Build Log: Part 12
Okay, everyone, I did some fun stuff in the last couple of weeks – some was dirt simple and pretty, some was a little harder and is coming out really great.
First off, let’s bid a fond “see you soon” to the engine nacelles – I’ve trimmed them out and packed them away in a big ziplock to protect them while they wait until I get things ready to apply the decals.
So – the first thing I did since those engines went into the storage area was the recreation deck. This was entirely a photo-etch piece that was originally flat and needed to be folded up. I heated the brass plate on a burner first, to get the springiness out of it. Cutting it free from the sheet involved my trusty little chisel, and then filing away the extra flash.
After this, I applied the HDA Modelworx decal (which looks really nice, by the way – if you look at the rear screen, there’s a shot of the Klingon cruiser from ST:TMP being hit by the V’Ger weapon) and waited for it to set a bit. Folding it up was a simple matter, and then tying it with wire to keep it together while the glue set.
Once the glue was good and the piece was ready, I grabbed some Tamiya 1:350 navy crew (which are great for WW2 models and such at the same scale) and prepped some of those up. I painted the crew up with blue, white, and black uniforms (tan and perhaps red should have gone in there, but these colors gave better contrast with the flesh-tone of the heads and hands). Once their paint was dry, I used tweezers to hold them on their way in – dipped them in CA glue and settled them into the rec-deck so it would look like a small group of crew watching the report on the screen.
I hit it with some matte spray, and once dry (I gave it 24 hours) I parked it with the other finished pieces.
The main deflector/sensor dish!
This part has a remarkably small number of parts (eleven), but as usual I made it a bit more complicated than it would have been. Five of the eleven parts are actually clear, and some of it will need to be painted cleanly in order to look right. I’m also adding a few PE parts, and a light diffuser over the central bulb.
Around the outside of the forward ring are four tiny little thruster panels, each one about half a centimeter square. Inside each of these are two thruster ports, which will be lit from inside with yellow LEDs. To keep those LEDs from spilling their light into the rest of the model, I will create some very small light-boxes which I’ll detail later.
The thruster panels themselves fit really easily into their spaces, and the rest of the parts also fit pretty well together (only the two big rings needed some gap filling – we’ll get to that later). I had originally intended to back-light those thrusters through the plastic of the ring using a Raytheon technique (basically parking the light behind the plastic and letting it shine through), but I thought that would dim the output too much. I figured out where the ports sit, and used a 1mm drill bit to open up the space behind each set of ports.
Next, to make sure we had only the thruster ports lit, I proceeded to light-block them. First step of this was to park the panels on a sprue for spraying with some white tac. Then, drop some liquid mask (Humbrol Maskol on this one) into the ports. I let the mask dry, and then push them all into the white-tack to protect the backs, which would be parked against the ring.
Set the thruster panels aside for a bit.
The kit comes with two choices for the three bulges around the deflector dish (port, starboard, and ventral sides); I picked the ones that looked most like the ST:TMP reference photos. Using polystyrene glue, the three bulges were settled in, and then the PE grilles for them were attached with CA. Then the thruster receiving slots on the ring got some mask (you can cut small panels out of regular masking tape, or something like one of the narrow modeling tapes), and the edges of the edges of the rings where they would need to be glued together. The exterior of these parts got the black primer light-blocking treatment, and then
white Vallejo spray primer as a base coat on top of that. I had to do a couple of coats to get most of the dark out of sight, but in general it was okay. The forward section of the rear ring has a couple of inset rings with recessed canals which don’t take spray paint easily – some corners of it collect a little too much, some not enough. This was easily fixed with a little hand-painting using a thin brush and some regular acrylic white (I’m using Mig “Satin White”, Mig-047 for reference).
Pulling all the masks off, a dry-fit of the parts showed everything was coming together nicely.
The center of the dish comes with a small hole, which is probably a perfect fit for a 3mm LED, but I’m using a 5mm one, and needed to open it up a bit more. Once it fit snugly, I did a quick and painless circuit check, then glued the LED in place with canopy glue. After the canopy glue dried, I used Black Seal over the back of the LED to keep its light where it belonged. I set this assembly aside to rest.
I mentioned earlier that the kit comes with a choice of parts for the three bulges – once the choice is made, there are three extra parts. I used those as the basis for three of the four thruster light-boxes. The fourth was a section of an engine nacelle snipped off of a 1:1000 TOS Enterprise (the 1:1000 models come with multiple choices for the nacelles). I closed off the nacelle section with standard styrene trimmed to fit. A hole in the side of each one made room for the wiring to pass through. Black light-block and gloss silver to add extra internal reflectivity finished them out.
The thruster panels got a yellow overcoat and once that dried, they were glued into the receivers with canopy glue. The rings went together with some polystyrene glue, no worries. I peeled out the mask material from the ports, and re-trimmed with yellow where the mask took some of the overcoat away. A quick check with the battery showed that everything was still working properly, and the ports were shining perfectly.
The wiring for the thrusters had me trimming down the resistors and attaching flexible leads to the positive and negative legs. The 9V battery paid each
one a visit to confirm the wiring was good. Once those were done, they were positioned to shine directly through the ports drilled earlier and CA-glued in place. Time for another battery test, checking to make sure the light came through the ports properly. The boxes were then fixed over the lights with regular polystyrene glue. After this had been allowed to cure, yet another battery test, then Milliput (fine white) was applied all around the light boxes, and over the exposed legs of the circuits (the plastic of the ring between the legs was scored repeatedly with a knife to give the Milliput extra surface to grip). Before it dried, my paranoia set in and I gave it one more battery test. All good. All the thruster leads were then taped together in groups for ease of handling.
Next up, the dish itself. This is a big, clear part with a lot of detail that needs paint. If you look closely at the films, the dish has a ring of lines all the way around, really thin and about 1/3 the circumference of the hemisphere (see the reference photo – you’ll also note if you look really closely there’s an ejection ring on the interior of the studio model’s dish). These lines need to be white. The ejection ring line on the model also needs to be sanded off.
Rather than try to trim masks to fit the lines – because there are soooo many of them and I’m sure I’d screw something up – I cut a bunch of sections of 1mm masking tape and snugged them up against the sides of the lines all the way around. I then made some really short sections of the same tape and pressed them into the gaps at the top and bottom of each line, leaving the lines exposed. Then regular tape was cut and applied around the exposed dish areas. More tape guarded the back from stray blasts. A couple of coats of white primer got the lines covered.
Peeling off all that mask and trimming off the few areas that leaked a little was pretty quick and easy. I re-masked the back of the dish, and the entire front of the dish. Using the 1mm tape, I also masked the outer ring all the way around (the outside ring shines through, as well as the main dish). Dark grey primer went on to light-block the ouside. Once dry, a little extra mask was applied to the forward ring around the dish, and then white Vallejo went on all around the outside. This resulted in the rearward sections being white and the forward section being dark grey – which matches what the reference photos were showing.
Set that aside and let it cure.
The diffuser panel was from HDA, it’s a circular plate about 3mm thick of white plastic. It has a protective paper on both sides that needs to get peeled off before gluing the plate into the dish. It fits fine over the 5mm LED I’m using. Canopy glue it in place and let it cure.
A few little notes:
If you are working without the Paragrafix PE kit, you’re going to note that the outer ring has a pattern of gaps and ring lines all around, wider gaps on the 3-6-9-12 o’clock positions. If I weren’t working with the PE part (which just required a coat of white), then I would have used liquid mask in each gap. The PE saved me from having to deal with this. All is not wine and roses though, because the parts are really tight-fitting (including the PE). That means if you put more than a few coats of paint on it, or one particularly thick coat, the tolerances get too tight and they scrape each other while going on. I had that problem a few times, which took a little time to wait for the paint to cure before sanding the scratch and re-painting with white.
I also discovered that both Army Painter and Vallejo primers use similar solvents, so be really careful if you are going to try to brush on any of the Vallejo white – the solvent will get into both the top coat and the light-blocking layer, and potentially smear it. I also had that problem in one small area. Wait for it to cure, then sand and reapply white over it with the spray can. Vallejo goes on fine over a dry Army Painter and sits very well, it’s just if you have to go back and brush anything with a lacquer or enamel solvent the two will both thin out under it, and result in a big messy splotch.
Back to the model…
While the front dish paint and the canopy glue on the diffuser plate are curing, I took the ring assembly and started filling the small gap that extends all the way around. At first I tried to use canopy glue in a syringe to fill it, wiping the excess away, but I found after applying a fresh coat of white over it that I had left a smeared look around the gap. In the end I pulled it out and replaced it with “Perfect Plastic Putty”, which then required a lot of sanding and filling to get a smooth surface – tough to do on this area.
Soon as the cure was done on the dish and the diffuser, I pulled the masks off, and gave the dish one last treatment: a coat of matte clear on both the front and back. This adds to the diffuser effect, and gives the dish a “frosted” look that fits the authenticity we’re looking for against the studio model. If it were left gloss-clear as it comes out of the box, you’d also see the edges of the diffuser plate behind, and it would just look a little too cheesy.
And hour or two to let that coat dry, then canopy glue all around the edge, followed by a very gentle but very firm press to seat it properly in place. Set the whole thing aside, and let it firm up.
I’ve spent a lot of time detailing the edges around the ports and the forward rings, making sure there aren’t any stray paint errors and trying to smooth the surface before putting a gloss coat on it. I also made some extended wire leads for the thrusters and the dish light, so I have only two main circuits to worry about connecting up rather than five.
I also have taken a little time to test out some LEDs to see what brightness works best, and also to compare relative brightness of various types of light against one another. I eventually settled on a 1.7-candle brightness backlighting for the Raytheon effects that will be right behind the Star Fleet emblem on either side. I also picked up some conical light shields that gave it more of a “flashlight” look. I fixed those in place with some Milliput and blocked their rear with Black Seal. Not entirely certain it’ll show up at all still, but I have my hopes J.
The surface finally got to a satisfactory state, so the whole exterior got a hit with gloss coat (to facilitate placing decals), and once that’s dry (tomorrow afternoon) I’ll mask off the exterior and hit the dish with one more matte coat to reinforce the frosting, then into a baggie it will go J.
As soon as I was about to clear-coat the exterior, I noticed in my reference photos that the three “bulges” (port, starboard, and ventral) were painted silver in the studio model (see the reference photo above). Don’t know how that escaped me before, probably paying too much attention to the lights. The silver also had a neat grey design inside it (see photo). I don’t know if the decals I’ve got cover that, so I went ahead and used some Mig acrylic silver (the new metal lines are really great) on them after masking off the sides to ensure no “spillage.” A quick scrape of the excess off the top of the ring and all was well.
Next, masks were needed for the interior grey pattern. You can do it just as easily by going grey first and then laying down masks to shield against the silver, I went this way. BFD, no worries. I designed the masks with pencil on regular masking tape and sliced them out with a fresh razor blade. Snapped on some grey, and all is right in the world.
Finally, some gloss clear coat to seal it all up. Once it’s cured, I’ll bag it up and set it aside while I drum out the next piece of this big puzzle.
That’s all for this installment! See you soon…