What did you do in the Summer of '99?

Sometime near the beginning of summer in 1999 I was mysteriously inspired to dig up my old LEGO blocks from my parents' house. It was also around that time that the country was swept with Star Wars: Episode I fever; and though the movie was a disappointment, it did get me thinking, 'how hard would it be to construct a model of R2D2 out of LEGO blocks?' Not a miniature model, mind you, but a life-sized model. Well, hmmm... my summer was relatively free, I had a lot of extra space in my new home, and hell, why not give people one more reason to think I'm a little whacky.

Thus began my project of LEGO-R2D2 construction. I was quickly swept into the plethora of websites, newsgroups, and miscellaneous information about the plastic bricks that resides on the World Wide Web. I also quickly learned that The Lego Comapny does not sell individual bricks in bulk quantities. This, of course, meant that I had to prepare myself to buy a lot of extra bricks mainly for the white, blue, and black ones.

Gray bricks also posed a problem as they did not come in the standard 'Blue Tub' that was avialable at my local Wal-Marts, K-Marts, and Toy-R-Us'. Fortunately I was told about the Lego Shop At Home catalogue which does sell small groups of specific color bricks, though at a higher per-brick cost... and they sold gray bricks.

With the outlook good that I'd be able to actually obtain all the need bricks at some cost, I started building the legs of the droid.

Then the center foot.

Then I started on the center torso.

Not actually owning any of the Star Wars films, I had no good pictures of the robot. A quick trip to the local bookstore with my digital camera helped as they had a cardboard model of R2D2 set up for promotional reasons. While there, I also sneaked a few pictures of pages from various Star Wars books that abound in the film section ('The Robots of Star Wars' and the like).

About halfway through the torso, I realized my initial plans of making this droid rollable might be difficult as it was evidently it was gonna top out at over 20 pounds. He was also supposed to be adjustable to two positions: the 2-legged upright and the 3-foot tilted (mobile) stance. This, too, was becoming more and more unlikely.

With the number of Blue Tubs of LEGO bricks piling up in my house (20 and counting... plus some Purple Buckets), I was finally nearing the end.

I ordered some specific pieces from a guy in Kansas. I won a small auction of LEGO blocks off eBay, I got some from Canada, and I kept Shop At Home happy with a new order every week or so.

By the end of August I received what I hoped to be my last order (the LEGO expenditure for the last couple months had already topped $750.00). When it arrived, I completed the hemispherical dome that is the droid's head.

The trickiest part was then assembling the blasted 'bot. As I had tried to make the legs movable, the connections between the limbs and the torso were single-point axles... and maneuvering a very heavy torso into position proved amazingly difficult.

But I prevailed, and as you can see, the model balances rather nicely. At almost three feet tall (that's a yardstick nearby in the first picture), he's quite a model indeed. I have not completely given up on finishing the 'three-foot' position (that center foot just needs to be fastened and positioned very carefully). That may happen. Of more immediate concern is what my next LEGO project will be... something that will put a dent in my 20,000+ brick surplus -- mostly yellow and red blocks (C-3PO maybe?... not a chance).

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