Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Pit (G.I. Joe Headquarters)

During the summer of 2009, I salvaged my old 1983 G.I. Joe Headquarters from my mother's attic and began restoring it.  I decided to involve my kids in the project since they both consider themselves to be customizers.  This post documents the ongoing renovation of The Pit...

09/30/2010 - We picked up a pre-fab storage unit from Target and assembled it. We chose plain white so that we'd have less painting to do in the long term. We spray-painted a sheet of 1/4 inch Masonite flat black and then mounted it to the top of the storage unit. The Masonite is the "ground level" and the eight storage cubes beneath the "ground level" are the many underground areas of The Pit.

To begin with, we placed our G.I. Joe Headquarters playset on the ground level and then neatly arranged all the kids' vehicles in the underground areas, as if they were parked there. Over time, we planned to customize each room and create cool things to go into The Pit.

Fuel Tanks - On the ground level, we have two of the helicopter landing platforms that came with the G.I. Joe Headquarters. We decided that we needed a way to refuel our helicopters, so we set about looking for things to use. We ultimately decided to use a couple of grated Parmesan cheese containers.

We cleaned them out real well and then spray-painted them OD green. The screw-on caps were spray-painted silver. Once both parts were dry, we screwed the caps on and applied some decals that we made on our home computer. At some point, we may go back and install hoses and such - but for now, they are done.

Barracks - Everyone has to sleep and the Joes are no exception. Kate was very determined that the Joes needed to have a squadbay for them to sleep when they were not on missions. We cut a sheet of Masonite into pieces approximately 5 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide. Holes were then drilled into the four corners of each piece so that we could run dowel through the holes to form bunk-beds. The dowel was secured with a dab of wood glue and the "racks" were then spray-painted silver. We ended up making six bunkbeds, so our squadbay could sleep a full 12-person squad. We cut "mattresses" out of 1/4 inch foamboard and then covered them with "blankets" that we cut from some old leftover Halloween costume material. They are not the most highly detailed racks I've ever seen, but they passed muster with Kate.

We wanted to do something with the floor of our squadbay and were considering painting it when I remembered that we had a few different samples left over from when we re-finished the kitchen floor a few years back. We found one that looked like hardwood flooring and trimmed it just a wee bit so that it fit the room perfectly. The tile was adhesive-backed, so we just peeled the backing and stuck it in place. The last picture shows the squadbay more or less complete. As this project progresses, we may still add things like posters on the walls or some decals to simulate doors.

11/23/2010 - I downloaded some really cool decals from and wanted to incorporate them into The Pit. However, I didn't want to have to cover the entire interior with decals. So we unscrewed the Masonite from the top of the shelving unit and dragged both parts upstairs and out to the garage for some painting. We started by spraying textured adhesive on the Masonite to simulate the uneven surface of non-paved areas. While it was still wet, we spray-painted it with brown and three different greens. Then we sprinkled some lichen and model railroad scenery around. Because the adhesive was still wet, these stuck really well. The Masonite was then set aside to dry. We used a metallic grey for the interior walls and ceilings of most rooms (the Barracks and the Training Room were left white for the time being). Some textured black contact paper provided an excellent flooring for our vehicle bays. A couple of left-over floor tiles were applied in other rooms. We let everything dry for a good long time before carrying it back downstairs.

Training Room - We added a piece of floor tile to this room. We're not completely sure where we want this room to go yet, but we are positive that there will be some Ninja training gear. So, we put a sword rack and some training weapons in the room. We also(temporarily) attached a decal of the Arashikage Clan symbol on the wall. Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow can be seen preparing to spar below...

Rec Room
- This is another room that we are not 100% sure about yet. For now, a large decal was added to the back wall, showing some posters and other items that might be found in the unit's recreation room. NOTE: The camera flash causes these decals to really stand out from the surface they are mounted on. They don't look that way to the naked eye. They actually blend in quite nicely (which is why I chose the paint that I did). When the entire project is complete, I will have to take care to use better lighting for the final pics.


Motor Pool - The Motor Pool is another room that benefited from a large decal added to the back wall. This one depicts a fire extinguisher, some posters and a lot of hand tools.

Headquarters - Finally, we reattached the Masonite to the top of the storage unit and placed our Headquarters back on it. The greenery still looks pretty phony, but we're confident that it will look pretty good when we're all finished with it. I think the kids' favorite part of today's labor was placing all the Joes back in the diorama.

10/10/2011 - It's been quite a while since any work was done on this, but I managed to make some good progress today. A couple of months ago, I removed the 1983 G.I. Joe Headquarters and the Masonite sheet from the top. I liked it there, but it just stuck out too far into the room and we kept running into it! I also bought a second shelf unit and stacked them, so now instead of 8 room, we have 16. There's still a lot of work left, but here are some "work in progress" shots of various rooms:

Sub-Level 1: Motor Pool Bay 1 - The four Motor Pool bays are located on the first level underground. We currently have way more vehicles than we can fit into the four bays, so we'll end up rotating our display periodically.

Sub-Level 1: Motor Pool Bay 2 - Armadillos...


Sub-Level 1: Motor Pool Bay 3 - The really heavy stuff...

Sub-Level 1: Motor Pool Bay 4 - And the final Motor Pool bay...


Sub-Level 2: Towed Heavy Weapons - Just getting started on this room...


Sub-Level 2: Briefing Room - This is where the Joes will receive their pre-mission briefings...

 Sub-Level 2: On-call Barracks - We decided that in order to ensure the quickest possible response to a crises, a certain number of Joes would be "on-call" at any given time and had to remain on base. This is where the on-call Joes would rack out.  The bunk beds we made a while back have now been replaced with some really nice ones from Marauder Gun Runners.

Sub-Level 2: Rec Room - We'd like to put a TV, Refrigerator, Couch, and stuff like that in here. It's intended to be a room for the on-call Joes to relax.

Sub-Level 3: Training Room - So far, it's just three ninjas and a rack full of martial arts weapons in there, but I am planning a whole bunch of different things. I'm thinking about adding weight bench, a floor mat for hand-to-hand stuff and maybe a heavy bag hanging from a chain.

Sub-Level 3: Firing Range - This is pretty straight-forward in its function and there wouldn't really be much more than this in the room, but I'll figure out some things to add. Maybe a couple of brass buckets at either end of the firing line...

Sub-Level 3: Armory - Located right next door to the Firing Range for convenience!

Sub-Level 3: Supply - This is pretty close to being finished. I need to acquire a lot more of those little Elite Force MRE cases and water jugs for this room. I think maybe some signage on the walls, too.

Sub-Level 4: Medical Center - I still need more stuff for this room, but so far everything in there serves a specific function - meaning that I haven't started jamming crap in there to make it look better.

04/17/2012 - Today, we worked a bit on the Training Room.  Several tiny nails were tapped into the right-hand wall so that we could hang a couple of spears, nunchucks and other weapons of that type.  We also cut a piece of white sheet styrene to serve as a hanging weapons rack.  The weapons you see behind Jinx are all glued the the board (with just a tiny dab in case we want to remove them later).  The "padded sparring mat" is just a piece of foamboard cut to the desired shape.  The way we currently have it set up, the display shows Snale Eyes and Storm Shadow preparing to duel with wooden training swords as Jinx, Kamakura and Timber observe.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice! I don't have the space for this sort of deal, but I'd love to do something like this... though mine wouldn't be nearly as well-thought-out as yours!