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Picture of Make a Large-Scale Star Wars AT-AT Walker
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3/11/18 Update: This project was featured in an article on the Star Wars Blog!

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A few weeks ago, I found myself in need of a large prop for a four-week event at the church where I work. Since Star Wars was part of the fun, I began to imagine what kind of colossal Star Wars reference we could place in our building. While there were many worthy options, I couldn't get past the idea of having a 17' AT-AT in our lobby.

For this particular build, I knew that we would want to avoid having to place any anchors in the wall, and I knew that floor space would be limited, so I had the idea of half of an AT-AT (just an AT?) protruding from the wall.

I also knew that I would want to put most of the weight in the feet and lower legs and keep things as light as possible in the upper parts of the statue to keep things from tipping over.

With just the faintest idea of how things might progress from there, I decided to scour the internet for reference images. Fortunately for me, I quickly stumbled upon Seamster's amazing wooden AT-AT Instructable. While Sam built his 20" tall, I figured the plans could be scaled to suit our needs of making it about ten times as large. In retrospect, I'm happy to say that this worked well and was a huge help in roughing out the main pieces.

Before I proceed any further, I have to say that this was a shared labor of love. Several people contributed in significant ways by helping on multiple days of the build, and we also had teams of volunteers who were a huge help and encouragement along the way as well. This was a team effort, and I'm incredibly grateful for all who helped bring this crazy project together.

Here's a quick overview of the materials we used:

  • 95% of the machine was built from extruded polystyrene (XPS), also known as foam insulation boards. We used various thicknesses.
  • Loctite foamboard adhesive after we realized that Liquid Nails wasn't holding well
  • Plywood for the inside layers of the legs and the bottoms of the feet
  • 4"x4" posts for stabilizing the legs

Unfortunately, foam boards are not cheap, so neither was this project. All told, we invested about $1K in materials.

As always, your likes and votes on this post are super encouraging! Thanks for being an incredible community here.

But enough about that, let's get building!

Step 1: Cutting Out Basic Shapes

Picture of Cutting Out Basic Shapes

The first challenge was how to enlarge Sam's plans. We could have used a digital projector, but I decided to go old school: I printed them off on transparency film, and I and a team of people started the process of projecting the plans onto the wall and tracing them onto sheets of foam insulation board.

As you do this, it's helpful to have a notebook full of reference photos on hand so you can quickly choose which parts should be traced on thicker or thinner pieces of the foam board.

While parts were still being traced off, some of our amazing volunteers started the process of cutting out the pieces using a jigsaw. This part is incredibly messy, so you'll want to make sure you're working in an area that is easy to clean. You will be covered in the stuff.

Alternatively, we also tried using a heat knife to cut out the shapes, but for most of the cutting we found that we got better cuts with the jigsaw.

Wow that is amazing!!!!!!

Cookiecoco1 year ago

that's awesome!

kylegilbert (author)  Cookiecoco1 year ago
Thanks! It was a ton of fun to finally get it all put together. :)
MatthewGal1 year ago

WOW.................

Darrrrn. Thats some solid building.

altomic1 year ago

Good to see the Jedi Religion now has proper a proper Church for worship

altomic1 year ago

that is awesome.

Thrombis1 year ago

I have found when working with foam, yes the alcohol additives in the spray paint does melt the foam. Try adding a coat of spray plastidip first. Works great. must put it on lightly in coats and not all at once. Then you can put any paint you want on it.

Eh Lie Us!1 year ago

Digital high-5...."whack!"

The work on this is incredible!

Unbelievable and Awesome!

mouth droping lol;.)

kylegilbert (author)  2024miscp131 year ago
Thanks! It was a great project to work on.

mincraft premolarmmos unspeakable its moos craft prestinplas

jedii721 year ago

That's freakin awesome!

Ethan10231 year ago

That is legit.

Swansong1 year ago

This is awesome! The amount of work you put into this seriously paid off!

JustusC1 year ago

Great job

ljózsef1 year ago
Amazing! Really nice. Me and my sons like it. Congrats.
kylegilbert (author)  ljózsef1 year ago

Thank you!

bcihlar1 year ago
I ran a science school in cherry valley , CA and they had housing for staff that were smurf huts that had to have been built in the late 70's ...why did they not build these instead...why!!!?
kylegilbert (author)  bcihlar1 year ago

Hahaha! That's hilarious!

e-beth1 year ago
<3 <3 <3 That it was a labor of love for the Church makes it a thousand times <3. I sometimes get myself into situations like this. My ambition exceeds the budget, and I end up eating the cost so it can be top notch. I'd love to hear about the guests' reactions. I also hope it found some kind of home? I once made a large castle that was safe enough to be put in one of the kids' Sunday school rooms. I knew it would only last a few months, but I liked the thought of it being "used to death" ;)
kylegilbert (author)   e-beth1 year ago

Thanks so much for your comment! Yes, it was so amazing to see people's faces when they walked into the lobby! And as Darth Vader, I got a ton of attention too. Lots of high-fives and fist bumps and photos with both kids and adults.

But the best part of the story I forgot to add to the end. We donated the sculpture to another church located out of state. They drove 11.5 hours each way to pick it up and take it back to use for their own event! And the cardboard figures were donated to another local church. :)

Kid Hero1 year ago

excellent job

kylegilbert (author)  Kid Hero1 year ago

Thanks!

gurugabe1 year ago

Awesome work! Now the question is, how can you make this more durable to use as yard art?

kylegilbert (author)  gurugabe1 year ago

Yeah, that was the main thing people asked me, "Are you going to take this home afterwards?" I believe there are specialty coatings that would give it that durability, but not in my subdivision. Lol.

kross211 year ago

Well done!
If you end up working with foam again, look into hot wire foam cutters. It makes cutting it easier and makes some nice clean cuts....you can also do some sculpting with them.

kylegilbert (author)  kross211 year ago

Awesome! Will do!

not words for this, its amazing. brilliant work

kylegilbert (author)  Jedi_zombie851 year ago

Thank you!

misterxp1 year ago
Fantastic! Many hands may make lighter work but What you guys did is incredible. Now you have to make the other half on the other side of the wall! I voted you for such an achievement, teamwork and community spirit.Even, If you don’t win the competition, you are the champions!
kylegilbert (author)  misterxp1 year ago

Thanks for the encouragement and kind words!

cgrucelski1 year ago

Impressive build... well done! 'At the Movies' is such a blast. I've designed and overseen the builds for some of the major elements for our church campus over the past three years. In 2015, our movie was 'Finding Nemo' and we built a 12ft x 12ft x 12ft model of Mount Wannahockaloogie out of 2x4s, chicken wire, and plaster of Paris. Every few minutes, it played sound effects and blew smoke from a hazer unit inside. In 2016, our movie was 'Pirates of the Caribbean' and we built a 12ft x 16ft x 34ft model of the Black Pearl, using some portable stage sections. The cannons fired every few minutes by playing sound effects and blowing haze from a unit under the ship, controlled by an Arduino. And, this year our movie was 'Despicable Me' and we built Gru's house from 2x4s, plywood, and real shingles. Each of the houses had working door bells, which played sound effects also controlled via an Arduino. Unfortunately, I didn't take as many detailed photos along the way or make my own 'Instructables' tutorial. Again, well done with the foam! I know how hard that material can be to work with.

2015_AtTheMovies_FindingNemo.jpg2016_AtTheMovies_PiratesOfTheCaribbean.jpg2017_AtTheMovies_FindingNemo.jpg
kylegilbert (author)  cgrucelski1 year ago

Wow, that's super cool! We totally talked about building in some moving aspects to our build, and that would have made it a hundred times better.

Thanks for commenting here!

eekster1 year ago

How much did it cost you to build?

kylegilbert (author)  eekster1 year ago
About a thousand dollars US.
deluges1 year ago

What a giganticly awesome project

kylegilbert (author)  deluges1 year ago
Ha! Yes, it really was. Thanks!
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