Monday, February 21, 2011

How to Build an X-Wing

I was a little unsure whether to post this here, or to my more family centered blog ( But in the "about" area, I list this as my "whimsy" blog. If this project doesn't fit in "whimsy," I don't know what does. So, sandwiched in the middle of a bunch of dark shit about suicide, here is your "Lila Rose gets her first X-Wing Fighter" how to. Enjoy!

Oooooh, Star Wars... If they should bar wars... Give us those Star Wars... Don't let them end...

So, a while back, someone gave my daughter this goofy red hat. One day, she was sitting in her little chair that clips to the table, lookin' all adorable. And I noticed that the hat looked remarkably like a Rebel Alliance starfighter helmet. Well, for a baby hat it looks remarkably like it, anyway. OK, to a giant fucking nerd it looks remarkably like a Rebel Alliance helmet (for a baby hat).

And it got me to thinking: I should build my tiny daughter an X-Wing to call her own. It took a few weeks before I had time (thank you, Presidents' Day!).

But, with a three day weekend to burn, it was definitely time. You can follow along, with my easy to follow instructions. I make drawing fun!


1 extra large cardboard box (free)
4 cans of white spray paint ($3.96 total)
1 small can of red paint (I got a tester can at Home Depot for $2.98)
Foam paint brush ($0.69)
Box cutter
The Force (may it be with you, always)

1: Cut the end flaps off your box and set them aside.

Step 1: Cut Fuselage
2: Mark out the center strip of your fuselage (about 10" wide). Then mark out two flanges for the sides, at about a 22* angle and cut your fuselage out of the main box.

2a: Using your knife, score the inside fold line lightly to make folding easier.

 I should pause at this juncture and say that this process was entirely experimental. I went into it a) knowing what an X-Wing looks like, and b) with a lot of time on my hands. It's probable that someone with a little more technical skill would have done this with more forethought, but screw you. Also, I needed to fill a little text space to make the formatting not look so crappy with the pictures. I have now accomplished that. You may continue.

3: Using the piece left over from your outer edge cut as a pattern/template to cut the additional three wings from the remaining box. Now, you've got your fuselage and four wings.

Step 3: Cut them wings!
 **Star Wars riddle: What's got a light side, a dark side, and holds the galaxy together? That's right, duct tape. Get some. I know, I should have included it in the Materials section. Bite me. If you've started this project without reading at least this far and now have to drive to the store to buy duct tape, it serves your right.**

Luke, I am your father, eh. Give in to the dark side of the Force, you knob!
3a: Line the front (angled) edge of each wing with duct tape. This will cover up any messy cardboard, and also give you an excuse to use duct tape. Who doesn't love to use duct tape?
Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'...

4: Now it's time to make our engines. Remember those end flaps we cut off? Hope you didn't throw them away yet. Grab the long ones. Roll them tightly (like a poster) so that the cardboard loses stiffness. Once the cardboard is nice and pliable, tape the two ends together to form hollow tubes.

4a: Use the small end flaps and cut four pieces for the inserts. Tape these to the ends of your engine tubes.

Voila, engines. Perfect for interstellar transit

5: Now it's time for the blasters. First, start the base by rolling two of your remaining end flaps, then cutting them in half.

Great for blasting Womp Rats
5a: Cut pieces about 8" wide by 2' long. Roll each piece tightly till it forms a tight tube. This will be the barrel of your blaster cannon.

5b: Wrap the flap pieces around the end of your long tube and secure with duct tape.

5c: Cut four small, thin strips and wrap them around the cannon barrel about 3" from the opposite end. Then cover the muzzle end with duct tape to hide that ugly cardboard. It should look like this.

6: Ok, now it's time for the assembly to begin! First, let's get the point at the tip of our fuselage. Cut a wedge on each side of the tip about 3" wide, tapering down to a point about 10" up. It'll look like this:

The W is for "What the hell am I doing?"
7: Next, cut a new piece the length of your fuselage, and slightly narrower than the top center strip.

7a: Cut the end of this piece so that it tapers at the same rate as the top center strip.

7b: Cut narrow strips out of this piece, the same width as a piece of duct tape. Cut them on both sides, about 8" up and 18" up. Feed 8" strips of duct tape through these holes, wrap around, and secure the tape to itself. You should have about 6" left with sticky side facing in.

7c: Now, bend the pieces of the fuselage together, so that they form the point at the end. Use the remaining strips of tape to secure the bottom to the top. Then use duct tape to close the gaps and secure the end. Use additional strips of duct tape to cover the joints.

Not a Womp Rat
**Now is where the process starts to depend on your application. For me, the X-Wing is designed for my daughter, and I'm making it so it'll fit over her little frog jumper thing. Maybe you wanna wear it for halloween or it's for your larger kid. So you'll have to figure out the appropriate size/shape of step 8 for yourself.**

Now the next thing I need to do is figure out the cutouts to make it fit the frog. On an X-Wing, the wings secure almost immediately behind the pilot and droid navigator. So you wanna leave just enough space behind for the wings to comfortably attach.

8: So I set my frame over the support, and guestimated where the baby will come through. Then, I marked the sides where I needed to make my cutouts. I also cut the bottom off where the cutouts start. Here's what it looks like set over the frog.

Don't worry, it gets a lot less stupid looking later.

See the slits I fed the tape through?
9: Using the remaining length of the bottom piece, cut your tape cutouts, and wrap your tape through. Secure to the top starting at the back end of the cutouts. Where it reaches the end of your frame, cut in from the sides about 2".

9a: Bend at the cut, and fold to cover the back. You should have 2 tape slots on each side. Put tape through, and secure to cover the back of your frame. Cut off any excess.

10: Cover your seams with duct tape all the way along the bottom and back edges. This will make sure your X-Wing has a nice, even finish when we paint, and help keep it secured. Here's what it looks like on the bottom now:

11: Now for the wings. To make them fit securely, we first need to cut a piece from the body-end of each. Make sure they're all exactly the same by using the cutout piece from the first as your pattern. The flange should be longer than the width of your X-Wing's body by about 4-6" (more on why later). Here's what all four should look like when you're done:

You are the wind beneath my... Wait, no wind in space. D'oh.
11b: Now comes the tricky part. I'm sure someone from Ikea could figure out another way to do this, but I'm not so mechanically/spatially talented. So here's what I did. First, cut an upper slot on side A (A1), then a lower slot on side B (B2), each just wide just enough to fit the wing flanges through (doesn't matter which side is which, so long as they're opposite sides. Name 'em Luke and Leia for all I care).

Interior shot of the wings
11c: Next, Cut the lower slot in side A (A2) and the upper slot in side B (B1) by cutting from the back of your cutouts. Your first set of slots (11b) should be closed, and the second set (11c) should be open, all of them ending the same distance from the back of your X-Wing.

12: Time to start assembly of the wings. First, feed wings 1 and 2 diagonally through A1 and B2 (no, you didn't miss me assigning numbers to the wings earlier, this is just another random naming). The wings should overlap on each side, with about 4-6" of butt-end extending through the opposite slot.

12a: Next, slide wings 3 and 4 down through A2 and B1. Where they touch the first set, mark both sets.

12b: Remove wings 3 and 4. Using a craft knife/box cutter, cut tabs out of wings 3 and 4. Cut matching tabs from wings 1 and 2 where you marked them. You'll have to guess as you go, but be careful. If you cut too much, your wings won't line up. Keep cutting a little at a time until the four wings slide together and all are on a level plane.

OK, now it's time for painting. If you're like me and you have a fetish for spray paint, then you should use spray paint. However, it would have been a lot easier to just buy a small can of house paint or tempera. Again, if you went an bought supplies without reading the fucking instructions, not my fault. If you didn't, I'd buy white paint, and paint everything with a paintbrush. Quicker, easier, cleaner. You'll probably need a pint of white paint, instead of four cans of spray paint. But, if you're like me and you keep choosing spray paint for no apparent reason, then...

13: Set yourself up with a drop cloth, and spray paint the shit outa that fucker.

I wonder what this looks like to my neighbors. Certainly not like a fitting activity for a grown man...

Now, one way or another your pieces are ready to go and painted white, so it's time to add your X-Wing colors. First things first, you wanna mark the wings. I recommend using ST, SB, PT, PB (Starboard and Port, top and bottom), to keep your wings straight. It's important for the blaster cannons and your detail work.

14: Once you've got everything marked and separated, add your red paint. If you google image search X-Wing, you'll come up with about 15 different paint schemes. I chose a slightly personalized version of the classic from Episode IV. You should do whatever makes you happy. Remember to paint all four wings on their top side, though. I also added some red to the blaster cannons and engines, just for good measure. Here's my stuff all painted and drying:


15: While you're waiting for paint to dry, it's time to get your astromech navigator together. I personally went with the classic R2 unit. Very devoted, but a bit headstrong. First you need to print up a pic of the little guy. Don't try to paint him, it'll just look stupid.

15a: Once you've got R2's head and upper body printed (should fill about 1/2 sheet of paper), cut him out and glue him to a piece of cardboard.

15b: Leaving about 6" of blank cardboard below him, cut the remaining cardboard so it's just a little droid.

15c: Then cut two flaps from the cardboard at the base, running from the bottom to where R2 starts. Should look like the pic on the right.

15d: Cut slots in the X-Wing body behind your pilot hole to match R2's 3 strips (middle and edges). Feed those three through, leaving the two flaps outside and bent back. Tape these down. Now your R2 is nice and sturdy, and won't flop over on you.

***Interlude. It occurs to me that I never told you to cut a hole for the pilot. It doesn't really matter when you do this. But at some point, cut the hole through which your fighter pilot's head will emerge. If you can't figure out where/how to do that, I'm not going to help you.***

16: Still with me? Good. Grand. Great. Wonderful. NO YELLING ON THE BUS!!! Now your paint should be pretty dry. So it's time to attach the blaster cannons. First, cut two small slots in the end of each wing. These should be the same type as you cut in step 7b. They should be slightly closer together than the fat end of your cannon is wide.

Tape slots at ends of your wings

16a: Now, feed a long strip of tape through. Remember, the cannons are on the OUTSIDE of each wing, so the bottom wings they're below, and the top wings they're above.

16b: Put the cannons in place, wrap the tape tightly, cut off any extra. Now it's on to...

17: The engines. We're almost done. First, I don't like ugly edges, so wrap the front end of the engines with duct tape to cover the cardboard.

17b: Now cut one skinny slot on each (opposite) side of each engine. Start from the back of the engine, and cut to about 3/4 of the full length. You want to position these so that they're NOT in the center of the engine. X-Wing engines are also on the outside of each wing. That's not fully feasible here because of our construction model, but you should cut them at about 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock (you know, where your hands are supposed to be on the steering wheel, ass clown). That way, the engines will be mostly outside the wings.

This was a first run. The slots should extend almost all the way to the other edge to be flush with the wings.

18: Congratulations, you've made it. Now, just assemble the full deal. Insert the wings into the body. Next, slide the engines over the wings. And here's what it should look like...
Oooooooooh, SNAP!

Now it's time to get the kid in her sick new ride.

As you can see in this video, the weight of the blaster cannons is a little too much for the cardboard wings. If you're making something that needs to have structural integrity, I'd probably grab some 1/4" dowels and feed them through to support your wings. But for now, I'm happy just holding and taking pictures. In the end, this wasn't really for her to play in, it's for me to satisfy some giant nerd idea that I got from a stupid hat. And satisfy myself I did. Here are some pictures from the nerdfest.

Lila = Happy. Miles = Not so much

Warning: What follows next is a complete nerdout. If you have made it this far, you are clearly either a fucking nerd like me, or somehow related to me, or have a sense of morbid curiousity. From here out, it's all pictures of the cutest little girl ever to pilot an X-Wing (ok, cutest little girl ever). View them if you will, but do so at your own risk.

Red leader, this is Red 5, I'm going in!

I'm making my run...

I've got one on my tail!

I can't shake him!

Yahoo! You're all clear, kid! (I didn't make the Millenium Falcon yet, so this'll have to do)
 Use the Force, Lila...
Trust your feelings!
It's away!
Great shot, Kid! That was one in a million!
Yes, I know she's not in her X-Wing in the last picture. This one was taken the day I realized it looked like a Rebel Alliance helmet. Plus, look at that face! I didn't get any shots that said, "Daddy, I just blew up the Death Star" quite as well as this one does. So I used it. Booyah!


muneca6575 said...

these are a. things that you're children will tell their friends about for years to come and b. things you can do only when you rent a home. when you own a home your children just watch you fix crap on three day weekends, and every other weekend for that matter.
Im so happy that these children have you for their papa Evan. it makes my heart smile to know all of the time, and love and joy they get from you being you.

Cole said...

This is way better then when my dad used cardboard and tape to make me a 2% milk Halloween costume.

Jim Smith II said...


Moira said...

Brilliant Evan! Loved how Lila's wee head poked out while you were putting it on!!

glasseye said...

You get the dad-of-the-year award. Or nerd-of-the-year ... both mean that you, my friend, are the shizzle.

Dave Osolnick said...

That is the funniest/coolest thing i have seen in a while. You're nerd remains strong sir. good job!

rb said...

Thank you very much for this post.
This morning my son wake up with a strange idea... "Dad, can you make me a spacecraft like hte one of Star Wars...?" He is 4 years old and yes, we saw Star Wars a month ago.
"Well, er... sure... mmm... why not? (panic)".
Google. Google save me.
Google found your post, and today I build a fantastic X-Wing (smaller than yours) and my son's Happyness was rellay great!
Thanks again, great work!
RB from Italy

Anonymous said...

How fun! I'm been looking around on the internet because I am making an X-wing covering for a stroller. Thanks for sharing, this works for whimsy for sure!

julie said...

Thanks for the great post! I used a lot of your technique to make this one with my six-year-old:

I gave you credit, of course ;)

Thanks again!