Guess what this is going to be

Here’s something that’s been in the works for a few days:

Dremel 4000 - Rocket in progress

A cake stand? With stairs?

It’s about 40cm tall, has a 1cm wooden dowel as the central support column, and three plywood dodecagons of various sizes at the bottom, middle and near the top. Oh, and three fins supporting the whole thing, which might give away the answer.

You see, after a reluctant start, Des has become a rather avid fan of Wallace and Gromit. She particularly enjoys A Grand Day Out, where the duo travel to the Moon to enjoy some cheese. The sequence where Wallace designs and then begins to build the rocket is brilliant – his blueprint is fantastic, and the fact that he starts construction of a space-going vessel by sawing an old wooden door always makes us laugh. And so, after watching the episode for the third or fourth time, Des said: “Let’s build the Wallace and Gromit rocket!”

Dremel 4000 by Des - Wallace & Gromit rocket prototype

Rocket prototype

Dremel 4000 by Des - Wallace & Gromit rocket blueprint

An excerpt from the blueprint album. “Pap” (“papp”) = “cardboard”; “karit” (“kaarid”) = “scissors”; “teib” (“teip”) = “tape”.

Full of enthusiasm, she really took the lead on this project. By the end of the day, she had 3 or 4 pages of blueprints, which showed how we were going to cut out various shapes and then stick them together. By next day, the few pages had grown into a little book, which Mari ring-bound into a neat little album. It was great to see Des so passionately designing something, planning a build strategy, thinking about materials and tools, and motivating herself through a complete project!

A day or two later, when Mari was feeling a bit low and went to lie down, Des made something to cheer her up: a simpler version of the rocket you can see on the right. It’s a three-sided construction, with flames coming out of the bottom and Gromit’s ears pocking out of the porthole 🙂 . This charming little spaceship did its job of lifting Mari’s spirits and now permanently hangs above her side of the bed.

With Des’s dad being more of a wood-and-Dremel kind of person, rather than paper-and-scissors, it wasn’t long before we decided to make something bigger and sturdier that could function as a play set. And so, the photo at the top of the post shows how far this project has gotten to date. The stairs took a while to build: the dowel that acts as the support is angled both vertically and horizontally, and I had tested and rejected two different ways of attaching the steps before arriving at the current solution. It is, perhaps, the least elegant of the three but functional, with the steps supported by small plywood triangles. The dowels’s vertical skew is 22.5°, and so the triangles were made to be isosceles with the same 22.5° angles between the base and the sides. Naturally, this would have been almost impossible to do with precision without a mitre box.

Other tools were the usual set of fret saw and hand saw, needle files, sandpaper, and the Dremel with the 408 60-grit sanding band and the 576 sanding / grinding guide. The 576 attachment has very quickly become a favourite, and almost all of my sanding jobs are now done with it on the tool.

The idea is to have roughly 180° of the rocket covered to look like the real thing, while the other side remains open, like a cutaway, affording a view of the inside and allowing one to play, if so inclined 🙂 . After considering several options, Mari and I have agreed to make the outer shell out of fabric, which will be stretched over the plywood and take on the shape of a twelve-sided tube.

Dremel 4000 - Wallace and Gromit rocket

“Everyone knows the Moon’s made of cheese…”

Luckily, the small plywood piece at the top is not yet glued in place: after looking at the rocket more carefully, I realized that it will need to be shortened in order to match the shape of the original more closely. I’m also planning to make an entry hatch and a porthole.

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