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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey everyone, I'm trying to devise a way to build, well, a Death Star prop about 5 feet in diameter or so.

I've been doing some small scale tests with paper mache and such, but my core problem is how to create the armature/framework upon which it will be built?

My only condition is that I have to retain the ability to access the inside in order to have it backlit. I'm planning on drilling pinholes through surface to light from behind, ala Star Wars.

I've contemplated chicken wire on the outer surface, but I keep coming back to my core problem--how to concoct a sphere and/or curved ribs around a core frame. And what that frame looks like. I keep running into basic overengineering issues here.

Any ideas, suggestions are greatly welcomed! Thanks!
 

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Going bump in the night..
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I'd say a PVC frame would be great for this.
Electrical conduit PVC is pretty cheap ($1.50 or so for a 10 foot length).
Quick look at how much needed:
Diameter of your Death Star: 5 feet, so circumference is about 15 feet (really it's 15.7 feet, a touch over, but rounding down barely looses size).
So, 1 and half pieces of conduit per loop = $2.25 per loop, give or take.
6 vertical loops is $13.50
At least 1 loop horizontal to give stability, so add $2.25 for $15.75 for the PVC frame.
Then you can add chicken wire, cardboard, mache, monster mud, etc. on the outside.

Curving PVC is simple (time consuming, but simple) - draw your curve as a template, then use a heat gun on the PVC. Once it's softened, bend it to (roughly) match that curve. You'll have your hoops in no time.
Use duct tape to bind the joints, or bolts if you're really wanting to be certain.
 

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Typical Ghoul Next Door
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Large hula hoops? Maybe 3-4 of them. I have some from the dollar tree that are at least 3 foot rounds, but possibly 4 foot diameter... Cut and then tape together combine together with duct tape to create a stable frame, and then use cardboard strips (also attached with duct tape) to make thin support ribs and then maché over the entire structure. That's what I'd try anyway.
 

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aka Halloweenqueen
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We use cheap holiday inflatables. Buys large pumpkin or a Christmas ornament, etc. Take out the motor and lighting and fill with newspaper, styrofoam, etc. The material is very strong and weatherproof. You can use it again and again, if you want to modify your project. I often find them for free or cheap on Craigslist.
 

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Hmmmm.....zombies and pirates oh and mad scientists
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Now one idea and this just sprung up in my head, and idk about the overall dimensions...but why not use a exercise ball? Paint and use as is. Or use maybe chicken wire as the "skeleton" Idk just random ideas.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks everyone for the ideas.

I'm torn between two options:
1) I saw another Halloween fan did an Indiana Jones costume AND a boulder (chasing him, which was funny). They used a wire ladder frame to start, bent it into two circles and used that to create a basic frame for the sphere... paper mache and clay, chicken wire, etc from that.
2) Build two geodesic domes from cardboard or laminated plastic, fuse them together.

Either way, it's going to be a LOT of paper mache.

And a lot of work!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
OK, time for an update here. I wish I could have better news, but sadly my execution of this project was pretty lousy, truth be told. In order to give guidance to anyone else who wants to make a large sphere, here’s some good, bad and ugly thoughts below along with pictures. My intent was to build the Death Star and have a Star Wars themed front yard, complete with other props (that I ended up not getting around to at all). My plan was to have this Death Star backlit from inside, with pinholes cut out to allow light to shine from within, along with painting it and detailing it appropriately. That was FAR too ambitious.

GOOD
• My paper mache recipe was awesome and it made for a good use of the medium. I hadn’t used paper mache before this since probably grade school. I used Elmer’s liquid glue, liquid starch (drying/hardening agent), drywall compound, flour, water. Using half-sheets of newspaper, it was a messy but worthwhile endeavor.
• Layering: not only paper mache, but the paper clay, then another few layers of paper mache, then painting it with several coats (first gray, before I changed the plan), then white, then adding details, then some glow in the dark paint in places, finally a polyurethane coat made this thing hard as a rock! It really is pretty durable, barring that it doesn’t get knocked over, roll around thus stressing the wire frame and bowing it out. I'm going to secure it with a few guy wires to anchor it off.
• My wife’s patience with my commandeering the garage like I usually do each year around this time.

BAD
• Time: Good Lawd, did this thing take up WAY too much time, from original fabrication, to the many layers of mache and such. I admittedly got a very late start on the project, but had to call an audible once it became apparent that my sphere wasn’t, well, spherical. My personal travel schedule and time commitments on weekends didn’t help my efforts. I’ve got a Star Destroyer 8’ long model using foam all plotted out if anyone wants it, haha….
• Construction: I made the fatal mistake of using vent soffit strips as the outer perimeter of the globe. I assumed—incorrectly—that I’d be able to use thick gauge farm wire and, along with covering it in chicken wire—that I’d be able to shape it into a proper sphere, even knowing those plastic strips were too flexible and not rigid enough. Bad call. Major blunder. This doomed me, even with proper measurements of wire hoops to try to get a good round shape. To no avail.

UGLY
• After making the mistake of wrong rib material, and my internal (temporary) spar solution didn’t work, I still thought I could salvage the sphere by using paper clay to “round it out.” It became almost immediately clear that was going to be a massively time and labor intensive operation. Paper clay is fun to work with and eminently shapeable and moldable but, even when you try to put as much insulation into the mix as you possibly can, it’s still a wet, heavy muck that compromises and weights down the paper mache underneath. So I’d ADD tons of it to build out a section, and it would actually sink in a bit after it dried. So it became a fool’s errand.

LESSONS LEARNED/TIPS
• Well, insofar as building a large sphere, I would have taken more time, using even thicker gauge wire to cut equal length ribs and constructed a semicircular jig to make them all equally curved. Or used heated PVC tubing to craft the outer ribs, reinforced with PVD on inner spars.
• Always have a Plan B!! Thanks to my neighbor, who is a good friend and brutally honest, he suggested I turn it into an eyeball. I already had the Death Star “eye” built up on the outside, so I said screw it, we’re making a ginormous creepy eyeball and I’ll just do the front yard cemetery this year and be done with it.
• I’ve historically been good at my time allotment and budgeting for prop building, whether it’s large (my Ghostbusters set up last year) or small, but I grossly erred on this one. I know we always tell ourselves that we should start earlier, but it’s SO hard to be building stuff in a garage in Houston in August. It just sucks the life out of you. Lesson learned.
• Enjoy the pics….
 

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Typical Ghoul Next Door
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Well, sorry the original idea didn't work out, but that is one nifty looking eyebal

I know we always tell ourselves that we should start earlier, but it’s SO hard to be building stuff in a garage in Houston in August
OMG... yes!! I've been working on props in my garage since June and it is horrible. I crack the door for a little air circulation and work in the middle of the night with a bug zapper and covered in bug repellent... you truly have to be a dedicated haunter to put up with being hot, exhausted, sweaty and dirty and covered in mosquito bites for months to knock out a good haunt build. :D
 

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my opinion. ..

cut multiple rings of thin plywood.. you can cut out the middles to keep it light.

center ring is largest with each ring getting smaller towards the north and south poles.


you could use a 3 inch PVC pipe as the center to hold all the pieces together and double as a stand.

then, you can use foam or plastic sheets to 'skin' the sphere kind of like a beach ball.

you could glue/nail thin strips of wood or foam to support the skin.. (the green lines)

here's a quick sketch.

Line Sphere Diagram Parallel
 

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Going bump in the night..
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GodOfThunder, I'm going to add to / change up my first response with the suggestion of a metal framework inside

Use galvanized 1/2 inch conduit instead of the PVC, as the weight of paper mache and other sculpting materials may even be a bit strong for the PVC.
Like this stuff: Galvanized conduit

The weight might be a factor, but it shouldn't be too bad, and the strength of steel will let you do a lot more with it once it's constructed.

As for weight? Well, since the steel is much stronger, you may be able to get by with 3 vertical loops, compared to 6 with PVC, and one horizontal.
The galvanized is as long as the PVC, so still 1 and half lengths per loop.
4 x 1.5 = 6 lengths of conduit.
Each length is 3 pounds (according to Home Depot), so 3 x 6 = 18 pounds.

(compared to using 1/2 inch PVC - 7 loops - 18.9 pounds)


This will still give you the hollow, unblocked interior you were aiming for, so you can set up interior illumination and poke holes in the exterior to let the light out (for that kick-*** Death Star look).
 

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Check out the tutorial here on making witch cauldron. My wife and I made one last year using cardboard spars abound a plastic tub. With a little modification you can make a ball using this method. We doubled the amount of spars to lessen the facet effect and then I rounded it out with paper mache clay as you did. By using the extra spars it required less clay therefore less weight. It was still a lot of work, a lot of drying time and it got heavy. But it did work. When finished I gave it three coats of truck bed liner for protection. Here is pic of it so that you can see the roundness we achieved.

 

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I recently was thinking of a death star for my sons Birthday

and previously used a 6ft inflatable ball for an Indiana jones style boulder.

Helmet Personal protective equipment Fictional character


decided against modifying the ball for the death star and went in another direction.
I used projection onto a 4' disc. it will be munted about 12-15" from the wall with star scene setter behind it.
two side 8'x4' panel of death star wall , one on each side, back lite about 20" from the wall

a standee of darth in the middle

Sphere Room Ball Games


Pattern Rectangle
 

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Hey everyone, I'm trying to devise a way to build, well, a Death Star prop about 5 feet in diameter or so.

I've been doing some small scale tests with paper mache and such, but my core problem is how to create the armature/framework upon which it will be built?

My only condition is that I have to retain the ability to access the inside in order to have it backlit. I'm planning on drilling pinholes through surface to light from behind, ala Star Wars.

I've contemplated chicken wire on the outer surface, but I keep coming back to my core problem--how to concoct a sphere and/or curved ribs around a core frame. And what that frame looks like. I keep running into basic overengineering issues here.

Any ideas, suggestions are greatly welcomed! Thanks!
Get a 60 inch beach ball. Can get one on Amazon for around $20ish. Paper mache using paper mache clay. There's a really good recipe on YouTube. This is the process I'm trying to make a lifesize Pokémon ball for my 3 year old. It's new to me too.
 
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