The USS Enterprise (Refit) from Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Build Log: Part 5

Today’s update is all about the Shuttle Bay.  Since the bay will be enclosed in the secondary hull like the Arboretum, some aspects of it will be hidden from view, so some of my action will be aimed to make the view from the open bay doors, and some will just be because I want to make something that looks nice anyway.  I was reminded recently why I do this – same reason I code clean even if I’m just doing it for fun or all by myself:  it’s a bit of having pride in doing a good job.

Okay, let’s get started.

In the film, the middle section of the bay is an elevator system that services both the landing area and a parking area beneath the landing deck, where a bunch of shuttles would be stored, and brought up to the landing area for use.  From a discontinuity standpoint, a civilization that has mastered artificial gravity doesn’t have much need for elevators (whether for shuttles or for transport tubes), but what the hell :).  I was never one to fault Roddenberry for his small glitches, he was always about the big message of the story, and he generally did a really nice job with that.

Sectioning the styrene sheet and the little chunk of sprue

Sectioning the styrene sheet and the little chunk of sprue

Based on the view from the bay, those elevators would be barely visible, and I like the color and the decal for it a bit, so I decided to scratch-build one of the two in a risen position.  (Sounds all bigwig important to say “I’m gonna scratch-build” something, but it’s really not that big of an effort – but the return in aesthetic in exchange for a little work is a great ROI.)

Taking a sanity check on the length of sprue and about where it'll go.

Taking a sanity check on the length of sprue and about where it’ll go.

The assembled elevator floor, primed in black as a light-block (don't want any inadvertent shine to come through later).

The assembled elevator floor, primed in black as a light-block (don’t want any inadvertent shine to come through later).

For the riser, I first cut the section of the decal out that would cover it so I’d have a direct reference on the area I’d need.  Once I had its measure, I cut a section of styrene sheet to fit (including the serrated edge), and a second section to go under it for a little added depth, without serrations so there’d be some contrast on that edge.  For the hydraulic pillar, I just used a piece of thick sprue cut to the right height to bring the riser up to the level of the landing deck.

Here it is, assembled before I painted the post, with the cut section of decal for reference.

Here it is, assembled before I painted the post, with the cut section of decal for reference.

Once I glued the riser plates together, I checked the level of the cut sprue (it needed some sanding to avoid being uneven), then glued them all together.  I painted the risers with an intermediate blue, and the pillar with London Grey (it’s not going to be particularly visible, it just needed to be dark like a well-oiled elevator post).  I left the base of the post unpainted, since that part needs to be glued to the deck (paint can get in the way of gluing things, so where you are able, use masking tape/fluid or at least sand away things when you’re ready for glue).

I set that part aside, and applied the remaining decal to the deck.

Note on the Polar Lights decals:

The decals supplied in this kit are good and thick, so they are pretty durable (they will still rip if you misuse them, but they are a bit more forgiving than some from other vendors).  They also have a bit of a bad habit of soaking through pretty fast, so they will float off if you leave them soaking too long.  To avoid this problem, here’s a short primer on applying wet-transfer decals:

  1. I am using micro-set and micro-sol here (I’ve already talked about these in the arboretum section previously, they’re quite good, I still recommend them highly)
    Decal Softeners from Micro-Scale - note I penned in "1" and "2" on the caps to remind me the order in which they are supposed to go on.

    Decal Softeners from Micro-Scale – note I penned in “1” and “2” on the caps to remind me the order in which they are supposed to go on.

    1. Oh yeah – get some kind of bottle-holder or a little tub to hold the stuff. I’ve knocked both bottles over when using them with previous kits and wasted most of a bottle-full while scrambling to keep my decal intact after a spill.  Huge pain in the ass.  If I’d put them in a bottle-holder, or brought some out in a tub and returned the extra to the bottle, I’d have saved myself some heartache and cleanup time.
  2. I gloss-coated the surface using a light coat of automotive clear lacquer (I use auto gloss here for a reason: it settles very evenly to non-horizontal surfaces, even though it usually takes a full day to cure).  This helps the decal move freely and also aids in preventing ‘silvering.’
    1. You don’t have to do all the painting before decals, but it helps to get as much over with as you can.
  3. Cut the portion of the decal away from the main sheet, and trim it down as much as you reasonably can manage. Some vendors decals are printed on a single big sheet, so you have to trim all edges, but the Polar Lights ones for this kit are laid down on their sheet as individual pieces all separate on the page.  PL also made them really tight, so they fit really well into their places.  Kudos to whoever did that design work.   When you have an opportunity like this, you can leave a little section of the paper extending out as a ‘handle’.
  4. Lay out a paper towel next to your decal soaking water, and make sure that towel is damp – this is a big deal, make sure it is wet (doesn’t have to be soaked through, just wet so it doesn’t suck all the water off your decal).
  5. Use some spring-loaded tweezers to grip the section of decal by a corner of the paper that you left for a handle. Drop the decal in the water for only about thirty seconds.
  6. Take it out of the water, and lay it on the damp towel. Leave it there for another thirty seconds or so.  It’ll be ready before this, but thirty-thirty will pretty much ensure it’ll be good to go.

    "Spritzed" just right

    “Spritzed” just right

  7. During those two thirty-thirty breaks, spritz some water on the receiving model part, and then dab some Micro-Set where the decal is going to sit – you want some under the decal when you lay it down, and you want the surface wet enough that the decal will “float” freely until you have it positioned just right.

    And here I've dabbed Micro-Set where the decal is going to go to get it to settle cleanly.

    And here I’ve dabbed Micro-Set where the decal is going to go to get it to settle cleanly.

  8. Take the decal up again with the tweezers (or by hand if you feel confident enough, but your fingers have oil on them and you may leave fingerprints). Test whether the decal is ready by trying a slide with a finger or a toothpick.  If it’s sliding around on the paper easy, it’s ready.  You may have to coax it a bit at first, but once it’s loose it should move easily.  If it doesn’t, it’s not ready – re-dip it and let it sit another twenty seconds or so.
  9. Slide the decal off onto the part and use a good paintbrush wetted down (cheap ones lose a bristle often, and you don’t want a spare bristle under your decal) and/or a toothpick to position it perfectly.
    1. As you get it close, you can use the brush to wick away some excess water, then dump the water you picked up on the damp paper towel.
    2. Once it is exactly where you want it, use the brush to wick away remaining water, and to brush down the decal to force out any fluid from beneath it. This may also reveal you have some re-positioning yet to do.  If it’s stuck in place and you want to move it, use the brush to deposit some extra water on the decal, and you can also use the brush to lift a corner of the decal and get under it in order to loosen it for repositioning.
  10. After it’s exactly where you want it, you can use a damp paper towel (doesn’t have to be the same one you’re using for the decals to rest on) to suck up the last of the extra fluids around the decal. This is important – the towel you use should be damp.  If it isn’t, you run a big risk that a dry towel will get a grip on your decal and either lift it away or rip it up in place.
  11. Move on to another decal or something, and let this one be for a minute or two. This gives the Micro-Set some time to soften up the underside and pull it down.
  12. Now get a paintbrush and brush on some Micro-Sol. Doesn’t have to be a lot, just make sure you get the entire surface wet.  You don’t have to leave it dripping wet, just wet enough that you can see it was obviously there.
  13. Now you need to make sure that decal doesn’t get touched for an hour or two. Micro Sol will soften it up a lot, and if you inadvertently put a thumb on it (I did exactly this with the elevator on the deck) you’ll crinkle the decal, or rip it.  That’s not an error you can easily recover from.
  14. After it’s had time to cure, it should have settled into place, and it’ll look pretty much painted on. I used to get a lot of “silvering” with some 15mm minis before I started using those Micro-Scale fluids, where little air bubbles would be trapped under the decal, but these solutions really do the job nicely and I don’t get that stuff so much any more.

Primer done :).

After the paint was dry on the elevator, I applied the sectioned-off decal to it and set it aside.

Opening up the portions of wall not visible from the outside, these will be "backlight" sources.

Opening up the portions of wall not visible from the outside, these will be “backlight” sources.

Once it was set aside, I started making some under-lighting holes in the deck.  My intent here was to provide some means for extra light to get up into the bay (I’m concerned that the existing roof lighting won’t be sufficient), so the vertical walls of the bay floor are going to get holed for LEDs to floodlight up from beneath.

I used a half-millimeter bit in a pin vice to hole out a few sections in the elevator deck, and used the little saw to open a wider section in the cargo bay wall.  These walls are obscured from view in the final position, so they work great as spots for the wizard to do his work.

Once the little holes were done, I opened them out completely.

Once the little holes were done, I opened them out completely.  If you look closely, you can see the crinkle in the decal I made by not following my own instructions.  Also note the bare spot for the elevator post.

With regard to #13 of the primer above, I hadn’t waited long enough for the Micro-Sol to cure and dry, and I almost ripped the elevator deck decal while I was gripping the deck floor to put the lighting holes in.  I ended up with a big awful crinkle in it before I realized what was sliding under my hand, but happily I was able to recover most of it by reapplying some Micro Sol and then leaving the thing alone overnight.

After the decals were cured, I scraped off the paint on the deck where the elevator post would go.  I didn’t have to be terribly precise, since this isn’t going to be visible to the observer, but still I kept it limited.  Once I could see bare plastic, I glued the risen elevator in place.

Elevator attached - notice the "rough" look of the decal surface. Micro-Sol has that effect, and it goes away when dry.

Elevator attached – notice the “rough” look of the decal surface. Micro-Sol has that effect, and it goes away when dry.

After drying, it looks smooth and good where it is.

After drying, it looks smooth and good where it is.

After that, I applied the cargo bay floor decal.  (Take note:  the “1-2-3-4” side is AFT, pointing towards the shuttle bay doors, and the “6-7-8” is FORE – these correspond to cargo bay doors that are on the walls which aren’t attached yet.)

Cargo bay floor attached, note the orientation. Not sure how much of this will be visible from the bay doors, but it looks nice.

Cargo bay floor attached, note the orientation. Not sure how much of this will be visible from the bay doors, but it looks nice.

Next came the landing area’s guide line and launch/recovery area.  This decal is actually about 1cm too long, and rather than trim it I just let it flow over the end and secure beneath the deck.  There are also two side decals numbering the work-bee storage areas, and they’re printed numbers in white, which makes them hard to see against the backing paper.  Accuracy-wise, they count from low to high going fore to aft, so the 1-3-5 should have its “1” side towards the elevator, and the 2-4-6 should point its “2” end at the elevator.

Here's the bay floor decals going on - notice that the small white numbers to port and starboard *do* have specific orientation.

Here’s the bay floor decals going on – notice that the small white numbers to port and starboard *do* have specific orientation.

Bay floor all done up.

Bay floor all done up.

After these were all on, I hit them with Micro-Sol and set them aside to rest overnight.

I then mixed some light brown acrylic (1 part beige brown and 2 parts white) to get the walls around the cargo bay doors.  The upper level above the cargo bay will get a different treatment to look like brushed steel on the girders later.  I painted the wall sections with this, being careful to avoid the doors themselves, and painted under the walkways similarly.

Wall frames painted a dark beige.

Wall frames painted a dark beige.

It pays to be a pack-rat modeler - always keep your old unused decals!

It pays to be a pack-rat modeler – always keep your old unused decals!

While this was drying, I took some extra decals I had leftover from a 1:600 scale TOS Enterprise kit (some of the dark windows and engine ports) and dressed up the landing area walls a little over the tops, as well as the back wall above the cargo area.  These areas looked kinda bland, and with just a little “flair” (thank you, Jennifer Aniston) they look much more ‘alive.’ I also did the tiny photo-etch people’s uniforms with simple one-tone colors.  Since the whole thing was gloss-coated previously, it was really easy to wipe off the extra acrylic from the railings.  I’ll do the faces in various colors later (probably will include blue for an Andorian or something).

All the side cargo doors and lifeboat hatches are applied to their recessed locations. Some of these belong in specific locations, so pay attention to the numbers on the instructions.

All the side cargo doors and lifeboat hatches are applied to their recessed locations. Some of these belong in specific locations, so pay attention to the numbers on the instructions.

I’ve been noticing that the plastic parts have several ejection peg marks which I should have sanded off before starting this whole thing.  Hmm…it’s livable, most won’t be visible from the bay doors, but I regret not going in on those first off.

After the beige was dried, I applied all the cargo bay door decals and the lifeboat doors, two at a time.  Again, kudos to the Polar Lights decal designer, these went in great.  Really pro stuff.  And with that, the walls are done!

Back wall doors applied, also note the little PE persons there.

Back wall doors applied, also note the little PE persons there.

I’m next going to do those turbolift pillars, but I’ll cover that in the next installment, since they look like they’re going to be a real challenge for my eyes to see (they’re entirely clear, and I need to paint them dark except for the funny lighted ‘holes’.

USS Entperprise – Build Log Part 6 : USS Enterprise – Build Log Part 4

 

 

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