THE force is strong in Limerick-based carpenter David O’Brien.
The 56-year-old Thomondgate resident has had a soft spot for ‘Star Wars’ droid R2-D2 since seeing the first film in the original sci-fi trilogy when it was released back in 1977.
It’s been his dream for almost 40 years to be just like Luke Skywalker in having a smart and plucky little blue and white robot of his very own.
“I just fell in love with R2-D2 the first time I laid eyes on him. I remember thinking ‘I want one’ and two and a half years ago I decided to make one,” says Mr O’Brien.
Having no need for a skilled starship mechanic or fighter pilot’s assistant, David initially decided to build his own R2 unit as a cabinet for his special edition ‘Star Wars Xbox’.
“I had been talking about it for a long time and my girlfriend Ania encouraged me to just do it. I bought a R2-D2 model in TK Maxx and worked out the scale from there. It was a real labour of love.”
His very own ‘Star Wars’ droid is 3ft tall and looks just like the real thing. This is some achievement, especially considering its interesting components.
“There are insulin syringes in the legs. The head is shaped out of an old lampshade. The body is made out of a cylinder and its got some other interesting stuff in there as well from false teeth boxes, truck fuses, scooter motors and even e–cigarettes. I used anything I could find,” he explains.
Ironically, David is originally from Parkes in Australia, where a national radio telescope observatory has put his homeland at the forefront of astronomical discovery since 1961.
What is surprising, is the fact that he considers himself more of a ‘Star Trek’ fan.
“I like Star Wars. I am not obsessive about it. I haven’t even seen all the films. I liked the original trilogy and the latest one but the other ones weren’t for me. I have just always had a thing for R2-D2,” he explains.
After finishing making the R2 unit, David immediately started work making a rolling BB-8 robot — seen in the latest ‘Star Wars’ film ‘The Force Awakens’.
“After watching the movie, I decided to make BB-8. My family couldn’t believe I was serious.
Growing up I was always a fan of ‘Lost in Space’ and I would really like to make the B-9 robot from that series too.”
David now dreams to build his own house in the shape of the Millennium Falcon. He also hopes to set up a Star Wars garrison in Limerick to raise money for sick children.
“I just need to get my hands on a few stormtroopers costumes to get that up and running. Kids get very excited when they see the robots, but adults seem to get an even bigger kick out of them.”
And just to prove this robot-building hobbyist has not gone over to the Dark Side, he often organises surprise visits to the children’s unit at University Hospital Limerick and other hospitals around the country.
“We bring the droids along and my girlfriend dresses up as Rey from ‘The Force Awakens’.”
May the force be with them!
by Alan Jacques