Crafting a Case

The hard work of coming up with a good blueprint was already done by Amadeus Prokopiak of the Replica Prop Forum, an excellent community of film aficionados. Working from photos of the original piece, and by scrutinizing individual Blu-Ray frames, Amadeus developed (and subsequently shared with the community) complete dimensions for his replica — possibly even better-constructed than what the rest of us saw on screen. If you want to take this project to the next level, follow his thread! As for us, for right now, we’ll be sticking with the quick bargain basement plan.

Working in Adobe Illustrator, I adapted the design to work with laser-cut acrylic and to fit our button. I chose to use common fasteners rather than glue…maybe not canon, but fast and easy. Acrylic cement has a way of seeping everywhere and ruining paint jobs. If you can’t get access to a laser cutter, you might still adapt this file (or Amadeus’ original) to your medium of choice.

YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE GRAPHICS FILES HERE (ADOBE ILLUSTRATOR 10 FORMAT)
Since there wasn’t a satisfactory laser-cuttable facsimile of aluminum, and with the metallic spray paint already on hand, I cut the entire case from 1/8" (3mm) black acrylic and painted it. Unfortunately I had to buy virgin plastic for this…the cheap discount scraps from the local plastics shop are all cut down to 8x10 inches, but HAL is nearly 14" tall. Two 15x10" sheets set me back $15, the largest single expense of the project (unless you decide to add sounds).
I could have bought a bit less material, but having some surplus on hand is a good thing. Consider cutting and painting a few extra parts. This affords the opportunity to “cherry pick” the best-looking parts for your finished prop, and also to recover from goofs. They do happen!
Be extra careful with the large main “spine” piece. The plastic is quite thin between the eye hole and two particular T-slots. It’s not a problem once all the supporting pieces are added.
After cutting, the frame pieces will need to be painted as we did with the button bezel; use the previously-described techniques to ensure a smooth coat.

You’ll need to paint both sides of these pieces, and the edges as well. Spray at a 45° angle to reach both the face and edge. Allow to dry completely, then flip over and paint the other side.
Here are the frame pieces after painting. The ruler is there as a point of reference: notice how “wavy” these pieces are; narrow pieces laser-cut from black acrylic seem particularly susceptible to this. The plethora of screw holes help hold everything flat once assembled.

In hindsight, I might cut these pieces out of clear acrylic; it seems less prone to this sort of warping, and it’s all getting painted anyway.
Because T-slot construction was used, the edges of the main spine need special attention. They’ll be poking through the frame sides, so the edges of this one piece were also painted to match.
The speaker grille required its own set of hoops to jump through: all those tiny holes would be time-consuming and error prone (laser-cut holes tend to stick in place). Instead, a scrap of black acrylic was painted before cutting, then the laser was used to etch the surface and reveal the black plastic underneath those spots before the final perimeter cut.
The edge tabs on the grille needed to be painted too, but spraying would ruin the engraved “holes.” A silver Sharpie marker did the trick…but you could also spray a little paint into a disposable cup and dab it on with a brush or Q-tip.
The front faceplate can be handled a number of ways. It could be cut from the same glossy black acrylic and installed as-is, but this is the least authentic; like the black lens ring, we can step up the fanboy factor with a little extra work if we so choose…
  • Black acrylic is available with a matte finish on one side, if you don’t mind buying an extra bit of special material for this one part.
  • Matte black spray paint can be used to kill the shine. Awful fingerprint magnet though.
  • If you did the black contact paper thing around the eye, same material could be applied here.
  • The front faceplate could be cut from 1/8" birch plywood and stained/painted black.
  • We can rough up the acrylic to vaguely approximate a wood grain or brushed metal appearance…
On the left is a faceplate cut from matte acrylic. On the right, regular gloss acrylic that’s been “distressed” to give it a faux texture.
Here’s the rig that was used to create the textured finish. A full sheet of 220 grit sandpaper ($1.25) is taped face-up to the workbench, while a scrap of wood provides a straight edge to work against.

The acrylic piece was dragged back and forth for a few minutes, being exceedingly careful never to move it perpendicular to the “grain.” Occasionally the piece was turned around or the sandpaper was repositioned so there wouldn’t be just one set of grooves.

When finished, the piece is quite pale and dusty, but washing it with dish soap and water restores most of the dark appearance. Be sure to let it dry completely before proceeding.
The HAL 9000 name tag was inkjet printed on glossy photo paper. This is another case where a tool I already had around isn’t factored into the cost.
Borrowing a trick first used for the DeLorean Time Circuit project, this Xyron sticker machine makes short work of adhesive-backing the name tags…but I’m not suggesting you need to run out and buy one. A glue stick, spray adhesive or just some double-stick tape could work just as well.

Or save a step and simply use inkjet sticker paper, if you have it.
The name tags are trimmed with a razor blade, and the white edges cleaned up with a blue Sharpie.

I mentioned earlier the value in producing multiple copies of parts when the material allows; that’s why there’s four name tags here. The first two were trimmed a little off-center. The other two are usable, but the last I felt was the cleanest of the bunch and is what will go on the finished prop.
I’m ready for my closeup, Mr. Kubrick!
Tally so far: $30.25. I’m including the sandpaper in that figure, but otherwise I’m again assuming certain tools or materials will be scrounged from around the house.
Last updated on 2015-05-04 at 04.27.56 PM Published on 2013-04-29 at 12.23.27 PM