Today is Force Friday, a global Star Wars fan celebration. The event, celebrating Star Wars: The Last Jedi and all things Star Wars, is basically an excuse to promote the film and sell Star Wars merch. But some fans are taking it upon themselves to celebrate with a little making instead of buying. When one maker started reading about fan-dissatisfaction with the official Hasbro U-Wing toy, he decided to try modeling his own.
After a friend advised freelance tech reporter, Howard Wen, that he needed a hobby not related directly to his job (or beer-drinking), he decided to try his hand at scratch-building a Star Wars spaceship. “As a child, I was really into model-making with construction paper and cardboard. I would make spaceships, like the Space Shuttle, and they’d serve more as toys than models,” Howard tells Make:. “At one point in my teens, I considered becoming an industrial designer, before I got roped into a writing career.”
As a youngster, Howard also wondered how cool it would be to actually design and build one’s own Star Wars toy from scratch. Given his adult know-how, skills, and the available resources of the internet, he decided to scratch this particular itch by trying his hand at building a Star Wars Rogue One U-Wing. “I decided to build the U-Wing because it’s the only vehicle from the Disney Star Wars movie that has the newest, most unique design,” he says.
During Howard’s research, he discovered someone had designed and released a papercraft model of the U-Wing. The maker was generously giving the model plans away for free. He offered plans in two sizes, the largest being about 3 feet long. Howard decided to scale up the plans to 1:18-scale.
As he got to work on the upscaling, Howard realized that things weren’t scaling properly for cardboard as the building material at the bigger model size. He writes: “I started redesigning the papercraft plans on computer to adjust for cardboard thickness. But when I got really into it, I found myself having to redesign everything on the original papercraft model. The biggest and most challenging redesign: the wings of the original papercraft model are not designed to swing open. So I had to figure out how to do this. Designing the wings so that they don’t bend (too much) and especially when they are swung back, was the second toughest thing to engineer. The engines were my third biggest redesign challenge.”
All of the interior elements of the U-Wing were designed by Howard from scratch. They are directly based on the U-Wing interior set as seen in the movie, right down to the flight controllers and panel decal graphics.
Sharing the Plans with You
Howard decided to give away the templates and plans for building his U-Wing model for a number of reasons. Given the fact that he stared out working with the papercraft plans, which were freely available, he wanted to pay that forward. He also found that announcing the give-away of the plans and having a due date gave him motivation to keep going. And perhaps most importantly, Howard says he wanted to serve the DIY Star Wars community. He hasn’t heard from anyone who’s built the model yet, but he’s hoping he will.
Howard offers the following advice for anyone planning on building the model: “Do a little at a time, every day, focusing on each section separately (e.g. the top half, the bottom half, the engines, wings, etc.). Build the main exterior of the ship first, then take a break enjoying your new giant U-Wing, before going into building the inside stuff. Painting will take a lot of time to prep and paint. So don’t think this last process will go quickly.”
The U-Wing is made from easily acquired materials, mostly recyclables: Amazon shipping boxes, cereal, snack, and pizza boxes, clear plastic food containers, woodeb coffee stirrers, toothpicks, and plastic wire ties for detail work. The engines are made of large paper salt containers, yogurt cups, and small “shot glass” style cups. The wings are constructed from a large white project board — the kind that opens into three panels, made of thick cardboard. “There is nothing ‘exotic’ or expensive about any of these items,” Howard says. “I did this on purpose, so that almost anyone can find these materials. It’s your everyday house trash, plus a few inexpensive items you can buy at a nearby department or dollar store.”
Only common household tools were used. The main tools were a box cutter, hobby knife, scissors, white glue, and super glue.
After all of this, is Howard planning on building any other cardboard toys? “I’ve been thinking about it,” he says. “I have some ideas, but I need to take a break from my new hobby for a while. I’m not sure I’ll do another Star Wars vehicle. What interested me about the U-Wing was its particular design, and the fact that Hasbro released such an under-scaled version of it for their 3.75″ figures. So, it felt like a specific void and fan-desire that I was able to fill.”
Templates and Building Plans
Here are all of the templates, plans, and modeling guides you need to build your own 1:18 scale U-Wing.
U-Wing 1:18 scale — Templates
(Building plans and photo guide)
U-Wing 1:18 scale — Accessory Pack
(Building plans for the inside elements)
U-Wing 1:18 scale — Paint Guide
(How to prep and paint cardboard models)
U-Wing 1:18 scale — Alternate Engine Build
(Build the mid- and end sections of the engines so you won’t need to paint them)
U-Wing 1:18 scale — Sound Add-on
(Implement the sound board from Revell’s U-Wing model)
U-Wing 1:18 scale — Photo Album
(The full photo album of Howard Wen’s U-Wing with over 240 images (and more on the way).