I need a better way of organizing my loose action figures and the classic action figure cases just aren’t practical. Here’s an easy and inexpensive way to fix that!
July 6, 2022
If you listened to the Sandcrawler podcast we spent a lot of time talking about our Star Wars rooms and in my case that included getting into diorama building and dabbling in customizing Star Wars figures. We posted alot of those discussions in blog form on our website and I’m happy to report that I have finally moved those articles over to this site.
What you’ll find in The Star Wars Room (which you can also access from the home page) are articles on various decisions I’ve made over the years in my room. From replacing mismatched furniture to painting the walls to building dioramas to expanding my Rebel base from one tabletop to a multi-level monstrosity you can follow along in my journey as a Star Wars collector.
I’m by no means an expert collector, customizer or diorama builder but I have discovered that taking those next steps in collecting and displaying Star Wars toys is often quite easy and it doesn’t take much to see cool and fun results. With that in mind, I hope you’ll find some inspiration as you follow along with the progress of my Star Wars passion.
The Power of the Force Jawa action figure from the 1995 Star Wars line has a cool feature where there is a “window” on top of the figures head. When light is shone into the window the Jawa’s eyes light up just like their onscreen versions. In this video we show you how to add LED lights to the figure so that they can light up instantly
A short video of finding a better home for the Millennium Falcon.
I feel like I should insert a Simpson’s Troy McClure joke here: “Hi, I’m Mike MacDonald (Mike Tarkin, Mac….). You may know me from such podcasts as The Sandcrawler.” Why is that important for you to know? Well, from 2016 to around September 2021 the Sandcrawler podcast and website was a very big part of who I was as a Star Wars collector. It was where I talked with my friend, Dengar Dan, about recent purchases and to bounce ideas off of each other and generally screw around while recording. I would like to thank everyone (on behalf of myself and Dan) that supported The Sandcrawler, either by listening to the podcast or helping to contribute to the website. We never expected much from our show when we started yet we ended up with a pretty good-sized audience and made friends with more than a few of you and for that we will always be grateful.
Throughout the first half of 2021 we both began to feel that something was wrong either in the Star Wars collecting world in general or within ourselves as collectors. We also both had to deal with how busy we became after the first Covid pandemic and worldwide lockdown in 2021. The decision to end The Sandcrawler was pretty much based on the fact that we were both becoming busier in our real lives and that lack of product, distribution issues and higher prices were causing us to feel “less than enthused” about Star Wars collecting. We closed things down and I’ve spent the past six months or so trying to come to terms with my Star Wars fandom and my Star Wars collecting.
We all know about the crazy wait times and higher costs for Star Wars figures these days. Reporting on Hasbro announcements and their multi-months release schedule became depressing for me. Also, I’m Canadian and prices have become nearly impossible to rationalize. A single carded Star Wars The Vintage Collection figure currently costs anywhere from $19.99 to #21.99 (pre-tax). Vehicles and play sets are equally expensive (Tantive IV Corridor=$69.99, General Merrick’s X-wing-$185). I understand that prices for virtually EVERYTHING have been rising over the past two years but buying an action figure has always taken second place to real life expenses and I found myself simply not buying as many figures as I used to. When you’re doing a podcast and can’t comment on a particular Star Wars figure because it was too expensive to buy or too far down the road for it’s release date, the podcast suddenly becomes a, excuse the phrase, bitch-fest. Star Wars collecting has always been fun and through most of 2021 it stopped being fun.
After we ended the podcast the first thing I did was to go through my checklist of multiple pre-orders and began cancelling. I also made a few general collecting decisions. I was determined to get back that feeling of joy I had when buying action figures. The first pre-order I cancelled was for the reissued Rogue One figures from The Black Series. Rogue One is probably my favourite Star Wars movie and I planned on getting the entire crew in one big order. Instead I decided that Black Series had never been a priority for me (I have some, less than 15) and I would whenever possible focus on my scale of choice: 3.75 inch. I then cancelled the “Bad Batch” themed 4-pack of clone troopers since none of the figures were actual members of the Bad Batch team. The 4-pack was basically repaints of existing clone figures and I have a ton of clone troopers already. There were other figures that I would normally have bought multiples of for army building like the Offworld Jawa, Hoth Rebel Soldier and Remnant Stormtrooper but because of the cost I either settled for a few extras or in some cases passed on the figure altogether.
I also decided that whenever possible I would stop collecting carded figures and only buy figures that I could find use for in my collection. I was already primarily an opener and I felt that the expense of keeping a carded figure seemed a luxury and wasteful. At the time I had roughly 100 carded figures so I began opening and/or selling off ones that I felt were no longer worthy of staying on the card. Since The Vintage Collection first hit in 2010 I had wanted to have modern carded versions of the first 21 figures released during the original Kenner run of figures. After twelve years there were still holes in that collection of Original 21 and as I’ve said because of the cost I couldn’t justify continuing to buy carded figures. This was a tough decision as Hasbro released an updated Tusken Raider and two droids; Power Droid and Death Star Droid. All Original 21 figures and all candidates for multiple purchases since I could easily army build the Tusken Raider and as a big fan of droids I would have at least bought one carded and one opener of both. Instead I cancelled my Tusken Raider pre order and opened both droids. I’m glad I did as I really love that new take on the Power Droid. Another focus I had was to have at least one carded version of each line or sub-line. That focus went out the window after buying a few of the Gaming Greats line. I decided they weren’t worth keeping carded and stored in a closet so i donated them to my company’s Christmas toy drive. I’ve probably reduced my carded collection to about 60 now and will reduce it further. It’s not easy to always stick to this new approach and I’ve already broken my new rule when I picked up the Droids TV show versions of R2D2 and C3P0. What can I say? I collect with my heart first. I never owned figures from this line back in the 80’s and I really love how colourful and bright the artwork is. They look great in my Kenner display.
It’s disappointing to have to make these decisions but in the long run it helped me to realize that I’ve never been a completist collector and that it would be more than ok to have holes in the collection.
With no podcast and website to maintain I thought what I needed to do was to basically scale back (BIG TIME), my Star Wars fandom. And it was a good thing for a little while as I had more time for just chilling in the Star Wars room with no agenda or schedule. I did a few projects like expanding my rebel base display (pics of my room are available here and I plan on adding more) and creating a custom Kenner Star Wars wall display. At the same time I was posting photos on social media as usual. What also began to happen is I would hear from people that they missed The Sandcrawler and a lot of the content from the accompanying website so I decided to basically make a scaled down version of that. Sort of a “same great taste, half the calories” sort of thing.
I’ve returned to posting Hasbro/Star Wars news and even live tweeted their May the Fourth event. Hasbro’s new PR team, Rogers & Cowan PMK was kind enough to add my new site to their list of Star Wars sites so folks can expect to find glam shots and product information in the News section.
I’ll also continue the tradition we started at TheSandcrawler.net of full-sized photo-based reviews of Star Wars figure collectibles (an epic saga should be viewed WIDESCREEN whenever possible, not in a little Instagram square) and will slowly add posts about the goings on in my Star Wars room.
So thanks for visiting my corner of the galaxy, I’m excited to see what the future brings!
May 4, 2022
Way back in August 2019 I had decided it was time to add an Echo Base diorama to my Star Wars room. I tried adding a separate section to my larger rebel base display but it bugged me that it was obviously set in a different climate. Those white, snowy walls just didn’t look right with the Yavin-like atmosphere of the rest of the display. I decided months later to move it to it’s own location in my Star Wars room and then I just procrastinated for over a year. This was going to be something different for me since I wanted to have ice walls separating different rooms from each other. I wanted a hallway for a Wampa attack; a bacta tank room, a control room, a spot for a couple of tauntauns and of course the main hanger for my fleet (um…two) of snowspeeders.
It was basically out of my skill set as a diorama builder.
In February 2021 I took advantage of some down time at work and finally took the plunge. Armed with a pile of styrofoam packing I set to it. I built a three wall display with a floor out of chipboard and painted it all white. Since the chipboard (very cheap plywood) has a very rough texture it ended up having the appearance of packed snow that had been walked on.
First thing I had to do was determine how much space I could afford to give the Kenner and Power of the Force snowspeeders. Right off the bat I knew this wasn’t going to be easy because those two vehicles take up alot of real estate. I had been hoarding white styrofoam packaging for about a year and discovered that one piece already had the look of the “garages” that can be seen when Han’s tauntaun comes riding into the base. I would have loved to have made actual garages for each of the snowspeeders but like I said, there just wasn’t enough room.
I then added a styrofoam wall to the back of the diorama. Using a foam cutter/hot knife I cut off about an inch of the front of the styrofoam. I had to come at it from a few different angles to get it to separate from the larger piece so the result was an “ice wall” with lots of nooks and crannies. In some areas it even looks like the walls in Echo Base that have been excavated with laser tools. A happy accident!
I installed battery operated LED string lights along the outline of the “garage” entrances. The light “fixtures” are metal screw anchors and the runway lights are accurate to what is seen in Echo Base. A friend 3D printed them for me. The photo is the original way I set them up, in the final product they weren’t as uniform.
The next step was to start on the bacta room and the command centre of the base. I used a kitchen cabinet shelf organizer as a way of framing the rooms. It’s stainless steel in colour and has a mesh top to it. The grey metal colour meant I wouldn’t have to cover it up much and the mesh top would be helpful in letting light go through to the bottom (turns out I couldn’t use this feature, but the riser stayed). I cut a piece of insulated foamboard for a wall between the hanger and the base rooms. I roughed in a hallway for a Wampa attack, the Bacta room and a command centre. I also had a handful of grey pallets that I had 3D printed.
Using the excellent resources found at DioramaWorkshop.com I printed out doors and flooring for the Bacta Room using an online photo printing service. Because space was limited I couldn’t take advantage of the entire set of printables that can be found at DioramaWorkshop.com but if you want a very accurate Medical Center then head over to their site and print away!
I needed my room to be just big enough that I could include a window for Luke’s friends to stand in front of and also have a narrow hallway for the Wampa attack. I would be using the Bacta Tank play set from the Power of the Jedi line and the medical droids, FX-7 and 2-1B. Apart from that I would add my own greeblies. I figured the bacta tank on it’s own tells the viewer what the room is supposed to be so I wasn’t concerned with 100% accuracy. An added feature was to have the entire room removable from the “base.” I did this in case I ever wanted to redo it or modify it.
I kept things simple in the hallway that the Wampa attack takes place in. I added a few lights and a print out of a door. There are a couple of painted wood dowls attached to the right side wall as conduits. The big guy is the focus here so I wasn’t going to spend a lot of time complicating it.
I should mention that any lighting you see in this diorama are dollar store, battery-operated LED strings. They’re inexpensive, shine brightly and are easy to use.
The command centre sits underneath the bacta room and again, with space an issue I had to be content with one glass display screen in the front/middle. The walls were covered with various computer terminals (thanks again to DioramaWorkshop), a 3D printed door and assorted greeblies. I also ran lights along the ceiling to give it some atmosphere.
The only part of my Echo Base diorama that has a ceiling is the Command Center. I have a remote controlled, powered strip of LED lights that shine down from a shelf above the base that adds great lighting to the whole thing. I’m able to adjust the colours as well so leaving the “roof off” lets me change the lighting by remote control.
That’s pretty much where I’m at with this project. I’m very happy with how it turned out but there are still a few things I want to do down the road:
• Add a printed background behind the snowspeeders, maybe of the Millenium Falcon docked inside Echo Base.
•Fix the back wall so that it’s more uniform (not a deal breaker as it’s barely noticable from a distance – kind of like being offstage).
•Extend the front of the diorama out maybe 6-8 inches so that I can make an ice cave sort of entrance, possibly even adding shield doors and a gun turret or two.
Here’s a look at the final results, click a photo to begin a widescreen slideshow.
That’s a quote from Poe Dameron as he speaks for Star Wars room curators across the galaxy. I placed an order with IKEA for a bunch of small cabinet lights to light up the book cases I bought in 2018. I also bought 5 or 6 sets of colour changing LED strip lights from Dollarama. I used white lighting for the three IKEA Billy bookcases, each shelf getting one small light. The difference of having my displays lit up is just amazing,
I went with coloured lighting for this bookcase because each shelf features a diorama/scene from Star Wars and being able to control the colour of the display was a great way to get some drama into the dioramas.
I mentioned in my Jabba’s Throne room article that in order to have the droid torture room (managed by the evil EVE-99) I had to settle for cramming Eve, 8D8, a droid brander and a few bits of greeblies into a corner of the Throne Room cardboard diorama. Not ideal.
When I decided to create a rancor pit, I discovered that I could have the pit and also a separate droid torture room next to it as well. Making the rancor cave smaller made it feel more claustrophobic so that was a good thing and since the droid room as we see it in Return of the Jedi feels very small, well that was another plus.
There were a few things I wanted to try with this diorama:
1. Have a permanent solution to the droid branding machine included with the 1998 Power of the Force 8-D8.
2. Come up with some interesting scenarios using droid parts.
3. Start using some of painting tips and tricks I found watching videos.
For the walls I used 1 inch foam insulation for the first time. I found a 3×3 sheet of it at Home Depot, cut two sections for the walls and experimented with some of the leftover. I bought a foam cutter hot knife which works really well and gave me clean, straight cuts. I painted the foam black and then tried my hand at another new-to-me technique: dry brushing and added burnt umber, gold and silver colouring to age the walls. For the floor I used a stick on floor tile from a dollar store.
Originally I was going to use foam board for the walls but it looked very flimsy. This photo gives an idea of the size of the droid room compared to the Rancor pit.
For the droid branding machine I built a small platform and glued the Power of the Force accessory on to it. I also used a repurposed fast food sauce container as a table. For the figure of 8-D8 I just used a Comm-Tech chip stand to keep him upright. Not ideal but I like having a hidden tribute to “POTF2.”
I took the cage from the”Rebolt/Corellian Hound” 2-pack from Solo: A Star Wars Story and removed it’s three doors. I added gold paint and glued them to various locations around the room. I then did the same to the cage itself and instead of holding an angry space dog, it’s a dump bin of droid parts.
<CLICK A PHOTO TO SEE IN FULL-SIZE)
I used three-different sets of dollar store LED light strings to give me various levels of lighting from dark and creepy to full-on bright for photo taking.
<CLICK A PHOTO TO SEE IN FULL-SIZE)
Forgive the hyperbole in the YouTube title but ya gotta get those hits! This was fun to do and I hope to do another in the future as the room continues to grow and change.
The rancor action figure is just…big. And when you consider that the scene it’s involved in from Return of the Jedi involves only 2-3 characters at the most, it’s not an ideal figure or scene to recreate in a Star Wars room that’s always lacking in free space. You want to be able to fill a shelf with a lot of figures and with the rancor pit you’re left with the beast itself, Luke Skywalker or Oola and a Gammorean Guard or two.
However, and I can’t really explain how, I found myself with enough free space in my Star Wars room to actually do a diorama of Jabba’s favourite pet. And THEN….I even added a second diorama(more on that in my next article). The material I used for the walls is a paper packaging material that was used to wrap merchandise on a recent trip to Walt Disney World. It’s fairly sturdy and it’s possible to make bumps and ridges with it to simulate rock walls. The small holes or perforations in the paper give it some texture. The photos don’t do the colour of the material justice though, it’s a much darker brown than the camera sometimes shot.
At some point I might add a large door to one of the walls, as seen in Return of the Jedi.