The first two action figures I got were R2-D2 and C-3PO. I absolutely love their designs and when I saw an in-box review of the new Bandai 1/12 scale Threepio snap kit a few months ago (and saw how super shiny the gold was!) I knew I had to build one myself as one of the many scale model projects assigned to the Small Pond Shipyard.
At first I thought I should keep him shiny to show off the amazing reflectivity, but thinking back to some of the first images I saw of him (and the first time we meet him in the movie), he was already kind of tarnished...and by the time he meets Luke on Tattooine, he's dusty, banged up, and he's been fitted with a restraining bolt. That's the Threepio that made such an impact on me as a kid, so that's the Threepio I wanted to recreate with this kit.
Around the time of the movie's release, when my friends were collecting toys and cards, one of my friends built the MPC model of C-3PO and I was at his house as he was putting the finishing touches on his back panel –the first time I ever noticed it. Much like my fascination with a certain hospital model and seeing my cousin build car models (recounted here), my friend's Threepio model apparently left a lasting impression on me and has now taken physical form.
This kit comes with options for non-movable arms (with shiny gold pistons) and movable ones (with dull, gold-ish, not-very-shiny pistons). I knew I'd probably want to pose him for various photo shoots in the future, so I went with the movable arms. There was also an alternate chest piece (allowing for the restraining bolt to be snapped on) and an alternate face plate (with a dent). You can also use an alternate eye that replicates the dangling one pulled out by Salacious Crumb in Return of the Jedi (too undignified for my taste).
I put him together in a few hours about a month ago and put his completion on hold until I could devote the proper amount of time the weathering would take (just a few more hours' work, as it turned out).
I began the weathering with a generous covering of Burnt Umber water mixable oil paint (the kind I use for my paintings) applied with a brush, and then wiped it off with a tissue and my fingertips. I did this twice (not bothering to let the first pass dry) to make sure all the nice grooves were filled in for better definition.
I felt he needed some desert dust so I looked for some chalk pastels but decided to try an experiment: corn starch. I don't know where the notion came from, but it worked okay, considering. I applied that with a brush, too, and blew and brushed the excess away several times until I got the desired effect (mostly a slight dulling of the shine in certain places).
The oil leaks on his chest fascinated me as a kid (I kind of felt sad for him because it looked like he was "bleeding" oil...and it added to the realism of a broken robot). This feature also left a lasting impression on me, so I pulled out some reference images from my copious collection of Star Wars books and tried to recreate the leaks as best I could using black acrylic. While I was at it, I smeared some of that paint into various grooves for more grime effects (whereas most people *scrape away* the carbon scoring off their droids).
One last dusting of corn starch and I felt satisfied with him.