SingleSeat's Rangefinder (Scratch-built) *pics*


Active Hunter
SingleSeat's Rangefinder (Scratch-built tutorial)

I for one couldn't stand the prospect of going through all the effort of creating the perfect Fett helmet only to top it with a solid plastic-looking rangefinder. I did my share of searching for record players, custom resin parts, and so forth, but in the end I caved in and decided to scratch-build my own. My MarrowSun resin piece gave me a sense of scale, but the Hyperdyne kit I was installing really drove the custom dimensions. Then there was the matter of the clear part – a challenge in itself.

So here is the result. Disregard the stalk as it is there only to illustrate the concept. I have a new stalk in work to replicate the prop part. I wanted a lighted, working replica with no seems for lids or doors to access the electronics.

The clear part I attacked first. I settled on clear cast acrylic (stay away from extruded plastics since they are so much harder to work with). I worked the plastic over in a woodworking shop. After drafting a set of dimensions, I ended up with two separate shapes for ESB and ROTJ. My helmet is going ESB, so these pics are of that version. I'm still in the process of modifying the clear part to better match the real prop so maybe I'll show that stuff later. The black window frame is also scratch-built from sheet styrene. And inside it is a piece cut from the lens of some cheap Wal-Mart reading glasses to give it that refracting look.

The main body is constructed of sheet styrene and is attached to the stalk by a bent steel plate that forms the very bottom of the rangefinder and slides into the outside edge firmly. The rangefinder is removable from the stalk in order to access the batteries and the clear plastic part if I want to change it or if it becomes damaged. The steel plate is also attached via a small screw so I can swap the post whenever I want.

If you want this to turn into a tutorial, just respond to this thread and I'll give you the download edit: oops missed a scratch...where's that little brush! ;)





Last edited by a moderator:


Active Hunter
Alright dudes, so the story begins with a slab of 1-inch thick clear cast acrylic plastic. I looked through plenty of materials before settling on the cast acrylic. This stuff is perfectly clear once you peel the paper off. Like I said before, go for the cast vice extruded. Apparently, extruded acrylic requires special cutting blades and so forth since it tends to melt quickly, ball up, and generally turn into an unworkable gooey mess.

Unfortunately I didn't snap pics for making the cuts, since I needed both my hands (in order to keep both my hands :lol: :lol: !) Using a table saw, band saw, and a sanding disc, I cut 12" long strips from which I could make about five individual items. Then I made a lengthwise cut, and the back-side angle cut. The disc sander provides the front angle. These angles are the most significant differences between ESB and ROTJ from my research. The insides of the clear plastic hold the rest. The band saw requires the most precision and the steadiest hand. I tried using the table saw and a miter saw to cut the front angle, but in the end, the disc sander did just as fine a job with much greater precision and a finer finish. The purple-background examples and yellowish copies were early experiments with the angles and dimensions, but not anywhere near the finished sizing. Yet this is about what the pieces looked like before any finish sanding. Also, I will be posting my dimensions for all parts in the future when I have more time to get the graphics going.






Active Hunter
After the part was fully cut out, I hit every side except the "top" (which is still perfectly clear) with the disc sander to take out any blade marks. I sanded the rest by hand on a flat, glass surface with increasing grits of sandpaper stepping from 150 – 220 – 300 – 600 – 1000 – 1500. This provided the best finish -- the final finish in the first pictures.

Once I could see well through the plastic, I could then make the critical "three-line" cuts into the block. I tried so many options for drilling and none of them really panned out to my liking. The drill bits are simply too small. Even after I had a couple of bit tips modified for cutting this kind of plastic, the simple fact remained that they are so small and spin so fast that a lot of heat is generated. This heat melts the plastic and with the combination of drilled excess and melting plastic rotating around inside a long hole with nowhere to go (even by hand drilling), the finish of the inside of any drilled hole gets destroyed and you wouldn’t be able to see any green screen-accurate details (like the ROTJ example) once inserted. Drilling slowly and extracting any excess didn't seem to work at all either. So I found the next best option…I used the dremel router attachment, inverted it, and used a tiny bit to make channels instead of cloudy drill holes! Now there's room for the garbage to escape the hole. You'll see later how this plays out with the material "behind the glass" so to speak to give the right look. The dremel made this project happen, period C'mon webchief, sing the praises of the dremel for us again! Amen brother.

**don't drop these babies or a corner could easily break off**

Another experiment I tried was to paint a clear part with both Testor's dullcote and semi-gloss. The paint finished off any fine scratches great, but it was too opaque for my taste and would never be very durable -- even to a fingernail scratch. You could still see the three channels, but vaguely. Plus the semi-gloss finish just sucked WAY too much to consider. However, I wouldn't rule out the dullcote…it just wasn't my style.





Last edited by a moderator:

Jango Fett Jr

Well-Known Hunter

Now that is amazing work! I'd love to see how you did the rest, including the little hinge.

The more I look at it, I see you got the weathering exact. That has got to be the best RF I've ever seen!
Last edited by a moderator:


Well-Known Hunter
SingleSeatForever said:
The dremel made this project happen, period C'mon webchief, sing the praises of the dremel for us again! Amen brother.

Iycis can tell ya I can belt out a mean opera.;) :lol:

Your work is amazing. Selling any of these puppies?


Active Hunter
Almost back home to give this thread an update!!! Thanks for the kind words guys! If I can make a run happen, I'll post a thread for interest in the clear plastic part later. You're on your own building the RF. :lol: :lol:

BTW, I'd really recommend building your own. Hollowing out premade parts might be possible, but you never know if you'll run into brittle resin, a big bite from the dremel (requiring a separate repair in the end), the dimensions of the clear part may not work out, etc.. But I'll warn you, others with sweet RF's (MarrowSun) have said it takes a lot of time and they're not lying! I'm here to tell you scratch-building this aspect of Fett takes just as much time, if not more, than hollowing.
Last edited by a moderator:


Active Hunter
Operational commitments called...and I'm back home! :D :D With clear part in hand, I start to draft the dimensions on paper. By cutting the paper and tracing it (allowing for pencil line width), I transfer the pieces to .080" sheet styrene and start cutting each side out. I build the sides around the clear part. First fitting together each part with Scotch tape, I use liquid cement (Tamiya) to "weld" the pieces together. The next to last side is made from .030" thick sheet so the Hyperdyne kit can fit better (see hi-light). The outside wall will be last. Along each seem inside, I reinforce the assembly with 2-part epoxy -- the RF still needs to be durable as well as contain what is to come in final assembly! Now the walls are like a rock! Inside you can see the beginnings of a shelf to align the electronics. During assembly, each part is customized to fit better with the mighty dremel. :)






Last edited by a moderator:


Active Hunter
Once assembled for the most part, I use Tamiya Putty to smooth over the seems (I like the way it flows, but each dose has to be fresh because it hardens quickly). After sanding, I move to a disposable fingernail file (emory board) to take down all the hard edges and corners. The reference material shows an RF with no real hard corners, but it's easy to go crazy here and take off too much. An Exacto knife cuts the two little chips taken out of the upper outside edge under the LED's.

With strips of .030 styrene cut to fit, I build the interior. Along the outer wall (under the LED's) I lay two vertical strips in the corners. They will help build an internal slot into which the steel mounting bracket will slide into once another sheet is cut to lay across them...stay tuned.





Active Hunter
Again, I used liquid cement to build the slot, but I layered 2-part epoxy in the seems and over the lip (edges of the slot opening). Now it's structurally very sound. 8)

The dremel cutting wheel slices a new shape out of 30-guage steel plate (some sort of vent cover I stumbled across in the hardware store, but was good scrap metal to me). Then I use some big pliers (a vice would work) to bend the steel along the line shown to the angle desired – eyeballing it. I stole the screw from the antenna bracket inside the zip-zap r/c car controller I'll be using to motorize the RF stalk later.

The whole bracket will screw into the stalk, and later I will set another pin in the stalk that goes through the bracket to keep it aligned. However, it is very secure.







Active Hunter
Ok, some more pics of the bracket in action...

The lower half is painted with two coats of a flat black enamel and two coats of Dullcote. The bottom tips and edges are a little bent so as to fit more nicely into the RF.

It goes in smoothly, and is snug enough for a VERY solid fit. This thing holds on tight! (yea, I really did just say that. how else was I going to explain it!?) :lol: :lol: :lol:




This thread is more than 7 years old.
If you wish to reply despite these issues, check the box below before replying.
Be aware that malicious compliance may result in more severe penalties.