Monday, March 4, 2024

Star Wars - Millennium Falcon

I am so excited to show you our Millennium Falcon! 

It's a playhouse of sorts for the Star Wars peg people from this earlier post.

If I ever had a craft bucket list, this would've been on it.

Before we go any further, I want to tell you about Lindsey. If you've been around craft blogs for a while, you might've been familiar with Lindsey's blog Filth Wizardry. She is an absolute genius -  her ideas and projects were always way, way, outside the box, mind-blowingly original and so utterly, inspiringly fearless. One of my favoritest of those projects was this Millennium Falcon she and her husband Paul built in 2010 from thrifted items. I remember seeing it and wishing my kids had been into Star Wars (or anything Sci Fi, really) so I had a reason to attempt to make something even close. But it was not to be - as I'd mentioned in the last post, we stayed in a princess phase for a very, very long time, which then morphed seamlessly into a Harry Potter phase, then slime and Minecraft. And by the time Star Wars finally became a thing much later, it felt like the ship had sailed, both literally and figuratively.

Then, more than a decade later, my nephew was born, and the stars aligned so that this year, he became besotted with Star Wars. And I saw this for the second chance it was to make this crazy, wonderful dream project. I pulled up Lindsey's blog and read all her notes, in addition to Paul's, and then very quickly realized that the found objects which were easily accessible 14 years ago were totally not so today. Still, I loved their concept and design for the Falcon, and decided it was worth doing the research needed to locate present-day alternatives to recreate it, if it were even possible.

Seven weeks later, here is my version of their Millennium Falcon - it looks a little different but I kept as many of their original features as I could. 

I'll give you a quick tour. It's essentially a plastic microwave lid sitting on a circular wooden serving tray, with holes cut into the plastic lid for a cockpit

and a fold-up ramp.

Inside the ship, there is a removable partition

 that loosely divides the base into four rooms

The cockpit is an air freshener container whose top can be removed so the regular sized peg people can get inside. Here's Han Solo in it. Unfortunately Chewy, being taller, doesn't fit. 

Although there wasn't an occasion in the movies for all the characters to be together on board, here they are now, all gathered for a photoshoot.

Here are some shots of Kate (now 15!) playing with it. 

Watching her, I felt like something had come full-circle - I think it was the (very) delayed gratification of finally having built this for my kids to play with, even if it was for just a few minutes. There was a tiny bit of Please Can We Keep It imploring but everyone knew that it had always been meant for another little child to own, and we were ultimately excited to think of him opening the gift and enjoying it.

So, let's deconstruct now. I didn't want all my research to go to waste, so I thought I'd do a tutorial so I could share it with you. Here's a funny thing: for the longest time, I didn't even want to commit to painting the peg dolls until I was fairly confident I would be able to build the Falcon, and I couldn't be sure of that until I'd found all the parts I needed. This took a couple of weeks - surfing the internet, going to random brick and mortar stores in search of very precisely-sized items. As an example, the most uncertain of these was the cockpit. 14 years ago, Lindsey and Paul had used a dollar store air freshener, but when I went to our dollar store (and countless supermarkets, Target, Walmart, etc.), all I found were glass plug-ins or rotund plastic things that were the absolute wrong shape. I finally found this at a local hardware store, which led to choosing the correct-size PVC pipe to fit it, and at that point, I knew I could finally begin working on the peg doll portion of this project. So conflated and silly, right?

This random jumble of parts was the first draft of sorts - I ended up tweaking the design quite a bit, and replacing what you see in the photo below with more suitable alternatives in later photos.

As with the peg dolls, I thought I would include links to the various components of the spaceship to save you the research time, should you want to do this yourselves someday. Even this second picture I took below doesn't show all the pieces I eventually used. The black 45-degree elbow joint, for instance, was not the right angle after all, and I ended up replacing it in the final design with a white 60-degree one. Still, it's a good layout of roughly what you'll need.

A: This 13" serving board was from Target here and served as the base of the spaceship.

B: This 11.6" microwave cover was from Amazon here, and was the top of the spaceship. 

All the wood extensions were cut from scraps in my garage, so they can be substituted with other kinds/ thicknesses of wood pieces. 

C: These two front mandible-looking things were cut from 1 x 4 lumber, and are roughly 3/4" thick.

D: The ramp was cut from a long strip of 1/4" x 1-1/2" plywood. I don't remember the exact length of the ramp, but it was about 3", maybe 4".

E: This strip of wood is a placeholder for this photo. I eventually cut two pieces from that same 1/4" x 1-1/2" plywood that the ramp was from. They became the "runners" under the spaceship, which I will say more about later. They served two functions: one, as an anchor for attaching the front mandibles, and two, for the completed spaceship to slide along a table surface later.

The next three items assemble into the cockpit. 

F: This eventually was replaced by this 60-degree 1-1/2" elbow joint.

G: This was a section of 1-1/2" PVC pipe (1-1/2" is the interior diameter; the outer is more like 1-3/4"), cut at an oblique angle to facilitate hardware installation. We had scrap pipe in our garage but you could easily buy a short (2 ft) length from hardware stores like this.

Save the rest of the PVC pipe because you will need scraps of it for two other applications later (not shown). 

H: This is the Glade air freshener.

J: The next two items assemble into the room dividers. I loved this idea from Lindsey's original design, and so replicated it here. The clear cylindrical bit is from a CD spindle holder, just as hers was. I cut off the base and saved just the cylindrical walls. You can buy empty spindle cases on Amazon, for instance, but mine was a donation from a neighbor.

K: The three "fins" became the walls of the room divider thing. I measured and shaped these fins according to the height and shape of the microwave lid. These were cut from scrap plywood which, if I remember right, was 3/8" thick. I dislike putting screws into the edges of plywood, because they tend to split the wood layers, so if you have regular lumber of appropriate thickness, use that instead.

L: These are little wooden discs I had in my wooden blanks stash. Some of these were 1-1/4" and some were 1-1/8". They are surface embellishments for the top of the spaceship. I also used a 2" disc (not shown because it was a later idea) for the cannon mount at the top of the ship.

M: This is a 1" hinge - I only used one of the two in the package.

Now for the how-to: first, the room divider/inner chamber thing. The three "fins" were attached to the cylindrical inner chamber with screws, 

then the entire thing was painted and varnished. 

Next, I built the main floor of the spaceship. To begin, the ramp was attached via the hinge. I pre-painted the ramp and part of the rim of the circular board around the attachment site, just so that as I layered more parts on later, I wouldn't have to shove tiny paintbrushes into nooks and crannies. Attaching the ramp first allowed me to draft the two mandibles on either side so their curvatures matched the appropriate sections on the circular board.

There are three mandibles in this next picture because one of them was a practice piece for getting used to the jigsaw. I am no woodworking expert, but I learned quickly that pre-taping the lines with masking tape really helped with getting clean, crisp cuts, especially with plywood. 

Then the mandibles were wood-glued to the two strips of plywood, 

which we will hereafter call "runners". The runners were trimmed at the top end to match the pointy tips of the mandibles - you'll see this in the next photo.

The runners were subsequently wood-glued to the curved edge and underside of the circular board. Then screws were driven in along the length of the runners. I used a countersink drill bit to drive the screw heads in flush with the surface of the wood so they wouldn't protrude and scratch whatever surface they were resting on. The resulting arrangement was very sturdy. You can also see that this sequence of assembly ensured that there was enough space on either side of the ramp for it to fold up and down easily. 

This is the top view. Because that circular rim of the base was beveled, the mandibles did not lie flush against the edge of the board, so I filled the gaps with wood filler, which looks gross and messy in the photo, but got painted over eventually.

The cockpit was next. The air freshener was disassembled and cleaned out.

The smallest part at the top had no function in this project, so was discarded. The bottom had most of its stem sawed off (this bit was discarded, too). The remaining thing I'm holding would become the front "glass" face of the cockpit.

On the main body of the air freshener, the top opening was cut off to remove the pokey-out bits. 

The PVC elbow joint would need to fit into this opening, and those bits would've prevented that.

This was roughly how these two parts would've fit together, even though I didn't end up using this black 45-degree elbow. You'll see a white 60-degree substitute in later photos.

This is a bird's eye view of the cockpit assembly. Remember the leftover PVC pipe I suggested earlier that you save? You'll need a short piece (1" is sufficient) for an inner collar to connect the air freshener to the elbow. Also visible are my pencil lines showing the position of the inner chamber/room divider on the circular board. This is to ensure I left enough room for it when attaching the cockpit system.

Finalizing the position for the hardware required roughly assembling the entire cockpit configuration and moving it around. I settled eventually on just two bolts, one through the short PVC pipe, and the other through the elbow.

Here's the side view to show you an accommodation I had to make for this particular combination of parts. The rim of the wooden board raised the entire cockpit configuration by about 1/4" off the main board surface, so I used a couple of 1/8" thick wooden discs (again, they were on hand and therefore convenient) to keep everything level. 

Once the positions of the bolt holes were finalized, the holes were drilled, and then the painting could happen. The entire wooden section of the spaceship was painted separately from the PVC parts. There is a flat circular disc in the photo below which I'll mention later.

Before the cockpit was added to the board (bolt holes visible in the photo), felt was glued to the runners. It was just easier to add the felt at this stage while the board could still lie flat upside down.

Then the bolts and nuts were put in to attach these two components to the wooden base.

Side shot: the two blue arrows show where the bolts went.

In the picture below, you can see the unpainted collar used to connect the air freshener to the elbow joint. It was hot-glued in place.

This is the completed cockpit. 

and the base of the spaceship at this point. 

Here is the room divider in place. It's a pretty snug fit alongside the cockpit system but there was actually a fair bit of wiggle room even when the lid was on.

On the underside of the wooden board: the felt-topped runners.

The base of the spaceship - completed.

The lid (microwave cover) portion of the spaceship was a more straightforward process to work on. First, holes were cut into the front and side to accommodate the ramp and the cockpit. Full disclosure: the plastic of the microwave cover, particularly the rim, was thick and challenging to cut through with just the exacto knife I was using. It probably would've been very easy with a dremel, but I didn't have one. At the time I wasn't aware of this, but I've since read (on the internet) that people use a hairdryer to soften plastic before cutting into it. Now, given that this is a microwave lid, I don't know if the plastic is especially heat-resistant, so this tip may not work. If anyone tries this, let us know in the comments how it went!

The next step was to sand the smooth surface of the plastic, to give the primer, glue and paint something to grab onto. See that little grey circular doodad? It was the vent of the microwave lid, and you can twist to rotate it. I had plans to attach a satellite dish to it because the Millennium Falcon had one, but eventually decided it might just be one more thing to break off during play, and so left it out.

Speaking of embellishments, there were any number I could've add to the lid to make it more closely resemble the Millennium Falcon, but I chose just a few so that the finished look was symbolic rather than a literal replica. The first was the laser cannon on the top of the ship. It was made with toothpicks glued to a small bit of plastic, and the whole thing glued to a pre-painted 2" wooden disc. This disc, like all the other surface embellishments, was hot-glued to the microwave lid. However,I assumed that because it was centrally-placed, this disc might end up being a convenient knob of sorts to lift the cover on and off during play. With that new function in mind, I added a bolt and nut to make it extra secure.

Six smaller wooden discs were painted and glued on for the Falcon's iconic heat exhaust vents. 

The side airlock was a wooden disc inside a 1/4"- thick ring of leftover 1-1/2" PVC pipe. The actual ship has two airlocks, one on each side,

but I only used one because there was a hole on the other side for the cockpit.

The backlight exhaust thingy was just a section of the rim painted metallic blue.

These are the three parts of the spaceship, with some of the peg people for size reference.

And a couple more gratuitous brag shots.

I had so much fun building this. There are some projects that you want to get done quickly before they turn into those cursed WIPS languishing forever under your sewing table, and so many of those still live in my house. But this was different - I knew from the beginning that this would be long-haul, but the momentum never flagged, and even the problem-solving-research phase felt like a treasure hunt. I can't remember the last time I got to be so obsessively immersed in a craft project - I was both relieved and sorry when it was finally finished!


  1. That is insanely awesome! It totally reminds me of your clever cardboard constructions, but so cool to see you engrossed in the problem solving involved with wood and found objects. Lucky kid who gets to play with this excellent but simple, sturdy toy! The Millennium Falcon was always the Holy Grail of Star Wars toys (or LEGO sets), so I’m particularly in awe of how lucky this kid is.

  2. This has been an absolute delight! I hope we get to see your nephew opening and playing with this set. Wow!

  3. Oh, the memories! Your blog and Filth Wizardry have always been in the same absolutely incredible creativity category for me. I think I might have missed this post in our move to California, but I love her original and your recreation. Maybe something to make for grand babies, some day.

  4. What a fantastic project! No doubt this is a gift for more than just your nephew, everyone who sees this (including us internet peeps) will be instantly drawn in and fascinated. Home made always beats mass-produced. This will bring joy and build memories for LIFETIMES!!!

  5. How delightful! Thank you for posting it.


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