Skywalker Crystal Reveal Graflex Lightsaber Build: COMPLETE

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Bobdor

New Member
Part 1: Planning

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For this project I am going to attempt to make a replica of the Skywalker Lightsaber. There are several variations on the design depicted in the numerous Star Wars movies. The version I am intending on replicating in the one from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The reason I chose this model is, in my opinion, it combines the best features of original A New Hope prop, and the more detailed The Empire Strikes Back Prop.

This is a project that I am back posting a little. I actually started it back in 2016, and have finally gotten around to putting the finishing touches on it recently. I am going to try not to break it into too many posts, but a lot went into the almost 4-years it took to complete.

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The project started when I had the chance to get my hands on a Korbanth/Parks Graflex 2.0 chassis. This is by no means the most accurate Graflex flash replica, but it will serve well enough. I plan on making a bunch of small modifications along the way to make everything a bit closer to screen accurate.

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The first thing I did when the chassis arrived was completely disassemble it and take a bunch of measurements. I used those measurement to make a 3D model in SketchUp. I tried to be as accurate as possible so I knew how much space I had to work with when designing the internal components. For this project I will be making a full display internal chassis with crystal chamber.

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The Graflex 2.0 chassis comes with a rather large “emitter” or blade holder that takes up almost half of the body. It is also 7/8” diameter. In its place I will be using a much nicer 1” bore blade socket adapter from The Graflex Shop. (Note: at the time of my posting this, the blade socket adapter I used has been discontinued and replaced with a newer version.)

The internal chassis is going to be broken down into a few key subassemblies held in place by long 4-40 threaded rods running the length of the saber. From front to back will be the emitter assembly with LED electronics, activation switches, rumble motor, and speaker. Next will be the LED lit crystal chamber. Followed by the battery and controller board. And finally, the charging port.

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Here is the fully exploded emitter assembly. It will be made from machined aluminum disks, brass and aluminum tube stock of various diameters, and 3D printed parts. The rumble motor and speaker will be housed inside the 3D printed parts directly behind the LED emitter. In an attempt to keep everything small, I will be using a 10mm ruble motor and a 20mm speaker.

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To activate the light saber I purchased a plunger style replica Graflex button. The goal is to fashion something that allows the button plunger to actuate a small Surface mount momentary contact switch on the emitter assembly. On the other side of the saber, I will be using the “glass eye” thumb screw as a blade retainer.

Next I will be finishing the 3D model and attempting to start fabricating the first parts.

Thanks for looking!
 
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Bobdor

New Member
Part 2: More Planning

Here, I am going to go over the two remaining sub-assemblies. The crystal chamber and the electronics assembly. Once everything is modeled, I am going to start prototyping and fabricating some of the smaller components.

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Here is the fully exploded crystal chamber. If you search the internet, you will find tons of independent hobbyists and companies making their own versions of the working internals of a prop lightsaber. For this build, I wanted something that was unique to my personal saber and not an off the shelf build. To make my chamber, I started by combining my favorite aspects from all the various examples I could find. However, I tried to keep in simple enough to stay within my skill level and the tools available to me. Like the emitter, this will be made of various sizes of brass and aluminum rod and tube stock. The chassis disks will be cut from aluminum and all the chamber disks will be cut from brass. For the crystals, I am going to use some small, approximately 10x30mm, quartz points that will be held in place by brass plumbing fittings. Everything will be illuminated by a small surface mount RGB LED.

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The sound, lights, and motion are controlled by a Naigon Igniter 2 soundboard, which is powered by a rechargeable 18650 lithium-ion battery. Luckily, the battery and board are small enough to be stacked on top of each other and placed side by side in the hilt saving a ton of room. The battery itself is housed inside an aluminum tube with standard off the shelf battery contacts on each end. This way, the battery can be replaced in the future if ever necessary.

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With all the design aspects out of the way, it is time to start building the lightsaber. The first thing I did was 3D print a prototype set of the chamber disks. These are probably the most complicated part of the whole project. I couldn’t wait to see what they looked like in real life.

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They are definitely a little bit smaller and more intricate than I expected.

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I also took the opportunity to order prototype chassis disks from Ponoko. If you don’t know, Ponoko is a laser cutting service. I redrew all the chassis disks in Adobe Illustrator in 2D, sent them the vector file, and about a week later I had two full sets of disks precision cut from black acrylic to begin prototype assembly.

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Next, it was time to start making all the little tiny sections of brass and aluminum tubing. These need to be perfect. There are so many used throughout the project that even little inconsistencies will start to add up to big problems. I originally though the best method for making the tube section was going to be using this micro table saw sold by Harbor Freight. That turned out to be either discontinued or completely impossible to find. Next, I tried to make a little DIY chop saw from Dremel and some plans that I found on Thingiverse. That however, ended up making so VERY poor and crooked cuts. In the end I chose to do it the old fashion way. I purchased one of my new favorite tools, a jewelers saw, and cut each piece by hand.

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Each piece was cut ever so slightly oversized by about 0.1 – 0.2mm, and were then filed and sanded to their final exact dimensions.

With the tubes all cut and a set of prototype disks/spacers in hand, all that is left to do is 3D print a hand full of parts like the battery tube caps, speaker holder, soundboard tray, etc… Then, I can do an initial assembly and dry fit in the Graflex body.
 
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Pedro

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Very cool! First time I've seen someone here use Ponoko, I've been considering them for various projects for a while. Looking forward to seeing how this pans out!
 

Bobdor

New Member
Part 3: Test Assembly

With all the planning complete, it is time to start on initial part fabrication and a test assembly of the chassis. For this test fitting, I am going to be using a combination of 3D printed and laser cut placeholder parts, and aluminum and brass components that will be used in the final assembly. I really just want to see what everything will look like assembled and make sure it actually fits inside the Graflex chassis.

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I started assembly by working from the emitter end. I 3D printed the rumble motor and speaker holder using black PLA. To make it look a little more presentable, I wrapped some of the flat surfaces in aluminum tape to give them a metal look. Personally, I think these look really bad. For the final version, I will either try printing these pieces using my resin printer, or print again in PLA using higher settings and sand/paint the parts. However, I am happy with the overall fit, and the look of the aluminum tube stock.

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The temporary laser cut acrylic chassis disks are working great. The holes are a hair larger than I had spec’d out. This is because the laser cut ON the line instead of INSIDE the line, burning away a little bit of material. However, everything is well within 0.1mm probably closer to 0.05mm. It does make everything slide together a little easier though.

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The next thing I printer were these coil pieces. They are indented to resemble the look of motor’s stator windings. I think they give a real electromechanical look to the whole saber. Instead of using the stators from a real motor, I made these from scratch so that they are the exact dimensions that I want. I printed the cores from black PLA, and used 0.5mm copper wire for the windings. You may notice some of the windings are missing. This is to give room for wires to pass through later on the final build. In the center of each stator is a plumbing faucet valve seat, which will be used to hold the saber “kyber”crystal in the future.

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I apologize. I know this looks like a big jump in progress, but I was so carried away with assembling all the small brass and aluminum tube sections that I didn’t think to take any pictures. It was really easy to assemble too. Everything sits on 3 long 4-40 threaded steel rods, so it was just like string beads, basically stacking up parts on order. The whole process only took a few minutes. Everything is literally starting to come together. The complete prototype assembly looks exactly like my 3D model. The only discrepancy is the acrylic disks are ever so slightly thicker than the aluminum and brass stock that the final pieces will be made from. To mitigate this, I sanded each disk down a bit to reduce their thickness. They are close, but the completed prototype assembly is about 1.5mm longer than the final assembly will be.

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Here is a close up of the star of the build, the crystal chamber assembly. The bright yellow 3D printer parts will be replaced with hand machined brass parts on the final build.

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This is a close up of the electronics assembly. The large diameter aluminum tube will house the lithium ion battery, and the black 3D printed end cap will contain all the charging circuitry. The flat area resting against my palm is where the control board will eventually live.

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Last, here is a picture of the chassis installed in the top half on the Graflex chassis. This is more or less how the saber will look when you remove the bottom to reveal the crystal chamber. You can also get a better view here of the flat control board area.

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I also took this opportunity with everything assembled to put some of the finishing touches on the Graflex chassis. The Korbanth/Parks Graflex 2.0 kit came with a set of adhesive backed fins for the hilt. The screws (which are rivets on the screen used prop) are purely cosmetic. Unfortunately, they are about 3/16” too long and actually protrude into the chassis itself so I had to shorten them. To do this, I used the threaded screw cutter feature on my wire strippers. A lot of people don’t even know this feature exists, but it cuts screws and threaded rods flawlessly. Simply thread the screw into the cutter at the length you want it cut.

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Snip the screw like you are using a pair of scissors.

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Here are the shortened fins, which now clear the inside of the Graflex body and won’t interfere with the chassis.

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The next thing I did was purchase a 1” x 1.5” Blade Plug from KR Sabers - Custom Illuminated Lightsabers UK - KR Sabers. I purchased this back in 2016 off their Etsy store. It was a great price, and great craftsmanship. I did have one small problem though. The tolerances of everything was too tight. The blade plug was exactly 1.000” diameter when measured with my calipers, and the blade holder was 1.002” – 0.998” depending on how you measured it. It is really hard to fit a 1” peg into a 1” hole. To fix the fitment, I just chucked the blade plug into my drill shaved off a few thousandths of material with some fine sand paper and polished up the new surface.

Now that I know everything fits, the next order of business is to get rid of all these temporary placeholder pieces and start machining parts out of metal.
 

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Bobdor

New Member
Very cool! First time I've seen someone here use Ponoko, I've been considering them for various projects for a while. Looking forward to seeing how this pans out!

Thanks!

Ponoko is an alright service. They are pretty fair with their pricing too. Not cheap, but I wouldn't consider it expensive. Most projects I have used them for run under $50. The cost is all about Material, Panel Size, and Setup time. So the idea is fill the panel because the actual cutting costs almost nothing. You may notice in my example I have two full sets of chassis disk parts because the difference between 1 set and 2 sets was like a dollar.
You can cut a single 1" diameter circle on a 12"x12"x1/8 acrylic panel and it may cost you $25, or you can cut 200 tokens for a table top game out of the same 12x12 panel and it may only cost you $28.
 

Pedro

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Oh man, I vaguely remember, probably incorrectly, that they charged by the cut length. Might have been the water jet place. Funny how we sometimes agonize over a $200 kit, but I’ll drop 40 on materials or tools in a Manhattan, Kansas minute hah!

Anyway, this is a cool project, let’s see some more progress! :)
 

Bobdor

New Member
Part 4: Fabrication

In this part I am going to focus on the fabrication of all the metal chassis disk components to replace all the temporary laser cut acrylic and 3D printed parts.

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The first order of business was trying to figure out how to cut even/consistent circles out of aluminum and brass. To do this I picked up a machining tool called an adjustable circle cutter. Basically, it spins a cutting tool on the end of an adjustable arm and slowly bores a hole through sheet metal. The version I bought cut 7/8” to 4” holes, and it works with drill presses at low RPM so it is perfect for my application. Before I started messing up my good sheet metal, I did a bunch of test cuts on some scrap plywood.

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The material I will be using was ordered from OnlineMetals.com. They are 12” x 12” sheets of 0.05” (16 gauge). The aluminum is simple 5052-H32. The brass is 260 Cartridge Brass which crazy hard by comparison, but should cut clean.

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This is the result of the circle cutter. It is hard to see in this picture but the edge is a little rough. Overall, not bad. My drill press is admittedly terrible, and the circle cutter is not the most gentle of tools. I was able to achieve decent cuts by running at 370 RPM with a ton of cutting fluid. I cut the disk about 0.75mm oversize in radius so I can clean it up by hand later and hone it to final dimensions. I should also note that the cutter leaves a very big burr on the edge of the disk in the form of a raised lip. This was taken care of by a quick pass with some sand paper.

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To hone the disks down to their final dimension I 3D printed myself this little jig. It sandwiches the part between two 3D printed cylinders that are the exact final diameter of the disk. I chucked the jig into my drill press on a low speed and just started carefully running small hand files along the edge slowly removing material until I hit the final dimension. The above image shows a very small file. I used those towards the end when I had only a few thousandths of material to remove. For the majority of the work I used a large 1” single cut hand file.

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Here you can see my final measurements. The dimensions I was shooting for was 1-3/8” or 34.925mm.

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Happy with the results of my process it was time to move on to making the rest of the disks. There are 17 disks in total, in 3 different diameters. Here is the first set of disks all nice and cleaned of cutting oil and metal chips. You can really see the raised lip I was talking about earlier.

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To get all the holes in the disks I again resorted to 3D printed jigs. This time I printed a set of disks, but 5/8” thick. This allowed me to use the jig as a drill guide. I simply clamped the 3D printed jig to the metal disk, and carefully use a hand drill to follow each hole.

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Here is a nice picture of a completed disk sanded up to 2400 grit paper and polished with 000 steel wool.

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For some of the more irregular shaped piece I had to get more creative with my use of jigs.

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These ended up being the hardest pieces to make, but were the most rewarding. I think they look real cool as well.

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The brass crystal chamber disks were surprisingly easy to make from a skill standpoint. However, they were literally harder than the aluminum disks. A lot more time and elbow grease went into them. To keep all the parts symmetrical, I worked on all 5 at the same time. I used two 1/16” drill bits to keep everything perfectly aligned. I would not recommend doing this though. I definitely stabbed myself while filing.

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Here are the brass disks all completed. They are way heavier than I thought they would be in my head.

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Here are some final glamour shots of the completed disks. I couldn’t have asked for better results.

Now it is time to start fitting all these parts together.

Thanks for looking!
 
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ScourgiousJinx

Well-Known Member
Love what you're doing here, looking forward to more progress. Good advice about Ponoko. Used them a few times for aluminum and plastic projects, they're dependable and do great work.
 

Bobdor

New Member
Part 5: Cleanup

This project is heading towards the home stretch. Here I am going to finish fabricating some of the final pieces, then get everything assembled for a test fit.

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In order to light up the crystal chamber, I am going to need to fit a small LED under the quartz “kyber” crystal. To do this a friend of mine, Kevin over at kevinrye.net, helped layout a small circuit board just big enough for a 5mm surface mount RGB LED. The specific model LED I used was a 5060BRG4 which I picked up from sparkfun.com. The board was ordered from OSH Park using their new “After Dark” format. This LED will be wired in parallel with the main blade LED so the chamber glows whatever color I make the saber.

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I needed a way to hold the crystals in the brass faucet seats. I didn’t want to use glue because I really like the idea of mechanical connections. My solution was to tap a small 4-40 threaded hole in the side of the seat and secure the crystal with a grub screw.

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I did the same fastening method for the larger lower crystal.

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I noticed during my first demo assembly that the screw by the top auxiliary button was having a hard time engaging with the emitter assembly. The metal is real thin there and it only catches with a thread or 2. Basically, if the screw is too long, it will protrude into the emitter and scrape against the blade. If the screw is too short, it won’t engage. To fix this, I just heat pressed a brass nut into the button assembly to give the shortened screw something to grab.

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The last thing to do was to make the cover for the controller board. I wanted this to be brass. Instead of trying to form some sheet metal into a rounded cover, I instead cut a section from a chrome drain fitting. These are just plated brass and it was almost the perfect diameter. You will see the finished cover in later shorts.

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I apologize for the big jump ahead. But, here is nearly everything assembled. The reason I didn’t take any in progress pictures is because everything did NOT go smoothly. The problem was tolerances. I basically made everything too tight. The laser cut demo pieces went together great because they have two things going for them. First, they are perfectly cut, and second, the holes are just ever so slightly oversized because the laser has a kerf to it. To get all of my hand cut pieces fit I had to hone each hole carefully with a small round file to get everything to line up perfectly.

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Here is a much better view with the Graflex body on. Here you can also see brass control board cover I made. This thing weights an absolute ton. Brass is way heavier that you would think, and there is still a mountain of electronics to put inside. Well, now that it is all together, nothing left to do but take it all apart and get it ready for wiring.

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All knolled out and ready for orderly assembly.
 
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Bobdor

New Member
Part 6: Final

With everything complete, it is time to start final assembly of my lightsaber. This time, with the added bonus of trying to fit about 25 feet of wiring and additional electronics.

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The first thing to do was work on the activator and options switches. The switches I ended up choosing are micro surface-mount switches, which are intended for use on circuit boards. They are held in place by a small piece of 3M double stick adhesive. Additionally, they are mechanically held in place by my 3D printed housings. I used 26 AWG wire throughout the whole project.

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The main LED for the bade in a Naigon Electronic’s Cree RGB which is made specifically for the Naigon Igniter board I am using. The LED assembly is held in place by a thermal pad and is attached to this large aluminum heatsink. This type of LED expends a ton of heat.

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To ensure everything gets wired up to the control board correctly, I had to color code each wire. When everything in installed, there will be 20 different wires running through the chassis, so it will get complicated.

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Here is the completed emitter assembly. 4 wires for red, green, blue, and common ground on the LED, and 2 wires for each switch.

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Next, I wired up and installed the 10mm shaftless vibration motor, and 3w 20mm speaker. It was at this point that I realized I needed the thread each wire individually though the chassis. If any of the wires twisted around or crossed over another it would cause the whole bundle to bind. All the wires needed to be perfectly parallel.

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The hardest part up to this point was getting all the wires to pass cleanly through the hollow tubes in the crystal chamber assembly.

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I unfortunately did not take any pictures of wiring the battery assembly. I had a real hard time with this part because not only did I have to wire the battery contact, but also I had to install an inline charging point and kill switch. With all that done, I started working on the control board. The LED drivers are not wired into the board so I had to attach them with some small jumpers made from resistor legs.

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My best soldering job yet (pats self on back).

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Here are all those wires from before neatly trimmed up and soldered to the control board. It was looking real clean until I had to wire up the crystal chamber LED. That LED required its own resistors. If I was smart, I would have used some small surface mount 0805 or 0603s on the LED board. Instead, I just wired some inline through-hole components and insulated them with some heatshrink tubing.

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This is the completed assembly all wired up with my brass cover over the control board. Nothing left to do but install it in the Graflex body.

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Here is a quick demo of the emitter LED. It is dangerously bright. You can see in the image, it is so bright that it is causing artifacts in my photograph.


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Last by not least is the ignited crystal chamber. Since the RGB LEDs are wired in parallel, the chamber glows whatever color the blade is set to. The only problem is the chamber has a very slight greenish tint. My guess is that either my resistor value for green is too low or my value for blue is too high, throwing off the mix. It isn’t terribly noticeable and maybe something to fix one day in the future.

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Here are a few quick glamour shots of my completed Skywalker Lightsaber.

I could not be happier with how it came out. It took WAY (years) longer than I expected to complete. Some of that was procrastination, and some of it was just lack of confidence and being overwhelmed. It was an excellent exercise in skill building at the very least.

I hope you enjoyed the build, and as always, thanks for looking!
 

Alcadude

Jr Member
Dude this is so cool! Ive been wanting to do something like this and this may have given me the inspiration I needed. Great build.
 

Bobdor

New Member
This is an amazing project, thank you so much for sharing it! It turned out unbelievably well!

Dude this is so cool! Ive been wanting to do something like this and this may have given me the inspiration I needed. Great build.

Very cool

Glad you all enjoyed my project and I hope it inspired you.
Alcadude, do it. Don't let anything about a project like this intimidate you. Just about everything I did I was able to do with tools from Harbor Freight and Amazon. I just took everything in manageable chunks, and learned new skills from my mistakes.
 

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