Building Your Own Star Wars R2-D2 Model with Magnetic Balls

This little magnetic-ball R2-D2 also comes with a working zapping arm!
Christopher McFadden

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Like Star Wars? Like magnets? Then, this awesome R2-D2 magnetic model is everything you've ever wished for!

Not only does it look great, but this model even has a working little zapping arm -- just like the "real" R2-D2! What's not to like?

magnetic r2d2 complete
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

But first, as you might imagine, you'll need some stuff first.

Materials and gear needed

Optional -- for zapper arm

With all your tools and materials in hand, it is now time to get on with this magnet monster. 

Setup 1: Build the core of the model

The first step is to make some double-layer squares of black spherical magnets. Each square will need to be 12 high by 12 wide and 2-magnetic balls-deep. 

Make six of these double-layer squares, and stack them all together into one large block of black magnetic balls 12 wide by 12 tall by 12 deep. 

magnetic r2d2 stack
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

With that done, make a second cube to exactly the same dimensions. Take the two cubes and connect them both together to make a large cuboid of the black magnetic sphere. 

With that done, make a long cuboid of black magnetic balls quarter of the width and depth of the main stack. Attack these to one side of the main stack, and then trim off a layer 4 magnetic balls deep. Rinse and repeat to make another strip of black magnetic balls and attach this to the main stack.

The stack should now have the same height, but should now be 14 magnetic balls wide and 12 magnetic balls deep.

magnetic r2d2 main stack
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

With that done, progressively cut away at the corners of the stack to turn the stack into a roughly cylindrical shape. To make this as easy as possible, you might want to consider using a pair of hard plastic sheets. 

magnetic r2d2 cylinder
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

Step 2: Make the outer details of R2-D2's body

Now, with the main core of the model more or less done, we can start making it look more like R2. Grab a pile of silver and white magnetic balls. 

Using these make two single-sphere veneer detail panels and add them to the widest two sides of R2's body. Each one will need to be the same dimensions as one of the larger faces of the side of the cylinder. 

magnetic r2d2 outer panels
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

Rinse and repeat to make another magnet veneer, and add it to the reverse side of the cylinder. Once done, add some strings of magnetic balls to bulk out the body to the sides of each panel.

Next, make some other strings of magnetic balls, but this time add in some dark blue balls. 

magnetic r2d2 beading
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

For the thinner edges of the cylinder body, make some more veneer panels to mimic the design of R2-D2's blue, white and silver edges. Once complete, place these into position on the faces of the cylinder. 

magnetic r2d2 smaller faces
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

With that done, make some silver rings of balls, and add these into place on the front panel of R2-D2 as shown below. 

magnetic r2d2 front rings
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

Make the final face for the rear of R2-D2 as needed. With that done, add a small silver disc of balls, and add to the bottom of the rear panel.

Step 3: Making R2's legs and head

With R2-D2's body now basically complete, we can move on to making so more details. Let's start with R2's legs. Take a variety of silver, blue, and white magnetic balls and assemble the legs as needed. 

Ensure the main leg struts are to the right dimensions to match the main body and try, as best you can, to mimic the design of the "real" R2-D2. Also, ensure that both struts are the same design.

magnetic r2d2 head
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

Next, take some more white and silver balls. With the fashion a pair of feet to match the leg struts. 

With that done, we can now move on to making R2-D2's head. Start with a basic cube of silver balls, and chip away small chunks of magnetic balls using a piece of thick plastic to shape the cube into a roughly hemispherical shape. 

Once complete, begin to add details to the head like R2-D2's iconic main lens, and other details using dark and light blue balls. 

With that done, Make the third foot to the same dimensions as those for the main legs. This will form the main central body foot for R2-D2's body.

magnetic r2d2 main parts
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

Step 4: Begin the final assembly

At this point, all the main components of R2-D2 should now be complete. So, now we can begin the final assembly of the main elements of R2's body.

Starting with the main central body foot, place this into position and connect it to the main cylinder or R2-D2's body. With that done, take the leg struts and feet, and assembly them as needed. 

Stick these to either wide of R2-D2's body as needed. 

magnetic r2d2 finish legs
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

With that complete, lift the model vertically, and stand it on its feet. Next, take the head and mount it into position on the top of R2-D2's body. 

magnetic r2d2 head mount
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

With that complete, make a pair of silver discs to make the large mounting bolts for each of R2-D2's arms. Mount these into position on the legs as required. 

magnetic r2d2 leg bolts
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

With that, the basic model of R2-D2 is now complete. You can either finish the build here or move on to adding one final detail.

Optional step 5: Add the zapping arm

If you have decided to add the R2-D2's zapping arm in the model, then you'll need some more materials. In this case, take a pair of wires and thread them through the full width of R2-D2's body on the right-hand side. 

magnetic r2d2 zapping arm wires
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

Ensure you leave a small length of the wire exposed at the front of the body. With that done, add a pair of small nails to each wire, and seal them in place using some white insulation tape to make a pair of electrodes.   

 With that done, take a battery holder, some AA batteries, and a microswitch, and wire them all up with the other end of the zapper wires from R2-D2's body. When you press the button, a small arc of electricity should jump between the nails. 

If not, adjust the distance of the nails accordingly until the right distance is met. 

magnetic r2d2 spark
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

And with that, your magnetic R2-D2 model is now complete. Now, you can impress your friends and family with your newfound magnetic-model-making skills.

Just ensure you don't accidentally electrocute anyone!

If you enjoyed this quick build, you might enjoy creating another magnetic-sphere-based model. How about, for example, making a complete Empire State Building

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