without having to pull off the top of the case. I'm not too worried if it isn't reachable, I won't be any worse off than before. And I mounted the modular plug board in a spot where the PCI-E cables can now run under the MB and still reach the video card, instead of running over the top of the MB like before. I'll mount the SSD HD under the motherboard toward the front of the case; previously it was where the PSU now sits.


                          • #14
                            project: Sandcrawler

                            bunch of rare, mostly on-set photos from Star Wars...I had to post this one, I laughed pretty hard at the caption:

                            EDIT -- it works! not that I had any serious doubts, but I've never taken apart a PSU before, so there's always that nagging "what if it explodes when I plug it back in" thought in the back of my mind...LOL Anyway, I'm typing from my own computer for the first time in what seems like a month and a half.

                            the motherboard is kind of sitting right on top of the modular power cords. Dangit...they were too tall by a millimeter or too oh well. I probably ought to make the motherboard riser a little taller. but not tonight.

                            The front end. A hint of the wiring hell that lies beneath the motherboard...

                            It looks like I'll be getting a water cooling setup too, more on that later (ie, when it actually arrives). My next task is to figure out exactly how to add in a large radiator, a reservoir, and a pump...since I didn't design my case for any of that. Still, it'll be a fun challenge and should result in a quieter machine.

                            Oh yeah, and I ordered and received a bag of powdered walnut shells

                            It's a 10 pound sack, way more than I need. But only $13 Helloooo sand. This is the same stuff they used in the Special Edition sandcrawler re-shoot....built a whole little environment on top of the ILM building for it to drive around on. For my purposes, this will be the covering of the base I will build at some point.


                            • #15
                              project: Sandcrawler

                              paint job's getting there. this paint effect is actually pretty subtle, the pics didn't come out all that well (night, flash washed everything out, no flash + yellow lights = weird colors), but they'll give you the idea. The initial rusting color was a mix of orange and rust, but mostly orange. It contrasted too much with the brown, so I added rust color around the edges of most of the orangey spots, then swiped with a paper towel to remove most of the rust paint to make the effect more subtle. The glossiness of the orange spots will be gone soon, I'm going to hit the whole thing with a final clear flat coat. Looks a lot better in person than in the photos:

                              no flash:

                              more pics coming this weekend, I'll make sure to take some in daylight, and standing back so you can see the effect from a few feet away, which is where it looks best.