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

Build Log:  Part 15

This update is going to be about some of the electronics that I’m designing and working with to control special effects on the model – the lighting of the torp launcher and the sounds that go along with the lighting effects.

First off, let’s spell out my requirements – there are three basic sound effects I want to establish:

First:  an ambient noise that will operate at all times that will provide a low-level of background effects.  I’ve mixed a 13-minute MP3 of various clips from ST:TMP of scenes from the engineering deck and the shuttle bay.

Second:  a music track “Enterprise Clears Moorings” from ST:WOK that will accompany a power-up lighting procedure that I have on a separate board purchased from Tenacontrols (given what I know now about programming the Arduino, I didn’t really need to buy this, but I’ve got it so I’ll use it).

Third:  a torpedo sound effect that will accompany the firing sequence of lights.

(I might decide to add a fourth for going to Warp, but I haven’t decided yet.)

These sounds fit into the actions I want the little computer to do:

  1. Start-up. When the power comes on, it should power basic lights and take us directly into…
  2. Idle State. Start the ambient background noise on a cycle, which will loop endlessly when nothing else is going on.
  3. Power-Up. This will halt whatever else is going on, then begin a process that will match the lighting sequence as seen on ST:WOK when the Enterprise leaves drydock, and will also play the theme tune “Enterprise Clears Moorings.”  After the tune is done the computer will return to (2), the idle state.
  4. Torpedo launch. Whatever else is going on, it should stop that and kick off the lighting sequence for launch while synchronizing the torpedo sound with the lighting.  Afterwards, return to (2), idle state.

So how are we going to do this?

I’m going to assume you aren’t big on electronics, so if you know this stuff already, skip this part.

The Arduino is a small computer, with a series of input and output pins.  You can program it to trigger the outputs based on what it might receive from inputs.

Certain electronic components produce current as a result of conditions around it – like changes in light, temperature, buttons being pressed, rheostats being turned, etc.  These are considered “sensors” – you have several natural sensors of your own:  eyes, skin, smell, etc.

Other electronic components do things when they receive current – like spin gears, light up, etc.  These are called “actuators,” but more often they’re referred to by their specific function.  LEDs, servomotors, transistors, etc. are all actuators.

So the Arduino, as a microcontroller, receives inputs from sensors and issues on/off to actuators.  There are about a jillion other add-ons that are built specifically for the Arduino, in many cases that snap onto the Arduino itself.  These are called “shields”, and they are pin-compatible with the Arduino’s rows of pins so they easily slide onto and off of the little computer.

The Arduino’s controlling circuits have “on” and “off” functions, “on” being represented by the board sending 5 Volts of current out the particular pin of the circuit.  “Off” receives no current.  All the outputs can operate in “digital” on/off style, and some of them can operate in “analog” mode – they’re still on/off, but they can emulate analog output by cycling a percent of the time by switching much faster than a human can perceive.  So to be completely “on” they turn on 100% of the time, and to be “half” on they cycle on/off 50% of the time, etc.

Remember the lighting from the Neck section that I made for the torpedo launcher?  Five lights – one for the background, then a red and white for each torpedo.  The background will light up, then to simulate a torpedo launch, the red on each side will cycle up, and at the point of launch the white behind it will flash.  See this video for an example:

In the video above, you see the torpedo red LEDs fade in and then go off – the fade-on is accomplished by using the analog outputs this way.

So I want to make sounds, and the easy way would normally be to pick up an MP3 player shield, but I’m a bit of a masochist, and the form factor of a full sized Arduino plus a shield is a bit tall for what I want to build as a base.  Plus, it’ll be cooler this way.

What I did instead, is I bought some el-cheapo MP3 players from Amazon – they were about $2-$3 each, self-contained little units that were meant for thumb-control.  I ended up with two different kinds (the first one shipped from Hong Kong and took longer than expected, so I ended up ordering a different set and when all was said and done I had both kinds).  One was a bare-bones model with just controls, the second had a similar layout for its controls, and had a tiny little LCD display in it.

Remarkably similar internally, these two players retail for between $2 and $3 on Amazon…often shipped from Hong Kong at no charge.

Internally they are both very similar, small circuit boards with a set of five button pads.  Each button pad has an internal and an external connection pad, and there’s a connector disc held in place by some tape that makes it into a momentary switch (momentaries are on for a “moment,” only on so long as they’re held connected).  When the buttons on the unit are pressed, the connector disc bends in and makes a connection between the inner and outer sections which results in an “on” result for as long as the button is held down.

I already did a little surgery on the board to the left, but you can figure out where the parts are.

Each one also has a 16-pin controller chip, a tiny flat battery pack, an earphone jack, an on-off dip switch, and a micro-SD card slot.

A lot of these connector pads are hooked up to the same circuit inside the MP3 player, some of them being ground, and others connecting to pins on the 16-pin chip.  The connector disc shorts the pads when the button is pushed.  We’re going to use this principle to make the Arduino pretend to be fingers pressing buttons.  There’s only so many outputs from the Arduino though, and fortunately we only need a few functions of the MP3 player.

Those functions are:

  • Navigation (forward or back)
  • Pause/Play

We might also have need of:

  • Power
  • Volume +/-

There are a few sites on the net that describe how to hack an MP3 player like these, and they show some of the connector pin-outs and which pins they connect to on the MP3 chip.  These may or may not be correct – I found a few errors when testing.

I picked up a pair cheap 2GB micro-SD cards (important to get the kind with adapters, or you may not be able to use them) for $5 on eBay, and these will serve just fine for my purpose here.  Also important is to note the capacity of your MP3 player, some can handle large SDs and some can’t.  You don’t need an expensive high-cap model for this purpose, and don’t blow money on SDs that are too big for your player.

As you saw in the video I’ve got the Arduino set up to trigger those lights in the right sequence for the firing, which I used transistors to control (I got five of them in a starter kit, but you can buy them really cheap on eBay or at an electronics store – they are unit “BC 547 K7 E”).

A transistor is a special actuator that basically operates as a switch.  It has three legs, called collector, base, and emitter.  When a little bit of current is applied to the base, the collector and the base are connected to one another.  These little gems enable you to control something considerably more power-hungry than your controller board can supply.  So if you were going to run a big motor and wanted to control it with the Arduino, you wouldn’t be able to get it powered up with the Arduino itself – but you’d power it from another source and run that power through the transistor.  You supply the positive through the collector arm, and connect the emitter to the positive of the motor, then connect the ground for the motor to the ground for the whole system.

The base on the transistor isn’t built to take a lot of current, it only needs a little tiny trickle to trigger it.  Easiest way to do that for these models of transistor is to put a 1k Ohm resistor in the path of the current from your Arduino’s pin.

Let’s go into the details of which pads do what for each of the MP3 players.  We’ll start with the simpler one, which doesn’t have a display (the number represents the pin on the chip):

Your mileage may vary – different factories might program their functions differently.

I think it’s important to note that you might end up with a different board or circuit layout – these things might be mass-produced in China, but they have a lot of different variations.  Seriously I’d recommend creating a table as I’ve done in the next example, and finding the right wiring solution from studying that.

Each time a button is pressed, it shorts the connection between the inner and outer pad, which connects two pins on the chip to one another – and the chip responds with the function given.  So, when you press “Play” on this model, it connects pins 7 and 8, so for this chip 7 + 8 = Play.

I snipped the battery off and connected leads to its wires – when the time came I’d link these to the Arduino’s 3.3V output.  I also soldered new leads to the inner and outer pads of the Vol +, and the inner and outer pads of the Next button.  This gives me leads attached to pins 6,7,8 and 16 of the chip.  Notice that using a combination of two of any of these, I can generate any of the commands available on the control board of the player.

Using a transistor on each wire, I could wire all the emitter arms of the four transistors to a common line (which would be a “bus”), and by turning on two transistors at a time I could pretend I was pressing buttons.

Here’s the problem – this model player has a convenience feature programmed into it that turns out to be really inconvenient for me:  it remembers where it left off when you last turned it off.  If it’s in the middle of playing a track, it’ll remember and when you turn it back on, and it’ll resume playing in the track where it left off.  My Arduino has no such memory unless I program one into it, which requires a persistent storage that would just be a huge pain in the ass to wire up and write to.

So if I had only one track that needed playing, this unit would be fine.  But I need several, and that memory feature is a real bugger.

That’s where the next model came in much more handy.

The one with the LCD display happens to reset itself to “zero” when it’s powered down and then up.  Whew!  That makes life a lot easier for me.  An added benefit, the volume control is set at a reasonable level by default, which is great (extra great since it has a weird volume control – you have to hold down the Vol while pressing >> or << to adjust the volume).  Slightly less convenient, the “zero” state powers up to a menu, but this is only a minor problem because once you tap the menu button once it begins to play at the first track.

Since I have the option of starting from a zeroed state, I basically only need three functions here:

  • Tap the menu button
  • Move (forward or back doesn’t matter)
  • Pause/Play

I wasn’t able to trace which pad went to which pin on the chip this time, so instead I used a jumper wire to map out what happens when I short any of the various pads against each other.  In my map, the pads are represented by a number – 1 for the 12 O’clock button and going clockwise, 5 being for the center button, plus “i” for inner and “o” for outer, see the image here:

Using that jumper wire (holding one end to one pad, and touching the other pad to the other), here are the functions:

For some reason this table didn’t come through very clear, sorry. You shouldn’t take my word for this anyway, since different factories are likely to have different code for their chip, even if the board looks similar.







Pl/Pa = Play / Pause

>> = Next

<< = Back

Vol = Volume toggle (this plus >> or << adjusts volume)

Menu = Menu button

X = no function

Other things I noticed while I was making this map that I’ll need to keep in mind while programming controls for this unit:

  • Back does a jump to the prior track – it does not return to zero on the current track.
  • Pause only holds within a track – advancing or backing up a track takes it off pause.
  • Volume, as mentioned, is a toggle that changes the << and >> circuits to change volume.
  • Boot of the MP3 player takes about 2s, and lands in a menu that takes one Menu tap to exit and start playing track 1.
  • Left Idle, after 30-40 seconds the LCD display turns off and requires a single button press (any button) to “wake up” and be receptive to further commands. The wake up tap elicits no response.

Based on this map, I really only need transistor-enabled connections to 1o, 2o, and 3i to produce the actions I require – I will connect the emitters of all three to 5o, which will give me Menu, Back, and Play/Pause function.

I’ll also put a transistor switch on the power for this player.  I’ll snip the battery off and connect it to the Arduino’s 3.3V output and stick a transistor control on that.  This gives me the ability to turn off the MP3 player and Reset it to “zero” state when I need to.

Additionally, the Tenacontrols board uses a momentary switch to trigger its power-up sequence.  I’ll slap a transistor there instead of a momentary switch, and control that through the Arduino too.  That enables me to control the Power-Up through software.

So now my functions are starting to shape up.  I’ll need two reference points:  what track I’m on, and whether I’m currently playing something.  (This second one is not really necessary since I’ll be playing something all the time, but there’s a slight chance that something might go askew and since I have no ability to handle exception cases post-facto in this code, I need to establish solid control up-front.)  I will have to have assumed knowledge in this little application that there are three tracks, and the order in which they appear on the storage card, because I have no real means by which to figure that out (technically I could hack further into the device to find where the LCD display gets length-of-track information and track # info, and use that, but I’m not that much of a masochist).

I’ll need to code the Arduino to do the actions described earlier in the following ways:

  1. Start-up. Always-on lights will be wired to the power directly so no action required there, the Arduino will Reset the MP3 player, tap Menu once, then Pause (tapping the menu automatically starts playing, so I’m establishing known control here and Pausing it).  Record the play-state as paused, and record what track we’re on (the first one), then enter Idle state.
  2. Idle State. Check the reference sites to find what track we’re on and whether we’re currently playing or paused.  Navigate to the ambient background noise by pressing the Back button an appropriate number of times, and then every 13 minutes use the Back button to re-navigate to the ambient track.
  3. Power-Up. Figure out where we are and whether we’re playing or paused.  If playing, Pause, then navigate to the “Enterprise Clears Moorings” track.  Pause  Trigger the Power-Up sequence on the Tenacontrols board.  Delay the right amount of time and Play the track when it will synch up properly with the lighting as seen on ST:WOK when the Enterprise leaves drydock.  1 second before the tune is done, Pause and enter (2) the idle state.
    1. I may amend this depending on whether I decide to “power down”, too. Not sure yet.
  4. Torpedo launch. Figure out where we are and whether we’re playing or paused.  If playing, Pause, then navigate to the Torpedo track.  Pause  Trigger the code for the torpedo cycle (which will include synching the sound effects with the lights).  If we’re in the middle of Powering Up, all that matters is that we disable the sound – let the lighting finish on its own, the torp will launch normally independent of all that.  Afterwards, return to (2), idle state.

Extra-cheap and available in a wide range of sizes, these prototyping boards can be had all over the Internet.

Some of the timing above will require manually observing and hard-coding times to get things right (particularly where buttons have to be pressed in rapid succession – I don’t know how sensitive that MP3 chip is).  Once I’m satisfied that the whole thing works on my breadboard and proof-of-concept harness, I’ll move the circuitry onto a permanent board and solder it up.

I’ve also bought some inexpensive computer speakers that run on their own wall-socket plug, and a headphone extension cable.  Inside the base of the model, I’ll secure the headphone cable so that it shows a port on the outside of the base.  The computer speakers will plug into that, and they’ll have their own volume control, so I can adjust according to the needs of the room.

A little size reference – the top left board is an Arduino Nano (cheap Chinese knock-off, actually)

I’ll also probably try to move the code onto a different Arduino platform – the standard “Mega” version is about the size of a credit card, and although this is perfectly acceptable, I’d like to see if I can get all this working with a “Nano” size board.  The “Nano” is about 2cm x 8cm, so from a form-factor perspective I could potentially move all my circuitry outside of main power directly into the secondary hull.  That’s not my intention, but it’d be neat if I could manage it.  The Nano also consumes less amperage than the Mega, which might be advantageous.  I haven’t added up the total Amps this whole affair will draw – lights, computer boards, MP3 player – and I’m pretty sure it’ll be <2.0, but I’d still like to conserve what energy I can.

Now this is all well and good, you’re probably thinking – but I’m missing a very, very important piece to this whole puzzle.  In the IT industry it’s called “HMI,” or “Human-Machine Interface.”  That amounts to the method by which I or other persons will tell this system to do the stuff it knows how to do, for us.  When I want it to do a power-up sequence, how do I tell it?  When I want it to fire torpedoes, how do I tell it?  I haven’t said anything at all about that stuff here.

I’ll settle one thing first off – there will be a main on/off switch to control the power for the entire operation.  But these other items?

That’s going to be a hell of a lot cooler, and I’ll cover that in the next installment, because I haven’t got all the parts yet.

…and it might end up looking a little bit like this :).

USS Enterprise – Build Log Part 14  USS Enterprise – Build Log Part 16

Posted in Build Log, Model Kits, PC Stuff, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

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

Build Log:  Part 14

This is a mini-post to host a video showing how to assemble and solder various LED types for use in the Secondary Hull (LED tape, normal LEDs, SMDs, some soldering tips).  Watch at your own risk, and bring some coffee :).

Some points to note:

  • When soldering, treat your pen/iron like you would a sharp knife.  Anything it touches will melt if it is able to.
  • The short leg of an LED is the negative (-) one, and that’s the one that gets the resistor
  • Magnet wire is usually insulated, with a laquer that can be burned or sanded off (sanding is usually better)
  • Test everything, any time something can change.  Test it when you build it, test it when you connect it, test it when you install it.  It’s much better to discover a problem earlier.
  • Buy SMDs with leads attached.  They’re a pain in the ass to solder leads to.
  • Small solder is as good as, or better than, big solder

Update: I had several stills that I should share here, so I’m passing them on.

Also, I forgot to mention in the video that the way I’m wiring here is to run everything in a parallel circuit.  I hate series circuits, because if one light burns out the whole chain dies.  Parallel circuits use more resistors (a series would only need one at the negative end), so there’s more soldering, but it’s more fault-tolerant.  For example, my USS Reliant has had a couple of its navigation lights inexplicably stop working, but the rest are still running just fine – I’d have lost the entire set of navs if they’d been on a series circuit.

Always plan out your parts and lay them out before beginning work, so you don’t over- or under-do the parts you need.

Ignore the overlapping magnet wire here – this is an example of what a good solder looks like on LED tape – just little knobs, not big gloppy splotches.









I didn’t have to leave the LED’s legs this long, and probably should have snipped them a little. Note the short leg is always the negative (-) side, and that’s the one that needs a resistor.

A little scale comparison so you can see what some of these mini SMDs look like – this is why you buy them with leads attached.









USS Enterprise – Build Log Part 13  USS Enterprise – Build Log Part 15

Posted in Build Log, Model Kits, PC Stuff, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

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

Build Log:  Part 13

Well, it’s been a while, but I’ve got a few things done in the time since I last updated here.  I had almost begun on the secondary hull, but found a few things that needed handling before that was done up, so I put that part on hold until my next installment.  Instead, I did work on the neck and the O-Lounge, so let’s get to them!

The Officer’s Lounge

This room featured in the original Motion Picture as a meeting room where Kirk, McCoy, and Spock discussed the incoming V’Ger threat.  It didn’t feature in the Wrath of Khan at all, and in fact this room was replaced in the 1701-A ship with an Officer’s Mess (which was

Notice the colors of the uniforms, walls, and chairs. From a long distance we have to be able to give these impressions.

used in Undiscovered Country to host the diplomatic dinner with the Klingon Chancellor).  There is a 3rd-party piece available for the Officer’s Mess, but I’m building a non-A version about the time frame of Wrath of Khan, so I stuck with the stock O-Lounge part.



Left – the part before paint; Right – after soaking in an acetone bath. Good if I was going for an “Alien” Gieger look, but not so hot for Star Trek.

Initially I primed up the O-Lounge with a grey that turned out both too dark and too thick, it smothered the detail I wanted.  I should have known better than to go directly to this paint, as I’d got it from a craft store and had never used it on a model before.

My second big error:  when trying to strip the paint off, I soaked the part in acetone.  Very poor choice, as acetone will slowly melt polystyrene.  The bath pretty much wrecked the part (and in my search for a replacement that’s where I discovered that Don’s Light and Magic offers the O-Mess part).  Thankfully, I was able to secure a replacement of the original part through the kindness of someone on the SciFiModelAction boards.

Liquid mask up front, masking tape behind

First, the Officer’s Lounge has two big screens in its rear, and both of these I intend to have back-lit to appear like big TV screens.  To keep these safe, I used a liquid mask over them before priming, and put some masking tape on their back.  This way I just have white plastic that light can pass through easily.

Masked the areas where the part will glue onto the saucer, and primed it with black for light-blocking,

Primed and trees clipped

Chairs and screens ready, tree trunks glued on

then Tamiya light grey to match the walls in the film.  Next, since I’m going to install real-looking plants, I cut off the plastic trees that are scattered around the floor.  I have some 1/35th scale trees that I use for WW2 armor dioramas, and I clipped a branch or two from one to use as the trunks of the “real” trees that I was going to install here.  I glued them all in place with super glue, since they weren’t the same as the polystyrene.

The chairs, couches, and tables were next, because I can’t paint them easily after the foliage goes in.  I used an orangish color that I mixed to match the appearance in ST:TMP.  See the sort of “hallway” in the back, that goes up to the center screen?  That’s the set where the scene was filmed.

Crew and Decals for the Lounge

I then took a set of 1/350 people from a Tamiya navy crew set, painted them up in uniform colors based on both TMP and WOK, and cut the HDA Modelworx decals out to put into place.  Setting the decals was a simple matter of cutting them to fit, and gluing the figures just took a little CA super glue.  To get McCoy sitting properly in his chair took a little carving from behind the knees and waist to get it to bend right, but eventually it stuck properly.

Crew and decals in place

Once everyone was in the right place, I could glue the foliage to the trees.  Using the same deep green foliage from the 1/35th scale trees worked perfectly, giving a really nice look to the lounge.  A little sprinkle of light green fluff gave some contrast the foliage and added some depth to the effect.  Spray with satin finish to protect everything and add a little extra “stay put” factor, and it’s done.

The O-Lounge completed – even has Kirk, Bones, and Spock in the back section (this doesn’t look great when you’re right up in its face, but from one meter away it’s exactly what it needs to be).

The Fantail

The rear endcap for the secondary hull, the Fantail is one of the easiest of the subassemblies to make.  Four pieces make this one up – the fantail itself, the two side panels, and the overhead red lighting.  The faintail is a white plastic, while the other three are clear.

Side panels of the fantail masked.

After trimming and sanding, the fantail gets light-blocked.  When doing this, make sure to do your light-blocking on the outside of the piece, not the interior – the fantail has a limited amount of contact area with the secondary hull, and you don’t want to get paint on that.  It’ll interfere with your ability to glue it in place, so make sure to mask the rear properly before spraying/airbrushing.  After the black dried, some white Vallejo finished the painting.

The overhead part got zapped up with some crystal red clear paint (I used an airbrush to get a uniform coverage).  This ended up making the part a little too big for the socket it was to fit in, so I filed out the space where it belonged to ensure a good seating.  Some canopy glue on its back and that was done.

Light-blocking the fantail sides

The two side panels are a little funny.  When you look at the studio model, they are darker than the fantail itself, and they have not only those three blue horizontals, but a few small red spots on their lower halves.  I put some liquid mask into the horizontals, and blacked the pieces on their front (I pressed them into some blue-tac putty to hold them in place while spraying, and this also masked the rears to keep them from collecting extra paint).  Once the light-block was dry, I zapped them with some Tamiya light grey to provide contrast with the fantail.

Interior of the fantail with putty closing the light leaks

After the paint dried, I used a .5mm drill to put a few holes in the paint on the lower side, and to put one spot above the horizontals on each.  A little crystal blue in the horizontals (and the spot above them), followed by a drop of crystal red in the spots beneath them, and they were ready.  Glued in place with canopy glue, then checked for light leaks – which there were several around the sides.  I filled in the sides with plastic putty, and that took the leaks out of the picture.  Finally, after masking the back I applied a coat of automotive clear gloss on the exterior to protect everything and get it ready for decals.

Fantail is ready for action – the side panels look a little rough close-up, but at the one-meter judgment scale, they look great.

The “Neck”

This turned out to be deceptively complex, and just calling it “the neck” seems like an understatement.  It contains the torpedo launcher section, and is the first assembly of the model that actually has windows in it.  As well, it has two travel pod docking rings, which have some photo-etch parts to go with them.

Notice the lights in the travel pod docking ports.

Looking at the film shots, the travel-pod docks have lights on either side of them, which I decided to use fiber-optics for.  The holes are deep enough that a small drill bit will work fine, and a .25mm FO strand fits perfectly in there.  The fibers I was using were a bit stiff, and required some heating to get to bend properly – and once you cement them in place they become quite brittle, so my best advice here is maybe not to do that at all.  It was a royal pain in the ass, and I think I might skip that if I had to do it over again.  However, they’re done now, and I wouldn’t be doing you justice if I didn’t mention them.

Inserting fiber for the pod lighting

“Mushrooming” the ends of the FO







After threading the fibers through the drilled holes, I used a soldering iron to ‘mushroom’ the tips just a little, and then pulled them flush with the inside of the docks.

Travel pod PE parts – there are quite a few of these, make sure to get them oriented right (the little flat spot goes on bottom)

Next, I secured the photo-etch parts to the travel pod docking rings with some CA glue.  In hindsight, these PE parts should go on after the completed assembly has been painted, and a final dusting of the white overcoat can be applied to cover up the metal.  Having them in early resulted in the detail being obscured by several coats of hull color paint, and I ended up having to go back and wash the paint out of the docking rings with acetone before re-applying a thin coat to preserve the details.


Masking applied to the Raytheon zones

A big splotch of liquid mask then was applied to each side of the neck to provide a Raytheon lighting spot (in the film studio model, this area was lit up with a spotlight that wasn’t actually on the model, but you couldn’t tell that from the way they shot the scene).  A tiny dot of mask was also applied to the ends of the fiber optics in the pod rings.  Light-blocking time!  Masking up the edges to avoid screwing up the parts that would be glued together, the exterior of each part got a coat of black.

Light blocked…

…and hull color applied.  Notice on both that there is masking tape covering where the glue seams will be.


Once dry, I stripped off the masking film, sanded the edges where necessary (not really needed, but I wanted to be sure), and put on several coats of Vallejo white primer as a hull color.

Some of the interior printed on transparency sheet

After this the windows were going in, and even though they were circular ports through which not a lot can be seen, I printed out some interior hallways on transparency film to glue in place behind them.  Cutting small sections of these out and gluing them behind the windows gives a little variation in the amount of light passing through the windows, and I suppose someone with better up-close eyesight than mine might be able to make out the detail.


Some of the larger windows needed “convincing”.

Some of the window parts for the neck are a bit large, and don’t fit perfectly, so they had to be clamped while the canopy glue dried.  In hindsight, I might have been better off to slice these up with a Dremel or something, and apply them in pieces, but I did them whole.  I let them dry overnight to be sure.



Doesn’t hurt to cut some of these windows to make them easier to handle.

There are also two pieces which are molded to extend over the inside of the travel pod docks, and if you have put fiber in there, you’ll have to cut these in two pieces (discarding the middle section of them).  Not a big deal, they still attach fine after cutting.




“Floodlight” ports on base of neck

Double-layered with clear styrene and glazed with matt clear frosts them for lighting from underneath.

There are two “spotlight” sections on the lower rear of the neck, squarish holes that are intended to splash light up on the neck.  I didn’t like the way the clear parts for these holes protruded, so instead of those I just took some small pieces of clear styrene and glued them to close the holes up.  A bit of clear matte on these frosts them up and scatters light out from beneath them nicely.

Now it was time for the interior lighting.

Setting aside the two sides, I took an inventory of what lights would need to go into the neck section:

Lay out your lighting components to get ready to do some soldering.

2 LEDs to feed the fiber optics (one for each side) – I went with a 3mm cool white for each

2 LEDs to supply the Raytheon effects – I used 3mm cool white here too

4 3-chip LED strips for the interior lighting in warm white

This is what LED strip-lighting looks like when tinned up properly.

Those strips need a little description – they are sold as 5-meter rolls, which is more than most people will use on a model like this (or three, probably), and they aren’t wired up when you get them.  They do have conveniently-marked cutting lines, but the rest is up to you.  Having cut the four sections out, I also assembled wire leads that would be connected to them (using a hot iron and sandpaper to remove the lacquer insulation from the ends I wanted to use).  Tinning the strips basically means putting the tip of your iron on each of the

Once your wires are in place, they should resist a gentle tug.

copper receiving circles to heat them up and then touching solder to them to leave a drop on its surface.  The 36-gauge magnet wire I use here won’t tin well, so once it has been stripped of its insulation it’s basically ready to use.  Put the LED strip into a set of “helping hands” and hold the magnet wire in your off-hand.  Heat the solder up on the strip while holding the magnet wire against the drop.  As soon as the drop goes molten, wiggle the wire into the blob and remove the heat immediately.  A little blowing on it will solidify the metal right away, and a gentle tug on the magnet wire will confirm that it is locked onto the strip.  Repeat for the other connector.  Once both are connected, test your wiring with a battery or other source of current to make sure the soldering worked.  If they don’t, you’ll have to repeat the job.

Dirty, dirty solder

Clean solder looks shiny and “silvery”

Any time you use your soldering iron, clean it before using it again.  Having dirty solder will potentially screw up its ability to make an electrical connection, and it will be much harder to work with.  Clean solder on your iron will look silvery, while a dirty iron will have a lot of black slag on it.  Just use a wet sponge or soaked rag to wipe off the hot iron and keep it clean in between every use.

Placing the LED strips and FO feeder light – note the colored leads for pos/neg ends.

For each of the 3mm LEDs, a 470-Ohm resistor gets soldered on (make sure it goes on the negative side, which is the shorter of the two legs), and wire leads go on as well (color code your leads so they are always the same – usual convention in all electrical work is to use black for your negative, and colors for positives).  Test your connection to make sure it works.

LED strips have tape backings, and you can peel them off and stick them in place.  Although this is convenient, I don’t trust it for a long-term connection…I want this model to still look great in ten or twenty years, and I know tape adhesives dry out in that sort of timeframe.  Once the tape strips were anchored, I dabbed some CA on each one every centimeter or so.

The 3mm LEDs for the fiber went on next, also using CA to get them to stay put.

By the way, if you get tired of holding pieces in place while you wait for CA to set, you can pick up some ‘zip kicker’ in a spritz-bottle that forces CA to set instantly.  It’s a bit stinky, but it works great.  Once the LEDs for the fiber were locked down, I gently bent the fiber to meet the bulbs of the LEDs (some heat was required to soften the fibers, and this was really difficult to do – too much heat and the fiber melts, too little and it stays brittle and just shatters where it passes through its hole) and glued them on with CA.

Next, the Raytheon LEDs got a resistor put on, then lead wires.  Pop them in place behind the spots on the neck and secure with CA.

Wrap the wires where you can to avoid clutter, and always label your wires when they’re tested good. You’ll thank me for that some time.

Now we’ve got a bunch of loose wires hanging out, and that makes for later mistakes and accidents, so to make things a little more manageable we can twine a few together.  The fiber optics will be on the same circuit as the interior lighting, so that’s a good set of candidates right there.  Take the negative leads from the LED strips, and wind them around the black (negative) wire from the 3mm LED for the fiber.  Do the winding so that the last few centimeters of the magnet wire wrap around the tinned end of the negative lead.  You can then re-tin that lead to lock the magnet wires in place there.  Repeat with the positive leads from the strips around the white or colored (positive) lead of the 3mm fiber LED.  Now you’ll have only two sets of leads from each side – one for the interior lighting/fiber, and one for the Raytheon/floodlights.

Using masking tape, or some other form you are comfortable with, label your wires now.

Go ahead and test again using a battery or source of current to make sure everything still works.  You don’t want to glue everything together and find out later that somewhere you have a bad connection.

Since I’m paranoid about glue, I decided to apply hot-glue all over the place too, to make sure it all got triple-secured.

Crew inside the windows looking out.

So now all the wires and LEDs are in place, and I can fix the window dressing in place.  Using the transparencies I’d cut out earlier, I scissored a section and glued it behind some of the windows with canopy glue.  I also took two of the Tamiya naval crew figures and cut sections of them to go behind a couple of windows.  Don’t think they’ll really be all that visible, but their shadows will, and that’ll make things look like there are people walking around in there.

More crew observing the travel pod dock.

Time to work up the torpedo launcher.  It isn’t black, but a very dark grey, and the insides of each tube are glossy (during the 10-minute fly-by tour in ST:TMP you can pause it on one of the frames to get a really good close-up look at them).  I put some liquid mask in the ‘mouth’ of each tube, and some masking tape across the back, then just sprayed it with black followed by a dark grey.  You will probably have to do multiple coats (I did), because although the first coat might look good to the naked eye, it will still be light-permeable and won’t look very good.

Once the painting on the torp launcher is good, you have a choice – lit or no.  If you aren’t going to light it, light-block the back of it to prevent leakage and it’s ready to go.  If you are going to light this section…

First, widen the portion of the neck sections to enable the wiring to pass more easily.

Torpedoes fired in “The Motion Picture”

Next, you get to decide how the launcher will behave while firing.  In ST:TMP, a background light of red within both tubes fades in when the torps are armed and ready, and the torpedoes themselves are bright blue.  In WOK, there is no back-lighting and the torps are red.  Take this into account when determining which lights you choose.



“Wrath of Khan” torpedo launch

I went with a combination – I want the red back-lighting like TMP, and I want my torpedoes to be red like WOK.

First, I drilled a center-hole in the back of the torp launcher piece, and glued a red SMD with CA into it.  This will be the source of my backlighting.

Each torpedo tube is molded with a hole behind it, so that’s convenient.  Into each one I first put a red SMD, gluing it in place with CA.  Behind that, I then stuck a white SMD and glued it with CA.  After the CA was dry, I plopped some canopy glue in as well.

While you’re waiting for this to dry, paint the inside of the “mouth” that holds the torp launcher on each side of the neck.  Just use matt black here.

Get some painting done while you wait.

What I’m going to do with these is program an Arduino board (I’ll highlight that in a future installment of this build log) to fade-in the backlight, then do a fire-one / fire-two sequence using rapid fades of the two red and white SMDs to look like the firing sequence in the films.  I also have sound clips of torpedo firing which I’ll include on a cheap-ass Chinese MP3 player that will also be controlled by the Arduino board, and will play from whichever speakers I hook the thing up to.

There’s a final piece of the neck that goes into the rear of it when it’s complete, which I assume is some kind of venting port for the torpedo launchers.  It’s just black in the films, so I painted it matt black on the showing parts.  No lights, very simple.

Time to glue all the parts together!

Making sure to be very careful of the wiring…

I stuck the torp launcher carefully into one side of the neck (it takes some firm but gentle pressure to get it to seat properly) and glued it there with canopy glue.  Wait for the glue to dry.

Again being careful of the wires…

Next thing is to put some canopy glue into the other side of the neck where the torp launcher will sit.  Get your polystyrene cement out, and glue the small vent into the side that already has the torp launcher seated in it.  Before this is done drying (because you’ll need to adjust it a little), line the neck side with glue on the edges where the neck will come together and in the post holes and posts, then press the whole thing together firmly.

Check the fit of the torp launcher and the rear vent, and adjust them as needed to make sure they are lined up correctly.  The neck should fit together pretty well, I didn’t have too many seam problems, but to hold it while it dries is a bit of a pain.  Use some clamps to hold the pieces together (I wrap mine in a soft cloth and put them in a vise, and clamp in places where the vice is too big to grip).  Let it sit and cure for a day, and check in on it every fifteen minutes or so for the first hour, correcting the fit if necessary.

Styrene reinforcement strip – just cut to fit where you can slide it in, and make sure it has a good bit of glue on it.

Lay them in, front and back, and press them down. This will strengthen the bond holding the halves together.

Once the whole thing was cured, I cut out some strips of styrene to reinforce the neck’s connection, sliding them into the structure and bridging the two pieces.  I also used silicon black seal on the back of the torpedo launcher to guarantee zero light transmission between the neck and the torp launcher.

The few seams I had, didn’t take a lot of fixing – a little wipe with some plastic putty, a little sanding, and a short blast with some white Vallejo (masking all my windows) and it was clean.

Once this was done, I painted some of the larger highlights with an airbrush (the duck-egg blue on the ribbed top section, the silver “mouth” around the torp launcher, the light grey “throat”, and the light grey space directly beneath the launcher).

Finally, once I was satisfied with the paint job and the glue was completely cured, I put a coat of automotive gloss clear on the entire assembly (masking off the top and bottom where it’ll need to glue onto the other parts of the ship) so it’d be clean and ready for decals.

With that, it’s ready to roll!  Into a bag it goes, and in my next installment I’ll discuss the Arduino board for the torps as well as probably getting into the secondary hull.


She’s ready for prime time! Next stop, the secondary hull.


USS Enterprise – Build Log Part 12

USS Enterprise – Build Log Part 14

Posted in Build Log, Model Kits, Sci-Fi | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

A lengthy reaction to a Libertarian statement

A lengthy reaction to a friend’s post regarding Libertarian writings regarding how a “mixed economy” results in a “slide towards fascism” – seems worth sharing more broadly:
Edit:  this is the article to which I am referring (taken from “The Foundation for Economic Education,” which is a Libertarian think-tank, so if that kind of site makes your skin crawl don’t follow the link. 
In reaction to: “But I think there is something to be said about fascist tendencies being inevitable when you grant the State enough power to control private property.” and other such gems…
That is total silliness. According to “Libertarian principles” (I have to choke back a laugh when I say that), the State exists primarily to protect private property. And yet, it cannot do so without having ultimate decisive power over said property in order to establish ownership.
To use the term “mixed economy” as if there was some alternative is just dumb. Outside of Imperial Feudalism wherein every bit of property belongs to the emperor or king, the only thing that can exist is a mixed economy.
This is what I mean by “shallow thinking” in reference to dumb Libertarian canards. No group of people greater than 2 in number can exist without some form of agreed-upon governance (even if “agreed” means “I agree that Thrug makes the rules because Thrug will kill me in my sleep if I disagree with him”).
This isn’t just “political science” – it’s simple biology. A large group of organisms has a set of feedback loops amongst one another. There is no way around that. When looking at, let’s say, ten million organisms, those feedback loops will become rather intricate. With predictable statistical outcomes, you’ll have specialists develop that handle certain tasks better than others (such as predators, scavengers, filter-feeders, dentists, or legislators, who all require very highly-developed skillsets to work successfully).
Libertarians like to prance around pretending a major portion of the system in which they live is superfluous – large parts of government, for example. But they aren’t. To the individual they may be – but to the society as a whole, they are not.
Fascism is the result of too much focus on personal property rights with no *public oversight* (and I mean quite literally PUBLIC oversight – not just an unanswerable government agency, but literally having the public be aware of the situation) of how those rights impact others. It devolves ultimately into the concept that anything can be personal (or state) property – including other humans. And almost any property can be used as a weapon against others, with varying levels of sophistication.
The State *does* have total control over personal property. This isn’t an “it should” argument – it is a statement of fact. There is nothing that a group of people (whatever size) cannot decide to do or not do, hence the State has dictatorial powers by default. What makes a State fascist or liberal or whatever term you choose to apply, depends entirely on the restrictions emplaced upon the State as decided by its populace.
The State always tailors its self-restrictions to those in power. When too much power is accumulated by too few people – such as is the case when the cult of “personal property” gets out of hand and the ownership slides (inevitably) towards a tiny minority, you get fascism or feudalism. Government officials get bought and paid for. Police forces run unchecked. And so on.
Libertarians by and large miss the boat (John J., you appear to be one of the few who grasps this) when recognizing that “personal property” protections enshrine the power base of those very few, and enables those few to exercise or abuse their power against the rest. But that’s a feature of the Libertarian party – it’s why the Koch brothers funded its foundation back in the 70s. They expect the glitzy “freedom” phrasings in the Lib platform to be attractive to smart people who don’t have a lot of time to contemplate the long-term impact of what end up as disastrous policy decisions. They supplied a form of intellectual masturbation – low-thought, ego-stroking behavior – that pulls people in. This is why Mauro S. keeps pointing out that there are no Libertarian nations on the planet – for good reason. Because the Lib platform leads inevitably to fascism and feudalism.
Some planks of the Lib platform are worth pulling out and applying to real governance. Most are not.
What is needed to prevent a totalitarian State is direct and intimate involvement of the governed at all levels. Most in the US are too lazy for this to work. I’d like to call this “as designed”, but it’s really more like “as it happens”. To change this we need to re-install basic civics education, and probably enforce some form of public service requirement (similar to how a lot of WingNuts trumpet enforced military service, I would suggest we widen that a bit and make the military one arm of possible service – others being infrastructure work, local legislative/judicial service, community service, park service, public health, etc.). I won’t get into implementation suggestions, but I will point out that this would be an excellent “transition phase” for people finishing their public education and/or university studies, moving into the “real world” from school.
This would have the effect of getting every last citizen involved with the society and putting effort into it – building a sense of ownership in our country that is sorely absent right now.  And a healthy respect for one anothers’ efforts is always a good thing.
Posted in Politics | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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.

See you guys soon!

See you guys soon!

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.

Rec Deck is a fold-up piece of photo-etch. Even after heating some spring remains, so it's wired shut while the glue dries.

Rec Deck is a fold-up piece of photo-etch. Even after heating some spring remains, so it’s wired shut while the glue dries.

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.

Tiny is an understatement. Heheheh. See what I did there?

Tamiya 1:350 Navy crew.  Tiny is an understatement. Heheheh. See what I did there?


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 HDA decal is in there, notice the viewscreen shows the Klingon from ST:TMP being hit by V'ger. The crew are CA'd to the floor, I used a toothpick with a little blu-tack to dip their feet in glue and then position them .

The HDA decal is in there, notice the viewscreen shows the Klingon from ST:TMP being hit by V’ger. The crew are CA’d to the floor, I used a toothpick with a little blu-tack to dip their feet in glue and then position them .

Next Item…

The main deflector/sensor dish!

Here we go!

Here we go!

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.

The thruster panels here are clear parts, and very small, about 5mm square. The grid on the matt beneath is 1cm square.

The thruster panels here are clear parts, and very small, about 5mm square. The grid on the matt beneath is 1cm square.

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.

They slip snug right into place, perfectly.

They slip snug right into place, perfectly.

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.

Step 1: push the little buggers into the tack gum.

Step 1: push the little buggers into the tack gum.

Step 2: mask all the thruster ports.

Step 2: mask all the thruster ports.

Step 3: tell the little buggers to hold their breath and hit them with a light-block.

Step 3: tell the little buggers to hold their breath and hit them with a light-block.  After the light-block dries, hit them with your chosen flavor of yellow for the model.

Set the thruster panels aside for a bit.

If you're going to drill holes like I did, masking is not entirely necessary. Nevertheless, do it just in case. You won't have any fun scraping and sanding out light-block paint from those little slots.

If you’re going to drill holes like I did, masking is not entirely necessary. Nevertheless, do it just in case. You won’t have any fun scraping and sanding out light-block paint from those little slots.

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

Light-block and base coat applied

Light-block and base coat applied

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.

Dry-fitting is always a good idea - it'll help you anticipate trouble spots, and also let you know if you're putting on too much paint.

Dry-fitting is always a good idea – it’ll help you anticipate trouble spots, and also let you know if you’re putting on too much paint.

It's going to be behind the diffuser dish, so it doesn't have to be spotless, but try to keep it round so that the LED will seat evenly.

It’s going to be behind the diffuser dish, so it doesn’t have to be spotless, but try to keep it round so that the LED will seat evenly.

Voi-la, it fits!

Voi-la, it fits!








Canopy glue for starters. You could also use CA or all-purpose clear. I'll be sealing it in the back with Black Seal too, so it ain't going no place.

Canopy glue for starters. You could also use CA or all-purpose clear. I’ll be sealing it in the back with Black Seal too, so it ain’t going no place.

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.

These parts seemed to fit just right for light boxes on the thrusters.

These parts seemed to fit just right for light boxes on the thrusters.

Light boxes built and silvered, time for the circuits.

Light boxes built and silvered, time for the circuits.








I drilled a hole behind the thruster ports so that the light would have zero obstruction to reaching the outside. Peeled off the little tiny masks and you can see right through. Since there'll be a light-box there, it'll be black until the power is on.

I drilled a hole behind the thruster ports so that the light would have zero obstruction to reaching the outside. Peeled off the little tiny masks and you can see right through. Since there’ll be a light-box there, it’ll be black until the power is on.

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

Have I mentioned that Milliput is the bomb? That stuff is just great, even if it does get all over my hands.

Have I mentioned that Milliput is the bomb? That stuff is just great, even if it does get all over my hands.

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.

The warmup scene in ST:TMP was my reference photo.

The warmup scene in ST:TMP was my reference photo.

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.

Masking the interior lines is a pretty slow and painstaking process...

Masking the interior lines is a pretty slow and painstaking process…

...but it is doable and worth every minute you spend on it.

…but it is doable and worth every minute you spend on it.








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.

Masking's only half done! Gotta do the exterior rings next.

Masking’s only half done! Gotta do the exterior rings next.

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.

Totally worth it. Seen here dry-fitted on the main rings.

Totally worth it. Seen here dry-fitted on the main rings.  Also note the Paragrafix PE ring in place here.

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.

Light test with the diffuser plate on - Amber (Impulse) flavor.

Light test with the diffuser plate on – Amber (Impulse) flavor.  It’s a bit bright for my camera, but it looks great.

Blue also works just fine, looks great!

Blue also works just fine, looks great!








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.

from left to right, a generic 3mm clear bulb, a 2mm yellow diffuser bulb, then a 1.7-candle clear lamp, a 3.4-cancle one, a 4.2-candle clear blue bulb, and lastly a 1mm SMD bare LED.

from left to right, a generic 3mm clear bulb, a 2mm yellow diffuser bulb, then a 1.7-candle clear lamp, a 3.4-cancle one, a 4.2-candle clear blue bulb, and lastly a 1mm SMD bare LED.

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.

Setting up the Raytheon light parts and wiring them was pretty simple.

Setting up the Raytheon light parts and wiring them was pretty simple.

Plop them in the sides with some milliput and Black Seal and it's good to go.

Plop them in the sides with some milliput and Black Seal and it’s good to go.








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.

Silvered sections applied.

Silvered sections applied.

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.

...and with the grey patterning applied to it. From this angle it looks a little funky, but I'll work the kinks out with a razor after it dries.

…and with the grey patterning applied to it. From this angle it looks a little funky, but I’ll work the kinks out with a razor after it dries.

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…

USS Enterprise – Build Log Part 11

USS Enterprise – Build Log Part 13


Posted in Build Log, Model Kits, Sci-Fi | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Z-Plan Update

Been a busy summer but managed to get enough time in to do some more modelling on my Prinz Eugen. Still learning on the old photo etch and the best ways to work this stuff but getting there for most parts. At 1/700 scale its crazy hard to bend some of the pieces of photo etch so didn’t use all the fine detail. Pleased with the painting though and the “Baltic camo” took a lot of effort – very slow to do and even so it did not all line up perfectly… Anyway have a look and post any comments.

img_1482 img_1483 img_1484img_1481img_1480img_1479

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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

Build Log – Part 11

It’s been a while since I’ve written this log, so my apologies go out to anyone who’s been waiting…hope it wasn’t too long.

When last we were here, the nacelles had just been wired, all the internals were light-blocked and fixed in place, and the nacelles were finally sealed up.  This episode, we’re going to clean up the gaps in the model, and paint a few details here and there, along with sanding sections that need it.

A little dab here...

A little dab here…

...and a few dabs up here

…and a few dabs up here







The wiring needs protection too, so some improv paper envelopes help keep them covered.

The wiring needs protection too, so some improv paper envelopes help keep them covered.

First, before getting into the nitty-gritty, I protect the exposed lights (the front floodlamps and the rear anticollision strobe) and the wiring that connects all that lighting work.  A nice bubble of Humbrol Maskol (or whatever your favorite masking product might be) over the small lights covers that.  A little bit of masking tape around the warp crystal assembly on top protects that one.  For the wiring itself, I made a small paper envelope just by folding some regular Xerox paper and taping it shut.  I want to make sure those wires retain their labels and colors, so that envelope is pretty crucial.

The nacelles don't go together altogether cleanly, and it'll take some sand-fill-sand to get them flush.

The nacelles don’t go together altogether cleanly, and it’ll take some sand-fill-sand to get them flush.

At the front of the nacelles where the bussard collector mates with the two side halves there are some fairly significant ridges and gaps, and these require a bit of elbow grease to sand down into shape.  Those were my first goals here, and with a bit of time and work they settled in.  I puttied the gaps up with Tamiya fine putty, and re-sanded till smooth.

The rears were a bit gappy too, though less so than the tops and bottoms.

The rears were a bit gappy too, though less so than the tops and bottoms.

The PE was probably the cleanest fit of all the parts here, ironically.

The PE was probably the cleanest fit of all the parts here, ironically.

Next, the rear of the nacelles also had some rather ugly gaps, and the PE rear cover had a little teensy gap line all the

way around that needed addressing.  I filled the gaps with Tamiya, scraping the excess away with the edge of a razor, and went at it with some 600-grit sandpaper to clean up the remnants.  The outboard fins also needed some help, so I treated those the same way.  Getting putty into that tight little angled corner on the top was probably hardest, and getting it cleaned and flush with the surface was a bit of a challenge, but a good razor knife can work wonders in this regard.

An example of 'masking lines' - these shown are pretty minor, bad ones can build up a significant height and be a pain to get rid of.

An example of ‘masking lines’ – these shown are pretty minor, bad ones can build up a significant height and be a pain to get rid of.

The tops of the nacelles were next, and these had some really serious ledging issues – not gaps, but places where the two parts simply don’t fit flush with one another.  I used 120-grit sandpaper at first to get them as level as I could, then 600-grit to fine out the scratches from the prior sanding.  Feeling for the ledge with fingertips generally reveals if you’ve done a good job here, and later when the hull coat is reapplied any fine ledging will be shown as the paint dries.  As you’re doing this, it’s likely that you’ll end up sanding away your light-blocking if you did it on the outside, so mask off the clear parts and reapply as needed.  It’s also good to remove the masks once you’ve done one or two coats and reapply masking afterwards, in order to avoid paint buildup in “mask lines” on particularly long-used masks.

After all the sanding, a fresh topcoat of white was added. Looking nice!

After all the sanding, a fresh topcoat of white was added. Looking nice!

Once I was satisfied that all the parts were smooth and matching their partners, I re-masked all the black areas and hit the whole thing with a fresh coat of white.  Came out looking good, and what few spots remained that still needed smoothing became very evident. A little more sandpaper and another quick blast of white, and everything looked fine.

On the front of the engines to either side of the Bussards there is a marking in duck-egg blue that extends under the “chin” of each nacelle.  On the kit parts, this is demarcated with a very shallow trench in the plastic (you can see it in the above pic).  This trench didn’t exist in the film version, and although I left the trench on the thruster corner of the fin (that trench didn’t exist in the film either, but it’s so small that it won’t be noticeable), I decided to fill this trench in.  I used “Perfect Plastic Putty” to do this job – it’s a water-soluble polymer putty that goes on white and dries pretty quickly.  I roughed up the inside of the trenches with some folded sandpaper (to give the putty more surface to grip to) and applied with a fingertip, then cleaned off the excess with the back of a knife.  Once it was dry, a little sanding and everything was totally smooth.

The forward blues and silver line were added here, some black and white cleanup followed.

The forward blues and silver line were added here, some black and white cleanup followed.

I then masked it up and airbrushed the duck-egg blue on the front, and also on the inside of the forward sections of the inboard and outboard chillers.  I used shining silver on the band that stretches from inboard to outboard across the face of each nacelle.  Once these were cleaned up and dried, I reversed my masking and went back to check the black chillers on both sides (masks are not always 100%, and some white did bleed through).

The fin tips where the thruster ports are got painted with some signal yellow by hand.  I also tried to fill in the holes with gloss clear acrylic, but they refused to fill – the paint just kept draining away into the interior.  I’ll try again later once everything is dry again.

In the instructions for the kit, those forward rounded sections of the chillers are supposedly copper, but in TMP they’re quite clearly black.  I hand-painted them with matt black while doing my corrections on the regular chillers.

Finally, once everything was dry and clean, I applied a light gloss coat to the entire nacelle, all around.  I’m not going to do the decals on these just yet.  Decals will have to wait until all my subassemblies are done, because I have some special paints I want to use on the decals themselves before application, and it’ll require me to do the entire set to make sure I don’t miss any spots.

Meanwhile, once dry, I sanded away any discolorations, and went back to reapply a few spots where the duck-egg blue came out a little funky (something about Testors’ version of that color just doesn’t seem to want to go on evenly).  A second zap with gloss coat, and then I’ll bag them and move on to the next parts.

That’s it for this episode – next go around we’ll start on the officers’ lounge and the recreation deck!

USS Enterprise – Build Log Part 10

USS Enterprise – Build Log Part 12

Posted in Build Log, Model Kits, Sci-Fi | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

AMT’s “Cadet Series” – Star Trek: The Motion Picture Set – Part 2

Welcome to Part 2, where I’ll cover the decaling and painting of the AMT Cadet Series of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  For those of you just tuning in, take a few moments and have a look at what I put up on the kit itself and its assembly, because there’s a lot of good to be said for this kit…and it’s best to approach this from the beginning.  For those of you who already saw part 1, please accept my apologies for not getting this up sooner – life is a bit hectic, and I kept procrastinating.  However, regardless of which way you arrived, glad to have you and let’s get on with the build and review!


The decals for this kit, as I mentioned previously, are really pretty – extreme levels of detail, they got my anticipation up to some extreme levels.


On paper, they look beautiful, and I’m really excited to get to working with them.

And much like Star Trek V, my hopes got raised to unhappy levels.

It’s not all bad news here, let’s get that straight – I’ve developed a very definitive love-hate relationship with these decals.  I am amazed at the detail and the prettiness.  I am severely disappointed in the film material that AMT chose to use for them.


Sadly, real life rarely looks as good as things did on paper.

Sadly, real life rarely looks as good as things did on paper.

Waterslides should be soft and flexible, and these are just way too stiff and brittle to be easy to work with.  Based on the behavior of these decals, I’d have to push the “difficulty level” listed on the front of the kit from “2” to “3+” – basically at this point I consider every decal to be a separate part, and of particularly delicate nature.

TEENYJust so you know, some of these decals are tiny – the kind of tiny one usually associates with photo-etch parts or nightmares of insects crawling into your ears….that’s a regular-sized toothpick, by the way.

Cutting the backing is easy, and they absorb water quick, so within 30-60 seconds even the biggest of them can be slid off without a hassle.

Once off the backing, though, is where your trouble starts.

If you breathe on these the wrong way, they rip.  Once they’re on the model, they don’t conform to surfaces that aren’t very flat.  Both of these would be forgivable, because normally one could use solvents like Micro-Sol or Solvaset to soften them up and get them to lay flat.

Except these decals don’t respond to either Micro-Set or Solvaset.  Gaaaarrrrr!

The instructions recommend slicing the larger ones into more manageable sizes, but I suspect someone in marketing at AMT realized what a tragedy these were and tried to cover their butts this way.

First, some how-tos…and by the way, if you’ve never done waterslides, then you might want to shelf this kit until you’ve done one or two others and feel comfortable dealing with difficult models.

Stuff You’ll need to Apply Waterslide Decals

In case you’re new to decals, here’s what you’ll need and/or want:

  1. A pan, bowl, or large mug with some clean warm water in it – this is your “bath”
  2. A large dish or plate with a paper towel on it – place your container from 1 on this and keep that paper towel damp
  3. A pair of stainless-steel tweezers to hold the decals while they soak
  4. A couple of soft paintbrushes (you’ll use these to push decals around and lift them up for repositioning)
  5. A few toothpicks/cocktail sticks (because the paintbrushes in 2 are likely to be too big for a few of these decals)
  6. A decal-setting solution like the Micro-Scale set (Micro-Set and Micro-Sol), Solvaset, or similar
  7. (optional) a spritz-bottle with some clean or distilled water
  8. …and specifically for this kit, you’re going to need canopy glue, or perhaps some white school glue watered down, and a very sharp hobby razor (preferably brand new blade).

How to Apply Waterslide Decals

The process is as follows – cut the decal you want free, grip it by the paper backing with the tweezers (make sure not to grip over the decal itself), and immerse the decal in the water tub from (1), above.  If it’s large, the paper will “roll up” around your tweezers.  It’s okay, this is normal.

While the decal is soaking, sprinkle a little water on the surface of the model (or spray with the bottle from (7)).  Follow the instructions for your decal setting solution (some have you apply to the model before the decal, some have you do it afterwards, some both).


Don’t be bashful about getting your model wet.  You want the decal to “swim” into place with no bubbles underneath.

Once the decal is about ready the paper will “unroll” a bit (small ones won’t have rolled up, so ignore this for those).  Take them out of the water and shake off the excess, or tap it lightly on the paper towel to draw away the extra water.

Test the ‘slide’ of the decal with a finger by gently giving it a tiny push and see if it moves easily on the paper.  If it doesn’t, back in the bath with it for another 15-30 sec, then try again.

Oh, if it comes off in the bath, just fish it out on the paper backing, it’s ready.

Slide the decal off the backing and onto the model, where it should “float” freely on the already-wet surface.  Once it’s in the right place, tear off a piece of your paper towel and use it to wick away excess fluid.  As the fluid gets pulled away the decal will lock itself in place.  If it locks in the wrong place, you can always put some more water back down on it and under it, which should loosen it up and let you move it a bit to get it back into position.

Get the decal into position while it's wet.

Slide it around until it’s in the right spot, then wick away the extra water and let it dry.

After it’s in the right place and locked, apply the last of your solvents according to their instructions, and let the model dry for a few hours, preferably overnight.  After that, use a clear varnish or laquer (I use rattle-cans for this, but if you prefer an airbrush that’s perfectly fine too) to seal the model and protect the decals.




And now, back to the kit…

Under normal circumstances, I apply the decals for a model after painting it, but in this case, the paint for the Federation ships was purely detail work, so I did them decals-first.  The Klingon I did as paint first like traditional models.

Since Reliant and Enterprise are very similar to one another on the decal front, let’s cover those together.

The big saucer decals were probably among the easiest to apply, as the saucer sections are almost flat – but due to the decals’ brittleness and stiff nature, you can still get rips and you’re likely to get a lot of ‘silvering’ in the applied decals. You’ll also get some overhang, and because of the stiffness of the decal material this overhang won’t lay flat at all.  Just leave it there until it dries, and then use your hobby knife, dragging the blade backwards along the model edge (if you tried to carve it away you’d end up with a bunch of little cuts along the saucer – doing the backwards drag will strip away the overhang and not damage the model surface).

Overhang on the saucer - let it dry then come back and scrape it off.

Overhang on the saucer – let it dry then come back and scrape it off.

Quite a few places had this overhang problem, but the same tactic worked for them all.

Quite a few places had this overhang problem, but the same tactic worked for them all.

I’d ask that if anyone out there has found a decal solvent that works on these, I’d appreciate it if you got word to me about what you used.

I found it best to leave a section of the lower hull unapplied to give me a gripping place (because if I grabbed a spot where decals had been recently applied, I’d likely shred them or just pull them off with my fingers), and gave the decals a day or so before putting decals on the empty spots.  In the case of Enterprise, that was the engineering hull, while Reliant’s engines made perfect handles.

Once the big plates were on, I went to the smaller detail decals – and this was where it paid off that I’d done a big version of both ships before, so I knew where most of the details belonged.  For those of you who haven’t had such experience, this is where the box from the kit comes in very helpful.

Not terribly helpful, those little decal callouts.

Not terribly helpful, those little decal callouts.


The instructions, unfortunately, are not very helpful at all.  You get an idea of which decals go onto what part of the model, but they don’t point to specifically where they belong.  The film material becomes a real problem here, now, because most of the parts the small ones go on are curved and the small ones just sit flat on them rather than conforming.


It’s the little things in life that really irritate you sometimes.

It’s the little things in life that really irritate you sometimes.

This is where a few strategic cuts with the hobby knife (don’t drag the point, but rather position the knife on the decal and “roll” the blade over it if you can) can release the tension / pressure on the decal.  If that’s not a suitable method, you will have to resort to a different method – in my case, I used canopy glue.  The glue made the inner surface of the decal ‘tacky’ and when dry it would be clear as glass.



Even being careful like this, rips will still happen…and unfortunately, some of these decals are so small that a rip becomes almost impossible to repair.

Like the shuttle bay on the Reliant. Grr. By the way, that’s the end of a toothpick in the shot for scale – it’s closer to the camera than the model is.

Like the shuttle bay on the Reliant. Grr. By the way, that’s the end of a toothpick in the shot for scale – it’s closer to the camera than the model is.

The engine nacelle decals were also particularly challenging, because they were made to “wrap” the nacelles up.  Unfortunately, this material is not soft enough to “wrap” anything, and rather prefers to stand out straight.  Again, I applied canopy glue to the interior of them and then pressed them down onto the surface until it held fast.

I think I heard one of the model gremlins mutter “Wrap this!” right about here.

I think I heard one of the model gremlins mutter “Wrap this!” right about here.

Fig 42 These little sections were harder to deal with than the large ones – larger ones held themselves in place with glue more easily, these little buggers kept popping up.

These little sections were harder to deal with than the large ones – larger ones held themselves in place with glue more easily, these little buggers kept popping up.

These little sections were harder to deal with than the large ones – larger ones held themselves in place with glue more easily, these little buggers kept popping up.

The Klingon’s decals were almost all very small and easy to apply, with the exception of the large belly insignia and the forward torpedo launcher decoration – these are going onto very curved surfaces, and they don’t settle flat.  In both cases, some canopy glue convinced the edges to settle and hold into place.


This ends the most challenging aspect of this kit…and a challenge it certainly was.  In spite of these issues, once they’re done the models look really nice.  I usually judge this from the perspective of a 1-meter distance view, and at a meter, most of the detail can be seen, but not entirely resolved.  Because of this, some of the ripping fades away and the slight angular deficiencies also don’t appear.

The belly insignia always looked cool to me.  A little glue on this one made sure it wasn’t going anywhere.

The belly insignia always looked cool to me.  A little glue on this one made sure it wasn’t going anywhere.

At one meter it’s hard to make out the fault, but the silvering is quite obvious when you look close up. Decal solvent products are supposed to fix this, but this material just ignored every attempt I made.

At one meter it’s hard to make out the fault, but the silvering is quite obvious when you look close up. Decal solvent products are supposed to fix this, but this material just ignored every attempt I made.


Painting on the Federation ships was quite simple – a bit of duck-egg blue at the front of the engine nacelles, flat black slits for their “bussard collectors” also at the front of the nacelles.  Touches of clear red and clear green on the sides of the saucers for navigation lights (red right, green left).  Reliant also required some intermediate blue for the faces of its weapons modules, and some medium gray for the engineering trenches on top of the hull and the semi-triangular rear section beneath the hull (the instructions are pretty clear on these, at least).

Enterprise looking ready to launch here.

Enterprise looking ready to launch here.

The forward inboard and outboard ‘rounded’ sections of the intercoolers on the engine nacelles also got a dose of paint – for Enterprise I used flat black (which is a correction to the instructions, which wrongly say copper here), and copper for Reliant (which is correct in the instructions).  Touch ups were done with flat white, even over the decals, since tiny bits of white there are already expected.  I also used a dab of crystal clear blue where the warp crystal mounts appear (on top of the nacelles, just above the beginnings of the intercoolers).

Reliant ready

Reliant is hot on her tail.

The Klingon was more interesting to paint.  To start with, I need to post a correction of myself here:

In part 1 of this review, I stated “The Amar from TMP and Kronos 1 from ST6 both were more of a metallic grey on-screen” – that was flatly wrong.  I went back and reviewed the Klingon scene from TMP and The Undiscovered Country…in TMP, the Klingons are clearly a dark green with black and almost dusty-looking finish.  Kronos in TUC was a lighter grey with brownish and possibly a very faint hint of green (and I blame this for the contamination of my memory of TMP J).

Klingon Cruiser in ST:TMP

I stand corrected.  They were quite green in TMP.

Also note the “dusty” look of the ship here – they were very well weathered.

Also note the “dusty” look of the ship here – they were very well weathered.

Since this is a TMP Klingon, I went back and ‘greened it up’.  I re-sprayed the hull with a lighter green (what you use won’t matter in the details, so long as it’s a very light green with a little more brown than yellow you’re fine).  I then highlighted the rear hull’s raised sections with olive drab (same stuff I use for allied armor WW2 models) by hand with a very fine brush, using the kit instructions as a general guideline of where to apply the darker color.  I also used it on random partial bits of the ‘head’.  After the olive, I used crystal clear green to highlight a very few spaces on top of the rear hull, the top ‘nubs’ along the neck of the ship, the cooling grids on the engineering rear hull, the cooling grids above the engine nacelles on each wing, and the collector grids on the leading edges of the wings.

Some dark grey then went into the grid at the bottom base of the neck, and the same color applied to the disruptor ‘bumps’ (there are two under the bridge housing on the head, two on the underside of the forward corners of the wings, and two just beneath the engineering section on top of the rear of the hull).  A lighter grey went onto the forward grid ahead of the engineering section (top of the hull just behind the neck), leaving the two squarish raised portions in the original hull color.  Next, a dab of crystal clear red went where the upper and lower strobes on the neck are, and I filled in the forward impulse manifold (the part that you see glowing red), and a little line of it for the bridge windows.

After these were done, the ship looked particularly garish and ugly – but I was expecting that.  To blend the whole thing together I prepped a wash using 15 parts Vallejo dark grey wash, 10 parts water, three parts US Olive Drab, seven parts Gunship Green, and three parts crystal clear green.  I didn’t concoct this recipe ahead of mixing it, by the way, that’s just what I ended up using.  The idea was to make a nice wash that was a deep muddy green, and that mix is how I achieved it.

You can probably do it with a different mix.  I hit the entire model with this mix, and that blended all the colors in very well – took away the stark contrast and gave the ship a really nice “used” look.  I always felt Klingons weren’t afraid to dig in and fight, and their ships should show the look of that attitude.

Klingon, after wash applied

By darkening up the light base color of the hull with a common wash, all the heavier colors come together and blend better.

Finally, I used some streaking grime enamel to put some weathering marks on the hull and head, streaking back from the leading edges.  For those who haven’t used this sort of thing, it goes on as brownish lines where you want the “streaks” to be, and then with a clean brush dipped in thinner you lift away most of the streak, leaving behind a perceptible ‘streak’ of color that doesn’t overwhelm the paint scheme beneath it.

Once the paint was on, the decals followed, and it was all set!

Klingon - decals applied

The decals work really well on this color base – note the Klingon text is hard to see when it’s on paper, but is very clear on the model.


This kit comes with no base for any of these models, which I think is something of a mistake.  AMT didn’t have to go out on any big limbs to throw in a few simple bases for the ships, but they omitted them in the end.  So you, the builder, get to decide how to mount them.  The might make a good hanging display with some 2lb-test fishing line or magnet wire.

No bases, and though that’s an omission that the factory should have avoided, it’s easy enough to come up with some solutions.

No bases, and though that’s an omission that the factory should have avoided, it’s easy enough to come up with some solutions.

Personally, I’m going to pick up some cheap black picture frames from Ikea or somewhere and mount these on 2mm clear acrylic rods.  I’ll print some background scenes from the films and perhaps backlight the pictures with a 9V battery and an LED, and have the ships extended “out of the picture” mounted on the acrylic rods.

And my Klingon will be perpetually chased by V’Ger’s big plasma ball.

And my Klingon will be perpetually chased by V’Ger’s big plasma ball.


In Summary

Now that all three models in the kit are done, I have to say that they came out looking really, really good.  I was very concerned with the quality of the decals when I started applying them, that they would be ruinous to the finish of the models, but the mistakes made at the factory were fixable, if not easily so.  Compared to the time consumed in assembly / gluing / putty / primer, which was about 90 minutes, the decal work took about seven hours split into two sessions.  Painting was about another hour.

All three done!

About ten hours of fun putting this all together, and a really nice outcome!  I’m very much looking forward to putting these on frames.

Would I buy this kit, knowing what I know now?  Yep, I think so.  My daughter already asked me if she could have Reliant when I’m done, so I’d say it made an impression, and when I’m done with the picture-frame basing they’ll look really nice hanging on a wall (which is a nice change from a model kit that would otherwise have taken up more shelf-space).  They’d also make really nice game pieces if you play Firestorm Armada or Star Fleet Battles, or some other tabletop space game.

Would I give this kit to a kid to build?  Probably not, since the kid would be weeping after the decals fell apart.  I’d probably lean more towards the 1:600 Enterprise or Klingon D-7.  Pricing on those is similar to this, and those kits are more forgiving of error and mishandling.  Fortunately, given the subject matter for this kit is almost forty years old (yeah, I know, don’t we feel freaking ancient now?), I don’t imagine children are going to be lining up and asking for this for Christmas.

Let’s finish this with a numeric scale judgment on how this kit worked out, and give it a judgment based on the combined aspect score.  I’ll give each aspect a 1-10 (10 being best):

INSTRUCTIONS (clearly written, easy to follow?):  7

I would have given this an 8 or 9, but the instructions on the small decals were very insufficient, and the manufacturer’s claim that this was a snap-together kit on the box front was, I think misleading.

PARTS FIT AND ASSEMBLY (Were the parts cast well?  Not a ton of flash?  Not so many gaps?):  9

Parts in this kit were generally very well fitted, there was almost no flash to deal with, and what gaps did exist were easily dealt with.

DECALS or ORNAMENTATION (What decals were in the box?  Were they complete for finish of the model?  Did they fit well and were they easy to work with?):  7

For all of my bitching about the material, they were very complete, and extremely well designed.  The material they were made of, however, knocked the score to seven from what would have been a solid TEN.  AMT, take note of that.

So…a total score of 23 out of 30, not bad!  Average score is 7.66 out of 10, which is respectable, and I’d say definitely worth the cash.

Thanks for tuning in – and I’m looking forward to hearing your experiences in constructing these three little gems.  Send your comments in!

Once again I’d like to extend my thanks to Models4Hobby for providing the kit that was the subject of this build – check them out on Facebook too, they’re always posting updates!


I mounted the Klingon on an inexpensive 5×7 picture frame today – she looks really good, but I’ll have to re-update the photo once I get some sunlight tomorrow.  Decided to forgo the lighting, this works just fine.  Here’s what I did:

  • Printed out a pic of the V’ger plasma weapon in flight, screenshot from TMP, set it in the frame.
  • Drilled a 2mm hole in the Klingon’s wing to accomodate the mount.
  • Drilled a matching 2mm hole in the frame side to accept the mount.
Use a manual pin vice, not an electric - you want to be very careful not to overdrill or get your angle wrong.

Use a manual pin vice, not an electric – you want to be very careful not to overdrill or get your angle wrong.

  • Using 2mm acrylic rod, I cut a piece to the right length and stuck them together on it.
  • I then softened the rod with a heat gun (use the fine emitter to avoid heating up the model) and bent it to about the right angle to position the ship.






The battlecruiser Amar caught in an eternal "Oh shit!" moment.

The battlecruiser Amar caught in an eternal “Oh shit!” moment.








Update 2

Did the same thing using an 8×10 photo frame for Reliant and Enterprise to set them up at the beginning of the battle in the Mutara Nebula…at some point it might be worthwhile to go back and re-jigger the pictures in the background to make them more pronounced, but for now this will do :).

Full impulse power!  Damn you!

Full impulse power! Damn you!








(Part 1 of Cadet Series: TMP review can be found here)

Posted in Build Log, Model Kits, Review, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Brexit” – my thoughts on the matter

I think economics can often be viewed best through the lens of biology (blame the undergrad degree) – particularly ecological studies.  Money is the element upon which we all feed – upon which companies, countries, and all of human society feeds, for that matter.

And many want far more than they can reasonably consume.

This is particularly valid at this period in time, where many companies have grown to be larger than most nation-states, and have appetites to match.

Countries, nation-states, previously had habits of unifying into larger collectives in order to facilitate trade and better defend against or avoid wars entirely – the United States, for example, was formed for these reasons.  The EU was formed for these reasons.  This behavior has had the fortunate side effect of providing a useful defense against predatory corporations whose goal is to extract as much money from the system as they possibly can in order to benefit their (extremely few) stakeholders.  It’s quite obvious when one looks at the predatory and in fact quite lethal practices that large companies have put on parade in countries such as:

  • India (where Dow managed to kill 25,000+ with unsafe practices)
  • USA (where BP’s oil leak has ruined the entire Gulf fishing industry, Wal-Mart abuses their workers and refuses to pay them a living wage)
  • China and Bangladesh (where slave labor and child labor are endemic)
  • the Ivory Coast (where Nestle uses slave labor to harvest cocoa)
  • Nigeria (where various oil companies have ruined the Niger delta)
  • Indonesia (where ExxonMobil employs a private army to protect its pipelines, said army also rapes, murders, and pillages the countryside, using Exxon equipment to dig mass graves for its victims)
  • …and the list goes on.

Reviewing these travesties, it is quite clear that corporate interests are not human interests.

Which brings us to “Brexit,” the referendum on whether the UK should exit the EU.

Promoters of the exit strategy who focus on the economic factors say things like “It hasn’t helped us” or “they need us more than we need them”, that it “puts the UK at the mercy of Germany,” or that it is “destroying national sovereignty”.  All of these are weak, at best – and stupid at worst.

  1. “It hasn’t helped us.” Yeah, as a matter of fact it has.  The lack of tariffs across the board in the EU has opened the entire continent up for british goods, enabling companies like Marks & Spencer, Mothercare, and others to expand into new markets.  Mom and Pop shops benefit too, as internet sales are enabled to ship without tariff to an enormous quantity of new buyers.  Trade within Europe has risen by 55 percent since joining the EU.
  2. “They need us more than we need them” – this is just stupid.  The UK’s manufacturing strength is a fraction of what it once was.  Its workforce is dominated by unskilled labor, what IT workforce it has is underpaid and underskilled (and the best members of it end up working for banks, where they aren’t innovating anything but instead helping to cripple the UK economy further).  The countries that trade their goods to the UK now will continue to do so long after an exit, and the tariff costs will simply be passed on to the consumer.
  3. “The UK is at the mercy of Germany” – The EU is not the solitary purview of Germany.  There are a great many states here, and political unity is hard to come by.  Germany in particular is in a weak leadership position as it stands, weaker still since its idiotic austerity measures have been demonstrated to have injured recovery efforts from the 2008 crash rather than helped.  Furthermore, as an individual who has lived in both countries, even if this protest were true, the UK could get a great deal of benefit from following Germany’s lead for a while.  Notice that this argument is in direct conflict with #2, above.  This is usually a good sign that conspiracy theory bullshit is afoot.
  4. It “destroys national sovereignty” – this is just bullshit.  This argument is so farcical and ephemeral that it can simply be dismissed out of hand.  It literally has zero evidence behind it, no facts at all – and hence, there is nothing to refute.  It’s just tinfoil-hat batshittery.

Other reasons, not tied directly to economics:  there are as many of these as there are Brexit supporters.  However, they are largely driven by demagoguery similar to that espoused by Donald Trump in the United States – fear and hatred of people not from the UK.  It always boils down to some various flavor of “we don’t have a choice, we have to accept any murderer rapist or child molester from the EU,” mixed with a foment of anti-Muslim bullshit that’s frothed up since the Syrian refugee crisis.

Let me say this – of all the countries in the EU that I’ve visited, and those in which I’ve lived (four of them now), the UK, surprisingly, has been the most vividly racist nation of them all.  It’s remarkable, and strange.  When I first opened a bank account on moving to the UK, I counted nine different languages in use in the bank office.  But in dealing with the people there, everyone was intensely concerned with what nationality or race everyone else belonged to – and if you weren’t of the chosen special few, you were an outsider.  Each race had its place above the other.

And this built-in trigger is very easy to play on – particularly by less-than-scrupulous “news” organizations, such as FOX News.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think the UK gets its treatment of Muslims insanely wrong.  However, it does so in the context of getting EVERY dumbass religion in the pipeline insanely wrong – and this is largely due to the UK’s fear of “offending” someone.  The UK would rather shut down free speech and freedom of dialogue, would rather see people injured, would rather see children brought up intellectually and emotionally crippled, than to see someone get their fee-fees hurt.  Well fuck you, MPs and Lords, you’re all a bunch of panty-twisted oxygen-wasters on that front.

This treatment of oddball religions only fuels the right-wing nutters, racists, and other undesirables’ fears.

Which makes FOX News – Rupert Murdoch’s media empire – very happy.

So what we have here is a series of easily-played-upon fears and catch-phrases that stir up irrational racism and fear, being used by media tools in the hands of corporations that would like nothing better than to have the UK exit the EU and revert to being a small, easily-managed nation with an easily-bribed leadership.

Once the exit is complete, and the UK is no longer protected by the umbrella of the EU, prices on consumer goods – everything from food to televisions – go up.  Access to EU employment markets becomes harder – as will the ability to move cross-borders when one retires.  All those geriatrics living in Spain?  Guess what, they won’t have rights to live there any longer – and they’ll be coming home to live off their days on the NHS rather than on Spain’s buck.  I won’t even speculate on what sort of retaliatory actions the EU may impose on the UK if things don’t end cheerfully (and divorces rarely do).

All these things spell a weak UK (weaker still once Scotland says “go f*** yourself” and leaves the UK to join the EU).  A vulnerable, alone UK.  And of course the news agencies will blame immigrants.  Blame the EU.  They’ll keep the population focused on each other, ripping each other down; focused on outsiders; focused on anything that isn’t the blade they’re twisting in the UK’s ribs.

Back to the biological metaphor…Komodo Dragons are especially insidious – they’ll single out a target, bite it, and then follow it for days as infection and venom sink in, making it easier to take.  When lions hunt, they will tease out a single animal from the herd.

Because when an animal is alone, weak, and not defended by its herd, it’s far easier to kill.

And when the UK leaves the protection of its herd…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Kit Review: AMT’s “Cadet Series” – Star Trek: The Motion Picture Set

Hello everyone!  This entry is a first for me – a sponsored kit review on behalf of a hobby vendor.  I’m doing periodic reviews for the company, and they’ve sent me this kit for review and build.  A copy of this review will also appear on their site.  I’m adding this note here in the interest of full disclosure, and in the future as I add other reviews that are from their lineup, I’ll include a similar header.  Meanwhile, on with the review!

Nice cover art here, makes a good painting reference. Save the box!

Nice cover art here, makes a good painting reference. Save the box!

AMT’s Cadet Series of Star Trek: The Motion Picture…this kit is actually three separate kits in one, each a 1:2500 scale model of the refitted USS Enterprise, the USS Reliant (from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan), and the Klingon K’Tinga-class battlecruiser that appears in both films.

For starters, each ship is supplied on its own sprue, while the decals for all three are on a single unified waterslide sheet.  The decals are die-cut, which reduces the work of separating them when you need them.

All the components of the kit

All the components of the kit

Once assembled, these are also pretty small – very convenient if you live with limited shelf space, and actually if you play tabletop games that need a Star Trek theme, these would make some amazing game pieces.  I do a little Flames of War from time to time, and if I had a spaceship game I played often I’d really consider using these as units on the board.  They look that good, really.

Size comparison of the largest of the models (Enterprise) against a standard 3.5” hard drive and a bank-card

Size comparison of the largest of the models (Enterprise) against a standard 3.5” hard drive and a bank-card


Unlike many Star Trek models, these teeny models don’t really have a lot of aftermarket accessories – for instance, there’s no photo-etch available for these, to my knowledge.  It would be possible to light these (though difficult), but you’d have to run your own wiring harness as there isn’t any 3rd-party option available.

Media Included

The box itself is worth a little mention, as it has plenty of nice artwork both front and back along with some basic information on each ship.  Pics on the box are useful for painting guidelines, as well as image references for how the kits should look when completed.

Inside the box you’ll find a one-sheet instruction set, some marketing flyers, and a one-page decal sheet.

The assembly instructions are quite simple (which really should be expected, as these tiny kits only have nine to eleven pieces each (9 for the Klingon, 10 for Enterprise, and 11 for Reliant), while the decal and painting instructions are considerably more complex.



Instructions front and back, decal sheet – this looks pretty straightforward.

The Klingon will be the easiest of the bunch to both assemble and decorate, since its exterior is mostly uniform in nature and the decals are more of an accent.


The decals are die-cut, making them easy to work with

The Enterprise and Reliant, on the other hand, in the end will be almost entirely wrapped in decals, and as a result will be a bit more complex to handle.

The decal sheet is given to extreme detail, including full multi-tone Aztec patterning for both Reliant and Enterprise, so despite their final size they are going to look really hot.




Notice the multiple colors in the Aztec patterning – these look really good

The Parts

The sprues of the kits are easy to handle, even for myself (I am six feet tall, with correspondingly large hands, and I had no discomfort dealing with the parts in this kit).  They were laid out cleanly, with plenty of space between parts and very little crowding.  This is pretty important given the size of these parts, as they are fairly fragile.







The Enterprise sprue had quite a bit of flash on it (possibly the mold has aged a bit), but none of it was any great challenge to remove – dragging a razor across the part and then a quick brush with some 600-grit sandpaper took care of it all very quickly.  The Klingon sprue had just a little flash, barely noticeable, and the Reliant was completely clean.

Enterprise had some flash on the parts, but nothing overly difficult to clean off

Enterprise had some flash on the parts, but nothing overly difficult to clean off

Check out the detailing on this hull!

Check out the detailing on this hull!

And the details on the Reliant – these are gorgeous!

And the details on the Reliant – these are gorgeous!

All that said, I think it really deserves note that the amount of detail on these tiny kits is just spectacular – even though the saucer sections of the Federation hulls are smooth, everywhere else the detail on these is just amazing.  I was really psyched to see how good these looked.

It’s also worth mentioning that all three have printed copyright text on the inside of the hulls.  It wouldn’t be anything to talk about except for the two white models (the Federation ships) – the text shows through to the outside.  I’m concerned that this will also show through the decals, so my decision here will be to prime and paint these before decaling.

The text inside the model shows through – not ideal without painting

The text inside the model shows through – not ideal without painting

Tools Needed

Technically, this is a “snap-together” kit, with no tools necessary – and yes, if you have no tools around, you could probably get this done with perhaps just your hands and a pair of scissors to deal with the flash and the decals.

The text

Snap together?  Sure, and Falls Apart too.  Get some glue.

However, as with all things, you’ll get better results by using proper tools.  That said, you won’t need a lot of them.  Here’s my list of what you will need, and what you will want (I will link each one to example products on this site where available):





Snippers and a knife – make sure your snippers can reach into small spaces

Snippers and a knife – make sure your snippers can reach into small spaces


A razor knife of some kind (Xacto or other)

Wire cutters or sprue snips

Poly cement (I’m using Humbrol here, but Revell and probably dozens of others

make good model glues)

Model clamps (many different varieties are available)

Make sure your cement has a good long, thin applicator tip

Make sure your cement has a good long, thin applicator tip

(several model tool sets are also available that contain many of the items mentioned)


Gap-filling putty (like Plasto or Tamiya’s, Milliput can work, but it’s a little too thick for this)

Primer paint.  A rattle-can style is fine, or if you already have an airbrush that works too.

You can get hold of clamps in many places, I use 3.5” and 5” sizes here

You can get hold of clamps in many places, I use 3.5” and 5” sizes here

Gloss-coat in a rattle-can or for an airbrush

Paints (instructions indicate need for Pearl Wihte, Light Grey, Medium Gray, Copper, Medium Blue, Light Cream, Dark Olive, and Olive Green, if you want to go precisely by the book here).

Decal-setting solution (I use Micro-Set and Micro-Sol, but there are other vendor versions, like Revell Decalsoft and so on that also do a good job)


A standard file and a putty-working tool

A good flat-sided file

White PVA glue (same kind kids use in school)

Round toothpicks (called “cocktail sticks” in the UK)

Metal putty tool(s) – you can usually get some cheap dentist’s tools to work with this, but the back side of a razer knife will suffice for this kit.


Beer, coffee, or whatever your favorite beverage for working may be.  Probably not hard liquor, since you’re going to be working with sharp tools!

A standard file and a putty-working tool

Never model without appropriate beverages!


The assembly of this set of ships is very straightforward, as evidenced by each one getting about a third of a page of instructions to accomplish.  Each one has a few small quirks, so I’ll detail them as we go.  First, however, the overall nature of the kit needs to be examined.

The instructions are super-easy, as the parts count is very small for these

The instructions are super-easy, as the parts count is very small for these

It is labeled a “snap-together” kit, as I said earlier.  This, while technically true, will result in ships that fall apart at the slightest nudge, and you will not be happy with them if you treat this as a glue-free model.  Specifically, the Klingon’s impulse cooling manifolds will pop off, as will the Reliant’s roll-bar, and the Enterprise’s engine nacelles simply do not enjoy a solid fit.  If you look at them funny, they will pop off.

So that said, pick up a vial/tube/whatever of good poly cement.  I’d recommend one with one of those thin metal applicator tubes (I use Humbrol and Revell brands here, but there are other manufacturers who make stuff just as good, and you can find them here).

For each one, remove the parts (carefully!) from the sprues and trim away any excess flast or bits.  Before you use the glue, put the kit together friction-fit first to get a feel for how the parts fit with one another and to make sure you get it right.  After that you can disassemble the kit and reassemble it while gluing.  Some recommend giving parts a bath in soapy water to remove mold-release agents, but I didn’t bother, and didn’t notice any trouble with this.

The Klingon

I can almost feel Mark Lenard scowling at me from the bridge here

I can almost feel Mark Lenard scowling at me from the bridge here

Probably the easiest of the builds, this one goes together very simply.  Assemble the forward “neck” and then attach the command deck to it.  Press the upper and lower sections of the rear hull together, and then attach the neck to the front.  To avoid using excessive force (which leads to broken parts), trim down the tab that inserts into the rear hull a little bit.  Once attached, the engine nacelles and impulse manifolds can be attached.  You’ll probably need to clamp the hull pieces together while the glue dries in order to avoid excessive gaps (it will still have a couple of small ones, but a clamp while drying will prevent it from being unmanageable).


Am I the only one who hears Alexander Courage’s symphony pieces when I see this ship?

Am I the only one who hears Alexander Courage’s symphony pieces when I see this ship?

Press the two saucer halves together and set aside.  Next take the engineering hull halves and lay them out next to one another.  Set the engine pylons into their slot on one of the halves and then press the other half over it to lock it in place.  The deflector dish can now go on.  For each engine nacelle, press the two halves together and then slip over the tab on the appropriate pylon.  Lastly, the saucer can be pressed onto the neck (might take a little wiggling).  The engineering hull required a clamp while it dried to avoid a large gap.


…or James Horner’s fantastic soundtrack from Wrath of Khan when I see this one?

…or James Horner’s fantastic soundtrack from Wrath of Khan when I see this one?

This one is the most complex of the three, with several three-part subassemblies to deal with.  First, attach the rear face of the main hull to the lower hull and then press the upper half down to fix them in place.  Determine the correct engines for each side (the ‘fin’ at the rear of the nacelle faces outward) and the correct pylon for each side and lay them out to either side of the model.  Notice that each pylon has a small injection-mold stub on the flat space where the pylon will need to snug up against the hull – make sure to carefully trim those off before assembling.  The engines clamp shut over the angled tab at the bottom of the pylon, you can’t just slip the engines on like you did with the Enterprise or the Klingon.  The main hull required a pair of clamps while it dried to keep it together.

Be careful removing the injection marks here, or you might gouge it like I did

Be careful removing the injection marks here, or you might gouge it like I did

Once the engines/pylons are assembled, set them aside and press the top of the roll bar into the main piece to assemble it.  Next, the final and hardest part of this assembly is up – the pylons each go onto their respective side of the ship, and while the glue is still soft, the roll-bar needs to be placed into the sockets on top of the two pylons and positioned correctly.  Hold it steady for a few minutes to let the glue set.

Once the three are put together, set them aside for an hour or so to let the glue cure.

Let your models rest for several hours after gluing, priming, or painting

Let your models rest for several hours after gluing, priming, or painting


Despite using clamps, a few gaps still resulted in the build of these little buggers – the Klingon had a fair-sized gap in the top of its rear hull as well as a few smaller ones around; Reliant had a bit in the roll bar and on the rear of the main hull, and Enterprise’s neck and rear hull both had some minor gaps.


The Klingon had the worst of the gaps, but glue and resting time with strong clamps reduced to this to a much more manageable level

The Klingon had the worst of the gaps, but glue and resting time with strong clamps reduced to this to a much more manageable level

Enterprise had a few hairline gaps on the neck and rear hull, some PVA glue sorted that out

Enterprise had a few hairline gaps on the neck and rear hull, some PVA glue sorted that out









The smaller ones were easily dealt with using PVA glue – just get a few drops and mix with water (4 parts glue to 1 water), then apply a little on a toothpick to fill in the small gaps.  For the larger ones (top of the Klingon hull, Reliant’s engine pylons where they meet the hull) use Plasto or something similar.

Prime-putty-sand-prime-putty-sand, my least favorite part of building

Prime-putty-sand-prime-putty-sand, my least favorite part of building

Once dry, the fillers should be sanded where they appear rough.  This will probably require two putty-sand-prime cycles to make them clean enough.


Before doing any painting/priming, make sure to wash your hands and wipe off any excess stuff on the surface of the models.

I primed all three models – the Klingon in a deep green and the Federation ships in a dark grey.  The green I was hoping would ‘bleed through’ a bit to show up in the light grey I would use as a base coat.  The grey was there to blend out the show-through of the printed text inside the parts of the Fed models.  In hindsight I should have just hit them all with dark grey and been done with it, but whatever.  Primer serves two main functions here – first to give the final paint a better grip on the model, and second to show you places that need sanding/filling.

Most of the time you see Klingons referred to as being green for their hulls – this was from the studio model of the Original Series D-7, which had a metallic/pearl green hull.  The Amar from TMP and Kronos 1 from ST6 both were more of a metallic grey on-screen, and even on screen the Original Series ship didn’t show off as all that green in hue.  I’ll do a little greenish wash on the hull coat later to give it a little hue, but not so much that it veers dramatically away from the screen appearance.

It’s almost like my own little sci-fi Christmas tree here

It’s almost like my own little sci-fi Christmas tree here

I used some spare sprue lengths and a bit of blue-tack (mine isn’t blue, it’s white, but that seems to be the prevailing name – any sort of sticky gum will do the job) to make something I could hold them with while I sprayed.  Once one side was dry, flip it and do the other (making sure none of the tacky stuff stayed on the ship).



Notice the ball of tacky gum – this stuff can be found in office-supply sections of your local supermarket, Uhu was the manufacturer of mine, you can also use “blue tack”

Notice the ball of tacky gum – this stuff can be found in office-supply sections of your local supermarket, Uhu was the manufacturer of mine, you can also use “blue tack”

After the primer was dry, I hit the two Federation ships with some Tamiya Fine White primer as a base coat for the hull, and the Klingon got a light grey coat.

A note on the use of paints – you need to have patience when waiting for them to dry.  It’s not just drying that’s needed – it’s curing, too.  Paint may feel dry to the touch, and even be easy to handle, but extended pressure or handling can reveal that the paint isn’t quite done yet, and you can give yourself a real headache by handling them too soon.  Give Tamiya paints at least two or three hours to set before extended handling, preferably let them sit overnight.  I made a mistake with the Reliant and it messed up some of my hull coat.  Took a lot of sanding and repainting to get it to look right again.

Here they are, all gloss-coated and ready for decals (Reliant was repaired after the accident below)

Here they are, all gloss-coated and ready for decals (Reliant was repaired after the accident below)

I jumped the gun a little on applying the hull coat, this is what happened when I detached the tacky gum after painting the underside

I jumped the gun a little on applying the hull coat, this is what happened when I detached the tacky gum after painting the underside

Once the hull coats were dried and fully cured, I applied a gloss-coat over all the surfaces to prep them for decals (decals go on best against a glossy surface – matte or even satin finishes can grab and rip decals).  I have some automotive clear coat I use, but in hindsight I don’t recommend this for these models – it works fine for big stuff 1/35 scale, but for these little guys it just goes on a little too thick.  Rattle-can gloss coat from Tamiya or Vallejo would probably be just fine.

While I let the gloss-coat dry, I’ll take a break here.  Next installment, I’ll cover painting and decals on these kits, which is probably going to be a bit harder than the few minutes it took to assemble them.

(Go to AMT’s “Cadet Series” – Star Trek: The Motion Picture Set – Part 2)

Posted in Build Log, Model Kits, Review | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment