Imperial Probe Droid

Building the Probe Droid was a project that I approached with a certain amount of fear and respect. The droid it self is menacing enough, but building the model seemed daunting. This is an ambitious model, so if you are new to scratch-building – you should start with something easier. For me, living near the Finse filming location in Norway, it was something I felt I had to do.

I used books like Star Wars Chronicles as references. The blueprints were made from enlarged photocopies of some of the images. I found an image showing the droid straight from the side and worked from there.

Construction started with the droid’s head. The main shape was prefabricated in 3 parts before it was assembled: the upper and lower halves and the “hat.”

Making round shapes can be quite a challenge if you do not have access to expensive machinery. Round shapes can be carved or turned from blocks of wood or foam, or they can be constructed or sculpted. For this model I chose the latter because my lathe is far too small for the task.

I made the basic form of the head by pre-cutting lots of styrene ribs in the desired shape. The ribs were then mounted on pre-cut styrene circles and the space between them were filled with plastic scrap and epoxy putty. I made the head hollow to reduce the overall weight of the model. The layer of putty and plastic is about 8mm thick. I then sanded and polished the putty to get a smooth surface.

All the eyes around the head’s equator were turned from PVC on a lathe and mounted on the head. There’s a good reference picture in Star Wars Chronicles that shows the positions of the eyes. There were some gaps between the eyes and the curved shape of the head. I filled the gaps with epoxy putty.

I vacuum-formed a styrene shell on top of the head. I simply placed the entire head on the vacuum unit and sucked the styrene around it. From this shell I cut all the curved plates that are part of the detailing. The last details were then applied. I mainly used parts from battleship kits.

The upper half of the body was made the same way as the head, using ribs and putty. I also vacuum-formed a shell on top of this part for the plating.

The lower half was made by laminating and plating styrene sheets. I had to construct a hollow cylinder in the center of the body. The rest of the construction was done with this as a base. The hardest part was to make the “cavities” around the body. I used .5mm styrene sheets and took my time.

As for the arms and grippers, I turned all the joints from PVC (they are all fully poseable) and the rest were made from styrene. The hydraulic rods on the grippers were made from telescopic brass tubes. The trick here is to make the joints tight, but not too tight.

I base-coated the model in neutral gray. Then I airbrushed with Tamyia gunmetal and washed with thinner and oil colors. The eyes were painted separately and added last.

For the base I scratched an Imperial emblem from thick styrene. The model is mounted on an acrylic rod centered in the emblem.