Modding Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots

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Modding Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots

I asked Dan Pashman, Editorial Director of, to write about how he and his colleagues modified a Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robot set with new heads. Here’s what he wrote:


We wanted to make our own version of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots for the Americans Elect lounge at SXSW, so we decided to replace the heads with donkey and elephant heads, to represent the two political parties. This also goes with the giant plush donkey and elephant that people may see in action around SXSW, who are with us. Like the two parties, they just can’t get along.

For this maker’s project, we teamed up with our friends at LBi. Here’s how we did it…

Screen Shot 2012-03-09 At 2.47.49 Pm

We made rubber molds for the donkey head, donkey ears, elephant head, and elephant ears. We sculpted the heads in clay, then pressed them halfway into a liquid rubber compound. We also made spherical indentations (“keys”) in the mold near the head on one side and a bump on the other, so we’d have something to line up the two halves of the mold. It’s very important that you spray a lot of mold release before you make the second part of the mold.


When you line the two halves of the rubber mold up and press them together, create a hole in the top to pour the liquid plastic in.

We used a two-part plastic mix and added dye. The original plastic mix is yellow, so you have to add a lot of white to get it to blue, but the white pigment makes the plastic softer, so there was a lot of trial and error involved. We went with a yellow plastic mix over clear because yellow is faster drying and we wanted to be able to go through trial and error quickly.


After you’ve poured the liquid plastic into the sandwiched-together mold, put it in a clamp and leave it to dry. When you remove it, drill holes up through the neck to attach to Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robot base, and buff the seams. For the elephant we drilled holes into the sides of the head and stuck the ears in. For the donkey we made the mold so the ears wedge in to the top of the head. In both cases we used plastic glue to attach ears to the heads.

With the donkey head, it was very difficult to get the blue color. We found if you add a lot of pigment it doesn’t bind correctly, and you get different levels of hardness in the plastic, and it’s tough to do it consistently. We ended up making a bunch of them and went with the best looking ones.


The shorts were sewn together on the robots.

Come to the Americans Elect lounge at SXSW, not only for the Flash Mob Happy Hours, but also to play Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots: Donkey v. Elephant yourself! And tweet a photo or video of our living, breathing donkey and elephant at #donkeyVelephant to win your own version of this limited edition game!

See all the process photos on Flickr.

Editor’s Note: MAKE will be covering SXSW and will are going to try and get to the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots: Donkey v. Elephant event to cover here on the site. Stay tuned…

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Mark Frauenfelder is the founding Editor-in-Chief of Make: magazine, and the founder of the popular Boing Boing blog.

View more articles by Mark Frauenfelder


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